John Sundman explores the question of whether the Internet will kill the feature length movie, and if it does, is that a fair trade-off? He references an earlier interview he did with Cory Doctorow where the answer to that question was assumed to be yes.  Like John, I worry “about the wanton destruction of culture in the name of a bogus and ephemeral ‘progress'” and have mixed feelings when a new art form seems to be displacing or diminishing an earlier form.

John highlights a very wonderful web video that was also sent to me recently via email:

John claims an inability to describe the feeling it evokes, but I found his words compelling:

Sure, it’s just a little music video, and Lord knows a music video is not a new thing. But for now, tonight, this one feels to me like someting really really big. As big as the Iranian revolution on Twitter; or, more precisely, it’s an artistic exploration of the possibilities implicit in that revolution. And a big part of the reason for that is that it’s so human, so un-Godlike, so small…

I listened to the delightful Cory Doctorow interview (part 2) which is referenced in John’s post where Cory talks about the Reformation as an “explosion of a marketplace for faith,” which John’s recent blog post contrasts with “the costs, in blood and war and terror and murder and rape and rapine and starvation and hatred and blind tribal ignorance, that came with religious wars that accompanied the Reformation.”  Regardless of the perceived moral implications, none of us really control the parallel evolution (revolution?) in media; however, we do control how we respond to it.  The video above shows an artistic response to the trend, incorporating the kind of genuine person-to-person web video communication that can be routinely experienced on the web today.  Cory reflects on how we might respond from an economic perspective:

It is not that information wants to be free… that’s an ideological statement .. the politic of bits is that they are getting steadily easier to copy, and barring something like a nuclear holocaust, they will continue to get easier to copy…

To the extent that you have a business or practice that relies on the idea that bits will get harder to copy than they are today, you are doomed…

there is no future in telling the people who are the potential customers for your products or services that they are crooks and that what they want is bad, even if you believe it, maybe even especially if you believe it

and regarding DRM and of people who deafen themselves to demand signals:

There is no customer who woke up this morning and said I wish there was a way I could do less with my music.  There is no demand signal for it.  What there is a demand signal for is like mp3s… fastest technology adopted in the history of the world is peer-to-peer filesharing.  Commericalize that.  Stop standing on the beach saying that the waves are too high and it hasn’t been half an hour since you had lunch.  Instead start selling bathing suits and Coppertone.

I found John’s conclusion thought-provoking:

If you had asked me, on the day of that conversation with Mr. Doctorow, if trading the art form of the 1.5 hour-long to 3 hour long motion picture produced at great expense by the traditional movie-making industry for the art form of the 3 minute video produced for virtually no expense by a bunch of untrained people who don’t even know each other was a good bargain, I would have said “No, of course not.”

Today I would say, “hmmm, that’s an interesting question.”

It’s not always a binary choice, of course. Video didn’t completely kill the radio star, and rockaroll did not kill opera or the symphony orchestra. Sometimes “competing” art forms can coexist & continue to evolve even as the new form becomes predominant.

But sometimes the old art form does, in fact, die. If not in the sense that all examples of it are obliterated (cathedrals still stand, for example), but in the sense that the art form ceases to evolve. In this sense, for example, motion pictures with sound killed the silent movie.

And sometimes the change produces a net societal loss. Sometimes the new form is just kudzu that chokes out the varied flora that had existed there before.

So the emergence of youtube videos and the web in general (with peer to peer, etc) does not necessarily mean that movies are doomed. But maybe it does. And if the art form of the movie dies, will the emergent web video be an adequate substitute, or even an improvement?

Rhomobile offers an open-source, ruby application framework. On the client-side, Rhodes allows you to build mobile applications on iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android. The client app could be stand-alone or connected. On the server-side, enabling connected applications, RhoSync dramatically simplifies client-server data transfer.

I spent some time experimenting with it last week. The docs were pretty raw, but these folks are moving fast and the doc issues that I ran into have been fixed already. They also have a responsive google group. I built an iPhone app with a Heroku-hosted Rails back-end in about a day. Now with Rhohub, it appears that I could have built that same app in about a minute. I’ve just been approved for the beta, and am looking forward to checking it out myself.

A number of folks have asked me about my experience with Rhodes and are interested in learning about it, so I drew the diagram below in gliffy this morning to outline how it works (click it for a larger image).

rhomobile architecture

The green in the diagram represents Rhomobile framework code and the blue represents your code (where the blue cloud could be your web service or anything else you decide to connect to). You write your code in Ruby along with handy Rails-like generators. The UI is HTML and CSS, but it hooks into native controls. Very cool. I am intrigued to see just how the nuances of UI translate across all of the different client platforms using the framework. However, I don’t really need to worry about how much control I will have: the platform is open source, and if need be, I can always fall back to extending the platform with my own native code.

Increasingly I interact with people I don’t know, or rather, don’t know in the real world. We interact through twitter, blog posts and comments, IRC and email. I start to feel like I know them, but I have never heard their voice or seen their face. These kind of interactions are becoming increasingly common in my life. I find them wonderful, fascinating and enriching, yet they me uneasy and anxious.

I have worked “closely” with Mike Gunderloy over the past few months. I met him through a blog post and he invited me to join a mailing list of like minded folks, which turned into RailsBridge. I got to know his wife Dana by watching her enthusiasm for the courseware project. He helped me created the website for the teaching kids project. He often replies to my twitter notes about rails or web tech and I enjoy reading his tweets about his kids. He and Dana took the lead on making RailsBridge a real entity and are preparing to file for 501c3 status. This morning, I officially joined the board of the newly formed non-profit RailsBridge corporation and I heard their voices for the first time on the phone.

I “know” Zach Moazeni. He is an active member of RailsBridge, and volunteered as a mentor when I was learning about Rails plugins. We spent a morning together via IRC and github gists doing test-driven development and refactoring. He followed up with a code review and I have enjoyed reading his posts on the rspec mailing list and his blog. I wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him on the stream. Sometimes I feel like his is my imaginary friend.

I find blogs to be a valuable resource for technical information and I always look for who the author is. I like to remember that there is a human behind the words. These are not computer generated streams of text served up by google. The other day, I acknowledged a mundane discovery via twitter:

Finally looked up how to increase RubyMine memory usage: (thanks Sam Pierson, whoever you are)

to which I received this unexpected reply…

@ultrasaurus Sam Pierson was the tall British guy volunteering at the workshop last weekend. Small world. :)

This virtual reality where I work and play is a sampling of the real world. The science fiction that suggests that we will all interact in virtual spaces has always lacked credibility to me. My unexpected realization of the morning is that virtual reality is upon us already, but looks different than I expected. It exists in the fabric of the Internet and we experience it as other humans use a diverse set of applications to express themselves and communicate directly. It is largely text, but also twitpics, flickr feeds, YouTube videos and sldeshares.

I wonder whether I will always feel a little uneasy with this new form of connectedness or whether it just takes some getting used to.