Marlo Morgan, the American hero we Aussies have never heard about

I should point out straight away that the title of this post is sarcastic.

In 1990 American businesswoman Marlo Morgan self published a fictional (but penned as a factual memoir) title “Mutant Message Down Under” describing her experiences in Australia, being kidnapped by a tribe of wandering Aboriginals and travelling through the desert with them, a great spiritual journey which changed her life. The book was subsequently picked up by Harper Collins in 2005 and became a bit of  a success in America and Europe,  and was translated for European audiences. I had never heard of the book until a visiting couchsurfer showed me the book she was reading – a copy of the novel, in French.

It sounds pretty good until you realise that the entire story was fabricated, and completely misrepresents Aboriginal culture and customs – more resembling American Indian tribes according to this denouncing review (highly recommended reading!). The Harper Collins publication was sensibly marketed as a novel, not a memoir. As well as misinforming foreign readers on the life of customs of Australians indigenous peoples, the book is commonly described as having racist undertones all the way through. Little wonder the book has received no notoriety or success in Australia. At the end of the review, my reviewer leaves a note:

In 1996 a group of Aboriginal elders, incensed by this book and the damage it is doing, obtained a government grant to travel to the United States to confront Marlo Morgan and to stop a Hollywood film being made of it. They obtained a very reluctant apology from her which I heard on radio in Australia. As they represented the people of the area in which she claimed to have begun her walk across Australia she had no choice but to admit she had made the whole story up. Unfortunately this admission has gained almost no publicity in the States. For those who still listen to Morgan’s message please remember it is the simply the musings of a white woman who has been fully prepared to lie and delude her admiring public. 

As to the motive for writing the book, a reviewer on types:

After reading the book I researched Marlo Morgan and found out that she merely worked for four months in a pharmacy in Queensland, came back to the United States and started selling Melaleuca, a tea tree oil based product. She began supplementing and boosting her sales by handing out manuscripts of her “experiences” with Aboriginals and the healing powers of tea tree oil. I think she merely found a way to make big bucks on a hugely fabricated story


Goldman Sachs, assholes of America

This 2010 Rolling Stones article goes in depth on Golman Sachs, pioneers of no less than eight economic bubbles since 1920


Sum Of Us and GetUp! Do their bit for the employees of Foxconn

[you can go straight to the petition here ]

Whether or not you’re an Apple user, it is hard to deny that the brand has revolutionised information technology. Apple is the biggest company in the world, and the millions of people who buy iPhones and iPads make Apple’s investors very rich — in January they announced a record-breaking 44.1% profit for last quarter and are sitting on $100 billion in cash.
But the success of Apple comes at a terrible cost – shocking details have emerged about the conditions under which iPhones and iPads are manufactured, with a rising count of employees dying from suicide, exhaustion and explosions.[1][2]

Foxconn, Apple’s largest supplier, has almost 1 million employees. A typical employee might rise before dawn in a massive dormitory, and work in silence for more than 12 hours a day, six days a week with forced overtime. Deadly explosions rock iPad factories but are easily preventable with proper ventilation, and repetitive motion wears away their joints until they can no longer function. Management have even installed nets around buildings due to the number of suicide attempts and threats.

Apple can do better – a lot better – and the only thing that will make them demand higher working standards from suppliers is public outcry. This Thursday, Apple will hold their shareholders’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) and SumOfUs, a new global movement that campaigns to hold corporations to account, will be there to deliver a petition to the new CEO. Let’s add our voices to the global call for reform – sign the petition now.

Working conditions are terrible for the people who make, by hand, each and every gadget Apple sells. In extreme cases, people are literally dying while doing their jobs. Reporters have documented cases of deadly explosions at iPad factories, and instances of workers dying of exhaustion after working thirty-plus hour shifts.

Apple knows this is going on, and according to an anonymous Apple executive quoted in the New York Times “[s]uppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.” But Apple hasn’t demanded better treatment of their workers because they believe that “customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China”.[3]

Australia’s smartphone market is a tight competition between iPhone and Android phones – what Australians think about Apple matters to them.[4] This Thursday, as the world watches Apple and its top executives and shareholders, corporate campaigning organisation SumOfUs will present petition signatures gathered from all over the world demanding safe working conditions for Apple employees. It’s now up to our Australian movement to keep the pressure on Apple and let them know Australians care about the lives of workers – wherever they are.

Safe working conditions and workers’ rights shouldn’t be a choice. Sign the petition calling on Apple to make the next iPhone its first ethically made product:

Apple is known for demanding the highest quality products. They should also demand the highest quality working conditions for those who make their products.

Thanks for all that you do,
The GetUp team.

PS – At this Thursday’s AGM Apple will celebrate its most successful year yet. If we join with the growing international movement calling for reform, led by SumOfUs, we can make it the day Apple celebrates not only their profits but doing the right thing for their workers. Sign the petition asking Apple not to put profits before the lives of people who make their products: 

[1] ‘Foxconn Worker Dies in the Bath After Working 60 Hours a Week’, MIC gadget, 30/06/2011
[2] ‘In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad’, New York Times, 25/01/2012
[3] Ibid.
[4] ‘Apple and Android in smartphone photo finish’, Sydney Morning Herald, 21/12/2011

“Better than Free”

Better than free was written by Kevin Kelly. Because there is no direct link to this article alone, and in keeping with the spirit of the text, I’ve reproduced it in full below. For original source, go to:

Better Than Free

The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can’t erase something once its flowed on the internet.

This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports — that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

I have an answer. The simplest way I can put it is thus:

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Well, what can’t be copied?

There are a number of qualities that can’t be copied. Consider “trust.” Trust cannot be copied. You can’t purchase it. Trust must be earned, over time. It cannot be downloaded. Or faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). If everything else is equal, you’ll always prefer to deal with someone you can trust. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy saturated world.

There are a number of other qualities similar to trust that are difficult to copy, and thus become valuable in this network economy. I think the best way to examine them is not from the eye of the producer, manufacturer, or creator, but from the eye of the user. We can start with a simple user question: why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free? When anyone buys a version of something they could get for free, what are they purchasing?

From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free.

In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.

Eight Generatives Better Than Free

Immediacy — Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released — or even better, produced — by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good. As a sellable quality, immediacy has many levels, including access to beta versions. Fans are brought into the generative process itself. Beta versions are often de-valued because they are incomplete, but they also possess generative qualities that can be sold. Immediacy is a relative term, which is why it is generative. It has to fit with the product and the audience. A blog has a different sense of time than a movie, or a car. But immediacy can be found in any media.

Personalization — A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room — as if it were preformed in your room — you may be willing to pay a lot. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can’t copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that “stickiness” because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over.

Interpretation — As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it’s no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software. The copy of code, being mere bits, is free — and becomes valuable to you only through the support and guidance. I suspect a lot of genetic information will go this route. Right now getting your copy of your DNA is very expensive, but soon it won’t be. In fact, soon pharmaceutical companies will PAY you to get your genes sequence. So the copy of your sequence will be free, but the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it — the manual for your genes so to speak — will be expensive.

Authenticity — You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don’t need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You’ll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted. Or that it was indeed actually performed by the Dead. Artists have dealt with this problem for a long time. Graphic reproductions such as photographs and lithographs often come with the artist’s stamp of authenticity — a signature — to raise the price of the copy. Digital watermarks and other signature technology will not work as copy-protection schemes (copies are super-conducting liquids, remember?) but they can serve up the generative quality of authenticity for those who care.

Accessibility — Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our “possessions” by subscribing to them. We’ll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo (ours or other photographers). Ditto for books and blogs. Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.

Embodiment — At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you’d like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. What about dwelling in your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room? There is no end to greater embodiment. Sure, the hi-res of today — which may draw ticket holders to a big theater — may migrate to your home theater tomorrow, but there will always be new insanely great display technology that consumers won’t have. Laser projection, holographic display, the holodeck itself! And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.

Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead’s recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead’s case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.

Findability — Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention — and most of it free — being found is valuable.

The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love. They bring out the good news of the “long tail” phenomenon, which we all know, connects niche audiences with niche productions. But sadly, the long tail is only good news for the giant aggregators, and larger mid-level aggregators such as publishers, studios, and labels. The “long tail” is only lukewarm news to creators themselves. But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear. They are not needed for distribution of the copies (the internet machine does that). Rather the PSL are needed for the distribution of the users’ attention back to the works. From an ocean of possibilities the PSL find, nurture and refine the work of creators that they believe fans will connect with. Other intermediates such as critics and reviewers also channel attention. Fans rely on this multi-level apparatus of findability to discover the works of worth out of the zillions produced. There is money to be made (indirectly for the creatives) by finding talent. For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it “guided” combined. The magazine guided and pointed viewers to the good stuff on the tube that week. Stuff, it is worth noting, that was free to the viewers. There is little doubt that besides the mega-aggregators, in the world of the free many PDLs will make money selling findability — in addition to the other generative qualities.

These eight qualities require a new skill set. Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution since the Great Copy Machine in the Sky takes care of that. Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can’t be replicated with a click of the mouse.

In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.

Careful readers will note one conspicuous absence so far. I have said nothing about advertising. Ads are widely regarded as the solution, almost the ONLY solution, to the paradox of the free. Most of the suggested solutions I’ve seen for overcoming the free involve some measure of advertising. I think ads are only one of the paths that attention takes, and in the long-run, they will only be part of the new ways money is made selling the free.

But that’s another story.

Beneath the frothy layer of advertising, these eight generatives will supply the value to ubiquitous free copies, and make them worth advertising for. These generatives apply to all digital copies, but also to any kind of copy where the marginal cost of that copy approaches zero. (See my essay on Technology Wants to Be Free.) Even material industries are finding that the costs of duplication near zero, so they too will behave like digital copies. Maps just crossed that threshold. Genetics is about to. Gadgets and small appliances (like cell phones) are sliding that way. Pharmaceuticals are already there, but they don’t want anyone to know. It costs nothing to make a pill. We pay for Authenticity and Immediacy in drugs. Someday we’ll pay for Personalization.

Maintaining generatives is a lot harder than duplicating copies in a factory. There is still a lot to learn. A lot to figure out. Write to me if you do.

You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You in the Face (reposting a blog about childhood and respect)

Awesome blog post I think everyone should read…

“I am sure every girl can recall, at least once as a child,  coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime.  I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”.  I never really thought much about it before having a daughter of my own.  I find it appalling that this line of bullshit is still being fed to young children.  Look, if you want to tell your child that being verbally and/or physically abused is an acceptable sign of affection, i urge you to rethink your parenting strategy.  If you try and feed MY daughter that crap, you better bring protective gear because I am going to shower you with the brand of “affection” you are endorsing.”

Read the rest:

News Day at TAWNBPM

Occasionally I like to peruse the wall of the TAWNBPM facebook page (Tony Abbott Will Never Be Prime Minister), mostly because people often post links to interesting news articles that I wouldn’t otherwise have stumbled upon. Some good ones today so I’m blogging a list.

“Australia’s unemployment rate at lowest level in six months”

“The Good News Labor won’t Share” – how the Labor party are miles ahead in policy but just “hopeless” at the political game (I mean, the economy is kicking arse and yet federal Labor is not doing great at the polls.

“Coalition loses all credibility”

“The Assange case means we are all suspects now”

“Overclocking” your brain.

For a bit of fun, I thought I’d try typing it into google.

I found a few interesting things, like how the brain is estimated to cycle the equivalent of 14.4Mhz in processing power (but non-linear). Speed and Ritalin are the drugs of choice for overachievers (nothing new there). The fight-or-flight adrenaline-rush is as close to a short term natural physical and mental boost as there is (think of mamas lifting cars to save their children).

What made me decide to post about it was this nice like 10-point list on that offers advice on how to improve brain performance. Rather than repost the content I’ve provided a link:

In addition to this, I offer an all important number 11: Socialising. From my subjective experience I’ve found that maintaining social links and even better, diverse social links can be really beneficial, so long as you don’t overstretch yourself too much (which will mean very different things to different people). Research has shown that socialising  is key to good memory, and combating degenerative diseases such as alzheimers.