Sunday, 31 July 2011

software patents(tm)

Below is a copy of my entry in Webook's Daily Deal Write-up Challenge, this month's writing challenge. I don't expect it to win or even come close, because the standard this month has been very high, but at least I got it off my chest.

I wasn't able to say everything I wanted to because of the word limit, so here's a few additional links for background:

And here's the Webook entry:
software patents(tm)

Tired of other people being richer and more successful than you? Want to bring them crashing down to Earth? Well now you can, with Software Patents(tm)!

You may think you've missed the boat, with patents existing already  for buying with one click (U.S. patent  5,960,411), hiding a page while it's being built (also known as double buffering, used in just about every game ever) (5,889,522), having a search engine that ranks sites according to the number of links between them (7,987,195), drawing a box round something to select it with 'handles' at the corners for moving and resizing (6,891,551), and displaying a document with associated images just like every web browser does (5,778,372). However, these are only scratching the surface.

Why should your old professor get all the respect? By going though the lecture notes he provided, and patenting everything in them, YOU become top dog! So what if he couldn't patent his ideas even if he had wanted to, because in his day people took seriously the law (never rescinded) that software couldn't be patented? His loss is your gain! It's a no holds barred, first-come, first-served, feeding frenzy!

(Don't bother with ancient computer science textbooks, though. We've scoured the index of every single one, and patented every algorithm.)

Alternatively,  go for something totally generic. For instance, patent music streaming, and YOU can sue Spotify out of existence! (Oh wait, somebody's already doing that). Patent the idea of having a hedgehog in a video game, and YOU can be king of the gaming world! So what if Sega trademarked "Sonic the Hedgehog"? Patents trump trademarks. So what if hedgehogs have been in video games for years? That sort of thing has never hindered any other patent application. Just be resolute, and you can't lose.
Just buy the idea of softare patents! It's a  goldmine!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Finally, a PeerIndex lower than mine!

I've been following Jeff Schweitzer for a while now on the Huffington post, where he publishes articles fairly regularly. I have commented on a few of them,  resulting on more than one occasion in animated discussions. I think it's very much to his credit that he engages with his readers like that. His latest article is a pretty good one, marred only by a failure to consult with professional frog-boilers prior to publishing.

According to his very professional-looking website,

"Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally
recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development.
He is the
author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011),
and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous
international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States."

 According to his huffpost bio he is also a former White House senior policy analyst. "Dr. Schweitzer served at the White House during the Clinton Administration as Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Dr. Schweitzer was responsible for providing scientific and technological policy advice and analysis for Al Gore, President Clinton, and President Clinton's Science Advisor, and to coordinate the U.S. government's international science and technology cooperation."

He also has an active presence on twitter0, Facebook and Linkedin, being listed in the latter as Vice President at Regulatory Interlinx, Inc.

So I thought it was about time I started following him on twitter, and as I did so I noticed that his PeerIndex was zero, making him the only person I know of with a PeerIndex lower than mine. Visiting the actual PeerIndex site to check that this wasn't just due to some bug in the firefox extension that I use, I found out that  his activity, audience and authority are also all zero.

Suddenly the peerindex of 3 that I have now (and the zero that I had until recently) doesn't seem so bad!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

What a Week! Search Engine Optimum First, second, Third and Fourth!

I've mentioned already that I started a blog eight days ago, In addition, 5 days ago, I registered the domain name "", and the next day,just 4 days ago, I posted a holding page to it. Today those two sites, between them, occupy positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 on page 1 of Google's results for "search engine optimum". Wow! And that's without any advertising, the only promotion being some mentions from yours truly, here and on twitter and Google+. It shows that it doesn't necessarily take 6 months and require a huge and complex operation in order to achieve significant results; though it might have been a bit more difficult if a phrase had been chosen for which there was more competition, and in general 6 months or so should be the time frame to aim for.

Add to that the honorable mention on, and overall it's been quite a week. All it needs now to make it perfect is for fregobo to genuinely become the next Facebook killer. :-)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011

Why I'm going near Spotify

See "Why I'm Not Going Near Spotify (and Why You Shouldn't Either)" at the Harvard Business Review blog, for James Allworth's take on what is wrong with the Spotify music service, which has just landed in the U.S.after three years of being Europe-only.

Basically, he objects to the whole "rental" approach to music distribution: "there's something pretty insidious buried inside music rental models like this. It's prime territory for a bait-and-switch strategy". Why? Because "Simply put: the way we consume music is fundamentally different to the way we consume movies and TV." We tend to watch movies just once, but listen to music tracks over and over. Of course we can listen to the same music over and over on Spotify, if that's what we want, but the way Allworth sees it if we do that then we leave ourselves open to price hikes further down the line.

I won't go into all the flaws in Allworth's analysis - plenty of other commenters have done that. I'll just repeat here what I said there.

'You talk about "owning" music on bits of plastic or on downloaded files, and listening to it over and over, as if that's the only model. Sure, we have our favourites, but how did we get to know in the first place that they were our favourites? That was where the radio that you mentioned in passing came in, plus getting recommendations from friends and borrowing their tracks. That's the area that Spotify covers well. With the imminent demise of the radio, without services such as Spotify we might spend our lives listening to just one genre or even just one band, without even realising that there are other genres and bands out there. Maybe that's what most people already do.

Spotify removes the huge barrier that keeps us from knowing about the whole world of music that's out there. With it we don't have to listen to the radio for days on end in the maybe forlorn hope that we'll hear something we like, and remember what it was called afterwards. It allows us to listen to new artists, and to revisit ones that we vaguely remember from many years ago, and explore the "long tail"  of maybe unjustifiably unknown works of the "one-hit wonders" as well as the most well-known artists, without having to spend thousands or even tens of thousands which we don't have on a vast library, most of which we probably won't listen to even once. It lets us discover out true musical tastes, and in doing so provides even the most obscure performer with an opportunity to connect with new audiences.'

That was three hours ago. Already "Nick Hevelian and 2 more liked this" - thanks, Nick et al. But PXTrials found a flaw in my phrasing:

'PXTrials 1 hour ago in reply to Martin Gradwell: Spotify removes the Huge Barrier"?!?  Let me think: Pandora,, Grooveshark, Rhapsody, Soundcloud, HD Radio, Sirius, and about 1 million internet radio stations.

You are right about the demise of traditional radio, but to say there is a huge barrier that necessitates the existence of Spotify makes me think you are living under a rock.'

So I made the following clarification:

'Martin Gradwell 0 minutes ago in reply to PXTrials: OK, maybe I worded that wrong. I was trying to counter the points that James Allworth was making, not trying to imply that Spotify was the only service with the business model that James finds so problematic. So I should have said "Spotify AND SIMILAR SERVICES remove the huge barrier that keeps us from knowing about the whole world of music that's out there."; with similar adjustments to the rest of the paragraph.

In fact I don't know about the other services you mention, not having tried them, but I'll say that probably do an even better job of introducing listeners to new music than Spotify, since they have "if you like A then you'll probably like B" down to a fine art. On the other hand, I think the sound quality tends to be better on Spotify, even on the most basic service. On,, if you bypass the "radio" because you know exactly which artist and track you want to listen to, the likelihood is that you'll get a low-quality embedded YouTube video of an out-take. Swings and roundabouts.

I like that has "Play on Spotify" links, showing that they see the two services as more complementary than competitive; but I think James would see them as both equally bad, because they both have the "wrong" business model.'

Now, what do you think?

What's it all about?


So I've set up a blog with a name which matches my usual online identity. MTGradwell. What am I going to put in it?

I'm a regular commenter on numerous blogs and other websites, for instance I have a back-catalogue of 699 posts on the Huffington Post. I've written stories (or at least I've written bits of stories - most of them I'll admit are unfinished), some of which have won competitions  and/or  been highly praised.I've answered questions, both technical and non-technical, sung online karaoke, and much, much more. In the past I've participated in vigorous Usenet discussions and set up my own websites to put forward various points of view. I haven't maintained those sites - they took up too much time for too little visible reward - but I like to think that they have had some influence, even though many scientists still persist even to this day in believing that the universe is expanding rather than collapsing. :-)

Despite all of that, my Peerindex was just 1 yesterday.  (On the other hand it's 3 today, which I suppose I should count as a remarkable achievement - who else has managed to triple their Peerindex in just one day?)

So why am I, at least until yesterday, possibly the least influential person on the Internet? With an index of 1, and "activity 0 authority 0")? Surely the person who gave a name to the next Facebook killer should be able to do better than that?

That's where this blog comes in. Whenever I place what I think is a particularly interesting comment on some other blog, or do anything else that might just possibly merit  some attention, I'll place a link here, so that future Internet archeologists will have a central location at which to begin their excavations. I might also resurrect some of my older stuff here. There'll be no overarching theme, because I tend to comment on just about anything and everything, whatever catches my eye. I'm a programmer, but there probably won't be much programming here. When I want to write on a subject like that, I'll start a new blog that's dedicated to it. For instance, you can see the blog on SEO (search engine OptiMUM) that I started a couple of days ago here. I'll mention others as and when they get started.

If you've read this far, I'll assume you're one of those archeologists from the future, since there's not likely to be a lot of contemporary interest in the online ramblings of Martin Gradwell / MTGradwell. So, what's it like there? Does Fregobo really become "the next Facebook killer"? Please comment and let me know. Thanks.