Smart.fm and the Death of a Free Learning Tool

I haven’t been on it for a while, but smart.fm used to be one of my favorite websites to study Japanese. One I’d been meaning to return to recently. But it looks like that is not to be. Smart.fm is switching over to iKnow.jp (which it already was before, I think) and charging a monthly fee at the door.

Free, the site seemed invaluable, but for ¥1000 a month it seems superfluous. It is an annoying shock to see that the service is just going behind a pay-wall with nearly no warning. More or less it seems they’ve basically abused the goodwill of a community of language learners who’ve spread the word in addition to contributed content and ideas. ¥1000 a month may not seem like a lot, but there are far better ways to spend ¥12000 a year (around $120 USD) on language learning.

The move seems as boneheaded as it is heavy handed. Why not introduce premium services to maintain a large user base? Why not give current users more than a couple months to check out the new site, especially when the site is (by their own admission) buggy? In one stroke they’ve turned a former user and cheerleader into an alienated and upset loudmouth.

Interestingly, smart.fm seems to be keeping & profiting from the user generated content:

Very importantly, the perception of some users is that the majority of content studied in Smart.fm has been created by the user base and that the move to iKnow! is somehow an attempt to take all of this user created content and profit from it…

We appreciate the work that many users have put into creating content and we’re certainly not going to delete it…

Check back for some free sites and methods to study Japanese, along with suggestions where to better spend your $120 USD a year.


Last Palin Post (hopefully forever)

Palin said, “I think if there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about NAFTA or about the continent versus the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context, and that is cruel and mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks.”

Two things come to mind here.

For one, the weird twisting of language here. Taken out of context? If you have any questions or comments about “continent versus the country” when you are talking about Africa then you don’t know it is a continent. People who already know this have no questions or comments about it. That is really all there is to it.

The other thing is that her complaining about people making negative allegations is hypocritical to the Nth degree. The minute you tell the world that someone is “paling around with terrorists” (note the plural) based on one flimsy association you give up the right of being indignant on anything but total fiction, which judging by her own comments, this is not.

I’d meant to post this when it first came out, but I got busy. I decided it was still worth posting as a reminder than this woman should not be in politics. There is no more room for misinformed, hateful, divisive people in politics. As Americans we need to take strong measures to try and keep as many of these folks out of the picture as possible.

PS. please note Palin also calls people “unprofessional” and “jerks” in the same sentence. I’ll say no more.


A Nice Summary of McCain's Lies

I’ve officially lost all respect for McCain. I feel really sorry for him because he went from being a man a someone could kind of admire to being a man that seems grotesquely obsessed with becoming president to the point where he’s no longer even a shadow of his old self. I would never have expected these things of him. It must have been a slippery slope that McCain found himself on.


Rick Davis is a Dick

Anyone who turns away from intelligent debate in favor of mudslinging not worth the dirt they are standing on. So that makes Rick Davis utterly worthless. Davis is the head of McCain’s campaign and rather than engage in a sincere and thoughtful discussion of the two candidate’s positions and explain why his candidate is the best he’s decided that an ad that comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton is better. It is outrageous to compare two messed up blonde fads with an honest political candidate.

Obama has clearly demonstrated an intelligence and seriousness that demands at least an ounce of respect. Davis clearly wants to deny him that. More disturbing is the cocky, “so-what” attitude Davis displayed in responding to CNN’s questions about whether the ad’s are negative (which they clearly are). Asked Davis says, “Will people think of this as negative advertising? Look, it’s the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on TV in a while. I wouldn’t anticipate anything about this being negative.”

Apparently Davis thinks very little of American’s ability to discern what is real and important. That he makes a point to mention entertainment value is completely disheartening. Politics aren’t supposed to be treated as “entertaining,” they are supposed to be treated as serious business that effects our lives— because that what it is! I’m no fan of McCain’s recent tactics (which is sad since I used to respect him), but this goes beyond everything else. It is an insult not only to Obama but to the intelligence of Americans in general.


Should We Keep Letting the MPAA Fib

The MPAA is always going on about how they are losing tons of money in the theaters because of pirates. However a AP article recently pointed out that

Since the first weekend of May, domestic grosses total $1.46 billion, up 4.6 percent from 2007’s, according to Media By Numbers. Factoring in higher ticket prices, actual movie attendance this summer is up 1.6 percent.

But this isn’t the first time someone has pointed out this inconsistency. And an Ars Technica article points out that

US box office doing its biggest year of business ever in 2007, growing 5.4 percent over 2006 and bringing in $9.63 billion

So the question is, how much longer are we going to let the MPAA concoct a “truth” that allows them to push new crappy laws that erode our freedoms? But are we sure they are fibbing? Maybe they made some honest mistakes? Unlikely, the Ars Technica article also reminds us that

It turns out that the MPAA’s college [piracy] numbers were off by a factor of three, a revelation that came after years of hiding the study’s methodology but continuing to lobby Congress with its numbers.

Such gross lies are clearly not innocent. You can expect the same of the laws they’d like to push through.


The Most Important Thing for the Internet

Don’t know what net neutrality is? Watch this video then. Net neutrality is probably one of the biggest issues in our lifetime because it is the what will decide how free and equal we are on the internet. Learn more at places like Save The Internet.com And if you think that companies like Comcast and Verizon aren’t trying to do things that will negatively impact you then watch this video and answer this question. Why would Comcast actively seek to block free speech by engaging is such dirty tatics?


Look What That Wacky DMCA is Doing Now!

A little while back I mentioned that you can’t copyright an art form, but you can copyright a performance… here is a great example of how that is being used.

If you have you ever been to a wedding where someone danced the “Electric Slide” and you videotaped it Ric Silver might have a lawsuit waiting for you. That is right, this knuckle head is using the mother of all bad ideas, the DMCA, to stop just about anyone from doing the Electric Slide on video, from teaching it, or even listing the moves without his permission.

Silver also claims to have come up with breakdancing and The Robot (seriously, look at the bottom of his webpage!), so you kids better watch out, especially if you’d like to show your stuff online at a place like YouTube. CNet recently reported Silver has issued DMCA powered take down notices for just about every video that has the Electric Slide performed in it on YouTube. It seems as if he’s scoured the entire planet for footage of his silly dance suing at will to try and leech every penny possible from folks. CNet reports:

Indeed, Richard Silver, who filed the copyright for the Electric Slide in 2004, said on one of his Web pages that the DeGeneres Show had been putting up a legal fight as he tried to get compensation for a segment that aired in February 2006 in which actress Teri Hatcher and other dancers performed the popular wedding shuffle.

But this isn’t about a dance that most people don’t care about. It’s about someone trying to squeeze pennies out of others by enforcing copyright. The world is rapidly changing into a place where “content creators” can own and control just about anything, and that is scary.

The most insightful part of Wikipedia’s entry on the Electric Slide is the talk page. It is Ric Silver at his best insulting people and making several threats there to sue folks for things like slander and defamation of character and using the timeless catchphrase, “We’ll be seeing you in court.”

The question has to be asked, is this the direction we really want things to go? A place where we can’t dance unless a bonehead like Silver gives us the okay? Will America be the home to some sort of bizarro version of the Footloose town, where kids can’t dance or Ric Silver will get their parents house?