Apple supporters shout down Real

by brian d foy

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I just read Dan Gilmore's We the Media. I was mostly disappointed in it because it was too rosy, as if RSS and blogs and all these fancy new things are great things without downsides.

I got home today and found out (through RSS and blogs), that RealNetworks tried to shame Apple into opening the iPod for other content providers. They posted a petition to their site, but got a virtual group of hooligans shouting them down by flooding their petition with pro-Apple sentiment.

I really like Apple, and I've said before that I think they are being stupid in this dispute with Real, but that's not what bothers me.

Blogs and online things have the same problem as any other media: a small and dedicated group of vocal people can shut down the discussion, just like people show up at Bush or Kerry rallies to chant their messages so the speaker can't speak. Freedom of speech or information means not only do we get to say what we want, but we have to let other people say what they want.

Other problems, like comment spam and astro-turfing, are other big problems. Any medium that makes it easy to get out good information makes it easy to get out bad information, too.

Can we educate the people about the downside too? I find too often that advocates or new technology, and even those of open source, ignore the problems. If we really cared about free information, we would acknowledge them.


2004-08-17 19:45:41
I would disagree
I don't believe your analysis is correct. Real was not shouted down. They chose to close the comment section of their petition because of the negative feedback posted there. They even subsequently stopped publishing the email address of respondents, as it appears some people signed the petition with addresses expressing their opposition. If anything Real could be accused of suppressing freedom of speech.

In an online discussion, dissenting opinions cannot shut down the discussion. Dissenting opinions do not prevent others from expressing their opinions.

2004-08-17 20:16:27
I would disagree
I couldn't agree more...REAL opened the door, invited people in...they got what they deserved.
At a rally....people CAN shout down a speaker....( not of I was running the sound system but thats another story)
Not so in a long as the sever has space, the discussion can continue...PRO and CON. The only way to be shouted down on an on-line forum is to remove the ability to post comments which they tough noogies.

They intended to shout Apple down with their "petition" only it backfired and the PEOLE.....SPOKE LOUDLY.....hope they heard it.

2004-08-17 22:51:58
Not everyone is the same
I didn't take the time to add my name to any comment or petition on Real's faux "community" site. I just posted what I thought on my own blog along with a link to their press release on the matter. I figure that got it out of my system, and I didn't see the point of posting something that they obviously wouldn't want posted on their own site and probably would delete anyway (and from how this article sounds, they did start censoring anti-Real positions).

That is their site and their right to put what they want on it, but of course the majority of the Internet / Weblog community will immediately dismiss the effort by Real as rather disingenuous now (if they hadn't done so already).

If Real really believed in freedom of choice, wouldn't they implement their paid services (all of them) on Mac OS X and at least a few flavors on Linux in addition to Windows? If they even "officially supported" their pay-per-song music store and/or their flat-fee music listening service on at least one popular Linux platform, they could gain a lot of of the kind of "geek cred" they seem to now want.

Admittedly, Real has done a decent job of open-sourcing quite a bit of their free offerings, and does offer two of their paid subscriptions (video & radio) on the Mac. But if this is really the direction they want to go (toward consumer choice) they ought to be trying to support every platform, or make it as painless as possible to help others implement support on other platforms. I agree that providing more details about Real's own format wouldn't hurt this. Maybe Real could even start an effort to develop an open source DRM system. As long as key security wasn't compromised, I can't figure out how the DRM itself being open would be a problem.

2004-08-17 22:55:05
I had intended to say "a few flavors of Linux" not "a few flavors on Linux". And I used the word "of" twice in the sentence after that.

I should also add that I'm aware that Real's Rhapsody (listen dot com) service uses WMA-DRM, which is one reason it can't be ported to other platforms. That's why I suggest they go further to develop their own DRM, so that they could dump WMA entirely.

2004-08-17 23:14:10
Apple: the tragic hero

There has been a rash of Apple bashing editorials on the internet lately. These articles follow one of two themes, both unfavorable for Apple: 1) Apple, due to Steve Jobs' tragic genius, can't be trusted as a market leader; 2) that Apple is too cocky and needs to be cut down to size. In either case RealNetworks is portrayed as the altruistic company championing the cause of the oppressed music consumer.

These are just variations of the "Apple is going out of business" theme that never ceases to be sounded by Apple's detractors. The difference is that today they are disseminated instantaneously and without editorial review to millions on the network.

I just hope that in quick time Apple will make them all eat crow.

2004-08-17 23:49:22
Shouted down?
No one was shouted down. Real set up a "blog" and turned comments on. As best I can tell, that's an invitation for your opinion. What they got in those comments was the reality that the vast majority of people coming to their site completely disagreed with their positions. If they want to turn off commenting that's fine too--it's not like anyone is owed the ability to express their comments on the site. But when you wrap a PR campaign (that's being handled by SutherlandGold) in the mantle of "freedom of choice," you can't get upset when people call you out for being hypocritical for suppressing the very comments that you asked for.
2004-08-18 05:50:25
Look, if anyone is guilty here, it is Real. If they are going to open a blog for comments, they cannot expect everyone to agree with them (do you expect all comments posted on your piece to parrot your opinion, or do you want genuine discussion about your blog posts?). Furthermore, when things went against them, they changed the site to prevent comments being posted. Free speech cuts both ways. Real is trying to wrap themselves in the mantle of freedom of choice, but when push comes to shove, they deny the expression of views that run counter to their own. Really, that behavior is more consistent with a dictatorship...
2004-08-18 07:45:10
Cuts both ways
(1) On a cell phone site. I had to wade through an endless number of "Wow! Great Phone!" comments to find a few people who had actually owned for phone for a year and had the same problems my phone had. Worthless positive posts can obscure real information, too.

(2) I *did*, however, find the information, I just had to search for a few pages. So, nobody was "shouted down", because I could find the information I needed. If I had been able to easily search the comments, I wouldn't have even needed to see the positive messages.

(3) Since when are people allowed to disagree at a Bush rally? :-)

2004-08-18 13:39:14

Seriously though, that Real would put up a petition online and be "surprised" that people were less than civil toward it is at best disingenuous and at worst an indicator that Real has seriously lost touch with the realities of the internet.

I'm sure they'll be equally surprised to learn that people dislike them for their dishonest business practices and lack of any sort of business model, to say nothing of the fact they have the most proprietary and, dare I suggest, useless products going.

What really surprises me about this whole thing is that people are pretending like the world isn't made of proprietary software that only runs on certain hardware. The most apt analogy I've heard is that Harmony is like Microsoft announcing the XBox will now play PS2 games.

Speaking of Microsoft, where are they in all this? Their DRM is being ruptured too, but they are keeping mum so Apple can take the fall and (given that Real is about to bankrupt itself) WMA can laugh all the way to the bank.