Tuesday, July 04, 2006

At The Point Of Value

Tim Bray says:

"But Simon’s right, too, that a lot of money is swirling around; and in particular he’s right that the money happens when the software goes into production."

At the point of value: the software market is replicating the evolution of the music market at the advent of cheap home recording. Prior to that, distribution in the form of fixed media (paper and vinyl), was controlled from point of creative act to point of sale. Once replication or copying technology is in the hands of the purchaser, control by distribution morphs in to control of release value.

The cost is the cost of innovation. In community efforts, this cost is inexpensive by comparison to closed efforts. Open source is still a loss-leader but that is insignificant to the cost of a closed system loss-leader.

The cost of content is less for the complexity of the product, but in an ad based revenue system, quality still requires professional work. The cost of content falls but the competitive edge is best tools. For content, the competition has not changed; the scale of production required has. More can do but it is a market based on small differentiation of the same styles with a slow evolution from cross-breeding styles and saving serendipity. Small teams can do mighty works, but cool counts.

A software market like the music market thrives on Hits. The problem for the very large companies is they need too many to feed the kids and don't really get a subscription model: it requires a high rate of change to get more from less. The closer the software is to the core of the platform, the lower the rate of change. A subscription model is still an expensive subscription. To make this work, the tools built on top must diversify and become smaller and more adaptible. In music, VST improved the lot of all of the follow-on producers of plugins.

Unless the core is common.

So far, the software market won't step up to this except in the domain of open source. Sun makes too much core and not enough plugins. It carries too much community overhead and not enough follow on software.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Planet Quest Website: Brilliant!

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab's PlanetQuest website is brilliant. This is a stunning proof of the power of X3D as an educational format that is beautifully surreal presenting complex information compactly. The techniques applied are ingenious but easy to use and comprehend. This is the professional level of multimedia web content production that X3D needs.

The Wirefusion production approach to integrating text, 2D and 3D is straightforward. They build one dominant object and explain it in the style of a product presentation. Each topic is presented in a mode perfectly suited to it so navigating it is childishly simple and enrapturing.

My only nit here is the sound is noisy. Streaming sound is still the biggest quality gap in the X3D. Multitrack sound streams that enable the spatial capabilities of real-time 3D such as proximity based mixing and soundFollowers aren't here. On the other hand, this sound is a vast improvement over what we had to use ten years ago so I am still blown away. Personally, loops bore me unless other sound nodes are used with them, for example, an option to have the text entries read by a human voice (not a synth). It only takes a little work to record the voices. I understand the bandwidth vs click through problems, but as a musician/actor, you can blame a guy for wanting. :-)

With only that nit, I recommend this site to anyone, but particularly to X3D authors and site designers as a to-be-studied example of doing it right.

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