The Spanish Language Web

South and Central America are home to large and growing populations, close proximity to the United States and Canada, and often generous or free trade pacts with the United States, bringing business interaction as well as increased immigation. With a growing Spanish speaking population in America, you would think that there would be massive growth in the Spanish language web. According to Wikipedia, Spanish Language in the United States,” 35.5 Million Americans over the age of 5 speak Spanish as their primary language, roughly half of whom speak English “very well.”

So a little over 5% of the American population speaks Spanish and very little English, and a little over 5% of the American population speaks Spanish natively.

When Apple was < 5% of the market, people worried about losing 5% market share by not accommodating them. By not offering your website in Spanish, you are losing 5% of the potential market that doesn't speak English well AND 5% of the potential market that speaks Spanish better. As a result of neglect, the keywords are substantially less competitive in both paid and free search, yet they are still neglected.

What are you doing to accommodate this portion of America?

Copyright in the Digital Age

In Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig was over 10 years ahead of his time, but pointed to the fact that code, as in software, was as important to the realities of the online legal regime as the laws passed by governing bodies.  There seems to be an increasing understanding that copyright, as we know it, is becoming obsolete.

Our notion of copyright, the exclusive right of an author/creator to control distribution, makes less and less sense as the technology evolves.  Copyright, at it’s core, protected the author from exploitation from the owners of the printing press.  Without copyright, the owner of the printing press would be able to create multiple copies of a book, article, etc., without compensation to the original author.

Consider as a thought exercise, a novel writer, who brings a sample to a press owner, who agrees to share the revenues with the author.  Without copyright, that author would be able to collect from that press owner, but had no protection from dozens of other press owners taking that work and making copies without compensation.  Copyright protected the author.  Our founding fathers established limited protection, 14 years for registered copyrights, with another 14 year renewal available, which made the protection a limited time.  With extensions and treaty obligations, Congress has extended the protection to around 100 years, give or take, depending upon whether it is published, (70 years after the death of author, or for corporate works, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first).  This has insured that all works are protected seemingly forever.

However, in a digital realm, we are no longer worrying about the press owners, but everyone.  Everyone with a computer is capable of duplicating any work, so copyright attempts to regulate everyone.  In addition, the terms have been extended beyond anything reasonable, making the “public domain” trade-off merely theoretical.  For a television show released in 2010, it will be in the public domain in 2105, when nobody will have the ability to duplicate the product.  As culture speeds up, the lifespan of these works is measured in months or years, yet the copyright will last nearly 100 years.

In the computer space, we see the blatantly illegal Abandonware issue, where enthusiasts have archives of no longer available products available for download and possible emulation.  While one might question the literary importance of early computer games, they certainly played a role in American and global culture, and the copyright regime makes it likely that these works will never be available.  Publishers from the 1980s and 1990s are long gone, the copyright holders defunct or swallowed into larger companies, all with no interest in preserving the works of that time period.  For every game like Civilization with endless sequels (and presumably originals maintained and later republished as Flash games or equivalent), there are plenty of games that were exciting but the company went defunct, and changing architecture makes it impossible to maintain.

If I want to show my son the games of my youth, the laws of copyright may not apply (the disks/cartridges may be in a box at my parents house), but with no way to play them, the laws of code render them gone.  The copyright system simply has no way of maintaining preservation of our digital past.  Websites go up and down, articles disappear or are archived, and the only record may be a print out that someone grabbed at the time, threw in a box, and has no legal right to republish.

The intersection of law and code is interesting, because the code permits saving the file and ANYONE republishing it, while the law prohbits anyone from doing so.  Alternative, in the case of abandon ware, the law permits me to own and play my purchased copy, but doesn’t permit any reasonable way of actually doing so without the works of those flaunting the laws.

Napster may be long gone, but for over 10 years, nobody assumes an obligation to pay for anything, just choosing to for convenience.  Copyright is increasing a blunt instrument, simply at odds with how people publish and consume content.  Youtube lets anyone with an interest parody something, but leaves the enforcement of fair use to the increasing lawsuit nervous companies to simply take down something that uses a few seconds of clips.  The meaning of copyright needs to be reconsidered when everyone can duplicate, creating of content may be increasingly expensive, and our culture may simply be at the mercy of technology.

Decades of movies that will never be released in a digital format may exist in people’s VHS collection, but without a way to play them, they’ll simply be lost.  Culture is important, and who knows what future historians will be interested in when researching culture of the 20th and 21st century.  Some of our early writing samples are of mundane things, simply because they survived, and it is tragic if we simply litigate our creative history out of existence.  Current copyright is obsolete, and a new line needs to be drawn to preserve our culture and our rights.

Disney may not be interested in re-releasing Song of the South, but should they be allowed to keep it out of the nation’s cultural archive?

Media Submarkets on the Web

I love reading what marketing focused online marketers have to save, because coming from a technology background, I like understanding what my colleagues without a background in tech thing are the market moving forces.  I’ve been quoting a bunch of articles from Media Post, because the daily emails often prompt a good opportunity to think.  Mr. Allen inadvertently suggests that social media of today traces its roots to the early days of the web, and while he is correct that the desire for interactivity shows signs at the early web, the underlying technology has supported this.

Though today’s websites share no common code with the BBS world of the 1970s-1990s, it shares a cultural desire to share information, files, and resources in an online manner.  Some of the early Unix BBS systems were designed to support information sharing like a dial-up BBS between local users at a University, albeit over the TCP/IP network and Telnet instead of a modem and a terminal emulation/dialer program.

However, the “Social Media” world of today required a certain technological shift.  The “Web 2.0” technology shift, and the AJAX acronym didn’t require new technology, but did require a changing software landscape.  In 2001, when I started in this business, trackable links that didn’t break search engines required custom coding and careful management of the HTTP protocol responses.  In 2009, you go to and it does it for you.  In 2001, building a website required building an article repository to manage content, in 2009 many CMS systems are available off the shelf.  In 2001, SEO was emerging from the hacker days of Altavista, and riding the PageRank mathematics of Google’s rise and Yahoo’s use of Google PageRank for sorting.

Why does this matter?  In 2001, building a website required technology skills.  In 2009, has you up and running in 15 minutes, and you can start working on your site.  The early promise of the Web was two-way communications.  Netscape shipped with an HTML editor, because the whole concept of Hypertext was easily shareable and editable documents.  The HTTP spec had concepts of file movement that were never adopted until the DAV group realized that you could do collaborative editing with them.  HTML editing turned out to be too complicated, but Web 2.0 featured the concept of mini code.  IFrames let websites include content elsewhere, but you were at their mercy for displaying it.  Instead, we have interactive forms that pull information from anywhere.

The social media of today traces it’s social roots to the first acoustic modem on a computer, but the technology is new.  When AJAX came out as a popular acronym, it became socially acceptable to put critical content behind a Javascript layer, previously a no-no of web design, Javascript for convenience was accepted, but not required.  The underlying technology was there, but easy libraries brought it to the junior programmers.

Designing a high end website still requires technology and database skills.  But prototype-grade environments like Ruby-on-Rails and CakePHP brought RAD concepts from the desktop application Visual Basic world to web programming for everyone.  And while it certainly brought out many applications that don’t scale, it made these rapid fire AJAX/JSON mini web services easy to write, and that made the social media world possible.

So while marketers may see this evolution of mini-markets, they miss the underlying technology shift.  Once a media is cheap to create, the advertising on it becomes affordable.  The wire service made real reporting cost effective, the web made mail-order effective, and the underlying language libraries let companies without a technology team build interactive websites, creating these markets.

Blackberries and Always On World

So my old business email still functions, simply because I registered on so many sites during those years.  My two school addresses forward into an email account for people to keep in touch.  Many of my personal friends only have Facebook to reach me.  The three businesses that I am consulting for in various capacities all have me with a corporate email… and these all filter into my poor little Blackberry.

I’m certainly not unique, having used wireless email since the original “pager type” blackberry and the original BES server. Like most technology executives, I may have been bouncing between Blackberries, Palm Phones, and now back to Blackberries, I’m generally always reachable.

This has an advantage in that I’m never tethered, floating between offices and able to conduct business, but it also has the draw back of needing to find time to decompress.  I have started shutting off my devices for large stretches of the weekend, letting me focus on my wife and children.  You can always turn the device on and get your deluge of contacts, and very little is ever so real time that a 24 hour delay will kill them.

The constant communications is a mixed blessing, but if handled properly, we have a tremendous ability to schedule our lives as we see fit, on the go, from a small hand held device.