Sunday, September 27, 2009

Musings about Music: Lilly Allen, File Sharing, the Music Industry, NiN, Creative Commons

"But when you're between the devil and the deep blue sea, you need to stop worrying about pirates, and adjust your sails".

And so ends Dan Bull's brilliant video riposte in response to UK musician Lily Allen's support of stronger measures against illegal file sharers:

Kevin alerted me to the video via this post at (26 Sept '09), where it explains:
This week Lily Allen’s views on file-sharing have been the hot topic. While some agree with her calls to ’save’ the industry from a fate worse than death, others did not subscribe to the doomsday scenario. One of those is UK musician Dan Bull who has written a brilliant song-come-open letter to Miss Allen...

... Say what you like about Lily Allen. Agree with her. Disagree with her if you like. Whatever the position, it’s difficult to take it away from her – she has done more in the last week to raise the online debate over illicit file-sharing than any other artist in recent months.

... “After Lily’s hectic week I’ve made a pro-filesharing song and video calling her up on a few of the claims she’s made,” UK musician Dan Bull explains to TorrentFreak.

“I’ve also tried to outline some of the main moral arguments for filesharing in the lyrics. Hope you enjoy, and hope the readers do too.”

Until that video and post, I had no idea who's Lily Allen (see her Wikipedia entry and her official website).

Except for this re-post (23 Sept '09) by, I've not managed to read any of Allen's actual comments and entries (blog posts have been taken down). Though I understand the controversy has to do with her support of stronger measures against illegal file sharers and downloaders.

Lily Allen - press update (

The Times, Thur 24 Sept 09 - Lily Allen and views on File Sharing

Over at the Sydney Morning Herald, they have this article (25 Sept '09) that gives more details on the controversy. Also says Allen will reportedly quit the music business altogether because of abuse towards her (arising from her support of stricter measures against illegal downloading and file sharing). This was also covered at (24 Sept '09) two days before their Dan Bull post.

I can't say I know a lot about the music industry. Been reading articles like this, this, this one and this.

Each time I read about "the music industry" it makes me wonder, "Who makes up the Music Industry anyway?" Or rather, who stands to lose the most with the loss of music CD sales.

Musicians are just one part of the equation. Then there are the producers, session musicians, technicians. And of course the music lables -- publishers, distributors and marketing.

From what I've read, a large part of the profits go to the 'music labels', i.e. the company who signs on, grooms and markets the singer/ band. It's largely the labels who are lamenting the loss of sales, rather than the musicians. From what I've read so far anyway.

Nothing is immune against digital piracy. It's happened (and will continue to happen) to book publishing as well.

Some people seem forget that intellectual piracy isn't unique to the online platform. It's just that when content goes digital, the content is now separate from the container. The problem is exacerbated since distribution is now in the hands of the many when it once was the domain of a few.

This Guardian article (12 Jul '09) reports, they cited a survey that showed "the number of teenagers illegally sharing music has fallen dramatically in the past year". And that "legal digital sales are also seeing an unprecedented boom, although sales are far from making up from the shortfall created by the collapse of the physical market. Digital singles were up 41.5% in 2008, while physical singles sales plunged 43.5%..."

I hardly read anything about the Creative Commons in the mainstream press. Seems to me the mainstream press carry more stories on the damage of copyright violations to the music industry, while there is a relative silence on positive alternatives.

Like how Nine Inch Nails' CC-licensed Grammy-nominated album topped the 2008 Amazon MP3 sales charts (Nate Anderson covers this nicely at; see also this CC case study entry).

When a band like NIN releases an album with a CC-license (they specifically adopted the BY-NC-SA license) and also sells it at, it means:
  • The band is explicitly allowing users to copy, transmit, re-post, share and remix the work under the specified conditions as detailed in the CC license.
  • The band retains the rights to their own music; they do not give up any of their rights.
  • They also have the rights to sell their own music; releasing their work under CC does not affect their rights to sell/ release their work in other ways.

Also, I would say the band has balls.

For a big name like Nine Inch Nails, I suspect it would have taken a respectable amount of faith in their musical abilities, and the dedication of their fans, to make their CC-licensed album work. NIN probably makes more money from their live gigs and tours. But that's not the point.

By explicitly allowing their music to be copied and transmitted, I think NIN recognised that they can't stop their fans -- and would-be fans -- from doing it anyway. Might as well just give permission to people on HOW to do the RIGHT THING.

I don't blame the mainstream press for not covering much on CC. Writing about CC is just about as exciting as reporting on Copyright (which is what CC is about in that sense).

Unless there is something newsy to report, I doubt if we will hear about CC in the mainstream press. Unless they decide to run a regular column on Intellectual Property. Like how some mainstream papers have regular columns on money and investment matters.

Come to think of it, why don't they have a regular column on IP, Copyright and Creative Commons?

If mainstream papers can run columns and Q&A type of sections for romance, money and health, why not Intellectual Property? Invite readers to write in to experts, stuff like that. I bet it will answer a reader's need for information, and also serves as some form of reader education for the mainstream paper.

Afterall, IP is a way of life.

Almost everyone is a potential content creator (photographer, writer/ blogger, videographer). Or if you think negatively, almost everyone is a potential copyright abuser and digital pirate.

If we aren't already.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stuttering: some resources and related links

Learned about the International Stuttering Awareness Day, October 22:
International Stuttering Association - ISAD
International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) occurs on October 22nd and is designed to raise awareness about the challenges that people who stutter experience. ISAD is a joint endeavor by persons who stutter and their families and professionals (educators, researchers and clinicians) interested in stuttering. ISAD provides a framework for building a more humane, just and compassionate world for millions of people who stutter

ISAD is co-sponsored and recognized by major international stuttering organizations such as International Stuttering Association; the International Fluency Association; European League of Stuttering Associations and American Speech-Hearing Association Division on Fluency and Fluency Disorders as well as national organizations which you can find on the International Stuttering Association website (
Source: International Stuttering Association (ISA) - (last accessed, 20 Sept '09).

After I posted that on sgLEAD, I searched more on the topic and found some interesting information on the condition:
  • A study published by the British Medical Association, as cited here, reports that "... bilingualism before the age of 5 has a significant effect on stuttering compared to children who speak only one language before this age".
  • The above results seem to be supported by this research paper led by the Singapore General Hospital, Australian Stuttering Research Centre, and National University of Singapore. From the abstract, the results show that "... English-dominant and Mandarin-dominant BWS exhibited higher %SS and SEV scores in their less dominant language, whereas the scores for the balanced bilinguals were similar for both languages."
  • This NUH flyer/ newsletter article says: "In Singapore at least 1% of the population stutters, with more males and females suffering from this problem." (PDF can be downloaded here).
When talking with people who stutter, the best thing to do is give them the time they need to say what they want to say. Try not to finish sentences or fill in words for them. Doing so only increases the person's sense of time pressure. Also, suggestions like "slow down," "relax," or "take a deep breath" can make the person feel even more uncomfortable because these comments suggest that stuttering should be simple to overcome, but it's not!
  • Stuttering is not just something you are born with. It could occur after a stroke, some illness or accident (as mentioned in the 5th para of this document from MOH; PDF here).
  • According to this article by Metta Welfare Association (page 2; PDF here) "Stuttering is a neurological condition, for which treatment and management protocols are different for the pre-teen and teenage/ adult populations."

How can one get speech-language therapy services in Singapore?
As advised by the Speech-Language and Hearing Association Singapore:
If you have a concern about communication difficulties or swallowing, consult your family doctor or general practitioner, who can then make the necessary referrals to the nearest / most suitable service available. A referral is usually required to access services in hospitals. Alternatively, individuals may directly approach a private Speech and Language therapist for an appointment.

I found these public and private hospitals, agencies and companies in Singapore that offer services for Stuttering/ speech therapy:
[The list may not be exhaustive; all sites were accessed on 20 Sept '09]

You can easily find the definitions for Stuttering from Internet sources, but to properly assess and diagnose it would require specialist help.

What I've read so far all agree that Stuttering is a treatable condition, but there is no cure (meaning, one has to keep working to keep the condition in check). And they all advocate early intervention and treatment (makes sense, because the longer you delay diagnosis and treatment the longer you delay your ability to overcome the problem).

Some books that are in NLB libraries:

Stuttering: Its Nature, Diagnosis and Treatment/ Edward G. Conture
ISBN: 0205319246
NLB Call No.: 616.8554 CON (REFERENCE)
Abstract (from the NLB 'New Arrivals' site):
"This highly readable, clinically oriented book combines theory and therapy and examines all facets of stuttering, from possible etiologies through assessment to treatment. While considerable uncertainty still exists regarding the precise cause(s) of stuttering, Conture provides the reader with an even-handed coverage of fundamental knowledge, methodology, and procedures for effectively dealing with stuttering in children, teenagers, and adults. The book goes beyond a "how to" manual. Rather, Conture's clinical handbook provides both students and clinicians a source for principle-based procedures and strategies for the management of stuttering. Focusing on people who stutter as people first and people who stutter second, the material covers assessment and management of stuttering within the realities of everyday living, concomitant speech and language problems and clinical practice. For those in the fields of communication science and disorders and speech pathology."

Finding my voice: Youth with speech impairment/ Joyce Libal
Finding my voice : youth with speech impairment_ Joyce Libal
ISBN: 1422204227
NLB Call No.: 618.92855 LIB (Young People's Section)
Abstract (from the NLB 'New Arrivals' site):
Speech impairment is a common challenge among youth. Unfortunately, it is a challenge that, despite its frequency, can cause severe emotional and social distress for those who experience it. Stigma and prejudice can present particularly difficult emotional trials and social roadblocks to youth with speech impairments. All too often, these young people are assumed to be less capable, immature, or even unintelligent because of their communication barriers.

Education is the key to dissolving the common assumptions and prejudices held against those with speech impairments. Fortunately, more and more people are learning that speech impairments do not mean these children are less intelligent or less capable than others. Today many doctors, teachers, and organizations are committed to educating the public about speech impairment. They are helping youth with these conditions break down their communication barriers and reach their full potential. In Finding My Voice: Youth with Speech Impairments, you will learn about different types of speech impairments and about speech therapy. Along the way you will meet David, a boy who struggles with stuttering, and Martha who conquers problems with articulation. As David and Martha navigate the many challenges speech impairments pose, you will learn about the struggles, fears, joys, disappointments, and triumphs they meet while on their journeys.

BTW, you might want to head over to the International Stuttering Awareness Day Causes Page on Facebook:
Causes on Facebook | International Stuttering Awareness day is October 22!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Love at First Type

My first PDA was a Palm Tungsten-T. Bought it back in 2003.

Back then, I remember a colleague commented that I seem to like "IT-stuff". We were at a meeting. I was using my Palm Tungsten-T, with its foldable keyboard, to record notes from the discussion. To that colleague, it seemed strange not to use pen and paper to take notes.

"Palm Pilot - Tungsten T", originally uploaded by talios.

I replied that I didn't use IT just because it was cool. I went purely for utility, I said.

The PDA allowed me to be more productive. I wanted a way to reduce the time copying notes on paper to digital (e.g. preparing Minutes of meetings in a Word document, or sending them out via email). The PDA was a worthwhile investment. What I typed into my PDA could be synced to my computer at my office cubicle and sent out immediately. I cleared my backlog of notes and updates that way.

But thinking back, my decision to buy the Tungsten-T wasn't entirely utilitarian.

It was a case of love at First Type.

The Story
My wife was the first to buy a Palm Tungsten-T (she's the real IT-person in our home). Up to that point, I have never had a PDA. It did not occur to me to get one. Not even when I saw my wife using it, even though I could logically deduce it would improve my work productivity.

Until I saw the foldable keyboard my wife bought with her Tungsten-T.

The foldable keyboard was beautifully designed. When folded up, it was the size of a cheque book. Sleek looking, encased in brushed aluminum. Lightweight but felt sturdy. When open, its size was way smaller than a conventional PC keyboard cousin.

What sealed my decision to get a Tungsten-T myself, with the foldable keyboard, was when I tested the keyboard.

Its touch and feel was the same as a conventional keyboard, if not better. What impressed me was that in spite of its size, it had exactly the same functions as a typical keyboard. The size of the keys was the same but the overall keyboard size was reduced. The designers combined up to three functions in selected keys on the foldable keyboard, so that reduced the number of keys needed.

Improved office productivity
The PDA and the keyboard was a worthwhile investment. Using it drastically improved my work productivity.

Instead of typing handwritten meeting notes to a email memo after each meeting (with the inevitable three to four days delay), I eliminated the need for handwritten notes by typing directly into the PDA, doing a 'Hotsync' to the PC/ laptop, then a quick copy-n-paste job to the email memo.

And after I tried out the Calendar feature on the PDA, I stopped using my printed calendar. It took a little getting used to, but the change was worth it. I could update my daily tasks much more easily, and I could set alarms for future deadlines. My printed calendar used to be stuffed with so many post-it notes of To-Do items, not to mention peppering my desk with post-it note reminders. The PDA eliminated that.

Also, I tend to do my best thinking when not consciously thinking about work. Like traveling on the train or bus. With the PDA, I could take down notes quickly whenever those *ahem* brilliant ideas strike. Or if writing was not possible, then hit the record button on the PDA to store audio.

But all that were just consequences of getting myself the PDA. I discovered the PDA's utility after I gave myself time to try it out.

In reality, I fell in love with its foldable keyboard first.

My Tungsten-T and its foldable keyboard served me well. I retired them five years later when the touchscreen failed and was beyond economical repair. I bought a Nokia e61, which had similar office productivity features, plus a phone.

I still have my Tungsten-T as a keepsake. But in truth, I've kept because of its foldable keyboard. From time to time, I still unfold the keyboard, slot the PDA onto it. And remember the good times.