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Moving On

Posted on January 31, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

This blog has been a great time but it’s time to move on. Not from blogging or from WordPress, just to my own domain. Yeah! I’ve installed WordPress 2.7, with which I’m very impressed, I must say. The template took a bit of tweaking, especially the feedburner. But, now you can log in, view my work, resume, and of course, my blog. I’ve transferred a few of the posts from this blog and will move a fwe more in the future if they seem relevant or ripe for reposting.

So, please come visit me at the new and improved Michael Durwin blog at: www.mdurwin.com. As always you can catch me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mdurwin.

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How the Economic Disaster Could Be Avoided

Posted on December 12, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This was posted on another site that I found from Digg. Knowing the Digg Effect I thought I’d repost here. It’s already down so I can’t link back. I will update this post when it’s back up with a link.

Visual Guide Crisis Bailout

Visual Guide Crisis Bailout

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Martian Footprint Found?

Posted on June 2, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Martian Footprint Found?

Has NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander already found proof of life on Mars?

This early photo of the Martian landscape clearly shows what looks to be a footprint of a four-toed being. “Based on the lack of an additional footprint in the image and the width of the print, we feel that it is obviously made by a very long-legged, yet top heavy creature.” said top British xenoanthrobiologist Sir Lan Celot.

“We’ll of course need more information but based on what we know about the Martian landscape, atmosphere, calendar year, and weather, the addition of this information helps us develop a fairly good idea of what a Martian most likely looks like.”

Artist Rendering of Martian

Whether this proves the existence of a Martian race or is simply evidence of advanced shooting for a new Survivor series is sure to be the subject of debate until more is known. At the moment no one at CBS or NASA is talking.

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Cease and Desist by Kabbalah Update

Posted on June 1, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Update:

This is really starting to suck. Kabbalah’s attorney’s contacted me again, (after reading this blog) this time demanding all materials related to the project. What am I supposed to do, turn over my software, computer, paperwork, source files? I didn’t sign a contract with them, I signed one with their vendor. It said I would give them animations, not source files. What’s worse is their demand for all materials related to the project.

First of all I’m not sure what that means. I’m assuming all of the video, graphic elements and 3D objects I used for it. The problem is that except for the images and video I used, which was provided by the company that hired me, I either created some things from scratch or used the library of materials I had already created for my self or other projects. Back when I was in college we had an assignment to create a 3D Earth. I’ve been tweaking it ever since, each time I got a client that wanted a planet Earth in their video. Why should they have a right to that? I created a prism as a way to experiment with creating realistic light, background textures for 2D and 3D work, etc. They shouldn’t automatically have the right to all of those materials. Otherwise every time a graphic artist created something on their own, and used it in some fashion in a piece, they’d lose it forever. I wonder how deep this goes. I offered to sell the source files way back, but they weren’t interested. I warned them that they wouldn’t be able to do much with them without the appropriate third party plugins I bought for my various software, having the same software versions, same fonts, etc. I certainly can’t provide those, then I’d be breaking another law, reselling a software companies product that is licensed only to me.

What rights do graphic artists have? Do our clients have the right to learn the tricks that make us so unique? Source files can certainly reveal that. What about tricks that have nothing to do with source files? Can they demand to be told how you accomplished a certain look so they can replicate it without having to go through the trouble of paying you?

The lamest part of this is that I gave them a ridiculously cheap price for what turned out to be alot of work because they are a non-profit religious group. Obviously they are no different from any corporation. I was never even contacted by Kabbalah themselves, they sent a whole BIG TIME NEW YORK law firm. Obviously some of that non-profit money is going somewhere.

It’s a shame that a religious group who claims to be so enlightened, who tells you to think happy thoughts to be a happy person, to share the light so to speak, has so many hang-ups about copyright infringement. Imagine that Catholic Church suing a tattoo shop because the artist gave someone a tattoo of Jesus? Imagine a synagogue suing someone for reminding others to “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”, or “You shall not covet thy neighbors house”, or “Though shall not steal”.

I did politely ask them if they minded if I kept this situation public. I’m sure there are many designers and artists that could learn a thing or two from the situation. For starters: non-profits are just like everyone else. And, as Steve said above, don’t assume you have the right to show work in a portfolio, even though my interpretation, as well as many other artists and their lawyers, make sure you get it in righting that you have the right to show the work. Speaking of which, to Steve’s at Beanywood’s point above about showing your work to get more business could be construed as making a profit, I don’t work as a freelancer anymore. I work for an agency. Having samples of my work on a portfolio site is just a way to say “I’m an artist, see what I can do”. 

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Kids Fueling Virtual World Growth

Posted on October 16, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Parents and children can expect a raft of new 3D environments for play and socializing in the coming year, thanks to projects from established players like Disney and Neopets, as well as upstarts aiming to unseat them. Of course, momentum has been building in this market all year, punctuated by Disney’s $350 million acquisition of kids’ phenomenon Club Penguin this summer. But more companies believe that they can outdo the current crop and capitalize on kids’ love of virtual playgrounds.

One venture capitalist summed up why the market is so hot by saying that kids’ virtual worlds are the only ones that are successful so far. Club Penguin, for example, expected $35 million in earnings before interest and tax this year from subscriptions, according to Sharon Wienbar, managing director of venture capitalist Scale Venture Partners. While that’s only an accounting figure and not necessarily a real indication of profitability, it’s certainly indicative of potential.

“In the children’s market, that’s where virtual worlds are really mainstream,” Wienbar said at an industry conference last week. She was referring to sites like Webkinz and Club Penguin, which have millions of active members, as opposed to adult worlds like There.com and Second Life, which have anywhere between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of active users.

Another reason the industry is booming is because more kids are flocking to imaginative, character-driven environments. An expected 53 percent of children on the Web will belong to a virtual world within four years, more than doubling the current population of 8.2 million members, according to a recent report from eMarketer.

“This is the way people will interact in the future.” –Scott Raney, venture capitalist, Redpoint Ventures

“This is the way people will interact in the future,” said Scott Raney, a venture capitalist from Redpoint Ventures, which backs the virtual world Gaia Online. Raney also was at the Virtual Worlds conference, held here last week.

The market is still relatively young, too, giving upstarts a chance to rival brands like Disney and Nickelodeon. Companies like Webkinz have proven that it’s possible. In 2005, the company started selling plush toys in stores that let kids adopt a virtual character in its online world. In May this year, it had 4.1 million visitors, up 1,300 percent from the previous year.

For that reason, more newbies are piling in. Fashion doll-makers Barbie and Bratz both opened new virtual worlds for girls in recent months, in an attempt to catch up with market-unknown Stardoll.com, a Sweden-based virtual paper-doll site. In less than three years, Stardoll has attracted 6.4 million worldwide members, according to the company. Aardman Animations, creator of the cartoon Wallace and Gromit, also recently opened a kids game site.

Showing that more relative unknowns will be here soon, at least a dozen people raised their hands when asked if they were developing a new online world for teens or kids during a panel at the Virtual Worlds conference.

Executives from well-established players like Nickelodeon, Neopets and Stardoll on the panel also were bullish about their expansion plans to cater to children aged 6 and older. For example, MTV Networks-owned Neopets, a community of 45 million people worldwide who own fantasy pets, plans to launch another virtual world for kids by the end of 2008.

Disney also plans to open up a new virtual world game site based on its popular theme of “Pirates of the Caribbean” by the end of the year.

“It’s a little scary to see all these people coming,” said Mattias Miksche, CEO of Stardoll.com. “It’s a pretty cluttered market already. You have to make a really kick-ass product.”

Venture capitalists said that they like kids’ virtual worlds for their diverse revenue sources–advertising, subscriptions and sales of virtual goods like pets or accessories.

“We’re looking for zero friction and virtual worlds (that simplify) customer adoption,” Raney said, referring to companies that his venture capital firm is most likely to invest in. He said that they’re looking for new companies that focus less on superior graphics, and more on making it easy for kids to use.

Because of all the interest, major brands also are experimenting with extending what they’re doing.

Neopets is the one of the oldest virtual worlds on the Net, with about 11 million average monthly visitors. Acquired by MTV two years ago, Neopets plans to extend its characters to books, in partnership with HarperCollins, and to toys and TV broadcasts through its parent company.

Neopets and Stardoll also separately plan to start selling prepaid cards at retail store Target next week. Those prepaid cards will allow kids to buy virtual goods like digital pets and furnishings on the sites.

Nickelodeon’s virtual world Nicktropolis launched in January, and now the virtual world has about 5.5 million registered users who on average spend 55 minutes on the site per visit, according to Jason Root, senior vice president of digital at Nick.com. Building on its business, the company soon plans to introduce advertising into the virtual world for kids, Root said.

Many executives in the packed audience were eager for pearls of wisdom from the well-established players on the panel. “To anyone developing in the space, it’s not as simple (as you might think). It comes down to the unique combination of gaming and personal expression,” Root said.

“You can’t underestimate the need to keep it fresh for kids and (get) that playground chatter,” Root said. “We can’t get complacent–we can’t go a week without launching something new.”

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MySpace is Safe After All

Posted on October 16, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

A National School Boards Association (NSBA) study, which was funded in party by Microsoft, News Corp. and Verizon, have concluded that social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo are far more harmless than most parents (and the government) currently think.

According to the study, only 7% of kids and teens surveyed have been the victims of cyberbullying, and 3% have had unwelcome communication attempted by strangers. Less than 1% have been found to actually follow through with an in-person movie. On the flip side, more than 80% of school districts surveyed have blocked chat rooms and instant messaging tools, with over half prohibiting forums and email accounts, as well as access to social networking sites. All in the name of safety.

What’s more, the NSBA actually suggests that children will be better off with access to social networking sites. I can see this as a somewhat valid point, for the purpose of being involved with typical cultural behavior. There’s something to be said about participating in the norm of larger society. However, it’s always more difficult to gain true responses from children and young adults, and it’s easy to be wary of a study about MySpace that’s funded by its parent company.

Nevertheless, the media and parental groups have always been a bit over-inflated when it comes to perceptions of online social networks. It’s more so about mental assurance than anything, like knowing a child is more likely to drown in a neighbor’s pool than in a car accident, yet parents put much more stock into buying a top-of-the-line car seat.

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The Previous Deaths Have Been Brought To You By Tide

Posted on October 16, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Park Associates estimates a 400% increase in gaming advertising coming by 2012. “With an average monthly household expenditure of less than half a dollar in 2006, compared to $37 for broadcast TV, electronic gaming represents a seriously under-leveraged advertising medium,” said Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, Director of Broadband and Gaming at Parks Associates. “Nevertheless, if executed in the right way, game advertising can provide a win-win solution for advertisers, game developers and publishers, console manufacturers, game portals, and even gamers.”

<img src=”http://www.parksassociates.com/research/reports/tocs/images/egaming07-toc.gif”/&gt;

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Facebook is Fastest Growing Social Network in Europe

Posted on October 14, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

A new report by comScore on social networking in Europe indicates Facebook is also experiencing rapid growth abroad. Total unique visitors to the site rose 422% from July 06-July ‘07 to 10.8 million. Meanwhile, MySpace remained Europe’s most visited social network, with comScore reporting 25.1M visitors in July, up 24% over the same period.

While on the whole Facebook is clearly exploding in Europe, comScore did note the company’s troubles in Germany, where it doesn’t even place in the top ten. According to the report Facebook had only 177,000 visitors to the German version of the site in July, leaving it far behind leaders MySpace (3.6M visitors) and Facebook clone StudiVZ.

<img src=”http://mashable.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/comscore-europe.gif”/&gt;

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