Morning Links

Monday, March 3rd, 2008
  • Did the Hell’s Angels try to kill Mick Jagger after Altamont?
  • Fatal insomnia? Yikes.
  • Stylish blight. Architecture firm carves out some very cool digs disguised to look like blight. Eminent domainers find themselves confused.
  • Hasbro and Mattel take aim at Scrabulous. You clueless idiots. Your game (or at least, a version of it) is making huge inroads with a new generation becomes someone else was able to innovate where your sorry asses couldn’t. And your first instinct is to litigate? Fools. By the way, my Scrabulous rating is 1904.
  • The war on drugs may soon become a heck of a lot more literal than it already is. If you thought the war in Iraq was fun, just wait until we start sending troops to die in Columbia to stop the cocaine supply.
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15 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Michael Pack | 

    It’s a bit more complex.Hugo and FARC are not democratic heroes.I hate the WOD but don’t compare that to socialist tyrants.Of course if we stop the WOD FARC loses funding.They are still Marxist though.

  2. #2 |  Frank N Stein | 

    Do you happen to know if the Scrabulous rating is related to the ELO rating system used in chess? Would be interesting if it was…

  3. #3 |  LibertyPlease | 

    Chavez called the Colombian government “a terrorist state”….

    Oh, well then he’s using the same ‘legitimate’ reason to invade contries that we do. He used the T-word, we should support his invasion.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The U.S. send troops to Columbia? Are you friggin’ nuts? Let’s review. First we started sending oodles of money to their government. Then we started sending advisors. Then we started accepting a limited combat roll. Then…

    Ok, I see your point.

  5. #5 |  Nick T | 


    I have to say your dead wrong on the Scrabble article, and in multiple ways. First, it would be stupid for the rightful owners and makers of scrabble to sit back and expect that this online verison of their game will help them make more money by raising the popularity of their game. It’s unreasonable to think people willrun out and buy the board game because they like online play much better (and it’s absurd to expect them to buy the computer version). So the corporations are not foolishly undercutting some means for them to actually make more money in the long run – unless you think simply making the game more popular is its own reward. Second, what other means are they to pursue if not litigation. They say they tried other means, but that didn’t work. Ltitigation is all you have if you can’t just reach an agreement, and these peopel appear to be stealing their idea.

    I know you love to rightfully point out how big media companies go crazy trying to stamp out meaningless little references to their IP that pops up here and there and probably does them more good than harm, but here, these guys pretty much stole their game, made it avilable to everyone for free and are making boatloads of money off of it, and still the corporations should sit back and smile?!

    Is there a scenario where you would find copyright litigation appropriate?

  6. #6 |  Highway | 

    Nick, there’s a HUGE space between ‘sit back and do nothing’ and ‘stamp out anything that comes close to their IP’. There are plenty of avenues they could go down to monetize it for themselves: License the technology and make it their branding; License the name back for a cut of the advertising; Put out a competitive product (what are the Scrabulous guys gonna do? Sue Mattell for infringement?). And those are just things I thought of right off the top of my head. In short, they could try to leverage the IP they own with the newfound popularity to monetize it. Instead, what do they do? Try to force stupid scarcity AGAIN. File legal action. Punish the users. The same idiot mistakes that are killing the RIAA and MPAA.

    You’d think one of these days, these dinosaur companies in their shrinking markets would learn. And someday, some will. The rest will get bought out by those that do, for pennies on the dollar.

  7. #7 |  Nick T | 

    Highway, I’m not surprised you thought of those off the top of your head, because they all would only work with the agreement of the pirate, except for the last ne which is kind of silly. Yes it’s hard to imagine some sort of emotional indignation over some decades old board game, but perhaps they are clinging to a principle that these pirates should not suddenly be licensed or graciously handing over a “cut” of the advertising revenue.

    As for competition, they probbaly don’t think it fair to compete with someone who is stealing their product. Would you just say “oh well’ when your band cut a record on SONY only to have RCA burn it and mass produce and just hope everyone buys those SONY copies cuz they have the real album art and a bonus track? Yes these are al alternative solutions but they all leave the Scrabble folks worse off than if they had originally licensed the game and were making all of the money from it. I can’t imagine they are stupid enough to not be at least exploring how to launch a comparable game that they could moetize. You say “scarcity” but to them it might mean “monopoly” (in a sense) and that is what they want, and is the point of IP laws.

    Without your dubious scarcity argument, you seem to be arguing against law-suits in and of themselves. Why is that necessarily worse than NOT suing and, as you propose, settling for a piece when you’re the rightful owner of the whole?

  8. #8 |  Alex | 

    Nick pwned Highway.

  9. #9 |  Highway | 

    Because you end up as the rightful owner of a whole piece of nothing. Because if you DON’T give people what they want, they’ll figure out how to get it, eventually marginalizing you.

    The point is that the ‘pirates’ DO have something that the big company should want: The innovation that Hasbro / Mattell obviously DIDN’T put into the game, that made it relevant again. Why are they working on their own version of it now? Because people want to play it now. They certainly weren’t before now.

    Suing is the wrong way to go because it’s not looking forward. It’s looking back, at realities that are not extant anymore. So they shut down these two guys. And the next person to come along makes a game that’s pretty similar, but different enough that it’s NOT obviously a win court case. What does Hasbro/Mattell do then? Nothing. They’re dead, because they didn’t hire the people who do the innovation. They tried to keep what was the cash cow before, and shut down everything that might threaten it. Meanwhile, the rest of the world moved on.

    It’s not a case of whether it’s wrong or right to pirate stuff. It’s reality that these companies need to move into the digital domain, with innovation and smarts, or they’re dead. Sure, they’d have been better off if they thought of it first, but they didn’t. And they can’t put that genie back in the bottle. So do they move forward and build on the new popularity? Or do they try to haul it back, and look like stupid, petty dinosaurs?

  10. #10 |  David Chesler | 

    Why are they working on their own version of it now? Because people want to play it now. They certainly weren’t before now.

    Jayant Agarwalla, 21, said they did not create Scrabulous to make money, even though they now collect about $25,000 a month from online advertising. They just wanted to play Scrabble on their computers, and their favorite site had started charging, he said.

    Their innovation seems to be in making money through ads rather than fees.

    IP is IP. If you mis-step and market something unwisely, or don’t realize a new niche market, you don’t lose the IP.

    (Disclaimer – the Maven AI that became the official Hasbro Scrabble AI was developed by the co-captain of my high school math team.)

  11. #11 |  David Chesler | 

    He didn’t become a high-ranking engineer at Hasbro until after he’d developed Maven and sold it to them.

  12. #12 |  UCrawford | 


    If you thought the war in Iraq was fun, just wait until we start sending troops to die in Columbia to stop the cocaine supply.

    Start sending them to Colombia? We’ve been sending troops to Colombia to do drug interdiction on and off for the last twenty or thirty years. Until the War on Terror, that was one of 7th Special Forces Group’s primary missions.

  13. #13 |  Nick T | 

    Highway, it’s good to know you would never sue anybody for anything ever because it’s not looking forward and something somehting about realities…

    “It’s not a case of whether it’s wrong or right to pirate stuff. It’s reality that these companies need to move into the digital domain, with innovation and smarts, or they’re dead.”

    So this whole argument is about cliches from Business 102? If this, along with your many other sweeping generalizations, is the whole case then I don’t think I see how that connects to the larger point. Which is, whether it is self-destructive for this company to try and thwart the specific (medium and provider) thing they are targetting. Should they offer an online version of their game or be labeled stupid? Yes. Were they doing that? Seems so. Are they probably a stupid company that can’t quite maximize it’s web/technology potential? Probably.

    And now for the big money questions that you have to answer: Does this mean its ok for them to have their IP pirated? Does this mean trying to thwart those pirating attempts (even through a back-looking lawsuit) is counter-productive to their own bottom line?

    So I think we agree on this company being stupid but until you try to answer those final two questions – which you have not – then we are having two different conversations.

  14. #14 |  Chris | 

    The owners of the Scrabble game sure looked stupid by having the legal battle public, but I don’t really see why they should be vilified for it.

    If I made a board game and years later, someone came along and produced an online version of it, I would be pretty happy to know that there are still people playing it. I suppose I would want to come to a fair agreement over the sharing of profits and encourage it instead of filing a lawsuit.

    Hasbro/Mattel own the game. It’s their call. If they want to take this opportunity to kill off what could be a tremendous boost to this particular product, that’s their right I guess. Not a way I would have gone, but I guess I’m not that knowledgeable in the business world. It seems to me that they should have embraced this and come to an agreement where they all came out ahead, but someone obviously sent the memo to a lawyer instead of the advertisement/PR people..

  15. #15 |  Chris | 

    As far as sending troops to South America-

    We have been doing that for many years already. (As UCrawford pointed out in the link.) While it might be listed as “Advisors” or “Training” personnel..

    Look up “Operation Blast Furnace” in 1980’s, when we sent Blackhawk helicopters and troops to Bolivia to help the forces of that country find/destroy drug labs.

    We have been doing this for quite some time now…

    (Former military – U.S. Southern Command, JTF-Bravo Honduras, Panama)