Pirates: the good guys, the victors, and readying a new offensive?

Having the increasingly tired conversation about whether the music industry stands a chance (it doesn't), and wrote up this response for why the problems that do exist in pirate tools are pretty insignificant compared to the alternatives:

"All those problems [incomplete catalogue, fake files, bad tagging, variable sound quality, porn ads, ISP throttling, the risk of being sued, guilt, etc.] are real, no doubt.  But let's not forget: despite those problems, pirates still own 95% of the music download market.  Don't you think if pirates really cared to deal with any of those problems (better than they already do), they could?

Indeed, don't you think those problems are pretty trivial compared to the vastly more substantial problems (that you fail to list) of dealing with the cartels?  Namely: crippling fees for companies, unreasonably high fees for users, and the occasional licensing turf war that wipes out all users outside of the United States?

Thanks to technology: music is now bits, and bits are now infinite.  These are revolutionary facts.  Why is it so hard to accept that this revolution is like any other: those in power suffer while a new power emerges.  This is such obvious stuff, I don't know how we're still debating it so many years *after* the revolution ended.

I mean, for a moment imagine the pirates are the good guys in this battle.  Imagine you're one of them, and you've already secured 95% of your terrain (eg, the global music download market), and are only dealing with the occasional isolated incident from rogue terrorist outfits (eg, RIAA vs Jamie Thomas-Rasset) or settling regional disputes (three strikes laws, lawsuits against TPB).  Sure the pirates could improve their interfaces.  And surely they are improving.  But where's the rush?  Wouldn't you think the war had been won long ago?

If anything, I bet they're more interested preparing an offensive push into new terrain: the global music streaming market.  And if stupid things like Pandora needing to shut down its international userbase -- creating a global demand for something that there is no legitimate way to buy -- then they'll have no harder time winning and holding that terrain than they have music downloads.


iWarrior: A paintballer's best friend

Imagine this incredibly basic app:

  • You and your buddies are on the same paintball team
  • You all strap iPhones to your forarms (screen out)
  • You all have bluetooth headsets
  • You are all on a conference call
  • You all see a Google Satellite view of the terrain
  • Your teammates all show up as dots
That's it.  Instant Land Warrior.  And imagine the upgrades:
  • Instead of putting it on your phone, put it on your gun
  • On your map, it always shows what direction your teammates' guns are pointing using the new built-in iPhone compass
  • The phone listens for vibration or sounds or something to signal that the gun was fired
  • On your teammates' maps it shows little fading lines shooting out from your position, so they see where you're firing. 
And more upgrades:
  • Every time you touch the map it shows where you touch on everyone else's maps.  Simple use, say "rendezvous here" and point where on the map.  Add all sorts of gestures to indicate enemy positions, waypoints, etc.
  • Add in some kind of external camera and point it where your gun points so you get gun views; share them in realtime with the rest of your team, either always or only when the gun is firing.
Man that sound fund to build, and I don't even have an iPhone.  Too bad I'm already focused on Expensify.  Anybody out there interested in building it?  If you're an iPhone developer looking for extra cash, let me know...

-David Barrett

Unit support == Foreign currency support

Funny how the most obvious things slip by.  You might recall that we just released a new "Mileage (and other unit) support" feature.  It just occurred to me that a perfect use of this "other unit" functionality is foreign currencies, duh!  It's so incredibly obvious, naturally I'd only realize it once I had the need to log a cash expense in Turkish Lira.  So to do that I simply:

  1. Went to my settings page
  2. Created a new unit named "lira"
  3. Set it to the current exchange rate ($0.65/lira)
Now I can log Turkish expenses by just creating expenses like "160 lira - Korean hostel 2 nights 4 people", and it automatically converts it to the relevant USD amount.  Brilliant!  I mean, I knew we were pretty cool, but even *I* sometimes underestimate ourselves.


Our iPhone app is here!

From the mailing list:

Expensify: Our iPhone app is finally here!

It's been a couple months since our last update, but I'm very proud to announce something we've all been waiting for: the Expensify iPhone Application is finally here! I know you thought we were making it up all along (and at times it felt like a dream), but the vapor has finally taken shape and you can download it today!

Install the Expensify iPhone Application

As you might know, you've always been able to take pictures of receipts and email them to receipts@expensify.com for inclusion with expense reports. This application streamlines it even further for iPhone users such that you can take pictures and upload straight to your account, over wifi or 3G, skipping email entirely. So download it today and give it a shot!

What's new?

We've been so busy we haven't spent a lot of time communicating with you (sorry about that!) but here's a quick update:

  • Lots of talking: One reason we've been quiet in email is we've been loud in person -- watch us demo at Finovate Startup 2009, watch Witold demo solo (part one, 1:23:50 in) at Business Insider Startup 2009, or keep an eye out for the results of even more demos given in private!
  • Lots of learning: The general consensus seems to be that Expensify "just works". Not perfect, but pretty darn well. So rather than just building loads of random features, we've talked in detail with hundreds of users to learn exactly which new features will make our already good product great.
  • Lots of tweaks: Some of those user-requested features are already underway (thanks a million, keep clicking that red link!), including:
    • Mileage (and other unit) support: Log a cash transaction for "500 miles" (via web, email, or SMS) and we'll auto-calculate the reimbursable amount based on the federal mileage rate, or customize the rate and add other units (hours, widgets, etc.) in your settings page. (Read more)
    • Multi-level approval: Do you approve reports but not reimburse them? Now click "Approve and forward" to send it up the food chain -- we'll even keep track of the approval (and rejection) history for all to see.
    • Report CCs: A little thing but one that got countless requests: now you can "carbon copy" another email address when submitting reports!

And of course we've released a ton of minor fixes under the hood, and are laying the foundation for some even more significant changes down the road. So we might have been quiet, but we sure have been busy!

Expensify is growing!

That's right, we just doubled the company! Granted, that's not terribly hard when you only have two people to start, but think of it this way: if we can do all this with just two guys, just think what we'll be able to do with two more!

So there's a lot going on over here at Expensify world headquarters, and I'll try to do a better job in the future of keeping you informed. In the meantime, just keep filing expense reports and we'll keep getting you reimbursed, faster and easier every day!

- David Barrett (dbarrett@expensify.com, Twitter: @expensify)

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