Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why I am not Olen Steinhauer

Above is a "wordle" of the first chapter of Victory Square, the latest novel from my friend Olen Steinhauer.

To see a larger version click here.

Here is my first unpublished novel

And the bigger version.

I particularly like the "just...well..stuff..."

All thanks to Wordle.

Serial Will Eat Itself

The producers of Web serials — including the name-brand ones like “Afterworld,” “lonelygirl15” and “quarterlife” — seem forever anxious about their audience numbers, and they crunch and recrunch them. The producers of “lonelygirl15,” a thriller about a teenager stuck in a cult, claim that they have attracted 100 million views over more than 550 episodes. Marshall Herskovitz, the creator of “quarterlife,” a repertory drama about artsy 20-somethings, counters that his show has drawn 10 million views over 36 episodes — 50 percent more, on average, than “lonelygirl15.” This is possible, since the unit of success is the flimsy “view,” meaning virtually any click on any part of a series, anywhere on the Web. But it’s clear that we’re not talking about numbers advertisers can remotely trust. Are there really any hit Web serials?

The NYT romps through the "numerati" take on web serials.

Dissolution of the Monopolies?

Mr Fincham, who resigned from the BBC last year in the wake of false claims that the Queen had been filmed storming out of a photo shoot, warned that British television could split "like a medieval church", with the BBC and Channel 4, "chastened by public money", being separated from the rest of the industry. He complained of favouritism, saying that "organisations dependent on the public purse... are clasped more warmly to politicians' bosoms than those who say, 'Don't worry, we'd rather look after ourselves'."

Too much Tudors, mate. Easy with the religious metaphors.

Full lecture on pdf here.

The Daily Telegraph on Television and Trust

According to a poll by the consultancy Deloitte, three in four British people don't trust television. Channel executives must be dismayed. Not simply because of the poll's findings, but because they didn't think of running the poll themselves, as a money-spinning premium-rate phone vote.

More from Michael Deacon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Data Crunching Elite

A very interesting experiment in the future of book promotion? I think so. From The Numerati website created by Stephen Baker. This is the strategy of an online campaign to promote the book this a lot. And the site itself.

Here's the idea. The Numerati is about tracking and predicting people by their data. So why not use a domain of that very science--behavioral advertising--to spread the word to the most likely readers?

That's what we're going to do. In the coming weeks, my publisher, Houghton Mifflin, will be running an advertising campaign for The Numerati on the vast network of sites affiliated with Platform A/Tacoda, a division of AOL. We'll be studying the patterns of the people who click on Numerati ads. Which web sites do they come from? What types of profiles do they have? Do some profiles click more on one type of ad than another?

Stephen is reassuringly honest about the possible outcome:

For starters, we'll be looking at two types of people, the datamining types who resemble The Numerati and the arty-literature type crowd that might page through an article about The Numerati in a magazine like The New Yorker. I may have quibbles about those choices. Maybe you do too. But the process has to start somewhere.

We'll make adjustments, and I'll describe the process, step by step, on this blog. I'll also be sounding out readers on the conclusions we reach and the advertisements we distribute. Maybe you can steer us along a more reasonable path. Or perhaps the data will lead us along a path that appears to defy all logic--but still works.

I think we have to read this book, and find out how the campaign worked.

I keep forgetting this when I check my Facebook

Reed's law is the assertion of David P. Reed that the utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network.

The reason for this is that the number of possible sub-groups of network participants is , 2N - N - 1 where N is the number of participants.

This grows much more rapidly than either the number of participants, N
or the number of possible pair connections, (which follows Metcalfe's law)

so that even if the utility of groups available to be joined is very small on a peer-group basis, eventually the network effect of potential group membership can dominate the overall economics of the system.

From Wikipedia, via a David Cushman post.

...our group-forming nature, finds ways around control and mediation of all forms.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mini Cooper goes hybrid in Beijing

It just turned up.

Missed this the first time...

"If I covered only the newspaper industry, first of all I would have been fired a long time ago; secondly, I would have had to kill myself."

Goldman Sachs equity analyst Peter Appert talks to Reuters

I found the quote on Corante. In a piece by Vin Crosbie about the death of the American newspaper business. The death causes?

The major one is simply that American newspaper companies have violated the Principle of Supply & Demand by failing to adapt their core product to a radical change in consumers' supply of news and information during the past 15 years.

Vin promises more on Friday in Part Two.

Dull Demographics as ever..

...the rise of the "Hillary Harridan" is a disturbing development. It unearths a creepy literary type that harms women a lot more than it helps them. The suggestion that irrational, emotional, self-referential women are swinging the election is not a theme any woman should endorse.

From Slate: is the UK similar?


39 Elevators?

Hannay is back: the BBC Christmas will include a new version of the 1915 novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.

...the spy thriller later turned into a film by Alfred Hitchcock, "reimagined" for the Jason Bourne generation.

The Man Who Fell to Earth?

Is heavy metal making us stupid?

Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" was one of the biggest summer hits this year on the dancefloor, with remixes by Andrew Sullivan, John Battelle, and Bryan Appleyard amongst others.

But who or what does Nicholas Carr trust? In auteur theory a movie maker's worst film is said to often reveal much. Here is Carr writing on the album-a-year-meme choices of Amazon's chief technology officer, Werner Vogels. bet your ass I'd entrust my mission-critical data and apps to this guy. I mean, he even ranks Made in Japan, that ridiculous double-record Deep Purple live album with the 20-minute version of Space Truckin', as the best LP of '72.

Here are some of Vogels' picks.

1969: Rolling Stones, Let it Bleed
1970: The Who, Live at Leads
1971: Marvin Gaye, What's going on
1972: Deep Purple, Made in Japan
1973: Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
1974: Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
1975: Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
1976: Eagles, Hotel California
1977: The Stranglers, Rattus Norvegicus
1978: Herman Brood and his Wild Romance, Shpritsz
1979: The Clash, London Calling

Full list from 1958 onwards here.

And some of Nicholas Carr's choices:

1977: The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
1978: Wire, Pink Flag
1979: The Undertones, The Undertones
1980: X, Los Angeles
1981: Squeeze, East Side Story
1982: Richard and Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights
1983: REM, Murmur
1984: The Replacements, Let It Be
1985: Husker Du, New Day Rising
1986: Elvis Costello, King of America

Full list here.

Another question: Is Wikipedia making us reinvent our pasts?

The new Rosetta Stone

"We're standing now on the last generation of the majority of tribal languages in the world," said Alexander Rose, executive director of the Long Now Foundation, noting that an estimated 50 to 90 percent of the world's languages are expected to disappear within this century. "We're losing them so fast."

Only this one is a Disk.

Over eight years in development, the Disk is a physical, microscopic library of information on over 1,500 human languages. 14,000 text and image pages are etched into the surface of a 3” diameter nickel disk, which can be read with approximately 750x (optical) magnification.

The nickel disk has a high resistance to corrosion, and can withstand temperatures of up to 300 oC with little to no change in legibility of the text. Kept in its protective sphere to avoid scratches, it could easily last and be read 2,000 years into the future!

From the San Francisco Chronicle and the Long Now Foundation.

More on the Rosetta project.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 & Trust

Human beings are social animals, and our first instinct is to trust others. Con men, of course, have long known this - their craft consists largely of playing on this predilection, and turning it to their advantage.

But recently, behavioral scientists have also begun to unravel the inner workings of trust. Their aim is to decode the subtle signals that we send out and pick up, the cues that, often without our knowledge, shape our sense of someone's reliability.

From the Boston Globe.

"Underground" Google?

On Tuesday,, the philanthropic arm of search giant Google, announced it would try to help spur companies to reach underground to produce clean electricity. It is investing a total of $10 million in a geothermal energy company called AltaRock Energy

From Forbes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trusty News Perhaps

All the world's credible news, in one place

Launched today Newscred ranks news according to its "credibility." A Newscred spokesperson told Ars Technica:

"Our algorithms analyze this data, and unlike other social news sites, we use the data to present the news based on quality, not popularity..."

This is who is behind Newscred:

Iraj is a serial entrepreneur from Sweden having worked on multiple technology startups. He was ranked #3 in "Sweden's Top 25 Entrepreneurs 2006" by IT-magazine Internetworld. He's one of the lucky few who found his life's calling at the age of 14 - building beautiful web apps that kick ass. When he's not obsessing about the hottest open-source technologies he loves watching FC Barcelona draw triangles on a football pitch.

Shafqat went the mainstream route. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S.E. in Computer Engineering and B.A. in Economics and was a VP of technology on Wall Street. He soon realized that titles were meaningless because you could neither eat them, nor trade them in for cash. So he decided to follow his life's passion and dive head-first into the entrepreneureal world.

Both of them are avid news readers and are passionate about new media and the changing face of journalism.

I'm emailing them right now.

The BBC's take by Rory Cellan-Jones.

Film and Story 1

And then there are "pure" films - films that are so essentially of their medium that questions of good, bad or ugliness can be dispensed with. These are films that don't have a trace of the novel, the stage musical or the TV drama about them. They exist in the bliss of the edit, the rhythm of their shots. Eisenstein made pure film, as did Buster Keaton and Alfred Hitchcock. Jean-Luc Godard sporadically made pure film.

Mark Ravenhill on pure cinema and the "new" Batman.

Esthesis 5: smaller worlds

TEHRAN - Mohammadreza Honarmand is directing the TV series “Wind and Vent” based on an adaptation from “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.

“The story of ‘Wind and Vent’ begins in 1940’s and continues until the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Most of the foreign adaptations of the novel are loyal to the theme but we changed it into an Iranian style, which was not an easy task, though,” he explained.

The Age of Television

Young people are catnip for advertisers, but they mostly shun TV, and especially news broadcasts. A biannual news consumption study released Monday by the Pew Research Center found that only a third of news consumers younger than 25 watch TV news on an average day. That’s still twice as many as the 15 percent who read a newspaper on an average day.

The gray-haired audiences for television news seem to confirm the statistics. According to Nielsen Media Research, the median age of the top-rated Fox News audience is 63.9 years old, nearly four years older than that of the second-highest-rated news channel, CNN, and eight years older than for the third-place channel, MSNBC.

The median age for the three evening newscasts is 60.5.

From the New York Times, on how:

With polls showing a surge in primary-season ballots cast by voters under 30, media outlets are out to convert the newly energized voters into viewers.

In Response to Nicholas Carr

Wired's turn:

On the contrary: The explosion of knowledge represented by the Internet and abetted by all sorts of digital technologies makes us more productive and gives us the opportunity to become smarter, not dumber. Think of Wikipedia and its emergent spinoffs, like Wiktionary. Imperfect as they may be, the collective brainpower contained within these kinds of sites — and the hunger for learning and accurate information they represent — is something human history has never known before.

Ways of Seeing

All of which provides an effective blueprint for us to follow circa 2012. First up, the opening ceremony, in which a volcano rises from the Thames, spewing flaming Olympic rings into the night sky while Big Ben - or rather, a genetically enhanced version of Big Ben, one with straighter teeth and bigger tits - pirouettes in the background, miming to the Kaiser Chiefs' latest single. This goes on for 15 hours or until the nearest superpower threatens to bomb us. Then the events themselves begin. None of them takes place in the Olympic stadium because there is no Olympic stadium. We've not bothered building one. Instead, we've got a host of exciting made-up CGI sports. Moon Snooker! Unicorn Wrestling! Quantum Deathball! Dissenter Beheading! Pac-Man with Guns! Naturally, none of the other countries has been allowed to practice any of these games, whereas we've had four solid years to develop and perfect them. So we're guaranteed, ooh, at least three bronze medals. We'll thrash Paraguay, that's for damn sure.

Charlie Brooker in the Guardian. How long? How long?

Monday, August 18, 2008

News - TV still on Top increasing shift toward online news consumption, but...there is now a sizable group of a more engaged, sophisticated and well-off people that use both traditional and online sources to get their news.

From Wired via Pew

Politics and Media 101

Can anyone become President of the United States without the patronage of Google? It was once a ridiculous question, but not any more. The fastest growing company in history is also arguably the most powerful. It has the potential to reach into every corner of our lives, from the way we get news, watch entertainment and do our jobs to the way we communicate, seek information and comprehend the world. Its clean white homepage and breezy colourful logo have become so embedded in our psyches that we 'google' without thinking (and use 'google' as a verb). I think, therefore I google.

The Guardian

Square the Circle

Self-promotion should make you slightly uncomfortable. The best journalists know the absolute necessity of humility; when accomplishments lead to hubris, that's when trouble arrives. (I suppose this is true of every walk of life.) That's why self-promotion should never be motivated by pure ego, or resort to the kinds of slippery tactics that journalists love to expose in other fields.

Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and Kauffman Professor of Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

This from the MediaShift Idea Lab