Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Close to the Edge

The website of the Borders bookshop chain in the UK has stopped taking new orders for books while "the business is in discussion with potential buyers".

The firm says that existing customer orders are also being delayed but will be fulfilled.

From the BBC.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Films of the Decade (1)

The Times Top Ten Films of the Decade:

The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum
No Country For Old Men
Grizzly Man
Team America
Slumdog Millionaire
The Last King of Scotland
Casino Royale
The Queen

And at 11: Borat (?)

Full List here . I would replace No Country - vapid, over-stylized, with Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. and Slumdog with Michael Clayton. Otherwise, pretty good - maybe Waltzing for Bashir and Todd Haynes I'm Not There instead of The Queen? And the Hurt Locker?

It has been another low dishonest decade and these films tell that story, I think. So perhaps Zoolander as well - the first film I saw in Manhattan after 9/11. We laughed hsyterically. Comeback film of the decade (on DVD) must be Fight Club, as the New York Times recently wrote.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Coming

Google is poised to launch its "buy anywhere, read anywhere" digital books programme Google Editions simultaneously in the US, UK and Europe within the first half of next year.

Speaking at the Tools of Change conference in Frankfurt, Amanda Edmonds, Google's director of strategic partnerships, said the programme would be rolled out by June.

From this morning's Bookseller briefing.


NOWISM | “Consumers’ ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences. Consumers are also feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak. As a result, expect your brand and company to have no choice but to finally mirror and join the ‘now’, in all its splendid chaos, realness and excitement.”

From Trendwatching.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Creative" Commons: after the trust has gone

Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

As Alan Rusbridger says: Kafka.
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.

Merkel attacks Google aka European politician looks for new Microsoft

But this was interesting:
Merkel also stressed that she doesn't believe that eBooks will ever replace traditional books - though she does mention that 'new' technologies like audio books have changed the book market over the last few years.

From Read Write Web. Also the Google stuff.

He Returns: tomorrow (at dusk presumably)

Thanks to the daily dose from Flavorwire.
This authorized sequel picks up 25 years after the classic Dracula, and is based largely on Bram Stoker’s handwritten notes for characters and plot threads. Taking a new generation into account, it features Van Helsing’s morphine-obsessed protégé; Mina and Jonathan Harker’s lawyer-turned-actor son; and even the elder Stoker himself as a London theater director.

The video, of course:

Email is so over, says WSJ

We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

From the WSJ.

NHS gets US support, from the UK

Americans living in the United Kingdom and other European countries have been surprised to see the national health services in their host countries criticised so harshly in the US. While the system is far from perfect, we recognize that our fellow citizens at home are being misled and manipulated by political forces.

This website provides the basis for a forum for discussion and productive debate about Healthcare Reform in the USA, giving people a place where they can post their experiences - both good and bad - with various national health systems across the world.

Visit National Health Truths here.

Kindle: what mobiles? which prices?

The Kindle is expected to work with AT&T’s wireless network, which they say has the global reach that Amazon needs for its international plans. The idea is that AT&T will work alongside a number of partner networks in 100 countries around the globe

Although Amazon’s Kindle e-reader has been a major hit and the best-selling product in creator Amazon’s entire store this year, it has not been available outside of the US.

Amazon will later this month begin shipping a new version of the Kindle that can be used to purchase and download books in over 100 countries. The new version, the ‘Kindle with US and International Wireless’, will sell for $280 (£176) and can be pre-ordered now.

From the Telegraph.
And a little cost price analysis from the Guardian:
When asked by the Guardian precisely how much downloads would cost, an Amazon.co.uk spokesman revealed that foreign customers - including those in Britain - would be paying $13.99 (£8.75) per book instead of the American price of $9.99 (£6.25). That amounts to a 40% premium for the same title.

"International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US," said the spokesman. "Additionally, VAT rates in the EU are higher on ebooks than on print books."

More here.

Playing Poker with those Print Things

There will, I trust, be more like this in the coming months. About time too:
The media's response to this device will, I am sure, be negative. We will hear a lot, over the next few weeks, about the soullessness of reading on screen compared to turning pages. If I promised you a pound for every time you are told by a columnist during the month of October that "you can't read a Kindle in the bath", I would be skint by Christmas.

In the newspapers, on TV arts shows (are there still any TV arts shows?), on Radio 4, around us at social occasions, we will see and hear mournful disquisitions on the beauty of the old-fashioned papery book and what a tragedy it would be if people stopped buying them.

But you know what? Nobody buys books anyway. Nobody. If you have a friend who has written a book, ask how many copies it sold. The answer will probably be 12. Or none.

Victoria Coren goes realist in The Observer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

William Safire: 1929 - 2009 - Three's a Gestalt

Safire's rule eight for columnists:
8. Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day. When the two-topic writer strains to tie together chalk and cheese, turn instead to a pudding with a theme. (Three subjects, however, can give an essay the stability of an oaken barstool. Two's a crowd, but three's a gestalt.)

Love or loathe the politics the Safire columns had grace.

...in the Springtime; I love Paris in the Fall

Too good:
Last night [September 23] was Paris’s first Literary Death Match, a throw-down organized by Opium magazine where authors read their work in competition before a live audience and jury. It started late because Beigbeder had gone temporarily missing, and then we were all shocked (and maybe not so shocked), when Beigbeder got up and announced that he had forgotten to bring his book; he was too drunk to compete; and anyway, he wouldn’t compete against a woman. Especially one as beautiful as Max Monnehay.

From The Paris Blog.

Books and Reading: the new criterion

The idea that "a book is a place (where readers, sometimes with authors, congregate)" arose out of a series of experiments investigating what happens when the act of reading moves from the printed page to an online space designed for social interaction. as we expanded the notion of a work to include the activity in the margin, in effect we re-defined "content" to include the conversation that a text engenders. Put another way, locating a text in a dynamic network brings the social aspects of reading to the fore. (see Without Gods, Gamer Theory, Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and The Golden Notebook projects)

In an earlier set of notes ("A Unified Field Theory of Publishing in the Networked Era") I suggested that as discourse moves off the page onto networked screens, the roles of authors, readers, editors, publishers will shift in significant ways. For example, the author's traditional commitment to engage with a subject matter on behalf of future readers will shift to a commitment to engage with readers in the context of a subject. Successful publishers, i posited, will distinguish themselves by their ability to build and nurture vibrant communities of interest, often with authors at the center, but not necessarily always.

More thoughts here from Bob Stein and the Institute for the Future of the Book

Newsweek: sitting on the fence again

The fact is, all this hysteria has nothing to do with saving the news, or saving jobs. Nor is it about saving democracy, which is what the red-in-the-face newspaper lovers always get themselves huffed about, as if newspapers and democracy were inextricably linked. Democracy existed long before newspapers did, and it will survive without them. And plenty of countries that don't have democracy do have newspapers. Nor would a bailout help readers. In fact, it would only slow down our shift to the Internet, which is a far better medium for delivering information.

The only beneficiaries of a bailout would be a handful of big newspaper companies that used to be profitable and powerful and now, well, aren't. Those companies saw the Internet charging toward them like a freight train, and they just stood there on the tracks. They didn't adapt. Why? Because for decades these companies enjoyed virtual monopolies, and as often happens to monopolists, they got lazy. They invested their resources in protecting their monopolies, using bully tactics to keep new competitors from entering their markets. They dished up an inferior product and failed to believe that anything or anyone could ever take their little gold mines away from them.

Going for it: Techtonic Shifts in Newsweek - by Daniel Lyons.

Paying: News Corps Research says Yes

In a memo leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald, he says: "News has conducted some audience research here in Australia and in the UK and U.S., which gives us confidence that, if we get the product and delivery system right, people will happily pay for news content online, on their computer, mobile, e-reader or other devices."

The Guardian.

Books: the dark ages again, so Umberto was right?

Please grant me a moment to explain. Act I: Google makes secret agreements with libraries to scan all books, calls it “search”, is greeted as a savior. When the details come out and are quite dark, it is too late as people remember it as a good thing.

Act II: Google is sued (surprise!) and secretly negotiates for maximum rights with as small a number of lawyers as possible. Having it be a class action is the stroke of genius — the parties get to rewrite copyright law. Google+TradeLawyers make a backroom deal — Google would get to solely control the out-of-print book world (most of the books of the 20th century) and the lawyers from the Authors Guild and the AAP would share tens of millions of dollars. Seems like a tidy deal. But there are two troubles — copyright and anti-trust. They need an act of Congress or the Justice Department to bless their cabal.

So where are we? They drafted a settlement that is completely self-serving, while short-changing authors, publishers, libraries, other countries, and Internet companies (if you don’t believe me, please read the words of hundreds of well-reasoned objections to the suit). The Justice Department did the right thing to cry anti-trust foul about the *two* monopolies that are proposed: Google and the Books Rights Registry. But interestingly, Google could only make a settlement where they were the only beneficiary because this was done as a class-action suit.

Full piece here at the Open Content Alliance

Getting the message out there

Accompanying Lord Mandelson and Ben Bradshaw’s visit to the BRIT school in Croydon to put the other side of the peer-to-peer file-sharing debate, the guys created a multimedia package that takes the press notice and tells an interesting policy story. What’s more, it was live on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and the corporate website within 4 hours as one of our new-style hybrid stories/multimedia resource pages.

Combined with the Digital Britain Forum blog’s discussion of the file-sharing issue, I think this makes an interesting and little-heard case for a policy, through digital media. I think that’s what government information in the 21st century is about.

From Helpful Technology.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sounds like Hollywood costs, but isn't

Development costs for the current generation of high-end consoles, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3, range from $20m to $30m, and those for next generation consoles could average $60m, according to Ubisoft's chairman and chief executive, Yves Guillemot. Games often take two years or more to develop.

The Guardian on the "freemium" business model.

Facing History

Going back in history, it's possible to imagine digital technologies — from websites to cell phones to Facebook and Twitter — making a real difference. Imagine if these options were available to Soviet dissidents and refuseniks who, back in the 1970s, were limited to secretly communicating by one handwritten samizdat at a time. Maybe the "Iron Curtain" would have come down a decade earlier. Or perhaps the outcome would have been different in Tienanmen Square in 1989 had Chinese protesters been able to communicate and organize instantaneously.

Abraham Cooper on the Facebook blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I've forgotten what this is about already

Researchers now say that the stress of not being able to process information as fast as it arrives – combined with the personal and social expectation that, say, you will answer every email – can deplete and demoralise you. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and expert on attention-deficit disorders, argues that the modern workplace induces what he calls "attention deficit trait", with characteristics similar to those of the genetically based disorder. Author Linda Stone, who coined the term "continuous partial attention" to describe the mental state of today's knowledge workers, says she's now noticing – get this – "email apnea": the unconscious suspension of regular and steady breathing when you tackle your email.

There are even claims that the relentless cascade of information lowers people's intelligence. A few years ago, a study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard reported that the IQ scores of knowledge workers distracted by email and phone calls fell from their normal level by an average of 10 points – twice the decline recorded for those smoking marijuana, several commentators wryly noted.

The Guardian.

Instant trust: goodbye Google

For more than 10 years, Google has organized the Web by figuring out who has authority. The company measures which sites have the most links pointing to them—crucial votes of confidence—and checks to see whether a site grew to prominence slowly and organically, which tends to be a marker of quality. If a site amasses a zillion links overnight, it's almost certainly spam.

But the real-time Web behaves in the opposite fashion. It's all about "trending topics"—zOMG a plane crash!—which by their very nature generate a massive number of links and postings within minutes. And a search engine can't spend days deciding what is the most crucial site or posting; people want to know immediately.

So a new generation of search engines like Tweetmeme, OneRiot, Topsy, Scoopler, and Collecta are trying to redefine what makes a piece of information important.

From Wired.

Google books turns another page

The judge overseeing Google's controversial agreement with American publishers to digitise millions of books has delayed a hearing into the $125m deal - effectively shutting down the settlement and sending it back to the drawing board.

Instead of proceeding with the internet giant's plans to make millions of in-copyright books available online and take a slice of the proceeds - a deal first announced last year - the groups will now go back and renegotiate the settlement in way that satisfies critics including the US Department of Justice.

The Guardian

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cities and the matrix of the future

Nice piece: I remember talking in 1993 with Nicholas Negroponte about Archigram and their amazing ideas; now they are back again in the futurist. From Future Metro.

Archigram didn't build their visions, other architects brought aspects of them into the world. Echoes of their "Plug-in city" can undoubtedly be seen in Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers' Pompidou Centre in Paris. Much of the 'hi-tech' style of architecture (chiefly executed by British architects such as Rogers, Norman Foster and Nicholas Grimshaw) popular for corporate HQs and arts centers through the 80s and 90s can be traced back to, if not Archigram, then the same set of pop sci-fi influences that a generation of british schoolboys grew up with - into world-class architects.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wireless: the new file sharing?

Wireless carriers shouldn't be allowed to block certain types of Internet traffic flowing over their networks, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission chairman said Monday in a speech that got a cool response from the industry.

Unless done very carefully, this extension of regulation risks stifling investment in Internet access, executives said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said wireless carriers should be subject to the same "open Internet" rules that the agency has begun to apply to home broadband providers. That may mean that a carrier couldn't, for example, ban the use of file-sharing services on its wireless network, which AT&T Inc. does now.

From AP.

Trust me I'm a former spin doctor

Alastair Campbell on getting elected...
The first and most obvious step to authenticity is to be who and what you are. That does not mean not taking care of image, message, words, pictures, clothes, media management, voices of third party support, attacks on opponents. But they must all speak to a basic strategic reality, because in this more intense exposure, the public will get to the reality anyway.

...and what is it about this that sounds a little, er, forced about this argument?
In contrast: Nadav Kander's amazing pictures at Flowers East...Obama's People.

Micropayments: good if you are a monopoly

Reifman defends his approach by pointing to several successful models of payment for services, including iTunes, text messaging, TiVo, and broadband Internet. The first thing that leaped out at me is that three of those four things — iTunes, text messaging and broadband Internet — are a result of something approaching a monopoly (or an oligopoly or cartel, in the case of text messaging and broadband Internet). Apple can charge for music because it controls access to the songs from all the major record labels. Phone companies and cable companies can charge usurious rates for text messaging and Internet because they have little or no real competition. How does any of that apply to newspapers?

From the Nieman Journalism Review.

Grande skinny, slightly wet extra hot news

Terry Heaton's always interesting blog reflects on the news that: MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski is now sponsored by Starbucks. What happens when it is time for a story about, let's say, coffee wars and MSNBC...
...stayed away from the negative story about coffee. Think about this before you react, but in today’s world of thousands of news sources, what is really wrong with that? And wouldn’t people feel that the one place they could get the Starbucks’ “side” of the story would be “Morning Joe?”

If you assume that you are the ONLY source for news and that you have to market yourself as such, then the need for such purity is pretty obvious. But if you can bring yourself to accept that you don’t need to be the ONLY source for news, then the fundamentals of purity don’t matter as much. News is ubiquitous today

Slippery slope this news by osmosis stuff, so we can be trusted to always feel the bias. But it won't be the last time we hear this kind of thing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I thought I'd drop you a short hand-written note.com

It's true that kids will write more and more on computers and cellphones. Nonetheless, humanity has learned to rediscover as sports and aesthetic pleasures many things that civilisation had eliminated as unnecessary.

People no longer travel on horseback but some go to a riding school; motor yachts exist but many people are as devoted to true sailing as the Phoenicians of 3,000 years ago; there are tunnels and railroads but many still enjoy walking or climbing Alpine passes; people collect stamps even in the age of email; and armies go to war with Kalashnikovs but we also hold peaceful fencing tournaments.

It would be a good thing if parents sent kids off to handwriting schools so they could take part in competitions and tournaments – not only to acquire grounding in what is beautiful, but also for psychomotor wellbeing.

Umberto Eco on handwriting in the Guardian.

Can't Buy Me Love?

The music industry dispute over illegal downloading intensified yesterday after talks between record labels and a rebel group of artists broke down.

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has spent a week in talks with record labels such as Sony and EMI, who back plans by Lord Mandelson to disconnect internet users who persistently download music illegally.

From The Times.

Is Google a Library?

Untitled from andrewkeen on Vimeo.

Andrew Keen interviews Siva Vaidhyanathan.

Pay day still someway off...

From Paid Content/the Guardian

Never mind the depth, Feel the speed

We may think metaphorically of the production of knowledge as a function of “information” and “attention,” with attention understood as the set of activities by which information is ultimately transformed into various forms of knowledge. By virtue of its unprecedented impact on the relative prices of information and human attention, information technology is driving a correspondingly profound transformation of knowledge production, the main feature of which is a shift of emphasis from “depth” to “speed.” This is simply because depth and nuance require time and attention to absorb. So as attention has become the dominant scarcity, depth has become less “affordable.” Moreover, with information so abundant, strategies are needed to process it more quickly, lest something of vital interest or importance is missed.

From the Globe and Mail.

Ex-Bankers: get into publishing now

Even though Muhtar Bakare has lived all his life in Nigeria, a country enamoured of Big Men, he gave up his position as a bank executive to start an independent publishing house. His reason? He worried that nobody was publishing fiction. He believed Nigerians had to "tell our own stories".

Trust, Again

The truth is the Internet didn’t steal the audience. We lost it. Today fewer people are systematically reading our papers and tuning into our news programs for a simple reason—many people don’t feel we serve them anymore. We are, literally, out of touch.

Today, people expect to share information, not be fed it. They expect to be listened to when they have knowledge and raise questions. They want news that connects with their lives and interests. They want control over their information. And they want connection—they give their trust to those they engage with—people who talk with them, listen and maintain a relationship.

Trust is key. Many younger people don’t look for news anymore because it comes to them. They simply assume their network of friends—those they trust—will tell them when something interesting or important happens and send them whatever their friends deem to be trustworthy sources, from articles, blogs, podcasts, Twitter feeds, or videos.

From Nieman.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Normal Service Resumes Tomorrow

That's Monday morning...

It has been a hard summer; and now it is time to get back to work.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peter Hunt 31.12.1932 - 09.09.2009

My father.

The pleasure of risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination... in a word, experience. Climbing in particular, is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of playing chess with your body. If I make a mistake the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period I am directly responsible for my actions. In that beautiful, silent, world of mountains, it seems to me worth a little risk.

Al Alvarez

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tipping Point (and symbol)

Rickett said he published an ebook simultaneously with all his titles and that this was linked to new online marketing strategies. "Books are getting much better at using the internet to create excitement, like films do," he said. This summer Rickett has watched online interest in Viking Books' sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Eoin Colfer, translate into heavy orders for the book well before its publication.

The technology that allows readers to read books on a handheld screen is improving just at the moment Brown's The Lost Symbol hits the streets. For Rickett, the possibilities, including books with scored soundtracks and video inserts, are just becoming clear.

New Dan Brown is material and e-book...from the Observer (currently a print newspaper).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Convergence v. Google

"Google is the king of regular search. FriendFeed is the king of real-time search. This makes the coming battle over this issue much more interesting," Mr Scoble told the BBC.

Google buys Friendfinder. From the BBC.

Monday, August 10, 2009

They will pay - for all you can eat

The research, carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, reveals that an overwhelming majority of 14- 24-year-olds would be interested in signing up to an MP3 download service that would allow them to get as much music as they wanted for a fixed fee.

Of those currently using P2P networks 85% would welcome such a service, with 57% saying that it would stop them filesharing illegally and 77% of them claiming they would still buy CDs.

"If they're prepared to work with us if we give them an all-you-can-eat download service, well then, as an industry we may then well have to step up to the plate and try to provide them with that kind of service," says Sharkey.

There is evidence that the business is already moving in that direction. In June, the cable company Virgin Media announced the launch of an unlimited download service in partnership with the world's largest music company, Universal, which will allow subscribers to stream and download as many tracks as they want for £10-£15 a month.

Although the survey found huge enthusiasm for streaming music, such as on Spotify or YouTube, 78% of respondents said they would not be prepared to pay for a streaming service.

From UK Music as reported in the Guardian.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Spotify: three steps to heaven?

Spotify needs to hit three triggers if it's not to be just the latest flash-in-the-pan: "Break through the 15-20 million user bar like Pandora did", "convert roughly five percent of its user base to premium offerings" and "build a sustainable ad business that helps shoulder the cost of its free users".

Otherwise it's Walk on By? From The Guardian.

Copycats No More? The Bill is Coming next Summer

He accepted that there could be a need for furious litigation to prevent stories and photographs being copied elsewhere: "We'll be asserting our copyright at every point."Among quality newspapers, Murdoch singled out the Daily Telegraph's run of stories about MPs' expenses as an example of news for which consumers would be willing to pay, describing it as a "great scoop": "I'm sure people would be very happy to pay for that."

He is Rupert Murdoch. Charge is a gonna come.
NB. Posts sporadic for a while.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

That Paying for Newspapers Online Meme: FT's Lionel Barber

From the Guardian - who have mentioned the "paying" thing before now themselves.
The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that "almost all" news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

"How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air," Barber said in a speech at at a Media Standards Trust event at the British Academy last night.

"But I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content."

Let's say it happens: surely we will also see a huge growth in non-pay for news from new sources, and new kinds of news providers? And there's always the BBC...

The Cabinet Office: getting funky?

I was speaking recently to one of the academics working with Tim Berners-Lee on opening up UK government information. We both agreed that at Cabinet Office level some very interesting things were going on. Here's the latest CO review:
The report highlights more than 30 case studies from 15 countries. It emphasises that innovation and productivity come from forging stronger relationships with citizens and finds the most successful services have five distinguishing characteristics:

*Using entitlements to put power in the hands of users of services
*Transforming accountability of services through real time, highly local information
*Incentivising the creation of tailor made, integrated, personalised services which citizens can shape
*Answering people’s ambition for prevention rather than cure
*New professionalism in front-line staff and leaders, with new organisational structures which encourage this.

And the report, Power in People's Hands, is here.

Waterstones: sure we love the digital...for marketing

Missing the point, no? From Waterstone's Twitter feed:
WaterstonesUse #voucher code BG2298 at checkout for an extra 10% off when you spend £25. Excludes Reader, eBooks & accessories. Please RT!

Waterstones Twitter.

The People's Supermarket?

I co-wrote a book about the future of retail many years ago: didn't think we'd come this far, so soon.
Tesco has said it sees the future of its online offering as an open platform to which anyone can contribute.

From New Media Age. Interviewed Tesco and they were always ahead of the game but...
Tesco, along with its digital agency EMC Conchango, Microsoft and Nesta, is inviting developers to an open day, called T-Jam, in August to introduce them to the initiative.

Nick Lansley, Tesco.com head of research and development and head of special projects, told new media age, “We’re opening up our affiliate programme to allow people to develop for whatever device they want, whether it’s a website, mobile phone or set-top box, and make money for each new customer that comes to us as a result.

“The reason we’re doing this is that although we have lots of ideas we don’t necessarily have the resources to do them ourselves,” he added. “So the new API allows developers to write whatever they want, benefit us but also make money off the back of it.”

Great stuff.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What The Wire tells us about the NOTW story – or are we watching “All the President’s Men” in reverse negative?

Fans of the “greatest TV series of all time” (© just about everybody) will know that surveillance is the glue that holds together an urban palimpsest travelling across, down and through the mean and the murky streets of Baltimore. Created by David Simon, The Wire charts the labyrinthine interconnections of “place”, drugs, prostitution, police, politics, media, and money.

The Wire depicts Baltimore life from the bottom to the top; the street corner where the drugs are sold to the Masters of the Universe donor-parties for Senators and their flunkies. Sound familiar and decidedly non-fiction? It feels it. Re-watching series three of The Wire this week, courtesy of BBC2 and Sky Plus, I’ve also been struck by how much it echoes London now. And how many seeming parallels there are with the News of the World phone-hacking claims.

The Wire’s best moments of surveillance occur when a pay-phone, or bleeper, and then, later, pay-to-go mobile phones, are hacked. For the small surveillance team run by Cedric Daniels these are the key moments of progress in their story – and mission as “police”. The team tries to work up from the information they glean from the phone hacks – towards the street bosses, Barksdale or “Stringer” Bell – by connecting one drug drop, or one murder, to the person above. Meanwhile the “Street” is moving into property, laundering, and cleaning up, and is always ahead of "the Game". The “product” on the street corner is the fuel but very quickly not the endgame. Think along the lines of a NOTW newspaper front cover to the SKY Arts HD channel showing, say, Parsifal live from La Scala.

So who are the street players in all this NOTW version of The Wire: we the consumers who want pure celebrity/political hits. We’re supplied on the street corners (and online) by the news sources who are reliant on the hacks and their “agents” and don’t (as long as we don’t know) care how we get our score. We become addicted (we get “Heat”) and soon enough demand outreaches supply. But there’s always more product, as long as someone can hack the mobile – or be given the CD – and of course some of the people whose phones are hacked are not totally immune to a hit of celebrity revelation themselves. The beat goes on and on: however often Jimmy McNulty, or Nick Davies, make a breakthrough there is the inevitable two steps back. Too many interests are at stake. And Premier League contracts. Or re-election campaigns.

And higher up the Jobian ladder beyond even The Wire’s Barksdale or “Stringer” Bell – or indeed – with the NOTW story, Andy Coulson, lurk even bigger figures; big enough and hard enough to reach, who might recall in the older of us another Colson (sic) – “Chuck”, special council to President Richard Nixon, and commonly named as one of “Watergate Seven” – a group involved, as I remember, in Wire tapping themselves. History: first as tragedy, then farce, and now a digital dance of revelation and newspaper wars and political cowardice. But this time it is a circular dance, and with no end until the file-shared music stops.

In fact a late night dose of Newsnight, followed by The Wire and topped off with a TCM rerun of All the President’s Men shows us how far we’ve come since 1972-4. The new Woodward and Bernstein edits celebrity news; the politicians hire ex-NOTW editors for their streetworthiness; and everyone wishes it was all like the West Wing. Instead we’re all hustling the street for news of – what? – Nigella Lawson’s texting skills? Elle McPherson’s views on the Economy? John Prescott’s latest DIY initiative?

And we worry about ID cards?

Modern media-political life, despite our need for West Wing simplicities, is surveillance-driven shallow and intrusion-thick heavy: it’s really like The Wire: bleak, Dickensian, filled with quick-fit sex, and very few happy endings. Except that few of us want to save it on Sky Plus to view at our leisure: it feels too rank.

Novel Debuts (about the French Revolution, or not) now(ish) on Twitter

Happy Bastille Day! Today I'm releasing my debut novel, The French Revolution, on Twitter. As far as I can tell... less than a minute ago

Now that's what I call disintermediation.
Matt Stewart. Read on here.

It is around three pm in the UK. Think there is an hour before launch. Blimey! Twitter.

Update: Matt Stewart in the Huff-Po.
My immediate reaction, were I in your shoes, would be incredulity. Who reads long-form literature on Twitter? Who reads long-form anything online?

The short answer is: nobody. The internet is a universe of abundance, overwhelming us with creative videos and fascinating articles and a Pandora's Box of endlessly entertaining distractions. With this reality in mind, I don't expect people to read my whole novel online.

What's next for the Book: Oxfam vs Waterstones

A short story of our times: I'm finding almost as many relevant research books for my new book in the Oxfam store (in Hampstead) as in the Waterstones opposite; and most certainly the (material) university library - which is good for Milton and Publishing History, and perhaps Orwell.

Today I bought books on contemporary economics, trust and truth, story writing and "authenticity"; recently The Future of the Internet. Today "fiction" was on a half-price offer. In Oxfam. What is this saying: the books are out of date almost as quickly as they are published; or that "books about now" are one-read discards? And what about that fiction offer? Is it the computer games, the death of the story, the failure to catch the "now" of life? Who knows - yet. Still, I snagged a Waterstones copy of The Junior Officers' Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey: now that holds promise.

Monday, July 13, 2009

So the elevator pitch goes: short story, unidentified objects, eBay, fiction, publicity - blogs will pick it up

And I have.
When authors Rob Walker ("Buying In") and Joshua Glenn ("Taking Things Seriously"), each of whom is curious about the meaning and value we assign to objects, met in Boston earlier this year, they came up with the idea for the fiction-auction project Significant Objects. Well-known literary authors - including Luc Sante and Lydia Millet - write a short story that serves the description for a basically worthless object that is then auctioned on EBay. The first set of auctions has closed, and while the ending prices were all less than $30, Walker points out that with listing prices beginning as low as 29 cents, the final value increased by as much 4,000%.

More here @ the LA Times.

Mama we're all writers now

Don't stop now a c-mon:
Our new forms of writing—blogs, Facebook, Twitter—all have precedents, analogue analogues: a notebook, a postcard, a jotting on the back of an envelope. They are exceedingly accessible. That it is easier to cultivate a wide audience for tossed off thoughts has meant a superfluity of mundane musings, to be sure. But it has also generated a democracy of ideas and quite a few rising stars, whose work we might never have been exposed to were we limited to conventional publishing channels.

Amateurs and experts share real estate on our screens. We scroll down to add our comments; we join the written fray. The rush of prose is intense, but also exhilirating. So many hats are in the ring.

From More Intelligent Life.

Better than Amazon recommendations?

Bookseer. Well, actually, it's Amazon Plus...

On building a new network

Just because you’ve started a network doesn’t mean everyone’s on the same page. “Networks are a new concept,” Van Slyke said. “You have to build those relationships. People still consider other organizations as competition for eyeballs or funds. You have to get over that into, ‘How do we work together for support of everyone?’”

Van Slyke said the Media Consortium members went through a long period of “dating” before they committed to making their collaboration official. Unlike the 30-plus investigative outlets who met at Pocantico last week and immediately inaugurated their network, the Media Consortium took several meetings to form, declaring its existence a year after their initial March 2005 meeting.

Tracy Van Slyke, who runs the Media Consortium. From an article in the Nieman Journalism lab.

Writing - it's going IM-y

Half (50%) of teens say they sometimes use informal writing styles in the writing they perform in school, 38% have used shortcuts from instant messaging or email, and 25% have used emoticons in their school writing. Overall, nearly two-thirds of teens (64%) incorporate some informal styles from their text-based communications into their writing at school.

From Pew.

The "new hard work" - attention span

A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who's "multi-tasking" all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption. It's time we upgraded our work ethic for the age we're living in, not our grandparents' age. Hard work is still a virtue, but now takes a distant second place to the new determinant of success or failure in the age of Internet distractions: Control of attention. Hard work is dead. Are you paying attention?

From Lifehacker There must be some good research on this - will go look.

Teenagers and Media, by Morgan Stanley

Teenagers are consuming more media, but in entirely different ways and are almost certainly not prepared to pay for it. They resent intrusive advertising on billboards, TV and the Internet. They are happy to chase content and music across platforms and devices (iPods, mobiles, streaming sites). Print media (newspapers, directories) are viewed as irrelevant but events (cinema, concerts etc.) remain popular and one of the few beneficiaries of payment. The convergence of gaming, TV, mobile and Internet is accelerating with huge implications for pay-TV.

Much more here @ Morgan Stanley.

The Atlantic on the evolution (or is it slow suicide?) of the "news weekly"

In the digital age, with its overabundance of information, the modern newsweekly is in a particularly poignant position. Designed nearly a century ago to be all things to all people, it Chaplin-esquely tries to straddle thousands of rapidly fragmenting micro-niches, a mainframe in an iTouch world. The audience it was created to serve—middlebrow; curious, but not too curious; engaged, but only to a point—no longer exists. Newsweeklies were intended to be counterprogramming to newspapers, back when we were drowning in newsprint and needed a digest to redact that vast inflow of dead-tree objectivity. Now, in response to accelerating news cycles, the newspapers have effectively become newsweekly-style digests themselves, resorting to muddy “news analysis” now that the actual news has hit us on multiple platforms before we even open our front door in the morning.

The thing is this: enough people knew that this would happen, what's amazing is how slow "legacy" media has been in responding. More here

$15 - the price of the mobile phone for all, from Venezuela

More here:
The Venezuelan phone is being championed as the world’s cheapest mobile phone. It is a bold effort to create an affordable mobile phone packed with features: a camera, WAP internet access (wireless application protocol), FM radio, and MP3 and MP4 players for music and videos.

The phone uses inexpensive parts from China and is assembled in Venezuela. A quarter of the cost of manufacturing the phone is subsidized by the government. Venezuela often uses the profits from its oil industry to subsidize social goals.

Twitter: how to use it as a news source

From Media Helping Media
Social network research is about getting to know the people who are in the know, rather than searching online for archived documents that may be out of date.

More here with an emphasis on Baku' and 'Azerbaijan.

Stephen Glover: Lurcher eats Red Setter

They Shoot Horses, don't they?
The E.F Benson of media journalism with a typical sleight of hand: how could the Guardian and the BBC do this, newspapers need fans not critics.
Naturally I do not condone newspapers listening into the private conversations of celebrities, though I would have no problem in the case of a minister who was on the fiddle or betraying his country. I do know that the national press is weaker than it has been for more than a century, with most titles losing money, and I regret that, at such a time, The Guardian and the BBC should use largely old information to weaken it further.

If Glover were of the modern world you'd think he was trying to get a large online response. So far (10.27 am) there is one at the Independent online:
Man oh man, talk about missing the point!. Given the precision of the comment perhaps further are unnecessary.

Stephen Fry & copyright

At the Roundhouse, Stephen Fry was preaching to the converted, the generation that has got used to seeking out music and movies on the internet, and isn't entirely sure why you would pay to download.

As reported by the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones.
Sure, those who downloaded on an industrial scale for profit should be prosecuted - but if the price of downloads came down to a "fair" level, most people were pretty moral and would be happy to pay. He went on to compare the music industry to "big tobacco".

Meanwhile, more sterling reportage from Glynn Moody's Open blog:
If you still doubted that intellectual monopolies are in part a neo-colonialist plot to ensure the continuing dominance of Western nations, you could read this utterly extraordinary post, which begins:

The fourteenth session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), convened in Geneva from June 29, 2009 to July 3, 2009, collapsed at the 11th hour on Friday evening as the culmination of nine years of work over fourteen sessions resulted in the following language; “[t]he Committee did not reach a decision on this agenda item” on future work. The WIPO General Assembly (September 2009) will have to untangle the intractable Gordian knot regarding the future direction of the Committee.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fred Wilson: giving up his data for a better set of recommendations

I like this: it goes to the core of the privacy/surveillance debate. And, as Fred Wilson says, it's not for everyone yet. However...
Imagine if you had a single data feed, fredsactivity.xml, that was hosted on the web and you could share with web services. I'd give it to Amazon to get better recommendations. I'd give it to Google Reader to find interesting blogs to read. I'd give it to Twitter to get better recommendations for people to follow. I'd give it to Netflix and Fandango to get better movie recommendations. I've give it to Goolge to get better search results.

I still believe this is going to happen. The burst of activity a few years ago may have stalled out, but I think that's a temporary pause, driven largely by the fact that the mainstream Internet user wasn't ready for this. Maybe they still aren't. But I am.

More here: Musings of a VC.

Wikileaks editorial: UK papers should have bugged more

The real scandal is not that some British papers used private investigators to find out what the public wants to know. It is that more did not. It is that the News' was extorted out of a million pounds because the relevant British legislation does not have an accessible public interest defense for the disclosure of telephone recordings. Until it does, despite the risks, journalists who take their fourth estate role seriously are obligated not to take the legislation seriously.

Journalism is a serious business. It starts wars and it topples kings. It does not care that Rupert Murdoch hired someone, who hired someone, who hired someone, who allegedly off their own bat, creatively went about their job of exposing Britain's pretenders by pressing 1234 into their voice mail.

The actions of major newspapers are "voted on" every day by their readers. Whatever their faults, popular newspapers remain the most visible and the most democratically accountable institutions in the country. Their mandate to inform the public vastly exceeds that granted to the unelected and the rarely elected at Westminister, who are nonetheless quick to grant themselves a blanket exemption from all censorship.

By Julian Assange, co-founder of Wikileaks. Full editorial here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Radiohead Manager's new label - artists keep copyright

Interesting model:
Brian Message, manager of alternative rock band Radiohead, is helping to launch a new record label where digital distribution is the focus and artists retain the copyright of the music they create. The new label, called Polyphonic, will be a partnership between ATC, of which Brian Message is a partner, MAMA Group, and Vancouver-based artist management firm Nettwerk Music Group,

From ZeroPaid.

Twitter for those iconic fashion statements/quotations

I'm open to everything. When you start to criticize the times you live in, your time is over.

See who said that here. And check out how many people KL is following.

"Fair Use" an interesting dilemma

From Techdirt:
...how come Greg Gillis - better known as Girl Talk, the popular mashup musician - hasn't been sued yet. Especially since his Feed the Animals CD came out, generating a ton of publicity and popular press coverage (and sampled from hundreds of songs), pretty much everyone has been waiting for him to get sued. Friedman tosses out a suggestion that makes a lot of sense: the recording industry is scared to death that a court will rule in Girl Talk's favor and return "fair use" to music:

BTW it's MusicHackDay @ the Guardian.

"Fair Use" an online tool

The Fair Use Evaluator is an online tool that can help users understand how to determine if the use of a protected work is a “fair use.” It helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair use claim, and provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records.

From the American Libraries Association Washington Office, District Despatch.
Here's the Evaluator.

A new music chart - what's being listened to online

From The Guardian
Once music magazines and DJs helped shaped what we listened to, but today it's music bloggers who are dictating what's hot and what's not. Well, that's the theory anyway. This site trawls through blogs, forums and social networks to work out the 99 most popular tracks based on what's being listened to, talked about and linked to online. The results bare little relation to the traditional top 40 (La Roux being the exception), in that most of the music here is unreleased or album tracks,

We are Hunted.
Techcrunch with the details.
The service monitors the most popular songs on iLike, BitTorrent, Last.fm, MySpace Music, and other Web music services, as well as discussions on Twitter, blogs, and press sites. A collaboration between Australian news aggregation site WotNews and digital music marketers Native Digital, We Are Hunted uses a whole bunch of sentiment and semantic analysis, along with clustering algorithms to come up with the top 99 songs of the day. It then presents these in a 3 X 3 grid of album art for each song, which can be played in its entirety on the site. (The songs are streamed from YouTube or the artists’ sites).

BBC's Digital Revolution - open source series making

We don't want this to be one medium reflecting on another from a safe distance. We want to bridge the gap. So we have decided to adopt a radical, open-source approach to the production process. We don't just want to observe bloggers from on high; we want to blog ourselves and get feedback and comment on our ideas.

And we have already taken the first step. Our presenter, the Guardian journalist and academic Aleks Krotoski, has just posted her first manifesto - about who holds power on the web - on our blog at bbc.co.uk/digitalrevolution. This is a clarion call to web users all over the globe to tell us whether they think the web is the utopia it once promised to be - a sharing, open, level playing field - or whether, as Aleks argues, the hierarchy and inequality endemic in human society have spread to the web of today, populated by cliques and big brands.

The blog will be updated regularly with posts from Aleks and a number of guest bloggers, including Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales and musician and performing rights campaigner Feargal Sharkey. The online crowd now have an opportunity to tell us what they really think - and have a unique opportunity to influence the team's thinking.

From Producer Russell Barnes.
At the launch web-founder Tim Berners-Lee commented:
"When you use the internet it is important that the medium should not be set up with constraints," he said. The internet, said Sir Tim, should be like a blank piece of paper. Just as governments and companies cannot police what people write or draw on that sheet of paper so they should not be restricted from putting the web to their own uses."The canvas should be blank," he saidWhile governments do need some powers to police unacceptable uses of the web; limits should be placed on these powers, he said.

More here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Cost of Admission: mashable

The rules have changed. Whatever happened to the interview?
Want to work at Mashable as a full time writer or editor? We'd love for you to join us!

Please note, however, that our applications process has a number of key requirements: you must have prior experience writing for a Technorati Top 100 blog and you must be a regular Twitter user with 500 followers or more.

If you do not meet these requirements, please visit our guest writer page to see whether you may be accepted as a guest writer: http://mashable.com/writers/

Hiring here - you know the rules.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Cognitive cost" of spending...anything, even micro payments

Anderson borrows a term from George Washington economist Nick Szabo, labeling this flag the “mental transaction cost.” Laziness has made us all want to avoid making any decision, no matter how inconsequential. Even if something is financially affordable, once we begin to question if it’s “worth it,” we’ve already spent cognitive energy considering the decision, and will most likely choose not to spend the money, even if it’s just a penny. Anderson says micropayments “are destined to fail, Szabo concluded, because although they minimize the economic costs of choices, they still have all the cognitive costs…many potential customers would be put off by the payment and decision process.”

From Jessica Roy's review of Free for the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Copycats? Wait 24 hours and then it is yours?

Insanity, surely, at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, by columnist Connie Schultz .
Schultz says that David Marburger, an alleged First Amendment attorney for her paper, and his economics-professor brother, Daniel, have concocted their own dangerous thinking, proposing the copyright law be changed to insist that a newspaper’s story should appear only on its own web site for the first 24 hours before it can be aggregated or retold.

From Buzz Machine

Friday Project Founder on the UK and E-Readers

Q: eReaders. We can’t do a Q&A without asking about them. Love or hate? Or both?

A: Love them, in all their forms. At present the Kindle isn’t available over here and Amazon doesn’t seem to be in any great rush to change that. To be fair, I think it is down to the fact that they will need to have an option for the whole of the EU, not just the UK, before they go live. That means that the Sony Reader has a genuine foothold here. But there are still issues over pricing, availability and content for eBooks that need to be resolved before they will really take off. They are part of the future and we need to adapt to that.

Scott Pack, Publisher at Harper Collins UK. More here.

Friday Project.

The People versus Frank Luntz

Sample sizes; always sample sizes. Of course the demographic composition may be less than generalized...but are said to be politically "central".
Yesterday’s Mindtracker for PMQs was very interesting datawise for political geeks, over a thousand people (1,150 people between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.) twiddled their knobs online, so the poll is statistically valid. In comparison Frank Luntz typically has only 30 people polled in a room. Watch the video above to see how people responded in realtime.

Here at Guido Fawkes - who continues to use the web in the most creative ways.

The Mindtracker explained by Guido Fawkes.

No it's not: The Story is Back

Not exactly Flat Earth News - the phone hack.

The news "story" is dead

'Journalism' and 'the news' – founded, as I say, almost
entirely on 'the story' – is not a fixed point in the universe. It's not a
force of nature. It doesn't have to be how we journalists have made

The web has unbundled the bundle we used to sell
audiences as a paper or a bulletin; it's erased the distinction we
journalists used to make between 'news' – what we said it was –
and information, stuff, the whole of the rest of the world.
The web is enabling our former audiences to come to their
news in their ways at their times. Our old image of gripping them
with our ‘stories’ is no more.

Kevin Marsh in The future of journalism.

Expressing ourselves: the new folk culture

From an interesting pamphlet by Demos:
Our will to seek out information and our innate sense of the individual have driven society to devise new ways of experiencing things and new ways in which to focus on our specific interests. The public interest, of course, comprises the multiple opinions, beliefs and attitudes that we all hold, either collectively or as individuals. In many ways, this recalls the folk culture of the past, in which art forms expressed values and provided touchpoints for belief, a precursor to more commodified forms of culture in which a price was put on engagement and access to creative and cultural forms. The result is that when we come to bring these to bear on culture and creativity today, orthodoxy is challenged. Our individualism also creates different expectations of culture. Knowledge and expertise remain in place, but their role is to illuminate more than to improve. Together, they function to enable and communicate the expression of our different values.

Expressive Lives. What and why.

Warren Buffett would "pay" for YouTube, perhaps

Every year, nearly 300 powerful media executives gather here [Sun Valley, Idaho] at the secretive Allen & Co. summit, to which the press is not invited. Perennial attendees include Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller. As the definition of media has expanded to include the Internet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Evan Williams have been added to the guest list.

From the WSJ.. And the result - the press were not present, but a little leaked:
“No one had any answers” about making money on the Internet, said [Ken] Auletta, who moderated the panel.

Also WSJ.
Malone said he didn’t think that an advertising model made sense on Twitter, but there was some hope for a subscription model. “Sooner or later people will be willing to pay for these services,” he said. Warren Buffett privately told him that he would pay $5 a month for YouTube, he added.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Build Your Own World - make it matter

The 2010 01SJ Biennial has issued a challenge to Build Your Own World, claiming that the future is not about what’s next; it’s about what we can build to ensure that what’s next matters. Fundamental to the conjuring of such worlds is the way in which the artistic imagination can use the tools at hand to provide access to ideas, methods for exchanging new interpretations, and markers that allow people to navigate between mixed reality and hard imagination.

Details of the competition here

The "M" manifesto

Stirring stuff out of Harvard business blog:
You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people — not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value — built by tough-guy CEOs. We want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted an invisible hand — it became a digital hand. Today's markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

Find out what the "M" stands for here.

The Tablet Cometh

From Softpedia:
Noted analyst Gene Munster (of Piper Jaffray) predicts that Apple has a gap to fill between the iPod touch and the MacBook, that gap evidently being the yet-non-confirmed Mac tablet. The device would be priced between the $500-700 range, but wouldn't see the light of day until FY 2010, due to the complexity of the OS it would require.

Er, anyone launched a new open source OS recently?

Free is free - google/scribd

Free is free
And here on SCRIBD

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Epistemologically louche: the NYT

...highlighting a word or passage on the Times website calls up a question mark that users can click for a definition and other reference material. (Though the feature was recently improved, it remains a mild annoyance for myself and many others who nervously click and highlight text on webpages.) Anyway, it turns out the Times tracks usage of that feature, and yesterday, deputy news editor Philip Corbett, who oversees the Times style manual, offered reporters a fascinating glimpse into the 50 most frequently looked-up words on nytimes.com in 2009.

Check out the most frequently looked-up worlds here.

One of ten facts about Twitter

English still dominates Twitter. When exploring Russia as part of a class that I am teaching this summer at Georgetown, one of the barriers we learned about was the difficulty of fitting some Russian language words into just 140 characters. Twitter is, however, extremely English-friendly. As the Sysomos report found, the top four countries on Twitter are all English speaking (US, UK, Canada, Australia). Of these, US makes up 62% of all Twitter users, followed by UK with nearly 8% and Canada and Australia with 5.7% and 2.8% respectively. The largest non-English speaking country on Twitter? Brazil with 2%.

For the other nine...

Beyond journalism: libraries

The one thing that we should do in the face of the erosion of commercial journalism is invest heavily in libraries. That means we should publicly support the human capital, technological tools, and collections of public, school and university libraries.

The problem is not journalism per se. It’s the health of the public sphere, of which quality journalism is a major part. So if we accept that the landscape we have grown accustomed to over the past 50 years is ebbing rather quickly, we should do the following. We should invest in and support an environment that will enable experimentation and the emergence of new models and voices.

From Creative-I. This was Siva Vaidhyanathan; for others follow the link.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Blur: journalist or influencer? Everyone is everything to PR

Instead, she decides that she will “whisper in the ears” of Silicon Valley’s Who’s Who — the entrepreneurs behind tech’s hottest start-ups, including Jay Adelson, the chief executive of Digg; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; and Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo.

Notably, none are journalists.

This is the new world of promoting start-ups in Silicon Valley, where the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring and the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper.

Gone are the days when snaring attention for start-ups in the Valley meant mentions in print and on television, or even spotlights on technology Web sites and blogs. Now P.R. gurus court influential voices on the social Web to endorse new companies, Web sites or gadgets — a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley.

From the NYT Business.

The PR is for Wordnik - is this the wiki of words?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Yelvington lays down the law on free - some people have learnt it; others have forgotten

Consumers will actually make content purchases when they are confronted with many free options. Over the last 15 years, this assumption has been demonstrated to be false in digital paid-content experiments by newspapers all over the world. The numbers of consumers so inclined aren't great enough to sustain a business of significant scale. This idea persists primarily because so many newspaper people are deeply ignorant of what's been going on in their own companies, and because digital people generally lose power struggles with print people. Almost everyone I know who ran a paid-content online media experiment no longer works for the company where they tried it. Those companies are now largely ignorant of their own histories.

From Yelvington.

So is the Kindle the "one" - or lingerie

From the Huff-Po.
In the emerging world of e-Books, Kindle-Amazon will increasingly occupy a position similar to the iPod while Google (a collector and purveyor of e-Books) together with its partner Sony (a manufacturer of e-Readers) will forever be positioned at the lower end of the e-Book market along with several other manufacturers. This too, resembles the structure of the digitized music industries.

The Sony reader is less imaginative than the Kindle. It's cheaper, uglier, less functional, less popular, and its ecosystem is not as fully developed. While it is true that other applications spread Googles' inventory onto mobile devices, notice the vagueness of the term 'mobile device' itself. The Stanza, eReader and 'iKindle' applications are all add-ons for existing machines that have small screens and are mainly valued for other functions: phoning, messaging or mobile Internet connectivity. While electronics manufacturers constantly dream of designing, building and selling an all-in-one personal electronic doodad to 6 billion people, still no Swiss Army Knife will never replace a good corkscrew, a good screwdriver or a good pair of scissors.

Or to look at this another way...
The Kindle, on the other hand, is what you keep at home or take with you on vacation to relax into. It is for the book-lover who might occasionally buy a first, a signed or a special edition. It is lingerie.


Free: the "takedown" debate, and more future of news....

It's all here today in the NYT.
Free is also the subject of new book by Wired editor Chris Anderson, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price,” which got its first big review this week, by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, a media moment that’s provided much entertainment to observers.

“It’s always fun when one popular idea popularizer goes after another popular idea popularizer,” says Paul Kredosky.

At the Awl, Chorie Sicha said, “It’s like War of the Speaker’s Bureaus.” To which Tom Socca replied: “MOTHRA V. MOTHRA.”

What many liked about Gladwell’s review was that it was a “takedown” of Anderson’s book, and in these troubled times, such things are need to put a little vim back in the vigor of old media enthusiasts.

And there's a good take on this from Fred Wilson too.
...the Internet allows an entrrepreneur to enter a market with a free offering because the costs of doing so are not astronomical. And most entrpreneurs who take this approach will maintain an attractive free offering of their basic service forever. But that doesn't mean that everything they offer will be free. That's the whole point of freemium. Free gets you to a place where you can ask to get paid. But if you don't start with free on the Internet, most companies will never get paid.

Groupthink: journalists are boring, discuss

Groupthink rules. No editor or producer wants her media outlet to be the only one that ignores the Michael Jackson story for even a day. If a reporter's story in next edition differs significantly from everyone else's, he feels stupid and worries about his job security. (A call from his editor likely reinforces this fear.) What once was a badge of honour - idiosyncrasy - is now highly suspect. ("That guy from the Press-Gazette, he thinks he's Woodstein or something. He actually interviewed every single person on the train platform in Kelowna yesterday. No wonder his piece today says the candidate is more popular than the press says. Guy's nuts.")

Much more fun here from David Olive.

It Felt Like something

The dramatic bar was set very high after Masque of the Red Death; the relevancy bar similarly high with The Tunnel. So what about It Felt Like a Kiss? It follows many of the Punchdrunk tropes: detail, sense of place, smell, and most of all the feeling that we as audience are participating in a particularly dark personal tragedy brought about by larger social forces. Walking in small groups through the suburban houses of those for whom the New Frontier was really a dream it's clear we are in a far more specific narrative, polemic almost - which makes sense for at the centre of It Felt Like a Kiss is a documentary film, edited with Godardian skill, by Adam Curtis. The film makes the links between pop (before the Beatles or the Stones) and violence; between chimps and AIDS - and space flight; between Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies and the semiotic "other" life led. There's even a marvellous clip of Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev having a great translation-saturated spat. There's no Edgar Hoover, but there is the JFK murder.

The film is the centrepiece; but in the Red Death (at Battersea Arts Centre) the centrepiece was a Victorian cabaret with cross-dressing strippers and Absinthe on tap: the communal worked - even if we the audience were all wearing raven headmasks to maintain our anonymity. Here with Kiss we are much more alone, at first metaphorically and then in the post-film sequence literally as we experience early 60s style Guantanamo techniques. Ultimately we run, genuinely frightened, down a tunnel alone, worried that the chainsaw wielding stranger might be following. Before I experienced Felt Like a Kiss I suspected Edward Bernays crossed with Mad Men: I wasn't far wrong, but the echoes of James Elroy, Peter Whitehead and Godard feature too.

The allusions throughout are spot on: Mailer's American Dream; B.F Skinner; IQ tests and cold war fetish. Deep Throat in the car park and The b/w Avengers came into my head as well. What is missing, and surely this could have been possible, were actors. Kiss has little of the fragile sexy energy of the Red Death, and for every perfect recreation of Vertigo influenced suburbia there was an equally imperfect sense of what live theatre (rather than oversized dummies) could have brought to our experience of this Punchdrunk environment.

It Felt Like a Kiss was still an amazingly fraught experience: in the end though it never quite escapes the idea of conspiracy theory meeting the John Soane museum. More when the nightmares stop.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis and It Felt Like a Kiss

So what's it about? In a roundabout way, it's about you. But it's also about the golden age of pop, when the US rose to supreme power. It encompasses everything from Rock Hudson, Lou Reed, Saddam Hussein, a chimp and Lee Harvey Oswald. It's a heady brew.

"I think it's a fascinating period," says Curtis.

"I wanted to do a film about what it actually felt like to live through that time ... Where you could see the roots of the uncertainties we feel today, the things they did out on the dark fringes of the world that they didn't really notice at the time, which would then come back to haunt us."

It's a common theme in Curtis's work: he's not interested in conspiracy theories, but rather with the unforeseen consequences of ideas throughout history, and their impact on a deeply personal level. "The way power works in the world is: they tell you stories that make sense of the world. That's what America did after the second world war. It told you wonderful dreamlike stories about the world ... And at that same time, you were encouraged to rise up and 'become an individual', which also made the whole idea of America attractive to the rest of the world. But then this very individualism began to corrode it. The uncertainties began in people's minds. Uncertainty about 'what is the point of being an individual?'"

Charlie Brooker.

I'm thinking Edward Bernays Meets Mad Men. When I've experienced it I'll review.

Consult on News, ideas for the future

"Sustainable independent and impartial news; in the Nations, locally and in the regions" is a 12 week public consultation document published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that "seeks views on the proposal for a contained, contestable element to be introduced to the next licence fee settlement."

Contribute here.

Another cloud over google?

American authorities are conducting a formal investigation into whether Google's $125m deal with the US book industry is anti-competitive.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that it is looking into the internet giant's agreement with authors' groups to pay for the right to digitise and sell millions of books.

Rumours of the investigation had been circulating for several months, but the Department of Justice revealed on Thursday that it was running a formal inquiry in a letter to the New York judge who is also reviewing the terms of the deal.

From the Guardian.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mandating School Libraries: but what will they look like?

A high-profile group of children's authors, publishers, teachers and librarians is calling on the government to make school libraries statutory. Signatories to a petition to Number 10 include Philip Pullman, Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon and former children's laureate Michael Rosen, as well as the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, top children's publishers and the directors of a raft of youth library associations.

This is, of course, a logical idea - but what should a library - any library - look like in the future? Is there, for example, another petition from the same type of high-profile group demanding a radical rethink about the way that "digital literacy" is taught.
The petition itself – which calls on the government "to accept in principle that it will make school libraries, run by properly qualified staff, statutory" – will run until December, but by the end of the summer school term Gibbons hopes to have consolidated the support of the book world and to have started soliciting support from community figures, faith groups and celebrities within the wider community.

Properly qualified staff meaning someone who can find a book on Google Book Search? Who can explain issues of trust and verification when using, say, Wikipedia? Someone versed in the narrative genius of many computer games? Someone who is, at least, thinking about Kindles and E-Readers; about marketing the case for reading printed texts over the competing stories found online? Someone who knows where textual resources reside in the digital domain. I'm sure the "celebrities within the wider community" will be able to help here. From the Guardian.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

CUNY project for news business models

We do not believe that any single savior– foundation, government, device, or massive public contribution — will rescue an existing news organization as it operates today from the crush of the market. But we do believe that publicly supported journalism — that is, from individuals, foundations, and perhaps companies — can play a role in this model city’s news ecosystem. This could take the form of a local Pro Publica or of crowdsourced funding through a platform such as Spot.US or of an expansion of public broadcasting’s role. The key question we will answer is what level of support will likely be available — projecting from current efforts locally — and what those resources could provide.

New business models?

It felt like a kiss: Bunting on Curtis

Now Bunting is describing a theatrical performance. Launches tomorrow in Manchester as part of the festival. Can't wait.
His [Curtis'] analysis is that power uses stories which shape our understanding of the world and of who we are, and how we make sense and order experience. Powerful, grand narratives legitimise power, win our allegiance and frame our private understandings of how to measure value and create meaning. They also structure time – they fit the present into a continuum of how the past will become the future. This is what all the grand narratives of communism, socialism, even neoliberalism and fascism offered; as did the grand narratives of religion. Now, all have foundered and fragmented into a mosaic of millions of personal stories. It is a Tower of Babel in which we have lost the capacity to generate the common narratives – of idealism, morality and hope such as Sandel talks about – that might bring about civic renewal and a reinvigorated political purpose.

Curtis argues that we are still enchanted by the possibilities of our personal narratives although they leave us isolated, disconnected, and at their worst, they are simply solipsistic performances desperate for an audience. But we are in a bizarre hiatus because the economic systems that sustained and amplified this model of individualism have collapsed. It was cheap credit and a housing boom that made possible the private pursuit of experience, self-expression and self-gratification as the content of a good life. As this disintegrates and youth unemployment soars, this good life will be a cruel myth.

But is it true? It Felt Like a Kiss.

e-book prices - a meme begins stickily

It appears that Amazon.com's pricing model for electronic books - just under $10 - is on its way to becoming the norm. Barnes & Noble, on its eReader site, is now offering digital versions of New York Times bestsellers for $9.95, just a hair cheaper than Amazon's standard $9.99 for such books. The downward pressure on e-book pricing has rattled many book publishers.

As Fast Company wrote recently, Amazon with e-books is following the strategy of Apple with digital music, creating a "sticky price in consumers' minds" that, once established, is difficult to dislodge - and gives Amazon more leverage in negotiations with publishers.

From Techflash.

The cloud over google book search

Starting today, you'll find a cloud of "Common Terms and Phrases" on the Book Overview page for some of our books. This cloud represents the distribution of words in a book: big terms are more common in the book, while small terms are rarer.

From the google book search blog. Above: a cloud for Benkler's The Wealth of Networks.