Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting - that's why Picasso left Paris - this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren't distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception - we are telling the mind what to pay attention to - takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power.
Ok, let's throw in wi-fi, mobiles, IPods, PSPs, cameras....
Who says the city narrative isn't changing?
Thursday, January 08, 2009
That's not a title, btw.
[Larry] Flynt and Joe Francis, best known for persuading college grads to take their tops off in Girls Gone Wild, are the latest to line up for a Washington handout. They claim that their business is battling competition from readily available online porn. Worse still, in these times of economic turmoil, it's suffering from a depressed American libido.
From The Times.
But what healthy news organizations should really be offering this new breed of capable writers is a sort of insurance against unsuccessful articles consisting of an up-front payment for any piece of writing. The rest of the writer’s income should come from performance earnouts — another formula that is yet to be mastered. Keeping it to those basics would be a radical change from the wage-based compensation model of print, along with its sprawling hierarchy of editors and publishers, costly offices, expense reports and support staff. When that world meets the internet’s stripped-down operating model, there may well be money for good journalism again.
Nick Negroponte used to say this in 1994. Ahead of his time, I guess - and he didn't mention the "up-front payment".
Chris Morrison in Venture Beat responds to End Times in The Atlantic.
Here's a bit of that:
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, The Times is destined for significant and traumatic change. At some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist. And it will likely have plenty of company. In December, the Fitch Ratings service, which monitors the health of media companies, predicted a widespread newspaper die-off: “Fitch believes more newspapers and news paper groups will default, be shut down and be liquidated in 2009 and several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010.”
There is almost too much of this stuff now: journalism finally unmasked as a business! How much paper has been used to write about the death of newspapers? Is it just part of our self-flagellating times? The smart operators are somewhere else already: and that is called thinking.
Fortune magazine asking the questions, Google CEO, Eric Schmidt giving the replies:
How about just buying them?
The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don't think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we're in this uncomfortable conversation.
I think the solution is tighter integration. In other words, we can do this without making an acquisition. The term I've been using is 'merge without merging.' The Web allows you to do that, where you can get the Web systems of both organizations fairly well integrated, and you don't have to do it on exclusive basis.
If not buy, how about just pump some cash into them, the way Microsoft famously once did with Apple?
There are no current plans to do that. The necessary criteria to get us to make that decision are not currently in place.
First Inkheart, now...Victor Hugo's Les Misérables...
...at long last the classic French novel is coming to PC in Chris Tolworthy's Les Misérables: The Game of the Book.
An independent production begun by Tolworthy ten years ago, Les Misérables marks the first interactive novel in a planned series called Enter the Story. Though the developer refers to it as "more like a book than a game", it most closely resembles a "classic 'point and click' adventure game, with some refinements. Gameplay is simple: you explore, you listen, or you suggest." With its unique minimalist art style and faithful adaptation of the original story, Les Misérables invites players into the world of 19th century Paris, focusing largely on ex-convict Jean Valjean as he seeks redemption from his past.
We increasingly have a ‘mesh’ of entry points: PC and phone, of course, but also DVRs, cameras, navigation systems, and consoles. We increasingly use a range of shared network level ‘cloud’ services: for search, for social networking, for content and information, for communication. Providing service in this environment is very different than in one where the model assumes a personal desktop or laptop as the place where resources are accessed and used and the institutional Web site as the place where they are delivered.
A couple of thoughts from a long and thoughtful piece by Lorcan Dempsey that sets out some of the issues for the library of the future.
As a growing proportion of library use is network–based, the library becomes visible and usable through the network services provided. On the network, there are only services. So, the perception of quality of reference or of the value of particular collections, for example, will depend for many people on the quality of the network services which make them visible, and the extent to which they can be integrated into personal learning environments. Increasingly, this requires us to emphasize the network as an integral design principle in library service development, rather than thinking of it as an add–on. The provision of RSS feeds is a case in point. Thinking about how something might appear on a mobile device is another.
From First Monday.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Around the country, a lot of reporters are being excessed, and print newspapers may soon become collectors' items. But over the years, my advice to new and aspiring reporters is to remember what Tom Wicker, a first-class professional spelunker, then at The New York Times, said in a tribute to Izzy Stone: "He never lost his sense of rage."
By Nat Hentoff
Tuesday, January 6th 2009 at 4:34pm...[and at age 83 and a half].
On one of his rare nights off, Duke looked very beat, and I presumptuously said: "You don't have to keep going through this. With the standards you've written, you could retire on your ASCAP income."
Duke looked at me as if I'd lost all my marbles.
"Retire!" he crescendoed. "Retire to what?!"
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
With a masterful hand, Victor Hugo, a noble lover and a great student of architecture, traces her fall in Notre-Dame.
The prophecy of Frollo, that "the book will kill the edifice," I remember was to me as a boy one of the grandest sad things of the world.
After seeking the origin and tracing the growth of architecture in superb fashion, showing how in the Middle Ages all the intellectual forces of the people converged to one point - architecture - he shows how, in the life of that time, whoever was born poet became an architect. All other arts simply obeyed and placed themselves under the discipline of architecture. They were the workmen of the great work. The architect, the poet, the master summed up in his person the sculpture that carved his façades, painting which illuminated his walls and windows, music which set his bells to pealing and breathed into his organs - there was nothing which was not forced in order to make something of itself in that time, to come and frame itself in the edifice.
Got to be something in this for these times.
From Art and Craft of the Machine
by Frank Lloyd Wright
Which I am reading slowly thanks to the Daily Lit.
Barack Obama's presidential campaign spent over $16 million on online advertising in 2008. John McCain's camp spent a fraction of that: around $3.6 million.
Google was far and away the winner, taking in an estimated $7.5 million of Obama ad dollars in 2008, about 45 percent of the campaign's digital ad spending, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Some of that money went toward display and text ads in Google's AdSense network, and some was used for ads appearing in search results on Google's site.
We need something else.
...DNSSEC is about creating a "chain of trust," adds Ram Mohan, CTO of Afilias, which has been working to help the Public Interest Registry handle its deployment. There are many places where DNSSEC must be switched on in order for the chain of trust to flow unbroken from the user to a website. Once a top-level domain (such as .org or .com) implements DNSSEC, any website under that domain can choose to turn on DNSSEC as well, which is an important link in the chain. Since Internet service providers such as Comcast have started supporting DNSSEC, Mohan says, it's becoming possible for some website visits to fall largely under the protection of DNSSEC.
More from A New Web of Trust in MIT's Technology Review.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Some librarians privately expressed fears that Google might charge high prices for subscriptions to the book database as it grows. Although nonprofit groups like the Open Content Alliance are building their own digital collections, no other significant private-sector competitors are in the business. In May, Microsoft ended its book scanning project, effectively leaving Google as a monopoly corporate player.
David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said the company wanted to push the book database to as many libraries as possible. “If the price gets too high,” he said, “we are simply not going to have libraries that can afford to purchase it.”
From the NYT.
Or rather, how to make volunteers think of themselves as Brand Me.
You might think that with the economy crashing, the free-labor business model would be crashing, too. Will people continue to invest in their personal brands during hard times? Gould is betting they will. Between investor visits during a late November trip to New York, he sips a soy latte and speculates. During the downturn, he says, firings are sapping loyalty to companies and steering people toward goals of self-sufficiency. In Gould's acerbic phrasing: "The only person I can rely on not to screw me—hopefully—is myself."
Beyond brand-hungry strivers, masses of free laborers continue to toil without ever seeing a payday, or even angling for one. Many find compensation in currencies that predate the market economy. These include winning praise from peers, earning an exalted place within a community, scoring thrills from winning, and finding satisfaction in helping others.
But how to monetize all that energy? From universities to the computer labs of Internet giants, researchers are working to decode motivations, and to perfect the art of enlisting volunteers. Prahbakar Raghavan, chief of Yahoo Research (YHOO), estimates that 4% to 6% of Yahoo's users are drawn to contribute their energies for free, whether it's writing movie reviews or handling questions at Yahoo Answers. If his team could devise incentives to draw upon the knowledge and creativity of a further 5%, it could provide a vital boost. Incentives might range from contests to scoreboards to thank-you notes. "Different types of personalities respond to different point systems," he says. Raghavan has hired microeconomists and sociologists from Harvard and Columbia universities to match different types of personalities with different rewards.
From Business Week.
If you learn about the world primarily from newspapers, the Folger Shakespeare Library's exhibition documenting the birth of journalism in the Renaissance will be a wistful affair. It's like looking at baby pictures of a distinguished old relative who is now on life support. Look how vibrant, how youthful, how full of vinegar the old man was. Once upon a time, before the plummeting circulation, the shrinking ad revenue and the highly leveraged corporate owners.
But if you get your news primarily from the Internet, there's nothing sad here at all. New media is new media, whether it's scurrilous pamphlets distributed by hand, or partisan Web sites that spread their happy mischief through the wireless ether. The forms, the tone, the types of personalities who gravitated to journalism when it was new seem fantastically familiar in our own anarchic and newly democratized age of the World Wide Web.
From the Washington Post.
The thing is, social media has rarely found its feet in online advertising. The extra data that exposing the social graph was supposed to provide has yet to translate into far more targeted advertising.
And there was a hack last night too.