Friday, June 26, 2009

The Boomer "Tablet": big is beautiful if your eyes are going

A great piece, read to the end, on why we the Boomers need Big Things (not Blackberries, for example). Of course the "tablet" idea has been around for ever - but now we are squinting it makes more sense.
From O'Reilly Radar.
...a larger-form factor device would offer Boomers a bigger viewing screen and “lifestyle” settings, like fatter keys and a more forgiving keyboard to ease input, and wizard-like shortcuts to simplify recurring tasks.
This is key, because with the onset of age, Boomers’ motor skills have become less precise; their vision has become poorer; and their eyes get tired easier.

As such, the premise of them plugging away on tiny keys and peering into the tiny screen of a mobile device like iPhone/iPod touch is a non-starter.

By contrast, the Boomer Tablet offers a superior input, viewing and playback environment for accessing your iTunes library, personal media, syndicated content services, iPhone Apps and presumably, Mac Apps; something that the 70M+ Baby Boomers in the US who are aged 53-73 would likely find compelling.

More here

The Junior Officer's Reading Club

This is from Boyd Tonkin's Independent review today of Patrick Hennessey's The Junior Officer's Reading Club. Sounds like a book of our times. Can't wait. Can see the HBO series already.
...his tale's true originality lies in Hennessey's media-saturated reflections on media-shaped campaigns. Here, postmodernism dons desert fatigues. These kids act like a band of brothers in part because they watch Band of Brothers. Prior to one encounter, they prime themselves with the supremely silly Spartans-vs-Persians anime, 300. As for their video montages of real skirmishes, "the work of a few hours" on standard laptop software, they have "changed the way soldiers went to war".

And that Reading Club? More DVDs than books, it seems. Can't help thinking how an E-book version could link to all the rap, computer games, movies, and web-ephemera...

Another take on that drift away from blogs towards Twitter

In response to the Arthur piece in the Guardian. From Sharpe's Opinion.
I’d like to think that there’s an even better reason, though: I’d like to think that perhaps, just perhaps, everyone’s gone quiet because they’ve [the bloggers] won.

Think about it: the driving force behind the success of the blogosphere in the UK has been the desire to break open the Westminster bubble; to force our Government, and our national press, to listen to the people, rather than endlessly circling around themselves. To expose the lies and the scandals at the heart of our political system.

And now we have. Victory is ours. The bloggers are being taken seriously, and the Government is on the run.

And in the comments section Guido Fawkes adds:
You know you are on to something here. I am finding it hard to break new ground when all the papers read like a Guido post from a year ago – “snouts in the trough”, “they are all at it”, “jail MPs” etc.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An interesting file share move by Friendfeed?

Friendfeed added yet another feature to its short social messaging service that you won’t find on Twitter: the ability to share MP3s and other files directly within your feed.

From Wired.
Isn't this something of a political move? Bret Taylor, co-founder of Friendfeed told Wired the plan : to respond to infringement complaints as is required by the DMCA (by removing infringing content from the site after being notified by a content owner) and by terminating repeat infringers’ accounts. It’s unclear how copyright holders would even know anything’s being infringed, given Friendfeed’s privacy options.

The city newspaper: 20 staff, six news "gatherers"

Josephson, the CEO of local news platform, figures the local, online-only newspaper of tomorrow, for a decent-sized city, will have a staff of 20 people. That’s 20 people, period. Perhaps six of them will be “news gatherers.”

And the money?
A sales force of a dozen people sells ads for both buckets of inventory, and uses ad networks to fill in remnant space they don’t sell. Net result: A very healthy 43 percent operating margin, much better than the 27 percent margins the newspaper industry enjoyed from 2000 through 2007, before the business imploded.

From MediaMemo.

Arthur on the Last Blog of the Long Tail

But recently – over the past six months – I've noticed a new trend: fewer blogs with links, and fewer with any contextual comment. (I'm defining a blog here as an individual site, whether on Blogger or Wordpress or an individual domain, with regular entries.) Some weeks, apart from the splogs, there would be hardly anything. I didn't think we'd suddenly become dull. Nor was it for want of searching: mining for blog comments, I use and Google's Blogsearch.

Where is everybody? Anecdotally and experimentally, they've all gone to Facebook, and especially Twitter. At least with Twitter, one can search for comments via – though it's still quite rare for people to make a comment on a piece in a tweet; more usually it's a "retweet", echoing the headline. The New York Times also noticed this trend, with a piece on 9 June about "Blogs Falling In An Empty Forest", which pointed to Technorati's 2008 survey of the state of the blogosphere, which found that only 7.4m out of the 133m blogs it tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. As the New York Times put it, "that translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned".

From Charles Arthur in the Guardian. Feel like a dinosaur. Still, compared to books...

Google City Tour: there goes the guide book

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

...Google not only suggests sites to see, but it also maps out a multi-day itinerary and proposes a minute-by-minute travel schedule for you to follow.

From Search Engine Land.
Google City Tour.

Facebook & Google: windows on our knowledge seeking world

Today, the Google-Facebook rivalry isn't just going strong, it has evolved into a full-blown battle over the future of the Internet—its structure, design, and utility. For the last decade or so, the Web has been defined by Google's algorithms—rigorous and efficient equations that parse practically every byte of online activity to build a dispassionate atlas of the online world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions a more personalized, humanized Web, where our network of friends, colleagues, peers, and family is our primary source of information, just as it is offline. In Zuckerberg's vision, users will query this "social graph" to find a doctor, the best camera, or someone to hire—rather than tapping the cold mathematics of a Google search. It is a complete rethinking of how we navigate the online world, one that places Facebook right at the center. In other words, right where Google is now.

i.e the knowledge world of the tribe, or the atlas; the village or the city. From Wired.
Facebook isn't just kneecapping Google's search engine; it is also competing with it. Facebook encourages its 200 million members to use Microsoft's search engine, which it installed on its homepage late last year as part of the deal struck between the two companies. At press time, it was also planning to launch Facebook Search, allowing users to scour one another's feeds. Want to see what some anonymous schmuck thought about the Battlestar Galactica finale? Check out Google. Want to see what your friends had to say? Try Facebook Search. And it will not only be for searching within Facebook. Because Facebook friends post links to outside sites, you will be able to use it as a gateway to the Web—making it a direct threat to Google. Why settle for articles about the Chrysler bankruptcy that the Google News algorithm recommends when you can read what your friends suggest?

This needs thinking about: how does epistemological mobility take place in the Facebook model?

Berners-Lee on government data, just do it!

There are two philosophies to putting data on the web. The top-down one is to make a corporate or national plan, by getting committees together of all the interested parties, and make a consistent set of terms (ontology) into which everything fits. This in fact takes so long it is often never finished, and anyway does not in fact get corporate or national consensus in the end. The other method experience recommends is to do it bottom up. A top-level mandate is extremely valuable, but grass-roots action is essential. Put the data up where it is: join it together later.

A wise and cautious step is to make a thorough inventory of all the data you have, and figure out which dataset is going to be most cost-effective to put up as linked data. However, the survey may take longer than just doing it. So, take some data.

A really important rule when considering which data could be put on the web is not to threaten or disturb the systems and the people who currently are responsible for that data. It often takes years of negotiation to put together a given set of data. The people involved may be very invested in it. There are social as well as technical systems which have been set up. So you leave the existing system undisturbed, and find a way of extracting the data from it using existing export or conversion facilities. You add, a thin shim to adapt the existing system to the standard.

More here for government in "Putting government data online".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watch the IPhone Reading experience

But there's no soundtrack.

Iceberg for iPhone 3.0

Interesting take on "Google Books"

Google's enormous library will make publishers and authors beholden to only one all-powerful player. This sounds plausible in theory but utterly misrepresents the facts on the ground when it comes to publishing. There already is one dominant player in the book business: It's Amazon, and publishers are uniformly terrified of its growing power. By including a library of books that Amazon doesn't have, Google Book Search may at some point present an alternative go-to source for book buyers and create a counterweight to Amazon. This is what just about everyone in the book business really wants.

From The Big Money/Slate.

The original critique by Robert Darnton.

A Design for Living: Habitat & Twitter

Furniture store Habitat has apologised for causing offence after accusations it exploited unrest in Iran to drive online Twitter users to its products.

Keywords - called hashtags - such as 'Iran' and 'Mousavi' were added to its messages so people searching for those subjects would see the firm's adverts.

Users of the networking site reacted angrily and the posts were removed.

The retailer has said the use of the hashtags were "not authorised", but declined to say who was responsible.

Contributors to Twitter posted messages claiming Habitat should be "ashamed" and saying it was "piggy-backing" on the political situation in Iran.

One of the controversial messages - called tweets - which appeared before being removed by Habitat, read: HabitatUK: #MOUSAVI Join the database for free to win a £1,000 gift card.

From the BBC.

In preparation: part two of the Journey

I will shortly be starting to post my version of the journey from Venice to Bad Ragatz as an exercise in "recollection in tranquility". Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose Europe walk haunts my own, did much the same only he was in print. In the meantime I'll post a lecture I gave at the Text, Technology and Interpretation conference at Manchester's Chetham library over the weekend.


Some editorial intelligence from Scott Rosenberg

See below.
The question “Is blogging journalism?” was not one typically raised from the blogger camp; it was posed overwhelmingly by journalists, who made it the theme of countless columns and the agenda of innumerable journalism-school panel discussions. The answer has always seemed simple and obvious: writing a blog neither qualified nor disqualified you for the “journalist” label. Blogging could be journalism anytime the person writing a blog chose to act like a journalist — recording and reacting to the events of the day, asking questions and seeking answers, checking facts and fixing errors. Similarly, journalists could become bloggers anytime they adopted the format of a blog as a vessel for their work.

From chapter nine of Say Everything. By Scott Rosenberg.

Market ready for Cheney Memoir, in fact with a "certain urgency"

"I'm persuaded there are a lot of interesting stories that ought to be told," Cheney said. "I want my grandkids, 20 or 30 years from now, to be able to read it and understand what I did, and why I did it."

Financial terms were not disclosed. A publishing official with knowledge of the negotiations, but not authorized to publicly discuss, said the deal was likely worth at least $2 million. Cheney's literary representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, declined comment.

From an AP exclusive. The framework:
The book will be published by Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions imprint, founded in 2005 and headed by a longtime Cheney friend and former aide: Republican strategist Mary Matalin....Matalin has not only reaffirmed her Washington connections, but tapped into—like few others—the current conservative market. She has published one of the most popular works of 2009, Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny," and recently released "Glenn Beck's Common Sense," which on Tuesday ranked No. 1 on

"A lot of those kinds of books were selling well before, but they've certainly been enhanced by this environment, where conservatives feel a certain urgency; the future of the party feels uncertain," Matalin said. "Cheney's book may play into that—it can't not, I think. But it will also be about the policies that played out under that philosophy of government, over almost half a century."

Libraries & Twitter

"Librarians as a group are very spread out around the country, and they are really seizing on Twitter as a great way to network and spread information among themselves. They are also trying it out to give information about author events and closing times to their users," said Benedicte Page, libraries expert at the Bookseller. From Milton Keynes (@mklibraries) to Devon (@devonlibraries), Plymouth (@plymlibraries) to Newcastle (@toonlibraries), over 40 UK libraries are now using Twitter, and a "Twitter for librarians" course will be held by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in September to encourage more to take it up.

From the Guardian.

Feeling Old? Two 19 year olds & the Twitter/Penguin book deal

...And what, to give this a
bit more focus, best expresses the souls of 21st century Americans?

First, of course, is literature. Perhaps we are simply part of the effete corps of
impudent snobs, but we concluded that no generation is complete without its
high writing --and an appreciation for what had come before. Dante,
Shakespeare, Stendhal, Joyce and J.K. Rowling…surely these names still
meant something!

The second is Twitter.More than any other social networking tool, Twitter has
(at least for the last five minutes of Eonic time), refined to its purest form the
instant-publishing, short-attention-span, all-digital-all-the-time, self-
important age of info-deluge that is the essence of our contemporary world. As
such, it demands our attention – and gets it.

So what could be better than to combine the two?

From TWITTERATURE:The World's Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less
A little more here. Think Wes Anderson meets Clay Shirky.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dan Brown: here it comes - genius

Obviously it is big budget; but not really. Dan Brown's publishers are going for a Summer of Symbols, and a Twitter & Facebook presence. The email arrives this afternoon and it is almost impossible not to put down the Isaiah Berlin essays and hop over to the website - where nothing much is happening....yet. Already there is a teaser campaign including this first clue on Twitter:

Codes of ethics? T 10 C; 6 P O T SOD; 12 S O T Z
And an email alert:



It's brilliant marketing; and even though this is Dan Brown the lesson is surely clear for all publishers: build an audience online. Here's a few quotes from the Facebook page.
You liberated my life when you wrote and confirmed, black on white, what I was secretely thinking about Faith and Church. I gladly joined the ranks as one of your best fans.
Thank you

I have learned so much from your books!!!They have inspired me to study different religions, and sciences. When The Lost Symbol comes out you can count on me being the first to bye a copy!!

Crowdsourcing or what?

Guardian Crowdsourcing: those figures!

From Nieman Journalism Lab on The Guardian's crowdsourcing
Journalism has been crowdsourced before, but it’s the scale of the Guardian’s project — 170,000 documents reviewed in the first 80 hours, thanks to a visitor participation rate of 56 percent — that’s breathtaking. We wanted the details, so I rang up the developer, Simon Willison, for his tips about deadline-driven software, the future of public records requests, and how a well-placed mugshot can make a blacked-out PDF feel like a detective story.

He offered four big lessons:

And from Ethan Bauley - via my Tumblr: "This is the best article I’ve read in weeks."

Hard to disagree.

RIP: They give us those nice bright colors

Eastman Kodak Company announced on June 22, 2009 that it will discontinue sales of KODACHROME Color Film this year, concluding its 74-year run as a photography icon. Sales of KODACHROME, which became the world's first commercially successful color film in 1935, have declined dramatically in recent years as photographers turned to other films or digital capture. Today, KODACHROME represents just a fraction of one percent of Kodak's total sales of still-picture films.

And though my lack of education
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the worlds a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama dont take my Kodachrome away

A blogger on Editorial Intelligence's “Commentariat vs Bloggertariat” Event

I didn’t really feel that my questions or points were properly picked up on by the panel but there was still plenty of debate to be had. I was quite surprised at how many of the audience were famous journalists. People like Suzanne Moore of The Mail and Anne McElvoy of The Evening Standard asked questions. In fact I seemed to be the only one called to ask a question who the chair didn’t actually know!

More surprises here (not) - from Mark Reckons
Editorial Intelligence, the media analysis and networking company: click on its blog link here to read some pieces from its latest 2007 article. It's not that hard, is it, this digital revolution? Or did it end in 2007?

What's next for the book? Libraries

Today I'm interviewing The Librarian. Interesting to see how they view "the book".

Books: the money

A business model with a future?
Apple's iPhone and iTunes and Amazon's Kindle are onto something very big.

Their approach to making the digital future financially viable represents as much of a psychological break with rampant free content practices as a template for conditioning consumers to pay for relevant content and valuable applications, especially for mobile devices.

Just as important, they dodge reliance on media advertising that will remain in flux as it evolves into interactive marketing and e-commerce. By 2012, the growth of user payments for applications and content will likely outstrip the growth of online advertising (at twice the rate, or an average annual 17%). Although user payments will remain just under 60% of total U.S. offline media, it will top 30% of online media spending in 2012, which advertising will continue to dominate.

From MediaPost.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Punchdrunk + Adam Curtis

And what looks like a healthy dose of Peter Whitehead, and yer man Godard. Looks like 60s heaven - in Manchester. It does indeed feel like a kiss. Can't wait.

Video Games: the facts (USA)

68% of all American households play video games
Average game player is 35 years old
25% of players are over 50
Average age of most frequent gamer is 39
52% of game purchasers are male; 48% are female
63% of parents believe video games are a positive part of their children's lives.

More here.

Consumers Speak, Read, think about wallet

Online is now the most popular place to browse, up to 40% from 17% in last year's poll, displacing chain bookshops which slid from 34% to 31%. Respondents were even more interested in technology with more stating an interest in innovations such as e-readers, in-store p.o.d. machines and downloads to mobiles and iPods. "It seems like there is a greater acceptance for books, technology and print to come together," [William] Higham said.

From the Bookseller.

William Higham's company is Next Big Thing. One of his trend groups is the 'new puritans'
Today’s teens are hugely different to Generation X or the Baby Boomers. Like Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous, many are reacting against the hedonism and youthful ‘cool’ of their parents and older siblings, exhibiting more ‘adult’ traits than their elders.

They are increasingly drawn to moral certainties and the assurance of tradition. Contrary to tabloid headlines, they’re moving away from drink, drugs and casual sex, and towards community, principled life strategies and ‘old fashioned’ leisure pursuits.

Which makes me wonder about the book research as well.

The GG Backlash?

There was a time when it may not have been “cool” to be a nerd (unlike today), but intelligence as a whole was valued. Parents watched over their children to make sure homework was completed, school teachers pushed their students (instead of catering to the lowest common denominator), and graduating from college was actually an achievement (aka “difficult”). Books were read, theatre was intelligent, and issues were discussed among ordinary people.
No longer is this true.

The public school system caters to the dumbest of the class, aiming only to get more funding than the year previous – essentially teaching for the tests. A common topic of discussion among ordinary people is the previous night’s episode of a reality TV show or brain-numbing “drama”, rather than world news or even politics. Entertainment itself has degraded, with the majority of TV showcasing idiots and their adventures, and plays are no longer witty satire, instead choosing to produce stage versions of movies or books.

Even more frightening is that books are not considered a valid form of entertainment any longer – which shouldn’t be a surprise, given the average reading level of today’s people. Instead of reading news from the source via the Internet, newspapers, or slightly-biased publications like TIME or Newsweek, people choose to watch CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, where the goal is not to inform you, but to make advertising money.

From a chilling essay by Kyle Brady, a voice of the kids of the 80s/'90's generation. Is this "y"; proto "Google Gen"?

Humanities Publishing: all kinds of everything

I have no doubt that we are rapidly moving into an environment of tiny initial print runs (if there is any print run at all) followed by print-on-demand, combined with some form of electronic delivery. For most books in the humanities and social sciences, I think that will work well — at least until disciplinary departments come to their senses and ask whether the “book” ought to continue as the standard criterion for scholarly evaluation. We now have the technology to produce scholarship in these new formats, although there are still serious questions about how to deliver it to the user. I am going to teach one of my fall courses using the new Kindle DX, and I’ll report later on how that goes. But the real question at the moment is what business model there is to sustain university presses in this new environment? I don’t think the answer is clear.

Stan Katz, more here.

Found via Lisa Gold's Research Blog: Bezos is 'kind of am grumpy' reading a physical book

I kind of am grumpy when I am forced to read a physical book. Because it’s not as convenient. Turning the pages … I didn’t know this either, until I started using the Kindles a couple months ago, I mean a couple years ago, I didn’t understand all of the failings of a physical book, because I’m inured to them. But you can’t turn the page with one hand. The book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment. They’re heavy. You can only take one or two of them with you at a time. It’s had a great 500-year run. [Audience laughter.] It’s an unbelievably successful technology. But it’s time to change.

Thanks to Lisa Gold, who adds: "This quote was transcribed by Carolyn Kellogg in the LA Times’ Jacket Copy blog from a video of Bezos in conversation with Steven Levy at Wired’s Disruptive by Design conference."

The in conversation:

Shirky on speed and emotion

Talk some more about the sense of participation on Twitter. It seems to me that that has spurred an entirely deeper level of emotional connection with these events [in Iran].
Absolutely. I've been saying this for a while -- as a medium gets faster, it gets more emotional. We feel faster than we think. But Twitter is also just a much more personal medium. Reading personal messages from individuals on the ground prompts a whole other sense of involvement. We're seeing everyone desperate to do something to show solidarity like wear green -- and suddenly the community figures out that it can actually offer secure web proxies, or persuade Twitter to delay an engineering upgrade -- we can help keep the medium open.

From TED. Much more here.

Internet heroes and villains

ISPA has announced its heroes and villains short list. Winners announced at the UK Internet Industry Awards on July 9. Here's the list:
Internet Hero Finalists

Featured Artists Coalition - "For recognising publicly that the focus of music companies should be the development of new business models for distributing content online rather than attempting to pass responsibility to ISPs to take action against users"
Community Broadband Network - "For their relentless pursuit and support for next generation access at grass roots level"
European Parliament - "For rejecting by a significant majority an amendment to the Telecom Package designed to allow disconnection of users' Internet connections for alleged copyright infringement without direct judicial oversight"
Lord Carter - "For his attempt to bring a holistic view to government policy across the communications spectrum"
Thomas Gensemer - "For showcasing the enormous power of the Internet in leading Barack Obama's online presidential campaign"

Internet Villain Finalists

Baroness Vadera - "For excluding a number of ISPs and Rights Holders in agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding that was exclusive and ineffective in progressing relations between the two industries"
European Parliament - "For supporting an amendment to the Telecom Package on cookies which could yet bring the Internet to a standstill"
President Nicolas Sarkozy - "For his continued commitment to the HADOPI law, which advocates a system of graduated response, despite repeated arguments suggesting the law is disproportionate from a number of important groups including the European Parliament"
Stephen Conroy and the Australian Government - "For continuing to promote network-level blocking despite significant national and international opposition"

From ThinkBroadband.

Newspapers on the Kindle, a reader speaks

But both versions of the Kindle are missing what makes print newspapers such a perfect delivery vehicle for news: graphic design. The Kindle presents news as a list—you're given a list of sections (international, national, etc.) and, in each section, a list of headlines and a one-sentence capsule of each story. It's your job to guess, from the list, which pieces to read. This turns out to be a terrible way to navigate the news.

Every newspaper you've ever read was put together by someone with an opinion about which of the day's stories was most important. Newspapers convey these opinions through universal, easy-to-understand design conventions—they put important stories on front pages, with the most important ones going higher on the page and getting more space and bigger headlines. You can pick up any page of the paper and—just by reading headlines, subheads, and photo captions—quickly get the gist of several news items. Even when you do choose to read a story, you don't have to read the whole thing. Since it takes no time to switch from one story to another, you can read just a few paragraphs and then go on to something else.

Farhad Manjoo in Slate. I wonder what Farhad thinks of online newspapers? Hang on, isn't Slate....

Investigative reporting: following the money

By Martin Bright, Heather Brooke, Peter Barron, Nick Davies, Nick Fielding, Misha Glenny, Stephen Grey (editor), Mark Hollingsworth, Andrew Jennings, Phillip Knightley, Paul Lashmar, David Leigh:


The newly-formed Foundation for Investigative Reporting is launching a campaign to help secure the future of public interest reporting in the UK. We are setting up a fund that will support the kind of risky, challenging reporting for which there is a crying demand – and as an experiment to seek out new ways to support this vital work.

As recent global events like the financial collapse reveal, the demand is greater than ever for the reporters basic mission of “finding stuff out”.

We urgently need to hear from you with your thoughts, pledges of any form of support, or the sort of big idea or information about something you believe should be investigated – and isn’t.

More here

What's next for the book?

So I'm writing a book about the future of the book. Not simply the shift to the e-book, if it happens, but rather an investigation of the physical/material and the digital book; the places we read; the business models and the bookish things around books.

If there's anything about books, and their future, that seem obvious to you, let me know.