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.