Sunday, 13 December 2009

FLIPS books for Nintendo DS and DSi (or the future for e-books everywhere)

Lovely idea, this.



I do wonder if this won't be the future for e-books. Rather than simply converting printed copy into e-ink, the porting process will be rather more involved. After all, websites are e-books by another name. A case of convergent evolution.

It's really not true that children do not read any more. They read far more than I ever read as a child - and I was a prolific reader. What they don't read is traditional books. What they do read is hyperlinked text - and very proficiently.

The FLIPS series is far more than a worthy attempt to reach out to a new audience on its own terms. The FLIPS series is a blueprint for e-books everywhere.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

How truly bad (some) newspaper editors are at making money (or how this is the century of the amateur communicator)

A brilliant exposition of how bad some newspaper publishers are at making money out of all that free traffic Google and company provide them with. If you still believe that the British Digital Economy bill is worth the e-paper it's burned into, please read this article first. The future is not Murdochian, not if the future is to include any of the oldco business models. For Murdoch and Mandelson's way will probably - quite contradictorily - end up achieving the final destruction of the old institutional newspaper publishing models: quite the opposite of what they were actually aiming for.

It may, in fact, end up leading to greater opportunities for end-user/producers as they happily allow search engines to find them.

In the Internet, visibility is everything. Web domains mean little these days. Search engines are how we find things. Search engines are the equivalent of the environmental knowledge we used to keep in our heads when our environment was our town. Now our environment is the planet, there is absolutely no way we will be able to do without search engines.

Microsoft's Bing is sizing up to be the Google for the oldco content providers and their 20th century publishing models. Bing believes in walls, in payments upfront, in monetising above all, in old-fashioned unidirectional relationships between passive consumers and directing producers. Bing and all those intellectual property merchants who will follow Murdoch's lead make up the last desperate throw of the dice of the oldco cash-cow-owning content providers who've suddenly discovered their cash cows aren't quite so attractive as they used to be. It's not piracy that - long-term - is going to do them in. It's simple boredom from consumers who are no longer captive. Organisations who collaboratively created quite magnificently in the 20th century are being outdone by millions of telephone texts, billions of downloads of home-made videos on YouTube, trillions of words published on Twitter, Facebook and blogs and an infinite number of social and personal exchanges between ordinary people who far prefer to spend their free time these days communicating with other ordinary people.

This is the century of amateur communicators. Partly because education has meant we're not so amateur any more. But mainly because - suddenly, for the price of a broadband connection - very simply we can. That's our essence as human beings. We are innate communicators. That's what we do. And we are beginning to get the hang of doing it without filters or intermediaries. We're beginning to want more of each other - and less of the professionals who once made a living out of publishing.

We're all now editors, authors, publishers and journalists. Doesn't mean we're good at it. Just means we're good enough.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

More bad news for books and mortar as Borders on border of collapse

The Guardian reports more sad news this evening, as talks to sell off most of Borders' stores struggle to achieve their objective.  Will Borders as a going concern now disappear from our cultural landscape? 

More here.

As we proclaim the virtues of e-books, this is the inevitable consequence.  Bricks and mortar collapse like puff pastry as the computer monitor and broadband connection take their place.

This is the future.  Only it's actually - and unfortunately - the present.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Kindle for PC

John Naughton argues that this is Amazon kind of running scared of Apple's threat to shortly iTune the entire e-book publishing industry.  Apple's good at simple gadgets which work.  But Kindle works too.  So I don't see the problem.

Not from a consumer point of view, anyhow.  Growing industry?  Greater competition?  More players?  Surely good news for everyone all round.

Kindle to the PC?  And how about to my Symbian phone?  Or my Linux-powered Eee PC 900 netbook?  Surely, far more useful. 

(Kindle to the PC seems a retrograde step.)

More from Naughton here.  Meanwhile, I've downloaded Amazon's Kindle for PC beta.  I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The making of an American soldier

A perfect example of how the arts of blogging can go further, much further. Photo-journalism of a most thoughtful kind in this extraordinary rite of passage.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Android (or how Google has out-Microsofted Microsoft)

We used to think, as perhaps the Japanese might think, that androids would resolve all kinds of future needs. In a country where ingenuity drives a progress of a kind, replacing a certain kind of human figure - that which mainly carries out drudge and caring functions, I suppose - with an electro-mechanical substitute could only ever be seen as a positive.

Those sorts of androids are here, at shows and in glossy magazines - and, yet, we still do not really see them in our own homes.

However, all of a sudden, at the hands of Google, we suddenly discover that an android of sorts is taking over.  For years, Microsoft reaped the benefits of realising sooner than anyone else that there was more money to be made in software than hardware - and thus succeeded in dismantling IBM as the paradigm of IT corporations.

Everyone else since has tried to dislodge Microsoft from its pedestal.  Some have stalked Office - my favourite open source program OpenOffice.org being just one example - whilst others have stalked Windows; in such cases with only varying degrees of success.

In the meantime, Microsoft has - most curiously - decided it needs to get back into the hardware market.  From its sad foray into music players Zune to its unreliable game console the Xbox, it really hasn't hit the spot. I suppose having all that money makes you believe you can cover all the bases - an error Google itself may one day be in danger of committing, if it ever decides to move into hardware.  But at the moment it would appear that Google has learned the lesson that Microsoft has forgotten.

This article on Google's new operating system Android, e-readers and e-books nominally takes us for a stroll around the whys and wherefores of this conjunction of technologies, and the cross-gadget implications for those of us who like publishing.  But - by the by - it also seems to explains the immense power Google is unleashing against Microsoft.  There are so many companies and individuals out there who in tight economic circumstances are looking for a free killer application to service their software needs, that the simply laying out of the ground rules makes them truly slaver in anticipation - though probably not too obviously.  As things stand, they dare not as yet say no to Microsoft's licencing demands, business methods or etiquette.  But, like the grip of a very 21st century vice, Google is slowly doing to Microsoft what Microsoft did to IBM - becoming that replacement paradigm of IT organisations.

And it's not even being original about it - it's just following Microsoft's late 20th century lead, only in this case using the search technologies and their related income to lever an operating system takeover through the back door.  High-powered desktops will matter less and less.  Clever little palm-helds, those mobile phones we've become so accustomed to, are where we're all migrating.  It's a metamorphosis of functionality and usage on an untold scale.

And here Windows, Office and all the other Microsoft brands count for very very little.

I tell you what - the day it's as easy to print an email from a mobile phone as it is from a desktop PC is the day Microsoft will have finally lost the battle for the early quarter of the 21st century and Google will have finally won.

The sad thing is that like New Labour and the Thatcherite Tories before, the battle may eventually be seen to have been won on Microsoft's terms and using Microsoft's methods.

Let's hope not.

Let's just be aware of the dangers.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

"Books are almost standing in the way of what publishing is becoming now"

A video interview between peers on the subject of how books are rapidly getting in the way of the basic aim of good publishing - that is to say, aggregating authors for interested readers and aggregating readers for interesting authors.

(So how about this as a definition of a book?  "I think of a book as a user interface to a body of information."  Nice.)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A cloud of books: "... ubiquitous access and shared experience"

This, from Tim O'Reilly, shows the advantages of an interconnected world of books.  Indeed, in this interconnected world, in some way, the book becomes simply a part of a much much greater whole:
As you can see, many of these features take advantage of the online medium in ways that aren’t possible with standalone ebooks. To be sure, there are times you want your own offline copy, and in Safari Books Online, you can indeed download books or chapters for offline use. But especially given the rise of the smartphone as an access device, the times when we are truly "offline" are becoming few and far between. The vision with which we started Safari, that of always-on access to a library of technical content, not just to individual ebooks, is now within reach. Safari Books Online can be used on a desktop or laptop computer or in the browser on a mobile phone. Everything is always in sync because your library is in the cloud. An ebook cloud works the same way the web itself works. It provides ubiquitous access and shared experience.
More here from this useful post.  The Safari Books Online homepage can be found here.  Subscription details here.  Another example of how to monetise intellectual property not by charging per title but by charging per volume: ie not for what we're looking to read but rather for how much

An overarching access versus the purchase of specific content is the battleground the future clearly entails.  For now, I think I far prefer O'Reilly's cloud to what, in retrospect, may soon begin to appear to be the Kindle's hurried rewriting of an inappropriately bricks and mortar economics.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

www.Poblish.org and wishlist time

www.Poblish.org is close to my heart. I'm more than a little frustrated with how ineffectively Google's algorithms search my own Google-powered Blogger blogs. If you want to try the following experiment, go to www.21stCenturyFix.org and search using either of the search boxes on that page the word "Extremadura".  I guarantee you won't be able to find it.  Not sure why, but I suspect it's because Google prioritises new stuff over old and only finds linked-to stuff, if it finds anything.

Yet that's hardly a definition of something that's necessarily important.  If anything, it's only a definition of something that's notorious.  We are, or I am at least, actually looking for utility here; not fame, not that fifteen minutes of visibility we were all promised.

I know what I'm looking for is there - I mean, I wrote it.  And I know when I want to refer back to something I wrote.  So Google's not doing the job at the moment, not with Blogger.com anyhow.  There are, in fact, occasions when if I search using Google itself, I am able to find something that otherwise I was unable to find by searching from within the blog itself. 

And it's curious how well Google's algorithms continue to work with Gmail. 

Strange matters indeed.

So, anyhow, in the absence of any short-term solution on the horizon from the behemoth of search engines itself, first on my Poblish wishlist is a Poblish search box gadget which searches my own site for any content - and whilst we're at it, whilst we're in an asking frame of mind, any other blog that Poblish is monitoring.

My question must now be: what might be first on your Poblish wishlist?

The huge investment in competencies that revolve around print books ...

... and why this makes e-books a tricky matter. More here via Tim O'Reilly's Twitter feed.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Put a condom on your content

This is a lovely metaphor. More here.

I do have certain reservations, though, which I've already expressed on LabourWave.com. Monetising via advertisers is fine - a hoary old model we're fundamentally used to and just about what everyone does with Web 2.0, from Facebook downwards - but monetising by selling off access to the content we produce is a subtly different approach.

Google initially made money by finding us and then advertising to us. Twitter now seems to plan to be making money, if I at all understand correctly, by using my content as the whole point of their business model. Not selling where I access their services as real estate for advertisers but actually selling my intellectual property itself to the likes of Google and Microsoft.

My inflammatory statements do not belong to me after all. They are, once they emerge, Twitter's responsibility - and they may dispose of them exactly as they see fit.

So maybe the one who is actually beginning to want a condom on his content is yours truly.

Now I begin to understand how the WSJs of the world feel.

Wow! What a turn-up for the books ...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Kindle, UK

I see that Amazon's Kindle is now available in the UK, though you have to order via Amazon.com and you get a North American mains adapter included for your pains.

:-(

Anyhow, the dream of an electronic book free of USB cables and desktop computers comes ever closer. E-book readers are lovely objects but Whispernet-type connections are the key to blasting the competition out of the water.

Competitors take note. It's the access and library that really count - not the pretty face on the outside any more.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

www.Blurb.com

It's been a while since I first came across www.Blurb.com. Then it was a blog "slurper", designed to turn blogs into books. Presumably the market for such a product was decidedly niche-like (too few really good blogs which could usefully move to the printed page, too complex a process perhaps for it to work well enough to convince the potential user); for in the meantime, it seems to have become a kind of jumped-up Quark designed to help turn any material into a professionally bound and dispatched volume for a mightily small price.

An excellent idea. So good, I might try it out this week.

If you're interested and would like to try it yourself, you can find out more here.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

How to Spotify iTunes

Interesting - and totally legal - hack. How to access and use the data of your iTunes library via Spotify. Via Alfie's Twitter feed.

And an example of what the hack can achieve here.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Ikea's new online magazine

A nice, though perhaps overly complex, piece of advertising material just came through my virtual letterbox. More here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

How to run a non-profit news site (and how Labour Matters could be that site)

Interesting story about how to run a non-profit news site, via Tom Watson's Twitter feed. Everything's so awfully expensive, even so. There must be a better way of making donations more discrete. Smaller sponsorship spread more evenly around a community is what I mean.

Not the discreet of hidden influences. The discrete of a decentralised Internet.

Not the Ashcroft way.

More a true cooperative of common interests.

Take Labour Matters for example. A project ripe for wider development, if there ever was one. An online campaigning tabloid capable of being up there with the best of them. The potential to spread like wildfire.

The issue is, of course, one of funding. But even if we could find a progressive Lord Ashcroft, would we want him or her? Wouldn't it be precisely the wrong move to make in a virtual world full of zero hierarchies, direct messages, consumer-producers and multi-directional communication channels?

Isn't it time, surely, for the cooperative structures of egalitarian power-sharing to support the progressive projects we would like to push forwards?

Surely we should, in essence, be able to practise what we preach ...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Espresso (but not coffee) (that is to say, an ATM for books)

I first heard of this machine in 2001, when I was studying for my Master in Publishing in Madrid. Everyone feared the advent of the beast - it would lead to the destruction of an entire sector of production. Distributors were terrified that large pieces of their action would go up in smoke as processes radically changed. They were probably right.

Wherever you look, Google is there. Whatever you see, Google wants you to see it through them.

And thus it is that the company would appear to be unmanageably disparate in its focus and future.

But the truth of the matter is that they are currently about as right as you can get. Better access to information is what ties their mission together. Whether it's books, whether it's search results, whether it's pictures or videos, Google wants to help you find more effectively.

Will they resist the temptation to tie you into proprietorial systems? I think we've moved on from there. I think they have no choice, because, most precisely, we have more choice than ever before.

Google will not be a Microsoft of the 21st century for not even Microsoft will manage to achieve that feat. If you don't believe me, try this kind of story on for size. It's not the only one - there are plenty more of these under the radar, if you care to look beyond the press releases organisations like the BBC are regularly happy to publish as hard news. There was one just the other day which talked about how the "powerful" chips in some third-rate video console were helping scientists carry out hard research. This piece of news coincided with the relaunch of a competing machine. And thus the churnalism of technology pulls the wool over our eyes.

Anyhow. Back to the Espresso machine which doesn't make coffee. So what does it do? Well, it prints books at the point-of-sale. As I said at the beginning of this post, I was entranced by the prospect of such a machine as long ago as 2001.

I've had to wait until today for the technology and the content to come together productively enough to make it a useful alternative to previous processes.

Background here, whilst the video below gives you a taster of the glorious world to come.


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Electronic books rule (at last)!

The revolution has finally evolved to the point where it seems a perfectly natural step - no longer a sudden rattlesnaking tale of threatened sectorial destruction. After so many years of unfulfilled promise, e-books begin to rule. More here.

For those of us who live in Britain, our only dilemma now is which e-reader to buy.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Twitter's new terms of service

Always interesting to read between the lines when new terms of service for online sites are launched.

One such entrail-reading experience can be found here, with an overview of Twitter's new terms of service.

(Funny how the virtual world can change at will - and what's more unilaterally - the nature of the contractual relationship between provider and user.)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Catching up on Murdoch's pay-wall

Nice phrase, that. "Pay-wall" describes it perfectly. It won't work. But it will be fun watching it not work. More here from snowflake5.

New media is now media

Interesting observations from John Naughton, who consistently sees the shape of the future through a perspicacious understanding of our shared presents:
[...] 20th century mass media were mainly machines for churning out standardised products and enhancing shareholder value along the way. Sometimes, of course, they played an important role in the democratic process, but that was not their core business, any more than non-stick frying pans were the core business of the Apollo program. If journalism is to thrive in the new ecosystem then, as Beckett says, it has to make the shift “from a manufacturing to a service industry” and its practitioners will have to change from “providing a product to acting as facilitators and connectors”. My guess is that most journalists conditioned in the old ecosystem will find this an uncomfortable or downright impossible switch.
More along these lines as well as links to other useful articles here.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Battling with bad websites is bad for the soul

Having recently managed to install drivers and a scanning utility for the Canon Pixma MP190 multi-function printer on a standard Xandros Eee PC installation, I thought I'd do something far less challenging - book some tickets online. The website in question shall remain nameless for the moment. I hope to speak to the person indirectly responsible for it on Monday and feel I should give him time to react.

From the telephone conversations I've had today what's absolutely clear is that the people directly responsible for the site don't really give a fig about its functioning or the impact it has on the customers who try and use it. Their reaction has been both ineffectual and insulting. They offer discounts to users who book online and then blame banks when the operation cannot be completed. What's more, they refuse to offer the same discounts over the phone, although they would appear to be using the same site to make the purchase on behalf of the hapless customer.

A quick pair of phonecalls to the bank indicated that no request reached them on either occasion that the purchase was attempted, so the messages which informed me that my bank had refused to process the request were both a slur on my bank as well as myself.

A quick Google around the Internet indicates that in July 2008 the same site was causing similar problems for at least one potential customer.

That's a whole twelve months they've had to sort out the site for a company which allegedly has a fifteen percent share of its market.

I await Monday's phonecalls with interest - though will obviously not be holding my breath.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

My Eee PC and I

I'm a total Linux newbie. Find it very difficult to even install a simple program. Windows gets you used to the luxury of double-clicking any file wherever you find it - and installing it wherever you need it.

Even so, to the basic Xandros installation I've managed to install advanced desktop mode, a Hayes modem, and - latterly (yesterday, in fact) - a Canon Pixma MP190 printer. As is always the case in my case, I very rarely remember exactly how I manage to do these things - nevertheless, I tell you today just so you know that all these things are possible. I'm still battling with the Canon, mind - need to install a scanner utility so I can take advantage of this feature. But I'm sure that with the help of dear Mr Google, the multiple online communities that are out there and a bit of my own common sense ... well, all this will be possible.

I stumbled across the following site the other day - eeedownload.asus.com. One-click install is the promise. Doesn't work as yet - but I'll keep you all posted. (Seems to be the Holy Grail of Linux, does that.)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

How tools become redundant

Word was designed to produce perfect documents on paper. Latterly, we write more and more for the web. A company which has based its reason-to-be on such a product is vulnerable to such change. More on this subject here and here.

As a taster for the latter link, the below shows just how awful working with Word can be in a world of email and multiple authors:
* People sometimes forget to attach the document to their email.
* The document can be too large—especially long documents with lots of images—and can clog up the email server.
* Nobody knows what edits were made and by whom. Sure, you can turn "Track Changes" on, but as it transforms your document into a horrible illegible mess, most people very quickly turn it off again.
* Nobody has any idea which is the most recent version of the document. This leads to amusing email flame wars where people insist that you adopt version control for your file names, which nobody ever does because they are too busy arguing about what the syntax should be. Even if you do manage to get version control, you are still never sure if you have the most recent version.
* People save the document in some directory on their hard drive and then forget where it is. The usual solution to this is to email the author again and ask them to resend it.
* People miss the email (usually because there are far too many emails in a day) and claim to have never received the document in the first place.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Communicating with the progressive left (or ideas instead of smears)

Andrew continues to develop some fascinating ideas here. As LabourList.org is currently showing us, "ideas instead of smears" is not only a laudable idea but an achievable goal. If we wish to develop politics properly, we need to understand the word "opposition" in a different way. We must learn to engage productively with as well as continue to battle figuratively against our "enemies". Knowing how to speak constructively to those we would prefer not to triumph is a skill we must acquire.

It requires adult behaviours - a childlike rather than childish imagination too; and, more importantly, for us to recover a long-lost sincerity of purpose.

We must learn again to be curious and innocent children of hope.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A life-support system for browsers

That is how John Naughton defines Google's new operating system:
[...] There wasn't much technical detail in the company's blog post, but the one thing that is clear is that the new OS will be - in its words - "a natural extension of Google Chrome". It is, they go on to say, "our attempt to rethink what operating systems should be".

If true, we have reached a significant milestone because what the Google guys propose amounts to turning the world upside down. Up to now, the operating system was at the heart of every computing device, transforming the machine from an expensive paperweight into something that could do useful things - running programs, managing displays, handling keyboard and mouse, etc. And because the OS had to be able to do all of this, it was the largest, most complex and most important piece of software of all.

In the old paradigm, the web browser was just another program the OS had to support. When the PC was the platform, that made perfect sense, but that paradigm has been steadily eroding. As broadband penetration increased, more and more people began to get their "computing" services not from their PC but from server farms over the net. Imperceptibly, we have been moving into a world in which, to repeat an old mantra, "the network is the computer".

If the network is indeed the computer, then the browser - our window on to the network - becomes the key piece of software. For many people today, the browser is the only program they really need. So it was only to be expected that somebody would eventually ask why we needed vast, clunky, expensive operating systems (such as Windows Vista, say) when really all that is required is a life-support system for a browser. That's what the Google engineers have asked. Their answer is that only a minimalist OS is now needed, and that is what they are developing - and what millions will be running in the latter part of 2010.
More here in today's Observer on this absolutely fascinating development.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Freemium/Freeconomics

An interesting post on the potential of the new economy:
[...] 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.
Via Tim O'Reilly's Twitter feed. With more apposite remarks from the same source here.

High quality URLs versus writing space

The tension between brevity and discourse, between juxtaposition and expansion, was never more clearly expounded than here. A history of blogging which delineates its two-headed fundamentals with precision. Via John Naughton.

More on smartphones and open source ways of working

With greater freedoms, come ever-increasing dangers. Or so they would have us believe.

There's always supposed to be a downside to digital interconnectedness. As the new head of MI6 gets his Facebook profile cleaned out, a service perhaps the rest of us might wish to make use of one day as we pursue this virtual sharing without really knowing where it will all end, so the spammers attempt to make money out of Michael Jackson's sad demise.

Communication and propaganda stand either side of a highly blurred - and what's more, blurring - line.

Meanwhile, I'm still investigating the virtues of smartphones. One conclusion I've come to is that the future requires us to move towards a model where we may use different applications for related purposes - sometimes, even different applications for the same purpose. No one can ever provide a total answer to any problem. (Anyone who claims they can has already crossed that line I mentioned above.) This is the model of the competitive marketplace, the marketplace of evolutionary - and occasionally revolutionary - development. The age of integrated solutions, where one company decided what its customers needed and provided it within a timeframe it was almost always able to define, is over.

The principles of open source - its tools and ways of working - will inform software and product development in the future, even where its licensing systems may not.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

How to install Easy Peasy on a bootable 8GB SDHC card

Well. It had me up till 3 o'clock in the morning, as these things are wont to do. But I got there in the end.

I have an Eee PC 900 which I wanted to use with Easy Peasy, a netbook version of Ubuntu. But I didn't want to touch the original Xandros installation. After much fumbling and surfing, I worked out how to do it. The solution is to install it to an 8GB SDHC card which you can then leave in the card slot and conveniently take around with you. It's also persistent, so files, settings and updates all work as one would expect with any standard install.

Here are the (currently) pertinent links. All I can say is this worked for me. I take no responsibility if it doesn't work for you!
  1. Go to geteasypeasy.com and click on the download link
  2. Download the iso file to your computer of choice
  3. Follow the instructions to create a USB stick installation. The instructions you follow will depend on which computer you're using to create the USB stick in question. If it's Windows, you'll need to download this helper application (unetbootin). If it's any flavour of Linux, then you'll need to click here
  4. Run the helper application with an empty USB stick plugged in. Install the iso to the USB stick
  5. Once everything is installed on the USB stick, cancel the reboot on unetbootin, safely remove the USB stick and go to your Eee PC 900 (I assume it works with 701s - but I am awaiting feedback on this)
  6. Make sure your Eee PC is switched off
  7. Plug in the USB stick. Turn it on. At the first grey start-up screen, press the ESC key. Choose the USB stick to boot from. Wait a bit - it takes a little longer than the normal Xandros installation to boot up
  8. If you haven't already, put your 8GB SDHC card (I used a Maxell Class 4 - I'm sure other cards by reputable manufacturers will however work) into a USB card reader. Do not put it into the card slot itself - if you do, you will probably not be able to install Easy Peasy to the card. Then plug the card reader into one of the other USB ports
  9. On the Easy Peasy screen, go to the Administration tab and click on Install. Follow the instructions until you get to the page which asks you how to partition the hard drive. Choose the second Guided instructions radio button and then ensure you select the drive option which says something like "sdg" (in my case, it was the third in the list) - this will be the external card reader
  10. Continue by following the instructions on the Install program. Ensure that the booter is installed to the same "sdg" (or equivalent) drive
  11. The program may take between half an hour to forty minutes to copy the files from the USB stick to the SD card in the card reader. The Eee PC's own hard drives should only be accessed right at the end as grub looks for other operating systems. If the hard drive light lights up during installation, something is surely going wrong! But it may be too late to do anything about it ...
  12. Once it's installed, you can quit the USB version of Easy Peasy, power down the Eee PC, remove the USB stick from the USB port, the card reader from the Eee PC and the SD card from the card reader. You can now put the SD card directly into the Eee PC's own card slot
  13. Go through the same process to boot up as before - wait for the first grey start-up screen, click ESC, choose the SD card option to boot from and you'll now be booting up Easy Peasy from the card
  14. You can now configure your wireless connection by inputting the passphrase or passkey by clicking on the network icon at the top right of the screen. Once configured, go to Update Manager and update your software. I haven't gone as far as updating Ubuntu itself but I was able to install all other 69 packages that required updating with no problem whatsoever
Yes. It runs a little slower than Xandros - but it's a safer way of migrating from one system to another and it can allow you to keep your options open. It worked for me anyhow.

I ran unetbootin under Windows Vista and installed Easy Peasy from the USB stick to the SDHC card via the card reader under a live version of Easy Peasy running on the Eee PC itself.

As always, the only caveat you should really keep in mind is to back up any important data before you try new installations of operating systems. If in doubt, back out!

Comments and rewrites of the above most welcome.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Mobile blogging

I've got a simple smartphone between my thumbs and I've just discovered the joys of mobile blogging. Over at smokedapplewood.blogspot.com I've just posted some photos and a video. The potential and technology involved is astonishing. This is true self-publishing by the end-user. All you need is mobile Internet and you can publish to you heart's content. Words and pictures and ebooks for free. I never realised smartphones could be so smart.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

ISP boss on file-sharing and downloading

The Guardian provided us with this report on Friday:
Trying to stop people sharing copyrighted material over the internet is a game of cat and mouse in which the pirates will always win and calls for internet service providers to halt illegal file sharing are "naive", according to the boss of Carphone Warehouse.

Instead, Charles Dunstone said, the solution is education about the benefits of respecting copyright coupled with services that allow consumers "to get content easily and cheaply".

YouTube premiere of "Home" (closing date 14th June)

I've only just stumbled across this story, via El PaĆ­s today. You've got until June 14th to watch a major film, just premiered in the cinemas. I imagine this is a first - but it's clearly the future of feature film distribution.

The film is called "Home". History is being made. More from YouTube - but only until the 14th - here.

When not all Twitter worms are bad news (or how to review a book in 140 characters)

140 characters is all it takes these days to get people scurrying to buy a book. You do of course need visibility - you need to be famous for people to want to take note - but anything which encourages readers to read more is definitely worth our support.

More here as Twitter's bookworms definitely find their niche.

The pros and cons of (il)legal downloading

An interesting handful of responses to a letter on the subject of file-sharing and downloading. The original letter can be found here. The responses, published today in the Guardian, can be found here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Futuroom

A Czech journalism project which aims to cover all the bases in modern multi-channel journalism. It even has a section devoted to helping members of the public become more communication-savvy.

An overview of current courses here, whilst the Guardian provides more background here. Something like this for progressive distribution and publishing would be a mighty fine idea indeed.

Paid versus free content models

Buried amongst all the comments at the end of this overview of Google's Wave is a discussion on the merits of paid versus free content models.

The whole thing is, in fact, worth a read.

More on the subject of embeddable newspapers

An interesting article on the subject of making newspapers embeddable. There's a lot of thought going into this form of digital publishing at the moment, and how it all shakes out in the end - whether, indeed, it becomes sustainable - will depend very much on how effectively the distribution pie is carved up.

Blog distribution via Kindle and how to get paid for doing it

Income-earning distribution models for blogs sounds an extremely interesting idea. There's a fascinating article which has just come my way which tells us exactly what Amazon's Kindle proposes.

Via a comment left by John at Zebra Red's beta magazine.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Google Wave and peer-to-peer publishing

This is fascinating. An example of how the hierarchy of peer-to-peer publishing can disintegrate almost entirely and yet serve a far wider purpose than is currently the case.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Googlenomics in times of economic distress

Some people make money even when everyone around them is losing their shirt. More here from Wired this week.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The plague of ISPs that is almost upon us

The ISPs - the powerful distributors of latterday intellectual property - are already hogging far too much of the available cake, as I've pointed out on these pages before. Future legislation would give them untold powers; the power to lord over the entire landscape of Internet practice, in fact. From censorship of free speech to the rationing of bandwidth, they would have the right to do and undo whole communication communities. A plague of almost biblical proportions.

More here from Cory Doctorow writing in the Guardian today on a subject which should strike fear into the heart of any decent and upstanding creator-consumer.

The plague of plagiarism

Maureen Dowd, one of my favourite writers during the Iraq War, falls foul of the failure to attribute well-turned - even if unremarkable - phrases. More here from Regret the Error (compare here). Meanwhile, the Guardian on the same subject wrongly attributes a quote from a different blogger to the blogger in question. And then when it backtracks, offers no explanation.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

"That's capitalism for you ..."

John Naughton writing in the Observer today:
It's difficult to keep one's head when all about one people are losing theirs, but let us have a go. First of all, some historical perspective might help. When broadcast radio arrived in the US in the 1920s, nobody could figure out a business model for it. How could one generate revenue from something that could be listened to by anyone for free? Dozens of companies were founded to exploit the new medium, and most of them folded. The problem was solved by a detergent manufacturer named Procter & Gamble, which came up with the idea of sponsoring dramatic serials: the soap opera – and the mass market – was born.

The moral is simple: eventually someone will figure out a business model that works for online news. But it may take some time, and lots of outfits will fall by the wayside in the meantime. That's capitalism for you.
More here.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Blocking undesirables on Zebra Red's Twitter feed

Publishing is always political; literary is never dull. Curiously, I've just had to block a BNP supporter on Zebra Red's Twitter feed. Our even-handed approach to life isn't quite that even-handed.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

On charging for content

I'm against subscription services as a matter of course. From my point of view, an industry-organised tax on Internet access which is then paid out to content providers on a per-click basis seems much easier to manage and structure.

Much cleaner and fairer from the point of view of the consumers too, who would also benefit if they were content providers themselves.

Much fairer.

More in the original spirit of the Internet.

Topologically, it puts blogging and Internet posting of all kinds and types of media back in the realm of voice communication, where we pay for the phoneline and blocks of minutes - but not for the words, pictures or videos themselves.

The problem we have, of course, is that too many of the content providers are also in the business of supplying Internet connections. Rupert Murdoch's media empire is one of the biggest culprits with a multitude of newspaper outfits and then ISPs such as Sky. However, even homely ISPs have tried to do the reverse by hooking you into their portals whenever you allow them to automatically install a new connection.

A definite conflict of interests which surely needs to be sorted out if future distribution models are to be equitable, fair and sustainable.

And in the current political climate, do we really want anything else?

On engineering behaviours systemically

This is LabourList.org's latest comments policy. Useful stuff, I think. What we need to generate progressive debate amongst those of us who wish to disagree productively:
Comment Moderation Policy: We believe that all comments should seek to add value to the original post. So in order to encourage discussion in an evironment that is welcoming and inclusive for the Labour-minded, we will remove consistently off-topic remarks and personal or routinely negative attacks on the Party or other readers. We will immediately remove comments that are deemed to be racist, sexist, homophobic, gratuitous or threatening.
The comments policy itself can currently be found here. More thoughts from my other blog here. I still believe, however, that far more can be done to create robust online constitutions through the development of code. Surely better that a system engineer the behaviours than that such engineering be in the hands of any one individual.

How to promote freedom of creation, not freedom of destruction

A good post from Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy from April this year, on the subject of blogging and promoting civility:

The British left, I think, has to take heed from the American leftwing blogosphere. They didn’t set up their own smear sites and spend all their times ranting like the rightwingers (Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, Townhall, Faux News etc) - because they knew that it would lead to an even more degradation of politics. Instead they organised, spent their time building websites and blogs that were news resources (Huff Po), did proper investigative journalism (TalkingPointsMemo), were meeting points for activists (Daily Kos), focused on electoral strategy (FiveThirtyEight, SwingStateProject), did rapid-response policy proposals (ThinkProgress) and published news video (Crooks and Liars).

If you’re pissed off by this whole episode - and everyone involved - then it’s obvious what the task ahead is. There’s no point complaining about it. If we want the left to succeed and not be killed off by the libertarians, conservatives or New Labour, then we have to do it ourselves. Otherwise the likes of Derek Draper and Guido Fawkes will end up dominating the conversations.

This issue goes to the heart of all that democracy holds dear. How to engineer freedom systemically so it engenders a sense of corresponding responsibility.

Fairness should play its part, clearly absent in the current scandals over MPs' expenses, but education - where this is not an awful Chinese water torture of political brainwashing - must also figure somewhere. And as a society, we must agree on what education we wish for, what social engineering we wish to carry out, if we would wish to create a sustainable society which outlasts successive political administrations.

Are we asking to change the essential functioning of human nature here or do we believe that humans, when left to their own devices, will tend to goodness rather than petty evil? I only know that when I talk to my political opponents at grassroots level, I find myself in the company of people I can easily communicate with and comprehend. It is only those who reach the stratosphere of media notoriety I cannot understand.

There is a lesson in all of this.

The lesson is that we need not a devolved government - because that implies we sit back and wait. Rather, we must grasp our opportunities and demand that such a government be given back to the people; and where this is not forthcoming, steal it back without shame or intellectual embarrassment.

Alex Hilton's suggestion that we legislate for proportional representation in order to make deselection of sitting MPs easier is a brilliant idea - and should be given more traction.

In the meantime, those of us who would wish to expand the reach of progressive publishing and distribution must seriously consider what we can add to the existing landscape instead of focussing on how we may most aggressively detract from our opponents.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

On the utility of even more geekiness

More on the utility of geekiness and publishing here as Cory Doctorow gets his teeth into spinning off ideas, being coherent with one's principles and making money - all at the same time. A clear example of how the world that geeks created is becoming the world of us all.

Via John Naughton's Memex.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A definition of what a publisher does in the Web2Web world

This is quite useful:
I talked about the process of what a publisher does. A publisher pays attention to a community, whether it's a community of authors or a community of news makers. And they then curate it. They decide what's important. And then they share that with their community of readers. And then they presumably have feedback groups. And so I look at what I do with Twitter and I say, "Wow, I'm sharing the news that I'm finding interesting." I also have the ability to, in some sense, increase the status of members of my community.
More here.

So as tweeters, we are publishers. This is in fact quite revolutionary. In a way, perhaps even incontrovertibly, a good tweeter must be comparable to the great soap-box orators of the past. Or the great pamphleteers. Thus the new is the old, rewritten and reboxed.

The power that Web2Web publishing is exerting is turning everything upside down - business models, communication channels, human relationships in general ...; this is, in fact, the virtualisation of humanity as technology and the real world begin to intertwine in ways we would never have imagined. Now free time becomes work time, as those of us who wouldn't have dreamed of it a short while ago suddenly find ourselves working for ourselves on a multitude of different projects. Most will never see the popular light of day, that is true - but all have a direct lineage to that inventor's shed at the bottom of the garden.

And out of that inventor's shed come wonderfully brave new worlds.

And this is work that is generally unpaid - but work nevertheless.

Looking for activists to support your political programmes? Look no further than the geek world of free software. The interesting thing, however, is that the geek world and the rest of the world are shockingly becoming one.

Geeks are not at the edge of the new society but bang in the centre.

Web2Web was their world.

Now it's becoming ours.

And if we want to keep up, we have to become like them.

Hackers - not hacks - now required to save journalism

An interesting piece on new journalism and its needs:
It's not news that journalism is in crisis. CNN turned newspapers into first-day fishwrap and Craigslist killed the business model. Solutions are scarce, and our democracy is at risk. I don't have a chart to guide our way through the darkness to Citizenry 2.0, but there are some who can navigate the singularity.

Journalism needs great hackers. Not just nerds, but programmers who care -- about the values of journalism and the power of a free press to hold government accountable. Luckily, hackers are a freedom-minded bunch. The free software movement is rooted in many of the same principals that guide journalism. But news organizations aren't very sexy places to work -- especially now, as layoffs, bankruptcy and closures plague the industry. So how can we bring nerds to the news? One old-skool school is trying.
More here.

Brings me back to my rather declamatory essay, written in good faith nevertheless and at a time when I yearned for support of all kinds, which can be found here and which I quote in full below:
I spent a few years involved with the open source movement and the essay "The Cogwriter" came out of that. I'm not entirely convinced that everything is well with that movement, as I'm not entirely convinced that everything is altogether well with traditional software licences and ecosystems. Nevertheless, here's the essay itself, for what it's worth:

The Cogwriter

The more I read about the web and its possibilities, the more I realise it's not a writer's medium. At least, not yet. A scriptwriter's medium maybe, but not a writer's medium. If, as a writer on the Internet, you wish to participate in anything that stretches, you must accept your place in a machine of cogs. You become a writer of cogs.

You cannot create healthily, or predominantly. You must be prepared, as a scriptwriter must, to be subsumed to a greater good.

You cannot be an individual. You cannot be a thinker who instantly puts pen to paper and produces. Instinctive impulsive art is not machine art. Machine art is laboured and lumbering in its process, even though the result may be delicate, light, dancing. Paradoxically so. Cinema can, for example, dance. Even when built on such intrinsic process.

But most cinema does not dance.

Blogging is a writer's medium, I'll grant you that. But blogging is mainly a text medium anyway, and the tools have become transparent enough for someone who wants to spend most of their time thinking of the words, instead of fighting with the technology, to be able, quite generously, to do so.

Blogging is not really the Internet, though, except inasmuch as it uses the Internet to deliver and connect, to weave and make tapestry. But that tapestry is never more than a trickling of words and occasional pictures.

Cutting edge art on the Internet means technology. It is almost certainly impossible for an individual to be creative and at the same time comfortable with all the technologies that should be used to stretch the medium.

That is one of the purposes of art: to stretch the medium. Art which does not stretch grows flabby.

Possibly it is not really art.

Internet art cannot be art if it does not stretch. Obfuscation is not stretching. Peering through half-lidded eyes does not stretch, but, rather, simply hurts.

Wanting to cut edges with your Internet art is wanting to understand and manipulate many technologies. An Internet writer who wants to cut edges must therefore accept that his role must be a different one. Until the Internet equivalent of the typewriter is invented, we writers will be bent out of shape.

What we writers need, therefore, is to define this machine, require this machine to be invented. (If not, we would have to accept that for the next ten or fifteen years our destiny would lie in being bent out of shape.)

What must this machine do? It must manipulate a wide range of technologies. It must allow a creative individual to create, not fumble about for weeks learning how to carry out an oil change.

In the same way that the typewriter finally gave the invention of printed paper back to the creators, after 400 years of inferiority and oppression, of separation, as indeed did the word-processor in the 20th century, so this writer of cogs I am talking about, this "cogwriter" which I would so dearly love to possess, will, when invented, finally take power away from the doers and give it firmly back to the thinkers.

The "cogwriter" would do two things. It would allow a thinker, a creator, to take a cognisance and offer alternative ways of plastifying it. Then it would make all the cogs behind the ideas (which for technological reasons need to whirr and click) function in a transparent way, an invisible way.

Then the art would be in the thought, not in the act, not in the technical skills.

Before, in other centuries, the technical skills of the artist have played a key role in the art. But the technological challenges of creating on the Internet are so grand that if art is to flower, it will need to reside more in the thought behind it than the technical skills employed. At the moment, it is within everyone's reach and no one's. I cannot progress beyond HTML tables. And yet there are many things I would love to do with this medium.

If the technical skills must remain in the hands of the technician and not the artist, then there must inevitably exist a separation of responsibilities, and therefore a lumbering and dinosaur-like creative process.

I cannot accept that the latter must be the case.

There are other things the "cogwriter" would have to do. Like with the typewriter before it, the creator would not have to worry about standards or software or licences or installations, or interested parties or security breaches or trustworthinesses or politics.

A typewriter is such a clean beast. We need to get back to this level of mental hygiene. A creator cannot create effectively when faced with lawyers and the lawyerly, and those who would wish to impose or shield through the law.

The law is necessary, but essentially is an anti-creative force.

My "cogwriter" would be an enabling device, an environment, a creative meadow. A happy place to be, a safe place to be, a searching place to be, and a devising place to be. A protective and guiding place. A supportive resource, a safely dangerous place to be.

The "cogwriter" would have its own laboratory of tools and glues and idea-cutters. But it would also be capable of looking for other solutions.

The "cogwriter" would be a solution-finder for empowered and empowering artists and creators.

I am waiting.
These days, it's not enough for a writer to understand how to use a pencil and paper. We need to learn how to use blogging tools, content management systems, Photoshop or GIMP - and, even, acquire the ability to conceptualise our needs and demand other structures and technological machineries which allow us to go further than the top-down hierarchies of publisher to author and author to readership made possible in the past or indeed current web relationships permit.

We have to be aware, as news-savvy users and consumers, of all the future opportunities, both conceptual and technical, that exist on the new-ecosystem horizon.

We need to think around our content and understand the future forms that it will take.
____________________

Further reading: more ideas on the progressive left, blogging and the new media can be found here from my 21stCenturyFix.org blog a while ago

A Last.fm for progressive thought

I've had this idea tumbling around my inner landscape for a while now. The basic principle is as follows (as per my comments on Dave's post on Derek Draper's recent resignation):
Anyhow, I think it’s time to dust off my old idea from Members Net days of setting up an online academy of left-wing thought. Something which scrobbles for thought what Last.fm scrobbles for music - that expands one’s mental horizons around a structure of Web 2.0 participation and political preferences. Anyone got the technical knowhow and resources - or perhaps more importantly the inclination - to put it into practice?
And here:
I think any such academy could include two focusses - one, didactic and pro-active, the other browsing-based with a “see where the tide takes you” approach. That’s why I mention Last.fm and not Spotify. You seem to suggest a Spotify model where we choose what we already know and home in on that; I would prefer a broader brief in that stretching-of-existing-horizons sense that Last.fm exemplifies through its Neighbourhood Radio model. I would, in fact, like to set up a site with a much broader brief than that, but, if truth be told, I think sponsorship is only possible if you focus on one area of thought. No one is honestly interested in breaking down the walls. And perhaps it would not be useful, after ten years of the Third Way, to want to continue to try doing so.
And here:
Spotify.com allows you to choose your music (band, singer, composer, whatever) and listen only to that. Last.fm allows you to do that for a price or - for free - provides you with the option of Neighbourhood Radio. Neighbourhood Radio involves you keying in your favourite band and getting to listen to a couple of their songs, and then moving ever-outwards (automatically) to other music which users of the community have tagged as similar. Thus the “tide” I mention, as you slide from similar to similar to similar. It means you end up listening to stuff you’d never dream of listening to. You can then tag what you like as a favourite, and this - in turn - affects how the system serves up further content. A more controversial aspect of Last.fm is the scrobbling feature it supplies - which can be disactivated - and involves telling the world what you are listening to on your PC. Using this concept for thought - identifying readers and reading habits - is an issue, of course. But then we’ve been happily buying from Amazon without considering the privacy implications for years (well, perhaps most of us have - maybe not all).

An online academy could involve two wings - the highly scholarly aspect which could be pay-only and then a kind of “everyperson’s” version which would involve the scrobbling and Web 2.0 approach I outline above, and would, with initial ground rules, hopefully be self-generating. I went on a two-weekend seminar with the Labour Party on progressive thought some years ago and found it a most exhilarating experience; since then, I have always wanted to widen this experience and make it available online for a broader audience.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Derek Draper resigns

If you're registered on LabourList.org, you'll have just received an email from its founder explaining the reasons behind his resignation. There's also a post here. The lesson? Editors should look after the interests of authors and work invisibly behind the scenes.

And it's only authors themselves who should ever, really, garner the fame.

Amazon's Kindle DX

Not quite sure what DX stands for, but here's the story. This is clearly how newspapers will be delivered in the (not-too-distant) future.

Now how about getting progressive blog aggregators onto such technologies?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

ProIssues

Tom Miller announces ProIssues here. A call to all budding and existing bloggers, in fact, looking to widen their reach.

The souped-up blog aggregators begin to get their acts together.

A book about Twitter?

You spend half your leisure time working out how to say things in 140 characters? Then you've caught the tweeting bug and Twitter is for you. You wonder if there's anything else you can do with the blessed creature? Looking for one of those quick-start manuals you get with DVDs and cameras maybe? A spreadsheet with a list of the most common features?

Surely not anything more verbose than that?

Well. You may have thought it entirely impossible, but how about an entire book on the subject of Twitter?

More below.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Our hamlets of thought in an evermore globalising world

Repackaging, regurgitating, rewriting press releases ... ghostwriting thought in reality. So why report anything? Whenever you get to it, it's already been reported a thousandfold. This, on the link economy, leads me to wonder further whether those on the progressive side of politics shouldn't also be more ruthless about who they link to. (But then to do so might lead to us losing the broad and encompassing field of view that characterises creative thought and which should form the essence of the progressive mindset.) This, as follows:
Every minute of a journalist’s time will need to go to adding unique value to the news ecosystem: reporting, curating, organizing. This efficiency is necessitated by the reduction of resources. But it is also a product of the link and search economy: The only way to stand out is to add unique value and quality. My advice in the past has been: If you can’t imagine why someone would link to what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. And: Do what you do best and link to the rest. The link economy is ruthless in judging value.
More here.

It's a sombre thought. But it is predicated from the point of view that mass audience is the only interesting goal. Surely, on the progressive side of politics, we need our mass-market leaders; but in order to remain healthy and productive, renewable and renewing, we also need our hamlets of thought.

From those hamlets, interesting people will arise and grow into the mass-market leaders not all of us can become.

Which is why we probably do need community bells and whistles when we set up our blog aggregators and multi-author sites.

Meanwhile, another interesting, though perhaps not directly relevant, website - from an organisation called paidContent.org - can be found here. Curiously, and intriguingly, while based in the US, it would appear to belong to the British Guardian media group. More from the post I've already linked to above on what paidContent.org tries to do differently:
Look at a service such as PaidContent. They have a small (though growing) staff and they choose carefully what they do, whether it’s worth it to send someone to a conference, whether they can add reporting to a story that’s already known, how they can curate links to the best of coverage that already exists. They fire their bullets carefully, economically, to contribute maximum unique value. PaidContent doesn’t - and can’t afford to - record stand-ups or rewrite others’ reporting for the sake of rewriting it or waste money on production and design niceties.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Fair Syndication Consortium (II)

YouTube will eventually be how real cinema is delivered worldwide. The model where the distributor or service provider pays the content provider a percentage of the income earned and where the end-user pays the distributor for access to all the available content is, thus, well established.

A fifty percent split seems about right - not so very far off what is par for the course in the old-fashioned publishing world. Now YouTube is currently free for the end-user because it's not really cinema. One day, however, the platform that is all behind it will be ramped up and will deliver high definition digital streaming video via super-fast broadband connections.

And then we will pay for it - gladly I might add. But we will pay a global charge to YouTube itself for premium services rather than a pay-per-view service on a piecemeal basis to the many and varied content providers.

These providers may be the film studios themselves or they may be the cottage industries that currently inhabit most of the website. But either way, the end-user will buy access to a wide range of content rather than content itself.

The BBC is already doing it, in fact, and most effectively, with its iPlayer. Those of us who live in the UK pay our annual licence fee to the BBC itself and in exchange we get high quality TV online we can see whenever we want.

Delivering newspapers and books will be an easy job by comparison.

The Fair Syndication Consortium

An interesting article on ads and theft, again from YourMagz's Twitter feed. I'd quote from it, but ...

That awfully thorny subject of managing an online identity

The way they talk about online identities and their dangers makes you feel you should really be aiming to fabricate them rather than be authentic. This via YourMagz's Twitter feed today.

But surely the best guarantee is authenticity. If you do put a foot wrong, at least it's your foot.

How awful must it be to spill milk which belongs to the neighbour.

"The sticker is not the solution to the problem"

Like analysing why processes break? Seven kinds of broken here. I especially like the sign to Whitchurch. Must track it down.

Distribution is where the money lies

I touched on this subject here, where the thesis was pragmatism.

The Guardian now trashes all options which involve paid content models in a gloomy picture of the future of online newspaper publishing, and, perhaps in a rather excluding way, by extension the whole issue of journalism itself. There are other options, however; and it seems to me that the Guardian's article misses the point.

Distribution was always the key to making money in publishing - always will be. In a world where the content is neither printed nor physically moved from one place to another but replicates itself as if by magic through downloads that allow access from virtually anywhere to virtually anywhere, there will always be money to be made somewhere along the process. It just so happens that this place will shift from time to time, as technology evolves, as consumer habits change, as the hierarchy between consumers and producers modulates. Amazon's Kindle shows us that the wonder of sitting in a neighbourhood coffee bar and downloading - on impulse - a book you'd really love to get your hands on actually works. Translate this opportunistic way of purchasing content to the field of newspapers and I'm sure we'd see an about-face in the world of journalism.

I'm paying not for the content itself but for the communication channel that allows me to access it. That's the mad thing about this. We perceive an added value we are prepared to pay for in a multi-product provider like Sky or the phone operators; an added value we no longer perceive in the content itself that they piggyback off. I'm happily paying £20 a month for 600 minutes and free Internet on my mobile. I know plenty of people who pay £40 or more for their cable and satellite television.

These days we're absolutely used to paying for the access; we're not looking any more to pay for the films or articles themselves.

So it all depends on how you bill it. Bill your online subscription to all the major newspapers as part of your Internet deal and no one will notice the difference. The papers will then have a business to business relationship with their distributors. Direct customers will be kept at an arm's length.

It has to be in the interest of the service providers to keep the content providers on their feet - without decent content, people will simply move on to other, greener, pastures.

If people get greedy, if the distributors insist on taking a greater percentage of the (now available) cake than is their due, which is what is happening at the moment (all that money flooding into the coffers of the ISPs, all that money flooding out of the war chests of the big newspaper and magazine publishers), the authors and editors will simply disappear.

This relationship, often hard-nosed and bordering on the pig-headed, has been true of publishing throughout its history.

It's not going to change now, not even in a digital world.

Digital worlds, for all their differences, are still analogous worlds - even where they are not analogical.
____________________

Further reading: more on the subject of going digital

Where now for corporate open source initiatives?

As Oracle buys Sun, we can all laugh a little at this corporate strategy gone wildly wrong.

The original article here. Thanks to Alexandro via Facebook for that.

The Dark Matter of the Information Universe

Fascinating stuff from Steven Johnson via Tim O'Reilly's Twitter feed on the - momentarily - dark matter that is the humble, beautiful and honourable book:
In our always-connected, everything-linked world, we sometimes forget that books are the dark matter of the information universe. While we now possess terabytes of data at our fingertips, we have nonetheless drifted further and further away from mankind's most valuable archive of knowledge: the tens of millions of books that have been published since Gutenberg's day.

That's because the modern infosphere is both organized and navigated through hyperlinked pages of digital text, with the most-linked pages rising to the top of Google Inc.'s all-powerful search-results page. This has led us toward some traditional forms of information, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as toward new forms, such as blogs and Wikipedia. But because books have largely been excluded from Google's index -- distant planets of unlinked analog text -- that vast trove of knowledge can't compete with its hyperlinked rivals.
Until now:
But there is good reason to believe that this strange imbalance will prove to be a momentary blip, and that the blip's moment may be just about over. Credit goes to two key developments: the breakthrough success of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, and the maturation of the Google Book Search service, which now offers close to 10 million titles, including many obscure and out-of-print works that Google has scanned. As a result, 2009 may well prove to be the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible.
I've always felt that reading has had a viable future ever since the Internet sprang its many and virtuous surprises on us. Our children probably read more than we ever did - they just don't read traditional books. What is your definition of a book? A coherent and cogent accumulation of thought on a theme or series of themes of major interest? There are many websites which do just that.

We've been reading more books than ever over the past decade - it's just that their nature has changed radically, as have our strategies for absorbing the information they contain.

You could even argue that the most important art form of the 20th century, the motion picture film, is a latterday example of the Dead Sea scrolls. DVDs no longer maintain the physical link but the old VHS videos clearly mimicked the size and weight of the traditional paperback.

Coherent and cogent information.

It's in good hands.

The dot com universe is finally going to come up trumps. Even as physical newspapers and printed paper lose their hold over us, the instantaneous ability of the Internet to distribute our content from anywhere to anywhere will renew our intellectual spaces. Publishing, if it is anything, is that curious marriage of hard-headed business nous and pure emotional pleasure. If you don't get your distribution channels sorted, you'll never get to enjoy anything.

Really not long to wait now.

Stage fright overcome as a writer takes off

A nice piece of news as a writer worthy of wider attention takes off. Dave's comments on linking are particularly pertinent to our project.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The importance of authenticity

Authenticity is the key. But how can we be authentic in a world which aims so forcefully to distort authenticity as soon as it rears its often troubling - if not troubled - head?

"What will work in the new ecosystem"

John Naughton argues we should ban the word "should" from our vocabulary as we discuss the options available in the new ecosystem of online journalism:
[...] I couldn’t agree more about the need to ban the ’should’ word from these conversations. Too many print journalists — and even some journalism professors — are locked into normative dead-ends. We need to move on. The question is: what will work in the new ecosystem?
More here. The original essay Naughton refers to here.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Crying out for a vision which is not a garish yellow cylinder

We know what binds us together. The problem is how we should articulate these common themes.

How can we start from scratch without reinventing the wheel? Do we need to reinvent the wheel? Is the wheel we find ourselves on the kind of garish yellow cylinder rodents in captivity are condemned to tread?

Can we have a vision worth sharing without having to resort to the traditional structures which define - and ultimately limit - all visions? Can we draw on volunteers, train them and empower them - much as Obama is said to have done in his campaign?

Can we do this without concentrations of money that only serve to hobble freedom of thought?

Can we have freedom without capital?

"I"

Our daughter tells the following joke:

Teacher: Give me a phrase starting with I.
Pupil: I is -
Teacher: No. No. I am ...
Pupil: I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.

So we come to my first typo. If you check the web address of my previous post, you'll see that the word collectivism has an extra I. Kind of appropriate, don't you think?

Collectivism versus community (or giving your volunteers the keys to the kingdom)

It's tricky, publishing. About as tricky as learning a language (more background here) - and just as emotional. I'm convinced there's a place for a true community of like-minded souls in progressive publishing. Future thought - its power, its longevity, its trueness - lies in harnessing the sum of so many disparate parts. But I'm having a helluva job convincing good and even brilliant souls that this is the right way forward.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting at which Emily Richards from Progress gave an overview of what the Obama election campaign did differently from so many election campaigns that came before it. The key message that came out of her presentation seemed to be that of trusting your volunteers - giving them the keys to the kingdom if you like. So many people were so prepared to do so much for Obama because his team soon realised you can only properly engage supporters through empowerment.

Yes. I know. Awful word, that. At least, awful the way it sounds. But it shouldn't. We should reclaim it on behalf of progressive politics.

We should not feel ashamed of using it.

Collectivism versus community.

What - really - is the difference?

Why - really - is the idea of community so acceptable to societies like the US, where anything that smacks of socialism almost denotes a kind of political terrorism? Where is the essential difference between collectivism and community - except inasmuch as the former has such an awful emotional baggage?

High taxes on 90 percent of the population is not what a community-minded politics should be about. Surely democratic socialism is about just that. We end up agreeing with the far right in ways which might - perhaps, in truth, really should - make us shudder.

If volunteers were truly empowered in our societies, truly trained up to do what they wanted to do and when, truly given responsibility for the real things that truly matter, then perhaps the left and right would come together and the burden of the concentrated state - what people traditionally call big government - could indeed be reduced to the satisfaction of everyone.

Tricky one this one because both politically and intellectually it's such a moveable feast.

In the meantime, I'm aiming to get a community-based progressive publishing project off the ground because I believe in the power of the masses.

Not as an awfully predictable lumpen proletariat which can be taken advantage of but rather as a continually evolving, surprising and fascinating group of individuals which - left to its own devices and unencumbered by the distorting forces of traditional marketing - would always choose to work together to a common purpose instead of spinning wildly apart on savagely independent paths.

We are social beings.

If the word socialism is a barrier to understanding, let us explain what we mean in terms which people can accept.

And let us ensure that whatever we do, the keys of the kingdom belong to those who deserve them.

Yes. I know. Core support and all.

No answers here for the moment. Just musings.

Just wondering if there's any point in not starting from scratch.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On aggregating, harvesting and republishing existing blogs

What's this post all about then? Well, I suppose the title is about as self-explanatory as it can get. I'm looking for a technology which can be used to bring together the output of a specific profile of existing blogs which wish to contribute to a common purpose and then use that same network of existing blogs to republish the harvested content - now repackaged in a coherent whole or magazine - back out to their readership in one shared embeddable product.

As I said yesterday, YourMagz is beginning to look like a good place to start.

Currently, there seems to exist only one approach to creating a common place for debate - and that involves creating a common place for debate from scratch, where everyone has to move their baggage, set up new stalls and get familiar with the technology. Examples I'm familiar with include Labourhome and Labour List. Here, the interested parties in question have decided to set up uniform blogging platforms with differing aims in each case - but similar problems. Blogging, at its best, involves highly individual voices speaking out on a range of issues. Blogging on these kinds of platforms is, from the start, an exercise in corporate unanimity - at least from the visual point of view, if nothing else.

My proposed approach is, however, a little different.

What I'm really looking to create is a kind of souped-up blog aggregator of blogs which voluntarily submit themselves to such aggregation (an existing aggregator, Bloggers4Labour - the one that gave me the original idea in fact and with rather more limited facilities than I am now proposing - can be found here); in my ideal world this turbocharged and editorially focussed search engine would be used to build the content for a multi-author site using both real-life and automated editor functionality. Why both real-life and automated? Well, we can - and perhaps should, democratically speaking - still gather everything in order to republish in one place ... and this we can do automatically; but in reality, as readers, voters, citizens and consumers, we will never have either the time or the inclination to read everything that's out there, nor will absolutely everything that even the best writers publish always make for the best reading experience. Prioritisation of content, to support both the editorial line as well as maintain the interest of the target audience, will therefore be essential.

The virtues of such a system, from an editorial point of view, are that it would allow for the harnessing and training up of new talent alongside the existing as well as making easy its gradual incorporation into a project with solvency; it would help create agenda on a flexible, responsive, rolling and grassroots-focussed way; and it would ensure that individuality and quirkiness - the necessary sparks needed to provoke persistent imagination and the future development of ideas - would always have their place.

YourMagz? Who knows? The idea is now on the table.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

On the fascinating subject of assorted software constitutions

I'm currently investigating what's fast becoming a rather fascinating variety of software code and constitutions as I try and define the best way of launching a progressive magazine which - if at all possible - works off the back of existing blogs and uses the same network to republish back out through them.

Each of the constitutions I am looking at has its strengths but none has all the features you end up wanting to add to your wishlist. That, I suppose, is the nature of the software industry.

Ning, for example, is a beautiful piece of software, with many quite advanced publishing features. It does have, however, limited capacity on its servers and - when I last looked - is a little miserly in its upgrades. Very good at Facebook-type social networking. A lovely example from the New Zealand Labour Party here.

YourMagz is a Canadian start-up which is in the process of starting up. Some pretty impressive features promised here which make for a potentially neat fit with my initial requirements. However, the product is still at a closed beta stage, so there's little I can show you right now - unless, of course, you want to sign up yourself. Their blog can be found here and their sign-up page here.

Meanwhile, ProsePoint needs a bit more investigation, as it requires installation on one's own servers if I have understood at all correctly. Links to ProsePoint as follows: homepage, demo and download. Further background information here. This latter product has no social networking bells and whistles as far as I can see and is perhaps the most traditional in its focus.

How does all this help reduce suffering and help guarantee the future for as many people as possible? Communication between the like-minded, between those who would like to act in good faith to improve the lot of the majority of mankind, is key to resolving long-term issues such as poverty, climate change and international terrorism.

All the issues which are currently being used to define the legal framework within which free people should operate need to be dealt with if we are not to lose our most cherished freedoms.

As our electronic worlds interface more closely with our real worlds, so software and what it allows us and doesn't allow us to do will become more important.

Software code and constitutions are already taking over from ordinary lawmakers and laws.

Everything is there for a reason, even as nothing is ever perfect.

A theory of everything

Inequality is at the root of everything that goes wrong in society. That's what this article argues.

Zebra Red

Zebra Red. Black + white + red all over.

That's what it says at the bottom of the page.

This blog arises out of my experiences last year when the bottom fell out of the economy. People who should've known better have got away with it. People who deserve much better are going to suffer.

What is the aim of this blog? Simply find out ways of reducing the suffering and publicise them, so we've got half a chance of getting out of this mess alive and in one piece.