“You Do It in Secret”

I look at it like this: we have access to all of information, and yet we’re still separated. I find it fascinating, that people hide behind false names – that’s the only way a lot of young people can communicate with each other. I believe it’s to do with advertising: people are presented as gods and goddesses, beautiful and perfect. We’re just not like that. So how do you communicate with others if they are expecting you to be perfect? You do it in secret.

Terry Gilliam, from an interview with the Guardian.

“I Don’t Think I Lose A Print Sale By Selling in eBook”

My own guess, based on watching my sales profile over the years, is that print, eBook and audiobook do not inherently cannibalize each others’ sales — it seems to me that for each there is a class of reader that is “native” to each — that is, there is a group of readers who strongly prefers print over eBook or audio, another group who prefers eBook strongly to the other formats, and a third group (correlated, I imagine, with people who have long commutes) who strongly prefer audiobook. I don’t think I lose a print sale by selling in eBook, or an eBook sale by selling in audio — rather, that selling in each of these formats is allowing me to expand my overall audience. Once again, this is an argument for remaining actively involved in all of the formats rather than throwing one (or more) overboard and putting all my chips on a single format.

From here.

John Scalzi breaks down the sales of his last novel, Redshirts, across formats now that Tor has moved the title from hardcover to paperback in print form, and it’s the kind of thing that’s fascinating for someone like me, who’s unnaturally geeky about this kind of thing. The part about digital and audio and print not cannibalizing the other format’s sales is of particular interest to me, because I’m beginning to suspect that the negative sales velocity that digital brought to analog music and movies just doesn’t exist for either books or comics, perhaps because the latter two are more active pastimes and therefore have more engaged audiences with more specific interests and habits surrounding their preferred format.

The End of A Cycle

This may be the end of the cycle that began with Friendster and Livejournal. Not the end of social media, by any means, obviously. But it feels like this is the point at where the current systems seize up for a bit. Perhaps not even in ways that most people will notice. But social media seems now to be clearly calcifying into Big Media, with Big Media problems like cable-style carriage disputes. Frame the Twitter-Instagram spat in terms of Virginmedia not being able to carry Sky Atlantic in the UK, say (I know there are many more US examples).

From here.

This is at least a month old by now, and I’m still unsure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it has a ring of truth, but I also suspect that social media in general will prove to adapt and reinvent itself faster than being given credit for here; if nothing else, someone else will come up with a hacked/revised version of something that already exists to jumpstart the next generation, surely…?

Take One of These Tablets and See Me in The Morning

Since the rise of the Internet, print media — most notably newspapers — have faced a big problem with younger readers. But according to a new study released today by the Pew Research Center and The Economist Group, when you look specifically at the devices they love — the smartphones in their pockets — young adults rival or even surpass their parents and grandparents as news consumers.

According to the report from Pew’s Project in Excellence in Journalism, 37 percent of smartphone owners between the ages of 18 and 29 get news on their devices daily, along with 40 percent of smartphone owners aged 30 to 49. Those are slightly higher than the equivalent rates for 50-64 (31 percent) and 65-plus (25 percent). Among tablet owners, news consumption numbers were broadly similar across age groups, with 50- to 64-year-olds being the peak news consumers.

From here.

I admit, I read the Guardian, Slate and Talking Points Memo daily over breakfast on a tablet, and sometimes the Oregonian, too. Pre-tablet, my news consumption was far lower.

What Are Our Tote Bag Rewards?

Actually raising money is only part of the challenge with Kickstarter, which has to approve a project in the first place. The Amicos’ first Kickstarter campaign pitch last winter was rejected because the rewards they proposed — the special add-on that donors gets based on the amount they donate — weren’t good enough. (Update: Kickstarter’s Justin Kazmark emailed me after this article went up to say that the first proposal wasn’t rejected per se. “Someone from our team suggested they just give more thought to their rewards before launching,” he said.) This time around, awards varied from donors names being published in a “thank you” post ($10 or more) to getting the Homicide Watch team to guest-teach a class or lecture ($5,000 or more).

“Kickstarter is an odd fit for journalism in many ways,” Laura said. “The symptom of that to me is that rewards are so problematic. Public media does tote bags. Tote bags even have nothing to do with what you’re actually producing, which is the point of Kickstarter. It doesn’t have anything to do with the product we’re offering, necessarily.”

From here.

I have a weird fascination with crowdfunding, and especially the idea of crowdfunding what I do, which is journalism, I guess. Discovering that people have successfully done it already is oddly comforting, to be honest.

HashtagSocialMediaFail

Meet the Conservative Minister of Parliament for Cannock Chase, everyone! As always, because it’s Twitter, start from the bottom and read up (He’s tweeting about the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics, in case you can’t guess).

Social media isn’t that hard, people. Just don’t say anything that you’d be embarrassed for other people to see. Like, for example, the above.

Can You Crowdfund Journalism?

Under increasing financial pressure from the Web and the decline of print advertising, newspapers and other traditional media outlets have been laying off staff and trying to fill the gap with services such as Journatic—the hyper-local aggregator that uses offshore workers— or simply doing without such things as copy editing. Are there further solutions to that reporting gap? Crowdsourcing journalism through sites like Reddit could be one, but crowdfunding could be another: One journalist in Michigan has raised funding through a Kickstarter campaign so he can travel around the U.S. interviewing people about the upcoming election. Could crowdfunding allow other journalists to do investigative or in-depth projects as well?

From here.

I have, no joke, been thinking about this on and off pretty much since I first discovered Kickstarter, as much from a selfish point-of-view as the high-minded theoretical sense. I have done internal math in my head about how much it would take for me to be an independent comics journalist for a year, writing for myself and my own site – whatever that site might be – and whether or not I thought I could raise enough money to do it, leaving the writing gigs for Newsarama, Comics Alliance and Robot 6 (and SpinoffOnline, which isn’t a comic site but does take enough of my time each month that I’d need to drop it if I was to do this properly) without just crippling myself financially in the process. For me, I don’t think the money’s there; I’m not enough of a name, without enough of a readerbase with the kind of disposable income to fund what I’d really need for that period of time, especially because they get enough of me for free online as is (Whether or not my online ubiquity has damaged my “brand” is something else I think about, a lot; that’s something for another day, though). But in the wider, theoretical sense…? I think crowdfunding is definitely a future for journalism, if not the future.

We’re moving away from crowdfunding being some kind of novelty and spectacle to just a fact of the modern Internet, and as soon as that happens, then we’re likely to see crowdfunding for all manner of projects, both creative and otherwise. Whatever you can manage to sell to the Internet at large, in fact.

“We Pile Up Digital Possessions and Expressions, And We Tend To Leave Them Piled Up, Like Virtual Hoarders”

Nevertheless: people die. For most of us, the fate of tweets and status updates and the like may seem trivial (who cares — I’ll be dead!). But increasingly we’re not leaving a record of life by culling and stowing away physical journals or shoeboxes of letters and photographs for heirs or the future. Instead, we are, collectively, busy producing fresh masses of life-affirming digital stuff: five billion images and counting on Flickr; hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos uploaded every day; oceans of content from 20 million bloggers and 500 million Facebook members; two billion tweets a month. Sites and services warehouse our musical and visual creations, personal data, shared opinions and taste declarations in the form of reviews and lists and ratings, even virtual scrapbook pages. Avatars left behind in World of Warcraft or Second Life can have financial or intellectual-property holdings in those alternate realities. We pile up digital possessions and expressions, and we tend to leave them piled up, like virtual hoarders.

From here, by Rob Walker.

The Internet Really Is Bad For You

Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?

Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.

– From “Is The Web Driving Us Mad?,” here. Reading this, I was reminded of this recent study from the UK, which makes the same point; the Internet is/can be bad for us. Depressingly, I’m not surprised; I have found myself having that very described anxiety and “need” to check the Internet and see what’s happening, and I tell myself that I need to for my job, even though I know that’s not exactly what’s going on. It’s why I’ve started to try to remain unplugged during the weekends, or at least as unplugged as possible. Redirecting that desire to read things and learn things, and instead looking for other experiences to fill up that part of me.

“One of the Only Barriers of People Publishing is People Have to Type. What if That Goes Away?”

I have one of the new iPads. For both my email and Twitter, I’m able to talk into it and get speech to text (with Dragonfly voice-recognition software). It’s become more and more efficacious, which is great and convenient. If you start to think — one of the only barriers of people publishing is people have to type. What if that goes away? Just a huge explosion. Instead of going on the phone and talking about prom night, we’re either at or near a place where they can speak it in their phone and it’ll appear in text. What if people don’t have to type to get it into there? Does that make what we do more or less valuable? There’s more for us to sift through. But we’re the signal in the noise, and it’ll make us more valuable. I’m fairly democratic in my impulses. I don’t want more crap out there, but I think the fact that I need to type my thoughts means I share less of them.

New York Times journalist, David Carr.

(I have to admit, I have thought about speech recognition software as a way to speed up my writing process many times. I am terrible at typing, somewhat ironically for a professional writer; what keeps me away from using any kind of speech recognition is the fact that I’m convinced my accent will prove so confusing to it that I’ll likely spend more time correcting transcription errors.)