Categories: video, web, writing

Good Links, Weekly – July 24

More Good Links: Mitch (w / t) picks a link for me and a link for Alistair (w / t). Alistair and I do the same.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – Red Letter Media.

Alistair for Hugh: Techcrunch recently covered a three-hour, candid discussion with Conan O’Brien in which he said of Big Media producers, ‘Those men behind the curtain — the great and powerful Oz — are scared shitless right now,’ adding that the chaos is so high that anyone in the audience could just as likely be running a major network in a few years. This is pretty simple economics: one-to-millions media was based on economies of scale, but an audience of one is based on economies of skill. While the Techcrunch piece is must-read for anyone interested in new media, that’s not what I want you to watch. Rather, you need to see this 7-part, 70-minute review of The Phantom Menace, by a serial killer. It’s brilliant, and it proves O’Brien’s point more than any celebutante or startup could ever do. So grab a beer or three and some friends, and watch this.”

The Peekaboo Paradox – The Washington Post

Alistair for Mitch: “The Great Zucchini works 2 days a week, makes $100K a year. He’s scruffy and his trademark is putting a diaper on his head. This entertaining piece from The Washington Post looks inside the wacky economics of children’s entertainers. Beyond being a terrifying reminder to save all of my pennies, and the perils of living day to day, it’s actually an object lesson in marketing, supply, demand, branding, and the value of transparent innocence and customer empathy.”

No Minister: 90% of web snoop document censored to stop ‘premature unnecessary debate’ – The Sydney Morning Herald

Hugh for Alistair: In the start-up world we tend to think of Web technology living somehow on the edge of regulation – outside of the interference from the pesky officials who don’t get the Web. But we have some big debates ahead of us: about net neutrality, privacy, censorship and much more. Australia seems to have jumped off the deep end in efforts to bring censorship and government snooping to the Web. And, ironists that they are, the Australian government censored 90% of the policy document – drafted with industry consultation, but no citizen input – that will form the basis of their policy-making. Their rationale for expunging most of the document, according to Attorney-General’s Department legal officer, Claudia Hernandez, was to prevent ‘premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making.’ Which, if I understand the way democracy is supposed to function, is precisely the reason you allow debate.”

Real Editors Ship – FTrain.com

Hugh for Mitch: Editors and ‘old’-media people get a bad rap in these Interetish times. Paul Ford comes to the defense of the editor, arguing that in fact they have all the skills needed to rule our messy Web universe: seeing patterns, meeting deadlines, shipping product, separating wheat from chaff, evaluating what people like and don’t like. I’d never thought of it before, but editors as described by Ford are much like start-up product managers. Now, if only we can deal with that pervasive distrust of technology.”

Cooking For Geeks by Jeff Potter – O’Reilly Publishing

Mitch for Alistair: First off, a huge congrats to Alistair on the birth of his first child. I know you’re an O’Reilly published author, but when I saw the title of this book, I just knew it had your name written all over it. You’re a Geek, you love to cook and now you’ll be home a whole lot more. I could not think of a more appropriate piece of content that you should be devouring right at this exact moment (pun intended). So, welcome to being a Dad (and with that, you should also be checking out Digital Dads and the Dad-O-Matic Blogs). Now, get cooking and help your wife out a little, will ya?

Five Reasons Amazon E-Books are Outselling Hardcovers – SF Gate.

Mitch for Hugh: It was a big/historical week for the Publishing Industry. Amazon announced that digital books are now outselling hardcover books. This moment in time reminds me of when MP3 sales started to eclipse those of physical CDs. The digitization of any industry is never easy, and this transition for the publishing industry is going to be equally confusing and scary. Issues like rights management and what ‘distribution’ means is going to challenge the status quo. Just this week, I was told by my publisher that the rights to distribute my book, Six Pixels of Separation, on the Kindle format in Canada have not been secured (along with all books published by Hachette Book Group). Imagine that, you can’t get Malcolm Gladwell, the Twilight series or even Tony Hsieh‘s new book, Delivering Happiness, and thousands of other books in Canada via Kindle. What does that do for sales?”


Categories: buisness, politics, science, web

Good Links – Weekly (July 10)

The Great Montreal Link Exchange continues (sorry this is late): Every week Mitch (w / t) picks a link for me and a link for Alistair (w / t). Alistair and I do the same.

Losing Our Cool”: The high price of staying cool.

Alistair for Hugh: Since Montreal’s in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures cresting at 41 Celsius (105 Fahrenheit for our friends to the South) I thought this would be a good fit for Hugh. It’s about air conditioners. I never gave them much thought, but according to Losing our cool, they’ve shaped us more than we know: encouraging people to reproduce in the summer months; swelling the ranks of voters in Southern states; contributing to a drop in immunity, and more.

How to Teach a Child to Argue.

Alistair for Mitch: For Mitch, who’s frequently called on to convince others, here’s a piece my extremely expectant wife found on teaching your children to argue. While that sounds like a horrible idea, critical thinking and rhetoric can help children reason and figure things out. As we trust crowdsourced data, upvoted stories, and word of mouth more and more, the ability to think discriminately and to distinguish good arguments from bad will become a vital life skill.

Quantum Entanglement Holds DNA Together, Say Physicists.

Hugh for Alistair: Talking to Alistair often leaves me with a sore brain. Another thing that gives me a sore brain is quantum physics, particularly quantum entanglement. Entanglement is a property of quantum systems that links two particles’ states, even if they are separated by vast distances. Or, to quote from today’s link: ‘Entanglement is the weird quantum process in which a single wavefunction describes two separate objects. When this happens, these objects effectively share the same existence, no matter how far apart they might be.’ Well that’s pretty weird. Even weirder would be if it turns out that quantum entanglement is what holds DNA together. Be sure to read the comment thread.

A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology by Dr. Joseph Woo.

Hugh for Mitch: Jaron Lanier has written critically about Wikipedia entries replacing the more idiosyncratic pages by individual experts/hobbyists that used to crop up in web searches in the ‘old days’. At least Wikipedia is for the most part real text written by real people with the intention of helping readers get the information they want. But recently there’s been a new scourge, vapid pages of filler commissioned to match search queries to high-value adwords (see: Demand Media). So, I was shocked and awed and thrilled when I did a recent search for ‘pre-natal ultrasound history’ and found this page: ‘A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology’ written by Dr. Joseph S.K. Woo of Hong Kong. Says the homepage: ‘Rated among the top 5% of all Internet sites by Lycos in 1995’ (!) … A lovingly put-together treasure from the early, innocent days of the web. And still #1 ranked on Google for ‘prenatal ultrasound history.”

Who Is The New CEO?.

Mitch for Alistair: A fascinating Blog post by Vineet Nayar over on the Harvard Business Review Blog where he asks: ‘What then is the role of the new CEO? Is it to personally add the most value to the business? Or is it to enable those at the heart of this new value zone? If, as I believe, the latter is the case, we need to rethink our leadership styles and adopt one that is aligned better with current realities.” As businesses try to re-define themselves in a post-recession and New Media world, why aren’t we looking for a new definition of our top leaders as well?

Cyber Dissidents: How the Internet is Changing Dissent.

Mitch for Hugh: Freedom of information is something we all need to be paying a lot more attention to. This is an excellent panel discussion (it’s a video) that looks at how online technology is allowing many stories to get told in real time. While many of us are quick to point to instances like the elections in Iran or the Haiti disaster, there are many, many other stories that are being told as well. None of this would be possible were it not for technology and Social media tools, channels and platforms. After watching this panel discussion, you may start thinking differently about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as real tools of change and access to freedom.


Categories: web, writing

Good Links – Weekly (July 3, 2010)

This is week two of the Good Links Exchange, with selections from Mitch, Alistair and me. Each week, each of us choses one link each specifically for each of the other two guys, for a total of six links a week. For more info on this little project and the original post, check Mitch’s blog. And here are this week’s choices:

Can A Cognitive Surplus Re-ignite The Flynn Effect?
in Wikipedia

Alistair for Hugh: This is the name for a continuous increase in IQ over time – we don’t know why it happens, but theories include education, sanitation, and so on. We also suspect that it’s leveled out in developing nations. In our discussions of interactive textbooks and the Internet as a platform for education, it’s possible that we can rekindle (no pun intended) the Flynn effect through the ubiquitous access to broadband and Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus; certainly, with Wikipedia just a click away, we’re all smarter on demand. So here’s the Wikipedia entry for the Flynn effect.

The Future of Politics is Whose Infographic You Believe.

Alistair for Mitch: Green technology is both one of the biggest cultural and economic changes of the coming century, and one in which misinformation abounds. In the wake of the oil spill, people are receptive to that change, but communicating complex data on green tech is challenging, particularly with the greenwashing of terms like ‘clean coal’ and the highly politicized debates around nuclear power and ethanol. This illustration of China’s green power does a great job of communicating a lot of information simply. But I want you to look at it through the lens of legislation and politics in a democracy. After Roosevelt, you couldn’t get elected without radio. After Kennedy, television. Obama? The Internet. Legislators will have to resort to messages like this in order to convince people of their position, and the facts and figured will be ‘certified’ by various ‘independent’ groups.

It’s a Mindfield!
[Audio] Natasha Mitchell interviews Lone Frank on All in the Mind.

Hugh for Alistair: Advances in neuroscience are fundamentally shifting our understanding how we humans think, how we exist. ‘All in the Mind’ is Australia National Radio’s weekly show about this shift, hosted by the fabulous Natasha Mitchell. For my money, it’s the best science radio series/podcast in the world. More or less at random, this is a favorite recent episode about the ‘chemical self,’ religious experience, and the ‘I’ in the brain.

It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
by Michael Barthel

Hugh for Mitch: I don’t know if Mitch is a Leonard Cohen fan, but I know that he was a music journalist for many years before becoming a digital marketing luminary, so this is my choice for the week. It’s one of the best things about music I’ve read in ages, and is the sort of thing I like to point to when people complain about the Internet and blogs shortening attention spans, or making writing shorter and dumber. As always: it depends what you choose to read.

Win With Web Metrics: Ensure A Clear Line Of Sight To Net Income!
by Avinash Kaushik

Mitch for Alistair: Alistair (literally) wrote the book on web monitoring, but Avinash Kaushik – the Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of both Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0 – had one of the most fascinating Blog posts earlier this week on what all of this data, monitoring and optimization should mean in terms of bottom-line revenue. As with everything Kaushik posts, it’s timely, super relevant and, above all else, entertaining. So, now you’re monitoring everything online… but is it making you cash?

The ‘Subliminal’ Effects Of Banner Ads.
by Laurie Sullivan

Mitch for Hugh: Hugh recently had an amazing Blog post titled, Death to Design? Death to the Banner Ad?, well, just this week, MediaPost ran this news item from a recent research report that states people may claim to hate banners ads and want them to go bye-bye, but they actually do impact purchase decisions and have a branding effect on the masses. So, as more and more people start using Readability and InstaPaper (like Hugh does), we may find a need for an additional marketing channel to build brand awareness and recall online.


Categories: technology, web, writing

Good Links (Weekly?)

I had lunch last week with Mitch Joel (t/w) and Alistair Croll (t/w). Amid lots of brain-exploding chatter, Mitch had a nice idea: how about each week we each pick a good link for each of the other two guys. So, every week, six good links, specially chosen. Our own personalized weekly Givemesomethingtoread, that other people might enjoy as well.

Forthwith:

The Gartner Fellows Interview with James Burke.

This is a great interview with James Burke, which I think Hugh should read. Burke is brilliant, and if you get a chance to watch The Day The Universe Changed and Connections (all available on the james burke web channel on YouTube) it’s time well spent. (Alistair for Hugh).

Mixing Memory – Fart Spray (And Disgust) Makes Moral Judgments More Severe.

Mitch, you mentioned (rightly so) that while a pay-for-change-of-opinion model might work for big-ticket, highly branded, associated-with-self-worth products, there are many things that fall below this, where we have loyalty but aren’t talking about it much because it doesn’t affect our social status (thanks, Alain de Botton.) In that realm, I would submit that there are many hard-to-compute factors involved. Here’s a good write-up on disgust – simulated through a fart smell (no, really) and a messy office – polarizes moral judgments. (Alistair for Mitch).

City Of Sound – Emergent Urbanism, or ‘bottom-up planning’.

Alistair works with start-ups and innovators, and was partially responsible for setting up the informal co-working space that my company has been in for a little over a year. This article explores a more formalized (yet still grassroots) project that answers the question: how can you revitalize an empty downtown while encouraging start-ups? Answer: get cheap rent in empty buildings, wire up the buildings with a free wi-fi network, and offer start-ups rolling monthly leases. (Hugh for Alistair)

The Atlantic – Learns To Out-Innovate Itself.

I recently attended, with Mitch, a panel on the future of the magazine, at the Summer Literary Series. Panelists included: the fiction editor at The New Yorker, the associate publisher of The New York Review of Books, and an editor from The Walrus. The panel was a dud, with very little talk of the present, let alone the future. In counterpoint, here’s a short piece on how The Atlantic has reinvented itself, by taking this radical approach: ‘If our mission was to kill the magazine, what would we do?’ (Hugh for Mitch)

SlideShare – Design For Networks

You were talking a lot about what we should be measuring online – especially for Marketers. And, while I think that is critical, we also need to better understand why humans do things and design the technology around their needs. One of my team members (Sean Howard) sent me this great SlideShare presentation, and I think this will help you moving forward. (Mitch for Alistair).

Niemen Journalism Lab – Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”: Is creating and sharing always a more moral choice than consuming?

I’m cheating here a little, both Hugh and Alistair should check this out. It’s a great review of Clay Shirky‘s latest book, Cognitive Surplus (Shirky is also the author of Here Comes Everybody). I’m almost finished reading Cognitive Surplus and this book is dog-ear marked and written in as if it were one of my notebooks from high school. It’s filled with great thoughts about the Web (with great examples) about how we share, connect and collaborate – which is all topics that drive how you develop new businesses and your perspective on the publishing industry. This review is awesome and the book is better. (Mitch for Hugh & Alistair)


Categories: books, technology, web

Sifting Through the Books

I have a post up over at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change blog, Sifting through all these books:

…We have a massive and growing supply and demand imbalance in the book business. And, as the technologies for creating and distributing books becomes trivial, the supply of books is just going to keep growing exponentially. There is a whole other article to write about the business implications of these numbers, but I’m interested here in some ideas about how our info systems might manage this huge pile of books. That is, how are people going to sift through all these books to find what they want?…

[link…]


Categories: technology, web

Death to Design? Death to the Banner Ad?

We are getting to a point where all data – web sites, books – are accessible as raw, structured datasets, to a point when we users can/and will do as we wish with the outputs. This is the case with web sites now. You can force your browser to display things in a particular way. Or, you can do as I do: install the Readability bookmarklet – which strips all the junk off a web page, and gives you text on white, easy to read. Apple’s Safari browser just implemented a similar feature, based on the Readability code. You can also use Instapaper, which downloads the text from a page to your iPhone, and displays it, again, in a simple format – black text, white screen – that’s easy to read.

I rarely read anything on the web without using either of these tools, because both provide the best reading experience. This is going to become the norm for all kinds of reading: someone gives you the text, and you decide how you want to read it.

UPDATE: Matt just pointed me to Today’s Guardian – a simple display of all Guardian articles on any day, built by Phil Gyford, using the Guardian’s (revolutionary) Open Platform API.

——————
Sample inline advertising: Buy Hendel’s On Book Design from Amazon
——————-

What’s happening here is that “design” is starting to fall away as a responsibility of the producer/distributor of texts. Their role is becoming more as a provider of an API to access the data. And then on the *other* end the reader is starting to choose the tools that deliver a design they like, how they want to consume that content.

Among other things, this should *kill* banner advertising. It will also obviate lots of book design.

Danny Sullivan, of Search Engine Land, has taken issue with Readability – or at least the way it was described by Rich Ziade on the Arc90 blog. Says Danny, in Readability’s comment thread:

I have ads because they help support the quality journalism my blog provides. I have related links because, news flash, sometimes readers like to read related material.

If we’re talking about due respect, here’s the “harsh reality” for those readers who want to be left alone. Ads pay for what you read. Since most readers don’t want to pay for subscriptions — don’t even make voluntary donations when asked — those ads underwrite content that they consume.

Now this is kind of interesting. Danny is a seasoned, and savvy web/media commentator, part of a web-native industry that tends to criticize mainstream media for trying to defend dying business models in the face of consumer choice and technology.

And here it looks like Danny, of the web, is defending a business model in the face of consumer choice and technology.

I don’t begrudge Danny at all – as a business owner, when you see a technology that might kill a major revenue stream (eg. banner ads), certainly you’ll get nervous.

So, are banner ads dead? I for one hope so. I hate them, and they get in the way of what I want to do: read.

But, what am I willing to pay in exchange for no banners? How am I willing to pay it? It’s not clear to me. I do know that I click on one banner ad in perhaps a gazillion impressions, so I’m not a consumer that’s generating any value for banner ads either. When I read your stuff, your banner ads bug me, and I sure as hell don’t buy anything from them. So what’s the point in having them there when I read your stuff? I’d say, there isn’t much.

But I also don’t know the alternative. I do know that asking me not to read comfortably is likely to work as well as asking my friend Tom not to watch television on TVShack.


Categories: books, web

Four Reasons to Worry about Publishing

I was invited to do a panel on Social Media for Authors at the Writers’ Union of Canada AGM. Writer Nichole McGill was the moderator, and I was joined by the wonderful Jenny Bullough, of the visionary publishing house Harlequin. (Harlequin is the most clued-in about digital of all the publishers I know of, along with O’Reilly).

As we discussed how things would play out, it was decided that I would be the prophet of doom – describing why everything has changed, and no writer can afford to ignore the web; while Jenny would follow-up with a concrete overview of the things writers should be doing on the web.

My – minimalist – slides are below, and I’ll give a tiny bit of context below that.

Here are my Four Reasons to Be Worried, and One Reason to Be Optimistic about Publishing:

Worry number one:
There are so many damn books published every year.

[Context: from 2002, number of titles published in the USA has stayed roughly constant, oscillating between 250,000 and 280,000. Which is an astramoical number of books. But in that period, a couple of things have happened: works of “literature” have increased from ~6,000 titles to roughly 9,000 titles, without any detectable increase in readership of literature. Secondly, the number of print-on-demand, self-published books was on the order of 25,000 in 2002. By 2008 that number was 285,000 – outstripping the number of traditionally-published books. In 2009, the number of self-published titles reached an astonishing 750,000; so there were more than 1 million books published in the USA in 2009. And that’s ignoring all the stuff published without ISBNs.

Compared to the rest of the world, I am a relatively heavy reader: I read perhaps 25 books a year. So there are at least 999,975 books published every year that I don’t read. There is a massive glut of books for people to read, and your book is one in a million.]

Worry number two:
Publishers can’t support all those damn books.

[Context: most publishers have tried to address this glut in supply by doing something counterintuitive: they’ve started publishing more books. Publishing is a lottery business: most books don’t break even, and a tiny percentage are the big hits (Harry Potter) that actually finance the industry. No one really knows what the next big hit is, so the theory goes: if you double the number of books you are publishing, you double your chances of having a big hit.

But even if publishers are not publishing more books, they aren’t swimming in cash either. Most writers think they are being neglected by their publishers, but the truth is everyone I know in publishing tells me that with the web etc. they have to work twice as hard as they used to, but they are still selling the same number of books.

Whether there are villains or heroes, I don’t know, but I do know this: publishers have less time than they used to for editorial and marketing, except for a tiny handful of successful authors. Most writers are not in that tiny handful; and the tiny handful might not have to worry about the web all that much. The rest of us do.]

Worry number three:
Readers don’t have any damn time to read books anymore.

[Context: It used to be that books competed against radio, TV, bridge and cocktail parties, baseball and square-dances. Now they compete against all that, plus Youtube and Twitter, and the blogs, and Facebook and World of Warcraft and Chatroulette, and Xbox, and Wii, and and and… The competition for readers’ leisure time is fierce, and writers and publishers need to do everything they can to make sure that readers will choose to read when they have a choice.]

Worry number four:
Prices are collapsing. Damn.

[Context: There will be lots of debates about ebook pricing and cost structures and hardcover sales and Amazon and 9.99 and all the rest. The debates will rage on with different theories about how much a book should cost, where the costs are (advances and editorial and marketing), and where they aren’t (printing and distribution). But in the end, readers don’t care about any of that: they will vote with their walltes. If you can spend $8.99/month for unlimited movie downloads from Netflix — in the US — then spending $27.99 on a hardcover of a book you aren’t sure you’re going to like starts to seem a bit dear. Not to mention the quadrupling of the number of available books, and the plentiful ways you can spend your time without paying a cent online, or elsewhere.

The price of most books will drop, because books are “leisure time items” and we have a massive massive glut of leisure time choices. The pressures will be different in different sectors of the publishing business, but the short, medium and long-term trend is this: down.

No matter what you think the value of books, or literature, or your writing, you cannot fight against physics, and when you have a glut of supply, prices drop.]

Reasons for optimism, numbers one two and three:
There are more people writing and more people reading than ever before and you can reach all of them on the web.

[Context: And, after all this bad news, here is the good news: there are more readers, and more writers than ever before in the history of the universe. People who love books love them as dearly as ever. And the web gives every author the ability to connect with those readers, with other writers, with the people who love what they do in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The business side of all this will evolve, but we are about to enter a golden age of writing — perhaps we are already there — and that is something to celebrate].


Categories: books, technology, web

Thought: the Internet and Books

I just posted this to Twitter, but I think it might be important enough to commit in the hard stone of a blog. And the thought is the following:

The distinction between “the internet” & “books” is totally totally arbitrary, and will disappear in 5 years. Start adjusting now.


Categories: technology, web

Why “Talk” Culture Ruins Everything

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani takes on the Internet, remix culture, post-modernism and the technology-induced Decline of Western Civilization. She quotes the usual suspects: Jaron Lanier, Andrew Keen, Nicholas Carr as well as Cass Sunstein, Farhad Manjoo.

Picking on traditional media has become a tiresome sport. Much more interesting to explore successful new models than complain about the old gang aren’t getting it right.

Still, it’s hard to swallow an article made up almost exclusively of quotes from various other thinkers, about how dangerous mash-ups are. If “cherry picking” ideas and mixing them into a shortened digital version, quotable at the water-cooler, or on Twitter, is such a terrible thing, what is Kakutani doing writing a mash-up of cherry-picked ideas and mixing them into a shortened digital version, quotable at the water-cooler or on Twitter?

The “problem,” I think, is humans themselves. Unfortunately, this is what we like to do with information: we absorb it, process it, shorten it, and reassemble it… and then share and comment and talk about it.

It always surprises me that there aren’t more articles about the dangers of one-on-one conversations: after all – shouldn’t we be worried about, “the fragmentation of data that the conversations produce, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into verbal words and sentences shared between people at cafes everywhere; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses of the person in front of you; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our discussions; and the emphasis that conversation places on subjectivity.”

The real danger to the future of humanity is not the web, it’s much deeper: it’s is lurking in every conversation over a coffee or beer that anyone has ever enjoyed. The real danger isn’t bits and bytes, it’s our desire to talk about the things that interest us. God help us all.

If Kakutani & her sources can figure out how to eradicate our urge to communicate, they’ll solve the lesser problem presented by technologies that let us communicate as we always have.

There are many reasons that we should carefully consider technology, and figure out how to use it to do more interesting things. But finding ways to stop people talking about things they care about, and making art out of things they love, or contextualizing information with commentary and curation, is not high on my list.


Categories: books, web

The Tworacle of Delphi

Dinner (beef stew and mashed potatoes, if I recall correctly) was smelling delicious and ready to be eaten. We wanted to watch a movie. We’ve got a subscription to Zip.ca, and I have a habit of listing every avant-guard movie from 1927 I can find, with the odd bit of candy. So we often have some difficult films to choose from. It’s not that difficult is bad, but let’s just say that every time the Criterion Collection screen comes on, my wife groans; and as wonderful as Kurosawa can be, some nights one just wants to watch Adam Sandler get kicked in the nuts.

Anyway, there we were with two choices: Bicycle Thief and Doctor Zhivago.

Not knowing which to choose, I asked Twitter, and from thence flowed a stream of opinions, a 50-50 split between the two (we went with Bicycle Thief; a bit on the dismal side, to be honest). At some point, my wife yelled: “Stop looking at Twitter and watch the movie!” … because I kept a running tally, shouting out “another for Zhivago” and “oh, so-and-so thinks we made the right choice.”

This story was related by my wife to some non-Tiwtterites, who were in awe of this strange and magical tool that elicited such information, like some digital Oracle of Delphi.

Just a few days ago, I had yet another Delphesian experience on Twitter. I needed a third book to fill out an online book order and get free shipping (the other two books I wanted – Bolano’s 2666 and Elise Blackwell’s Hunger – are not available as ebooks in Canada). And so, I asked Twitter.

And here, for the record, is a list of what the Oracles of Twitter answered (Note: where links were not provided, I will link to whatever comes up first in the Google):

@jbeswick: “The Atomic Obsession” – great read

@seancranbury: goddammit, hugh! Monstrous Affections
or this is really good Unknown Soldier Vol. 1: Haunted House

@janinelaporte: True Deceiver is great. Buy that one Hugh to get your free shipping

@seancranbury: how’s this? Monsieur Pain

@danwagstaff: I keep hearing great things about True Deceiver by Tove Jansson + Blue Fox by Sjon.

@karenjones4: six pixels of separation is great! :) im a media hacks listener! Heard good things about Blue Oceans Strategy, next on my list.

@FNHPodcast: How about “Vulcan 607

@michaelerard: governing the commons, by Elinor Ostrom.

@jenni_fleur: “Recital” by John Siddique….UK poet.

@chebuctonian: Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows

@jmcd77: War of Art

@somisguided: eating the dinosaur by chuck klosterman

@dknippling: When in doubt about what book to get, get Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds.

@jforrest: Zeitoun

@marianslibrary: Have you read 13 1/2 by Nevada Barr? It’s a thriller.

@chriskingstl: Bohumil Hrabal, “I served the King of England”; anything by Robert Walser; anything by Charles Nicholl (Reckoning, The Lodger…)

@D3WEY: that’s a shame it’s amazing like climbing literary mount everest — have you read Updike’s Rabbit series?

@ShireenJ: Mine. :P Seriously though, “Lifeliner” has had good reviews and is a fast read.

@openmargin: The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp?

@jambina: new Michael Chabon?

@lorissa: If you enjoy fantasty reads, I’d suggest The Name of the WInd by Patrick Rothfuss.

@subumom: Have you read the Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa?

@echobase77: Mistborn by @BrandonSandrson!

goldenpen80: Try Razor’s Edge by Maugham, if u haven’t already. Short, sweet, and absolutely sublime.

I chose Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, well before all the other recommendations came in. I’ll let you know what I think of it sometime.