Categories: books, web, writing

The Bluring Lines Between Books and the Internet (TEDx Montreal)

Here is me talking about books & the internet at TEDx Montreal:

Categories: web, writing

Forbes and Me

Forbes.comMy O’Reilly article, about books and the internet, got picked up by Forbes: The Vanishing Line Between Books And Internet.

Categories: web, writing

Good Links- Weekly: August 28

This weeks’ Good Links wherein Mitch (w / t) Alistair (w / t) and I choose links for each other.

A Textbook Example of What’s Wrong with Education – Edutopia.

“This piece looks at how school textbooks are purchased in the US, and how a strange combination of Gerrymandering, industry consolidation, and book budgets are letting fringe special interest groups redact American history. I came across it in my research into the coming collision of tablet computing, education, and teachers’ unions.” (Alistair for Hugh).

Modernist Cuisine – Book Excerpt.

“I’m a bit of a food nut, and I devoured (pun intended) books like Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. But now Nathan Myhrvold of Microsoft has taken it to a new level entirely. His Modernist Cuisine is a five-volume compendium, a rethinking of L’Escoffier with modern science added in. They recently released this fascinating excerpt which shows the cutaways, high-speed photography, fiber optic cameras, and other techniques they used in the text. Of course, at $500 for the book, this 20-page PDF is probably the closest I’ll get.” (Alistair for Mitch).

Roads Gone Wild –

“I love this kind of story. It appeals to my innate sense that in modern civilization we often break things when we try to fix them. This is about the Dutch traffic engineer, Hans Monderman, who brings safety to the roads by removing all the signs. I’m not quite sure what the wider message is, but I like it.” (Hugh for Alistair).

The Accidental News Explorer – Daylife.

“Mitch and I are both newspaper and magazine junkies. We’re old-media maniacs wired for new media – and we’ve had hours – maybe days – of conversations about what a great news start-up would look like. We still don’t know, but every time a new and innovative take on news creation or consumption crosses my radar, I send it along to Mitch. Forthwith: The Accidental News Explorer app for the iPhone, which curates good content and throws in a dash of serendipity. I haven’t played with this app yet, but I expect Mitch and I will be arguing or complaining about it soon over lunch.” (Hugh for Mitch).

Jurassic Web – Slate.

“This is a very charming and terrifying piece. It’s one of those moments that make you realize, ‘wow, technology has really changed and can we even call this stuff technology anymore?’ The truth of the matter is that we weren’t really doing much of anything with the Web back in 1996… and doesn’t that feel like yesterday?” (Mitch for Alistair).

How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing – Tim Ferriss.

“If you think it’s hard to shut-up Hugh and I when we discuss newspapers and magazines, you don’t want to be around us when we talk book publishing. It’s probably annoying to people who are just sitting near-by. While I ranted about Seth Godin‘s recent announcement that he would no longer be publishing books in a traditional fashion (more on that here: You Are Not Seth Godin), Tim Ferriss (the best-selling business book author of The 4-Hour Work Week) wrote this killer (and long) blog post about how books are created and sold. Tim always brings sparks and sharp wit to his content, and this Blog post is no exception.” (Mitch for Hugh).

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 –

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: 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.


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: writing

On Writing Clearly

Semi-regularly, mostly as a reminder to myself, I post George Orwell’s six rules of good writing, from his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language. I was spurred to post them again after reading Tony Judt’s essay Words* in the NYR Blog. (As an aside, I had an interesting discussion with Alexande Enkerli, who suggests that the particular mania about clarity and concision in writing is not culturally universal, and is, indeed, particularly, or especially, Anglo-Saxon. Which sounds about right).

Here are Orwell’s six rules; rules I try to respect:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

(*Says Judt: “Though I am now more sympathetic to those constrained to silence I remain contemptuous of garbled language. No longer free to exercise it myself, I appreciate more than ever how vital communication is to the republic: not just the means by which we live together but part of what living together means.”)

Categories: art, audio, misc, video, writing

What We’re Building

Announcing BookCamp Toronto, June 6

Announcing BookCamp Toronto, Saturday, June 6, 2009 at the MaRS Center, 101 College Street.

BookCampToronto is a free unconference (definition at wikipedia) about:

The future of books, writing, publishing, and the book business in the digital age.

For more information, and to register, suggest sessions, please visit the wiki.

BookCamp Toronto is inspired by BookCamp London.

The Toronto version is being organized by Mitch, Mark B, Erin and Alexa. And me!

Categories: web, writing

Things Our Friends Have Written on the Internet

From MagCulture:

Ben emailed me last week promising a surprise, which duly arrived in the post yesterday.

He and Russell have published a tabloid newsprint publication featuring some of their favourite posts from 23 friends’ blogs last year. The project came about when they found out how cheap and easy it is to print 1000 copies of a newsprint tabloid. They also wanted to draw attention to some longer written pieces that are more easily assimilated in print than online.

blog tabloid
Wonderful…”we” ought to do the same.