March 29th, 2011
Press Pause Play is:
A film about hope, fear and digital culture. — PPP
The digital revolution, the twin sister of the information age, has ushered in a democratic age in which creative, talented individuals can gain recognition for work that they have created and marketed via the use of open/free/cheap/readily available software/web tools.
But does democratized culture mean better art, film, music and literature or is true talent instead flooded and drowned in the vast digital ocean of mass culture? Is it cultural democracy or mediocrity? — PPP
In the film, Seth Godin (along with other influential creators and thinkers of our era) looks at the flattening of barriers that has allowed creativity the freedom it currently enjoys.
The industry (as it was for 500 years) is dead. There has never been a better time to be an artist. — Seth Godin
However, the story also looks at the flip side of democratising the tools that enable self publishing. Author Andrew Keen believes that he has identified a threat to first class creativity as we know it. Does artistic freedom promote a culture of mediocracy?
Not everyone possesses creative talent. That is an unfortunate fact. Keen’s not too distant world is one in which inhabitants become acclimatised to and acceptant of bog-standard art (of all forms). Such a decline in social creativity, innovation and expectation could mark the beginning of a dark age in cultural terms. Perhaps Mike Judge was onto something with Idiocracy.
Creative thinkers are currently in the process of shaping a new publishing industry… It is well worth accessing the risks associated with allowing an open door policy when it comes to actively promoting user engagement in any new model that will come about.
I appreciate that there is a lot of junk out there; it exists in every nook and cranny of the web. As professional designers, experience smiths and curators, we face a huge challenge in ensuring that the best of cultural creativity rises to the top of the ever increasing pile mediocre expression; gaining the recognition it rightly deserves in the process.
Press Pause Play recently premiered in Austin during SXSW. With any luck it will be screened in Belfast sometime soon. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Stay tuned for more.
March 29th, 2011
Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur/musician who treats work as play. In 2008 he spoke to incoming students at Berklee College of Music. 6 Things I Wish I Knew the Day I Started Berklee is a written account of his talk that day.
In an ever-changing industry where things are rarely the same for a couple of months, I believe that students of the web never truly graduate. Each and every person who walks into their workplace facing an unknown quantity in the morning and emerges in the evening having mastered something new, is a student.
Sivers, therefore, has some advice for us all:
Sivers warns that casual friends, will tempt you to be casual.
Tasks in life are scheduled so that they can be completed by casual people. If you aspire to be above average, you can set your own time scale for completing work. Your friends and mentors will provide you with information, but they can’t teach you anything; it’s up to you to be open to the prospect of learning.
Sivers is all too aware of the temptations in the world today, but implored his audience to use their cognitive surplus in constructive and meaningful ways.
Be one of the few who are studying, when everyone else is surfing the net, flirting on MySpace, or watching TV.
Soak up knowledge, knuckle down and be your own person. Do all this and you’ll soon be winning … Charlie Sheen style.
(Via: Joshua Blankenship)
March 29th, 2011
The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe writing in the Observer last month:
Two years ago, anthropologist Sekai Farai was awarded a grant by Columbia University to study the technology startup community. Her timing couldn’t have been better: a new goldrush is under way as twentysomethings from New York, London and San Francisco dream of making their fortunes from a new generation of internet companies.
Web start-ups like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Square, et al have been hailed as “revolution(s) in human communications unseen since Gutenberg ”. Over the course of the last year investors in the City have taken more of an interest in the fortunes of these private companies, some of which are expected to go public later this year.
Farai’s research provides the evidence needed to prove that while many of these start-ups have yet to make a cent in real terms, the value that they add to society as a whole is huge. The culture they promote has completely shook up how we communicate in our day-to-day lives. Aftershocks caused by these changes are expected to reverberate around innovative hubs worldwide for some time to come. Tomorrow will most likely bring success for another twentysomething, who was unknown today (NB: It’s important to remember that this person will have worked their ass off for years in order to get into such a position. The overnight success is a myth.)
With all this in mind, work really hard at what you do and if an opportunity comes knocking, take it. Maybe, just maybe your idea has the potential to rank you alongside Messrs Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Karp.
Fellow dotcom-ers. Go forth and conquer.
February 27th, 2011
Jason Kottke reports that Amazon Kindle’s are becoming so cheap to manufacture that they could soon be given away for a grand total of: zilch.
According to Kevin Kelly, the Seattle-based distribution giant are remaining tight lipped as to whether or not their premium users will be given free reading devices later this year; but signs are pointing in that direction.
The Kindle has never been knock-it-out-of-the-park great…it looks like Amazon’s strategy is not to build a great e-reader but to build a pretty good free e-reader. — JK
Amazon make their money selling content. The more Kindle’s that are in the hands of power-buying customers, the more money the company stands to make.
February 8th, 2011
Andy McMillan, creator and curator of the world renowned Build
Conference Festival of Design, launched his latest venture today via Kickstarter. As promised at Build 2010, Andy will be publishing a magazine called The Manual.
The Manual is a new limited-run print magazine published three times a year. Each issue will have six substantial, beautifully illustrated feature articles, along with additional rich and unexpected bonuses. Challenging, contemplative, playful, and visionary, the articles focus on bringing a greater depth and maturity to our craft and profession: design on the web.
The Manual will not provide code snippets, tutorials, nor will it point to flash-in-the-pan trends. Instead it will publish articles by high-level thinkers and doers on topics that examine and question why online design is how it is. Andy will be aiming to produce a publication that inspires readers in the same way that @buildconf inspires conference goers.
This magazine … (will provide a) discourse about design online that many of us have been yearning for, that gives the subject the respect it deserves, challenging all of us, as an industry, to set a much higher standard.
A stellar team of contributors has been lined up to help Andy produce Issue #1. Frank Chimero, Simon Collison, Liz Danzico, Jessica Hische, Chris Murphy, Nik Persson, Jez Burrows, Jon Tan, Carolyn Wood et al. each look set to be chipping in to get the inaugural copy of The Manual off the press and through your letterbox.
Andy, like Frank Chimero and Craig Mod, appreciates the need for printed words that are bound together to act as functional objects. The Manual will be confident in form and its materials will help illuminate its narrative. I’m in no doubt that the series of magazines will be beautifully crafted and built to last. You’ll be wanting to clear some space on your favourite shelf real soon. Believe me.
Good luck Andy! (…not that you’ll need it mate.)
February 7th, 2011
AOL, the forgotten grandfather of the World Wide Web, became increasingly irrelevant during the 00s as the medium they helped to nurture fell out of love with it.
In an attempt to breathe fresh air into the NYC-based company Tim Armstrong was appointed at the helm two years ago. Now, the CEO is upping the anti by completely revamping the way in which AOL produce and market their content.
The ins and outs of the changes are described in detail in a leaked in-house document — The AOL Way.
By April of this year Armstrong wants AOL’s reporters to increase the number of stories they write from 33k to 55k per month. He wants to get users through the door and bums on seats; aiming for an ambitious 400% increase in hits per story. SEO is another area that the Chief is targeting, with plans to make 95% of all content produced easily indexable by Mr Google & Chums Ltd.
Armstrong understands that there has been a huge change in what users want and expect to consume on the web. Video is to be included in 70/100 stories. A significant move from the 4/100 that currently contain moving pictures.
From a content strategy perspective, this is all excellent and extremely interesting stuff. It’s especially hard-hitting when the aggressive nature of Armstrong’s plan is taken into account. Essentially the former Google President is attempting to transform the company into a modern media giant on the fly, and in record time to boot.
Dustin Curtis said earlier today:
Do not underestimate the new AOL. It’s being driven by a passionate CEO with a strong vision, and the company has plenty money to execute.
I’d tend to agree with Dustin here. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if the sleeping giant awakens from its slumber. Let the digital age-reversing experiment commence!
(Via: Mr Murphy)
February 7th, 2011
Emma Majury, is a Belfast-based illustrator and a fellow MA Multidisciplinary Design student at UU Belfast.
Mixtape will be worth keeping an eye on in 2011.
February 7th, 2011
Every now and then someone comes along who shows exceptional intellect, creativity and originality. They devote their life to—and revel in—sharing their unprecedented insight with the masses. Society labels them ‘genius’.
Brian Eno, of Roxy Music and Oblique Strategies fame, coined a term to describe: a body of people, an organisation, a cultural movement, etc. that exhibit the very same qualities as an individual genius.
Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.
I thought a lot about this term in and around the time of the Build Conference in Belfast. Every day we’re immersed in a vibrant scene that has the capacity to astound. To amaze. To delight. To be exceptional.
Liz Danzico surmises some of the factors that contribute towards the development of scenius:
‘Competitors’ can be friends. When mutual appreciation exists, ideas spread and best practices are adopted across the board. Inspiring intermutual tools are dreamt up and created. The status-quo is challenged.
So be inspired by those around you. Always strive to better yourself. Lend your support to your co-workers and peers. Be open to new ways of doing things. Create a culture that is fun to participate in.
Do all of this and before you know it, scenius will have manifested itself in the very fabric that makes up the environment you work in.
February 7th, 2011
New York City officials have expressed a concern that the Big Apple is not keeping up with the west coast in terms of the volume of successful tech-based start-up companies.
New York is home to more students than any other US city. Despite this, the city lacks a post-graduate institution that can compete with the likes of MIT and California’s Stanford University.
City-owned land has been offered as an incentive to attract a top engineering university to begin a franchise in the city. The city’s bosses believe that this move will act as a catalyst in attracting and influx of new technology companies (and the jobs they create) to set up shop in NYC.
Such a development would be great for the city; not to mention the industry as a whole.
(Source: New York Times)
February 7th, 2011
Portland’s own Frank Chimero is writing and self-publishing a book. ‘The Shape of Design’ is set to become the must-have book of 2011.
Frank has funded this ambitious endeavor with the aid of Kickstarter, an online all-or-nothing funding method that allows creatives and entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to the internet and raise the capital needed to produce them. Frank’s funding goal of $27,000 was reached within four hours.
February 7th, 2011
According to Warren Buffet there is a “natural progression” to how good ideas go wrong. Enter ‘The three Is’:
In a 2008 conversation with Charlie Rose entitled, ‘Should wise people have known better?’ (Re: the global recession), Buffet remarks:
First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don’t and champion new ideas that create genuine value. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. Sometimes they improve on the original idea, often they tarnish it. Last come the idiots, whose avarice undermines the very innovations they are trying to exploit.
The imitators (and idiots) remind me of something Oscar Wilde said:
Most people are other people. Their thoughts someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
The internet’s Dustin Curtis, has his own modern day business related take on Wilde’s century-old insight:
Most companies are other companies. Their products are an imitation, their visions are a reaction, their passions are a mimicry.
Mimicry that “improve(s) on the original idea” is fine in my book; blatant plagiarism/thievery of concepts are not. I’m also wary of the constant quest for ‘innovation’ in our sector. Often these efforts center around problems that don’t *really* exist.
Don’t tarnish. Don’t exploit. Don’t partake in faux-innovation. Make your efforts count.
February 7th, 2011
Your a one-man-band. A blogger. A writer. A publisher. It’s not your main gig because monetising content online is hard. There are many benefits to blogging, but you’d be hard pressed to find many writers who’d argue that direct financial pay-back is one of them.
Is there a gap in the market for a service that enables content consumers to financially compensate the content producers whose material they enjoy reading? — Yes. There definitely is.
A fortnight ago, Nick Cernis blogged about a growing need for online publishing platforms to support indie publishers. One worthwhile avenue that Nick suggested exploring was a revenue sharing scheme. An endeavor that would see users paying for a premium service, the proceeds of which would go towards supporting the platform *and* those writers whose content paying users love reading.
Nick’s proposal was hypothetical; a creditable idea that would surely take some time to come about. However, fast-forward a dozen moons or so and Readability, a service that allows readers to financially support their favourite websites whilst maintaining a clutter free reading experience, has entered the fray.
Power bloggers with huge followings are probably the only writers who can hope to make a significant earning from this scheme. For the vast majority, this service provides a way for your readers to contribute in a small way towards your hosting fees. With that covered, finding time to produce the content they love reading should become that little bit easier. Win:win.
It’s a great time to be studying how the digital publishing landscape lies. Landmark developments are happening on an almost daily basis. Wondering what tomorrow will bring should be enough to keep us all on our toes.
February 7th, 2011
Irina Neustroeva’s latest stop-motion animation ‘DRINKme-EATme-READme’, documents the experience of a user as she reads Alice in Wonderland. It presents a real world/digital hybrid of the reading experience. The video is about emotions, interaction and imagination… it’s about Wonderland. It’s essential to get lost in your reading. Reading should be immersive, regardless of the medium. A great story is a great story no matter how it’s framed.
Via: Alice McKee
February 3rd, 2011
San Francisco-based start up, Push Pop Press look set to introduce a brand new reading experience on the iPad.
Push Pop Press is a digital publishing company that is bringing together great content and beautiful software to create a new breed of digital books. Books that let you explore photos, videos, music, maps, and interactive graphics, all through a new physics-based multi-touch user interface.
Push Pop plan for their platform to usher in the ‘next chapter in digital books’; it has already attracted the attention of some of the big-hitters in the industry. John Gruber of Daring Fireball has nothing but praise for an app that he believes transcends anything that has came before (Kindle, iBooks, et al).
Push Pop’s concept strikes me as far more ambitious: What can we do with the idea of a “book” if we eliminate the limitations of ink and paper, rather than mimic them? E-books that aren’t merely rendered by software, but rather e-books that are software. —John Gruber, Daring Fireball.
What makes the impending arrival of this app more appealing that others, is the team that’s behind it. Mike Matas’s creative talent, mixed with the technical knowhow of Austin Sarner and Kimon Tsinteris, means two things: Beauty and functional awesomeness galore.
For me, a lot of questions still remain around well-versed and relatively new issues such as standards compliance and digital lending. However, I’m sure more light will be shone on these grey areas in the weeks and months ahead. Push Pop’s first title will be available for iPad and iPhone later this year. I’m excited and you should be too.
Watch this space for more.
Via: Mr Murphy.
February 3rd, 2011
This week has been a busy one. A lot of interesting services and products have launched in the digital publishing realm.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. have teamed up with Apple to launch The Daily.
The Daily is a tablet-native national news brand built from the ground up to publish original content exclusively for the iPad … The Daily is offered exclusively in Apple’s iPad App Store and is available free for two weeks. Thereafter it costs just 99 cents a week, or $39.99 a year.
Reaction to the new app on the ground has been far from what all parties involved would have hoped. The words ‘clunky’, ‘slow’ and ‘noncohesive’ have been batted around extensively over the last two days.
I can’t believe they shipped it like this… I can’t even imagine how slow it would be if the thumbnails actually looked good. —John Gruber, Daring Fireball.
The Guardian reports the app as being, disorientating and lacking a central spine that should exist to hold the different sections of the publication together. Instead, they say that navigating around The Daily feels like you are browsing six separate magazines. If this is indeed the case, it’s a catastrophic error on The Daily’s part. With news (and opinion, sports, technology, lifestyle and celebrity non-sense) available for free elsewhere, their main prerogative should have been to capture potential customers with a curated seamless experience for which they feel obliged to pay.
Mashable’s contribution to the debate, ‘The Daily: It’s a Second-Rate iPad Magazine, Not a Newspaper’, begs the question of whether or not it is possible to differentiate between digital newspapers and magazines? The Guardian cheekily suggests if it could possibly have “something to do with digital staples?!”. I laughed.
It’s way too early to rule out any prospect of success for The Daily. I’m sure the app will evolve over time; this current version should be viewed only as an early beta. There is however a lot of work to be done. In my opinion, what currently exists is not what the future of throwawayable digital content looks or feels like.
News Corp. are at least trying to find a solution to the digital design issues and monetisation of what has traditionally been short-lifespan content. But, is the experience worth paying for when similar content is available for free elsewhere? You decide.