Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Your blog will soon be an eBook

"You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're tryin'
You're tryin' now"

- "Baker St."
The Web is dead. Mobile and apps are king.

Stat: in 2013, the activation rate for new mobile devices outpaced the birth rate.

You can't read on a handset. If the bulk of mobiles are handsets, the bulk of people aren't reading.

Writing is an arcane niche, like crochet. So, too, is reading: relegated to the few that care to learn. For everyone else there's YouTube and oversized fonts.

iPads and tablets? They're our new cash registers. (Android is also a surveillance network).

Google is going to kill Blogger as a web service.

So what will writers/bloggers do?

One idea - automate our writing/posting as eBooks. Post them on Amazon/iTunes/PLAY for a fee (this is critical - Amazoogle can't make money on 'free' anymore).

Our readership will drop, but the few that remain will pay. This will force (hopefully) a change in writing style/tone/topic. Maybe we'll get a lot better (and make more money than via AdSense).

Maybe we'll give up.

Thought experiment: There are ten thousand people in the world that would spend $1 a month on our blog, netting $120k/yr (gross) income. What circumstances best affect this outcome?

1) That 10k need to know about us,
2) That 10k need a way to pay us,
3) that 10k need to be able to read/listen to our creativity, which means
3a) a reader device/app with enabled purchasing, and/or
3b) an account with reseller (Amazon, iTunes, etc), and/or
3c) a web browser/pc/laptop, which means..
3ci) stationary, sedentary activity (reading), most likely indoors
3cii) prone to easy distraction (low priority activity)
4) that 10k need the time, too

These are high barriers to entry, and most people who've made the upfront investment in technology and access have little patience for paying for content (even premium). I don't think this is the best arrangement, but I also think it will be very temporary.

I don't know what comes next.

Update: a friend sends me a link about an eBook platform:
Writers price their Snippets between 99 cents and $4.99, and receive 50 percent of sales. Writers pay $99 per Snippet to get their piece on the platform.
The expectation is that readers will appreciate a platform that pares down and organizes only the best content.

Steubenville Must Be Talked To

“We must talk to girls about their responsibility in situations like this.” - CNN
I'm supposed to be writing songs.

If you've been sober enough (and really, why bother anymore?) to open Facebook in the last 48 hours, you've no doubt been bombarded with (mostly) female friends posting highly opinionated links  handwringing about a young woman who was raped in some small town we'll all forget about next week anyway, much to the relief of people who moved to small towns to avoid being seen/noticed/exposed in the first place.

The particulars of the case are non-specific enough to be a perfect canvas for people to project themselves: girl, drunk at party, passes out, pictures taken, penises, internet, football, small town, "swept it under the carpet." "Oh, and now here's what I think:"

Invariably, what they "think" is a repeat of some meme that's already in play, most often a variation of needing to "talk" about "rape culture", as if A) talking had some history of solving anything, and B) as if "rape culture" was some definable aspect of their own cultural ecosystem that can be coaxed out far enough for a precision surgical circumcision.


There's some controversy over CNN's framing of the story, specifically that they empathized with the rapists instead of the victim. Hello, you do understand the concept of a "power dynamic", yes? Which side is CNN on? (Hint: The power.)

Which would be remarkable if this were an episode of Law&Order....

But that's not the story CNN is telling, and that's why their reporter is confused that people are pissed at her.

Remember, CNN didn't "break" this story - they picked it up from somewhere else.

There is only one reason you and I have even heard of this: Anonymous. Men.

Anonymous’ motives are already in the open: 4 teh lulz. In other words, they didn’t go after these guys because they wanted ‘justice’ for the victim - they just thought it would be funny.

Why is outing some random small town football players 'lulz?'

He would've gotten away with it
if not for those meddling kids!

If the story CNN was telling was a good ole-fashioned Law and Order story, of course we'd be hearing nothing but tears and violins for the victim. CNN is telling a story not about the consequences of a rape conviction, but the consequences of being outed by hackers.

The "damange to these young men's lives" is not due to the justice system, it's the outing by Anonymous. The real message: "Anonymous is a bunch of troublemakers, and look, they wear masks."

Like clowns.

This is so critical to understand, but once you do, you can grasp why CNN chose this rape (vs thousands of others) to "talk" about (read: generate revenue), because it provides a context to establish Anonymous as both powerless AND complicit.

Game over.

The "members" of Anonymous are even playing their part, appearing on TV interviews in Guy Fawkes masks. And nobody even breathes about actual anonymous sourcing or asks why someone with a mediocre opinion feels it necessary to hide their identity, much less, why a news outlet would allow it in the first place (hint: central casting is involved.)

In this analysis, the "real" agenda of CNN has never been the expose of a small-town injustice, instead it's the establishing of a power narrative, namely "We have it" and hackers don't.

You girls don't stand a chance.


I am working on a followup discussing themes of power, real vs imagined power, and why these deeper narratives deserve consideration.

IMHO, every person's responsibility in "situations like this" is to put your life in danger for your fellow human. Period. The culture's predominant female programming is the avoidance of conflict at all costs (conflict is not just "masculine"; it's un-feminine) and until this changes, women are already at a significant power disadvantage due to cultural incentives. Women's burden is higher, as is their personal risk. 

Ladies, grow a pair, will ya?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Coming War: A Military Doctor's Field Guide To Masturbating

The Coming War: A Military Doctor's Field Guide To Masturbating In Afghanistan: Climax is imminent. Where will you deposit your knuckle babies?
Absolutely hilarious.

Anatomy of a heroin ring | Feature | Chicago Reader

Anatomy of a heroin ring | Feature | Chicago Reader: A man who survived the shooting told police the perpatrator was a guy everyone knew as "Bird." The witness said he didn't share the information sooner because "he was afraid that 'Bird' or his gang would kill him."

Life imitates Art imitates Life imitates.....


dangerousmeta!: I was enjoying one of my free days - I worked six days a week for $2.65 an hour. That one day off a week became precious, because we were around 100 miles from the nearest town of any significance, and none of us had cars. Around nine of us would bargain for the one available seat on the supply truck. So it wasn’t often we’d get into town. I was sitting in my Manhattan Project war-surplus hut in the cool of evening after a long day of bushwhacking. I’d turned on the radio, and was surfing for any stations that might be listenable (dubious, because of the Chisos Basin’s ring of mountains). I finally caught, on the AM band, a thready elderly voice. A Christian radio station, an old man pleading for donations to keep his station open. He talked of how he’d ploughed all of his money into his equipment, how he couldn’t afford his electric bills anymore, but he still wanted to do the Lord’s service. His plaintive wails and cries for help convinced me he’d constructed a personal Hell with his own two hands. Eventually his signal weakened, his hoarse cries dwindled into the AM static, then died. I never heard him on that band again. I was horrified.

Dangerousmeta! on the (potential) end of his blogging. I wonder if blogging hasn't passed into that canon of arcane activities (passion writing) soon to be occupied only by the Few That Still Do.

Related: Gordon's Notes thinks Blogger is the next service on on Google's chopping block. I concur - the service, like Amazon's "eBooks", is wholly the domain of automated spamming systems (most of them employed by SEO trying to create "organic" traffic). It makes sense for them to shut it down as it no longer garners (IMHO) enough AdSense revenue to justify the amount of monitoring the click traffic requires.

ProPublica: Data Brokers

Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You - ProPublica
But that's just the beginning: The companies collect lists of people experiencing "life-event triggers" like getting married, buying a home, sending a kid to college — or even getting divorced.
Credit reporting giant Experian has a separate marketing services division, which sells lists of "names of expectant parents and families with newborns" that are "updated weekly."
The companies also collect data about your hobbies and many of the purchases you make. Want to buy a list of people who read romance novels? Epsilon can sell you that, as well as a list of people who donate to international aid charities.
A subsidiary of credit reporting company Equifax even collects detailed salary and paystub information for roughly 38 percent of employed Americans, as NBC news reported. As part of handling employee verification requests, the company gets the information directly from employers.

You're participating even if you don't want to. Nothing in the system doesn't get recorded...

Probably worth a read.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Victor Keegan: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly? | Technology | The Guardian

Victor Keegan: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly? | Technology | The Guardian: Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly?
Never thought I'd see the day when a 2007 byline was OLD....


SFGate: Morford: Thinking is Elitist

37 percent of people completely lost | Notes & Errata by Mark Morford | an SFGate.com blog: It is a wicked conundrum that you and I can debate the definition of elitism, whether or not it’s fair to criticize those who believe that, say, gay marriage means kids will be indoctrinated into homosexuality, or that evolution is still a theory, or that Jesus literally flew up out of a cave and into the sky, when the discussion itself is, by nature, elitist, exclusionary, requiring fluid, abstract thinking the very people we’re discussing simply do not possess, and therefore cannot participate in.
Same for the blogsphere - do any of the people that incessantly forward long-since-debunked emails read/write blogs? (Hint: No.)

Blogging, too, is elitist.

Good read.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Death of Google Reader

I told you so.
But I'm worried about Reader. Reader is, IMHO, the app with the most transformative potential. It has been my experience that Reader usage correlates (and may I say, predicts) with an overall ability to construct an lucid argument. Acquaintances that don't use or know of Reader are *weeks* behind news cycles, and consistently lack insight or the depth of available knowledge/opinion on most topics.
Which is precisely why it's not a very popular product. Eventually, another Reader user will creep into your shares and start schooling you. The majority of us do not react well to this, and even few actively seek out that kind of interaction. Additionally, RSS, the technology that Reader is dependent on, is facing its own hurdles as competing standards and frameworks emerge in the mobile world.
- July, 2011
 Google's ruthless when it comes to monetizing its apps. With the exception of products still under the "Labs" moniker, everything Google produces must make money from their search products. This is one of the reasons I fear Reader, IMHO their product with the best chance of affecting social change, will be retired soon. It can't be monetized.
It bears repeating that ALL of Google's products are built on the back of your user data - what you searched for, what you clicked, what you eventually bought, and if Google can capture it, everything about your computer's browser, etc. Is there a behavior Google wants to analyze and market? They'll write an 'app' that gets it, and sell the data. Apps that don't/can't collect lots of sellable data won't stick around.
 - July 2011
It seems Google is moving from being a knowledge-services (read: search) organization to an social/advertising org, and I hope I'm wrong about that.
In its place a pale imitation having taken the form of a marketing company.
- November, 2011

Google is Evil.

 They built the world's most prolific (and profitable!) domestic surveillance system.  That's Google's business.

There really was a Golden Age. If you were a 'sharebro' then you know how good it was. Some bloggers think this opens up a market for Reader-like apps, but I don't. Google had the scaleable tech to make Reader work, and the upfront investment required to replicate it can't be supported by the number of customers (I'd like to be wrong about this.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monsanto and The Farmer

David the Good Farmer on the lookout for Cyclops.
If you've been on the internet for longer than ten minutes, no doubt you've either clicked on a blog or received a forwarded email (aren't they always?) telling you a story about Monsanto and a farmer that was "just trying to save his seeds." A few details vary depending on who's telling the story, but the general narrative goes like this:

Good Farmer works hard in his fields. One day, the wind blows pollen (seed? depends on the writer's comfort with invoking biological fictions...) from adjoining field of Bad Farmer who's using the seeds made by Evil Corporation.

Good Farmer believes this is "natural", and sees no problem keeping the seeds from his Good Strain of "crops" (wheat? maize? rice?) and replanting them the following season. This is a Good Tradition.

In Season 2, the Evil Corporation confronts the Good Farmer claiming he must either pay up or plow under. Worse, this is by design. The Evil Corporation has set these events in motion to achieve it's Evil ends.

If you've spent any time thinking about narrative analysis, you can instantly recognize this setup as a David v. Goliath story arc, with all its attendant implications: Evil Corporation is the Cyclops, a single-focus giant with all the power, while Good Farmer is David. What's curious is why this framing is invoked when David has completely failed to fell his Cyclops...

The details of the actual case, however, differ enough that the disparity deserves some examination, and I think it's helpful to write the actual story using the characters of David and Goliath.

This story actually begins with David taking something that belonged to Goliath - his bag of seeds. Goliath asked for something in return, but David refused, instead challenging the giant to a fight. As soon as Goliath accepts, David makes an appeal to the populace: "Help me, look how big this giant is! He'll crush us all!"

So for ten years, the Good People throw small rocks at Goliath until finally, David admits he's just a small-town bumpkin who picked a fight with a giant because "Hey, look, a giant!"

We close the book, so to speak, but David's still a farmer and Goliath's still a giant. What was the point of this story, again?


It's critical to note the tendency to substitute narrative for knowledge: fiction for fact, as it were. Anti-GMO crusaders invoke this story not for its facts but for its character shorthand and narrative suggestion(s). We invoke David v. Goliath because we want to talk about power, specifically a perceived disparity in its distribution, but more specifically, by setting up the conflict, we agree that power exists in the first place.

Because someone's got to have it, right? "What else could explain this soul-crushing pressure I feel everyday? Some one or some thing must be doing this!"


Corporations represent an existential threat. They are powerful as a summary of their activities, yet can be strangely ephemeral - our most common contact with a corporation is via its lowest-paid employees, and many of us have immediate family/friends that work for major brands. So they are both threatening and insulated from violence (you can't 'hurt' them.)

In this examination, people invoke this story about Monsanto not because they want to discuss biology or patent law, but because they want to deal with the idea of power, specifically the feeling of powerlessness, more specifically, the feeling of being put upon by someone/thing more powerful while being unable to assert oneself or influence circumstances.

THE PROBLEM with using this framing is it only serves to set up the (losing) fight - it's better to find a framing that suggests a resolution or path to change.


(in part 2 I will explore some ideas about picking narrative frames to describe/affect one's worldview.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Postmodern Zen


The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado

The Illusive Bonanza: Oil Shale in Colorado: Hyping oil shale is nothing new. As geologist Walter Youngquist once wrote, “Bankers won’t invest a dime in ‘organic marlstone,’ the shale’s proper name, but ‘oil shale’ is another matter.”
In a ham-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Half the world’s oil shale resources lie near Grand Junction, Colorado. With respect to oil shale, citizens in this region are committed. The durable myth of this “enormous treasure” ensures that in any energy crisis, oil shale will be proposed as a solution, and that Colorado and Utah will bear the brunt of development.
Dreams and hype aside, oil shale is the poorest of the fossil fuels, containing far less energy than crude oil, much less even than hog manure, peat moss, corn pellets, household garbage, or Cap’n Crunch.
via the author's own comment on The Oil Drum, which I'll exerpt here:
Let's try a redneck experiment.
Winter's coming, and I'm willing to pay $1,000 to the first Coloradan who decides to heat their house with oil shale. I'll deliver it in October, free of charge.
Such an experiment would teach you a lot. First, you'd learn that there's three times more energy in a pound of split pine or recycled phone books or cattle manure or Cap'n Crunch than in a pound of oil shale.
Next, you'd learn that 85 percent of oil shale is inert mineral matter. This means that on a cold winter day you'd have to shovel about 700 pounds of rocks into your oil shale furnace and remove 600 pounds of ash.
If, during the course of the winter, you burned 40 tons (about what you'd need), come spring you'd have 36 tons of hazardous waste, enough to fill three dump trucks.
I'll pay for the dump trucks, you deal with the EPA.
 Worth a read.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Corporations and Emotional Labor

Pret A Manger: When corporations enforce happiness | New Republic: Back when she wrote her book, Hochschild estimated that about one-third of all jobs entailed "substantial demands for emotional labor." Today, she figures it's more like half. This is, among other things, terrible news for men, who (unlike women) are not taught from birth how to make other people happy. Perhaps that explains why men are losing ground in the service economy.
A thousand times "YES!"

via Metafilter.