“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that going on YouTube to watch an author is the same thing as going to a bookstore.”
Show me the person who seriously claims that watching an author speak on YouTube is the same thing as going to a bookstore to hear them speak. Marketers, of course, make such hyperbolic comparisons between the new and the old (“It’s just like being in the room!”). But — and please tell me if you think I’m wrong — few are those who truly believe that reading an e‑book is the same thing as reading a real book, that tweeting is the same thing as talking in real life, or that making friends on Facebook is the same thing as making friends in person. Of course they aren’t. Far away is the time when a virtual experience will flawlessly simulate a physical one.
I have mixed feelings about the New York Times paywall, but here’s something intriguing. A few weeks before the paywall launched, the Times released a “recommendations” page that suggests new articles you might be interested in based on your browsing history. They even list these recommendations in a little widget in the sidebar of every article page, as well as the home page.
That’s a great feature, and it seems to work decently well. But, while I think the Times does want to help readers find interesting content, I believe the real reason they’re surfacing this feature is to show you this:
There’s that scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when the latter is asked to demonstrate his shooting prowess, but can’t hit the target unless he’s moving. On some level, I think the same thing is going on when I write. Forced to focus on a single thing the mind rebels, whereas adding another element somehow focuses it. The coffeehouse somehow provides that element.
Terry Hart at Copyhypecriticizes the “buggy whip” analogy often used by copyright critics to disparage the content industry. Hart makes some fair points, but I found that he largely misinterpreted the analogy and thereby ignores its central point. Though it would be best to read his post in full to get the entire context, here are some pertinent quotes:
“The buggy-whip analogy […] describes a business that refuses to adapt in the face of technological innovation. When automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages, buggy-whip manufacturers either had to change their business models or risk obsolescence.
How are content industries like buggy-whip manufacturers? It’s not like they are making something no one wants. People haven’t switched entirely to new forms of entertainment; people haven’t to a large extent embraced alternatives to the content created by traditional industries. […] To put it another way, if media industries are making buggy-whips, and buggy-whips are obsolete, why are people pirating buggy-whips?”
I responded in a comment, but wanted to reproduce it here for my archival purposes as well as to invite your own thoughts.
[Update: Of course, right after I publish this, I see the news that my6sense is launching a Chrome extension that will prioritize your native Twitter stream on the web. Looks cool, and I think it provides an answer to one of my criticisms below. If something like my6sense can sit on top of all my browsing, it will learn more about the diversity of my interests.]
I’ve been using an Android app called my6sense. You hook it up to your Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader accounts. As you use it to browse those feeds in a single stream, it starts to learn what you’re interested in. Over time, it reorders your stream based on what it thinks you’ll be most interested in. It also starts to feed in content from other sources that might not necessarily be in those original streams, but is related to your interests. It’s pretty magical.
This sort of system is often predicted to be the future of news consumption: knowing our interests and reading behavior, tools will start to tell us what we should be reading on those subjects. But there’s a problem. Read more