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Why the Hugos are broken, and who’s breaking them now
April 23, 2015 | 5:52 pm

Hugo-Awards-logoThe Hugo Puppies affair proceeds apace. As it will for at least the rest of this year, and probably the next as well. Everyone is having their say, and some excellent things have been written about the whole matter lately. I’ll get to those in a moment. The Internet Breaks the Hugos Whether you’re for the Puppies or against them, there can’t be any argument that the Hugo nomination and voting process is badly broken. The interesting thing is that the process hasn’t changed appreciably for years or even decades. It didn’t just break on its own. No,...

Toronto Star Paywall Coming Down April 1
March 30, 2015 | 2:25 pm

toronto starAnd another one bites the dust! The countdown is on for one of Canada's major dailies to take their paywall down. On April 1, the Toronto Star website will once again be free. I am not at all surprised by this. I used to visit the Star's website regularly, but as soon as I heard about the paywall, I changed my morning news bookmark to the free (and owned by the same parent company) Metro News and never looked back. This, I think, is the fatal flaw of the paywall model---they never factored in that even if the content really was...

Smartphone size no obstacle to long reading
August 5, 2014 | 8:45 am

Hey, guess what? People read on their smartphones. That’s the thrust of a piece in Wired that talks about how the smartphone has been a godsend for long-form written journalism. Where people used to read their newspapers on the subway, now they read their smartphones—and despite the predictions of those who said such devices would destroy our attention span, the evidence is pretty good that smartphone users are able to concentrate enough to read articles thousands of words long in one go. The Atlantic recently reported that a gorgeously illustrated 6,200-word story on BuzzFeed—which likewise...

If the Internet isn’t responsible for the decline in newspapers…what is?
June 12, 2014 | 3:27 am

Here’s an article from Science Daily that posits that all the claims that the Internet (or, more specifically, Internet advertising) is responsible for newspapers’ downfall are false…but then it doesn’t propose any alternative reasons to replace it. The article cites a research paper by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Matthew Gentzkow, published in the American Economic Review. Gentzkow looks at the differences in rates and views between on-line and newspaper ads. The perception that the Internet is responsible for newspapers’ downfall, Gentzkow posits, is based on the idea that on-line ad revenues are lower than print...

European newspaper publishers argue web browsing is copyright infringement
June 5, 2014 | 3:46 pm

One of the points often made by supporters of the Google Books fair use ruling is that if copying material to build a search index is not legal, then so is the entire underpinning of the web, which relies on being able to make digital copies and index them. Lest you believe nobody would try to make that claim, Ars Technica reports on a European Union Court of Justice ruling which saw an organization of newspapers try to claim that browsing the web amounted to copyright infringement due to the digital copies of material made on people’s computers while...

Don’t share angry: Looking past outrage in the news
May 20, 2014 | 8:07 am

outrage1It seems like the news is always telling us new reasons it thinks we should be outraged. A woman won a small fortune in court for spilling hot McDonalds coffee in her lap. Auto manufacturers are making millions of extra unwanted cars and just letting them pile up. Amazon was granted an obvious patent on photographing objects against a white background. And so on, and so forth. Odds are that many of the stories you see in your Facebook or Twitter feed every day are carefully crafted to induce the maximum amount of outrage. Why? Because that drives...

Another bad idea: Charging news aggregators for snippets
May 13, 2014 | 4:25 pm

news aggregatorsGoogle is the bad guy yet again. Well, not just Google but other news aggregators. Spain is attempting to pass a law to force aggregators to pay for the content they collect. The argument for the law is that most people don't click through headlines and snippets to get to the "real" site. So since the news site isn't getting their page views from the aggregators, they want to charge for the links. From the article: Under the new law, the original publisher will be compensated even for the reproduction of headlines and snippets of text. Written permission and a greater fee...

British printers struggle to cope with shift toward digital media
April 15, 2014 | 5:46 pm

printingpressMy friend Michael Brotzman pointed out this story to me from the New York Times, about how the printing industry in Britain is coping with the decreased demand for its services. Even as high technology leads to printers that can print bigger runs, faster, more efficiently, and with fewer operators, demand is dwindling and so are employees. The British printing industry is down from an estimated 200,000 workers in 2001 to fewer than 125,000 now. And for the jobs that are left, the UK is more and more often having to compete with lower labor costs of printers in continental...

One more use for newsprint you won’t see on Kindle: Canvases for amazing artworks
March 7, 2014 | 4:25 pm

Here's one more contribution from the legacy of printed paper that Jeff Bezos will not be bringing to the global cultural inheritance any time soon: Fabulous portraits and hand-drawn life drawings done on old newspapers, printed pages, letters, and other found or abandoned paper surfaces. These are the creations of artist Mark Powell, frequently executed in ballpoint, and often incorporating the texture of the underlying newsprint or other document into the final artwork. Just look at the texture of the topographical map in the piece below, for example, and how it fits into the portrait.   "Both the canvas he uses and the...

Chloephobia is an irrational fear of print newspapers
February 8, 2014 | 12:45 pm

ChloephobiaBefore we get to the fear of newspapers story, a brief introduction to a thoughtful word maven. Michael Quinion in Britain runs an insightful word origins website called World Wide Words, which is a free newsletter that goes out by email and catalogs in witty and wise selections how the English language is forever changing. "World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new  words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech," Quinion says. Some stats: his newsletter, in operation for over 17 years, goes out...

When a byline’s more than just a byline
January 26, 2014 | 12:30 pm

bylineBrian X. Chen covers technology and gadgethead issues for the New York Times, and with a stellar career at Wired magazine behind him, he is poised to soar even higher. So as a longtime student of newspaper bylines, I was struck by Mr. Chen's middle initial ''X'' and always wondered if it was part of his real name, from birth, or a self-created middle initial for purposes of helping his name stand out from the other 10,000 Brian Chens in the Internet listings. A former Times reporter Jennifer Lee, use to use the middle "numeral" of 8 followed by a period in...

The hazards of being skeptical: Clifford Stoll on the Internet in 1995
December 19, 2013 | 5:14 am

crystal-ball-219x300Here’s an amusing little article I just discovered tonight thanks to a friend passing on the link. It involves Clifford Stoll, author of the 1989 book The Cuckoo’s Egg about catching a hacker years before most people even knew what the Internet was, pontificating on this new-fangled Internet thing for Newsweek back in 1995. (His book, Silicon Snake Oil, expanded on these themes.) Drawing on his twenty years of on-line experience, Stoll declared that most predictions for the future of the Internet were overblown, and went on about it in great detail. Consider today's online world....

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