I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years now, first as @SauropodMike and more recently as @MikeTaylor. I have to admit, it’s hugely surpassed my expectations. I thought it was a medium for the trivial, but instead I’ve found a wealth of pithy observations, witty asides and links to all sorts of fascinating longer reads.
So now I’m leaving it.
Seth Godin’s blog is a great source of pithy, wise, generous insights. I read pretty much every entry, and often find myself going “Huh! I’d never thought of it that way”. But as usual. I’m only going to blog about him when I disagree.
I just had this discussion with my Index Data colleagues, and though the conclusion was worth writing up here. My boss, Sebastian Hammer, asked “So what is librarianship about in the 201Xs ?”
I gave three answers: one smart-alec, one practical, and one philosophical.
A true story:
- My favourite author in the world is C. S. Lewis. I’ve read everything of his that I’ve been able to find, most of it four or five times. I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve read the Narnia books.
- Long ago (in Internet years) I searched for a C. S. Lewis FAQ, and found one that was written by someone called Andrew Rilstone.
- I started reading the rest of Rilstone’s web-site (as it then was), then his blog once he started writing in that format. Highly recommended, by the way: full of insight, wit, and a gloriously eclectic mix of high literature and pop-culture.
- One of the more frequent commenters on Rilstone’s blog was Andrew Hickey, whose blog Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! I also started to read.
- In one of Hickey’s link round-ups, he linked to an article about James Ward’s fruitless efforts to change his name to James Ward.
- I immediately liked Ward’s blog, I Like Boring Things, and started to keep an eye on it. (Also highly recommended, by the way. He repeatedly demonstrates that, really, nothing is boring.)
- A post on Ward’s blog included a video of his talk at The Lost Lectures. At about 4:55 on the video he very briefly mentions Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk]. It was the first time I’d heard of Lee.
- On a whim, I bought the book — something I can hardly explain, as Ward in his video says nothing at all about it except that it quotes someone else he wants to discuss. It turned out to be very funny and insightful. Among other things, it mentioned Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, a TV series (consisting so far of two seasons of six episodes each.)
- Having read quite a bit of Lee’s stand-up (the book contains exhaustively annotated transcripts of three of his full-length shows), I was interested to see how it worked in performance, so I torrented the first series [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk].
- And then I liked that so much that I bought the second series on DVD [amazon.co.uk; doesn’t exist on amazon.com except as an expensive region-2 import].
There are a few things we can learn from this.
- You can’t predict how a sale will be made. There’s nothing Stewart Lee could possibly have done to make this sale happen. It happened because of chance, and also because he is good at what he does. My conclusion? You can’t control the chance, but you can control whether your’re good at what you do. Be good.
- Over a period of a decade, the Internet can take you somewhere very different from where you started. Part of why I love C. S. Lewis’s writing is because it shines such a clear light on, and through, Christianity. Stewart Lee is absolutely not any kind of Christian. But I love his work because there is a common thread of insight and wit that leads through Lewis, Rilstone, Hickey and Ward to Lee.
- Piracy is good. It leads to sales. If I had not been able to pirate Comedy Vehicle series 1, many publishers like to think the alternative would be that I’d have bought it instead. But I wouldn’t; the only difference would have been that I’d never have seen series 1 so I’d never have bought series 2 either.
- Finally, unavailability leads to piracy. Since series 2 of Comedy Vehicle is not available as a region-1 DVD at any price, Americans who want to watch it have a choice: buy an overpriced import and watch it on an illegally region-unlocked player, or torrent it. Which do they imagine will happen?
The publishers of Comedy Vehicle can only hope that Americans will torrent series 2 and like it enough to buy series 1 — the opposite of what I did.
[This is cross-posted from my other blog, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week. I never cross-post: this is, as far as I remember, literally the first time I have done it. But this issue is so important and so urgent that I am making an exception. Please, please: sign the petition, upvote the Reddit and Hacker News submissions, blog about it, tweet about it, tell your friends.]
Good news! If you want to read research that was funded by the U.S. National Instututes of Health (NIH), you can. Their public access policy means that papers published on their dime become universally accessible in PubMed Central.
Today is a big day for the Internet. Nearly everyone reading this site will be aware of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two appallingly ill-conceived pieces of legislation under consideration in the US but with profound ramifications for the whole world. Written at the behest of big copyright holders by people with no understanding of how the Internet works either mechanically or culturally, they would be absolutely disastrous if passed.
In response to this, many high-profile web-sites are demonstrating the results such laws would have by going dark for the day. They include Reddit and, most importantly, Wikipedia. (Also, the entire Cheezburger network and many, many others.) We can only hope that this distributed demonstration results not just in SOPA and PIPA being rejected, but in an emphatic smackdown that makes it impossible for similarly dumb legislation to get mind-space in the future.
But there is another threat also making its way through the US Congress — less publicised but also hugely important.
Posted in Copyright, Everything, Frustration, Me singing folk songs, Not my favourite, Politics, Publishing, Sheer, mind-bending stupidity, Shiny digital future, The Real World, Train wrecks
Seth Godin has got me thinking again. His post The extraordinary revolution of media choice makes this claim:
The idea that someone can program our consumption is becoming obsolete, and fast. The front page of the paper disappears in a digital world, where there is no front page — merely the page I got to by clicking on a link from a friend. The tenth minute of a sitcom isn’t necessarily the part that comes after the ninth minute, and in fact, I might never even get to minute nine.
Does that make sense?
It’s not often that I disagree with Seth Godin, but today I do.
In his post The New Frontier, he writes:
When Google+ launched, millions of formerly optimistic people became optimistic again. Maybe this was going to be the one, the social network with just the smart people and none of the lame stuff, none of the spam or the pitches or the people we’re trying to avoid. […] So much disappointment and so much bitterness. It’s never as great as you hoped it would be. Ennui and then, eventually, waiting for yet another new frontier.
I don’t buy that. Experience going back as far as USENET in the 1980s tells me that there is constant “prolification treadmill”. Every new community starts out as a pleasantly small group of like-minded people; and then as it becomes popular, it’s progressively taken over by people who want to talk about Star Trek and post pictures of their cats.
Trust your heart. Believe in yourself. Follow your dream and you can do whatever you want to. Ubiquitous morals in Hollywood movies and many TV series. But potentially poisonous. As Andrew Rilstone has pointed out, “this is a deeply re-assuring message for the high-achievers who make movies. It says in affect ‘We are rich and famous because we deserve it’. It is a very depressing message for the people who make their coffee.”
Plus it’s, you know … Not true.
(This image is from a T-shirt that I am very tempted to buy.)
I just read this article on TechDirt: EU Officially Seizes The Public Domain, Retroactively Extends Copyright. As the article says, “This is nothing short of governments and the entertainment industry seizing works from the public domain”. Let’s be clear: it’s theft. It’s a matter of big companies (and it should surprise no-one that record labels have lobbied aggressively for this) stealing content that belongs to you and me, and taking it for themselves.
In fact, let’s call it exactly what it is: piracy.
And the shocking thing is, this piracy is not a crime. It’s legally sanctioned.
But that doesn’t make it right.