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Archive for July, 2009

I’m trying an experiment with a business model I like to call a reverse referral fee. Here’s how it works…

You click on a link that lets you download a copy of Brad Suck’s latest album, Out of It. The album of wonderful music is yours for free in every sense. (Share it! Please!) But, I’m going to pay Brad for each copy downloaded, at a bulk rate he and I have agreed on.

This offer is good for the first fifty people who download it. After that, you can buy a copy on your own. Of course, Brad also makes his music available for free (in every sense), but don’t you want to support a truly webby, big-hearted musician who’s giving us his talent free of copyright, studios, and DRM? Doncha?

So, if you want to be one of the fifty, click here for your free-to-you-but-not-to-me copy of Brad Sucks’ Out of It.

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I’m trying an experiment with a business model I like to call a reverse referral fee. Here’s how it works…

You click on a link that lets you download a copy of Brad Suck’s latest album, Out of It. The album of wonderful music is yours for free in every sense. (Share it! Please!) But, I’m going to pay Brad for each copy downloaded, at a bulk rate he and I have agreed on.

This offer is good for the first fifty people who download it. After that, you can buy a copy on your own. Of course, Brad also makes his music available for free (in every sense), but don’t you want to support a truly webby, big-hearted musician who’s giving us his talent free of copyright, studios, and DRM? Doncha?

So, if you want to be one of the fifty, click here for your free-to-you-but-not-to-me copy of Brad Sucks’ Out of It.

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Real photographs

A few years ago, I sat next to an AP photographer on a press bus as he deftly photoshopped an image he’d just taken. I asked him if he was allowed to do that, and he said the rule was that he could do anything with Photoshop that he could have done in a darkroom.

I thought of him when I saw the NY Times’ embarrassed retraction of a photo essay it had published. It turns out that the photographer had “digitally manipulated” the photos without telling his editor. Unfortunately, the NYT removed all of the photos, rather than keeping them up with the metadata that the digital manipulation had gone beyond editorial guidelines, and without telling us what those guidelines are. For all photos are manipulated. The photographer frames them, decides on what to focus on and how much of the photo should be in focus, etc., and then completes the manipulation in the darkroom, whether it’s analog or digital. To think otherwise is to fall prey to the fallacy of photographic realism that Susan Sontag warned us against.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the NYT’s guidelines are and then hold a contest to see who can create the most deceptive photo while staying within those guidelines?

Scott Rosenberg, a founder of Salon and the author of a terrific new history of blogging (Say Everything), provides us with reflections on what could be one of the entries, based on stories he did for the San Francisco Examiner and Wired about the photographer Pedro Meyer. Really interesting. (Embarassingly, Scott cites me at the very end.)

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News, process, webs and networks

Terry Heaton has yet another excellent entry in his continuing series on the media r/evolution. This one is on the news as a process — never done, never entirely right.

I’ve been thinking for the past few days about the news as a network. I’ve been finding that the network view of institutions is helpful because it lets you think about the ways in which the odd properties of The Network, and especially the Web, may be getting applied to those institutions — how those properties fit and don’t fit, and what that means for how those institutions can and should interact with the Net. In fact, at the moment I’m thinking about that as the organizing principle of a talk I’m giving at the Open Gov Innovations conference in a couple of weeks.

Terry’s process view of the news is helpful because it reminds us that a news story is messily spread over time, with many hands touching, and thus contradicts the ol’ writing-boom-published timeline of yore. Nah, the news is always in process. Dave Winer’s river of news is another useful metaphor, capturing the flow of news that we care about.

Metaphors are not exclusionary, so I also like the network idea. The river of news as it flows past us is part of a continuing process, which has shape and some persistence because it is a network. And I think the news is a network pretty much fractally: A hyperlinked news story is embedded in a network of links. Stories are slices through complex webs of ideas, with connections through the river of time and the semantic space of causality and influence. A collection of stories (what we used to call a “newspaper” or a “nightly news show”) is a web of related pieces — related by chronology but also by cross-commentary and references. Reporters rely on networks of people. Readers read within networks of people and ideas. The events themselves that the news “covers” are so deeply enmeshed in networks of history and culture that the very notion of a “story” is now suspect.

There are at least three problems with networks of news. 1. Networks can be lazy; they are so sprawling and full of goodies that there’s some type of focused work they may not get around to. 2. Networks lower the barriers to social gravity, so that we can be irresistibly attracted to people who are like us. (Ok, so opposite magnetic poles attract, and thus my metaphor has failed. Damn!) 3. We know how to turn hard objects into money, whereas it’s way harder to figure out how to make networks of news economically sustainable.

But the networking of news feels to many of us like the news assuming a more natural, authentic shape, freed from the rectangle of paper into which it has been force fitted for so long.

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News is a network

Jeff Jarvis has a terrific, provocative post about the narcissism of newspapers in which he discusses a number of myths. The discussion afterwards is also really inte)resting. Here’s the comment I posted there (with a minor edit or two, all of which can really be reduced to the title of this post:

Terrific post and discussion. Thanks, Jeff.

May I add one more, related, myth to your collection, Jeff? Here goes: That it’s possible to cover the day’s events.

This is just a different way of putting your formulation “One man’s [sic] noise is another man’s news.” But I think it’s worth calling out since the promise of sufficiency is a big part of traditional newspapers’ promise of value to us: “Read us once in the morning, and after going through our pages, you will know everything you need to know.” (Do radio stations still make the ridicule-worthy “Give us 8 minutes and we’ll give you the world?” claim.) Yeah, no newspaper would ever maintain that claim seriously if challenged — they know better than their readers (or at least they used to) what they’re leaving out — but it’s at the base of the idea that reading a paper is a civic duty. The paper doesn’t give us everything but it gives us enough that reading one every day makes us well-informed citizens.

The notion that newspapers give you your daily requirement of global news — which works out to wondering, along with Howard, if there is such a thing as “news” — seems to me to be as vulnerable as the old idea of objectivity. Like objectivity: (1) It’s presented as one of the basic reasons to read a newspaper; (2) it hides the fact that it’s based on cultural values; and (3) it doesn’t scale well in the age of the Net.

Ultimately, this myth is enabled – as so many of the myths of news and knowledge are — by paper. Take away the paper and the newspaper doesn’t become a paperless newspaper. It becomes a network. That’s what’s happening now, IMO. From object to network … and networks are far far harder to “monetize” (giving myself a yech here) than objects.

(By the way, this is what I was trying to ask in the question I horribly botched at PDF. Sigh.)

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Crowd-sourcing photos

Steve Myers at Poynter has a good story about NPR’s crowd-sourcing Dollar Politics project. One element of it was a request for help identifying 200 people who attended a Senate hearing, some percentage of whom were lobbyists.

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