Apologies for the sudden outbreak of silence around here – look on it as the lull before the storm, if you like. This week is likely to be quiet, as I’m deep in a deadline crunch or five, with Hazel’s christening and a trip to Paris coming up soon. Next week, of course, will be the normal storm of liveblogging from Le Web…
Things have been so busy, in fact, that I missed the anniversary of my redundancy on Wednesday. A year before, after lunch, I was pulled into a meeting in an anonymous little HR meeting room, and told that my days with RBI were over. At the time, all I could think was that I was in the middle of buying a house with my first child on the way, and suddenly I had no job. A year on? I’m too busy to note the passing of the day. Between flying to Helsinki with some brilliant people, working with the next generation of journalists, and keeping up my commitments to variousother clients, things are busy, fun and reasonably profitable. Oh, and I’m living in that house, and spending more time than I would have otherwise with baby Hazel.
I’m not prepared to say that being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to me – the timing was too appalling and stressful for that – but I will say that the way I’ve spent the year since has been so incredibly rewarding that it more than makes up for it. Certainly, I’m enjoying life, work and family far more than I was this time last year, and I’m significantly more optimistic about the future.
It seems slightly unbelieveable that, in just over a week’s time, I’ll be in Paris for Le Web. This year has gone unbelieveably fast, but I’m looking forward to attending for the first time entirely on my own behalf – no agonising over attending a session that might be useful to my employer over one that would be more interesting for me and you guys. I’m attending entirely under my own steam, from my own pocket and as an official blogger once more.
This will be my seventh year at Le Web Paris, and my eighth Le Web, counting Le Web London earlier in the year.
This year’s theme is the internet of things. It was a strong theme at this year’s NEXT Berlin, so I’m looking forwward to seeing how the thinking has developed in the seven months since. NEXT is very much a bleeding edge conference, Le Web is where those ideas start hitting the mainstream, so I’ll be looking for some more commercial applications of the idea of pervaisve internet-connecetd objects to emerge from the conference.
No doubt I’ll be prinicipally doing my normal thing of liveblogging the sessions as they happen – but I enjoyed my brief sojourn into something a bit different last year, so expect a bit more of that this time around. And if you’re going to be in Paris for the event – let me know. I’d love to meet up.
It appears to be something that’s beginning to bubble up in the collective tech blogging conciousness. Marco Armet explores the anti-Apple anger evident in some of the debate, in a piece for his new publication The Magazine. And Brian Hall pkes at some of the stupidity of the coverage in a blog post from earllier today. But both of these carry a pro-Apple, anti-Android slant, and I’m not really very interested in taking sides.
I think Jeff Eaton summed it up nicely when he kindly retweeded the link earlier:
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if my words are wise, but I think there’s a palpable difference between being a reasoned advocate of a product and a blind fanatic, loyal to his or her product tribe. And I object to the latter group polluting a discussion they are not capable of engaging with.
I’m not going to link to the site in question directly from here – you can follow the link in the tweet, if you wish. But I do want to talk about what it represents.
For those who don’t want to follow the link, it’s a chunk of software for WordPress that forces people to share a link to your content before they can read it – a sharegate, if you like. That’s right – they have to recommend this content to their friends BEFORE they’ve actually read it. I find the level of disrespect built into that concept staggering. Let’s look at the reasons:
No respect for the reputation of your reader. You’re asking them to put their reputation on the line for something they haven’t read.
Marketing trumps content. You are blatently making it clear that the marketing is more important to you than the value of the content.
Arrogance – you’re assuming that everything you create is worth sharing
Say goodbye to authenticity or relationship. This is a straight transaction – their reputation for your content.
Worse, perhaps, is that you are asking them to swap their friends attention for your content. They – in the short term – aren’t even the ones paying…
Seeing through another’s eyes is one of the perennial wonders of photography. Between the frames of an image, we are invited to consider a constructed reality offered by the photographer; what they chose to include, exclude and deem worthy of record or consideration. For those very same reasons, the art of curation often shares the same point of interest: the chance to explore someone else’s vision.
Nearly a week ago, I spent the early evening at the Royal Institution, celebrating the launch of Matter. A few months ago, Matter created a minor sensation in journalism circles by raising many times it goal on Kickstarter to bring its vision of long-form science journalism for the digital age to life. I was a backer of Matter (but not a huge one – it was in the early stage of my freelance working, and I was being careful with my cash), and as a result got immediate access to the new book – the first product of Matter’s funded publishing operation – when it was launched early last week.
I’ve held off on writing about it because I wanted to see the actual result first, to read the matter, as it were, and be able to give you an honest appraisal of how it’s developing. I downloaded the first Matter ebook – Do No Harm – to my iPad, and read it on the train into London. And didn’t think about anything else until I’d devoured the whole thing.
It tells the story of Body Integrity Identity Disorder – an unusual condition where sufferers feel that one or more of their limbs are alien – something that shouldn’t be attached to their body. It also tells the story of one person’s journey to deal with this situation through amputation, meeting some of the significant people in the field as a result.
Make no mistake – this is journalism. It’s storytelling and research mixed together into a compelling experience. Author Anil Ananthaswamy intertwines the narrative of one sufferer of this disorder on his journey to resolution, with the meat of the current scientific and political thinking on the condition. It deserves the length – both the story and the science are compelling, and at any more parsimounous word count, one or the other would have been neglected. In a way, it reminded me of the very best of quality magazine journalism – happy to tell a human story, unafraid of examining something in depth and unflinching in the face of something people will find isturbing.
Was my Kickstarter investment in Matter worthwhile? Based on the quality of this release – yes. The test will be how well they can sustain this level of reporting in the coming months, but I’ll certainly be awaiting the second release eagerly.
SAY Media declares that this has been the year of the niche social network:
There was a time when the conventional wisdom said that there was no need for any social network other than Facebook; those days are long gone. Now that Facebook has become a wasteland of app invites, political shouting, and re-shared pictures of kittens for literally everyone and their mothers, it has come to pass that people want social networks centered around a shared interest or community.
This was inevitable. Just as we saw with blogs and forums back in the day, the tendency is for these things to fragment into smaller groups around inch interests over time. The internet still remains the place where a million niches bloom, rather than a land of giants.
The problem with today’s startup-centric web culture is that increasing numbers of services fail or get sold, and they close down, taking their content with them. DailyBooth was a hot site, particualry amongst teens and 20-somethings, a couple of years ago. It encouraged you to shoot a daily photo of yourself using your webcam and upload it to the service. I played with it a little, and then it dropped from my conciousness.
Well, the service is now closing, and they dropped users an e-mail with insturctions on how to grab their content. I did so, and then left it as an archive in my downloads folder for a while. I finally got around to dealing with it this morning, and found, to my delight, not just a folder of images, but a set of HTML files with the photos. One quick upload to my server later, and you can now see my (brief) history with DailyBooth captured for posterity.
The contrast with online polls service Vizu which sent an e-mail saying that the service was closing – and that we should screengrab or print out – on paper no less – our polls is rather marked…