02 April 2005

Testing 1 2 3

(Testing some possible posting issues. Nothing to see here. Move along.)

Posted 11:35 AM

31 March 2005

The goal of ChangeThis is laudable: to promote reasoned, thoughtful debate on important, divisive issues. To help innovative thinking reach a larger audience, regardless of the author's official credentials.

And yet, if you look at the most talked about manifestos, eight out of ten are on business and marketing topics. (The other two are on fostering creativity and reducing your risk of a heart attack.) All ten are clearly "advice" articles, and none struck me (an admittedly unscientific sample of one) as especially radical.

Eight of the ten most downloaded manifestos were also on the most talked about list. The two exceptions were by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) and Jay Conrad Levinson (author of Guerrilla Marketing), both of whom are well-established in the so-called mainstream media. The most current manifestos and proposals are similarly focused on business and marketing advice.

Yes, advice for business people is a valuable commodity that serves an important niche. But somehow I don't see "The Bootstrapper's Bible" or "The Word on Word of Mouth" as topics in such desperate need of reasoned debate that they require a completely new approach to publishing. Nor does a site that prominently features Gladwell, Levinson, Tom Peters, and Seth Godin strike me as a haven for new voices.

None of which is surprising. Authors have brands just like any other product, and it is the nature of readers to seek out brands. It's just disappointing when a site that proudly proclaims itself a change agent actually just shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted 11:05 AM

For years, people have been talking about customized newspapers, tailored to each individual's interests. Most such newspapers have been pretty terrible, with limited sources, lousy customization tools, and not much reason for most people to bother.

But now Google has gone and done it, and done it completely independently of the news suppliers. Not surprisingly, the news suppliers are having kittens.

Posted 09:53 AM

30 March 2005

Sportswriter Sally Jenkins talks about the lessons athletic performance has for writers. Take care of your body, because that's where the energy to feed your brain comes from. Prepare, in whatever way is appropriate for your form, because "Practice beats talent when talent doesn't practice." And forget about stimulants, because writing just takes too long for a temporary energy boost to work.

On the subject of taking care of your body, my ergonomic reminder pinged me in the middle of this entry so it deserves a mention. It's a neat bit of freeware called Workrave that reminds you to take your hands off the keyboard and step away from your desk every so often. Much more stable and less intrusive than other reminders I've used.

Posted 11:29 AM

Fascinating. Mark Cuban points out that the RIAA's claims of lost sales due to file sharing are based on sales of the top 100 titles.

Now, I'm not a high school or college student, so I'm not in the music industry's prime demographic. Still, very little of the music I listen to is likely to be in the top 100 list. In fact, the logic of the Long Tail suggests that, as distribution costs go down, the top 100 of anything -- books, movies, music -- accounts for a smaller fraction of total sales.

In other words, the RIAA's lost sales (assuming they are real) could easily be due to lost market share as other music distributors embrace electronic distribution and music outside the top 100 finds a larger audience.

Posted 10:29 AM

The most prominent emotion in most coverage of Monday's magnitude 8.7 earthquake in Indonesia has been relief. Relief that it wasn't worse. Relief that there was no tsunami this time.

But an 8.7 earthquake is a serious natural disaster in its own right. This one has killed more than a thousand people, and flattened several towns. "It could have been worse" is cold comfort for people trapped in the rubble.

Posted 09:53 AM

In 1988, the English national mathematics curriculum changed. Strangely enough, by 1995 the "innate" differences in test scores between boys and girls had vanished.

(Wall Street Journal link. Paid subscribers only.)

Posted 09:21 AM

28 March 2005

Why RFIDs? The benefits to distribution-oriented retailers like Walmart are obvious, and asset-heavy manufacturers like integrated circuit makers have been using RFIDs for years. But what about the people in the middle? Joe Bellini of Brooks Software explains.

Posted 11:21 AM


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