Clay Shirky’s predictions about the future of Mass Media

Just found this article on The Guardian site. Clay Shirky’s a professor at NYU and a scholar of Mass Media and the effect internet trends would have on them. Worth a read — I agree with some of his predictions (and presumptuously adding some of my own):

  1. Newspaper’s will diverge into 2 classes – magazines such as Economist which will exist for the people willing to pay for high quality coverage, and mass coverage of all possible news on the internet that will be available free and paid for by advertising dollars. Communities such as Twitter might help surfacing the right news.
  2. Niche newspapers and magazines will only exist online — the distribution costs for anything that doesn’t have economies of scale are not justified.
  3. TV will also change dramatically – The current state of the industry is that content is tightly controlled by the Channels, and hence to maintain quality, studios invest a lot of money (at least in India). We will see a lot of rise of amateur content, but only so much, since professionals will soon (and have, if I am not wrong) start publishing on YouTube and the like. However, the sudden loosening of the grip on distribution (since there are no longer any channels), will mean the quality of the content will change. Video distribution will be controlled far more by social networking sites (a la Facebook) than are blog posts.
  4. Books will be relatively less affected, at least until we hit a e-book reader that really rocks! My guess, though is devices like Kindle will improve a lot in the next decade or so, and might affect book sales greatly. Print-on-Demand will grow, but I am still not aware of how much it costs to print just one copy, so I am not in a position to comment. A large part of the cost if the cost of distribution, PoD will really succeed if the following equation is satisfied (since you will still pick up books at a store):

cost_of_traditional_book + cost_of_distribution_to_store > cost_of_printing_just_one_copy

The full article can be found here.

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Feedburner down? (and what is feedburner?)

Looks like feedburner is down. I just went to check my readership figures and it showed Zero subscribers. In all humility, I accept that I don’t have too many readers, but I feel happy for every click I get (don’t the others?) and so keep checking the figures ever so often. Anyway, this is what feedburner shows me:

image

Definitely something fishy! Google, what are you doing? First the confusion in the Gmail Logo and now this?

Anyway, for those who don’t know what feedburner is: Feedburner is a service that lets you redirect all your readership through a single access point. Think of it as a gate through which the feeds would pass. Hence, you can do a bunch of stuff with your feeds:

  • Add stuff to your feeds, like advertisements, or burn amazon associates id to every book review you post
  • Make several changes to your feed format to make it standards compliant and provide other frills. It would also provide better uptime if you have a self-hosted blog
  • Clip your blog posts so that people reading it in a reader are forced to come to your blog and increase hits (*wicked curled lips*)
  • Publicize it better, with those cool-looking “617k subscribers” (not mine :P) type logos
  • Provide extra services like ‘Subscribe by email’
  • Of course, track you readership
  • One benefit which I love but is often glossed over is to be able to change your blog URL and still have people get updates on the same feed. You can essentially tell people to go to a different room at the gate, to lift the paradigm of my earlier example

Feedburner has a page on its site where it gives reasons for using it. It’s good a video too (though I haven’t watched it!)

Feedburner was recently acquired by Google. Google also added a new feed-redirection feature to their blogger service which lets people redirect their blogger feed. I wish wordpress.com provided that (you can do it in self-hosted wordpress though)

If you are serious about blogging, feedburner (or a similar service) is a must have. Provided they fix the aforementioned problem, that is.

[Others seem to have noticed it as well – WebFiles Simon Sandossu]

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Finally, a technical blog!

I have done it! I finally fought off all my languor to start a technical blog, something I have been thinking of for quite some time. The blog has been born out of my desire to see better analysis on technology rather than technical news reporting (or which TechMeme is the best place). The content of the blog will obviously be limited by the knowledge of the author — any field of technology today is so deep and there are so many open questions that it is impossible to do justice to writing about it without spending a year or two working in it.

As I said, I plan to write few posts, but hopefully those which have more meaning and more technical depth. I will not talk about new products or services, fads and fashions but rather try to give commentary on more fundamental aspects of technology. I do not work in the Internet domain, and hence, I may be out of date, out of context, out of sync or all of the above, but hopefully the blog will be of use to some :)

So, to kick off the new bog, there is a rather long post on Identity (the best topic I could think of), the laws thereof, and a discussion about some of the newer federated identity management systems. Here’s presenting to you:

kpowerinfinity on technology

[Almost a week of reading has gone into it. Wanted not to underline this point, but well, had to :) A kind spattering of comments will be helpful for both the motivation of the author as well as in deciding future direction.]

Minekey at Stanford & on TechCrunch

I have written about Minekey in the past. It’s a startup that I had been involved in back in college. Today, was a great day for Minekey because it launched a new revamped site, with a much cooler widget and loads of customizability options which is what users have been looking for. The new site looks absolutely super-cool. Kudos to the team who’ve been working hard day and night.

The new updated offering is being showcased at the Always on Stanford Summit 2007, as one of the top 50 participants at the Stanford University campus. It is truly a momentous occasion for all of us — employees, alumni and well-wishers of Minekey. Minekey had also presented at Proto.in at IIT Madras last weekend.

Meanwhile, Minekey has been TechCrunched. This should drive a lot of traffic to the site, and create a lot of traction. I just hope that the servers can scale to the hits it is going to get in the next few days.

A word about Minekey again. Minekey aims to make the life of blog-readers simple by providing them recommendations based on both the content of the current page as well as the reader’s past reading habits. So, if the reader is generally interested in cricket news and visits a web-page about the stock market, it will show links from both cricket as well as stock market. It takes personalization to a whole new level because current services only provide recommendations based on the current context. The blog publisher can indicate a list of sources from which Minekey should aggregate content so show recommendations on their website. Hence, if you have multiple blogs you can aggregate content across all of them.

If you haven’t yet, try it out!

[Sadly, WordPress.com does not allow blogs to add custom widgets and so I can’t be the user of the Minekey widget :(]

UPDATE:

Some more coverage: pluGGd.in, StartupSquad, TekJuice, Bona Bhatia, Gulker, Rajiv Doshi, Delip Andra, 9:01AM, Venture Beat, VC Circle, alarm:clock, BlogSchmog, WebWare, ContentSutra, Pavithra, reyes-chow, American Venture Magazine,

And it’s also made it to today’s del.icio.us popular. (Link may not work later. If someone knows how to find the permalink of a particular day’s popular on del.icio.us, please let me know!)

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In the midst of a heated discussion with Mohit about The Long Tail (I think Chris Anderson gets unnecessary credit — It really was the monkey-god Hanuman who taught us what a long and potent tail could do, but that’s another story):

I: The Internet is a classic example of the Long Tail. So, is Google because they are able to monetize all those keywords which will never earn a penny if published in a magazine.

M: I wonder who clicks on the Sponsored Ads in Google.

I: I never do. Do you?

M: I don’t either. I can’t count having clicked more than 5-6 times all my life (that includes clicks by mistake). I think it’s all click-fraud.

I: I don’t know. But that would need to be a big scam!

M: But then, somebody has to be dumb enough to click all those ads.

I: I think it’s the Americans.

Hi-fives.

PS: If you are an American, please replace the word ‘Americans’ by ‘Commies’. Or should I say: s/Americans/Commies/g?

PPS: This is meant completely as a joke, inspired by their President. Most Americans I have met are very smart people, and continue to wow me.

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Don Dodge on my Blog!

Ok. Here’s this guy whose blog you read. He leads a rather big organization in one of the largest software companies in this world, and you feel that his is one voice in all the commotion that makes some sense. For that reason, you might miss TechCrunch, but you try not to miss his blogs. And then one day, you get up, and see that he had recently visited your blog.

don_dodge

Oh, it feels good. Thank you Don Dodge. I know I don’t write the kind of content that you do, but rest assured that I read every one of your posts. And what I like about them is that instead of giving news, they give insights.

Oh, and not to mention that a common employer also makes me more of your fan!

UPDATE: And Don actually came back and commented on my blog! Wow.

And thus they met: The BlogaLoreans

Anand had called me and told me about the previous bloggers’ meet, but sadly I was not in town. So, I decided to make it this time. The first thing I found amusing was the location – BrewHaHa. No, the place was fine – the coffee wasn’t too bad, the space was peaceful. But what got me chuckling was pronouncing the name in different ways – Brew-hehe, Brew-hihi, Brew-huhu, Brew-(Ravana’s laughter), Brew-(demure bride laughter), and the one that took the cake (and all the cookies) – Brew-(Vinay Pathak style)!

And as soon as I got there, the long string of introductions – strangers connected by this phenomenon called blogging. Some loud, some naughty, some subdued, some serious — everyman of every colour. The introductions were long and stretched — after all there were a lot of people — and often interrupted by the waiters trying to take orders. The poor waiter — taking orders from a bunch of 45 odd rambunctious kids can be difficult, and I am quite sure he is going to insist on taking his weekly off on the day of the next bloggers’ meet. That the fact that most of us keep changing orders and talking tough (Is the tea made in milk or with tea bags? — Like heck, I care!), did not make things easy for him. To top it all off, he was serving coffee (or was it hot chocolate? Since I found more chocolate than coffee in my drink) and suddenly an apparition vapourized out of nowhere holding a camera in his hand, and asking him to pose for a photo. He looked stupefied as if somebody had read a new dark spell in the new Happy Rotter book (more about that later), and decided to give it a try on the hapless muggle.

Two events had almost hijacked the agenda — the release of the Happy Rotter and the Deathly Hallows and Proto.in. While somebody had already tried to hijack the agenda there as well by painstakingly taking pictures, transcribing text and forwarding it to friends. Why waste so much time when the book was going to be released in two days time anyway? I am very sure that it was not for getting the book cheap because cunning entrepreneurs in the Indian book industry will soon have it lining all the pavements of the country with cheaper editions. Anyway, coming back, I had been half hoping that some fans would turn up dressed in Happy Rotter costumes — here a Hagrid, there a Dumbledore, everywhere a Voldemort. To my sorrow, there were only a few (countable on your little finger) who had braved the early Saturday morning (how?) and managed to purchase copies. Proto.in was in far-away Chennai, where startups were talking about start-up experience in their start-up language and showing their start-up powerpoints.

As the meet progressed, we realized how we were a microcosm of India – everybody had an opinion, and rightly so! We were bloggers, after all. Chaos reigned and kept reigning. The silver lining of order sometimes peeked from behind the clouds and went back to hide as soon as it saw us. But then, chaos is fun isn’t it? Too much order limits our thinking, inhibits creativity. People shot off ideas (a few ‘tossed’ them around like in a party game) at each others. We were (after a lot of shouting by Samjukta) able to establish the agenda of the Bloggers Collective at the BarCamp Bangalore, due next weekend. The conversation then veered towards social issues and setting up Web NGOs — I am sure there is a lot of social evil on the web otherwise the downtrodden like us would not get hit so many times a day. We further talked about something else, to which by that time I had stopped paying attention to (sorry, getting up on Saturday morning was bad enough).

The good thing is that bloggers in Bangalore are interested in getting together more often, perhaps setting up a collective blog and make a noise which can be heard (we can even play Bhojpuri songs aloud on MG Road — I am sure that will make enough noise), and build a community that talks about issues more relevant to Bangalore.

The day progressed quite well – I saw Evam Theatre‘s performance of Five Point Someone. If I said that was hilarious, it would be undermining them so more in another post.

All in all — a great meet, lots of new interesting faces (which I hope to add to my Blogroll the day I stop being so lazy) and great conversations.

Keep rockin’ Blog’a’Loreans!

PS: I must add that I do not endorse piracy and my roommate bought an original copy yesterday.

Update: Fixed a bunch of typos.

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