Donald Trump's catastrophic victory on Tuesday night poses the single greatest threat in generations to what we Americans quaintly call our way of life ...
It may take me a week or so to finish putting some general thoughts and additional resources together based on the two day conference so that I might give a more thorough accounting of my opinions as well as next steps. Until then, I hope that the details and mini-archive of content below may help others who attended, or provide a resource for those who couldn’t make the conference.
Overall, it was an incredibly well programmed and run conference, so kudos to all those involved who kept things moving along. I’m now certainly much more aware at the gaping memory hole the internet is facing despite the heroic efforts of a small handful of people and institutions attempting to improve the situation. I’ll try to go into more detail later about a handful of specific topics and next steps as well as a listing of resources I came across which may provide to be useful tools for both those in the archiving/preserving and IndieWeb communities.
Archive of materials for Day 2
Below are the recorded audio files embedded in .m4a format (using a Livescribe Pulse Pen) for several sessions held throughout the day. To my knowledge, none of the breakout sessions were recorded except for the one which appears below.
Summarizing archival collections using storytelling techniques
Presentation: Summarizing archival collections using storytelling techniques by Michael Nelson, Ph.D., Old Dominion University
Saving the first draft of history
Special guest speaker: Saving the first draft of history: The unlikely rescue of the AP’s Vietnam War files by Peter Arnett, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism
Kiss your app goodbye: the fragility of data journalism
Panel: Kiss your app goodbye: the fragility of data journalism
Featuring Meredith Broussard, New York University; Regina Lee Roberts, Stanford University; Ben Welsh, The Los Angeles Times; moderator Martin Klein, Ph.D., Los Alamos National Laboratory
The future of the past: modernizing The New York Times archive
Panel: The future of the past: modernizing The New York Times archive
Featuring The New York Times Technology Team: Evan Sandhaus, Jane Cotler and Sophia Van Valkenburg; moderated by Edward McCain, RJI and MU Libraries
Lightning Rounds: Six Presenters
Lightning rounds (in two parts)
Six + one presenters: Jefferson Bailey, Terry Britt, Katherine Boss (and team), Cynthia Joyce, Mark Graham, Jennifer Younger and Kalev Leetaru
1: Jefferson Bailey, Internet Archive, “Supporting Data-Driven Research using News-Related Web Archives” 2: Terry Britt, University of Missouri, “News archives as cornerstones of collective memory” 3: Katherine Boss, Meredith Broussard and Eva Revear, New York University: “Challenges facing preservation of born-digital news applications” 4: Cynthia Joyce, University of Mississippi, “Keyword ‘Katrina’: Re-collecting the unsearchable past” 5: Mark Graham, Internet Archive/The Wayback Machine, “Archiving news at the Internet Archive” 6: Jennifer Younger, Catholic Research Resources Alliance: “Digital Preservation, Aggregated, Collaborative, Catholic” 7. Kalev Leetaru, senior fellow, The George Washington University and founder of the GDELT Project: A Look Inside The World’s Largest Initiative To Understand And Archive The World’s News
Technology and Community
Presentation: Technology and community: Why we need partners, collaborators, and friends by Kate Zwaard, Library of Congress
Breakout: Working with CMS
Working with CMS, led by Eric Weig, University of Kentucky
Alignment and reciprocity
Alignment & reciprocity by Katherine Skinner, Ph.D., executive director, the Educopia Institute
Closing remarks by Edward McCain, RJI and MU Libraries and Todd Grappone, associate university librarian, UCLA
Live Tweet Archive
Reminder: In many cases my tweets don’t reflect direct quotes of the attributed speaker, but are often slightly modified for clarity and length for posting to Twitter. I have made a reasonable attempt in all cases to capture the overall sentiment of individual statements while using as many original words of the participant as possible. Typically, for speed, there wasn’t much editing of these notes. Below I’ve changed the attribution of one or two tweets to reflect the proper person(s). Fore convenience, I’ve also added a few hyperlinks to useful resources after the fact that didn’t have time to make the original tweets. I’ve attached .m4a audio files of most of the audio for the day (apologies for shaky quality as it’s unedited) which can be used for more direct attribution if desired. The Reynolds Journalism Institute videotaped the entire day and livestreamed it. Presumably they will release the video on their website for a more immersive experience.
Condoms were required issue in Vietnam–we used them to waterproof film containers in the field.
Do not stay close to the head of a column, medics, or radiomen. #warreportingadvice
I told the AP I would undertake the task of destroying all the reporters’ files from the war.
Instead the AP files moved around with me.
Eventually the 10 trunks of material went back to the AP when they hired a brilliant archivist.
“The negatives can outweigh the positives when you’re in trouble.”
Our first panel:Kiss your app goodbye: the fragility of data jornalism
I teach data journalism at NYU
A news app is not what you’d install on your phone
Dollars for Docs is a good example of a news app
A news app is something that allows the user to put themself into the story.
Often there are three CMSs: web, print, and video.
News apps don’t live in any of the CMSs. They’re bespoke and live on a separate data server.
This has implications for crawlers which can’t handle them well.
Then how do we save news apps? We’re looking at examples and then generalizing.
Everyblock.com was a good example based on chicagocrime and later bought by NBC and shut down.
What?! The internet isn’t forever? Databases need to be save differently than web pages.
Reprozip was developed by NYU Center for Data and we’re using it to save the code, data, and environment.
We make apps that serve our audience.
We also make internal tools that empower the newsroom.
We also use our nerdy skills to do cool things.
Most of us aren’t good programmers, we “cheat” by using frameworks.
Frameworks do a lot of basic things for you, so you don’t have to know how to do it yourself.
Archiving tools often aren’t built into these frameworks.
Instagram, Pinterest, Mozilla, and the LA Times use django as our framework.
Memento for WordPress is a great way to archive pages.
We must do more. We need archiving baked into the systems from the start.
Slides at http://bit.ly/frameworkfix
Got data? I’m a librarian at Stanford University.
I’ll mention Christine Borgman’s book Big Data, Little Data, No data.
Journalists are great data liberators: FOIA requests, cleaning data, visualizing, getting stories out of data.
But what happens to the data once the story is published?
BLDR: Big Local Digital Repository, an open repository for sharing open data.
For metadata: www.ddialliance.org, RDF, International Image Interoperability Framework (iiif) and MODS
We’ll open up for questions.
What’s more important: obey copyright laws or preserving the content?
The new creative commons licenses are very helpful, but we have to be attentive to many issues.
Perhaps archiving it and embargoing for later?
Saving the published work is more important to me, and the rest of the byproduct is gravy.
I work for the New York Times, you may have heard of it…
Talking about modernizing the born-digital legacy content.
Our problem was how to make an article from 2004 look like it had been published today.
There were 100’s of thousands of articles missing.
There was no one definitive list of missing articles.
Outlining the workflow for reconciling the archive XML and the definitive list of URLs for conversion.
It’s important to use more than one source for building an archive.
I’m going to talk about all of “the little things” that came up along the way..
Article Matching: Fusion – How to convert print XML with web HTML that was scraped.
Primarily, we looked at common phrases between the corpus of the two different data sets.
We prioritized the print data over the digital data.
We maintain a system called switchboard that redirects from old URLs to the new ones to prevent link rot.
The case of the missing sections: some sections of the content were blank and not transcribed.
We made the decision of taking out data we had in lieu of making a better user experience for missing sections.
In the future, we’d also like to put photos back into the articles.
Can you discuss the decision to go with a more modern interface rather than a traditional archive of how it looked?
Some of the decision was to get the data into an accessible format for modern users.
We do need to continue work on preserving the original experience.
Is there a way to distinguish between the print version and the online versions in the archive?
Could a researcher do work on the entire corpora? Is it available for subscription?
We do have a sub-section of data availalbe, but don’t have it prior to 1960.
Have you documented the process you’ve used on this preservation project?
We did save all of the code for the project within GitHub.
We do have meeting notes which provide some documentation, though they’re not thorough.
What particularly strikes me is how many of the philosophies of the IndieWeb movement and tools developed by it are applicable to some of the problems that online news faces. I suspect that if more journalists were practicing members of the IndieWeb and used their sites not only for collecting and storing the underlying data upon which they base their stories, but to publish them as well, then some of the (future) archival process may be easier to accomplish. I’ve got so many disparate thoughts running around my mind after the first day that it’ll take a bit of time to process before I write out some more detailed thoughts.
Twitter List for the Conference
As a reminder to those attending, I’ve accumulated a list of everyone who’s tweeted with the hashtag #DtMH2016, so that attendees can more easily follow each other as well as communicate online following our few days together in Los Angeles. Twitter also allows subscribing to entire lists too if that’s something in which people have interest.
Archiving the day
It seems only fitting that an attendee of a conference about saving and archiving digital news, would make a reasonable attempt to archive some of his experience right?! Toward that end, below is an archive of my tweetstorm during the day marked up with microformats and including hovercards for the speakers with appropriate available metadata. For those interested, I used a fantastic web app called Noter Live to capture, tweet, and more easily archive the stream.
Note that in many cases my tweets don’t reflect direct quotes of the attributed speaker, but are often slightly modified for clarity and length for posting to Twitter. I have made a reasonable attempt in all cases to capture the overall sentiment of individual statements while using as many original words of the participant as possible. Typically, for speed, there wasn’t much editing of these notes. I’m also attaching .m4a audio files of most of the audio for the day (apologies for shaky quality as it’s unedited) which can be used for more direct attribution if desired. The Reynolds Journalism Institute videotaped the entire day and livestreamed it. Presumably they will release the video on their website for a more immersive experience.
If you prefer to read the stream of notes in the original Twitter format, so that you can like/retweet/comment on individual pieces, this link should give you the entire stream. Naturally, comments are also welcome below.
Below are the audio files for several sessions held throughout the day.
Greetings and Keynote
Greetings: Edward McCain, digital curator of journalism, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and University of Missouri Libraries and Ginny Steel, university librarian, UCLA
Keynote: Digital salvage operations — what’s worth saving? given by Hjalmar Gislason, vice president of data, Qlik
Why save online news? and NewsScape
Panel: “Why save online news?” featuring Chris Freeland, Washington University; Matt Weber, Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Laura Wrubel, The George Washington University; moderator Ana Krahmer, Ph.D., University of North Texas
Presentation: “NewsScape: preserving TV news” given by Tim Groeling, Ph.D., UCLA Communication Studies Department
Born-digital news preservation in perspective
Speaker: Clifford Lynch, Ph.D., executive director, Coalition for Networked Information on “Born-digital news preservation in perspective”
Live Tweet Archive
Getting Noter Live fired up for Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News https://www.rjionline.org/dtmh2016
I’m glad I’m not at NBC trying to figure out the details for releasing THE APPRENTICE tapes.
Let’s thank @UCLA and the library for hosting us all.
While you’re here, don’t forget to vote/provide feedback throughout the day for IMLS
Someone once pulled up behind me and said “Hi Tiiiigeeerrr!” #Mizzou
A server at the Missourian crashed as the system was obsolete and running on baling wire. We lost 15 years of archives
The dean & head of Libraries created a position to save born digital news.
We’d like to help define stake-holder roles in relation to the problem.
Newspaper is really an outmoded term now.
I’d like to celebrate that we have 14 student scholars here today.
We’d like to have you identify specific projects that we can take to funding sources to begin work after the conference
We’ll be going to our first speaker who will be introduced by Martin Klein from Los Alamos.
Hjalmar Gislason is a self-described digital nerd. He’s the Vice President of Data.
I wonder how one becomes the President of Data?
My Icelandic name may be the most complicated part of my talk this morning.
Speaking on Digital Salvage Operations: What’s worth Saving”
My father in law accidentally threw away my wife’s favorite stuffed animal. #DeafTeddy
Some people just throw everything away because they’re not being used. Others keep everything and don’t throw it away.
The fundamental question: Do you want to save everything or do you want to get rid of everything?
I joined @qlik two years ago and moved to Boston.
Before that I was with spurl.net which was about saving copies of webpages they’d previously visited.
I had also previously invested in kjarninn which is translated as core.
We used to have little data, now we’re with gigantic data and moving to gargantuan data soon.
One of my goals today is to broaden our perspective about what data needs saving.
There’s the Web, the “Deep” Web, then there’s “Other” data which is at the bottom of the pyramid.
I got to see into the process of #panamapapers but I’d like to discuss the consequences from April 3rd.
The amount of meetings were almost more than could have been covered in real time in Iceland.
The #panamapapers were a soap opera, much like US politics.
Looking back at the process is highly interesting, but it’s difficult to look at all the data as they unfoldedd
How can we capture all the media minute by minute as a story unfolds.
You can’t trust that you can go back to a story at a certain time and know that it hasn’t been changed. #1984 #Orwell
There was a relatively pro-HRC piece earlier this year @NYTimes that was changed.
Newsdiffs tracks changes in news over time. The HRC article had changed a lot.
Let’s say you referenced @CNN 10 years ago, likely now, the CMS and the story have both changed.
8 years ago, I asked, wouldn’t we like to have the social media from Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate as a teenager?
What is private/public, ethical/unethical when dealing with data?
Much data is hidden behind passwords or on systems which are not easily accessed from a database perspective.
Most of the content published on Facebook isn’t public. It’s hard to archive in addition to being big.
We as archivists have no claim on the hidden data within Facebook.
Then there’s “other” data: 500 hours of video us uploaded to YouTube per minute.
No organization can go around watching all of this video data. Which parts are newsworthy?
Content could surface much later or could surface through later research.
Hornbjargsviti lighthouse recorded the weather every three hours for years creating lots of data.
And that was just one of hundreds of sites that recorded this type of data in Iceland.
Lots of this data is lost. Much that has been found was by coincidence. It was never thought to archive it.
This type of weather data could be very valuable to researchers later on.
There was also a large archive of Icelandic data that was found.
Showing a timelapse of Icelandic earthquakes https://vimeo.com/24442762
You can watch the magma working it’s way through the ground before it makes it’s way up through the land.
National Geographic featured this video in a documentary.
Sometimes context is important when it comes to data. What is archived today may be more important later.
As the economic crisis unfolded in Greece, it turned out the data that was used to allow them into EU was wrong.
The data was published at the time of the crisis, but there was no record of what the data looked like 5 years earlier.
Only way to recreate the data was to take prior printed sources. This is usu only done in extraordinary cirucumstances.
We captured 150k+ data sets with more than 8 billion “facts” which was just a tiny fraction of what exists.
How can we delve deeper into large data sets, all with different configurations and proprietary systems.
“There’s a story in every piece of data.”
Once a year energy consumption seems to dip because February has fewer days than other months. Plotting it matters.
Year over year comparisons can be difficult because of things like 3 day weekends which shift over time.
Here’s a graph of the population of Iceland. We’ve had our fair share of diseases and volcanic eruptions.
To compare, here’s a graph of the population of sheep. They outnumber us by an order(s) of magnitude.
In the 1780’s there was an event that killed off lots of sheep, so people had the upper hand.
Do we learn more from reading today’s “newspaper” or one from 30, 50, or 100 years ago?
There was a letter to the editor about an eruption and people had to move into the city.
letter: “We can’t have all these people come here, we need to build for our own people first.”
This isn’t too different from our problems today with respect to Syria. In that case, the people actually lived closer.
In the born-digital age, what will the experience look like trying to capture today 40 years hence?
Will it even be possible?
Machine data connections will outnumber “people” data connections by a factor of 10 or more very quickly.
With data, we need to analyze, store, and discard data. How do we decide in a spit-second what to keep & discard?
We’re back to the father-in-law and mother-in-law question: What to get rid of and what to save?
Computing is continually beating human tasks: chess, Go, driving a car. They build on lots more experience based on data
Whoever has the most data on driving cars and landscape will be the ultimate winner in that particular space.
Data is valuable, sometimes we just don’t know which yet.
Hoarding is not a strategy.
You can only guess at what will be important.
“Commercial use in Doubt” The third sub-headline in a newspaper about an early test of television.
There’s more to it than just the web.
Hoarding isn’t a strategy really resonates with librarians, what could that relationship look like?
One should bring in data science, industry may be ahead of libraries.
Cross-disciplinary approaches may be best. How can you get a data scientist to look at your problem? Get their attention?
There’s 60K+ books about the Viet Nam War. How do we learn to integrate what we learn after an event (like that)?
Perspective always comes with time, as additional information arrives.
Scientific papers are archived in a good way, but the underlying data is a problem.
In the future you may have the ability to add supplementary data as a supplement what appears in a book (in a better way)
Archives can give the ability to have much greater depth on many topics.
Are there any centers of excellence on the topics we’re discussing today? This conference may be IT.
We need more people that come from the technical side of things to be watching this online news problem.
Hacks/Hackers is a meetup group that takes place all over the world.
It brings the journalists and computer scientists together regularly for beers. It’s some of the outreach we need.
If you’re not interested in money, this is a good area to explore. 10 minute break.
Don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the questions at the back of the room.
We’re going to get started with our first panel. Why is it important to save online news?
I’m Matt Weber from Rugters University and in communications.
I’ll talk about web archives and news media and how they interact.
I worked at Tribune Corp. for several years and covered politics in DC.
I wanted to study the way in which the news media is changing.
We’re increadingly seeing digital only media with no offline surrogate.
It’s becomign increasingly difficult to do anything but look at it now as it exists.
There was no large scale online repository of online news to do research.
#OccupyWallStreet is one of the first examples of stories that exist online in ocurence and reportage.
There’s a growing need to archive content around local news particularly politics and democracy.
When there is a rich and vibrant local news environment, people are more likely to become engaged.
Local news is one of the least thought about from an archive perspective.
I’m at GWU Librarys in the scholarly technology group.
I’m involved in social feed manager which allows archivists to put together archives from social services.
Kimberly Gross, a faculty member, studies tweets of news outlets and journalists.
We created a prototype tool to allow them to collect data from social media.
Journalists were 2011 primarily using their Twitter presences to direct people to articles rather than for conversation
We collect data of political candidates.
I’m an associate library and representing “Documenting the Now” with WashU, UCRiverside, & UofMd
Documenting the Now revolves around Twitter documentation.
It started with the Ferguson story and documenting media, videos during the protests in the community.
What can we as memory institutions do to capture the data?
We gathered 14million tweets relating to Ferguson within two weeks.
We tried to build a platform that others could use in the future for similar data capture relating to social.
Ethics is important in archiving this type of news data.
Digitally preserving pdfs from news organizations and hyper-local news in Texas.
We’re approaching 5million pages of archived local news.
What is news that needs to be archived, and why?
First, what is news? The definition is unique to each individual.
We need to capture as much of the social news and social representation of news which is fragmented.
It’s an important part of society today.
We no longer produce hard copies like we did a decade ago. We need to capture the online portion.
We’d like to get the perspective of journalists, and don’t have one on the panel today.
We looked at how midterm election candidates used Twitter. Is that news itself? What tools do we use to archive it?
What does it mean to archive news by private citizens?
Twitter was THE place to find information in St. Louis during the Ferguson protests.
Local news outlets weren’t as good as Twitter during the protests.
I could hear the protest from 5 blocks away and only found news about it on Twitter.
The story was bing covered very differently on Twitter than the local (mainstream) news.
Alternate voices in the mix were very interesting and important.
Twitter was in the moment and wasn’t being edited and causing a delay.
What can we learn from this massive number of Ferguson tweets.
It gives us information about organizing, and what language was being used.
I think about the archival portion of this question. By whom does it need to be archived?
What do we archive next?
How are we representing the current population now?
Who is going to take on the burden of archiving? Should it be corporate? Cultural memory institution?
Someone needs to currate it, who does that?
our next question: What do you view as primary barriers to news archiving?
How do we organize and staff? There’s no shortage of work.
Tools and software can help the process, but libraries are usually staffed very thinly.
No single institution can do this type of work alone. Collaboration is important.
Two barriers we deal with: terms of service are an issue with archiving. We don’t own it, but can use it.
Libraries want to own the data in perpetuity. We don’t own our data.
There’s a disconnect in some of the business models for commercialization and archiving.
Issues with accessing data.
People were worried about becoming targets or losing jobs because of participation.
What is role of ethics of archiving this type of data? Allowing opting out?
What about redacting portions? anonymizing the contributions?
Publishers have a responsibility for archiving their product. Permission from publishers can be difficult.
We have a lot of underserved communities. What do we do with comments on stories?
Corporations may not continue to exist in the future and data will be lost.
There’s a balance to be struck between the business side and the public good.
It’s hard to convince for profit about the value of archiving for the social good.
Next Q: What opportunities have revealed themselves in preserving news?
Finding commonalities and differences in projects is important.
What does it mean to us to archive different media types? (think diversity)
What’s happening in my community? in the nation? across the world?
The long-history in our archives will help us learn about each other.
We can only do so much with the resources we have.
We’ve worked on a cyber cemetery product in the past.
Someone else can use the tools we create within their initiatives.
repeating ?: What are issues in archiving longerform video data with regard to stories on Periscope?
How do you channel the energy around archiving news archiving?
Research in the area is all so new.
Does anyone have any experience with legal wrangling with social services?
The ACLU is waging a lawsuit against Twitter about archived tweets.
Outreach to community papers is very rhizomic.
How do you take local examples and make them a national model?
We’re teenagers now in the evolution of what we’re doing.
Peter Arnett just said “This is all ore interesting than I thought it would be.”
Next Presentation: NewsScape: preserving TV news
I’ll be talking about the NewsScape project of Francis Steen, Director, Communication Studies Archive
I’m leading the archiving of the analog portion of the collection.
The oldest of our collection dates from the 1950’s. We’ve hosted them on YouTube which has created some traction.
Commenters have been an issue with posting to YouTube as well as copyright.
NewsScape is the largest collecction of TV news and public affairs programs (local & national)
Prior to 2006, we don’t know what we’ve got.
Paul said “Ill record everytihing I can and someone in the future can deal with it.”
We have 50K hours of Betamax.
VHS are actually most threatened, despite being newest tapes.
Our budget was seriously strapped.
Maintaining closed captioning is important to our archiving efforts.
We’ve done 36k hours of encoding this year.
We use a layer of dead VCR’s over our good VCR’s to prevent RF interference and audio buzzing. 🙂
Post-2006 We’re now doing straight to digital
Preservation is the first step, but we need to be more than the world’s best DVR.
Searching the news is important too.
Showing a data visualization of news analysis with regard to the Heathcare Reform movement.
We’re doing facial analysis as well.
We have interactive tools at viz2016.com.
We’ve tracked how often candidates have smiled in election 2016. Hillary > Trump
We want to share details within our collection, but don’t have tools yet.
Having a good VCR repairman has helped us a lot.
Breaking for lunch…
Talk “Born-digital news preservation in perspective”
There’s a shared consensus that preserving scholarly publications is important.
While delivery models have shifted, there must be some fall back to allow content to survive publisher failure.
Preservation was a joint investment between memory institutions and publishers.
Keepers register their coverage of journals for redundancy.
In studying coverage, we’ve discovered Elsevier is REALLY well covered, but they’re not what we’re worried about.
It’s the small journals as edge cases that really need more coverage.
Smaller journals don’t have resources to get into the keeper services and it’s more expensive.
Many Open Access Journals are passion projects and heavily underfunded and they are poorly covered.
Being mindful of these business dynamics is key when thinking about archiving news.
There are a handful of large news outlets that are “too big to fail.”
There are huge numbers of small outlets like subject verticals, foreign diasporas, etc. that need to be watched
Different strategies should be used for different outlets.
The material on lots of links (as sources) disappears after a short period of time.
While Archive.org is a great resource, it can’t do everything.
Preserving underlying evidence is really important.
How we deal with massive databases and queries against them are a difficult problem.
I’m not aware of studies of link rot with relationship to online news.
Who steps up to preserve major data dumps like Snowden, PanamaPapers, or email breaches?
Social media is a collection of observations and small facts without necessarily being journalism.
Journalism is a deliberate act and is meant to be public while social media is not.
We need to come up with a consensus about what parts of social media should be preserved as news..
News does often delve into social media as part of its evidence base now.
Responsible journalism should include archival storage, but it doesn’t yet.
Under current law, we can’t protect a lot of this material without the permission of the creator(s).
The Library of Congress can demand deposit, but doesn’t.
With funding issues, I’m not wild about the Library of Congress being the only entity [for storage.]
In the UK, there are multiple repositories.
testing to see if I’m still live
What happens if you livetweet too much in one day.
“News content posted by publishers will show up less prominently, resulting in less traffic to companies that have come to rely on Facebook audiences.” — Facebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family in New York Times
After reading this article, I can only think that Facebook wrongly thinks that my family is so interesting (and believe me, I don’t think I’m any better, most of my posts–much like my face–are ones which only a mother could “like”/”love” and my feed will bear that out! BTW I love you mom.) The majority of posts I see there are rehashes of so-called “news” sites I really don’t care about or invitations to participate in games like Candy Crush Saga.
While I love keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, I’ve had to very heavily modify how I organize my Facebook feed to get what I want out of it because the algorithms don’t always do a very good job. Sadly, I’m probably in the top 0.0001% of people who take advantage of any of these features.
It really kills me that although publishers see quite a lot of traffic from social media silos (and particularly Facebook), they’re still losing some sight of the power of owning your own website and posting there directly. Apparently the past history littered with examples like Zynga and social reader tools hasn’t taught them the lesson to continue to iterate on their own platforms. One day the rug will be completely pulled out from underneath them and real trouble will result. They’ll wish they’d put all their work and effort into improving their own product rather than allowing Facebook, Twitter, et al. to siphon off a lot of their resources. If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned from media over the years, it’s that owning your own means of distribution is a major key to success. Sharecropping one’s content out to social platforms is probably not a good idea while under pressure to change for the future.
Psst… With all this in mind, if you’re a family member or close friend who wants to
- have your own website;
- own your own personal data (which you can automatically syndicate to most of the common social media sites); and
- be in better control of your online identity,
I’ll offer to build you a simple one and host it at cost.
Popular physics has enjoyed a new-found regard. Now comes a brave attempt to inject mathematics into an otherwise fashionable subject
Popular physics has enjoyed a new-found regard. Now comes a brave attempt to inject mathematics into an otherwise fashionable subject
Nov 5th 2011 | from the print edition
The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen. By Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. Allen Lane; 255 pages; £20. To be published in America in January by Da Capo Press; $25.
PREVIOUSLY the preserve of dusty, tweed-jacketed academics, physics has enjoyed a surprising popular renaissance over the past few years. In America Michio Kaku, a string theorist, has penned several successful books and wowed television and radio audiences with his presentations on esoteric subjects such as the existence of wormholes and the possibility of alien life. In Britain Brian Cox, a former pop star whose music helped propel Tony Blair to power, has become the front man for physics, which recently regained its status as a popular subject in British classrooms, an effect many attribute to Mr Cox’s astonishing appeal.
Mr Cox, a particle physicist, is well-known as the presenter of two BBC television series that have attracted millions of viewers (a third series will be aired next year) and as a bestselling author and public speaker. His latest book, “The Quantum Universe”, which he co-wrote with Jeff Forshaw of the University of Manchester, breaks the rules of popular science-writing that were established over two decades ago by Stephen Hawking, who launched the modern genre with his famous book, “A Brief History of Time”.
Mr Hawking’s literary success was ascribed to his eschewing equations. One of his editors warned him that sales of the book would be halved by every equation he included; Mr Hawking inserted just one, E=mc2, and, even then, the volume acquired a sorry reputation for being bought but not read. By contrast, Mr Cox, whose previous book with Mr Forshaw investigated “Why does E=mc2?” (2009), has bravely sloshed a generous slug of mathematics throughout his texts.
The difficulties in explaining physics without using maths are longstanding. Einstein mused, “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility,” and “the fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” Yet the language in which the world is described is that of maths, a relatively sound grasp of which is needed to comprehend the difficulties that physicists are trying to resolve as well as the possible solutions. Mr Cox has secured a large fan base with his boyish good looks, his happy turns of phrase and his knack for presenting complex ideas using simple analogies. He also admirably shies away from dumbing down. “The Quantum Universe” is not a dry undergraduate text book, but nor is it a particularly easy read.
The subject matter is hard. Quantum mechanics, which describes in subatomic detail a shadowy world in which cats can be simultaneously alive and dead, is notoriously difficult to grasp. Its experiments yield bizarre results that can be explained only by embracing the maths that describe them, and its theories make outrageous predictions (such as the existence of antimatter) that have nevertheless later been verified. Messrs Cox and Forshaw say they have included the maths “mainly because it allows us to really explain why things are the way they are. Without it, we should have to resort to the physicist-guru mentality whereby we pluck profundities out of thin air, and neither author would be comfortable with guru status.”
That stance might comfort the authors, but to many readers they will nonetheless seem to pluck equations out of thin air. Yet their decision to include some of the hard stuff leaves open the possibility that some readers might actually engage in the slog that leads to higher pleasures. For non-sloggers alternative routes are offered: Messrs Cox and Forshaw use clockfaces to illustrate how particles interact with one another, a drawing of how guitar strings twang and a photograph of a vibrating drum. A diagram, rather than an equation, is used to explain one promising theory of how matter acquires mass, a question that experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, will hopefully soon answer.
The authors have wisely chosen to leaven their tome with amusing tales of dysfunctional characters among scholars who developed quantum mechanics in the 1920s and beyond, as well as with accounts of the philosophical struggles with which they grappled and the occasional earthy aside. Where the subject matter is a trifle dull, Messrs Cox and Forshaw acknowledge it: of Heinrich Kayser, who a century ago completed a six-volume reference book documenting the spectral lines generated by every known element, they observe, “He must have been great fun at dinner parties.” And they make some sweeping generalisations about their colleagues who pore over equations, “Physicists are very lazy, and they would not go to all this trouble unless it saved time in the long run.”
Whether or not readers of “The Quantum Universe” will follow all the maths, the authors’ love for their subject shines through the book. “There is no better demonstration of the power of the scientific method than quantum theory,” they write. That may be so, but physicists all over the world, Messrs Cox and Forshaw included, are longing for the next breakthrough that will supersede the claim. Hopes are pinned on experiments currently under way at CERN that may force physicists to rethink their understanding of the universe, and inspire Messrs Cox and Forshaw to write their next book—equations and all.
from the print edition | Books and arts
The Los Angeles Times published an online article entitled “Barnes & Noble says e-books outsell physical books online.” While I understand that this is a quiet holiday week, the Times should be doing better work than simply republishing press releases from corporations trying to garner post-holiday sales. Some of the thoughts they might have included:
“Customers bought or downloaded 1 million e-books on Christmas day alone”?
There is certainly no debating the continuous growth of the electronic book industry; even Amazon.com has said they’re selling more electronic books than physical books. The key word in the quoted sentence above is “or”. I seriously doubt a significant portion of the 1 million e-books were actually purchased on Christmas day. The real investigative journalism here would have discovered the percentage of free (primarily public domain) e-books that were downloaded versus those that were purchased.
Given that analysts estimate 2 million Nooks have sold (the majority within the last six months and likely the preponderance of them since Thanksgiving) this means that half of all Nook users downloaded at least one book on Christmas day. Perhaps this isn’t surprising for those who would have received a Nook as a holiday present and may have downloaded one or more e-books to test out its functionality. The real question will remain, how many of these 2 million users will actually be purchasing books in e-book format 6 months from now?
I’d also be curious to know if the analyst estimate is 2 million units sold to consumers or 2 million shipped to retail? I would bet that it is units shipped and not sold.
I hope the Times will be doing something besides transcription (or worse: cut and paste) after the holidays.