You can have whatever you like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Codices have been around for more than 500 years, they have evolved over the years to now become e-books. E-books have evolved to have many different formats for different devices (e.g. Kindle, nooks, etc). Their portability and accessibility were taken many steps further and now we have audiobooks.

Every single person has their own way to learn and reacts differently to new information. I don’t think audiobooks are a form of reading, rather they are an experiential medium for users with different capabilities. for people who prefer to listen rather than (physically) engage completely.

I think it’s a matter of investment: sometimes you want to be 100% focused on a medium: with your eyes, body, and hands e.g. with a book. Sometimes you just want to listen while doing something else e.g. audiobook, podcast, radio. Avvai, my class fellow, likes to listen to audiobooks while following along with the physical book in front of her. It’s not right or wrong, it’s her preferred way of experiencing a narrative.

All the different mediums/platforms to read out there, have an audience: which makes me believe they are wanted by someone. There is a gap in the market which these services fulfilled e.g. nook, kindle, audible, apple books, etc. They all get traffic: in this world, if they are up and running it means they are useful for someone somewhere. As a designer, I know that no one design/system can fully satisfy everyone; even if said system is very sophisticated.

When I was young, graphics novels and comic books were frowned upon by my parents as they were not considered reading. Consequently, I was never allowed to buy a comic book. Instead, I would sneak Archie comics from my friends or read them in book shops, hidden from parental eyes. Now, I am firm that reading in its traditional form is not the best medium for every single person. Many people respond to graphic medium much more than they do to traditional codices. A nice way to tell learners apart is when given a new appliance to install, do they read the instruction manual or do they put on a youtube video.

I do not think any one form is superior as compared to another, they all serve different purposes and cater to different audiences. they are not stealing each others’ markets/users. Everyone out there has a different preference and unique way of learning that it is wrong to consider one medium “better” than another.

Google and I have grown (separately) since January 2019

I walked into PUB802 expecting to learn to code and walk away with being able to comprehend the backend working of technological magic. However, this class helped me gather vocabulary about publishing technologies and create opinions about the implications of feudalism on the internet.

 

I always figured there was lots going on at the back of the internet, but it was always a vague curiosity and not something I actively tried to figure out. This course helped me answer many random unanswered questions while equipping me with the vocabulary and confidence to speak about technology.
I never had the opportunity to actively try and figure out how digital technologies evolved so quickly and entered seamlessly into our lives. The front end of technology (hardware, the advertising of products) is so glamorous, flashy and attractive that, growing up, I never really thought it was important to keep up with the back end advances in the field.

The physicality of all things internet was an eye-opener: we, as a generation, use the internet as a common everyday feature without most of us diving into the back end working and logistics. I feel it is like using a refrigerator: very few people actually go out and learn how one works and yet it is an absolute necessity in this time and age.

There were some topics covered in class, that had a profound impact on how I think about technology. Understanding all the consent we have given to big companies (google and facebook) and the amount of control it gives them over our online experience is mind-boggling. I wish I understood the perils of over-sharing online, earlier in life.

I did NOT realize how cool and helpful metadata can be: the idea of having a system that collects key information about published content and makes it easy to search, reference and store blows my mind.

My previous experiences with publishing technologies

I had worked with WordPress beforehand, writing articles and editing for a digital magazine, so it was not a completely new experience. However, tagging (metadata!!!) was a new idea and I saw how easy searching and compiling became after the use of careful tagging.

I did not know the real way to write/edit a Wikipedia article and it was neat to know that it is a very collaborative platform with people who check and make sure everything is up to standard and format.

My thoughts and opinions now

Alex Singh’s twitter thread taught me the metaphor of nomadism and feudalism. Growing up with technologies that gradually grew in power, at an accelerated pace, and took over everything (online advertising, networking, maps, even online versions of word, excel, and powerpoint) was something I had never consciously registered. The early classes set the premise for a new understanding of tech giants.

I also understood the struggles and challenges faces by publishing platforms and crowdfunding: it is not easy to come up with ways to earn money online for providing quality content.

I feel that technology is a tool that greatly improves human life in every aspect imaginable. What unsettles me, however, is the uninformed intervention of third powerful party which swoops in and uses the (seemingly private) information to make money. My main takeaway from the course is that data privacy and the consequences of over-sharing online should be taught to children in schools.

 

Data: My Preciou$

It is impossible to not feel diabolical if I, as a publisher, had access to any data.  I think I will have to encroach on personal privacy if I want to take vastly beneficial decisions for my publishing house.

Firstly, I would figure out geographical interest clusters in the country i.e. figuring out where lots of my target audience lives so I can arrange author tours, book signings, events, and launches nearby. I would consequently also know what time and days of the week they are in the mood to shop/attend events.

I would also, obviously, employ data analyzers to figure out trends in the market and ride those waves. One of the ways I would do that is to metadata my slush pile and pick out relevant manuscripts that can maneuver the trend waves, instead of killing my young, exhausted intern.

I have noticed that Netflix shows are a common conversation starter among young people with spending liberty. If we can understand the trends (excluding the unexpected booms of a new genre), I would like to have Netflix on board. If I can have access to their data, then I would collaborate with Netflix and create a TV series which are based on the series of books we are publishing (which would be a season ahead). That way, fans of the TV show would buy books produced by my publishing house, if they want to get ahead of the show and know what happens next before the next season.

I also think there is a lot of untapped international market. North American publishers tend to be hesitant circulating outside the continent. This is understandable since publishing is oft times a gamble even in the continent, but since I have access to all the data in the world, I can capitalize on this opportunity. I would purchase world media rights to books with themes that are “on-trend”. Following international markets are translations: with all the right data, I can translate the on-trend books, work with international retailers, libraries, and warehouses to place my books in the hands of people that really care about the subject matter.

Children’s books are a big seller and can be sold in different regions of the world since every parent loves the idea of a genius child(ren). There are numerous studies that can be used as awareness campaigns to encourage young parents to buy books for their children in any part of the world, with a reasonable literacy rate.

I am certain that as a publisher, I would have to invade privacy if it came at the cost of unlimited data: which is a great opportunity to take the book industry outside of North America.

 

 

 

Mega-Metadata

An easy way for me to wrap my head around metadata was the hashtagging style: a style of tagging that rose to popularity while I was a digitally active teenager. An idea launched into the Twitter ether by former Google developer, Chris Messina, would help sort and categorize ideas, without the need for any special backend working or any sort of coding knowledge. “He chose the # symbol because it was an easy keyboard character to reach on his 2007 Nokia feature phone and other techies were already using it in other internet chat systems”, as explained in this article.

As it usually happens when change is introduced, Messina’s new idea got its fair share of hate. He said:

People were like, that’s weird, that’s kind of dumb.

Yet it was an idea that caught on. Now, hashtags are decided, created and user tested before campaigns are formally launched on social media; the hashtag being of prime importance to decide the campaign’s social media success. A very successful example is the recent #metoo hashtag; with global reach, it is now called the #metoo movement.

Similarly, metadata is easily explained by Edward Nawotka as

All of the information associated with a book or publication that is used to produce, publish, distribute, market, promote and sell the book.

In the publishing realm, perfect metadata can better serve niche audiences. In addition to word of mouth, mega-metadata can round up the thematic content in one place. Similar keywords would yield consolidated searches, thus making discovering a particular genre or topic relatively more straight forward.

Secondly, I think algorithms could improve. Mega-metadata means the algorithm could respond to our queries in an exact way and maybe even give perfect suggestions.

Thirdly, I feel that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) would have to be re-worked or maybe even eradicated since people would be able to find what they wanted with a couple of correct keywords. Maybe there would be a website that has an anthology of all the keywords ever registered! I imagine it would look like Craigslist (hopefully with a less offensive blue). Mega-metadata has the power to make finding/searching more convenient, although it asks for a painstaking categorization and curation of information at the publishers’ end.

I’m not very certain but I also think that marketing would not be the same as it is today. Book Marketers/Publicists would have to change tactics to work around equally discoverable titles in a sea of keywords. Since searching for a particular keyword could bring forth all the relevant titles, marketing might have to go through some extra steps to get a particular book noticed. Everyone could get the same amount of exposure; it would be just “fads” dictating the bestsellers’ lists.

I’m kind of excited for this: since I often fail to find a similarly themed book without going through Reddit (which, for me, is the least credible source). My quest for engrossing content leads me on many online voyages which costs me time and effort (not to mention being an excellent way to procrastinate).

It is a concept too good to be true, but maybe we see mega-metadata in a couple of years.

Can we fix it?

In Emerging Leaders Week, there were many discussions on storytelling. Industry professionals placed good storytelling above good design, advertising, and marketing. This made me think about the donor-based business models. As the content creation industry develops, creators feel the need to come up with new and intriguing serialized content. To support on-time delivery of the content, creators have given consumers the opportunity to help by setting up accounts on Patreon and the like. The key to creating a revenue stream from being creative is to build an audience. Storytelling of any sort needs to find its audience and when it does, things do take off as Kurtis Baute’s YouTube channel did.

Patreon is a crowdfunding site for ongoing content creation, not single projects of the type Kickstarter is targeted at. Patreon helps build a community around an artist and gives them the opportunity to try out crowdfunding and see if it works for them.

Lupa, a nature enthusiast and a costume creator from Oregon, Portland, speaks about her Patreon experience. She likes the fact that she has a bunch of people interested in what she creates and are willing to help her out financially; she feels that it boosts her creative abilities. Lupa explains that Patreon takes a sizeable cut (from $531 in pledges at the beginning of the month to $463 in her bank account) which is more than the 5% cut Patreon talks about in their FAQ.

Like with Facebook, Instagram, and Google, the challenges of a business model rising to be the best in its category is the amount of care given to the actual consumer. The people who pledge donations on Patreon are doing it purely out of goodwill to the artist(s). The challenge with one dominant business model is when it fails to evolve. The sign of growth is constant change and evolution. With business models of today, successful evolution becomes a difficult beast to slay. Patreon had been going at it with 85% of all pledges going to the creators until 2017 when they announced the change: creators were now going to get 90% of all pledges. This sounds great, right?! But this change was at the expense of the pledgers having to pay extra to cover up for that 5% gap. In other words, this made it more expensive to support multiple creators, to support creators who made more than one thing per month, or to support creators with a small donation.

The biggest challenge is trying to figure out a way to monetize the value and hard work that goes into creating content; then trying to charge the creator and the donator a fair amount for an exchange. It will be a happy day if someone can figure out an honest way to do so on the “Internet of Things”.

 

 

small>MEDIUM>large

The Medium model is a fair exchange. They provide human-curated content which is properly edited for clarity and brevity. In turn, the user pays for access to this content. Of all such sites, I feel Medium is the most transparent and elegant. Evan Williams and his team clearly voice their dislike of the exploitation of writers and thus Medium set up a pay-wall to judiciously compensate contributors and ask for a fair payment for their effort. I really like the Medium model because it benefits everyone involved: the readers, the writers and the mediator themselves.

Most of my class fellows are hesitant to pay for Medium, which is mostly just text and requires active attention. It is easy to understand why they would rather pay for services like Netflix/Spotify: these services entertain and help unwind. At the end of the day, no one wants to log on to Medium and read some well-written articles.

An article I found on Medium talks about how the platform is the same before and after a subscription. This person writes for Medium themselves and they fail to understand the entire reasoning of this pay-wall. The pay-wall guarantees that Medium’s writers get paid. Medium subscription is like monitored patronage which subscribers take part in. The user becomes a patron to the content creators.

Another reason why I like the Medium model is that it has no ads, which means users’ data is not being sold to bigger companies that will exploit said data to place pesky ads. Services like Spotify that offer “free” versions are not really free either: they take users’ data and manipulate it to place ads, interrupting the user experience. It’s a free market of content that anyone can utilize in order to share their unique thoughts and perspective.

I am especially influenced by Medium’s Do Not Track (“DNT”) browser settings. Medium explains this:

If you are browsing with DNT enabled, you can read Medium in the logged-out state and our analytics will not receive information about you. Also, embeds within a page (such as a YouTube video) will not load without your actively clicking through a DNT overlay. By doing this, we allow you to choose whether any data is sent to a third-party embed before it is sent. If you click into an embed while browsing DNT, it may cause data to be sent to the third-party hosting the embed.

Medium’s answering call to my worries about being tracked through the internet is why I have a soft spot for the platform and the decisions it has taken to keep itself afloat.

 

 

Personality++

I came to internet consciousness while the blogging wave was kind of dying. Things moved rapidly from there. With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sucking up most of my online attention. Most of my age-fellows have a similar early memory of the internet.

However, the past few weeks have given the internet a personality I could not possibly have known about. Blogging-era sounds like a very mature, intelligent online space. A space where only people with some credit and a degree of intelligence were heard and had a voice. With no pictures, videos and similar gimmicks to distract the online user, the text had to be tasty. Bloggers were intelligent people, with smart, relevant opinions and a gift of the gab. That was how you attracted an online following. It was hard work that asked for diligence, time and consistency.

The contrast between then and now is stark. This contrast only emphasizes the fact that nowadays you just need to look a certain way to be internet-famous. The authors are right to be nostalgic since they would put in so much effort into one blog post and have it reach a small, interested audience; whereas now an “influencer” need only post a well-edited image and gain a wider audience that responds fiercely.

I appreciate this fierce response. I appreciate the fact that there is a little somethin’-somethin’ for everybody. Online, an old person with a passion for Salmon runs is as catered to a three-year-old’s crazy obsession with Baby Shark.

The authors’ reflections have brought about a change in how I feel about the internet: I feel a little warmer towards it. The internet is being sculpted into something new and I might be nostalgic about something ten years down the line.

The Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers

There is a saying in Urdu, my national language:

پانچھوں انگلیاں برابر نہیں ہوتیں۔

“None of the five fingers on your hand are the same size”

It is a very common saying, often muttered when someone’s perspective is poles apart from your own.

In any society, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of thinking. Every person has a completely different worldview, their own set of experiences and style of expression. Similarly, every single person feels very differently about the Web. I do not think I have lived in Vancouver long enough to testify about her society. I will elaborate on what I do know.

Personally, I am 70:30 never-better:better-never. We live in fun times: the Web has given us this delicious liberty to camouflage who we are in our normal analog lives. We can choose who we want to be online. Evidently enough, it has as many cons as it does pros. We have all heard the horror tales of privacy astray. The tiny better-never part of my feelings toward the Web is because of the tactics used to extract personal information. The ability to share goes hand-in-hand with the fear of possible mistreatment. It is deeply unsettling to know that every “private” conversation can be manipulated by anyone with a moderate amount of technological skill. A big fear for me is sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, e.g. banking information or cellphone number.

But the optimist in me loves the fact that I can find out the size of beavers’ teeth in less than 30 seconds with the Web. I use this anonymity to ask Ms. Google questions; questions and concerns which would be trite for a person to person interaction. This hoard of information and resources available to me through the web makes me a never-better.