Monday, January 14, 2013

MediaWeek (V6, N2): Kno ExTextbook, Al-Mutanabbi Street, Houghton Mifflin Refinancing, + More

Kno launch ExTextbook Analytics tool that they hope will improve learning. Is it creepy? From LibraryJournal:
What’s interesting about Kno’s new analytic tools is that the company claims it will be leaving teachers and professors out of the loop. The student’s metrics and their dashboard information will be private unless they want to share information with friends.

“It’s a personal study dashboard,” Osman Rashid, CEO of Kno, told me. “It helps students measure their engagement with each Kno textbook that they use. So, students can check in to see their stats for time spent reading, notes added, flashcards mastered. This helps them monitor their progress and give them insight into how well they are studying…The more we can help students understand their own study behavior, the more they will be engaged, and the better the outcomes will be. This has everything to do with the student improving themselves, versus being a surveillance platform for everyone else to see what the student is doing.”

If a student is struggling in a particular class, he or she can use the Kno Me dashboard and request to “follow” a peer who is performing well, making an effort to mimic his or her studying habits for that class.

“There’s a social element to it,” Rashid said. “You can begin to see how other people in the class are studying for the final exam, or what else is going on. It gives them a ‘learning GPS’ for how they can better study themselves. The only time information is shared is if a student gives permission. It doesn’t automatically start sharing just because someone requested it.”
After the bombing Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad is still a long way from where it was. (Economist)
A world away, a San Francisco bookseller read about the attack in his morning paper. Beau Beausoleil, a poet and proprietor of the Great Overland Book Company, a second-hand book store, waited for the outpouring of support and outrage that would surely follow. Nothing happened. Mr Beausoleil felt compelled to act. An attack on writers and booksellers anywhere in the world was an attack on them all.

So he began an art and writing project called “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”, to express solidarity with Iraqi booksellers, writers and readers. The project started with a first wave of letterpress-printed broadsides responding to the attack and has evolved over five years to include an anthology of writing, published in August, and 260 artists’ books—unique works of art in book form—from contributors all over the world.

No one has been more amazed at this outpouring than Mr Beausoleil. The initial call for broadsides rapidly exceeded expectations; in all, 130 were printed, one for each person killed or injured. When he asked for artists’ books to commemorate those lost on al-Mutanabbi Street, double that number arrived, in various shapes and media. Some are poems, some innovative book structures; others offer visual images of Baghdad’s “Street of the Booksellers” or meditations on the value of books, using microfilm or Plexiglass or e-ink. All respond in some way to Mr Beausoleil’s request that they reflect both the attack and the “ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.”

The attack “wounded people in a very specific way,” he says. Like other writers and artists he could see that “if I were an Iraqi, that would be my street—that’s where my bookstore would be, this would be my cultural community.” The project’s title, “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”, conveys the notion that wherever someone sits down to write towards the truth, or sits down with a book, that’s where al-Mutanabbi Street starts, explains Mr Beausoleil.
Eric Shuman, the CFO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt talks to CFO magazine about their restructing (CFO):
HMH didn’t wait until it was on the brink. The 180-year-old publishing company had about $400 million in cash at the end of 2011 when CEO Linda Zecher and Shuman sat down to assess the situation and figure out the rate of burn. Although previous management believed the company had enough liquidity to make it through 2014, Shuman and Zecher’s projection showed it would hit the wall a year earlier. Thus, while HMH had some wiggle room, the executives immediately went to work on a restructuring plan. “We didn’t want to have negotiations with [creditors] when we were on our last nickel, so part of the strategy was to do it when we didn’t absolutely need to, as opposed to when we had no choice,” says Shuman. As a result, HMH retained some leverage in negotiations and had the ability “to delay the process if things weren’t going the right way.”

HMH sought full capitalization of its debt. Shuman credits Zecher with setting the goal of converting the entire $3.1 billion of debt into stock. “I think everyone was skeptical we could do it, because you almost never get that,” says Shuman. But “investors understood the situation and were willing to take an equity ride with us.” The makeup of the debt and equity holders was key. Many firms owned both equity and some of the company’s senior secured debt. “It made the process go a little more quickly than it might have had we not had the crossover,” says Shuman. It also helped that equity holders who voted in favor of the deal would get warrants exercisable for up to 5% of equity in the restructured firm.
BBC makes Space for cultural history The Digital Public Space is set to give unprecedented access to the nation's cultural heritage (BBC):
Fortunately for the archive team, incoming BBC director general Lord (Tony) Hall is very likely to be fully archive interoperable himself, having already sat on the advisory board for its first practical incarnation, The Space, in his previous job as Royal Opera House chief executive. Initially launched in May 2012 as a six-month pop-up service and extended until March 2013, The Space knits together BBC technology expertise and content from the corporation, BFI and UK arts bodies with £3.5m in Arts Council commissioning funding. Under the strapline "the arts – live, free and on demand", it has hosted live streams of Shakespeare productions at the Globe Theatre and David Shrigley's opera Pass the Spoon, while interactive ventures include Torsten Lauschmann's Digital Clock and Arena Hotel, pictured right, which reimagined the archive of the BBC's long-running arts documentary strand in the style of New York's Chelsea Hotel.

The triumph, however, was proving not just the concept but the practicalities of the Digital Public Space vision. "The real point of the Digital Public Space is not the archive — it's working together with other organisations," says Thompson, who explained the painstaking technical negotiations behind The Space over linked data and metadata, cataloguing, file formats and streaming that identified and ironed out many of the key principles of collaboration.
From Twitter:

Academics are overwhelmed by email solicitations - Chronicle

Looking for EdTech Nuggets from CES | Inside Higher Ed InsideHigherED

Why There Are Only 100 Copies Of The New Bob Dylan Record NPR "The Copyright Extension Collection, Volume 1"

The return of David Bowie: Golden years? The Economist

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