Thursday, December 19, 2013

MediaWeek (Vol 7, N 50): Boundless reprieve, Tablet reading, Blackrock, IT Departments, Digital Film.

Boundless an innovative textbook start-up announced yesterday that they have settled a law suit brought against them by several large pubishing companies which accused the company of copyright violations.  (Chronicle)
The publishers’ suit alleged that Boundless had boasted that “they copy the precise selection, structure, organization, and depth of coverage of plaintiffs’ textbooks and then map in substitute text, right down to duplicating plaintiffs’ pagination.” Boundless argued, however, that the publishers were suing over beta-version material that was subsequently withdrawn and replaced by offerings built on open educational resources.
Ariel Diaz, the Boundless founder and chief executive, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the company “now has a clear path for building and marketing its OER-driven textbook alternatives without treading upon the plaintiffs’ rights, and it is confident that it is in compliance and will not have further legal issues with the plaintiff publishers.” The publishing companies, he added, “look forward to Boundless operating its business within the agreed-upon framework,” though he did not say what that was.

Are tablets really good in encouraging children to get immersed in reading? (Atlantic):
Best-selling children’s author Julia Donaldson, whose picture books dominate top 10 lists, explains why she vetoed an e-book version of her most famous title, The Gruffalo, in a 2011 article in the Guardian. “The publishers showed me an e-book ofAlice in Wonderland,” Donaldson said. “They said, ‘Look, you can press buttons and do this and that,’ and they showed me the page where Alice’s neck gets longer,” said Donaldson. “There’s a button the child can press to make the neck stretch, and I thought, well, if the child’s doing that, they are not going to be listening or reading.”

The typical argument for interactive stories goes like this: Soon enough, children will only read on screens, and where readers are going, publishers must follow. Kate Wilson, the founder of children’s publisher Nosy Crow argues that publishers must create reading experiences for touch-screen devices so that children will continue to read. “We shouldn’t go a little way down the digital path or do it half-heartedly and with reluctance,” she writes. “We should, I think, go to where our readers are going, and make sure that they read along the way.”
From The Economist, I found this article on Blackrock very interesting.  What you can do with data on a mega basis:
But “Aladdin”, the risk-management platform that occupies all those computers in the orchards, is not just used to look after BlackRock’s $4 trillion. The firm makes its facilities available in whole or in part to managers looking after $11 trillion more, a tally that has recently been growing by about $1 trillion a year. All told, Aladdin keeps its eyes on almost 7% of the world’s $225 trillion of financial assets. This is unprecedented—and it means flaws in the system could matter to more than just BlackRock, its investors and its customers. If that much money is being managed by people who all think with the same tools, it may be managed by people all predisposed to the same mistakes.
The system is based on a large and, its creators say, particularly well quality-controlled trove of historical data. On the basis of that information it uses “Monte Carlo” methods, which produce a large, randomly generated sample of the huge range of possible futures, to build up a statistical picture of what could happen to all sorts of stocks and bonds under a range of future conditions. These risk assessments cover both likely futures that matter day-to-day, and less probable but highly salient ones. A portfolio can, say, be stress-tested by being put through market turmoil modelled on that which followed Lehman Brothers’ collapse, to see what happens. Users can see their portfolio’s predicted response to a “tapering” of the Federal Reserve’s asset-buying programme or to the onset of a global flu pandemic.
The aim is not just to figure out how each stock, bond and derivative in a portfolio would move. It is also to check how correlated those movements are, and how that correlation could amplify a shock. For example: combining shares in an Indonesian bank, a bond issued by a European power company and a basket of mortgages secured on Canadian shopping malls might seem like a sensibly diversified portfolio. But some changes in credit availability might set them all tumbling. That is the sort of thing that Aladdin, having tracked such assets through previous crises, is meant to spot. Armed with insights from these simulations, traders managing large, complex portfolios can tweak their holdings accordingly.

And from the same Economist issue on IT departments and their struggles to keep up.
In theory, this is a fine opportunity for the IT department to place itself right at the centre of corporate strategy. In practice, the rest of the company is not always sure that the IT guys are up to the job—and they are often prepared to buy their own IT from outsiders if need be. Worse, it seems that a lot of IT guys doubt their own ability to keep up with the pace of the digital age. According to Dave Aron of Gartner, a research firm, in a recent survey of chief information officers around the world just over half agreed that both their businesses and their IT organisations were “in real danger” from a “digital tsunami”. “Some feel excited, some feel threatened,” says Mr Aron, “but nobody feels like it’s boring and business as usual.”
One reason for worry is that IT bosses are conservative by habit and with good reason. Above all they must keep essential systems running—and safe. Those systems are under continual attack. If they are breached, the head of IT carries the can. More broadly, IT departments like to know who is up to what. Many of them gave up one battle long ago, by letting staff choose their own smartphones (a trend known as “bring your own device”). When the chief executive insists on an iPhone rather than a fogeyish BlackBerry, it is hard to refuse.
Many years ago in one of my annual predictions, I suggested great things would come from digital distribution of movie films obviating the need to physical film distribution.  We may finally be there.  Economist
This new breed of programming is made possible by the spread of digital technology. Cinemas no longer rely on the delivery of 35mm reels, now that pictures can be delivered over satellite or broadband connections. Cinema-owners can make fuller use of their screens, and audiences see delights they would otherwise miss. “We have a presence in 78 Mexican cities,” says Alejandro Ramirez, the boss of CinĂ©polis, which runs plush cinemas in the Americas and India. “In the vast majority of these cities, there is no opera,” he notes. So far this year nearly 300,000 people worldwide have gone to see opera and other “alternative programming”, such as “Cirque du Soleil 3D”, a circus performance, at CinĂ©polis’s theatres.
Cinema-owners want to do more than beam in events. For instance, Tim Richards, the founder of Vue Cinemas, which operates chains in Europe and Taiwan, predicts that theatres will be rented during off-peak hours to video-game players to display contests on the big screen. “We are not trying to displace Hollywood films,” he says. “All we are trying to do is make better use of the assets we have.”

No comments: