Saturday, May 31, 2014

Image Boston: North Street & Paul Revere House

I had a really good dinner at Mamma Maria's this week.  In this photo from 1971 the restaurant is in the house that has the white store sign (ABRU).  Not having been here before the location was immediately recognisable to be (and hasn't changed) because of this photo.

North Street & Paul Revere House: 1971

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Amazon Warehouse Robots

This is from 2011 but still impressive.

Amazon was so impressed they bought the robot: (Youtube)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MediaWeek (V7, N16): Clearing Libraries, Upworthy-King of Content, Uncertain Book start-ups + More

PND Weekly roundup also on flipboard:

What of the digital humanities (with a great photo of the British Library)
And such a critical, creative, and imaginative engagement between “the digital” and “the humanities” requires an expansion of the field of humanistic inquiry in ways that leverage the power of data sets, computational analyses, design-centered thinking, and the interpretation of cultural repositories that far exceed the cognitive or analytical abilities of the normative Humanist. The task requires well-informed critical methods and forms of interrogation that belong to the present age, not the sorry “posture of skepticism” that Kirsch imagines in his urge to enforce simpleminded dichotomies. Nobody is arguing that the “digital humanities” are handing over reading, writing, thinking, and creating to “the computer,” which spits out data as culturally redundant truisms. Instead, we advocate for emerging genres, methods, knowledge formations, and new publics for the humanities, which not only use but also design digital tools to, among other things, animate archives in new ways, map and visualize data at scale, test assumptions and hypotheses rooted in source material using gaming environments and virtual worlds technologies, and provide new models of access to and engagement with knowledge.
More and more libraries are clearing out the books and Slate joins the band wagon:
But there’s one wholly unsentimental reason the stacks are both vital and irreplaceable, and that brings us back to Colby’s decision to replace theirs with a gleaming shrine to the corporate bottom line. As more of the books disappear from college libraries, the people in charge of funding those libraries will be more tempted to co-opt that space for events that bring in revenue, or entice students for the wrong reasons: food courts. Gaming lounges. I expect rock-climbing walls soon. Unless administrators make a protracted effort to preserve the contemplative and studious feeling, that feeling will disappear altogether, and the whatever-brary will become just another Jamba Juice.
Right now, the most powerful weapon in the fight to keep just one space on the entire campus dedicated to the preservation, creation, and dissemination of knowledge (a.k.a. the alleged sole purpose of the university) is the book. These obsolete cloth-bound relics—the way they smell, their very omnipresence in your field of vision; the way they carry with them centuries of past perusal—are currently the university’s strongest, if not sole, signifier of a contemplative, intellectual space. With the stacks there, a library’s architect creates spaces around the books, thus cementing their omnipresence as near-animate psychological enforcers. (There’s also the small matter that you only have to buy a book once; digital resources are licensed, and their prices increase every year!)
Upworthy - The King of Content. From CJR:
These subtle tweaks, with no change to the underlying content, have powerful results: Upworthy’s repackaged videos and articles receive an average of 75,000 likes per post on Facebook, about 12 times that of any other news organization, and the site spiked to 87 million unique viewers last December. Each view is more powerful because Upworthy doesn’t just entice readers to look, it encourages them through a swath of buttons on its homepage to share. This mastery of Facebook means that Upworthy reworkings produce significantly more views than the originals, whose creators are placed in an odd position. Upworthy works as a scavenger, drawing huge traffic to its own site by repurposing other people’s material. But to the original creators Upworthy brings new eyes; often the trickle-down traffic from people clicking to the original post (from a modest link published under each Upworthy article) is far greater than the viewership the organization could cultivate on its own.

Upworthy’s founders argue they’re not scavengers, they’re salvagers—and their acts of reclamation are making the world a better place. Most viral stories are not meaningful—think BuzzFeed’s “19 Cats Who Have Absolutely Had It” oeuvre—while Upworthy traffics in important topics: climate change, Afghanistan, gender discrimination, racism. And lifting these kinds of stories can transform the internet, they claim. “At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful,” reads the site’s founding statement. “But everything on has a little of both.”

The ability to alter content into sharable nuggets of gold could also prove a powerful boon to advertisers: Up until this point, Upworthy hasn’t sold ads, but in April they put forward a unique strategy built around native advertising. Titled “Upworthy Collaborations,” the idea is to wave a magic wand over the advertising videos of paying brands in the same way the site does for news content. The first to line up is Unilever, the third-largest global consumer goods company, and a brand currently pitching itself as socially responsible when it comes to sustainability.
Laura Hazard over at GigaOm looks at book start-ups:
Any company that comes along trying to reinvent book publishing is competing not only with traditional book publishers but also with Amazon, which is almost 20 years old but keeps finding new ways to shake things up. Print book buying continues to move online and Amazon, which is now delivering on Sundays and offering same-day delivery in a growing number of cities, has a lock on that business. Kindle, launched in 2007, is the dominant ebook reading platform and Amazon is continually rolling out improvements to the Kindle e-reader and Kindle apps — sharing, search and so on — that rival what many startups have tried to do.
More on flipboard

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Blurb Acquires HP's MagCloud

Blurb and HP announced a licensing agreement today which effectively transfers existing customers of the HP MagCloud product to Blurb.   MagCloud was developed out of HP labs to provide digital on-demand publishing options for magazine publishers - particularly self-publishing magazine publishers.

Blurb will absorb all the operational components of the MagCloud product onto the Blurb publishing platform over the next three months.  Blurb is generally known for its book publishing platform therefore these magazine capabilities should broaden Blurb's appeal to more businesses and individuals which want to create different types of publishing products.  HP have long been interested in developing new applications that leverage their hardware print capabilities and invested in numerous initiatives out of their Labs product center.  Much of that activity developed several years ago around the same time as companies like Blurb were emerging to provide sophisticated printing solutions to consumers.  While HP were always looking for killer applications that encouraged investment and purchase of their equipment they we also active boosters of tools and products like the Blurb products.  As the press release from Blurb notes the two companies have been partners for many years and the absorption of MagCloud could be viewed as a continuation of that partnership.

This deal is also the death knell for HP's investment in the new technology that sought to push the market of their hardware.  Whether their Labs program ever made a significant difference is probably debatable but there were some interesting products that came out of the Labs such as MagCloud, virtual printing apps and technology that could clean-up digital files.

From the press release:
This licensing agreement is a natural one given both brands' focus on enabling creative individuals to produce quality products that reflect the power of their work – both in print and ebook form. Working together is nothing new for Blurb and HP. HP’s MagCloud, invented by HP Labs in 2008, created a network of users publishing magazines on-demand using HP Indigo commercial printing presses. Blurb's global print-on-demand network is also based on HP Indigo printing presses.
“Blurb and HP have a longstanding relationship dating back to the origin of Blurb in 2006, so the foundation exists to make this transition successful,” said Eileen Gittins, founder and CEO, Blurb. “Further to the relationship however, the magazine at this moment in time represents the perfect intersection of technology, culture, and media: Beautifully designed short-form reading, with multiple contributors, in print, and as an ebook. In this context, the magazine as a genre is very strategic for Blurb. Indie magazines are experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and we’re thrilled to welcome MagCloud customers to the Blurb fold.”
“Since the inception of MagCloud as an HP Labs innovation to its current commercial success, we’ve strived to democratize the face of magazine publishing,” said Andrew Bolwell, general manager, HP MagCloud. “As a long-time HP customer and pioneer of the self-publishing industry, Blurb is the right company to take on the MagCloud business at this point in time.”
Existing MagCloud customers will not notice any immediate changes. Current and new publications will still be available to print, sell, and distribute through MagCloud just as they are today. MagCloud customers joining Blurb’s ecosystem will gain many new benefits, including access to:
  • Precision design tools – like the recently released Blurb BookWright™ – to help them design their magazines
  • Offset printing options for greater cost savings
  • Unprecedented global reach across 80+ countries of Blurb’s platform
  • The Blurb Bookstore and third-party marketplaces
Blurb is in the middle of its most exciting year yet. From its recently announced new precision print and ebook tool called BookWright, its seamless integration with Amazon distribution, and new offset, warehousing, and fulfillment services, 2014 promises to be big.

Monday, May 05, 2014

MediaWeek (V7, N18): Metadata Harvesting, Death of the Novel, Ed Innovations Conference + more

This weeks selection on FlipBoard

A presentation on that describes how to take metadata from HathiTrust and Pubmed:
This presentation will describe Cornell University Library efforts to provide an "afterlife" to The Cornell Veterinarian by leveraging a number of disparate initiatives and metadata sources. While attempting to build article level linking to full-text in HathiTrust (functionality currently unavailable), limitations in the metadata captured during the scanning process were uncovered. The speaker will delineate these metadata findings and provide strategies (some scalable, others highly labor intensive) for gathering the necessary metadata for creating direct links to articles found in HathiTrust. 

A dispatch in Inside HigherEd from the Education Innovations Summit where impatience may be brewing:
“At a national level, there is no evidence that educational technology has reduced the cost of education yet or improved the efficacy of education,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “And that’s just as true as it gets. Maybe there will be some day, but that’s the question: How much longer do we think it will take before we can detect movement on the national needle?”
During the summit’s first two days, speakers identified well-known issues such as the rising cost of higher education, stagnant graduation and retention rates, and stubborn levels of unemployment among recent graduates. The proffered solution, in many cases, was a renewed promise of the disruptive powers of technology -- often wrapped in a sales pitch.
“Every one of these companies has -- at least most of them -- some story of a school or a classroom or a student or whatever that they’ve made some kind of impact on, either a qualitative story or some real data on learning improvement,” Busteed said. “You would think that with hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions now, that’s been plowed into ed-tech investments ... and all the years and all the efforts of all these companies to really move the needle, we ought to see some national-level movement in those indicators.”

Will Self thinks the novel is dead and it's not coming back to life. (Guardian)
My canary is a perceptive songbird – he immediately ceased his own cheeping, except to chirrup: I see what you mean. The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Let me refine my terms: I do not mean narrative prose fiction tout court is dying – the kidult boywizardsroman and the soft sadomasochistic porn fantasy are clearly in rude good health. And nor do I mean that serious novels will either cease to be written or read. But what is already no longer the case is the situation that obtained when I was a young man. In the early 1980s, and I would argue throughout the second half of the last century, the literary novel was perceived to be the prince of art forms, the cultural capstone and the apogee of creative endeavour. The capability words have when arranged sequentially to both mimic the free flow of human thought and investigate the physical expressions and interactions of thinking subjects; the way they may be shaped into a believable simulacrum of either the commonsensical world, or any number of invented ones; and the capability of the extended prose form itself, which, unlike any other art form, is able to enact self-analysis, to describe other aesthetic modes and even mimic them. All this led to a general acknowledgment: the novel was the true Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk.
From twitter this week:
News Corp to buy Torstar's romance publisher Harlequin Amazing this deal hadn't been done yrs ago.
With free web courses, Wharton seeks edge in traditional programs
Sad Ending to Ladies’ Home Journal’s Era