What Inspires You? Here’s a List of 26 Awesome Projects and Stories

By Cmglee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cmglee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The world is full of fun, creative people. Every day, I hear about awesome projects. They’re so cool, I want to share them here. Though they’re not all book-related, they are media related, and since technology is bringing all kinds of different media together, it’s good to know what kinds of things different kinds of creators are making. (Also including some stories that are just plain inspiring.) Continue reading

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Looking for Innovative Stories? Here’s a List of Ebooks, Apps, Websites, Games, and More

Ebooks, or maybe I should say stories, come in all shapes and sizes: EPUB, apps, virtual reality, games, and more. If you want to see some exciting, innovative new forms of storytelling, check out this list (sure devices have some limitations and enhanced ebooks haven’t exactly taken off yet, but there are ways to make ebooks great): Continue reading

New Ways to Read

reading

You’ve heard it all before. Startups, new websites, and even big powerhouses are all developing technology to disrupt how we collaborate, publish, and read. Today I want to focus on all the new ways we can read and absorb content. Sure, there are e-books, and there are even enhanced e-books with videos, but I’ve compiled a list of sources that have created either new ways to organize content, interpret content, or take in/learn content. Continue reading

Living in a Sci-Fi World

CES (Consumer Electronics Association) was last week, and companies demoed a lot of really cool gadgets. One I think is worth sharing is a product by Tactus, a company in California. Tactus developed a screen that can turn into a flat tablet into something with actual bumpy buttons, to make it easier to type. When you’re not using the typepad, the buttons just disappear back into the screen, making it flat again. Click here to watch the video for more details–it’s pretty awesome.

The Coming of Age of E-Textbooks?

I’m not as familiar with what’s going on with e-textbooks, but there seems to have been a lot of exciting developments recently.

One thing I often hear about e-textbooks is that, despite the expectation that young people, particularly college students, would be the first to eagerly adopt all things digital, most students don’t like e-textbooks as much as physical books. The main reason is that there is no good way yet to take notes or highlight, though some college students have also told me it’s too expensive to buy a tablet, and they prefer renting textbooks via websites when possible. Continue reading

New Ways of Storytelling

Technology is exciting, and it makes it possible to find innovative ways to tell stories. I’ve found a few companies/sites that are experimenting with the way people share their stories.

  1. Cowbird: lets you tell stories that fit in to one word categories via pictures of videos.
  2. FacebookStories: shows off interesting ways people use Facebook.
  3. Javascript book review: Robin Sloan, a writer and media inventor in California, recently wrote a book review in Javascript. You can follow along with the video and type Javascript code in to the browser, and then see the review (pictured above).
  4. Apocalypsis: Bastei Entertainment created Apocalypsis, a serialized multimedia web novel that released in Germany over the course of 12 weeks. Each week, a new episode (similar to chapter) was published as an e-book and an app, with different prices for single episodes and bundles.

Tracking Twitter at the New York Times

When I think of The New York Times, I do not think of technology. Yet, the newspaper has a sophisticated Research and Development Lab, which has been finding new ways for the company to make money in the digital age.

I had the opportunity to tour the R&D Lab a few weeks ago, and now I can share one of the things I learned. NYT tracks the life of all their stories on Twitter. Basically, the Times keeps track of who shares links to their articles on Twitter, when they share those links, and how their tweets spread and are shared with other people. What they’ve found is certain people on Twitter attract people with numerous followers, and some of their articles have a life span of 48 hours or more–a long time in the online space. What’s the significance of this? Well, one thing the NYT can do is target ads or use this information to see the lifespan of their articles. Articles still of interest can then be bought or at least easily found. It’s a big, interesting step towards monetizing the web.

To read the full article and see video of how the R&D Lab works, click here.

Finally, an Optimistic Look at the Media

View of Washington Square from the Kimmel Center at NYU

That’s basically how the mandatory The Case for Media Optimism panel was described to us NYU publishing kids. I was skeptical about how the panel last night would go. After all, for the past five years of so all I’ve heard is about the death of print, the death of journalism, the death of media, etc. But I was pleasantly surprised.

The panel was moderated by David Carr, the media columnist for The New York Times, and participants included Dennis Crowley, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Foursquare, Steve Grove, the head of news and politics of YouTube at Google, David Eun, president of AOL Media and Studios, AOL, Inc., and David Karp, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tumblr.

If this group of people accurately represents the current media and technology industry, then there are a couple interesting observations. First, this panel was entirely comprised of men. For the most part, they were men under 30 or at the most, in their early 30s. Only two of them wore suits, the rest were in jeans, and one even came in a hoodie (which seems promising for someone like me who doesn’t like getting dressed up but wants to get into the publishing industry). Also, three of them were named David. There was going to be a fourth David, but he had to cancel last minute and instead was replaced by Grove. So it seems in order to be successful in this industry, I have to be a young man named David.

But all kidding aside, the top people in publishing seem to be men. Publisher’s Weekly cites that 85 percent of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women. And yet, woman on average make $64,000 per year whereas men in the industry make $105,000. In the case where media meets technology, I suppose it makes sense the top people are male, since it’s mostly men who do computer programming. Still…

Also, the publishing industry is getting younger. The lines between media companies and technology companies are blurring–each of these men considered their company to be a bit of both–and unlike the old days, no one starts small and works their way up the corporate ladder anymore. Which makes now a great time to be in the business. Instead of asking for permission, you just go for it.

“These are people who saw something and built it, who thought of something and made it,” Carr said.

Karp, from Tumblr, said that from the last 10 years, blogging has matured into Tumblr. In addition to sharing your own content, you can easily pull in content from other people and feature it on your own blog. Videos, songs, quotes, photos–you name it, you can easily add it to your Tumblr blog. Newsweek started a blog a while back called Equality Myth. At first it was just a feature story meant to run in the magazine, but the author decided to create a blog and ask the community for input. It has since turned into a huge hit, that according to Karp, “will possibly survive Newsweek.” The key to its success was that it was a great thing for the community.

Grove, from Google, called YouTube a “platform.” “We’re defined by our users who upload content to our platform,” he said. The point of YouTube is to increase access to information and to improve consumers’ experience. But it is also important to bridge technology and media. Writers are still important.

According to Grove, “No technology completely on its own is going to get news right. You need journalists.” (whew!) With this in mind, Google recently donated $5 million in grants to journalists. $2 million went to the Knight Foundation, and the rest will go to international news.

Crowley from FourSquare had, I think, the most interesting company. According to him, “it’s all about the places you’re at.” I’d noticed recently how people on my newsfeed on Facebook kept “checking in” to places, though it wasn’t until last night that I knew what it meant. Basically, FourSquare lets you tell your network where you are at any given moment, and if you happen to be at the same place, you can easily meet up, or you can learn tips from them about the place, such as whether the food was good, how to flirt with the bartender to get free drinks, etc. It’s all about the insider information, to make your night more interesting and turn your life into a sort of interactive game, where you pick up different badges depending on your activities.

However, “the side effect of having all this information is you know where all your friends are […] it’s like your Maurader’s Map on your iphone.” I’m not completely sold on this idea yet, I guess I still value some privacy.

On the bright side, by “adding a layer on top of the real world,” FourSquare has “found that if we made badges people wanted to get, we changed their behavior.” This means that because of FourSquare, more people have actually been going to the gym more regularly. Carr had mentioned earlier that he was at a media event in Austin, TX earlier this year, and he was at the bar, when all of a sudden 200 people just got up and left. He found out later they had seen through FourSquare that the after party had started, and he said he had never seen anything move people so quickly as social media.

Eun at AOL said the company has been revamping and he considers it to be a starter-up. They’re trying to get the best of both worlds: media and technology. “We’re really equal parts,” he said. “We’re taking a look at how we can bring media and technology together to serve our consumers.”

What was really surprising to learn is how, even with Twitter and people’s shorter attention spans, there is still room for in-depth content.

Carr expressed concern that writers want people to have an intimate relationship with their content. He asked, “Brevity may be the soul of wisdom but is it really for the word business, should we be scared of this?”

Grove agreed that “we live in a clip culture” but that most people, if they find a topic they care about, will delve deeper. He thinks the media has to think more about marketing, since there are more sources, people can be more selective.

Crowley said FourSquare uses the short-form as a filter, and that consumers “boil everything down to nuggets.” He said the next step will be to run these nuggets through algorithms, so consumers can make sense of all this information.

According to Carr, people spend on average 70 minutes a day getting their news and entertainment via various platforms. So are all these companies competing with each other?

No, was the unanimous answer. In fact, Karp described the web as being an “ecosystem” and all these companies are complementary of each other. Partnerships are key, and so is being open to trying new things.

“We’re competing for attention, for audiences, at some level,” Eun said. But, he also added, “In this day and age, you’ve got to be confident working with other folks and making a one plus one equal three.”

I think the main point though, is that everything is still changing. It’s an exciting time, and digital media is still evolving. The Internet may have been started by male engineers, but now it’s about enhancing the experience for everyone, making advertising and content work together, and reaching out to as many people as possible. The media is not dead. It’s just going through it’s adolescence.