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Old Age, New Age Publishing: A Challenge

March 15, 2015

I don’t know much about “real” publishing. I read a case study of “The Long Story Behind Gigaom’s Sudden Demise.” According to the write up, the  tech news and analysis business shut down without warning. The write up reported:

Over the course of eight years, Gigaom, founded by prominent technology journalist Om Malik, had raised around $40 million in equity and debt. Sources said that about $5 million of that came from a 2011 venture debt round led by Western Technology Investment, and in 2014 the company had raised yet more money to help pay that debt down. But, by the end of last year, Gigaom still had significant debt to service — people familiar with the company said it was spending around $400,000 a month on rent and interest payments.

One of the investors was Reed Elsevier, a giant sci-tech publishing company, which owns LexisNexis and other properties.

The article said:

Gigaom seemed to be a Web publisher that had figured out how to thrive by developing multiple revenue streams. In addition to its website, which the company said attracted an audience of 6.5 million people a month, Gigaom also had an events business and a research arm. The company had placed particular emphasis on building up research over the years, pointing to it as proof that readers would pay for high-quality content.

Guess not?

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2015

Good News for Textbook Publishers

March 4, 2015

I read “Students Reject Digital textbooks.” Textbook publishers have embraced slicing and dicing with alacrity. The idea is that a new textbook or collection of readings can be assembled with little input from a human editor. The future of automatically output texts seemed to be zeros and ones.

According to the write up some students are not too thrilled with digital textbooks. I know that find the iPad and Kindle a lousy way to read textbooks with illustrations, charts, and graphs. The iPad, for example, does not allow me to scale up an illustration in the reference book for Sony Vegas Professional. As a result, the illustrations are useless. A printed book delivers an image I can view. Score one for print in my experience.

The article reports:

As Good E Reader reports, a new survey by Student Monitor found that 87% of the students they spoke to preferred to buy or borrow textbooks as physical books. And a study from the University of Washington recently showed that one in four students who were given free digital textbooks still went out and bought a hard copy version, because they think it’s easier to take in information when they read it on paper as opposed to on a screen. And they’re probably right: last summer, a study found that readers absorb more information from paper books than from Kindles, and of course, if you’re up late studying, it’ll be easier to get to sleep afterward if you haven’t been staring at a backlit screen. I just hope that all these tech-eschewing students have got backpacks with strong shoulder straps.

Will textbooks become available in paper? Publishers want to make money, so paper may be the Bugatti Veryrons of education. Digital, despite its warts, may prove to be the easier path to textbook revenue. How does one search a textbook in paper? Not very easily, but the same statement applies to many digital volumes I am licensed to use. And learning? Publishing is usually about money I assert.

Stephen E Arnold, March 4, 2015

A Newspaper Asserts Content Worthless

February 13, 2015

I recall paying for a copy of the Guardian newspaper when I was in the UK a couple of years ago. My hunch is that the newspaper is still for sale. I encountered a link on a UK headline site to “The iPod Effect: How Near Limitless Storage Made Content Worthless.”

The idea that an MP3 player devalued content was interesting. I thought that newspaper entitles like quality oriented Murdoch operations blamed Google for devaluing content. I have heard speakers at conferences point the finger of blame at education’s failure to produce book readers. A consulting firm expert opined that it was the acceleration of life that nuked magazines and newspapers and reading in general.

According to the Guardian, which embraces some open source (free) technology:

If we continue to cultivate a society where even the most crafted and artisan digital items are throwaway flash sale detritus, how can we expect to continue enjoying the talented minds that create them?

Armageddon arrives and the warriors are Taylor Swift and iPhone toting troops.

I learned:

As a whole, we humans aren’t great at moderating our own consumption. As each scarce resource in human life has become more and more available, we’ve gorged ourselves until popular sentiment realizes it’s time to rebalance. Just as we hit that wall with nutrition and energy consumption, I think we’re getting there with the value of art in ubiquitous digital form. But while we adjust, we’re relying on brave creators to treat us mean and keep us keen so when we return to tough decisions, we know they’re too good to lose.

Oh, maybe this article is only about music and not newspapers. Wow, that had me frightened.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2015

Google Health Info: An Old Fashioned Solution to Misleading Content

February 10, 2015

Short honk: I want to call attention to “A Remedy for Your Health-Related Questions: Health Info in the Knowledge Graph .” According to the write up:

So starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.

Makes sense, right?

I find this interesting because it may be the first step to cleaning up outputs that are disinformation, misinformation, or reformations of other information. Will this have an impact on other Google activities? My hunch is that this is an important shift at the GOOG.

What’s the value to an advertiser? To a parent seeking info about a child’s malady? To a Google party with access to the usage info? To Google’s “Digital Gutenberg” services?

Stephen E Arnold, February 10, 2015

Maggie Simpson and Kim Jong Fun Get Published

January 6, 2015

Ah, the world of professional publishing. Is there anything like it? In an effort to lure shady journals into exposing their nonexistent peer-review processes, one engineer succeeded in catching two publications in his ridiculously obvious ploy. Vox reports, “A Paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel Was Accepted by Two Scientific Journals.” The article relates:

“A scientific study by Maggie Simpson, Edna Krabappel, and Kim Jong Fun has been accepted by two journals. Of course, none of these fictional characters actually wrote the paper, titled ‘Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.’ Rather, it’s a nonsensical text, submitted by engineer Alex Smolyanitsky in an effort to expose a pair of scientific journals — the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the comic sans-loving Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology.

“These outlets both belong to a world of predatory journals that spam thousands of scientists, offering to publish their work — whatever it is — for a fee, without actually conducting peer review. When Smolyanitsky was contacted by them, he submitted the paper, which has a totally incoherent, science-esque text written by SCIgen, a random text generator. (Example sentence: ‘we removed a 8-petabyte tape drive from our peer-to-peer cluster to prove provably “fuzzy” symmetries’s influence on the work of Japanese mad scientist Karthik Lakshminarayanan.’)

“Then, he thought up the authors, along with a nonexistent affiliation (‘Belford University’) for them. ‘I wanted first and foremost to come up with something that gives out the fake immediately,’ he says. ‘My only regret is that the second author isn’t Ralph Wiggum.’”

Why would any journal do such a thing? It’s all about the publishing fees, of course. Simpson et al continue to receive an invoice for $459 from just one of the journals. The article points out this is not the first time such “predatory publishing” has been exposed, and it is unlikely to be the last. See the article for more examples, as well as a brief history of the practice. (It seems to have begun in earnest in the early aughts.) Apparently, new shoddy publishers keep popping up. Researchers and readers should keep the phenomenon in mind when considering whether to submit to, or trust the information in, any given journal.

Cynthia Murrell, January 06, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Elsevier and Bad Information

December 22, 2014

Years and years ago, a unit of the Courier Journal & Louisville Times created the Business Dateline database. As far as I know, it was the first full text online database to feature corrections. The team believed that most online content contained flaws, and neither the database producers, the publishers, nor the online distributions like LexisNexis invested much effort in accuracy. How many databases followed in our footsteps? Well, not too many. At one time it was exactly zero. But people perceive information from a computer as accurate, based on studies we did at the newspaper and subsequently as part of ArnoldIT’s work.

Flash forward to our go go now. The worm, after several decades, may be turning, albeit slowly. Navigate to “Elsevier Retracting 16 Papers for Faked Peer Review.” Assuming the write up was itself accurate, I noted this passage:

We consider ourselves to have an important role in prevention. We try to put a positive tone to our education material, so it’s not a draconian “we will catch you” – it’s also about the importance of research integrity for science, the perception of science with taxpayers…there are a lot of rewards for doing this the right way.

The questions in my mind are:

  • How many errors are in the LexisNexis online file? What steps are being taken to remove the ones known to be incorrect; for example, technical papers with flawed information?
  • How will Elsevier alert its customers that some information may be inaccurate?
  • What process is in place for other Elsevier properties to correct, minimize, and eliminate errors in print and online content?

I can imagine myself in a meeting with Elsevier’s senior management. My task is to propose specific measures to ensure quality, accuracy, and timeliness in Elsevier’s products. I am not sure my suggestions will be ones that generate a great deal of enthusiasm. Hopefully, I am incorrect.

Stephen E Arnold, December 22, 2014

Google News in Spain: The Sound of Declining Traffic

December 17, 2014

Well, the Googley conquistadores seem to have caught the attention of the Spanish news sites. I read “External Traffic to Spanish News Sites Plummets after Google Move.” I find it remarkable that “real” journalism outfits fail to understand the power of the GOOG. Axil Springer pumped millions into Qwant. I bet you use that Pertimm-based service each and every day, right? A quick dust up with the Google, and the German publisher rolled over like my clueless boxer Tess. She is deaf, has three good legs, and one eye. But Tess figures stuff out without have to do much more than be aware of her environment. Perhaps there is a lesson there?


Is Tess the rescue boxer smarter than the average European publisher chock full of “real” journalistic wizardry? I can make a good case for Tess. She uses Google to help me research Cyber OSINT and NGIA.

The write up states:

Spanish publishers are now asking for help from the government because of the impact of the law, even though Google warned that it would have to remove their links if the law was passed (any links to Spanish sites are also removed from other content on non-Spanish versions of Google News, but they remain available through a regular Google search).

The reality is that the folks with the wonky logo and teenagers on the payroll are the gatekeepers. If you are not in Google, you do not exist. This applies to cold blooded northern Europeans and the more excitable southern Europeans. Thomas Mann explained this is his novels. Well, some “real” journalists may want to refresh their memories. Reality check: Google has traffic power. Sartre provided some insight in No Exit. I have an idea. Let’s run a modern European literature class for “real” journalists. Yes, students, you can use Google. I excuse from class the wizards at IDG/IDC who suggested that Google pull out of Europe. Europe may request that Google remain available. Look for a report from IDC expert Dave Schubmehl explaining why Google should put its tail between its legs and scurry back to Silicon Valley.

Stephen E Arnold, December 17, 2014

More IDC Cleverness: Innovation Is Alive and Well

December 10, 2014

Short honk: Navigate to this link on the Attivio Web site. I verified this on December 9, 2014. Here’s the link:

What do you see? I see this:


IDC published this information based loosely on my team’s research. There was no written permission take this action. My attorney requested that IDC pay for the rights to use my information, including its resale on Amazon without my permission. As I understand my legal eagle, IDC was to stop selling documents with my name and the name of an IDC expert: Dave Schubmehl.

Well, here we go. After months of fiddling, a report with my name is attached to Attivio.

The only hitch in the git along is that the Attivio described in the IDC report does not match up with the Attivio with which I described in my research reports.

Attivio, instead of struggling to generate sufficient revenue to repay its stakeholders, morphs into a different company.

I care because misrepresenting who wrote what, using another’s work for personal aggrandizement and economic benefit, and trampling over the professionalism of a 70 year old strikes me as uncomfortable.

My suggestion? Think about the source of the information. Figure out who is the expert. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be treated in the IDC manner?”

My answer is, “I want experts to be experts. I want high value information to be fairly presented, not massaged. I want basic business practices observed.”

What’s your answer? We know Mr. Schubmehl’s and IDC’s answer.

Stephen E Arnold, December 10, 2014

King CONsumer Service Starts in January 2015

December 5, 2014

I have been trying to figure out where to put items of interest and maybe some humor. A new site called “King CON” sumer will be the place for some of the helpful things that companies do for their customers, suppliers, admirers, and stakeholders. For example, we will collect the IDC “surfing on my name” content (a sport practiced by “expert” Dave Schubmehl). We will post photos of the non-helpful design features of some retail stores (a maze behind vegetables that rival those of the British aristocracy’s maze gardens), and activities of quotidian folks like CON-tractors, pain-ters, and representatives of “we’ll get the quote to you tomorrow” (stated weekly until we gave up calling the vendor). I have had an artist create a character called “King Con”, which is short for a consumer anti-hero. Stay tuned for news.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2014

Sci Tech Publishers Quiver: Nature Articles Free to View

December 3, 2014

If you are a commercial database publisher, you have had your share of thrills and spills. But now the funding for libraries is modest and not likely to rebound quickly. Publishers whose content has been indexed now want some kind of compensation and even worse a few are putting up their own online services. But the scary part of relying on other people’s content is that some big guns will just roll over and make their content available with ever looser restrictions.

Nature now “permits subscribers and media to share read only versions of its papers.” Nifty idea but for many getting a third party to digest and highlight the important points is pretty useful. In fact, I think it will be sufficiently useful to replace a subscription.

If you wonder how the MBAs at LexisNexis, Cambridge Scientific, and EBSCO will react to this state of affairs, so do I. Maybe there are some other opportunities to pursue?

How will the Nature “marketing” experiment work out? My hunch is that for some sci tech publishers, no marketing trick will work. The companies anchored in the information models of the past have to find a way to pop up a level or two in the game of information.

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2014

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