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Self Promotion as a Business Model:

March 17, 2016

I love it when universities reinvent stuff. Imagine an academic journal without fees. Instead of peer review, the journal features peer to peer review. You can get the scoop in “MIT Media Lab’s Journal of Design and Science Is a Radical New Kind of Publication.”

The idea is that the journal will combine design (phones that look like blocks of metal and science software which permits a self driving auto to collide with a bus). I learned:

Science, design, art, and engineering, long considered their own areas of focus, are no longer domains to be explored in isolation, but together, in the hopes of expediting progress and discovery.

Knock down those artificial walls between disciplines. Innovate with a new journal.

I am okay with this type of publication.

However, once the journal model is migrated from the warm, fuzzy, and endowed confines of the MIT womb, what’s the business model?

My hunch is that the “new” will have to work with the “old”; that is, subscribers have to pay and then renew, authors will grouse if some nag  suggests that compensation is appropriate, vendors will want hard cash for bandwidth, and even sciencey Web programmers may want some money.

Interesting idea, but the business model remains the problem for new publications which have to survive in the present economic environment. Now if there is a friendly check writer who will provide a not for profit environment, there may be more publishing innovations like MIT’s. Until then, it looks like there will be blogs with comments allowed.

But the benefits to the innovator and his ability to publish information in an important “new” journal may be substantial. But that’s what universities are for today. Oh, universities also facilitate student loans. Great stuff higher education.

Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2016

Yahoo, a Xoogler, and Wisdom from the Capitalist Tool

March 14, 2016

I recall the good old days at Forbes. The outfit has a stellar information professional. The company decided it did not need a stellar information professional. At that point, I realized that the “real” journalists knew how to formulate questions, obtain information from online resources, winnow the results, and deliver on point summaries germane to the topics the “real” journalists were writing about. That’s when I dismissed Forbes as a source of high value, accurate information. Now when I flip through a copy at the still open Barnes & Noble I have a tough time figuring out what’s fact, what’s opinion, and what’s content marketing or what I am now considering content spam.


Is this Yahoo’s new headquarters?

I did read “The Seven Lessons of Marissa Mayer.” I suppose the information created by a person who describes himself as “the unwritten contract at work” is a “real” journalist, a person with opinions, or a creator of content spam. Let’s look at the analysis of the wild and crazy place which houses the remaining Yahooligans.

The write up makes this point via a quote from Vanity Fair, another “real” journalism publication:

“Most people in (Silicon) Valley want to see Yahoo succeed, if only out of respect for its legacy,” the magazine reported. “And they generally believe that, if anyone can fix Yahoo, it is Mayer. She is an engineer, and engineers are revered in the Valley. She is also a ‘product person,’ which means that she has a track record of designing Internet-based products that people want to use.”

The worm hath turned. I learned a factoid from the New York Times, which is reproduced in the capitalist tool:

“Yahoo is likely to sell for less than all of the money Ms. Mayer spent,” wrote Berkeley Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon in his recent New York Times column. “If she had sought to liquidate Yahoo as soon as she took over and distributed the proceeds, Yahoo shareholders would have fared much better than they will now.”

Let me cut to the cob. Mayer is a loser. But, according to the article, there are lessons to be learned from the Mayer “voyage” to the heart of darkness. Poetry doesn’t make it into the “real” journalism stuff. May I highlight three of the lessons which are, I presume, worth the shareholder value which the current management team has tossed on the bonfire of vanities. (Yikes, there I go again. Poetry.)

Lesson 2 of the seven: Just because there’s a new captain doesn’t mean the ship’s not going to sing. I understand. A flawed design for the Titanic is likely to present some challenges to any captain who sails into iceberg infested seas. (Does this suggest that Ms. Mayer failed to evaluate her engineered RMS Titanic? Quite an error in judgment from the git go, right?)

Lesson 5 of the seven: Rank and yank makes a company tear itself up from the inside. I don’t understand. What’s a rank and yank? Perhaps this is a “real” journalist’s way of explaining that employee reviews resulted in firing people? I understand the jargon “stack ranking,” but the “rank and yank” phraseology is a trigger for some other associations. IBM tries to hide its firing people with the phrase “resource allocation.” Although unseemly, it lacks the connotations of the “yank and rank” lesson. (Does this mean that Ms. Mayer lacks management expertise?)

Lesson 7 of the seven:  Employees will support a CEO who has their best interests at heart and turn on one who doesn’t. Yikes, Ms. Mayer, if I understand the lesson, managed to alienate some of the folks who worked for her. So much for the leadership capability of Ms. Mayer. (Does this tell me more about Ms. Mayer than about Yahoo? It sure does.)

I love the capitalist tool and “real” journalism. Ms. Mintz, Ms. Mintz, how badly does Forbes need you?

Stephen E Arnold, March 14, 2016


Google: The Dutch Do Not Think Much of Fake Reviews

March 13, 2016

I read “Google Ordered to Hand Over Names of Fake Reviewers in Dutch Court Case.” Let’s assume that the story is accurate. For me, the notion of Google providing the names of individuals who created “fake” reviews is interesting. For the affected small business, the victory is not likely to generate a jump to the top 25 sites in traffic. For the Google, the court decision is another indication of the legal hurdles Google may face in the present day European community.

The write up said:

While the case appears to be a landmark ruling — it’s the first time that Google has been required to provide contact details and IP addresses for Google reviewers — it also highlights the challenges for a search platform like Google when navigating questions of freedom of speech and more recent developments that touch on user privacy. The ongoing “right to be forgotten” mandate in Europe, where Google and other search engines are removing links that people request to be removed if “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive, and not in the public interest,” have proven to be tricky waters for the company amid its default position of making the world a more searchable place.

My thought is that Google is likely to find itself under increasing legal scrutiny to deal with alleged abuses carried out within its content generating functions; for example, people or robots which generate fake reviews.

Sometimes I wonder if the Google we once knew and loved is going to become a much less exciting search and retrieval service.

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2016

Free Academic Journals? Maybe

March 10, 2016

I read “This Renowned Mathematician Is Bent On Proving Academic Journals Can Cost Nothing.” If you are not an academic, you may not know that some folks pay the publisher to publish one’s research report, journal article, or wild and crazy summary of non reproducible results.

Good business?

You betcha. I remember a meeting a decade ago at the Cornell Theory Center. I asked if a faculty member who published in an online journal would be recognized for the work. The answer, not surprisingly, was, “No.” Flash forward to today. Many institutions like the estimable University of Louisville prefer their wizards’ write ups to be in prestigious paper journals. Sure, maybe a short item in the Harvard Business School blog will get some blue or green stars. The gold ones, from what I have heard, go to the expensive, paper journals like those from the ever savvy Elsevier outfit.

The write up states:

Despite a decades-old “open access” movement — which aims to put research findings in the public domain instead of languishing behind expensive pay walls — the traditional approach to publishing remains firmly entrenched.

The Cambridge math whiz is launch Discrete Analysis. Sorry, no snaps of the new Bugatti Chiron or Maserati SUV.

The write up points out some of the realities of academic publishing. The arguments are somewhat tired. I highlighted this passage:

So far, these alternative ventures have had little success dismantling the knowledge fiefdoms like Elsevier. The ArXiv (which launched in 1991) and open-access publishers like PLoS (established in 2000) still haven’t displaced traditional journals. But maybe, as more and more mini ventures chip away at the incumbent publishers, the revolution will take shape.

The fellow leading the charge for no cost or low cost academic publishing may find the task more difficult than tackling one of Hilbert’s unsolved problems.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2016

A Place to Express Yourself on the Dark Web

March 7, 2016

For evidence that the dark web is not all about drugs and cybercrime, check out this article at Motherboard: “The Dark Web Now Has a Literary Journal.” As it turns out, anonymity is also good for people who wish to freely explore their creativity and private thoughts.

The new journal, the Torist, was just launched by a professor at the University of Utah, Robert W. Ghel, and a person known simply as GMH. Inspired by the free discussions on their dark-web-based social network, Galaxy, they have seized their chance to create something unexpected. The journal’s preface asks:

“If a magazine publishes itself via a Tor hidden service, what does the creative output look like? How might it contrast itself with its clearweb counterparts? Who indeed will gravitate towards a dark web literary magazine?”

So, why is one of the Torist’s creators anonymous while the other is putting himself out there? Writer Joseph Cox tells us:

Gehl, after being pitched the idea of The Torist by GMH, decided to strip away his pseudonym, and work on the project under his own name. “I thought about that for a while,” Gehl said. “I thought that because GMH is anonymous/pseudonymous, and he’s running the servers, I could be a sort of ‘clear’ liason.”

So while Gehl used his name, and added legitimacy to the project in that way, GMH could continue to work with the freedom the anonymity awards. “I guess it’s easier to explore ideas and not worry as much how it turns out,” said GMH, who described himself as someone with a past studying the humanities, and playing with technology in his spare time.

Gehl and GMH say part of their reasoning behind the journal is to show people that anonymity and encryption can be forces for good. Privacy furthers discussion of controversial, personal, and difficult topics and, according to GMH, should be the default setting for all communications, especially online.

Submissions are currently being accepted, so go ahead and submit that poem or essay if you have something to get off your chest, anonymously. If you dare to venture into the dark web, that is.


Cynthia Murrell, March 7, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Print and Digital: Both Goners

February 20, 2016

I read in McPaper this article: “Wolff: Print’s Dead — but So Is Digital.” Okay, I learned from Dr. Francis Chivers (Duquesne University professor in the 1960s) that God is dead. I learned from Francis Fukuyama (assorted universities) that history is dead. Now I learn from McPaper that print and digital are dead. A two’fer! That is what makes McPaper so darned compelling.

The article informed me:

the effort to compete with native digital news outlets like BuzzFeed means traditional news organizations, with traditional share price values, must, like the venture-capital supported natives, pay more for traffic than can ever hope to be made back from advertisers. In this model, the digital natives can yet hope to sell to deep-pocket buyers, whereas the traditionals can only go out of business.

Where does McPaper land in this business scenario?

I noted this passage and its nod to the recently acquired yellow orange newspaper, the Financial Times:

At present, the FT concludes, there is no viable economic model for a written news product. Hence, in some ever-increasing existential darkness, it’s back to the drawing board in search of one.

Question: How many trips to the drawing board do traditional newspaper publishers get to make? I thought the digital revolution kicked off 40 or 50 years ago. I wonder if the drawing board is okay, but the folks visiting it are in a digital version of Sartre’s No Exit.

Well, well, I dare say one gets used to it in time.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2016

The Independent: Gets with Digital Finally

February 20, 2016

I read “Independent to Cease as Print Edition.” The write up contained several interesting statements:

  1. Some folks will be terminated but there “would be 25 new digital content roles.” There you go. No teaching old dogs new tricks.
  2. The likely new owners of the “i newspapers” are Johnston Press. What? Who?
  3. The London Evening Standard continues as it is.

Here’s the quote I circled:

The Independent’s editor Amol Rajan tweeted: “Impossible to over-state how proud I am of the most dedicated, clever, industrious and brave staff in the history of Fleet St.”

Excluding the folks who will be cut loose I assume.

Stephen E Arnold, February 17, 2016

Byline: Crowd Funded Journalism

February 13, 2016

I encountered, a crowd-funded journalism site. I have noticed that the “news” is not what I remembered when I was a sprout. The idea is that readers will provide money, and the site operators will do “news.” You should check it out. The title of the news page is Haystack, which may be a response to some legal eagle flapping.

I noticed that the site has raised about 6 percent of the money the site wants to raise. That works out to about US$15 million. Real journalism outputting real news is expensive. One can become a Byline journalist at this link. If Byline requires office space in the US, the former Pearson Education space is available in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. My hunch is that the real estate folks handling the space will wheel and deal.

Worth a look.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2016

Pearson: Revenue Challenges and Digital Initiatives

January 26, 2016

I used to follow Pearson when it owned a wax museum and a number of other fascinating big revenue opportunities. Today the company is still big:  $8 billion in revenue, 40,000 employees, and offices in 70 countries. (Lots of reasons for senior executives to do field trips I assume.)

I noted that that Pearson plans to RIF (reduce in force) 4,000 employees. Let’s see. Yep, that works out to 10 percent of the “team.” Without the wax museum as a job option, will these folks become entrepreneurs?

I read “Turning Digital Learning Into Intellectual Property.” The title snagged me, and I assume that some of the 4,000 folks now preparing to find their future elsewhere were intrigued.

The write up reported:

Pearson is also positioning itself as a major center for the analysis of educational big data.

Ah, ha. A publishing outfit involved in education is getting with the Big Data thing.

How is a traditional publishing company going to respond to the digital opportunities it now perceives?

big data analysis methods will enable researchers to “capture stream or trace data from learners’ interactions” with learning materials, detect “new patterns that may provide evidence about learning,” and “more clearly understand the micro-patterns of teaching and learning by individuals and groups.” Big data methods of pattern recognition are at the heart of its activities, and Pearson ambitiously aims to use pattern recognition to identify generalizable insights into learning processes not just at the level of the individual learner but at vast scale.

Yes, vast. Micro patterns. Big Data.

My mouth is watering and my ageing brain cells hunger for the new learning.

Big questions have to be answered. For example, who owns learning theory?

I recall my brush with the education department. Ugly. I thought that most of the information to which I was exposed was baloney. For evidence, I think back to my years in Brazil with my hit and miss involvement with the Calvert Course, the “English not spoken here” approach of the schools in Campinas, and the seamless transition I made back to my “regular” US school after having done zero in the learning aquaria for several years.

I also recall the look of befuddlement on the face of the check out clerks, when I point out that a cash register tally is incorrect or the consternation that furrows the brow when I provide bills and two pennies.

My hunch is that the education thing is a juicy business, but I am not confident in Pearson’s ability to catch up with the folks who are not saddled with the rich legacy of printing books and charging lots of money for them.

This is a trend worth watching. Will it become the success of Ebsco’s “discovery” system? Will it generate the payoff Thomson Reuters is getting by reselling Palantir? Will it allow Pearson to make the bold moves that so many traditional publishing companies have made after they embraced XML as the silver bullet and incantation to ward off collapsing revenues?

I for one will be watching. Who knows? Maybe I will return to school to brighten the day of an adjunct professor at the local university. (This institution I might add is struggling with FBI investigations, allegations of sexual misconduct, and a miasma of desperation.)

Education. Great stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2016

Hackers Opt for Netflix and Uber over Credit Card Theft on Dark Web

January 25, 2016

It is no surprise that credit cards and other account information is sold on the Dark Web but which accounts are most valuable might surprise. Baiting us to click, the article It turns out THIS is more valuable to hackers than your stolen credit card details on the United Kingdom’s Express offers the scoop on the going rate of various logins cybercriminals are currently chasing. Hacked Uber, Paypal and Netflix logins are the most valuable. The article explains,

“Uber rolled-out multi-factor authentication in some markets last year which decreased the value of stolen account details on the Dark Web, the International Business Times reported. According to the Trend Micro study, the price for credit cards is so comparatively low because banks have advanced techniques to detect fraudulent activity.”

The sales of these accounts are under $10 each, and according to the article, they seem to actually be used by the thief. Products and experiences, as consumable commodities, are easier to steal than cash when organizations fail to properly protect against fraudulent activity. The takeaway seems to be obvious.


Megan Feil, January 25, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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