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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite authors.  Years ago, before I became an avid reader of non-fiction books, his books, and the Dirk Pitt novels written by Clive Cussler, were some of the only books I read.  Moneyball and the Blind Side becoming some of my favorites, well before they became hit movies.  My fandom shows no signs of waning either.  His latest book, The Undoing Project, is at the top of my to do list, as is one of his older books about Silicon Valley, The New New Thing.  I’m pretty much at the point now where I would read anything he writes.  The topic almost doesn’t matter.  He’s that good.

Unfortunately, it looks like I may never have the chance to read anything else he writes ever again.  At least not in the traditional sense.  For he’s no longer writing books.  But all hope is not lost.  He’ll still be creating stories.  It’s just that if I want to enjoy them I’ll have to listen to them.

As the New York Times describes:

“When Michael Lewis had an idea for his next book, a contemporary political narrative, he decided he would test it out first as a 10,000-word magazine article, as he often does before committing to a years-long project.

But this time he made a surprising pivot. Instead of publishing the story in Vanity Fair, where he has been a contributing writer for nearly a decade, he sold it to Audible, the audiobook publisher and retailer.

‘You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it,’ Mr. Lewis said. ‘I’ve become Audible’s first magazine writer.’”

This is a very interesting turn of events IMO as authors seek to take more control of how their ideas get out into the world.  Similar to how some comedians like Louis CK are selling content directly to fans, Audible exclusives could be how authors bypass the traditional publishing house model, giving them unprecedented control, over not only their stories, but their own narrative as well.  Especially since Lewis will also be narrating his story as well, adding an additional layer to the experience that will allow him to connect with his fans on a more intimate level.

If our use of emoji have brought us back full circle to the days of hieroglyphics and markings on cave walls then could it be said that Audible is bringing us back full circle to the days of passing down stories through song and spoken word like we did for hundreds of years before the advent of papyrus and paper?  Homer’s Iliad, one of the greatest stories ever told, is actually believed to have originated as an oratory tale.  The reason why it’s written the way that it is, with its repetitive plot, and weird way of describing characters every time they appear, is to make it easier to remember for its various narrators.  In fact, there’s no historical record of anyone named Homer having ever existed at all.

So, could it be that we’re about to return to that great oral tradition?  Passing down stories from generation to generation with Audible and authors like Michael Lewis leading the way as we undergo a fundamental shift in the way that we consume media?  Or is this just a passing fad?  An ode to the current pop culture obsession with podcasts as busy Millennials try to multi-task their way to the top in today’s hyper-competitive, always-on society.

Only time will tell.  But I get the sense that it’s more than a fad.  As more and more authors sign up for this business model it paves the way for even more authors to get presented with the opportunity, creating a cycle that becomes impossible to stop once it reaches a certain scale.  The publishing industry getting disrupted by Audible’s exclusives, the same way that Netflix originals disrupted Hollywood.  And while traditional books will never truly go away, (too many people like the tactile experience of reading a physical book) it’s certainly possible that Audible cuts into how much people read on their Kindles, iPads, or phones or how many podcasts get listened to.

All in all, it’s clear that Michael Lewis isn’t going to be the last big name author to sign with Audible as the floodgates are now officially open.  How many more will follow and how will the publishing landscape be altered by this fundamental shift?  It’s a story that will be worth following in its own right.  Maybe one day you’ll be listening to me on Audible as I tell it.

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Are Audible Exclusives the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,322 – Art Hunt

Finding faces in nature has quickly become one of my favorite things to do as I take great pride in creating what I consider to be unique art.   On a recent trip to Sedona I came across Alf, Tony the Tiger, and Slimer from Ghostbusters.  Or at least rock formations that looked like them.  Previously, I’ve spotted Kermit the Frog, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and Sloth from Goonies.  My Instagram account (Greatestphotoever) turning into a venerable who’s who of 80’s pop culture icons.  Suffice it to say, I’m probably the only person in the world who has ever looked at a tree log and seen Zorro.

And yet nobody cares.  I haven’t rocketed to fame and fortune.  I’m not (yet?) an Instagram star.  In fact, I’ve actually had people de-friend me on Facebook because of how weird my posts have become.  Are they right?  Am I bat-shit crazy?  Or am I a next-level genius who is ahead of his time?  Perhaps if more people knew about what I was doing we could come to some kind of consensus with the wisdom of the crowd prevailing once more.  That’s why I’d like to find a better way to get artists discovered.  Word of mouth giving way to a more technologically advanced system that would enable high-quality art to reach the masses.

Art, in this context, would refer to anything born from creativity.  No regard for medium.  Music, images, words, whatever the case may be.  Unique Etsy storefronts would qualify.  Ditto for unheralded Instagram accounts, little known blogs, and YouTube accounts deserving of a wider audience.  Anyone and everyone with an overactive imagination and an underappreciated talent.  And here’s the best part.  What I’m imagining already exists.  In a way.

You see, in my line of work as a futurist I’m constantly on the lookout for The Next Big Thing.  That game-changing invention or innovation that’s going to re-shape society for years to come, making our lives better and easier.  And as it turns out I’m not alone.  There’s an entire community of people who have come together online with a shared objective in mind: scouring the web and leaving no stone un-turned until they’ve hunted down their next obsession.  From software to hardware and all the apps in between, if there’s an exciting new product out there, the obsessives over at Product Hunt will find it.  But when it comes to discovering creativity what recourse do we have?  Who is out there hunting for the next great writer or photographer?  That’s why I’d like to fill this gap and create a Product Hunt spin-off known as Art Hunt, dedicated to scouring the world for underappreciated artistic talent.

After all, isn’t it time that we fed the egos of starving artists, sang the praises of aspiring musicians, and removed the block keeping writers out of the limelight?  Isn’t it time that we rewarded them for all of the great work that they’ve been doing?  I think so.  So, from now on, Art Hunt is going to be removing the hustle from your side hustle.  Your fifteen minutes of fame have arrived.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more faces to find.

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Is Art Hunt the Greatest Idea Ever?

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What if your diary or journal could write back to you?  That’s the premise behind The Sigmund, a new concept for an interactive, AI-infused smart journal, named after the greatest couch therapist of all-time, Sigmund Freud.

Here’s how it would work.  Rather than tell off your ex, complain about your co-workers to your spouse, or burden your friends with deep existential thoughts about the meaning of life, you can instead just express yourself within the pages of The Sigmund, the same way that millions of people have interacted with diaries and journals for millennia.  But here’s where things get interesting.  Instead of just writing on a static page or even in a smart journal capable of transferring your writings to the cloud, you would instead be writing inside of a journal that an AI would be actively scanning.  Able to make sense of natural language this AI would take clues from your ruminations and over time serve up advice and recommendations to ease you through your troubling times.

For instance, let’s say that you just got out of a relationship and are contemplating the current state of your love life.  The Sigmund would pick up on these subtle clues, the one’s where you talk about how lonely and depressed you are, and suggest that you attend a swing dancing class on Thursday night.  A few days later, with the topic still being written about, a different approach would be taken.  In addition to sending over a link to a speed dating event the journal would also start complimenting you on a daily basis, providing you with inspirational quotes and the like, to remind you of how great you are.

Dating aside, let’s say that you write in a journal that your New Year’s Resolution for the year is to write a book.  It’s May and you haven’t done shit yet.  You lament this fact in The Sigmund.  The next thing you know you’re getting daily reminders to get off your ass and write along with links to writing classes and emails containing tips to get pass writer’s block.  By September you have a rough draft complete.

All in all, there’s something to be said for putting pen to paper and getting your thoughts off your chest.  Abraham Lincoln used to write letters to his generals, telling them off, before stuffing them away in a draw.  No need to actually mail them having already cleared his mind and moved on.  Others don’t have that luxury though.  No matter how hard we try we can’t move on easily.  Our thoughts linger.  Weighing us down.  Acting as an anchor that hold down our relationships and friendships.  Thankfully, we now have another option.  Part pen pal, part therapist, part digital assistant, The Sigmund would allow us to get the help that we need without burdening our friends or burning any bridges.  A use of AI that makes our lives better, not just easier.

 

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Is The Sigmund the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,315 – Pages

Ryan Reynolds and C.J. Miller, in a trailer for Deadpool 2, are seen auditioning various “superheroes” for the X Force team they are building.  When a guy shows up with the superpower of having both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes Miller jokes that its time to update LinkedIN.  In other words, that it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

This got me thinking.  If you really were looking to build a superhero team is LinkedIN where you would look?  Or would you look on Craigslist?  Or somewhere else?  And what if there was a better way?  A place where you could go to look for someone regardless of your need, whether you’re looking for a superhero or a plumber.

What I’m envisioning then is an app called Pages, named after the White Pages and Yellow Pages listings that dominated the pre-Internet era.  Anyone can set up a page and use it to announce to the world what they would want to be “hired” for.  Now this isn’t strictly a job platform although you could use this service for that if you really wanted to.  Nor is it a dating app, although, once again, if you wanted to use it to find dates you could.  Rather the point of Pages would be to find anyone you are looking for.  That could be a fill-in for your softball team, a babysitter, someone to go hiking with, or someone to help you move.

For instance, my Pages profile would announce that I’m available for public speaking gigs.  Someone else might announce that they’re down to fill in on your bar trivia team or to round out a golfing foursome.  Others might broadcast the fact that they are a wedding singer looking for gigs or a photographer looking for work during wedding season.

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, from fighting crime to playing kickball, chances are that there’s someone out there with similar interests looking for someone just like you.  Isn’t it about time that we made it easier for one another to find each other?  Isn’t it about time that we created a Google type search engine for people?  Facebook doesn’t make the cut.  Our profiles are private.  Only shared with people we already know.  On the other hand Pages would be public and fully searchable so that we could broadcast ourselves in order to find work or make new connections.  This service would be a real game-changer for freelance workers and weekend warriors alike.  For everyone and anyone with a need for someone.

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Is Pages the Greatest Idea Ever?

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With Facebook’s annual developer’s conference under way I was wondering what the big news of the day was going to be.  Last year it was VR related news, with Facebook announcing Spaces, a way for people’s digital avatars to hang out together in the same place.  This year, it’s likely the news that Facebook is FINALLY adding a dating component to the site!

As The Verge puts it, “The features are a long time coming for the 14-year-old social network, which has allowed users to broadcast whether they’re single or in a relationship since it first went live in February 2004.  The move will likely transform Facebook, with its more than 2.2 billion monthly active users, into a major competitor of Match Group, which owns and operates mobile dating app Tinder and popular dating platform OkCupid. Match Group’s stock plummeted by more than 17 percent as soon as the news was announced.

‘This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships — not just for hookups,’ Zuckerberg joked onstage. He added that it’s going to be within the main Facebook app, but it will be completely optional and opt-in only. ‘We have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning. Your friends aren’t going to see your profile, and you’re only going to be suggested to people who are not your friends.’”

To be honest I have no idea why it took Facebook 14 years to add this feature.  After all, the company is built around the premise of bringing people together and making the world more inter-connected and there’s no better way to do that than to help people find love.  Plus the entire point of the app in the first place was to rank hot girls.  You would have thought that a dating app component would have been the first thing they would have done!  Oh, well.  Better late than never.

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Is Facebook Dating the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,292 – Minds

A social network that pays you?  That’s the premise behind Minds, an anti-Facebook of sorts, that’s gaining traction in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that rocked Mark Zuckerberg and company. After all, why should a giant conglomerate get to data mine your news feed and exploit your personal life for profit while you get nothing for your efforts? You’re the one posting all the content.  You’re the one doing all the work.  Shouldn’t you get a cut of the action?

Minds think so.  And aims to rewards its users with tokens that they can use to help spread their audience on the site.

According to Wired, “The tokens users receive for contributing to Minds don’t yet translate to real money, but they can be used within the platform to buy two kinds of Boosts. News Feed Boosts largely work in the same way as traditional digital ads, injecting a post into other people’s feeds. Peer-to-Peer Boosts, meanwhile, formalize a part of the digital economy that has always existed, letting you pay another Minds user to share your post to their followers. It’s the Minds equivalent of a brand paying an Instagram blogger to wear their shoes, or a musician paying a popular Twitter account to tweet out their SoundCloud mixtape. The difference is that the financial relationship is disclosed in the open. ‘If you use the Boost well, you could have no audience and easily gain like five to ten-thousand followers,’ says [Minds Founder Bill] Ottman.”

Could you imagine if this was the way that Twitter worked?  If all of your tweets were converted into points that you could use to gain more followers?  To date, I’ve tweeted 4,456 times and have 426 followers.  That’s roughly one follower for every ten tweets.  On Minds my audience would grow ten times that in a fraction of the time.

So what does the future hold for Minds? Where do they go from here with their point based system?

As Wired explains:

“The tokens on Minds can be used for more than just ads; they essentially power the social network’s entire ecosystem. Using Wire, the platform’s built-in Patreon-like feature, users can tip creators, or pay for exclusive content, if someone chooses to place a post behind a paywall. You can also earn tokens by contributing to Minds’ code, or discovering software bugs; the entire site is open source. Last month, Minds began testing converting its token system—which were previously called points—into a new cryptocurrency, the Minds token, which runs on the Ethereum blockchain network. In theory, Minds users will eventually be able to take their tokens to exchanges, and convert them into another cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, or even into dollars.”

Being able to convert points into value IRL could be a real game-changer for Minds.  The killer app that they need to go mainstream.  But even if that doesn’t happen there’s still the chance that Minds could grow organically.  Especially, if Facebook continues to shoot itself in its foot, destroying consumer confidence and wilting away brand loyalty with shady business practices.

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Is Minds the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,287 – Talk to Books

For centuries books have been talking to us.  All we had to do was listen.  But now, thanks to Google, that conversation goes both ways.  Now we can talk to books too.

It’s all thanks to a new app from Google that lets us search 100,000 books in under a second.  All we have to do is type in a search query and Talk to Books will find relevant passages from its vast library of books that match our inquiry.

According to Quartz, “Kurzweil noted that Talk to Books is not meant to replace keyword search. It uses ‘semantic search,’ drawing on the ability of the tool’s AI to understand natural human language. Results range from goofy to profound, but semantic search’s goal is to call up a sentence that sounds like a plausible retort a person might say in a conversation.”

Just imagine what this tool could do for someone who often needs to reference the information found in books.  What it would mean for a reporter or researcher or college student.  Anyone who might be in need of finding a useful quote to support their hypothesis or theory.  For them this tool would be invaluable.

For everyone else?  For the most part they’d probably still want to use regular Google search when the need to search for information arises.  But even if this app is just a neat parlor trick, it’s a pretty cool one at that. After all, it’s not every day that you get to say that you talked to a book.

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Is Talk to Books the Greatest Idea Ever?

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