Monthly Archives: January 2017

Fresh fears for libraries as councils face £5.8bn funding gap

31 January 2017

From The Bookseller:

Fresh fears for the future of libraries have emerged with the revelation that local councils are facing a £5.8bn spending gap by 2020.

The concerns have surfaced on the eve of the relaunch of the all party parliamentary group tonight (31st January), which campaigners hope will work to put pressure on government to affect real change in the public library service.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the long-term funding crisis means local government will continue to face an overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020 and that more than two thirds of the 375 councils in England and Wales will be forced to find millions in savings to plug the funding gaps in 2017/18.

Lord Porter, LGA chairman, said: “No new money from central government is being provided to councils in 2017/18. In fact, more than two thirds of councils will actually be worse off next year than they were expecting. [Even] if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes they would not have saved enough money to plug this gap by the end of the decade.”

. . . .

“We obviously think public libraries are amongst the most loved and widely used public services in the country and councils have a legal duty to ensure provision,” he said. “If these figures are even close to true then it’s very hard to see how [councils will be able to] fulfil the legal requirement [to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service as defined by the 1964 Public Libraries Act].

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Social media is a giant distraction

31 January 2017

Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.

Bryan Adams

Facebook Is Trying Everything to Re-Enter China—and It’s Not Working

31 January 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc.’s chances of getting back into China appeared to take a rare turn for the better when an employee noticed an official posting online: Beijing authorities had granted it a license to open a representative office in two office-tower suites in the capital.

Such permits typically give Western firms an initial China beachhead. This one, which Facebook won in late 2015, could have been a sign Beijing was ready to give the company another chance to connect with China’s roughly 700 million internet users, reopening the market as the social-media giant’s U.S.-growth prospects dimmed.

There was a catch. Facebook’s license was for three months, unusually short. Facebook executives found the limitation unexpected and frustrating, people familiar with the episode said.

Facebook never opened the office. The official posting disappeared and now exists as a ghost in cached versions of the government website. “We did, at one point in time, plan to have an office,” said Facebook spokeswoman Charlene Chian, “but we don’t today.”

The episode is part of Facebook’s running tale of woe in China, where it has been trying to set the stage for a return. Blocked on China’s internet since 2009, Facebook has courted Chinese officials, made Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg more visible in China, hired a well-connected China-policy chief and begun developing technology that could cull content the Communist Party deems unacceptable.

. . . .

It has made no visible headway. And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own. Weibo, along with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and QQ, are now dominant in China, and it may be too late for Facebook, said industry executives including Kai-Fu Lee, Google’s former China head and now CEO of Innovation Works, a Chinese incubator.

“At this stage and time with WeChat, Weibo and other products, it’s hopeless,” Mr. Lee said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Starbucks Adds Voice Ordering to iPhone, Amazon Alexa

31 January 2017

TRIGGER WARNING: This may wake up Alexa if she’s close.

Industry, ISPs End Controversial “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System

31 January 2017

From Consumerist:

Since the Napster era began in 1999, content creators and distributors have really, really hated it when you share their stuff online without paying up. Industry groups have tried many ways to stem the tide but one, a four-year-old cooperative alert system, is being scrapped after basically proving not to work.

Variety reports that the pact among internet service providers, movie and TV studios, and record labels that created the Copyright Alert System is being allowed to expire, and will not be renewed and the end of this particular system has come.

The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is also known as the “Six Strikes” program, because that’s how many warnings suspected infringers get.

If your ISP participates in Six Strikes, it first gives you two “educational” alerts when you are suspected of unlawfully sharing copyrighted material. After that come two “acknowledgement” alerts, that require you in some way to indicate you received and read them, and after that come two “mitigation” alerts, that can include throttling your connection speed, redirecting all of your browsing to a landing page that makes you acknowledge the warning on it, or other “minor consequences.”

. . . .

By Feb. 2014, one year later, Comcast was reportedly sending out 1,800 CAS notices per day to some of its millions of broadband subscribers. At most, if every single alert Comcast ever sent in the first year went to a different account-holder, roughly 3% of Comcast subscribers would have received one.

. . . .

Meanwhile, a court ruled in 2015 that an IP address is not enough information to identify someone as an actual file pirate: anyone using the network can show as coming from the same IP address.

Link to the rest at Consumerist

Walmart Reduces Free 2-Day Shipping Requirements

31 January 2017
Comments Off on Walmart Reduces Free 2-Day Shipping Requirements

From PC Magazine:

Starting today, Walmart customers can get free two-day shipping with a minimum purchase of $35 from today.

The new offer covers popular merchandise like baby necessities, pet items, personal care, electronics, food, household essentials, health, and beauty products.
It also reduces the minimum purchase requirement from $50 to $35, ensuring more people can take advantage of the promotion. Shoppers, meanwhile, do not need a ShippingPass membership—the company’s $49-per-year Amazon Prime-like service that promises free, unlimited two-day shipping on all Walmart.com orders.

“In today’s world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes. It no longer makes sense to charge for it,” Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart US eCommerce, said in a statement. “Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth.”

. . . .

The world’s largest retailer, meanwhile, in August announced its acquisition of e-commerce company Jet.com for $3 billion—an effort it hopes will improve its website and woo millennials.

Link to the rest at PC Magazine and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook

31 January 2017

From Buffer:

There probably isn’t a single best time to share to social media.

There’s a long tradition of studies that have attempted to uncover a ‘best time’ to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media marketing channel, with each study finding a wide range of results (we’ve even created our own studies here at Buffer).

Here are just some recommendations on the best time to post to Facebook to get you started:

  • Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. [Hubspot]
  • Thursday at 8 p.m.  [TrackMaven]
  • 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends [CoSchedule]
  • Early afternoon during the week and Saturdays [Buffer]
  • Off-peak times are best [Buzzsum0]

All of these studies are based on sound logic and can potentially be helpful to point marketers in the right direction. But almost every study reveals a different ‘best time to post’ and I believe there’s no perfect time to post to Facebook (or any social channel for that matter). 

The best time to post depends on a number of factors that are specific to every business: What’s your industry? What location is audience based? When are they online? Are you sponsoring your post?

I’d love to flip the conversation and say that instead of looking for a universal ‘best time to post’, maybe we should be focusing specifically on when is the best time for your brand to post.

Link to the rest at Buffer

NY Times Removes Comics Bestseller Lists: Why This is a Problem

30 January 2017

From BookRiot:

When the New York Times bestseller lists for the week of February 5 went out this week, literary agent Charlie Olson noticed something odd: several of the usual categories of bestsellers were curiously absent. The only explanation was a brief message which noted that the Times had chosen to “eliminate a number of print but mostly online-only bestseller lists. In recent years, we introduced a number of new lists as an experiment, many of which are being discontinued.” Although the Times has not released an official list of the categories being cut, those on the chopping block so far appear to include middle grade ebooks, young adult ebooks, mass market paperbacks, and all three of the “Graphic Books” lists: graphic hardcover, graphic paperback, and manga. That’s right: in the eyes of the New York Times, graphic novels, comics, and manga no longer qualify as mainstream literary genres. (Let’s put aside for now the fact that comics are a storytelling medium, not a genre.)

Look, it’s literary gatekeeping. Let’s call it what it is.

. . . .

Shuffling categories around to manipulate what does or doesn’t make the bestseller lists isn’t exactly a new trick for the Times. Back in the simpler, more innocent days of July 2000, the Times did something it hadn’t done in 15 years: it added a new category to its bestseller lists. The reason? Some upstart of a children’s book series was hogging three of the ten coveted spaces on the Fiction bestseller list. With a fourth book in this outrageously popular fantasy series about to be released, and preorder numbers indicating that a fourth slot on the Fiction list was about to be stolen, the Children’s Bestseller list was created. The series in question? Harry Potter. That’s right: J.K. Rowling posed so much of a literary threat to the Fiction Bestseller list that her bestselling series was relegated to its own special category before Goblet of Fire even hit shelves. (The story doesn’t even stop there – Harry Potter’s perpetual squatting on the Children’s Bestseller list eventually led the Times to shunt it off even further to the new Children’s Series list, because even in its own genre Harry Potter can’t catch a literary break.)

. . . .

The Times’ decision to cut the comics lists has already been questioned on social media by a number of comics creators, librarians, publishers, and other industry professionals. Reigning Graphic Paperback bestseller queen Raina Telgemeier exchanged concerned tweets with Pamela Paul about the decision, citing the list as a powerful tool for librarians looking for graphic novels and for creators, both new and established, seeking recognition and validation. Publisher’s Weekly indicated that the decision has caused a stir among comics publishers as well, who rely on the Times‘ bestseller list as a key benchmark of a comic’s success, both in-house and in their marketing process.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

In high school

30 January 2017

In high school, I had to hide my comic book side, my nerd side from the civilian world so they wouldn’t categorize me. They would try to marginalize me for what I like. I tried to give it up, believe me. I tried to kick the habit. But there’s too much I liked about it to give it up completely.

Mark Hamill

A Bounty Hunting Service for E-Book Piracy

30 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

We’ve been talking a lot here about blockchain applications for transaction processing in the music industry; in fact we had a panel on it at last week’s conference in NYC.  Yet the latest application of blockchain technology to the media industry, from Custos Media Technologies, has nothing to do with music or royalty transaction processing.  It has to do with e-books, and the application is copyright monitoring.  What does this have to do with blockchain?  It enables users to collect bounties for finding potentially infringing files, and the bounties are paid in Bitcoin.

Custos’s technology, which spun out of the MIH Media Lab at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, embeds unique watermarks in EPUB-formatted e-books.  It runs a watermark detection service that bounty hunters (yes, the company uses that term) can use to find watermarked files and report them, in return for a private key to a Bitcoin wallet.  When a file is reported, Custos returns the identity of the original purchaser to the e-book distributor, which can take legal action or whatever other steps it sees fit.

Custos’s COO Fred Lutz says that the solution is targeted “through online forums such as Reddit and Twitter” to “college-age users who are short on cash and long on time, and who are typically already involved in piracy communities.”

. . . .

Techniques used to embed invisible watermarks in e-books include things like embedding hidden data in illustrations, algorithmically altering content other than the actual substance of the book (such as text on a copyright page, index, or page header/footer), inserting non-printing characters, and using identifiers as input to kerning algorithms (for computing the spacing of characters in a line of text).  A worst-case solution to any of these techniques is to strip out everything except the actual text and basic markup (paragraph, chapter, bold, italic, etc.).

Custos addresses this by embedding multiple redundant watermarks in each e-book file using different types of techniques.  This way, though it’s possible for a hacker to strip out a watermark, the hacker can’t be confident that all of the watermarks have been removed.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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