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readercon catchup #4: The Future of Speculative Fiction Magazines, Part 2

[after some haranguing, i’ve decided to split this last post up. i’ll refit the others later, i think.]

seriously. with the HHNF first draft finished last night, i have no excuse, so one way or another, this will be the last of them.

The Future of Speculative Fiction Magazines, Part 2: Online Magazines / Conclusions

this was another powerhouse panel of folks from the publishing and editing world, this time primarily online, obviously. Mary Robinette Kowal (writer and puppeteer) started off by asking the panel if they wanted to respond to the previous panel, as most everyone seemed to have been in attendance for both. Neil Clarke (editor/publisher of Clarkesworld) first responded to an earlier statement about 50% of users in US still offline, saying that the number is actually closer to 20% (i did a little research myself and found the Pew Report here, showing just under 75% penetration as of August 2008). Sean Wallace (founder/editor of Prime Books) responded to the ‘invisibility’ of SF online, stating he gets between 30- and 60,000 page views (though no-one raised the point about the difference between page views and unique visitors, which i thought was surprising). K Tempest Bradford (writer, bloggger and former Fantasy Magazine editor) replied to a previous statement that print publishers could go online easier than online publishers could go to print, asking ‘why would online mags want to go to print?’ followed by stating that you have to find the best way to reach your audience, regardless. Matthew Kressel (writer, and publisher/editor of Sybil’s Garage) responded to the lack of SF print magazines in India, saying that Sybil’s garage has selections available online and many other mags have more, all accessible from anywhere.

Robert Killheffer (many things, including former editor and co/founder of both Century and Event Horizon magazines) didn’t respond to anything, but said that the fundamental issue is how to make a viable business from an online publication. how do you make money? Matt brought up Steampunk Tales, an iPhone app-drivencollection of fiction, which, by virtue of being on the iPhone, avoids the perception of online=free.* this position of online(free) v. app($) was supported by the group, though i still think it wasn’t fully explored.**

Neil also agreed, but said there is no 1 business model of success, that subscription is also key. ads, though, for him aren’t worth it, which the panel also unanimously agreed upon: “the purpose of online ads is to take the audience away. why is that a good thing?”

Matt identified that in all times of media transition, the old medium must prove it’s worth in order to survive; it must show what it does better or different than the others. he used radio as an example. instead of being wiped out by talking pictures (TV and movies), it found a sweet spot in the car and other mobile venues, where people can’t focus on visual media (though someone did point out that they’ve seen people watching their little DVD screens while driving, which made everyone laugh, with just a hint of terror). Matt said the key of print is its physicality and in the flexibility of its form, referring to the art and other marginalia that he uses liberally in Sybil’s Garage.

K (i’m not sure if she goes by the initial or not, but boy did i save a lot of space and time not writing out her whole name, eh?) had another of those self-evident-after-the-fact statements: the online world is capable of some pretty amazing stuff (hypertext stories – Robert mentioned Geoff Ryman’s hypertext story ‘253‘  – visually, etc.), but we actually have to wait for the writers to catch up to the possibilities. authors are not writing for the web, yet. Neil responded with a story from Clarkesworld #32 ‘From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7‘ by Nnedi Okorafor, which played with audio and text.

Neil then made a point of saying that a PDF of a print mag is NOT what he considers online content. it’s still bound by the same constrictions as print. Sean said that one of the key elements and benefits of genuine online content, especially important for fiction, is timely interaction with your audience: the immediate response times of blog posts, reviews, and other community-style elements.

Mary summed the conversation so far up with reference to Jim Henson’s removal of the proscenium in his work. this then moved to CGI, but there has been a recent and steady return to puppetry (and other physical animation) in films because people have learned that CGI is not the answer for everything. after which statement, K said ‘because CGI Yoda was not cool!’, followed by someone (i think either Sean or Robert) saying ‘Cool it was not!’, which together got, i think, the biggest laughs and cheers of any of the panels i attended, and rightly so.***

the core point is valid, though, and was the essence of much of the rest of the panel, with a small but important digression brought in by Ernest Lilley of SFRevu who was in the audience, regarding stickiness: how do online pubs keep people on the site, instead of landing on one page/story and then bouncing right back out afterward? Sean mentioned ‘related items’ features, but Neil gave what i think was the best answer: ‘i used to worry about it. i don’t anymore. it’s unimportant. if one story gets a major hits compared to others, then it’s extra marketing and that’s all. it’s like the iPhone, now. nobody buys the whole album anymore.’****

then Mary asked the panel to posit about the future, any conclusions/visions:

  • Robert: we’re still in the infancy of all this.
  • Matt – fear is wrong, excitement is cool; any way we can get fiction to people is good
  • K – this isn’t about print OR online, it’s about quality; also, keeping up with readership, who looks more like her (a black woman) than the rest of the panel (white men)
  • Sean – short fiction is not dead, period.
  • Neil – i love the frontier, i love the chaos.

all of this was good, but Michael Burstein’s comment from the previous panel bears repeating: if you like it, pay for it.

* it’s now available via regular PDF so not iPhone-specific, but still at a cost.

** perhaps another readercon topic?

*** and also indicated a particular, though not always obvious, tone to readercon, which appeared again in the next panel, re: Twilight. there is sometimes a very distinct tone about the types of works discussed, and those notably not discussed, at readercon, which, as a relative newbie, i find very interesting. it may be seen as elitist, and certainly by authors some of the books in question, and while i tend to personally agree with many of the statements, i tend to keep such things to myself. and my ever-suffering wife. sorry, dear.

**** except me, i guess. the point is well made, though.

14 Comments
  1. Glad you enjoyed the panel. I think Mary did a great job as moderator. She kept the pace appropriate for the time we had. I think most of us would have been happy to continue for another hour and add some of those extra details we had to skip.

  2. i certainly agree, all around. Mary was very good at keeping both audience and panel on target, and the splitting of the two sides was necessary for time and space constraints, though it also meant the lack of thorough exploration.

    one thing i didn’t mention in this post, though, which i’d ask now if you don’t mind, is what, if anything, have you learned about real-life online reader experiences? i also have a background in web technology and i know the textbook answers about user experience, but have you done any case studies of actual readers (path tracking, eye tracking, link mgmt, etc.)? not to reduce it all to numbers, but using TreeFrog7 as an example, have users enjoyed this more or less than purely text stories? have they listened to the full audio straight through? if they used the text with audio, did they listen to each one (and this is my only quirk with that story – what about leaving the field guide entries as audio only?)?

    okay, sorry, i get a little carried away sometimes.

  3. I can’t say that I’ve done any formal studies with the magazine. I’ve been involved in a lot of similar research in my day job, mostly when I was working on designing online courses. I carried over a lot of those experiences in designing the magazine (column width, font size, color, etc.) and in determining some of the things we mention in the guidelines (paragraph length, story length, etc.). Most of it will match the research you’ve probably read. I do believe that improvements in screen technology require us to re-evaluate how we do things from time to time.

    TreeFrog7 was an opportunity to try something a little different. The story works quite well without the extras. As Mary pointed out, we’re still very wired to the traditional linear narrative. This story doesn’t break it. It just has some enhancements in the form of extra pop-up entries and a parallel audio track. Pop-ups work great for reference materials (which fits the story in this case) and the feedback (unsolicited and solicited) I’ve received has been largely positive. It’s a natural for this medium. The audio is easier to listen to in one fell swoop (via our podcast) so the embedded shorter clips have more novelty than effective use. If I had the chance to do this over, I’d add illustrations. This story screams for them. Overall I’d rate this a positive learning experience for us.

    The really interesting stuff comes in when you start tracking reader behaviors, like how they navigate through the site, what things people like, what things they ignore or click out of quickly… The amount of data available to me is incredible. It must also be taken with a large grain of salt.

  4. good point about the audio for TreeFrog7 (novelty rather than effective use), and about the illustrations, which makes me wonder about your position on Matt Kressel’s comment about marginalia, etc., being a primary strength of print. beyond simply putting images in a box (visible or not) on a page, CSS gives good layout control, and Flash even more so. do you think this is still the province of print? i haven’t seen something more flexible and dynamic done anywhere, but i think a Flash-based fiction site with an equal emphasis on illustrations (and with consistent and realistic web hooks) would be a great thing to play with. oh, for more hours in the day. or less work, actually.

    you’re right on about the reader behaviors, including the grain of salt. it’s easy to get lost in the data, even when it’s reliable, and lose sight of the bigger picture, but there’s a wealth of information there. have you noticed anything particularly unusual from that data (things people do or don’t do that you didn’t expect)?

  5. I wouldn’t say that print has an advantage when it comes to images. In fact, I’d say that it was online & electronic publications that have the advantage and we just haven’t been making good use of it. What Matt has done with Sybil’s Garage is simply wonderful. In fact, I think he puts quite a few more prominent print magazines to shame. Creative use of art, however, isn’t something that can’t be done online and most of us forget that. In fact, we can jump straight to color, which most magazines (with the notable exception of Realms of Fantasy) can’t presently do. (Yes, they could pay more to do it, but we have no such escalation of cost and it’s likely outside their current budgets.)

    Flash has a downside. It has serious accessibility issues. I wouldn’t be opposed to using it to enhance a story (we’ve used flash videos in our non-fiction), but I wouldn’t embed the text there yet. There are a few flash-based magazines services out there. Unfortunately, they waste their time by trying to replicate the feel of print magazines… right down to page flipping, which I find short-sighted and kinda annoying.

    The stats don’t reveal much that I’d consider usual. They are more a reminder of common sense, signposts for design failure, or indicators of marketing opportunities. I’ll just toss out some quick stuff… Non-fiction, unless it’s an interview with someone you have a story by, doesn’t tend to boost the fiction readership. Access to back issues is very popular. People weren’t finding the links for the podcast subscription. Incoming traffic from Facebook was (and still is) trending up and those readers browse deeper than others. StumbleUpon drives huge numbers of new readers to a site. International readership is small (by comparison) but growing.

    Paying attention to the stats keeps me on top of things. It’s also why I pay very close attention to the stats for our slush pile.

  6. that’s what i was hoping to hear. i think Matt’s work is very cool, but it seems to me the potential for illustration/imagery online is expansive. in slight response to K Tempest Bradford’s comment that writers have to catch up to the tech (which is certainly true), it seems the tech also needs to push itself within the admitted constraints of the current writing.

    you’re also right about Flash, of course. one of my biggest frustrations is most Flash pieces (whole sites or discrete items) play almost exclusively in their own little world, ignoring the mainstays of current web use (external links into specific sections, easy access, etc.). interestingly, it’s not that terribly hard to code some of these things in, even on a basic level.

    [my favorite example is homestarrunner.com, not for the layout so much – though http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail118.html actually ends with a great surprise in this respect – as for the multiple main pages or SBEmails or what-have-you, all directly accessible via simple HTML querystring parameters. no it’s not web-shattering, but it is, in my view, easier and smarter.]

    i certainly agree about page-flipping (Flash’s version of HTML’s flashing text?), though i’ll admit it was cool to see the first time. there’s another question: am i generalizing, or is it a problem of the web that too few things are pushed beyond the initial cool factor?

    as you say, the stats make sense. i wondered about the FB folks digging deeper. do you have a rationale for that? is this the ‘generational change’ happening, or is there something else about the FB community that explains it. i’m glad to hear that the international readership is growing, but this raises the question of internationalization (languages, reading styles, etc.): obviously the international visitors must be able to read English, but do you have any thoughts to expand to other languages? obviously not tomorrow, but is it even on your radar? i’ve been making the assumption here, that the visitors are from predominantly Western European areas, but is that true?

    of course, i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t also working on showing up in those slush pile stats soon, myself, but would you mind throwing out some of the key indicators/trends you’re seeing there?

    again, thanks for taking the time with these questions, Neil, and i’m grateful for the consideration you’re giving them. that said, feel free to say enough is enough at any time. no worries.

  7. :) Yeah, I suppose page flipping is a lot like flashing text. A lot of features start as gimmicks. The ones that have value stick around. Page flipping is an inconvenient browsing method online, so it will pass. It’s good that people keep trying things though. Experimentation leads to all sorts of new opportunities and keeps things fresh. In some ways, I think a lot of the publishing industry has forgotten that (and that includes some online magazines.)

    Yes, most international visitors are from English-speaking countries. As was pointed out during the first panel, the genre magazine with the largest readership is in China. I’ve been saying for a few years now that I’d love to find a way to tap into that market, bring in translators and add someone to the staff that would help handle the logistics of working with another language and, more importantly, culture. The problem is expense. Translation is not cheap. It may be wiser to partner with a publication in China than to try to keep it in house.

    As for the slush stats, I tend to post little updates about those to my blog. The most recent was: http://clarkesworld.livejournal.com/137464.html (some extra data in the comments), which isn’t nearly as detailed as some I’ve done in the past. Presently, I’m monitoring gender, nationality, and first-time submissions to the magazine. I’m planning on adding genre to that in the next update of the submission system.

    Don’t mind answering questions at all. In my opinion, the more people talk about these things, the better.

  8. good posts on your slush stats. interesting to note how the gender split, though notable, rises and falls largely in unison (except May, as you noted). i wonder what it is about October, February and March? and well done on your submissions system being used by the other mags. that’s a nice piece of pretty darn coolness.

    translation is an enormous hurdle, obviously, and not just financially. as was brought up briefly in the Words as Magic panel ( http://www.billblais.com/blog/2009/07/11/more-readercon/ ), it’s often more than just straight translation, but getting at nuance and tone, which is far more difficult and time consuming. that said, would it be so bad to give auto-translation a whirl? as much as i try to resist Google’s all-being-ness, their page translation works fairly well, and even offers the opportunity to provide better translations (http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&js=y&u=http%3A%2F%2Fclarkesworldmagazine.com%2Fbuckell_07_09%2F&sl=en&tl=es&history_state0=). i did spanish because it’s the one i know best, but it did chinese and many others, as well. names are the first obvious issue, particularly for transliteration. to be honest, this was much better than i expected. they’ve come a very long way in the last 5-10 years.

    also very true about the publishing industry lagging when it comes to experimentation. aside from Clarkesworld (obviously), do you think anyone else is pushing the envelope at all, for online fiction reading/format? while i like podcasts, i don’t spend time in the car much anymore, and while i love audio books/stories when driving, it requires more of my attention than music when i’m trying to multi-task, so listening at home generally means i have to only be listening to it, which is less likely. that’s probably just me, though.

  9. Ah yes, I wasn’t specific enough. I meant a GOOD translation is expensive. Google translate is functional (and occasionally we see people use it), but not what I would consider reasonable for fiction. Last year, I was helping someone with a copyright violation on a Chinese website. Google translate gave us the words, but we didn’t really understand what was being said until I found someone who could read it in Chinese. I think a lot would be lost without a human involved in the process. While it may soon be reasonable for non-fiction, I think more creative writing will prove challenging for automated systems for years to come.

    I wouldn’t say we’re pushing the envelope. (Poking, maybe.) We don’t have the staff or resources to be as aggressive as that would imply. I’m not even sure I’d say that anyone in our genre is. As I’ve mentioned, I work in education, so I see a lot of experimenting there. No shortage of crazy ideas in academia. Online design magazines, entertainment magazines and websites aimed at children are also good sources of design inspiration.

    Now, if you skip outside of design and look at business practices, it’s different. Unlike print, there is no definitive business model. What you find is a lot of experimentation and that scares some people. A recent trend that seems to be sticking is that publishers are launching their own online magazines: Fantasy (Prime), Subterranean (same), Baen’s Universe (Baen Books), Tor.com (yeah, I know, they’ll say they aren’t Tor), etc. Even among them though, there isn’t a consistent funding model. For example, Baen’s is subscriber-driven, Tor.com is advertising-driven, and Subterranean just covers the cost as part of their book business. I wonder if online magazines will continue to be more willing to try new things once this nut is cracked… or if the nature of being online will require them to keep doing so, or be left behind. (My money is on the latter.)

  10. oh, no question about translation quality. that said, i wonder if some of the translations might be better than others (Western Euro languages, for example, more than Asian, Arabic, etc.). it might be interesting to do some comparisons with bilingual folks from other countries, get them to rate the quality of the ‘auto translations’.

    however, you mentioned the cost of adding another person to the staff whose focus was translations. on a largely financial basis, this seems like a possibly enormous ROI, especially cracking the Chinese or Indian markets. obviously, the translation would have to be excellent, but this raises another question: what do other cultures look for in their speculative fiction? is it the same as what North Americans do? wildly different? my guess is closer to the latter, but i have no idea at all.

    in fact, i’d love to get a read of more genuine foreign f/sf, but though i can often find English-language reviews, the books and stories are almost invariably untranslated. am i just missing some obvious sites/publishers? might this be a possible venture for Wyrm? publishing translations of top-quality foreign authors? i know i’d be interested.

    as for pushing the envelope, i was sorry to see your response, though not actually surprised. yes, Clarkesworld is poking, which is obviously good, but that no-one else in this field is really pushing is disheartening. on the other hand, i am reminded of my frustration with a recent, unexpected and thankfully brief test of Yahoo!’s new front page UI. i hated it. that said, it was dumped on me without any explanation or notice, which is never good, so i may have been unfairly prejudiced, but even so, i genuinely wasn’t thrilled with the new layouts, fly-overs, etc. my point being (eventually), i wonder at what rate we humans, as a rule, relinquish our desire for consistency (knowing where to find things, how to use them, etc.).

    [this is off-topic, but i’m interested in what you’re seeing in academia, as i teach part-time and have been stuck with some very limited online resources. could you give some examples?]

    i’d have to agree that being online from now on means, almost inherently, regular evolution. i have no experience whatsoever with funding, but it seems that ad-driven is largely not the way to go (following both the Future panels when discussing the vast number of downsides to ads online), unless you have a genuine lock on an audience. micro-payments seems the only other alternative i can think of, but credit card companies aren’t making that easy, and paying only for the stories a person reads, after the fact, will not likely keep anyone in the black (i’ve not used fictionwise or the like, so this may actually be viable, but that’s not quite the same beastie, is it?). Clarkesworld appears to be doing fine with its donation-driven model (is that complete, or is it also partially supported by Wyrm?). what about the online=free v. webapp=$ idea? is/was that an issue for you folks?

  11. “what do other cultures look for in their speculative fiction?”

    And that question is why I’d want to be working with someone in tune with both the language and culture. Sure, judging by novel translations, there is a market for American SF overseas, but I’d want to open the door wide enough that we might see original foreign stories come back translated to English. The more I think about it, the wiser it seems to partner with foreign magazines to do this.

    I’m still earning my sea legs with Wyrm. I’m not quite ready to tackle entire books in translation yet. The last thing I need right now is one more person who can miss deadlines (translators). :)

    If working in technology all these years has taught me anything, it is that people don’t deal well with change. They value the comfort of consistency. Gradual change is fine and ultimately necessary to survive. The real innovation happens on the fringes, people who don’t have an existing audience reaching out to that small group of like-minded people in hopes that the numbers grow. The big problem that has happened within publishing is that for the most part they have ignored that gradual change. It’s like not doing maintenance on your house until the roof leaks in more places than you have buckets. It’s one of the reasons we’ve seen talk of a generation gap in the genre.

    I wish I could show you some of the academic stuff I’ve seen, but it’s largely password-protected. I’m just seeing some very effective combination of embedded audio, video, animation and photos into text written more exclusively for online reading. Stuff that isn’t meant to be printed and if it was would lose something. What discipline are you teaching?

    As for business models, I don’t see long-term viability in either the donation or advertising models. There are some interesting possibilities in sponsorship, but that is a tough one too and there you’d want to avoid single-sponsor (including one’s self) solutions. I tend to favor models that derive income from a variety of methods and sources. Focusing on one is simply too risky. One of the extra things we do is publish a physical product. The same could be done by selling Kindle or Fictionwise editions. Doesn’t mean we won’t take donations. In fact, we have a special “citizen of Clarkesworld” program to encourage it. At this time, no one has THE way to do this right. What we’re doing is one way, but it still needs work. I’m not going to be a full-time editor/publisher anytime soon.

  12. “…one more person who can miss deadlines…”
    you mean it’s not just writers?

    seriously, though, for foreign translations, i think you’re right. it’s actually a little surprising to me that it’s taking so long to get to this kind of inter-language fluidity, but perhaps this is just another symptom of the ‘flying car’ syndrome (it’s 2009! what do you mean we’re still driving on roads?). i want my Star Trek universal translator!

    interesting point, though, touching also on the speed of change v. acceptance. i agree about the work done on fringes with less ‘institutionalized’ beliefs/rules/inertia to overcome, but there are clearly some things we can’t get too soon, and others we’d rather walk on nails over. example: buying things online. how many people still pay all their bills by check, or even buy gas/groceries with cash all the time? i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve seen someone writing a check at the supermarket in the last six months (made more memorable, of course, by being stuck in the enormous line behind them…). the cellphone/crackberry/PDA is another example. those who use them find it very hard to go without.

    on the other hand, the majority of folks (entirely no scientific basis for this statement other than perception through news/conversations/etc.) still seem extremely resistant to perceived invasions of privacy (computer chips in my driver’s license, passport, RF in my clothing). i guess this all goes back to fear. or does it? because even these things can be made palatable, with the proper application of additional, superceding fear.

    sorry. getting way off topic, there (though i’m curious: might it be a valid statement to say that security concerns – in their various incarnations – seem to have eclipsed space travel as a primary theme of sf?)

    none of this changes the truth of your statement about the publishing world at large entirely missing the boat. or the leaks, as you put it. there don’t seem to be enough buckets left. and certainly it’s impossible to rely on a single revenue source, anymore, if that were ever truly possible, though i imagine maintaining order over an increasingly fragmented revenue stream would take some doing.

    i think sponsorship is very cool and i knoknow you mentioned it in the panel, but there wasn’t time for an explanation. would you mind elaborating a little on that and how it differs from ads and donations? in my head, this seems to be like the past model of writers/poets/artists acquiring a patron and being allowed to ‘create’ while someone paid the bills, etc. that’s a simplification, and as you say, a single-patron/sponsor idea would be a questionable thing, for financial as well as scope/voice/mission reasons. very cool idea, though. and here’s hoping ‘full-time’ comes sooner rather than later ;)

    as for academia, i teach mostly English (various levels) and Business Communication, now. i wish i could see an example of what you mean by ‘written exclusively for online reading’. does this primarily refer to the visual content (videos/animations, etc.)? i haven’t seen anything more dynamic than PowerPoints, myself. some of these integrate videos/etc., but most are depressing for me and distinctly un-inspiring for my students, and this from the publishing resources. am i in the flying car again? are there academic publishers out there creating interesting content, or is it only individual teachers you’re whose work you’re referring to? if an individual teacher, i’d be most appreciative if you’d pass along my email. i’d love to hear what’s being done and how.

  13. Sorry for the delayed response. Been pushing myself to finish a project at the day job so I can go to Worldcon next week.

    I’m not seeing a lot of security/privacy stories in slush and don’t feel like I’ve seeing much more than in the past, but then, I read a lot of cyberpunk in the 80’s, so perhaps it doesn’t seem big to me right now. Outside slush, Cory Doctorow obviously comes to mind, but nothing else is sticking with me.

    Sponsorship came to me as a result of paying attention to PBS. One of the more obvious things they do is have a tiered donation model. Give $50 and get the CD, $100 = DVD, etc. In some sense, that’s where the “Citizen of Clarkesworld” program came. It worked out well enough that I started trying to identify other lessons from PBS. They don’t take advertising. They have sponsors. (Note that this is plural. SciFiction has a sole sponsor, the SciFi Channel and we know what happened there.)

    Online advertising is seriously flawed. The common models are cost per click or cost per impression. They are decreasingly effective and arbitrarily measured. With ads, you hope your customer is watching/reading while your ad is running. In my view of sponsors, they are forever associated with the content they helped pay for. They have no control over content, but they can pick what they want to support. For example, a publisher might sponsor the interview we run with one of their authors. In return they get noted as the sponsor like PBS does, but specifically on that page. Like a lifetime ad, but not really, since they don’t get the ability to place ugly banners or the like on the page. It’s a thought in process… and I may never use it.

    As for the academic side of things, certainly incorporating video or audio is a way to enhance course materials. Simulations are another powerful tool, especially in science. Foreign language materials are greatly enhanced by audio. I’ve seen a lot of interesting work done around wikis and group work. Design and navigation become increasingly important online as the quantity of information and data available to enhance curriculum materials has increased.

    Powerpoint has its place, but it is often used poorly… as an electronic substitute for a posterboard, so it has earned a bad rep. Textbook publishers should be ashamed. I wonder if any of them hire experienced non-corporate instructional designers. Ive found them hit-or-miss and lacking in a consistent plan for this “extra” content to go with their books. That they still consider it “extra” is a symptom of the problem.

    The best stuff I’ve seen is home-grown and quite often the works of a team. If you get the chance, go to an Educause conference. There are a lot of very innovative people presenting there. Educause also has two of their regular publications online. Sometimes they run articles of this sort, but (sadly) they’ve been a bit distracted from curriculum in there for the last few years. Syllabus used to do good conferences too, but I haven’t been to anything of theirs in several years.

  14. first, no worries. obviously, i’ve been away, myself (and i’m jealous of your trip to Worldcon).

    you’re obviously completely right about online advertising, but the sponsorship idea sounds very intriguing with a good model to work from. that’s an interesting point, though: there’s been so much discussion of print v. online, i wonder if there’s an equally (or moreso) valid conversation of online v. television? especially given that the internet really is the intersection between print and tv. this sponsorship seems one of those good lessons. are there other content-based lessons to be learned from tv?

    [there’s a connection here somewhere with Matt Kressel’s point about the radio finding the sweet spot in the car after tv’s arrival. i would guess that most people who are at a computer are not as passive as driving a car (if you know what i mean), which means online content can’t be just audio, which leads me back to some version of TreeFrog7…]

    for academia, yes, the text publishers should definitely be ashamed. i’m sure there are great simulations for the sciences, too, particularly as the tech catches up and broadband expands. obviously i’m interested in the humanities, where the wikis and group work would be more relevant, though i haven’t seen any long-term viable examples.

    that said, i’ve taken a quick browse through the Educause site and it looks like a great resource. thanks for the tip. this year is definitely, but i’ll see if i can hound my department chair and get some money to get to next year’s conference. that does look good.

    have a great time at Worldcon!

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