There are these posters appearing at bus stops all over the city, ‘uncle Sam’-like CBE’s, OBE’s and other Knights of the realm inspiring grit and forebearance during this lingering recession, advocating entrepreneurial endeavours, encouraging, well, the creation of jobs where there are none. I expect to see a lot of PR from the western nations over the next few years about ‘The American Dream’ and the ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ and how the civilised world is founded on initiative and the inalienable right to succeed off your own back. They will spin austerity and the removal of social safety nets as a virtuous act of a strong country.

I’m writing all the time now. In between being tumbled like reluctant tumbleweed, noisy and straggling and pricking feet with my distended jaggy’s, from one flat to another, from one dole payment to the next, from one article to another and everything else besides, amid apprenticeship applications and a veritable digital snow-storm of job application rejections, I have been writing, and writing, and writing. The money is bad, but the experience valuable, and beyond the experience there is the force of will and influx of vital energies that comes solely from doing what is right. The feeling of stability and purpose supersede’s all logical explanations and defies, many times, clear explanation. It is, in fact, something that one cannot explain to someone who is not in the presence of their purpose. Attempting to do so is usually counterproductive for all the little slights and unintended slaps of doubt and confusion, the knee-jerk reflexes of some primal animal brain that thinks only in ‘safe-not safe’, ‘known-not known’ terms.

‘You’re a writer – you mean you get paid for writing?’ He asked, quite surprised, no longer idly twirling the half-drunk Sol in his hands.

‘Yes’ I say, ‘I get paid for writing’

Karina doesn’t really understand the concept, but he explains that he too is a writer, but what he does is wait tables. ‘I’m not a waiter, you know, I’m a writer, but I wait tables’.

That’s the threshold. Cutting through it takes time, and work, and unwavering fuck-you-i’m-doing-it-anyway. There have been moments of sheer-agony where I’ve literally gnashes my teeth and pulled out my hair because truest dream and meaning was always obscured by other people’s designs, other people’s fears, other people’s needs. Once you break through that, no one can tell you what’s important any more. You either know, or you wait to find out. There are no five year plans any more – you know everything will change next week, because your vision, your understanding, your feelings, they’re all temporary, and there’s no command structure or pension plan to secure those fleeting things into place.

The i-Book Controversy

The Writer’s Dilemma:

According to an article from Gizmodo, “Selling a book with Apple’s iBook Author program is now a one-way ticket to Apple being the only place you can sell the book. Maybe selling your book on iBooks isn’t such a great deal after all. ” A similar theme runs through an article published on BetaTales, and it is a theme perhaps most troubling to new and unpublished authors.

In creating an account and beginning the process of selling your book through Apple’s I-Bookstore, you will be greeted with the following condition:

(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

This is the cause for much of the concern, which ties in with a general, and even warranted, distrust of publishing conglomerates. Apple’s FAQ section, however, addresses this off-the-bat, in answer to Question 1: How Can I Distribute My Work?

You can submit your work for publication in the iBookstore as an .ibooks file, where you can sell it or offer it as a free download. You can also export your book from iBooks Author as a PDF, text file, or .ibooks file which you can distribute outside the iBookstore or through iTunes U.

The condition refers only to the IBook format, and not the content. Thus, you can only sell an iBook through apple, but are presumably free to sell an e-book in other formats, with the same content, anywhere, provided you own the rights to the book. 

There are advantages to getting on board with a global conglomeration poised at the forefront, and guarding the entrance, to technological advances – scruples aside. With all the many troubles of our time, from climate change to to a possible peak oil crisis, now is not the time for remaining in obscurity decrying the injustice of the world. We have enough tortured artists and unrecognised genius’s, and it may be wiser to recognise that we have to play the game to change the game. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Widening Horizons: Book Meets World

The Open University and Stanford University have both been quick to join Apple’s i-Tunes U, a digital teaching environment available through the i-Pad, Mac and PC.  A recent article from TabTimes echoes a press release from Apple which states that “Within two years of the pilot iPod program, the pass rate at [Essa Academy] jumped from 28 percent to 100 percent.” The iBook format offers a streamlined relationship between your publications and the i-Tunes U environment.

Despite suspicions that the platforms offered by MOOCs et al are little more than a fad weighed down by an education that is largely unverifiable, practically anonymous and lacking the kind of face-to-face tuition that defines the student-teacher relationship at school or university, Phillip Hensher notes in an article in the Guardian that “I went to Oxford in 1983, and I think in three years I went to seven lectures – not lecture courses, seven lectures.” 

For me, the innovative aspect of using an i-Pad and i-Tunes U for academic purposes is not the HD video, the billion and one Apps, 3D printers or fibre-optic broadband speeds. It’s that you can tailor your education. Do this, and you might attend more than 7 lectures in three years. You might also remember some of what you’ve learnt beyond your examination date.

It’s because of the multi-media element of digital technology, a change in the way people approach information, and a slight but consistent decline in publishing that a stand alone book no longer pulls in the profits. People want an interactive experience.

So, what exactly is involved with selling your book through i-Store?

First, you will need to fill out the application form for an i-Tunes Connect account, and to do this you will need an Apple ID.  You will then need to decide whether you are going to opt for a Free Books Account – if, for example, you are an education institution only interested in providing course materials to your students – or a Paid Books Account.

Apple will need to verify your Tax ID number, and, as X Desk Publishing point out, “You might want to check with the IRS to be sure it shows up before submitting the Apple application since failure to verify it may set you back another week”. You will also need an i-Tunes account with a registered credit card to begin the process, and your Tax ID will be one of the first pieces of information requested. Further, it has to be a US tax ID.

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These days I’m so busy I get to 20:55 and I can’t remember what I’ve done all day. Voluntary work is filling my days with a fantastic amount of learning, though I’m still struggling to get by. I’m crashing at my dads place before crashing at my brothers place, scrambling around for the qualifications I need to make something of myself in what often seems an unforgiving world. I’m engaged to a beautiful woman, working on beautiful projects, and completely powerless to help when her father dies unexpectedly, and too broke to meet the financial requirements for her visa.

On the one hand I’m enormously productive, and on the other there is always trepidation for being so. In the past I’ve wrapped myself around projects that never reach fruition. A crescendo of ideas sees me isolated and wired until I’ve approached frenzy and collapsed into a bipolar mess. It’s so difficult to tell sometimes what is illness, what is hardship, and what is genuine motivation and genuine progress. I still fear all of this, like so much before, will amount to nothing, but things are somehow different now. I think the difference is a developing network, real-life connections providing grounding.

Work continues with scheduling posts on Facebook for NP1, with the same work starting for NP2 on Saturday. In a continuing attempt to develop a presence as a resource, to build and maintain an audience, I’m scouring the internet for sources. My two main tools at the moment are WordPress and Workflowy, where I’m trying to keep all the different aspects of this work in one place.

Including sources and information relevant to the field itself, alongside the usual self-promotion, increased participation quite dramatically for NP1. Nevertheless, the self-promotional pieces had a stronger viral impact, and there is clearly a lot I need to learn about what works on Facebook and what doesn’t – what do all those figures mean? How do I determine ROI?

I’ll now see what happens to the audience over time, whether it’s a spike due to novelty or whether we’re providing something useful. I’ll then be able to see if there is any effect on number of listeners etc. Once scheduling has been completed for May and June I will continue to explore the blogosphere and see if I can create links into that.

Standard administrative duties continue, with compilation of email lists etc, and editing a 47 page basically-classified document to extract useful info. I had a brief foray into EJunkie last night, and have now been tasked with finding out what I can about selling books through I-Store.

27th April: First list of (ct) received. Converted to excel, uploaded to mail client. Confidential list also received; data extracted, converter to excel – text to columns – converter to word. Kept on stick. Deleted.

May 1st: PM request. Details of new book; all tasks related to production, finance etc.

May 4th: Additional (ct) names, finalised master list. Bracketed; sections inc. perks. Mail client upload. Complete at 219.

May 5th: New web vol.

May 6th: Ejunkie customisation. YouTube. Facebook task. 52 vs.

May 7th: Workflowy. To do list. Look at budget again; create list.

Business is a Verb

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The language of business is becoming outdated, with old models no longer capturing the nuance of interaction and the flow of change. Innovation no longer occurs in the lab, but in the marketplace. Communications technologies have provided the means by which business is increasingly customer lead, involving peer-production, crowd-sourcing and the need to monitor real-time changes and demands. I draw heavily on the book Social Media by Design in this short ramble, and can highly recommend it.

It’s no longer adequate to view the dynamic of online media as a one-way dissemination of information. We are now in the business of communication, in need of tools and an understanding that enables us to foster community. Value creation is increasingly determined not simply by product, but by relationships. While it was always true than an unhappy customer won’t be a returning customer, it is now true that happy, unhappy, and neutral customers are the source of business intelligence. As a business, you are no longer the expert. You need to know what your clients know.

As I recently wrote in an article:

After TEVA Canada adopted a network utilizing Microsoft SharePoint, Strategy-Nets and Moxie, they announced an unprecedented 95% order fulfilment rate for 2011. At the same time, IBM announced that they had reduced completion time by 30% and had a 33% reduction in component costs. But as Bloomberg let on that monitoring trend in online sentiment was leading to accurate stock predictions, even industry giants like Microsoft were suffering the effects of an out-dated one-way communication system. Escaping a potentially devastating 62% dissatisfaction rate in customer service provision through the generation of blogs, websites and forums, Microsoft, along with all these other companies, demonstrated the power of streamlining networks. These statistics are noted in the research of strategists such as Hinchcliffe and Kim, and indicate developments which are causing us to re-evaluate the nature of business itself.

The statistics for the page above show what happens when you aim to provide a service for your clients. The goal should be to become a resource, and not just a vendor. In order to create community, you have to offer your clients insight into the field in which you operate. This insight, and these resources, are the foundation upon which product is based. It’s how modern business develops a reputation, and this is the reasoning behind my understanding that business is increasingly about conversation, collaboration and peer-production. Product no longer determines reputation.

The controversy over the original inventor of the tablet computer demonstrates something of this philosophy. While some people are content to claim that Roger Fidler invented the tablet in 1994, Michael McNeil points out that “While mentions of electronic tablet use for specific purposes goes back to the 1800′s (Yes you read that correctly), I associate the development of the modern tablet to the visionaries that were mid-century science fiction writers. You can look specifically at Isaac Asimov’s novel “Foundation” for what appears to be the first reference of a tablet computer (Calculator Pad) that operates like the current tablets we know today. I wonder if this was the inspiration Jeff Hawkins (Inventor of the Palm Pilot) used in developing the GRIDPad, the first modern tablet in 1989. Yes folks, tablets were invented BEFORE smartphones.” 

What Apple have done is develop an image of a customer orientated organisation. The “i-” tag is no accident, and it is this image – enforced by Apple Shops full of enthusiasts rather than dour-faced wage slaves, and built upon a visionary language – combined with a way of including the customer in the product that has enabled Apple to so successfully dominate a market, and they have dominated it to such a degree that many people assume they invented the product.

Like Richard Branson is, Steve Jobs was part of the product. They are the human face of their companies, pandering to a need for a relationship with the industry consumers invest in. Along with an erroneous belief that media is for disseminating information, the attitude, tone of voice and image of the way we communicate is as an organisation is becoming more social. Formal declarations of services and a professional manner exclude people, as Hinchcliffe and Kim noted in their discussion of the Twitter account that parodied BP’s PR department during Deepwater Horizon tragedy. BP’s official PR department disseminated formal, and infrequent, updates via traditional outlets that served only to highlight their aloofness from the consumer. The Twitter parody managed to claim a larger audience than BP’s official page in a matter of weeks.

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Many of the Pain UK member sites lack an RSS feed for news, despite in some cases a prolific output. This seems to be symptomatic of a lack of digital media engagement. Conversely, many of the independent, personal ventures, such as blogs, have RSS feeds, and the usual array of interactive features.

Interesting to note the Migraine Book Club that ‘Migraine Monologues’ has set up – live web chat to discuss current book. Similar in theme to the idea of a Second Life meeting place, something that would be a natural response to lack of mobility.

A FB member mentions being inspired by “sports stars like Fabrice Muamba, Brian Laudrup, John Hartson and Stillian Petrov who have struggled through horrible illnesses and show great strength”.

Currently gathering various RSS streams to keep up-to-date on developments (to response in “real time”). Have divided them into Official Pages, if I can find the things, and Blogs. Great scope for involving an active blogger community in projects. Seems like a relatively unused resource, and so far I’ve only found one Official Site blog that invites guest contributions.

I’m also compiling all the links from all the websites to create a definitive list, and seeing what works and what doesn’t in terms of forums – which forums are most active and why.