29 November 2011

Leftover Delight

Slowly emerging from tryptophan hangover...
  • There's a fascinating list at Foreign Policy (yes, the descendant of that cold-war journal) purporting to identify the world's 100 most influential thinkers. The list is entirely consistent with FP's twin biases against science and the arts... by largely ignoring them. Of course, competing such "lists" have their own blind spots — but it says nothing complimentary about the education of FP's staff and editors that the only scientist represented on the list for anything resembling science is Stephen Pinker, and that there is no representation on the list at all from the arts. It almost makes one wonder how George Orwell might have been treated!
  • Example: They missed out on probing the relationship between, umm, side effects of antiseizure medication and bodily functions (NSFW if you're a fundamentalist; hysterically funny — pun intended — for everyone else).
  • Seth Godin unwittingly explains why his approach to literature and publishing won't work as he announces the end of his new imprint's frontlist:

    By most of the measures I set out at the beginning, the project has been a success. So why stop? Mostly because it was a project, not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books. Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever. The goal was to explore what could be done in a fast-changing environment.

    (emphasis in original) That is, releasing an individual work, or even a handful of somewhat related works, can be an exercise in branding awareness... but being a publisher is about boring long-term logistics far more than it's about branding. Since Godin (in particular, but not alone) has shown a blithe disregard for logistics all along in his particular criticisms of publishing, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise (if at all).

    None of this is to say that small, independent publishers/self-publishers can't be successful in the long term; it is only to say that there's a lot of boring administrative stuff to face after the first flush of enthusiasm over the newest of the new pales beside the recognition that there's work to follow. Neither is this to say that commercial publishers do that work competently on the whole now!

  • One of those logistics things: Intracorporate politics leading to stupid decisions about DRM. If it didn't work for Lotus 123, what makes you think it will work for something that contains not executable code that must be bit-perfect, but letters and numbers and punctuation? In less-formal terms, remember CopyIIPC and DeCSS; in more-formal terms, this is a necessary consequence of known-plaintext cryptanalysis.

Meanwhile, plans for world domination inch forward, even as the link sausages on this platter are presented for your virtual gustatory perusal with a flourish! Bwahahahahahaha!