phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

Clay Shirky on newspaper article thresholdswww.shirky.com

If only 2% of New York Times online visitors trigger the 20 per month article threshold, their former mass advertising audience turns into a niche of self-selecting paid customers.

There has never been a mass market for good journalism in this country. What there used to be was a mass market for print ads, coupled with a mass market for a physical bundle of entertainment, opinion, and information; these were tied to an institutional agreement to subsidize a modicum of real journalism. In that mass market, the opinions of the politically engaged readers didn’t matter much, outnumbered as they were by people checking their horoscopes. This suited advertisers fine; they have always preferred a centrist and distanced political outlook, the better not to alienate potential customers. When the politically engaged readers are also the only paying readers, however, their opinion will come matter more, and in ways that will sometimes contradict the advertisers’ desires for anodyne coverage.

See also: The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics, from a year ago

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Progressive Cop on nonviolencewww.theprogressivecop.com

A police officer was stabbed on New Year’s eve in the process of re-evicting Zuccotti Park.

It is important to remember that the police officers too are the 99%, even if some don’t realize it yet.  It is up to each of us to reach out to them and show them the truth.  We are just as capable of free thought as the next guy and can understand a logical argument when one is presented to us.  Common sense, however, dictates that when these officers are confronted by violent behavior such as stabbings and personally offensive language on the part of protesters, they like anyone, will be turned off by the overall message and are far more willing to do the dirty work of those in power.  For these same reasons, I understand it is hard for some protesters to have force used upon them without returning force but it is still vitally important to the survival of the overall movement to remain non-violent.

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Thinking about 2012

The 1st of January is as arbitrary as any day to designate a new year. Reading the Wikipedia article on the Gregorian calendar outlines some of the competing times to round out a new year — in March, May, September, December, as well as January — even when limiting oneself to the history of Europe.

But here I am, reflecting on the year ahead. Here is a short list of specific resolutions I’ve set out for myself:

  1. Read more books
  2. Write more blog posts
  3. Take more photos, take a photography course at ICP
  4. Work through my Instapaper queue (currently at 1,219 unread articles!)
  5. Focus on finishing and polishing my existing projects
  6. Favor those projects that help me keep in touch with friends and family

It’s in the interest of this last resolution that I’m setting aside the book I’ve recently started to start reading The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, which was recommended by my friend James. I like the idea of synchronizing my reading with friends for the sake of discussion. In case you might be interested in doing the same, I’ve added my Goodreads profile to my list of networks in the sidebar (heads up to RSS feed subscribers, there’s a sidebar you can’t see from there!).

I suppose I’ve taken some inspiration from Woody Gothrie’s 1942 “New Years Rulin’s”, many of which I also aspire to for the coming year:

  1. Work more and better
  2. Work by a schedule
  3. Wash teeth if any
  4. Shave
  5. Take bath
  6. Eat good — fruit, vegetables, milk
  7. Drink very scant if any
  8. Write a song a day
  9. Wear clean clothes — look good
  10. Shine shoes
  11. Change socks
  12. Change bed clothes often
  13. Read lots of good books
  14. Listen to radio a lot
  15. Learn people better
  16. Keep rancho clean
  17. Don’t get lonesome
  18. Stay glad
  19. Keep hoping machine running
  20. Dream good
  21. Bank all extra money
  22. Save dough
  23. Have company but don’t waste time
  24. Send Mary and kids money
  25. Play and sing good
  26. Dance better
  27. Help win war — beat Fascism
  28. Love Mama
  29. Love Papa
  30. Love Pete
  31. Love everybody
  32. Make up your mind
  33. Wake up and fight

Ellie Irons: Speculative Arboricultureblog.ellieirons.com

This one has been fun to watch come together:

Combining found natural materials (dead wood, foliage) with electrical wiring and living plants like moss and lichen, the sculptural installation took the form of a networked branch riddled with wires that seem to be either drawing power from or conveying power too the surrounding built environment. I filmed the sculpture as I built it, combining footage shot in the studio with details from the surprisingly vibrant forest outside my studio. The result is a piece that slowly reveals an ecosystem in which the lines between technological and biological evolution appear increasingly blurred.

It’s also worth relinking the Bruce Sterling talk which is also amazing.

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Gladwell vs. Shirky: A Year Laterwww.wired.com

Acts of communication, by themselves, aren’t especially interesting. We’ve always had protests, riots, and revolutions, and the people who carried them out have always found ways to spread the word. If the medium for those communications shifts from word of mouth, to printed flier, to telephone, then to texts and Twitter, what does it really matter? Technology becomes an important part of the story only if it’s changing the nature of the events — and the nature of the social groups that are carrying them out.

See also: How to run a protest without Twitter

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Twenty years after the Soviet Unionwww.theatlantic.com

Today’s In Focus shows the fall of the Soviet Union, culminating in the dissolution of the Communist Party on December 25th, 1991. The post includes an essay by Alain-Pierre Hovasse, Chief Photographer for the Agence France Presse, who was on assignment in Moscow.

We really had a notion that life here was changing dramatically, almost every day. Being a child of the Cold War, I remember feeling elated and privileged to be there at that time, to witness the apparent demise of this repressive political regime.

AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko

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Occupy & Spacebeyondthechoir.org

Astra Taylor writes about space and OWS in the third edition of the n+1 Occupy Gazette:

Space matters for Occupy. But when we seize it—whether it’s the sidewalk, the street, a park, a plaza, a port, a house, or a workplace—we must also claim the moral high ground so that others can be enticed to come and join us there. Occupy Our Homes made clear the connections between the domestic sphere and the financial sector: The occupation of abandoned bank-owned properties is actually a reclamation, a taking back of that which has been taken away, a recouping of something already paid for through other means (by unfairly ballooning monthly payments and the still-indeterminate government bail out, for example). The focus on Duarte Square, I fear, fails to draw the same kind of obvious unswerving link to the urgent issues that Occupy Wall Street emerged to address.

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Occupy Wall Street at the Crossroadsoccupyduniya.wordpress.com

Zuccotti Park was a sort of village square that thousands of people visited each day to get information, attend meetings and satisfy their curiosity about the movement. Every time I dropped by, I saw tourists arriving to gawk and leaving armed with leaflets and ideas to bring back to their own communities. It was a place where strangers immediately started talking to strangers—not small-talk about the weather but serious conversations about topics of genuine concern. People talking—and listening—to other people has been at the heart of the movement from its inception. … It is more crucial than ever for OWS to acquire a physical home base that members of the general public can visit. It should be either outdoors or in an easily accessible storefront location, ideally in Lower Manhattan, since this is the seat of economic power that is the central target of the movement’s efforts. The space can be rented, donated or occupied. But there needs to be a there there.

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Forbes goes trollingwww.forbes.com

Following up on the link-bait article “If I Was a Poor Black Kid”, Kashmir Hill — a staff writer from Forbescontemplates the conflict of interest in their contributor payment model:

Forbes has a stable of 850+ writers who are “contributors” — they get a little special tag on their pages that says, “The opinions expressed are those of the writer.” Forbes pays these folks for the unique visitors and repeat visitors they attract.

She poses a rhetorical question:

Does having a payment model that rewards controversy encourage writers to bait readers with offensive material?

Yes, I believe that is the problem. She offers a surprising “market-based” solution:

So what keeps people from trolling? When your name and face are attached to what you write, you start to develop what our CPO Lewis D’Vorkin loves to call “a personal brand.” I think of it as voice, authenticity, and reputation. As writers’ bylines become bigger and our photos become more prominent, this comes to matter more. After a certain amount of race- and gender-baiting, you establish a “troll” brand and that brand may become so toxic that you become irrelevant. And that is the worst fate for any writer (and every troll): to be ignored.

Personal brands and larger byline photos? No, sorry, this is basic editorial irresponsibility. As much as they’d like us to believe otherwise, the brand here is Forbes. Some commenters are applauding the piece for its “transparency,” but it’s a useless kind of transparency. Nobody is seriously going to start evaluating each and every author under the masthead, having now been informed of the publication’s tiered contributor model.

The solution is simple: fire the trolls, and fix the broken revenue model that rewards trolling.

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See also: Cord Jefferson’s response in GOOD

Why Cooper Union matterswww.brooklynrail.org

Litia Perta in the Brooklyn Rail:

American higher education now justifies itself on economic grounds: that we are producing the workforce for a global world. Such rhetoric has defined its function and has become its purpose. When was the last time debates around education articulated the virtues of higher thought, scholarship, a liberal education in the sense of one that frees the mind? When was the last time we explored the impact an idea, a novel, or a work of art can have on a person and on what they might decide to do with it? The danger of losing Cooper Union to the privatized, tuition-based educational model is not simply that we would lose one of the last bastions of non-instrumentalized education. The danger lies also in the fact that it would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, as even tuition-based institutions are faltering everywhere.

See also: Kevin Slavin’s rousing speech at the Cooper Union Community Summit

Also related: cooperunion.biz, a satire of both Cooper Union’s financial situation, and the “educational colonialism” model of NYU

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