Thursday, February 27, 2014

My "Do Ask, Do Tell III" book is officially published

The latest in my series of "Do Ask, Do Tell" books (call it "DADT III") is officially published at Xlibris.

The full title is "Do Ask, Do Tell:  Speech Is a Fundamental Right; Being Listened to Is a Privilege".
The Amazon link is there now, here.

The Xlibris link is this.

The book is in "Two Parts", a "Non-Fiction" first act, and a "Fiction" act after the "intermission" (some still photos).  I think the concept is somewhat unique, a "new kind of book".  (But that's what Thomas Carlyle said about "Sartor Resartus")   I may be obsessed with moral philosophy, but not retailored suits.

I'm already thinking about how to stitch the last two short stories together into a "Cloud Atlas" style screenplay.  Not six story threads, but two-and-a-half.

There's a lot of work to do, but the day will come to go on the road.

I have gotten sales pitches to purchase ads in high profile publications, like Publisher's Weekly, especially regarding placement into bookstores.

Given the nature of the economic market in media and books and the eclectic nature of my own content, spending a lot on one old school method of sales is not likely to be effective.  One would have to be "famous" first to be able to sell the many thousands of individual copies through traditional retail stores that it would take to recover the investment in ads.  I think that there are some downstream ethical questions about what it takes to belong to the "Superbowl spot" crowd, and about what it takes to become personally "notable" today and rack up numbers.  The observations I would male seem troubling and sometimes contradictory.  More about this later.

I do notice with some amusement that the Weather Channel displayed two ads for my new book on the same page, on Mozilla, probably because I left tracking on and had visited my own Amazon site earlier a couple times.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"An Army of Davids" by Glenn Reynolds of Instantpundit: Is this new democracy, or just amateurism?

Author:  Glenn Reynolds (from Instantpundit)

Title: “An Army of Davids
Subtitle: “How markets and technology empower ordinary people to beat big media, big government and other goliaths”

Publication: Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006.  ISBN 978-1-59555-113-0, paper, 290 pages, indexed, has Preface, Interlude, Conclusion and ten chapters
Amazon link is here

First, let me note that I was under the impression that the publisher’s brand is well known for Christian books.  This book is definitely secular, and certainly on the libertarian side of conservative, and certainly on the individualistic side of faith.  This is western culture.

The basic theme is certainly well known now.  Technology has revolutionized the production and distribution of media, allowing individuals to compete with whole companies for attention to their ideas, with little barrier to entry. 

The author pays little attention to the legal framework for the new status-quo, where service providers are largely exempted from downstream liability exposure for what users to, by Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (CDA-230), for libel and certain other torts, and by the DMCA Safe Harbor for most copyright infringement.  Some people want to weaken these protections, because they think the “goliath” ISP companies have the deep pockets to protect children or prevent piracy, but it wouldn’t work that way.  It’s also noteworthy that book publishers do not enjoy such immunity, which accounts for the (rarely enforced) indemnification clauses that authors have to sign with book publishers, even self-publishing companies.

Reynolds does talk about the issue of FCC regulation, and the relationship between broadcast companies and newer podcast operators.  He mentions Lawrence Lessig and the “Happy Birthday” copyright case, as apparently having started way back in 2006 or so, even though it was in the news last year (2013).  Old legacy media companies have every reason to resist new kinds of competition.  He is prescient about the issues that the FCC faces today given the recent appeals court ruling “striking down” its attempt at network neutrality.

He has a cute alliteration: “Media” vs. “We-dia”.  Except, one can say that the “we” is often a collection of independent voices, not the solidarity (or shared vision) that we usually connect to the pronoun “we”.

The “Interlude” or intermission is an essay on good blogging.  I agree, that the best blogs present information you can’t easily find from established media.

The second half of the book argues that we approach a “singularity” in the scope of our technology.  He goes into some esoteric areas: nanotechnology, increased longevity, and space travel and even relocation to Mars.  The nanontechnology could be dangerous, as in the television series like “Jake 2.0”, “Revolution” or “Intelligence”.  He mentions the theoretical possibility that a miscue could turn the entire world into goo by a miscalculation.  (He doesn’t get into quantum computing.)  On longevity, he says that medical advances could drive actuarial life expectancy at any age to the “escape velocity” for immortality – but that could only benefit the young – who would have to stay healthy forever and never retire (like the aliens in NBC’s “The Event”). 
I like his idea of “horizontal” distribution and consumption of knowledge.  That’s very challenging to politicians in some parts of the world, where knowledge is seen as a perk of social position and success in commercial, political or familial competition.  For example, in Russia, Vladimir Putin thinks that he will increase the birth rate if he can keep knowledge about gay rights away from impressionable minors.   It’s not too good for individuals to think too much of themselves, and not provide their country a biological future.  But what if indeed people can live forever?    

Other comparisons: Rohit Barghava's "Likeonomics" (Dec. 19, 2012 here); the films "Generation Like" (PBS, TV blog Feb. 19, 2014) and "Us Now" (Movies blog, Feb. 20, 2014).  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Homeland Security": basic information, lots of pix, from the establishment viewpoint, in your supermarket checkout line

Sometimes, mass-market supermarket gloss books really are worth picking up in the checkout line. At a Harris Teeter in Arlington VA I picked up a Media Source full-sized mag-book. “Homeland Security: Surveillance, Detection, Prevention and Protection”, by Charles Piddock.  It is published as part of a consumer series by Source Interlink Media and does carry some ads. 
The book, 130 pages, contains 20 short chapters about all the major topics.  All the text is heavily illustrated with photographs that would normally be difficult for any person to take on his own (or probably prohibited).  That alone is a reason to consider picking it up.  The attitude is one of moderation and is somewhat pro-administration.
One of the more important chapters is the third, “Learning from History” with accounts of past terror and disorder, like Shay’s Rebellion the Whiskey Rebellion, and the Ku Klux Klan. The author explains the Alien and Sedition Acts, which some people see distantly connected to the Patriot Act.  He doesn’t mention that Woodrow Wilson jailed people for criticizing the WWI military draft. 
The book gives detailed pictures of the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013, with at least one graphic picture (perhaps inappropriate) of a male victim and his leg injury right after one of the blasts.  There is a timeline of the lockdown of the entire Boston area until Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured.
The book does cover the NSA in detail, and includes pictures of the new data center in Utah.  It discusses Bradley Manning (Chelsea) briefly, and Edward Snowden in more detail. 
There is a chapter “Why do they hate us?” but the explanations are pretty standard, a lot of it based on religion, and don’t go into the psychology of the individual terrorists as I think the author could.
There is a chilling chapter on how terrorists work, with a presentation of, for example, the Unabomber. It talks about kidnapping and says (while presenting Danny Pearl) says that it can happen to anyone.  Does that include, within the US itself? 

There is a sobering discussion of weapons of mass destruction.  The author plays down somewhat the threat of radioactivity dispersion devices and crude nuclear weapons or suitcase nukes, widely speculated about after 9/11.  It does have a page for a “Digital 9/11” and suggests that the nation could go back to the 19th Century after a cyber attack.  There is a picture of Richard A. Clarke above that discussion.  But the author doesn’t mention electromagnetic pulse (EMP), discussed several times already on this blog in various books, and that threat is much more likely that a cyber attack alone to bring about an authoritarian, righteousness-based “revolution”.
The last section is Careers in Homeland Security, but it does not mention one agency, the National Counterterrorism Center in Tysons Corner VA, discussed here Jan. 6 in a review of a book by Priest and Arkin.

I thought the YouTube video of Department of Homeland Security Social Media Policy for employees would be interesting. The video does mention that personal and work lives are blurring today in a manner not known or appreciated until a decade ago. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

"The Solution Revolution" by Eggers and MacMillan from Deloitte Public Sector

Authors: William D. Eggers and Paul MacMillan

Title: “The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government and Social Enterprises Are Turning Up to Solve Society’s Toughest Problems

Publication: 2013: Boston, Harvard Business Review Press, ISBN 978-1422191191, Introduction and seven chapters, 292 pages, hardcover  The authors are directors at Deloitte Public Sector.
Amazon link
The authors trace how business professionals and entrepreneurs are applying capital formation and marketing techniques, and quantitative measurements, all from the business world, for humanitarian projects and to promote sustainability.

The largest philanthropists, many of whom like Bill Gates came from Silicon Valley, are indeed leading the way in bringing a higher standard of living to the developing world, hopefully in a way that is more sustainable.  That’s important because the world can’t afford for everyone to do what China is doing now.

The authors talk about “disruptive technologies” that center mainly around the Internet, which have rerouted our channels of socialization, rather than simply eliminating them (which is what we first thought).
The idea of alternative exchange currencies is important, and that’s not merely about bitcoin.  It’s about trading potentially damaging consumption credits (like carbon), or about other ways of measuring value.  A good example that the authors don’t mention directly is simply work credits, as often practiced by “intentional communities”, where people agree to live together in a moneyless environment (internally) but have to keep track of labor spent.  In that kind of world, all real labor has to be equally valued as to time.  
But sometimes work credits are still traded. (See my review of “Twin Oaks” in Virginia, April 7. 2012). 
Crowdfunding is discussed, as a way to raise money for enterprises that earn public sympathy or popularity.  This is sometimes done to make certain independent films (as with Kicjstarter), although there has to be a lot of public support for the worthiness of the subject for it to work. 

Another area where technology solutions have worked has occurred with enabling people to share physical resources, like cars or homes.  The simpler idea may be like Zipcar (appealing to people living in major cities where keeping your own car is expensive), but allowing others to rent your car or home while you are away has become more popular, but requires more care and attention on the part of participants.  (It is sort of like the ultimate form of time-sharing). 

Innovative solutions really come into play with microfinance, and with helping people build housing for themselves quickly in developing areas (Brazil, India and Thailand are discussed in the book).  In this regard, even Habitat for Humanity sounds relatively inefficient.  But the Amish will tell you that too much efficiency isn;t so good. 

See also “Likeonomics”, Dec. 19, 2012.