- Web Design: The First 100 Years (Maciej Ceglowski) — There’s a William Gibson quote that Tim O’Reilly likes to repeat: “the future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” O’Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions. I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let’s see how much we can do with what we already have. Let’s reclaim the Web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
- Comparing Cassandra Write Performance on Google Compute Engine and AWS — tl;dr – We achieved better Cassandra performance on GCE vs. Amazon, at close to half the cost. Also interesting for how they built the benchmark.
- The Scammy Underground World of Kindle eBooks — The biggest issue here isn’t that scammers are raking in cash from low-quality content; it’s that Amazon is allowing this to happen. Publisher brand value is the reliable expectation that buyers have of the book quality. Amazon’s publishing arm is spending the good brand value built by its distribution arm.
- Empire — a 12-factor-compatible, Docker-based container cluster built on top of Amazon’s robust EC2 Container Service (ECS), complete with a full-featured command line interface. Open source.
It's time to place a moratorium on negativity and start working toward book publishing's bright future.
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared on Medium; it is cross-posted here with permission. The writer is an O’Reilly employee, but he is expressing his personal views. We love his optimism about the future and wanted to share it with the Radar audience.
“THAT COMPANY is destroying my P&L, the entire book industry, and the fabric of civilized society.”
“I really like their free, two-day shipping, though.”
There’s a lot of tsoris in the publishing community right now over ebooks. Much of it has something to do with THAT COMPANY WITH THE WEBSITE THAT SELLS ALL THE THINGS, how THAT COMPANY has a stranglehold on the book market, how it’s devaluing our literary canon, how it has publishers right where it wants them.
But we’re not just cranky about THAT COMPANY. Other jeremiads include — but are not limited to — the painfully slow adoption curve of EPUB 3, the demise of beloved sites like Readmill, the failure of “enhanced” ebooks to gain traction, sundry ereader feculence, stagnating ebook sales, and sideloading.
I’m a cynic by nature, and count wallowing among my favorite hobbies, but after half a decade as a software engineer in the digital publishing space, even I’ve had enough and am issuing a moratorium on the negativity! Instead, I want to talk about some of the promising trends I’ve seen develop over the past year that foretell a bright future for the digital book. Forthwith: Five reasons for optimism about the future of ebooks.
Mature Engineering, Control Theory, Open Access USA, and UK Health Data Too-Open?
- On Being a Senior Engineer (Etsy) — Mature engineers know that no matter how complete, elegant, or superior their designs are, it won’t matter if no one wants to work alongside them because they are assholes.
- Control Theory (Coursera) — Learn about how to make mobile robots move in effective, safe, predictable, and collaborative ways using modern control theory. (via DIY Drones)
- US Moves Towards Open Access (WaPo) — Congress passed a budget that will make about half of taxpayer-funded research available to the public.
- NHS Patient Data Available for Companies to Buy (The Guardian) — Once live, organisations such as university research departments – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able to apply to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to gain access to the database, called care.data. If an application is approved then firms will have to pay to extract this information, which will be scrubbed of some personal identifiers but not enough to make the information completely anonymous – a process known as “pseudonymisation”. Recipe for disaster as it has been repeatedly shown that it’s easy to identify individuals, given enough scrubbed data. Can’t see why the NHS just doesn’t make it an app in Facebook. “Nat’s Prostate status: it’s complicated.”
NSA Crypto, Web Traps, Learn by Doing, and Distributed Testing
- On the NSA — intelligent unpacking of what the NSA crypto-weakening allegations mean.
- Overview of the 2013 OWASP Top 10 — rundown of web evil to avoid. (via Ecryption)
- Easy 6502 — teaches 6502 assembler, with an emulator built into the book. This is what programming non-fiction books will look like in the future.
- Kochiku — distributing automated test suites for faster validation in continuous integration.
Location Data, Online Science, Mythbusting for Education, and Cheap Music For All
- Reading Runes in Animal Movement (YouTube) — accessible TEDxRiverTawe 2013 talk by Professor Rory Wilson, on his work tracking movements of animals in time and space. The value comes from high-resolution time series data: many samples/second, very granular.
- Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Amazon) — edited collection of the best blog posts on science from 2012. Some very good science writing happening online.
- Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education (PDF) — Derek Muller’s PhD thesis, summarised as “mythbusting beats lectures, hands down”. See also his TED@Sydney talk.
- Melomics — royalty-free computer-generated music, all genres, for sale (genius business model). Academic spinoff from Dr. Francisco J. Vico’s work at UMA in Spain.
Where is classical music publishing headed now that the great works are available for free online?
The job of a publisher is to identify and cultivate talent, underwrite the writing process, and distribute the result. The publishing industry has been wringing its hands about the future of the print book for some time, but that model is sound (in the abstract) regardless of whether a book is printed on paper or transmitted over the Internet to a paying reader.
But what if you’re a publisher of works that have been in the public domain for a long time? The talent has already been identified and the writing has already been done, so the only value to be added is in editing, printing and distributing. That pretty much describes the business of publishing classical music scores, and the amount of value that publishers add varies greatly — between Dover, which mostly produces cheaply-bound facsimiles of out-of-copyright editions, and the German publishers Barenreiter and Henle, which produce beautifully printed scholarly editions.
Regardless of quality, all of these publishers face disruption in the form of the International Music Score Library Project, which makes 67,927 works of public-domain classical music available, for free, as scanned scores from academic music libraries. Traditional publishers rely on sales of warhorses like Beethoven’s piano sonatas to fund their operations, and that’s precisely what’s most readily available at IMSLP. It’s as though Knopf needed to sell Great Expectations to supply Robert Caro’s typewriter ribbon.