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The Media

Carping Over Creative Commons 276

Posted by michael
from the self-proving-thesis dept.
scubacuda writes "Arnold Kling, in his article, Content is Crap, writes, 'While there are many Net-heads who share Dan Gillmor's [and Larry Lessig's] enthusiasm for Creative Commons, I do not. It has little or no significance, because it is based on a strikingly naive 60's-retro ideological view of how content intermediaries function.' He compares artists' works to, well, raw sewage that publishers filter into something that can be later consumed by the public. 'What Creative Commons lets you do as an author is label your stuff before you flush it down the toilet.' Kling points to Bayesian Intermediaries (filters based on flexible keyword weights and 'trained' by user preferences) and weblogs as good ways to filter out the drivel that many content creators produce. (Dan Gilmore and Siva Vaidhayanatha respond, to which Kling responds in his blog."
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Carping Over Creative Commons

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  • Sewage?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:12PM (#5089276) Journal
    Well I must say I don't like the sewage analogy, but overall I do agree with the point. I would say that instead of sewage, authors (anyone who is creating something) often produce the raw ingredients for a meal--and it is the publisher who "cooks" the meal.

    Having experience at a small publishing company, I can say that a large number of authors have no idea how much work is needed to produce a book. Not just authors--a vast majority of slashdot viewers (and people in general) don't have any idea either I'm sure. Making a book even once an author has completed the manuscript is still time consuming and difficult--not just sending it to the press and saying 'done!'.

    To anyone who says publishers aren't needed, I'd advise them to try a job at a publishing shop for a short time, and see how they like the work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:12PM (#5089280)
    Just what content does he think he'll be able to Baysian Filter without more open content licenses?
  • by Mantrid (250133) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:16PM (#5089304) Journal
    The author of the article seems to think that Bayesian filters are going to change everything and become the personal editors/publishers of tommorrow. Is the technology really that promising? (not a rhetorical question by the way...)

    (Ironically though, the author is assuming that his own writing isn't crap)
  • by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:17PM (#5089323) Journal
    Ok I can tell you a couple things that it's a 100% sure that consumers want in books. Good spelling, properly formatted pages, sentences that make sense, tables of contents and indexes that are correct, covers that look good, footnotes in proper order and together, uniform citation styles, diagrams referred to properly and in the right locations, and I could keep going. If you think all this is easy, I would advise you to seek a job in the publishing industry--sounds like some publishers could really use your help!

    You wouldn't believe the state of some manuscripts that come in..
  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s1r_m1xalot (218277) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:20PM (#5089342)

    Does anyone else think it's ironic that Kling insists that content is alike to raw sewage in a blog?

    And if your average professionally produced content is sewage, than whomever is hosting Jenny Teenager's blog has the cyber equivilant of Yucca Mountain

  • Nice Strawman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nurlman (448649) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:21PM (#5089350)
    From Kling's piece:

    The Commons enthusiasts believe that content publishers earn their profits by using copyright law to steal content from its creators and charge extortionary prices to consumers.

    This is the central premise that underlies the rest of his article, and without it, his rant makes no sense. However, beyond stating the premise, he offers nothing to support the argument that the purpose of Creative Commons is to purposefully hamstring publishers.

    From my understanding of CC, quite the opposite is the case. If a publisher is interested in distributing your work, you're going to enter into negotiations and ultimately issue a license to that publisher on the terms you agree on. The CC license has no bearing on this transaction.

    The CC license is more about protecting the authors whose work doesn't attract the interest of traditional publishers (because the work is not polished, not economically viable, whatever), but which contains material that someone else desires to use or re-publish. Through the CC license, the author can set the terms upon which the work may be used without having to personally negotiate those terms with anyone and everyone who would like to use it.

    Kling's premise is a strawman-- people don't use the CC license to do an end-run around publishers; they use it because publishers aren't interested (or because the author is not interested in dealing with a publisher).
  • by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:28PM (#5089400) Homepage
    How many minor art film festivals do you go to? How many college author's books do you read? How many open art exhibitions?

    The idea (which seems true to me) is that consumers do not want to have to choose between thousands of products most of which are bad but dozens of products most of which are good. Getting from thousands to dozens requires that 99% of the products be filtered.

    For example I personally tend to for way more filtering buying almost always "greatest hits albums". I want multiple filters:

    a) The group got a contract
    b) The record was successful
    c) Multiple records were succesful from the same group
    d) The 10% best songs from the records were choosen.

    I hate "live music" at bars and clubs because most of it is so bad. While I may be unusual in the degree of filtering I want for music, the basic idea is not atypical. Further many people have the same filtering for books (where I personally choose from a much wider range); and will only read books that are classics (i.e. have sold well for generations) or only read books that are massive best sellers. The Oprah book club (best new literary fiction each month) worked well because having to only pick 1 book per month Oprah could make it a very good one. Other people only go to the most succesful movies....

    So no I don't think consumers have any interest in choosing between such a wide range of sources.

    Frankly why are you getting your tech news from slashdot if not to get a filtered selection of the hundreds of tech news sites?

  • Haha ha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlackHat (67036) <Tahkcalb@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:29PM (#5089404) Journal
    Filters!

    These filters are why most if not near all of editorial cartoonists are white male 25-55. These "filters" are why many of the people here are here and not reading Main-stream-content.

    The whole bunch of these fools think that there is some Content-Value in the control of the media. Some how the exclusion of some parts is enhancing the parts they let you see. That their view of what is good and bad is Added-Value. I am not so sure they do add anything. Nor do I think that never allowing the bad-stuff to be seen will do anything but obscure the contrast.

    Imagine sports where we only get to watch only the winner play alone.
  • by Stonehand (71085) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:32PM (#5089423) Homepage
    Well, marketing and branding both have their value. Heck, even the choice of publisher, by itself, can mean something to a consumer. A book from O'Reilly or McGraw Hill or Springer-Verlag, for instance, probably has a higher probability of interest to a technical bloke than from whoever publishes the _Harlequin Romance_ tripe. That's some filtering right there.
  • He's right, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:37PM (#5089449)


    > He compares artists' works to, well, raw sewage that publishers filter into something that can be later consumed by the public.

    Yeah, but when the publisher in question is the RIAA they filter out all the good stuff and pass all the lip-sync dance-sync boy-band crap on to the consumer.

  • by goon america (536413) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:38PM (#5089454) Homepage Journal
    I think the article is right in this sense: record companies filter out the bad and present what is good.

    Here's the problem: "good" is defined as what's good for dumb 11-14 year old girls. I'm completely serious. Who do you think buys the most music?

    The music industry filters and adds value only for the largest and most appealing market segments (teenagers, especially young girls) and fucks everyone else. Everyone else still has to deal with the high prices and homogeney that sucker teenagers are willing to pay for music that serves a different purpose for them (emotionally). In economics terms, sucker teenagers and everyone else have totally different demand functions, but the sucker teenagers are so much more profitable that everyone else gets ignored by the industry.

  • Re:Sewage?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RazzleFrog (537054) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:38PM (#5089457)
    Writing software is difficult, too. Yet is seems that there are thousands of applications out there that were written without the help of any major software company. Sure a lot of them are crap but the good ones often have a way of standing out.

    You are still wrapped up in the idea of physical publishing. Physically producing a book is a difficult task that requires time and money but writing a book only needs a talented author and some friends who are willing to proof read.
  • Re:Nice Strawman (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blamanj (253811) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:39PM (#5089461)
    his rant makes no sense

    Bingo. Your description of the CC license is far more coherent. Kling is completely confused, and the idea that you could train a Baysian filter to select good content from bad is laughable.

    Of course publishers serve a purpose. But the publishing world, just to give one example, is littered with books that were refused by 20 publishers before they were eventually picked up.

    He's correct in that CC does no content filtering, but that's not the point of CC, as you succintly note.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:39PM (#5089465)
    Having experience at a small publishing company, I can say that a large number of authors have no idea how much work is needed to produce a book.

    While there is some truth in that of course, it is only part of the truth. The much larger truth is that without the content, the publisher has nothing, ZERO, zilch. Commensurate with this, the publisher does not really deserve much credit nor profit --- he is a middleman, useful, but still just a middleman.

    Furthermore, the "no idea how much work is needed" response is often used to justify the continued existence of the middleman even when he is no longer necessary. If technology respected such words of caution, we'd have no desktop publishing, no home video and graphics production, and no home music studios. And of course, the individual artist would always be just a tiny cog in an immense machine.

    The middleman does need to be put in his rightful place --- not necessarily extinction, but certainly in a limited niche.
  • by wunderhorn1 (114559) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:45PM (#5089499) Homepage
    1. It's likely that a given piece of Creative Commons content is going to be crap because 90% of everything is crap (this is known as Sturgeon's Law, BTW).
    2. Content intermediaries produce mediocre results, but it's still better than crap.
    3. Maybe the answer is not to guarantee that there is free crap available, but to offer a way to filter out the crap, without having to pay a middleman.
    Makes more sense now?
  • by Omega (1602) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:51PM (#5089534) Homepage
    Perhaps Mr. Kling hasn't ready anything on the Creative Commons project. I think one of the best features the Creative Commons offers is simplifications of user agreements.

    Essentially all the parts of a user agreement are reduced to a set of easily recognizable icons/keywords (from a set of 10) which detail what copyrights and licenses and granted and reserved under the agreement. So when you visit a website or buy a software package, instead of reading 30 pages of EULA's (which no one does anyway) and clicking "I Agree," you will see a set of Icons/Keywords which abbreviate the agreement so you can Agree/Decline. The legal elements represented by the agreement icons/keywords are universal -- so the icons ($), (=), etc means the same thing for every user agreement regardless of content provider. Providers can customize their agreements by choosing a set of icons which best represents what licenses they want to reserve and which ones they want to grant. Users benefit because they only need to read the text of the 10 possible licenses for a possible infinite number of service/content providers.

    The argument, "Sure I clicked agree, but I didn't read it," is becoming more and more compelling to courts and shrink wrap licenses are becoming endangered of being ruled invalid because they are not easily accessible. By following the creative commons model, providers can be protected because they follow a universal license model that can be easily recognized and understood by users. Likewise, users can know everything they are agreeing to because the provider can't sneak spying provisions into the CC licenses and still represent the license with the CC icons.

    Btw, I love it when some sniveling, little Reagan-ite calls constitutionally guaranteed freedom and liberty "60's era" or "naive." What they're really saying is "Sure, liberty sounds good...But facism and elitism just make more sense in modern society."

  • by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:55PM (#5089556) Journal
    Bah, I'm sorry, I stand by my earlier statement--if you want to really talk about this subject get some knowledge first--go write a book or work at a publishing shop.

    Your statement that "the publiher does not really deserve much credit nor profit" is ridiculous. Let me list a couple things that publishing companies do that authors are quite glad to have no part in doing--market books. The press with which I have experience largely works in college books and things like law books (ie, nonfiction). All publishers devote a signifigant amount of resources to sending people out to schools to get prospective sales--meaning more royalties for the author. How bout managing sales, shipments, warehouses? That's fun. Or dealing with supply vendors, printers, etc? That's great fun too.

    Another area I'm quite sure you haven't thought about. In many cases publishers are looking for a book--a book to fill a particular niche, and they go out and find an author to write said book. So if the publisher recruited an author like this is it fair to say that the author has "ZERO, zilch" and does not deserve much credit or profit?

    The publisher is NOT just a middleman--they DO take on many activities of middlemen, but the act of publishing a book is a process in which creativity comes out of the employees of the publishing company as well, and in many cases editors and others greatly help the authors.

    I could keep going ad inf. But I'll just stop here..
  • by Interrobang (245315) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:56PM (#5089571) Journal
    This argument is not new in publishing circles. In fact, everyone from publishing industry executives to Spider Robinson (in a televised interview on the Space Channel) takes a crack at it every so often, and it goes like this:

    Since Sturgeon's Law applies to all forms of content creation, publishers serve the valuable function of separating the wheat from the chaff and presenting us, the buying/reading public, with only the best of what's available.

    Unfortunately, there are a few flaws with this argument. First of all, who decides what's the "best"? The guy who gave the go-ahead to publish The Bridges of Madison County? Literary critics? The New York Times Review of Books? Secondly, using sales numbers as the only arbiter of "good" or "bad" in an artistic venture is a really strange way of looking at art, one which sort of presupposes that that which is marketable is (de facto and de jure) automatically "good." (See argument one.) Thirdly, it's entirely possible for famous, well-respected, and talented content creators to have their entire careers axed by one failed venture. Don't believe me? Ask Norman Spinrad [tinet.ie], author of Bug Jack Barron, and The Iron Dream among others. It happened to him, and it's happened (according to my own research) to many other authors (I'm afraid I can't really name names here, though).

    See, the way the publishing biz operates, it works similarly to many areas in our society (like electoral politics, and the private sector, for two): If you've already got the "name" and you've got lots of money (or a couple of bestsellers in the hole), you're practically guaranteed to stay a success. If, on the other hand, you have to compete against the "brand names" and everybody else submitting their work 'over-the-transom', your chances of achieving even that first foot-in-the-door publication are very small. Your talent, or lack thereof, isn't usually much of a deciding factor.

    So given all that, these guys making this Social Darwinism In Publishing argument really piss me off, because they're completely disconnected from publishing biz reality as we know it...either that, or they've got their lucrative contract, so they really genuinely believe that the stacked deck affords equality of opportunity. Therefore, obviously, the rather McLuhanesque (the retro-60's naivete Kling refers to?) levelling Creative Commons is a bad thing. Right.
  • Re:Nice Strawman (Score:3, Insightful)

    by urbazewski (554143) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:13PM (#5089705) Homepage Journal
    his rant makes no sense

    Exactly. He seems incapable of, or unwilling to, separate out what the CC license actually is from the dire consequences he invents to maximize the outrage caused by his troll.

    A similar argument can be made against literacy itself: if you give people the means to read and write, they will just produce a huge stream of crap. Instead, why not have large organizations decide what's worth writing and what's worth reading?

    If Kling is right that publishers are essential, then CC is no threat --- people will be willing to pay for filtering or editing or marketing and publishers will do just fine. It's ironic that supporters of "free markets" (judging from the tagline on the website) feel so threatened by an initiative to expand the choice set of both content producers and content. consumers.

    annmariabell.com [annmariabell.com]

  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:21PM (#5089756)
    There are many approaches to text filtering and classification. Bayesian methods are just one of them. Latent Semantic Analysis and related techniques, for example, are not directly motivated by Bayesian considerations. Seems like this guy has heard a big-sounding buzzword once and is now parading it around as the solution to all our woes.

    For the kind of "raw sewage" Kling produces, we don't need a Bayesian filter to detect it--it stinks enough without it.

  • Reviews! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robson (60067) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:21PM (#5089757)
    I agree with him in one sense... not that content is crap, and not with his overall tone or message, but that there is significant value in the filtering process. Not corporate filtering, or automated filtering, but review-based filtering.

    I've thought for a long time now that, with advances in technology (home-studio-produced music, professional-quality DV software on PCs, etc.), and with advances in distribution (the Internet), we're moving into a different sort of creative "space" where anyone who wants to make art can make art, and have it be seen by anyone. That's unbelievably cool, but it makes "consumption" more difficult, as it's much harder to find work that interests you.

    The solution is reviews. Preferably from as many sources as possible. I see us in a situation where we actively pick reviewers whose taste matches ours, and who gain our trust. These are our filters. This already exists in the medium of web sites -- what are Slashdot, MetaFilter, Plastic, and K5, among many others? They're filters for web content. We don't have time to scour the entire web every day for pages that interest us, so we go sites who've obtained our trust, and we let them filter this content.
  • by mochan_s (536939) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:22PM (#5089764)

    The press with which I have experience largely works in college books and things like law books (ie, nonfiction). All publishers devote a signifigant amount of resources to sending people out to schools to get prospective sales--meaning more royalties for the author.

    College textbooks are the prime example of where the middle-man should be cut. The middle man is so bloated and large for college textbooks that the price of textbooks are ridiculous. And, what do the editors do?

    First of all, they demand that the textbook be submitted in Tex (so all typesetting is done). Second, a preliminary copy of the book would have been used in a professor's class (so it would have 99% of the mistakes weeded out). So, all the middle men fucking do is make money. I guess, for lower level classes, it takes a lot of work to "convince" professors to assign a $130 book when there's an equally good book for $20 (or a free downloadable book,lecture-notes from a website), or ask professors to upgrade the requirement to the alternate version or the web-enhanced version of the book so that student has to buy a new copy instead of a used copy.

    You can rationalize all you want about publishers being so important. Sooner or later, professors are going to assign textbooks are ps files to download and the publishers are going to go. Not needed in the college textbooks scene at all.

    Don't know about other kind of books. But, I can't remember the last book that I bought that wasn't a college textbook.

  • by crazyphilman (609923) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:24PM (#5089780) Journal
    As I read his love-letter to the publishing industry, which basically said that the output of authors, artists, et al was "crap" which was then filtered by value-adding publishers (Puh-LEASE), I couldn't help but think that if these publishers were any good at filtering crap, we would never have heard of Mr. Kling in the first place.

    I like the idea of a creative commons, though. Kudos to the crew that created it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:58PM (#5089984)
    This sort of fallacy is often propogated on Slashdot, generally by people that have never and probably never will have a marked contribution to society, but rather serve as equally pointless, if not more so, an existence than the role they find superfluous.

    Without the labors of farmers, there are no meats, milk, or grains with which to produce consumable food. Without the proper tools, one cannot farm land effectively. Without people harvesting resources, you can't create tools.
    People function at a higher level than these to create better tools, produce more effective methods, distribute the best results, and many other things.
    And without all of their work, writers are not free to create anything. Is it your position that writers are thus unworthy of praise, for without the entire framework of a wealthy society, they would be spending their time picking berries, instead of producing yet one more piece of derivative artwork? There is no added value to life from retelling the same stories over and over, and evolving them ever so slightly for the times?
    This is of course false, and purely crap. Looking up the chain and saying others take your work and provide no benefit, is delusional. I don't need to produce electricity for myself, or manufacture my own clothing or my computer , and I think it would be fairly absurd for a farmer to suggest the software I write isn't a sufficient contribution over the framework they provide, that I could not exist without.
    Publishers provide a very real, human service. They help the writing process, secure the means of production, and serve to create a beacon I can look to for various standards of quality. They free from the writer many burdens, and ease the means by which I can find something I value.
    In reality, most easy things are shit. Modern life makes it fairly easy to produce text, but it doesn't make it any easier to product quality.

    I can look over at SourceForge, which is made veritably useless by the mammoth quantity of garbage, throw-away software. I can look at blogs, and find endless quantities of non-creative, boring tripe, that would be far more interesting to sociologists and psychologists, than anyone looking for artistic excellence.
    I can go over the mp3.com and download thousands, and thousands of absolutely horrible pieces of crap. I could attempt to click my way through segments of the web, or I can use Google. Google couldn't exist without content to search, and yet it makes my usage of the 'net far more productive, by filtering out the endless quantities of garbage I'm not interested in.
    I have no problems paying, myself, for the overhead of the services I find beneficial to me. This includes the quality control and branding of a publishing house. Whether it can exist without a lower step in the chain is irrelevant, because it makes for a better product.

    Just because you're not personally capable of the reflection required to understand the world in which you exist, doesn't mean it fits within the scope of what you do understand, anymore than an illiterate makes my words just a bunch of squiggly lines. Stop thinking your simplistic insights of how the world is broken somehow escape the rest of us, and spend more time thinking of why the world works the way it does. I can assure you, we're not missing anythign you see.
  • by lostboy2 (194153) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:00PM (#5089991)
    I admit I did not sift through the articles and blogs, but I very much disagree with Kling's arguments.

    First, he suggests that CC and publishers cannot co-exist, that the media world is not big enough for the two of them. I disagree with this notion.

    Unless I've missed something, CC does not preclude authors from having their works filtered and distributed by publishers, it just gives them another alternative. Moreover, it gives authors who are ignored by publishers a means to protect their works and seek other distribution methods.

    Secondly, Kling's quote
    "...publishers are adding value, not simply stealing. They add value by filtering out content that people do not want..."
    is highly presumptuous. First, how do the publishers know what I do not want? They've never asked me! But more importantly, it is this attitude that causes publishers to cater to the lowest common denominator -- to distribute only what they think a sizable percentage of the population would like. Without options like CC, works by authors and artists that the publishers deem "crap" might never be available.

    I myself read a lot of comic books and zines. Personally, I LIKE independent press works and go out of my way to find them. Some of the most interesting stuff I've found has been created and distributed by the author/artist on a shoe-string budget (photocopied on plain paper, folded down the middle and stapled once).

    I disagree that such things are crap, just because they aren't on glossy paper, with airbrushed technocolor, aren't produced by one of the brand name publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, etc.), etc.

    Yes, there is a lot of crap out there too, but I'd like to be able to judge for myself, rather than leave that decision up to people whose opinions clearly differ from my own.

  • by Morgaine (4316) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:02PM (#5090013)
    This is funny, since I actually agreed with you in part, namely that there can be a lot of work involved in publishing. However, you missed entirely (or ignored willfully) the point being made, that without content you have nothing.

    Then you point out even more heatedly just how much extra work is performed by the publisher ... while missing the insight that it's largely makework, either not essential or in very many cases capable of being done by the author. Furthermore, your contribution is undoubtedly the key reason why the end price is so high (the costs of an organization are always much higher than those of the author), as others have pointed out.

    Finally, you point out that in some cases the publishing house actually creates the work, perhaps through doing the research, bringing together articles or authors, and so on. This is excellent ... you have become the AUTHOR. But don't confuse that situation with the normal one, where you are primarily a middleman dealing in presentation and marketing, no more. That can be a useful function function, in some cases, but extending its importance beyond that is flawed.
  • by richieb (3277) <richieb@gmaBLUEil.com minus berry> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:03PM (#5090021) Homepage Journal
    Even, if it is not crap, it's not king. I found this article quite pursusive: Content is not king [firstmonday.dk]

  • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@NosPAM.kjernsmo.net> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:06PM (#5090046) Homepage Journal
    I just posted this comment to his comments section: I think that what you completely fail to think about is that the only thing that is changing, is that publishers do not anymore have a veto.

    Certainly, literary critics will become more important in the future. Those people adding value by aiding people in finding the gems and improving writing of the writers are not going to disappear. No, they will obviously become more important as the amount of stuff increases.

    But they do not anymore have a veto, as publishers had before. That's the only real difference.

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:17PM (#5090116)
    See, the way the publishing biz operates, it works similarly to many areas in our society (like electoral politics, and the private sector, for two): If you've already got the "name" and you've got lots of money (or a couple of bestsellers in the hole), you're practically guaranteed to stay a success. If, on the other hand, you have to compete against the "brand names" and everybody else submitting their work 'over-the-transom', your chances of achieving even that first foot-in-the-door publication are very small. Your talent, or lack thereof, isn't usually much of a deciding factor.

    I don't see how this state of affairs is the publishing industry's fault. If anything, it is the fault of the consuming public. People, which are generally stupid creatures, care more that an author is well-known and popular, than whether his writing is worth any more than the paper it's written on. If authors continue to succeed, even when their work doesn't merit success, then it's because the sheep-like public continue purchasing their trash -- NOT because the publishing company chooses to market it.

    On the flip side, if an unknown author can't get his life's work published, even though it's an amazing piece of literature, that's probably because the publisher has (correctly) realized that the aforementioned sheep-like public won't realize what they've got.

    Hell, if I was a publisher, I'd act precisely the same way. Why waste money marketing an intellectual masterpiece if its content is going to be lost on the vast majority of idiots? Conversely, why shouldn't I publish garbage, if people are choosing to buy such garbage? It's just sane business practice.

    If you're really upset at the state of publishing, then go scream at your idiot mom/brother/boss. They're the ones pumping the money into this drivel. People read what they like. Unfortunately, what they seem to like most is brain-dead, lifeless, putrid trash.

  • Re:Sewage?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:50PM (#5090306) Homepage
    To anyone who says publishers aren't needed, I'd advise them to try a job at a publishing shop for a short time, and see how they like the work.
    I say publishers aren't needed, and I have done publishing work. Specifically, I've self-published some of my own books [lightandmatter.com]. I have pretty decent sales. (It's a textbook, and it's been adopted [lightandmatter.com] by a bunch of schools. The digital version is a free download, and I sell printed copies.) I'm not trying to blow my own horn. I just want to point out that this is a counterexample to your argument.

    The article is correct about the necessity for filtering. However, he makes some strange assumptions about how filtering can happen. He only offers two options: traditional filtering (filtering by the publisher before distribution) or some kind of vaguely imagined bayesian filtering.

    What makes more sense, IMO, is that content should get filtered, but after distribution, by readers. To see an example of how that can work, see my sig.

  • Oops (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:10PM (#5090468) Homepage Journal
    And my whole book series, too. At least it's sewage that sells well, helps people get a job done, and gets good reviews :-)
  • by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:52PM (#5090706) Homepage
    You really need to read more clearly if you are going to be accusing others of logical errors. I do specifically address the issue of unfiltered choice in the very context where I first make that point. In context:
    "How many minor art film festivals do you go to? How many college author's books do you read? How many open art exhibitions? The idea (which seems true to me) is that consumers do not want to have to choose between thousands of products most of which are bad but dozens of products most of which are good. Getting from thousands to dozens requires that 99% of the products be filtered. "

    In other words there are plenty of avenues by which people can see unfiltered film, unfiltered art, unfiltered music, unfiltered literature. They exist, they are quite inexpensive (often free) and they are very poorly attended. Its not that people don't know about these venues its that they quite deliberately choose to avoid them.

    Most people have very few areas of their lives in which they want to make detailed choices. You may find this offensive but I've provided quite a bit of evidence for it and if you can for a moment think about your own life you yourself make use of it. I think the particular case of music you find offensive because you probably do select from a much wider range (as I mentioned I do for books where I am much more of an expert and am willing to spend more filtering for myself).

    Now stop thinking with your emotions while claiming I'm making a logical falicy. Reread the original post and if it helps replace music with best selling spice racks.

  • by gribbly (39555) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @10:02PM (#5091811)
    No person's views and unconscious bias are inflicted on you

    Wait a minute, someone wrote the code and filters that Google News uses. So there's still an inherent bias, although it may be at one remove. There's certainly "people behind it", just in a different way.

    This is not to say I don't like Google News. It's just that saying that it's unbiased is a somewhat dangerous assumption.

    grib.

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