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Comment Re:you realize you are asking on an ad supported s (Score 2) 248

Oh definitely, and I was one of the first onboard for Slashdot subscriptions, back in the day. But still, after those stats from Destructoid, I wondered if this quasi holy war that goes on between publishers and readers might have a more amicable solution. Instead of "stop spamming us!" / "you owe us!", there could be some "you did good" / "thank you!".

OK, really, I'm just interested to see how much money I personally would spend in any given month, and I thought some Slashdotters might as well.

Comment Re:Flattr (Score 1) 248

I hadn't, but now I have. I love that things like that exist, and I'm a bit sad I don't know about it already. Mindshare is a tricky thing.

It's kinda the same concept, except I think they let you set a budget and it gets divvied up, whereas I'm talking more about pure pennies in use, so if you don't see anything of value in March, you don't actually spend anything. It's cheaper, sure, but I think most people would probably take issue with spending the same $10 every month, even if they didn't get much enjoyment out of it, no?

Comment Re:The data is meaningless without real money (Score 3, Interesting) 248

I agree, but another aspect of it is: if you are playing along with absolutely no regard for what these buttons really represent, how will you feel at the end of a month, looking at what you've potentially spent? It could be "holy crap, I can't afford this," or it could be "that wasn't as bad as I thought." That's extremely interesting to me, all by itself. Then add in the "how much would this pay my favourite sites", and you've got a really interesting conundrum and/or solution.

It's almost like "try before you buy", in a way. But purely for personal curiosity.

Comment Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (Score 3, Interesting) 248

I had a great discussion today about what "next steps" would be for this, pretty much encompassing your point above. The somewhat-decided gist is that there's some single place or service that handles the actual money. So for instance, you create an account there and drop $10 into it, and then just go browsing the web as usual, clicking the 1, 2 or 3-penny buttons built into your browser. At the end of each month (or thereabouts), the central organization pays each of the sites you supported, thereby dodging the "micro" aspect of the microtransaction. Sites themselves wouldn't have to sign up or support it, they'd just have to claim the money using some kind of verification process (that would be a nightmare in and of itself).

Entirely voluntary on all fronts... which means it's basically impossible to implement, because there isn't a good profit margin in it :)

Comment Re:No actual money is involved (Score 4, Interesting) 248

True, but that in itself could be part of the experiment, for each individual person. For instance, today I'd already have spent $0.25. At the moment, I can't tell if I'm happy with that result or not, but I bet by the end of a month, I'll know if my "whee!" approach to dropping pennies is a Very Bad Idea.

Businesses

Submission + - Testing an Ad-free Microtransaction Utopia (1889.ca) 1

MrAndrews writes: After reading a Slashdot story about adblocking and the lively discussion that followed, I got to wondering how else sites can support themselves, if paywalls and ads are both non-starters. Microtransactions have been floated for years, but never seem to take off, possibly because they come off as arbitrary taxation or cumbersome walled-garden novelties. Still, it seems like the idea of microtransactions is still appealing, it's just the wrapping that's always been flawed. I wanted to know how viable the concept really was, so I've created a little experiment to gather some data, to put some real numbers to it. It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting. No actual money is involved, it's just theoretical. There's a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and I'll be releasing anonymized analyses of the data in the coming weeks. If you're game, please check out the experiment page for more information, and give it a go. Even if you only use it once and forget about it, that says something about the concept right there.

Comment Quantifying (Score 2) 212

A lot of the talk has been about the value of marketing vs selling etc, but you asked about how to quantify performance and not get screwed over, so I'm going to try a coherent answer. Short version is: it's hard to quantify, for a variety of reasons. I've consulted on a few projects lately where marketing was brought in to push the product to the masses, with varying results. This is what I've learned:

First, you want someone with experience in the same market niche your product is aimed at. I was in a meeting with a marketer who said he was a perfect fit because he did mobile, though it was games for preschoolers, and we were doing enterprise software. Bad fit. That much is obvious, maybe, but then you'll find the marketer who hits very close to your niche, and with tangible success, and you'll hear about the tens of thousands of sales he got in his first month at his last gig, and you'll start seeing dollar signs floating everywhere... and that is a bad thing.

Before you talk to a marketer, do some work and figure out what your "happy" outlook is like. Never mind units, focus on profit, because when the money starts coming in, the units become irrelevant and all you'll care about is how close you are to breaking even. If you've got an expiry date on your endeavour (the point at which you have to get another job to pay the rent), figure out how long it'll take you to get there, and then merge it with your "happy" outlook and make that your benchmark. "In six months, we need to earn $10,000." Simple, bloody-minded, realistic. Do this before you talk to any marketers, because it will be hard to be honest with yourself after.

A marketer will ask you what your sales goals are, and no matter what you answer, you'll end up with a number based on their market analysis and track record. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to keep it separate from your own analysis of reality. Once you've heard from all your candidates, pick the one who actually listened to you when you spoke. A lot of them don't, and no matter how brilliant they may be, if they're not listening to you, you will end up hating them very quickly. You can't hate your team. At least not right away.

At this point, you've got a best-guess marketer, with a half-decent chance of success. Set parameters: they have X months to deliver Y results. If you're cautious, set it at some fraction of your expiry date. Another good approach is to just say: "Look, you have six months to earn us $10,000, or we're toast." Some people react well to knowing where the cliff lies, some people freak out and leave. But setting a concrete goal gives them focus, and something to beat. In their contract, make that key: you fail at this, you're out.

That said, you are going to spend 90% of that time period thinking you made a terrible mistake. The more time you spend talking to marketers, the more you can see the smoke and mirrors and fishing wire they use to do their thing, and the more it scares the crap out of you. Wait, we're trying to sell this thing based on anticipation and close-up photos of flowers? Seriously? Do I really have to post that to Facebook? I won't have any friends left by the time the product comes out...

Unless the marketer is actively drinking scotch in meetings, you've got to let them do their thing. Because — and this is the sucky part — you're going over that cliff one way or another. If you chose wisely, your marketer will have built a set of wings to glide over the canyon, and you'll be fine. And if not... well, at least you get to go splat with pizzaz.

Comment Re:Missing (Score 1) 184

A picture plus the title in a large font doesn't seem so difficult.

By the same token, if I decide to make a guestbook for my website in PHP, all I need to do is let the server write the post data to a text file, I'm ready to go. I don't really know much about form validation or security, but that's okay, because I'm not trying to be a programmer, just set up a little web form for learning's sake.

The big red warning lights you see in your head right now are what graphic designers see when someone says they can make their own cover.

You CAN make a book cover using random artwork with a large font, but you'd be surprised how many people can screw that up, too. And if you screw it up, it'll make people think the contents of your book are amateurish, too, and nobody will read it. And if that's where you're headed, you'd just as well set up a regular blog and bypass publishing altogether.

Comment Re:Missing (Score 1) 184

The fact that you don't know the difference between editing and copy-editing speaks volumes about what you don't know about publishing. Editing is a valuable contribution to the publishing process and can make the difference between a mid-shelf and blockbuster book.

The trick of publishing right now is that editing (and to a lesser extent, copy editing) is much less common than it used to be. Editors pick up titles, give them minimal once-overs and turn them over to production because the money isn't in fixing, it's in producing, and they want to keep their jobs. There may be a few editors who have the power to really involve themselves, but they're the exception and not the rule anymore.

Marketing is anything but free and can even fail disastrously for a well-written, well-edited book.

Very true, but again, the reality is that except for a small percentage of books published today, the publisher does very little in terms of marketing. Before he was an e-publishing powerhouse, Joe Konrath used to boast that the only way he made it where he was was by traveling around the country doing his own marketing. He's been self-made the whole time, because publishers largely don't care to do that kind of legwork anymore.

I know several author friends who have been duped into spending all of their advance (or more) to hire THEIR OWN marketing experts to get the word out, because publishers will usually say "get a blog and good luck." It's absurd and short-sighted, but it's the way the game works now, except in very rare circumstances.

If your expertise is writing - which it obviously is or you wouldn't be trying to publish a book, right? Right? - what makes you think you're also an expert marketer/artist/graphic design/layout artist?

This is where we agree 100%. Free templates and buddies who are artists are poison to your work. If you don't know EXACTLY what you're doing, don't do it. A less-than-stellar cover will sink your book before it's opened, and less-than-stellar book block design will ruin your chances almost as fast. To date, there is no magic button to design a book without a lot of expertise.

One final note: if you self-publish, good luck ever getting a reputable publishing company to look twice at you.

This is true, and it's a danger you have to deal with. That said, the question is whether you WANT to work with a publisher. Put quite simply: sign a deal for anything less than a blockbuster title, and you will probably come out of the experience in debt, with so few copies sold you'll never get another book contract again. At least with self-e-publishing, you'll know how much of a raw deal you're getting in advance.

Comment Re:I remember years ago... (Score 1) 80

Well, admittedly the gap between a synthetic genome and widespread bioterror is pretty immense, but then the subject here is also open source biology, which I think assumes a lot of progress will need to be made in developing the science and tools as well. And once you start trying to develop those tools, it's pretty safe to say you'll discover what you SHOULDN'T do before you stumble upon any magic cures.

Never mind the Bond villain trying to take over the world, and never mind wiping out even a small fraction of the human population; all you need to do is make something that kills a few dozen people and has the APPEARANCE of being contagious, and you'll have a worldwide panic worse than H1N1. Make it easy for virus coders to share their work around the globe, and you've got the makings of something really terrible. It's not as sexy as a best-selling thriller, but it's just as scary.

Comment I remember years ago... (Score 1) 80

... a similar story on Slashdot talking about open sourcing the battle against disease, with the concept that "with enough eyes, all bugs become shallow", and ultimately how there was the concern that it would create a new type of malware that could do a lot more damage than the rest of the world could offset. I mean, even when we're trying to do good, we can make things that are utter poison... imagine if some borderline nutbar in a university lab got dumped by his girlfriend and decided to take revenge on women in general by making an airborne pathogen that would leave men intact. Sure, you could make an antidote with enough people and effort, but how many people wold die in the meantime? We see the battle between dedicated coders already with DRM and DRM-cracking... if that were to happen in the bio-tech space, it would be an utter disaster.

The Economist is right, to a point, but they seem to have more faith in humanity than humanity deserves.

(disclosure: that Slashdot story years ago led me to research and write a novel about this type of scenario, so this is near and dear to my heart)

Television

Submission + - The cartoon I created is coming to the USA! (1889.ca) 1

MrAndrews writes: "It's taken a long time, but the cartoon I created is finally coming to American TV! I've been working on this project for half of my time at Slashdot, so it's heavily influenced by geek culture. For example: the Zurasho tribe (originally called SlashBots) features in an early episode, where we meet their leader Commander Octo, and see them get into a fight about who put down the first post in a construction zone. Oh, and the central route through the city is called the RMS. And one episode is all about the dangers of DRM.

Because ratings are key to my continued survival, I'm running a little challenge: if the ratings for the first episode are good enough, I'll release my next book under a CC0 license (essentially public domain), and donate my scripting fee for the first episode of a hopeful season 2 to the EFF.

If you have kids and want to show them some good, geek-friendly eye candy, made by someone you may very well have flamed in years past... this is it. Please watch!"

Education

Submission + - Important Lessons for the Next Gen of Geeks?

MrAndrews writes: "My kids have had a fairly geeky upbringing so far, learning the evils of DRM at a young age, configuring new drives of anime for XBMC, and Creative Commons licensing their crayon drawings. But I feel like there's more education I could be doing, so I'm planning to create a series of short digi-fables that will prime them for life. I've already done DRM, patents, censorship and bullying, but there are probably lots of other topics out there that need covering, like net neutrality. Or SQL injection. Or... stuff. I've heard rumours that Slashdot is a fairly geeky place, so I put it to you: what are the most important lessons you can teach a geek-in-training?"

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