Monday, July 31, 2006

In which I wax mathematical...

I had a thought the other day that may turn into my dissertation topic. I've been mulling over collaborative composition for some time now, but I think I may have finally found the right question. And with any luck, the ultimate answer to my dissertation just might be 42. Wouldn't that be something?

So I might be easiest to explain with an equation, although not a very good one. Let's assume that:

x = value of content produced by an expert.


a = value of content produced by an amateur.

Common sense would tell you that most of the time the following statement would be true:

x > a

In other words, the content produced by the expert is going to be more valuable than the content produced by an amateur. Not always, but usually.

The whole point of a wiki is that you have a group of people working on content. So instead of one amateur, you have several. So going back to the math:

x = n(a)

The question this equation poses is what is the value (or range of values) that makes this equation true? Or in other words, how many amateurs would you need working on content to make it as valuable as the content produced by the expert?

In speaking with David Wiley, I can't help but agree that it will likely end as an inverted U. The value of content with just a few amateurs would likely be low. And the value of content where there are hundreds or thousands of amateurs would also be low. But somewhere in there is a 'sweet spot', where the content produced by a number of amateurs is nearly as valuable as the content produced by the experts.

Now, there are a whole slew of problems here. What is valuable? Who is an expert? Who is an amateur? Etc. etc. etc. But I think that somewhere in there is my dissertation topic.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Update on Second Book

So, just a quick update on my second book. Bullies Don't Have Armpits (probably will become Bullies in the Headlights), is coming along nicely. I think I'm about two-thirds finished. The ending should be easier to write than the middle, because it's all worked out in my head. I'm going to try and finish the book by the end of August.

I've been trying to think about what to work on next. It should be my doctoral dissertation, but that I think I'd like to be working on something 'fun' as well. I've got a couple of ideas, including a third book in the 'Buckley' series. But I'm not sure. I need to come up with a good idea. I don't just want to write a third book because it's a nice round number. So that may sit on the back burner for a while. I've got a few other ideas for projects, including an online collaborative project with another author.

Only time will tell, I guess...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Great Conference...

I attended this conference last year at it was great. How many conferences do you get to go to where you end up fording the Logan River? Not too many, that how many.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Who does the work?

Interesting article over at the Guardian Unlimited. They are estimating that when folks get online, 1 percent of the population creates the content. About 10 percent will interact with it (comment or offer improvements), and the rest will just read or observe it.

That means that all of that nifty stuff out there is done by the few. So get cracking and add your own two bits. Join the elite. Become a part of the few, the proud, the producers... :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Two Sides are Talking...

Seagull Book has issued a press release regarding the recent decision by Desret Book to stop supplying Seagull with their products.

From the release:

"Seagull Book and Deseret Book have begun discussions to explore options for addressing the differences that have existed between our two companies," said Jon Kofford, executive vice president of Seagull Book. "In the meantime, Deseret Book has extended Seagull Book's ability to purchase Deseret Book products through the end of August 2006."

No additional details about the relationship between Seagull Book and Deseret Book will be forthcoming at this time."

At least they're talking...

Friday, July 14, 2006

More news on DB and Seagull

KSL has a further report that makes it sound like negotiations might still be underway, which is not what Deseret Book seemed to hint at the other day.

I'd really like DB to clarify what they mean by 'promotion'. As I've mentioned several times, it is clear that DB and Seagull Book both market their own stuff more than their competitors. So for DB to say they are just unhappy with how Seagull 'markets' is a bit of the kettle calling the pot black.

I still think it's all about the prices.

Good Insight...

Excellent article from a used-to-be insider at Deseret Book on their recent decision not to allow Seagull to sell their products. He says it's about the pricing, not the handling of merchandise.

"I think for Deseret Book's viability as an ongoing concern, after years of losses, this was a smart business move. I'm actually impressed that they thought it through, (hopefully!) ran the numbers, and made what I'm sure was a very tough decision. That shows leadership, forward thinking, and an overall unified strategy that hasn't always been there in the past.

On the other hand I think this may be a death warrant for Seagull and it is sad to see competition being run out of the market, especially when Seagull's offense is essentially offering people lower prices."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If nothing else, people seem to be paying attention.

If you hop over to and look at their news stories, you will see people can comment on the stories. Most have comments in the single digits. A story on a dog driving a police car has over a hundred. But the Seagull/Deseret Book story has 250 comments and counting.

Most of it is your juvenile flaming, but some folks have some good thoughts on the subject...

More news...

More on the DB/Seagull move.

Deseret News
KSL Discussion
Salt Lake Tribune

According to Deseret News, the move came as a complete surprise to Seagull. Seagull was to hold a press conference today, but has postponed it until next week. DB did say that this wasn't a negotiation, rather a decision. So it sounds like they won't back down.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Salt Lake Tribune Article

Looks like the Trib has a brief article on the Seagull/Deseret Book situation.

It looks like the whole thing can be boiled down to a misuse of posters.

"As a premier brand, we provide all sorts of merchandising and marketing opportunities, such as posters and displays. They don't and haven't taken advantage of those (opportunities)."

If only Seagull had used those posters, this whole situation could have been avoided.

A few more thoughts...

A few more thoughts on the Deseret Book/Seagull controversy.

I'm sure that both publishers, DB Publishing and Covenant, wish that stores would put their books at eye level, and on the displays and on the end caps. I think this is a critical problem with the LDS publishing world - the two biggest publishers own the two biggest bookstore chains. I think there should be a separation between publisher and retailer. Let good books that are interesting and well written be put at eye level, not just because the publisher has a bunch of books back in the warehouse that they need to get rid of.

You can bet that an independent bookstore will get to know their customers, and push what they think will sell, not what the publisher wants them to sell (as is the case now with both DB and Seagull).

One thing I do find interesting... I am pretty sure that DB has a policy of matching prices at other bookstores. As of Aug 1., they will no longer have to meet Seagull's prices, because Seagull won't have prices! It's a very easy way to make more money, but the question is will the money gained by this move make up the money lost from the revenue that comes in from Seagull.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It is true...

I wrote to Deseret Book and they verified that they will no longer be selling to Seagull Book and Tape. Keith Hunter, VP of sales and Development, said that ""Deseret Book and Seagull have a long-standing difference in views regarding how Deseret Book products should be merchandised, promoted, and treated"

In other words, Seagull sells DB stuff for cheaper, and DB has to either match the price, or lose business.

It's all madness, and I hope it ends soon.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I hope this isn't true...

When I wrote my first book, the local Deseret Book bought 12 copies. They tucked them away on a back shelf, but within 4 weeks, despite the poor location, there were sold out. Since I was interested in how well my book was doing, I often would drop in to see if more books had been ordered, and if they were also selling.

But the strange thing is that the Deseret Book never ordered more of my books. They sold the original 12, and then never got any more in.

I used to ask the sales clerks if they were getting more, and they assured me that they were 'on order', but they in the 6 months that I checked, they never once got another one of my books.

Deseret Book didn't publish my book, so apparently they weren't interested in selling it.

Now there are rumors floating around that Deseret Book is resorting to heavy handed, monopolistic tactics. According to the rumor, Deseret Book will no longer allow Seagull Book and Tape to sell their products.

Deseret Book is hoping that by making customers come to their stores, they will run Seagull Book and Tape out of business. Since it's Seagull book and tape that sells Covenants' materials, I guess their hope is that Covenant will also go out of business, and this will leave them as king of the LDS publishing world, and they can sell their books for as much as they want.

Competition is healthy for the consumer because they always get a good price. Competition is healthy for the producers because they are forced to find better and more efficient ways to produce. The only people competition is not good for are those who want to make a whole lot of money without having to actually do any work.

Here is hoping that the whole thing is a rumor. Because if it's true, my second book may never see the light of day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Steal This Book

Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book has been made into a wiki. You can now go and help 'update' According to an article on wikipedia, Hoffman's book contains advice on how to grow marijuana, "how to start a pirate radio station, live in a commune, steal food, steal credit cards, prepare a legal defense, make pipe bombs, and obtain a free buffalo from the US Department of the Interior".

I've always wanted a buffalo. Because I do love my chips.