Links for 1 January 2012

Louis CK

Louis CK self-released his show ‘Live at the Beacon Theater‘ and became the new Radiohead. Rather than getting a company to record and distribute one of his standup shows, he did it all himself, selling DRM-free downloads of the show for a quarter of the usual price.

It was a bit of a risk but it’s paid off and the profits generated have been pretty extraordinary. Louis’s put out a couple of updates on how things have gone, with this paragraph standing out (my emphasis added):

If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.

This provoked all sorts of excited chatter including this: Why 2012 will be year of the artist-entrepreneur. The thing that gets me is that Louis CK didn’t use any particularly new tools to do what he did. This has been possible for years now – In Rainbows came out in 2007.

Will 2012 really be the year of the artist-entrepreneur? It’d be about time. As time goes by there are bound to be more people looking to do this kind of thing and I’ll bet individual artists are more likely to move quicker than larger organisations (and it won’t suit everyone). I’d be interested to see what lessons people take from alternative ways of selling online – the way Qwertee shifts T-shirts and Kopi sells coffee, for instance. It’s still early days for crowdfunding too.

Meanwhile, other much-discussed topics included the acquisition of Gowalla by Facebook and the consequent bleating from people irked that their data and the time/effort they invested in the platform had gone to waste. That provoked a post from the guy behind Pinboard called Don’t Be A Free User who advised people to “avoid mom-and-pop projects that don’t take your money! You might call this the anti-free-software movement”.

There was also a minor incident involving some shoddy customer service which escalated impressively. Daniel Nye Griffiths provided ongoing updates for Forbes but the work by the guy drafted in to clear up the mess, especially this IAmA on Reddit, is worth a look for fans of online crisis control.

Arts/Digital links

Hannah Rudman’s round-up of 2011’s digital developments in the arts and cultural sector is recommended, as is Clairey Ross’s selection of must-read museum/digital/humanities blogs.

Jasper Vissen’s 30 do’s for designing successful participatory and crowdsourcing projects is a good list and has been followed up by Nina Simon with her Fifteen Random Things I’ve Learned about Design for Participation This Year.

The Want to Steal Banksy? campaign by the Art Series Hotels in Australia was pretty funny and Singing Tweets from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra was a simple and nicely executed  little thing.

Girl Walk // All Day is “a feature-length dance music video and tale of urban exploration that follows three dancers across New York City. They turn the city’s sidewalks, parks and architecture into an evolving stage as they spread their joy of movement”. As much as anything, I thought it was notable that this was presented by Gothamist.

The Guggenheim released its first ebooks. They’re not only releasing new titles such as the catalogue for their current exhibition but also going through the archives, making available out-of-print titles for online browsing and publishing digital versions of reprinted titles.

In other ebook news, Vook looks like being an interesting publishing platform for creating, distributing and tracking sales of digital books. This seems like a good point to repost this on why some ebooks cost more than the hardcover.

If you’ve not come across the kind of new information that emerges when data-mining is applied to literature then The Data-Mining’s The Thing: Shakespeare Takes Center Stage In The Digital Age is a good starting point. I liked the analogy that it’s like “taking 36 decks of cards filled with random content… and then asking why there were no sevens in the decks that contained red cards.”

Other bits and bobs:

Other links

I’ve been using Christmas TV viewing to try out some of the social TV platforms. GetGlue (so called for the stickets they’ll send you, apparently) and Miso are alright but Zeebox looks to be the most interesting at this stage. I can’t say any of them actually improved my viewing experience at all, but it’s early days.

I was fascinated by this interview with The Economist’s Andrew Rashbass and especially this quote:

A survey among its US subscribers asked those aged over 40 how they read the Economist – more than 95% said they read it in print. But when asked how they expect to read it in two years’ time, the number expecting to do so in print fell to 35%. “I’ve never seen a statistic like it,” says Rashbass.

I liked this bit from Tom Ewing’s Take Me to the River:

In a way, it’s sad that the word “surfing” caught on so early as the description of what people do online. Using the web back then was more like diving– plunging into an endless otherworld looking for treasure. Social media is a truer match for the surfing metaphor– content comes at you and you ride it as best you can.

Something I’d not come across before is the idea of seat licences at (mainly sporting) venues in the US. These give the owner the right to buy season tickets for that seat and they’re proving to be valuable so far, apparently. STR Marketplace seem to be the main players in providing the sales platform for this.

Discovery’s still a big thing and probably always will be:

  • Byliner – Byliner helps you discover & discuss great stories and great writers. We’ll find you something good to read
  • Discover – – Find your next favourite band. Over 2 million tracks from emerging artists

Some apps and services


It was nearly Rich Fulcher and Samsung’s Old Masters but instead it’s going to be Ice Cube’s take on the Eames.

Actually, seeing as how it’s the first day of 2012, here’s another video. I’ve been catching up on TED talks over Christmas and my favourite by far was Luis von Ahn’s talk on massive-scale online collaboration. He’s one of the people behind reCaptcha and is now working on Duolingo which will help you learn a language for free and simultaneously translate the Web. Impressive.

See also what Trendwatching have dubbed ‘Idle Sourcing’‘: “products and services that make it downright simple (if not effortless) to contribute to anything”.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

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