July 30, 2009
Posted: 12:14 PM ET
Matt Stewart wants to revolutionize literature, even if it means surrendering some authorial control to the social-media masses. The San Francisco-based author is tweeting away his entire novel, "The French Revolution," on Twitter, claiming to be the first person to do so on the micro-blogging site.
"I see this as a way to give people quick shots of literary joy throughout their day," he said during a recent interview on CNN.com Live.
Stewart, who describes his writing style as a cross between Junot Diaz and Jonathan Franzen, believes some people may be simply too busy to sit through an entire book. But they do have time to absorb 140 characters, he said.
Still, Stewart does not think Twitter's short-attention-span format is ideal for reading a novel.
"I don’t honestly expect people to read the whole book on Twitter. It’s just not that convenient to follow a long form story," he told CNN.
If you’re picturing Stewart glued to TweetDeck all day, that isn't the case. A friend of his built a tool that breaks down the novel into 140-character bits and automates the tweets. Stewart said it should take about a month to post the entire book. Right now, he has about 1,000 followers on his Twitter page.
Free copies of his novel are posted on his Web site, and he’s also selling a $2 version for Amazon's Kindle e-reader. Stewart encourages authors to explore new ways to connect with their fans, and even surrender some control in the process.
"We’re not using any of the cool technology we have to make books more interesting," he said. "I think that books and the industry will benefit by trying new things to attract new readers."
July 29, 2009
Posted: 01:28 PM ET
Twitter.com unveiled a new design for its homepage today that brings search functionality to Twitts and non-Twitts alike.
The new homepage design features a prominent search field that can be accessed without logging in to Twitter. Public tweets that match your query are cleanly rendered below the search area.
The new look also includes trending topics by the minute, hour and day. Clicking on one of these topics provides a brief description followed by recent search results.
TechCrunch sees the change as a step forward for Twitter:
What do you think of the change? Would you like to see similar updates to the internal areas of Twitter or do you like things the way they are?
Posted: 09:38 AM ET
A 127-character tweet about a moldy apartment in Chicago could end up costing @abonnen $50,000.
On May 12th Amanda Bonnen, who has since deleted her Twitter account, responded to a friend with the tweet, "@JessB123You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."
@abonnen only had about 20 followers that directly received the message, but her profile was set to public, and Chicago-based Horizon Group Management discovered the tweet.
Chicago Now reports the company then filed a defamation lawsuit alleging Bonnen, "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the Tweet to be distributed throughout the world."
Horizon is seeking $50,000 in damages.
If @abonnen's statement is determined to be false and tweets are considered a legitimate form of publishing, she could be held liable for damages to Horizon's reputation. But it isn't quite that simple.
Ars Technica explains some of the complexities:
Horizon owner Jeffrey Michael told the Chicago Sun-Times the company never tried to contact @abonnen about the tweet adding, "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."
Michael later said his remark was meant to be "tongue-in-cheek," and further explained his company's position:
Unfortunately for Horizon, the media attention surrounding this Twitter lawsuit will likely damage the company's reputation far beyond the scope of @abonnen's message to her 20 followers.
Do you feel tweets should be held to the same legal standards as other publications regarding defamatory remarks, or does the conversational nature of social networks release them from libel?
Posted: 09:25 AM ET
CNN's David Daniel has information on the arrival of Nintendo's "Wii Sports Resort" in this week's Gameplay:
Filed under: video games
July 27, 2009
Posted: 11:39 AM ET
Last night Internet Service Provider (ISP) AT&T began filtering portions of the controversial image board 4chan.org.
AT&T broadband subscribers found they were unable to access the infamous /b/ and /r9k/ sections of the site.
4chan.org is a system of message boards primarily dedicated to anonymous discussion and image hosting. The site's popularity is largely due to minimal posting regulations that stimulate a freewheeling, Wild West atmosphere.
The news of AT&T's filtering sparked a firestorm of criticism from blogs and Internet forums by contributors who believed AT&T was censoring content. 4chan fans and detractors alike condemned what they believed to be an apparent violation of net neutrality. Sites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica began calling on users to respond to AT&T with a show of anonymous force:
Anonymous posters also began to spread rumors claiming AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was found dead outside his home and that AT&T had stopped carrying the iPhone in attempt to affect AT&T's stock price.
By noon Monday, AT&T responded with the following statement:
It is unlikely that 4chan.org, or any popular web server, would engage in the illegal practice of denial-of-service attacks. Moot, owner and administrator of 4chan, offers another explanation:
Though the cries of censorship and claims AT&T violated net neutrality may have been misguided, AT&T should have informed its customers before blocking such a large and controversial Web site.
I doubt that is a mistake they will make again.
July 24, 2009
Posted: 11:18 AM ET
Thanks to those of you who responded to my story about changes in the digital music scene.
I listed 10 Web sites where you can find new music. The story was pinned on the news that some formerlly illegal and shut-down sites - like KaZaA, Napster and possibly Pirate Bay - are clawing their way out of the grave in legal forms. It's all part of the Internet's shifting music scene. Streaming music is becoming more popular; buying it, less so.
Many readers chimed in with cool Web sites I didn't include. Here are a few of your favorites, from the story comments:
Amie Street: an indie download site where popularity determines price
Folk Alley: streams folk music
Slacker: one reader calls this "by far the best online streaming site I have seen so far"
Jango: radio-like streaming
LastFM: recommends music based on what you like
As always, thanks for the input!
July 22, 2009
Posted: 04:49 PM ET
Last week owners of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader felt the painful effects of DRM (Digital Rights Management) when Amazon remotely removed copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from their libraries.
Amazon explained that the books had been mistakenly released and the e-book publisher did not own the rights to sell the either novel. However, the company's explanation and a refund did not appease readers who felt their personal copy of 1984 was remotely destroyed by Big Brother.
Police routinely confiscate stolen property. But copyright infringement, similar to possessing improperly licensed books, was determined by the Supreme Court case of Dowling vs. United States not to constitute theft. Amazon's actions were an effort to please publishers who wanted the book pulled rather than a legal requirement.
Amazon has acknowledged that deleting the books from users' personal devices may have been a mistake. In an e-mail to the New York Times Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said, “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”
Do you think Amazon's decision to remotely delete the books was justified to defend copyright, or should digital content hold the same protections as physical property? Will Amazon's promise to change its policy restore your confidence in the Kindle?
Update [July 24, 2009]
On Thursday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted this apology on a Kindle community public forum:
Posted: 11:08 AM ET
The Web is full of middlemen and aggregators. Google is the biggest. Digg once was the coolest. And now Twitter and URL-shortening services create (mostly) transparent bridges between Web content, like news stories, and online readers.
People both love and hate these go-betweens. On one hand, sites like Digg, Facebook and Twitter give readers access to all kinds of news and social content they might not otherwise see. But small changes can make a benevolent middleman seem downright meddlesome.
And that's what happened to Digg this week.
The Web 2.0 rock-star site - which lets a community prioritize news stories by voting them up or down - is drawing fire from tech blogs for sticking itself between its links and the news stories it promotes. A confusing change to the site's service caused some shortened story links to redirect to Digg's pages, rather than to the original pages on blogs and news sites.
Don't get bogged down in the details of the change. Part of the problem is that the change is confusing to everyone. TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid calls the move "career suicide" for a Digg toolbar and "incredibly irritating" to users.
On its blog, Digg says it backed off of the change somewhat, making it only apply to future news stories, not retroactively to all Digg-shortened links.
But part of Digg's problem is that the site is overly responsive to criticism in a way that obscures its vision of the future, writes Josh Lowensohn of CNET, a CNN.com content partner.
Behind the Digg story is another fear: that other go-betweens, particularly URL shorteners, will start similarly bothersome practices in order to direct more traffic to their sites. [See a new chart of the top sites for sharing URLs: Facebook leads with nearly a quarter of the market.]
Right now, sites like bit.ly and snurl.com take Web links and shorten them so they'll fit in Twitter posts or e-mails without taking up too much space. Click on one (this for example: http://bit.ly/iqfI) and you go straight to the original site. These services may outcompete Digg's linking service because of their simplicity and reliability, writes Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.
But there also could be a future in which all links must pass through a middleman site, thus slowing down search for online news and entertainment down.
Posted: 09:31 AM ET
Apple reported record earnings on Tuesday. But what does that mean?
The BBC says the software company has a good problem: It can't make new iPhones fast enough.
What's more, Apple plans to release the popular new iPhone - which has a video camera and is touted as faster than its two predecessors - in 20 new countries in August. The phone is expected to be sold in a total of 70 countries by the end of the year.
TechCrunch has a different take. The blog says the report is an indicator that the basic iPod - once Apple's flagship mobile device - is effectively dead.
It's been replaced with the iPod Touch, which looks more like the red-hot iPhone and accesses the Internet with Wi-Fi, which old-school iPods don't. The blog does some math to determine that old iPods are sinking otherwise stellar numbers for Apple's mobile devices, or "pocket products":
Here are some highlights from the report, compiled by Fortune, a CNN.com content partner:
What do you make of the numbers? Are you among the iPhone converts? Feel free to chime in with comments.
Posted: 08:45 AM ET
The guinea pigs from "G-Force" hit consoles and "Rock Band" adds a bit of twang. David Daniel has more on the latest video game releases in this week's Gameplay:
Filed under: video games
Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.