The release of CommentPress has made for exciting times here at the institute (the feedback has also been very encouraging). But as with any piece of software, CommentPress will need constant tending, and with quick succession upgrades, we hope to address the most crucial issues – starting with the first major update, CommentPress version 1.1.
This is a very important update, so everyone is encouraged to upgrade as soon as possible.
For a complete list of the changes, check out the CommentPress download page.
A November 27 Chicago Tribune article by Julia Keller bundles together hypertext fiction, blogging, texting, and new electronic distribution methods for books under a discussion of “e-literature.” Interviewing Scott Rettberg (of Grand Text Auto) and MIT’s William J. Mitchell, the reporter argues that the hallmark of e-literature is increased consumer control over the shape and content of a book: Literature, like all genres, is being reimagined and remade by the constantly unfolding extravagance of technological advances. The question of who’s in charge — the producer or the consumer — is increasingly relevant to the literary world. The idea of the book as an inert entity is gradually giving way to the idea of the book as a fluid, formless repository for an ever-changing variety of words and ideas by a constantly modified cast of writers.
A fluid, formless repository? Ever-changing words? This is the Ipod version of the future of literature, and I’m having a hard time articulating why I find it disturbing. It might be the idea that the digitized literature will bring about a sort of consumer revolution. I can’t help but think of this idea as a strange rearticulation of the Marxist rhetoric of the Language Poets, a group of experimental writers who claimed to give the reader a greater role in the production process of a literary work as part of critique of capitalism (more on this here). In the Ipod model of e-literature, readers don’t challenge the capitalist sytem: they are consumers, empowered by their purchasing power.
There’s also a a contradiction in the article itself: Keller’s evolutionary narrative, in which the “inert book” slowly becomes an obsolete concept, is undermined by her last paragraphs. She ends the article by quoting Mitchell, who insists that there will always be a place for “traditional paper-based literature” because a book “feels good, looks good — it really works.” This gets us back to Malcolm Gladwell territory: is it true that paper books will always seem to work better than digital ones? Or is it just too difficult to think beyond what “feels good” right now?
On Wednesday, November 17, a media corporation called Open Source Media launched a portal site that intends to assemble the best bloggers on the internet in one place. According to the Associated Press, some 70 Web journalists, including Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds and David Corn, Washington editor of the Nation magazine, have agreed to participate. The site will link to individual blog postings and highlight the best contributions in a special section: bloggers will be paid for content depending on the amount of traffic they generate.
Far from a seat-of-the-pants effort, OSM has $3.5 million dollars in venture capital funding. Supposedly, the site will pay for itself — and pay its bloggers — with the advertising it generates. In the “about” section of the site, the founders of OSM lay out their vision for remaking the future of blogging and media in general: OSM’s mission is to expand the influence of weblogs by finding and promoting the best of them, providing bloggers with a forum to meet and share resources, and the chance to join a for-profit network that will give them additional leverage to pursue knowledge wherever they may find it. From academics, professionals and decorated experts, to ordinary citizens sitting around the house opining in their pajamas, our community of bloggers are among the most widely read and influential citizen journalists out there, and our roster will be expanding daily. We also plan to provide a bridge between old media and new, bringing bloggers and mainstream journalists–more and more of whom have started to blog–together in a debate-friendly forum.
We at if:book like the idea of a blog portal, especially one staffed by a series of editors selecting the best posts on the blogs they’ve chosen. But this venture — which fits perfectly with John Batelle’s vision for the web’s second coming — also seems to nicely embody the tension between doing good and making money: all that venture capital and overhead is going to put a lot of pressure on OSM to deliver the Oprah of the blogging world, if she’s out there. And paying bloggers based on how many readers they get is certainly going to shape the content that appears on the site. Unlike others who conceived of their blogs from the get-go as small businesses, most of the bloggers chosen by OSM haven’t been trying to make money from their blogs until now.
OSM also shot themselves in the foot by stealing the name of the newish public radio show Open Source Media, which we’ve written about here. The two are currently involved in a dispute over the name. and OSM hasn’t really been able to come up with a good reason why they should keep using a name that belongs to someone else. They have trademarked OSM, and they now refer to their unabbreviated name as “not a trade name,” but “a description of who we are and what we do.”
Needless to say, OSM has generated a fair amount of bad blood by appropriating the name of a nonprofit, and most of the grumbling has taken place in exactly the same place OSM hopes to make a difference — the blogosphere.