Category Archives: New Media

Paul Fierlinger on Paperless Animation

Animator / filmmaker Paul Fierlinger on why he has made the move to digital (paperless technology).

Paperless technology cuts away the accumulation of physical tasks associated with the handling of paper down to zero.

That’s a lot of saved time! When you think of all the tasks associated with the handling of paper, when you have to unwrap a bundle, punch holes into every single sheet, which you pick up first on your right and lay down on your left, carry the bundle over to your desk, pick each sheet up on your left and after drawing, erasing, flipping cussing and throwing a few sheets into a wastebasket you lay the good ones down on your right. All along you have to carefully number each sheet and record the numbers into your exposure sheet. There’s a lot of erasing and cussing involved in this task too.

You have to gather the finished drawings, carry them over to your copy machine and cuss and sigh as you slowly feed each sheet through the machine which is connected to your computer. This involves the lifting and laying down of the cover – twice per sheet no less – and after you’re done with that, you still have to empty the wastebasket, wipe the eraser crumbs off your desk and pat attention to this: you haven’t seen a single second of your work run before your eyes, connected to your brain, in real time! I mention the brain because you have learned very little from all that work.

This unproductive handling of paper surely takes up more time per drawing than it takes to put a drawing on that sheet of paper. Without the benefit of instant replay and the real time scrubbing that paperless work affords you, your acting and drawing skills improve very, very slowly. When I look back at my old films I see only small improvements from one to another but when I compare each paperlessly drawn film from one to the next I can see huge leaps of improvements. And that’s the answer to your question how to get money for a feature film – you get it only after you make a few good films. It took me fifty years before anyone would trust me with decent funds for a theatrical feature. You younger people have all this paperless technology available to you and so many of you are wasting precious years of your short lives by still drawing on paper. I don’t get it.


CSM Print is Dead, Long Live

It was probably long in coming, but it was sad to see the announcement that The Christian Science Monitor is officially moving to a web-only publication. The print version will disappear in April. My former editor at CSM (who now works for The Washington Post) points out that the Monitor has been more or less web-only for a long time now with 1.5 million online readers versus only 50,000 or so print subscribers.

Paul Theroux was one of my journalism idols when I was in high school and college. Because many of his travel essays first appeared in the Monitor, it made it all the sweeter when I first broke into that publication’s pages.

The Monitor was also one of the first newspaper subscriptions I had in my own name. I had professors who encouraged us to buy the newspaper for its Third World coverage, which in those days was nonpareil. Many of the paper’s foreign correspondents were stringers, but the paper made a concerted effort to cover areas of the world normally passed over by other mainstream U.S. publications.

Google Spreadsheets, Yawn

Stan Beer is singularly unimpressed with the beta of Google's online spreadsheet program.

Just for the fun of it, let's suppose that this new Google product does somehow gain the functionality and performance to start matching it with Excel. Will that mean that Microsoft will lose many of its customers overnight? Not at all. Open has a free spreadsheet that is largely compatible with Excel and arguably almost as good. The same can be said for its word processor. Yet people still stick with their Microsoft Office products. They're just that little bit better and, for most users, that one per cent or two of incompatibility is not worth the hassle for a few hundred bucks, especially if you're a business that has years of intellectual capital tied up in your office documents. Even Google itself says that it's not trying to compete with Excel. The implication is that Google Spreadsheet is for the casual user. But how many users do you know who have ever used a spreadsheet casually? For that matter, what exactly is the purpose of having an online wordprocessor? Local storage is so cheap and small, why would we even bother trying to do online what we can do locally?

Stan admits that the program might someday evolve into a serious competitor to MS Excel in the future, but he reminds us that "it sure isn't the present." Seems like a lot of journalists who have never seriously used a spreadsheet are working seriously working themselves into a premature slather. (No, putting your shopping list in cells does not constitute serious use.) Om Malik wonders, Is Google Wasting Its Genius Cycles?

That said, I like the idea of online word processing, and I have been checking out Writely and Thinkfree. When I draft a story, it normally goes through numberous iterations. I am neither bright nor diligent enough to properly network my home computers, so the idea of keeping a single set of drafts regardless of which computer I am using is appealing.

Hardcover Blogging

Blogging takes self-publishing another step forward, according to The New York Times.

Though not all blogs may aspire to literary permanence, they can achieve it through the new Book-Smart software from Blurb, a publish-your-own-book service. The software, which is expected to be available free later this month at, features a “Slurper” tool that automatically downloads and reformats the contents of a Web log into a book that bloggers and their admirers can purchase online.

If Old Journalism Dies

Sydney Schanberg asks, "If Old Journalism Dies . . .Where will new media get the news?"

Repeat Record: Digital Rights Management

With the continued debate over digital rights management, a startup called Navio has risen "to help shift the balance of power back to the media companies," says an article in Business 2.0.

How? Imagine if you went to a music site to buy a single download for 99 cents, but instead you were offered the option to purchase the perpetual right to that song. With this right, you could download the song to your PC, your iPod, or your cell phone in whatever format was appropriate. And if you got a new computer, or if the digital-rights-management software protecting the file changed one day, you wouldn’t need to buy the song again. Your rights to the song would be stored online. Pay once, and it would be yours forever. If you lost it, you’d just download it again. Or you could share the song with a friend, or even resell it, depending on what rights you bought.

Jason Ball asks the question: how much should you charge for these rights? Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis asks, why stop there?

Why not go a step further and offer future contracts on artists. For $30 I get the rights to every song or creative work that that artist produces over their career and I can use it unrestricted providing I don’t violate their copyright.

Pajamas Media News Portal

The Associated Press writes about another citizen journalism portal called OSM, which will feature 70 columnists and bloggers. The project was originally named Pajamas Media.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents

Reporters Without Borders has released a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents.

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.
Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest. Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

(Thanks to Anikó Bartos for the heads up.)

SAP Gives SocialText Stamp of Approval

Matt Marshall, who recently reported that SocialText had raised additional funding from SAP, also quotes Ross Mayfield on why the Los Angeles Times’ experiment with (group written and edited) wikitorials failed. Mayfield is CEO of SocialText.

The public nature of the LA Times project is slightly off-point
from Mayfield’s core corporate focus. But had the Times developed the
product more prudently, allowing in a few interested users in a test
mode, perhaps behind a firewall, it could have generated a trusted
community that would have had a stake in participating and editing,
Mayfield explains. And perhaps this group of buy-in readers, once
developed, would have quickly editing out the offensive pornographic
references that eventually caused a quick backlash against the project.
And if the community failed to edit out the porn reference quickly
enough, and members of the greater readership protested, the Times
could have simply wiped its hands of responsibility, saying it was the
job of the interested community to keep up the site. It may have also
argued that the wiki should be maintained precisely because there was
an interested community that supported it. But instead, it was just the
LA Times vs. everybody else — and it died.

Jeff Nolan of SAP comments on the investment.

When I first started talking about wikis the conversation typically
started and ended on what wikis are, and quite often more than a little
skepticism that any company would want to have a tool that enabled
"anyone to edit anything". Fast forward to today and the conversation
is not preoccupied with what wikis are, it’s now about whether or not
you can build a successful business around wiki technology. To me this
shift is a good thing, it signifies that the market is maturing,
accepting the technology, and most important that Socialtext was
successful in being far enough ahead of the market swing but not too
far ahead to have people say "oh yeah, they’ve been around for a long
time". It’s funny how the Valley works…

Yahoo Original Content

The Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo is strengthening its original content.

The Internet company today will begin publishing columns about personal finance and investing by an array of writers, including such well-known names in the business press as Ben Stein, Robert Kiyosaki and Stephen Covey. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company has signed nine new columnists to write for its Yahoo Finance site and plans to hire as many as 30.

Yahoo’s move is part of a larger effort to add original news and entertainment programming to a Web portal that has long relied on media content provided by partners. The company hopes the original content will make its site more compelling to visitors and help it bolster advertising revenue, though it says it has no plans to become a traditional news organization.

The finance columns follow Yahoo’s announcement this month that it had hired journalist Kevin Sites, who has worked as an international correspondent for CNN and others, to report on global conflicts using video, audio and Web logs, or blogs. Mr. Sites’s first dispatches, from Africa, also are scheduled to be published on Yahoo’s site today. Yahoo’s sports pages already feature original commentary from a team of writers, including the former pro basketball players Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr.

And Journal columnist Terri Cullen on Friday discusses how you can know whether your blog is worth selling.