How a cabal of romance writers cashed in on Amazon Kindle Unlimited
“… book stuffing plagues the romance genre on Kindle Unlimited, with titles that come in at 2000 or even 3000 pages (the maximum page length for a Kindle Unlimited book). That’s approximately the length of Atlas Shrugged or War and Peace.
“Book stuffing is particularly controversial because Amazon pays authors from a single communal pot. In other words, Kindle Unlimited is a zero-sum game. The more one author gets from Kindle Unlimited, the less the other authors get.
“Every time a reader reads to the end of a 3,000-page book, the author earns almost 14 dollars. For titles that break into the top of the Kindle Unlimited charts, this trick can generate a fortune.
“Of course, you might be wondering if any readers actually read through all 3000 pages. But authors deploy a host of tricks in service of gathering page reads — from big fonts and wide spacing to a ‘link back.’ Some authors would place a link at the very front of the book, to sign up to a mailing list. The link would take them to the back of the book, thus counting all pages read. It’s not clear whether any of this actually works.
“Readers aren’t unsophisticated, but Amazon’s reward system is set up so that any regret or dissatisfaction they feel after reading an inflated book that reached them through a variety of SEO tricks won’t make a dent in the pockets of one of these more market-savvy authors. All that matters is that the pages are marked as read.”
This type of gamesmanship is both fascinating and consistent. Anytime a company creates an automated ranking mechanism you know it’s only a matter of time before people hack it from within. One thing that’s always impressed me about Google is that it rewards relevance in its search results, which means the company’s goal (get people to use its search engine) and the searcher’s goal (find the most useful stuff) are in alignment. Content creators who rely on Google for traffic are motivated — for the most part — to craft material that’s valuable to the target audience. Doing well on Google means doing well for the audience. But a case like the one described in this article is more common, at least for a time. The good news is that some companies eventually figure it out. Google appears to have a handle on search now. Ebay applies buyer and seller feedback effectively. Slashdot uses impressive curation and moderation. It can be done.
Netflix Stock Plummets on Weak Subscriber Growth
“CEO Reed Hastings, in a letter to shareholders, called the quarter ‘strong but not stellar.’ He gave little reason for why Netflix’s subscriber additions came in under previous forecasts.”
This probably has nothing to do with Netflix’ subscriber growth, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The original movies put out by Netflix are often not good. I find it odd that the company does well with series (“The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” etc.) but then it releases ridiculous movies like “How it Ends” and “Bright.” I’m waiting for one of these services to put out an original film that’s excellent. I know Amazon has had some success in film, but I”m talking about a movie that’s only available through the service, not in theaters.
The Race to a Trillion
“Over time, new forces will rise that will challenge existing processes and require giants to come up with new ways of thinking. The degree to which management teams can respond and adjust to these new forces will determine the amount of success in staying at the top. There is nothing inherently found with today’s giants that prevents new companies from leveraging technologies to deliver customer value in new ways. Instead of there being some kind of innovation black hole where advancements can only come from the five giants, tomorrow’s giants will likely use today’s leaders as stepping stones to reach new heights. An example of this development would be the way companies have used smartphones to rethink transportation via ride sharing.”
"101 Ways to Save Apple" was published in a 1997 edition of Wired. Hindsight is sometimes hilarious. Item No. 1 “Admit it. You’re out of the hardware game.” Though, to be fair, there are a number of prescient recommendations on the list: No. 14 “Do something creative with the design of the box and separate yourselves from the pack,” and No. 34 “Port the OS to the Intel platform.” Here’s the thing: Few could have connected the dots between Apple’s low point in ’97 and now. That also means few can connect the dots between the present and whatever is to come. And that’s what makes things interesting.
"Still Can't Believe It Worked": The Story of the Thailand Cave Rescue
“Tham Luang Cave is a rare place where a person can become completely isolated. There is no GPS, no Wi-Fi, no cellphone service. The last known survey was conducted in the 1980s by a French caving society, but many of its deepest recesses remain unmapped. Spelunkers consider the cave one of the most challenging in the world.”
Everything about this rescue mission is remarkable. And this article is an impressive display of reporting, storytelling, editing, and production.
How Online Hobbyists Can Reaffirm Your Faith in the Internet
“These days, any pastime worth pursuing — pottery, cooking, gardening, quilting, woodworking and beyond — attracts a constellation of blogs, message boards, Facebook groups, Amazon reviewers, Instagram and Etsy influencers, and many hundreds of YouTube stars. Collectively, they form the online social structure around any hobby, a group of folks who are only too happy to help you learn whatever you are trying to master. It is here, in the hobbyist internet’s daily collective struggle to make the best hamburger or grow the perfect tomato, that you can glimpse a healthier relationship with your digital devices.”
My last few years of internet usage have forced me to remember a conclusion I reached years ago about talk radio: Don’t confuse the vocal 1% that call in as representative of the reasonable 99% that don’t. Truth is, there are people on the Internet who simply want to be helpful. They don’t get the attention, but they’re out there.
Study Shows Heat Hurts Cognitive Ability
“As heat waves get hotter and more frequent around the world due to climate change, the researchers write that they’re hoping studies like this one illustrate how bad it can get for even the most healthy among us. Cognitive function deficits ‘extend to larger sectors of the population and can have significant implications on educational attainment, economic productivity, and workplace safety,’ they write in the study.”
So, heat makes us crankier and dumber. This study doesn’t address the physical and psychological affects of air conditioning’s constant pounding. At the end of some hot days my head feels like it’s wedged in a vise.
EU court says Jehovah's Witnesses must comply with data privacy laws in door-to-door preaching
“A religious community, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a controller, jointly with its members who engage in preaching, for the processing of personal data carried out by the latter in the context of door-to-door preaching,” judges said. “The processing of personal data carried out in the context of such activity must respect the rules of EU law on the protection of personal data.”
The evolution of data privacy and the consequences that come from that evolution are going to be interesting.
Inflation nation: The rising cost of digital TV
“Many consumers end up subscribing to more than one of these skinny bundles. Eventually, consumers could expect to pay more for digital programming in total than they do now for their traditional cable package.”
“Cord-cutting” used to be synonymous with “cheaper.” That’s no longer the case. The truth is, there’s no deal to be had with digital media. If you want it, you’ll have to pay — be it through cable, bundles, and whatever else emerges. The only way to save is to accept that you won’t have access to all the stuff all the time.
Why Are People Using So Many Exclamation Points?
“Much like awesome once served a greater purpose, the exclamation point has been downgraded from a shout of alarm or intensity to a symbol that indicates politeness and friendliness. As [David] Shipley and [Will] Schwalbe put it in their guide: ‘Exclamation points can instantly infuse electronic communication with human warmth.’ And that’s what we use them for now.”
I use exclamation points in emails and texts because it’s hard to discern intent in short-form digital communication. I also rely on 👍 and 😉 for the same reason. However, I wipe out exclamation points from the articles and columns I edit. Sometimes I win that battle. Sometimes I don’t. But I believe that when you’re trying to make a point or tell a story through a longer piece, your intention should be contextual. A well-written article doesn’t need !!! and 😉 to land a point.
Danny Sullivan on being Google new search liaison
“‘We’re not a truth engine. One of the big issues that we’re pondering is how to explain that our role is to get you authoritative, good information, but that ultimately people have to process that information themselves,’ [Danny Sullivan] said. ‘We can give you information, but we can’t tell you the truth of a thing‘.”
At some point in every search query the responsibility for discerning truth and relevance switches to the searcher. We forget that sometimes.