Self-publishing is the new blogging

Everyone a writer, everyone a publisher, everyone a citizen journalist.

Everything that could be digital would be. Content wanted to be free. Then we had to get paid. But animated smack-the-monkey ads were so declassé. Ch-ching, Google AdSense, ch-ching, The Deck advertising network, ch-ching your ad network here.

Everyone a writer, everyone a publisher, everyone a citizen journalist, ch-ching.

First the writers and designers did the writing. Then the non-writers who had something to say did it. Then the people with nothing to say got a MySpace page and the classy ones switched to Facebook.

And ch-ching was heard in the land. And the (not citizen) journalists heard it, and it got them pecking into their Blackberries and laptops.

And then the writers and designers, ashamed at rubbing shoulders with common humanity, discovered the 140-character Tweet and the Tumblr post. No stink of commerce, no business model, nothing that could even charitably be called content, and best of all, no effort. Peck, peck, send.

When you’ve flown that far from Gutenberg, the only place to travel is back.

Enter Lulu, all slinky hips and clodhoppers. Self-publishing is the new blogging. No more compromises. No more external deadlines. No more heavy-handed editors and ham-fisted copyeditors. No more teachers, lots more books.

You don’t need distribution, you’ve got PayPal. You don’t need stores: there’s only two left, and nobody buys books there, anyway. You don’t need traditional marketing. Didn’t we already prove that?

Got book?

[tags]blogging, editing, publishing, self-publishing, writing, writers[/tags]

DWWS Facebook group

A few days ago, Douglas Vos of Dearborn, Michigan, created a Designing With Web Standards group in Facebook just to see what would happen. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not like he started a group about moss formations or watching paint dry. Doug has read both editions of the book twice, and is a big fan of standards-based design. He started the group because he was interested in web standards and he wanted to understand, from the inside, how such groups function and grow in Facebook.

At this moment, the group has 422 1,142 members, seven wall posts, eleven discussion topics, three photos, one video, and two links. I wrote a post there today about my upcoming web standards talk at BusinessWeek.

I am curious whether the new group will become a passive affinity group or something more.

By passive affinity group, I mean the kind of group people join to show they belong—and then don’t do much, if anything, once they’ve joined. For instance, hundreds of thousands of people joined a Facebook group in support of the monks’ protest in Burma. Everyone who joined supports free speech and democracy, but only a tiny handful of group members create content or begin initiatives. For the few who are active, membership in the Burmese monk support group is an act of political and spiritual engagement. But for most members, it’s passive. This is true of all social groups (online and off) and nearly all human activities.

If people who incorporate web standards in their work join the DWWS Facebook group as an act of affinity, that’s fine and dandy, and it will be in some small way a measure of the progress of web standards as a movement or discipline. But the group could do more. Much more.

For instance, the group could track large-scale conversions to web standards and accessibility among corporate or government websites. It could also track backsliding, such as the infamous British Disney site, redesigned for standards compliance and accessibility by Andy Clarke at the beginning of the 2000s, and then redesigned back to tables and cruft by a successor web agency.

The group could track which schools and universities are using Designing With Web Standards and other “web standards” texts in their design or web curricula.

The Web Standards Project used to keep track of such things when I was running it, and I used to keep track of them here, as well; but I can’t do it any more, and The Web Standards Project doesn’t seem to be doing it either (probably because The WaSP is busy with other activities).

Maybe that’s where you come in.

It’s just a group on Facebook, but it could do some good.

[tags]dwws, designing with web standards, facebook, zeldman, books[/tags]

God Knocks

“It’s becoming a bedroom community for people who work on Wall Street,” the Wife says of our beloved Manhattan. While the housing market everywhere else incurs gangrene, prices here are sky-high and climbing. A new condo goes up every three seconds and an angel does not get his wings.

When I moved to New York City in 1988, it was possible to find a rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village, Kips Bay, and plenty of other places—to live an artist’s life, or a drunkard’s, while securing a semblance of middle class security and stability. People moved here to pursue music careers, acting careers, writing careers, anything that didn’t pay. Some even painted. They could live here indefinitely while the market ignored their talent.

Today the city is cleaner and safer, but a small one-bedroom in an indifferent neighborhood costs over a million dollars. It’s not just the poor and the old who are getting priced out. Not just the working class. Not even just the middle class. New York is still a melting pot, but its ingredients are changing as the city squeezes out all but the richest rich.

Brooklyn is where many families have moved and many creative people with or without families are moving, but Brooklyn’s prices are no better. You get a little more space for the same obscene truckload of cash, and you pay for it in subway mileage.

Any reasonable person who does not already own a place and is not fabulously wealthy would catch the first bus out of town and not look back. But if Osama bin Laden could not chase us off this island, neither will the lesser abomination of insanely high and continuously escalating housing prices.

Throwing our first stake in the ground, we have enrolled our daughter in a fine preschool. And when the newly-out-of-rent-stabilization but still-below-market rental lease I have ridden since 1990 finally ends next year, we intend to buy. Don’t ask me how we’ll do it. I only know that we will.

Which brings me to God and the knocking sound.

I awoke this morning to a quiet, insistent, knocking, high-pitched and hollowly wooden—as if a tiny woodpecker were signaling from the back of our bedroom’s bookshelves.

(I actually awoke to our little dog’s barking, something he never does. He also peed twice on the floor, something else he never does. And threw up all over our gorgeous white Flokati rug. But that isn’t part of the God story.)

When a person who has not been particularly spiritual enters a spiritual program, odd things begin happening. Atheists call these things coincidences. For instance, an addict in a big city fearfully attends his first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Chairing the meeting is the guy with whom he first bought dope. Programs like NA and AA are rife with such incidents.

The Wife is in a very different sort of program, but it is spiritual, and it concerns really living your life. Yesterday in that program, she and a friend focused on the notion of our owning a home, even though it seems impossible here. Before bed last night, she said we could start the process of finding a home by taking an action as simple as reading Home Buying For Dummies.

So this morning, there is this knocking sound. It’s not coming from the bureau. It’s not coming from the desk. It’s not electrical. There’s no big truck out on the street causing the windowpanes to rattle. The sound is insistent. We cannot localize its source or account for it logically.

Doors cover part of a bookshelf. Searching for the source of the sound, the Wife opens the doors. Out falls a book: Home Buying For Dummies.

And as she picks up the book, we both notice that the sound has stopped.

Inflamed linkazoidal tissues

The Economist profiles Mena Trott
Of late, The Economist has been paying greater attention to the web, undoubtedly because investors are doing likewise. The magazine even gets some things right. It’s great to see a hard-working innovator like Six Apart‘s Mena Trott get profiled in the magazine’s business section. I only wish the journalist who profiled Ms Trott could have laid off the condescending sexism. (“Girly whim?”) Why don’t they tell us what she was wearing?
Jubilee Center
This free after-school program for kids from kindergarten to sixth grade is “the only after-school and summer safe haven for children in Hoboken’s public housing neighborhood—a neighborhood with a history of violent crime and drug-related arrests.” ’Tis the season for giving (not that poverty ever goes out of season); support the Center!
simplebits redesign
Gorgeous.
Ten Worst Internet Acquisitions Ever
Amusing.
IconBuilder 8.1 (free update)
The Photoshop plug-in for favicon makers and icon bakers. Released 16.Nov.06. Free upgrade for registered users.
Things Designers Want for Christmas
Greg Storey of Airbag Industries builds hisself a Christmas store using Amazon’s new “astore” technology. I’ve been longing to do the same thing.
Judge: Make Bills Recognizable to Blind
“The [U.S.] government discriminates against blind people by printing money that all looks and feels the same, a federal judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could change the face of American currency.” Hat tip: Sean Jordan.
Slashdot reviews DWWS2e

Trent Lucier writes:

If you’ve browsed the web design section of any bookstore lately, you’ve seen him staring at you. The blue hat. The mustache. The blinding neon background. He’s Jeffrey Zeldman, publisher of the influential web development magazine, ‘A List Apart’ and author of the book Designing With Web Standards (DWWS). The first edition of the DWWS was published in 2003, and now 2006 brings us an updated 2nd edition. In a market flooded with XHTML, CSS, and web standards books, is DWWS 2nd Ed. still relevant?

I love it that they think I have a moustache.

[tags]links, sixapart, menatrott, hoboken, afterschool, simplebits, dancederholm, design, web2.0, accessibility, airbag[/tags]

Amazonked! (or, the 2nd Edition Dilemma)

Amazon.com gets an enormous number of things right. And it gets them right years before competitors even think of them. Nearly everyone in web design or online sales, when tasked with innovating, simply copies from Amazon. Amazon can even do things traditional, brick-and-mortar stores can’t. For instance, Amazon can stock and profit from items almost nobody is interested in. But there’s one thing Amazon has trouble with: second editions.

Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition was listed at Amazon for nearly a year before the book was written; it could be found by clicking a mislabeled “used and new” link on the first edition’s Amazon page. As no information pertinent to the second edition was available at the time, the “second edition” page used first-edition imagery and text.

The second edition is now available at Amazon, but it is mostly filled with first-edition editorial text and first-edition reader reviews. Its star rating (the at-a-glance, impulse buyer’s decision-making tool) is likewise based on the first edition. Initially Amazon’s second-edition page also showed first-edition cover art, a first-edition table of contents, and a first-edition “look inside the book,” but those errors have been corrected. The other problems may never be corrected, not because Amazon is uninterested or unwilling, but because second editions pose a special problem to Amazon’s databases—and possibly also to its information design. But as it would be bad manners to highlight a problem without proposing a solution, I’ll do so two paragraphs from now.

The problem is not unique to DWWS2E. When Eric Meyer wrote Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2004), the “Editorial Review” on Amazon’s second edition sales page referred to the out-of-print first edition. Two and a half years later, it still does. Most reader reviews also refer to the first edition—so much so, that one reader felt compelled to preface his review by pointing out that he was writing about the book being sold on the page, not about a previous edition.

What should Amazon do?

Replacing first-edition publisher-supplied text with second-edition publisher-supplied text is an obvious place to start. The next right move is less clear, but I think we can find our way to it.

One possibility that initially seems right is probably wrong. Amazon’s DWWS2E page might say, “This book has not yet been reviewed” until a few reviews of the second edition have been written and approved. Likewise, the star rating might be kept blank until a few readers have rated the edition being sold. Yet to have no reviews and no star rating would be wrong in a different way, because a second edition is not a fledgling book taking its first baby steps into a possibly indifferent marketplace; it’s a successful book that has been updated.

A graduated migration is probably in order, and it could work in two phases. When a second edition initially becomes available, how readers felt about the first edition is worthwhile information, at least as a rough buyer’s guide. By this reasoning, when an old title debuts in a new edition, it’s okay to keep up the old reviews and old star ratings, as long as their connection to the earlier edition is clearly labeled.

The second phase follows immediately. Once new reviews and new star ratings trickle in, Amazon should dispense with the old reviews and old star ratings—or make them available on a page where the old edition is still sold, with a “What readers said about the previous edition” link. How many reviews and star ratings should Amazon collect before removing the old reviews and old star ratings? The directors at Amazon, who are brighter than me, and who have access to more data, can figure out that part.

[tags]amazon, publishing, marketing, writing, books, retail, long tail, dwws2e, web standards[/tags]