Interview by Adeline Koh of The Chronicle of Higher Education

“The Printing Press of the Digital Environment: A Conversation with Stanford’s Highwire Press.”

(interview of me by Adeline Koh, Professor at Richard Stockton College, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Profhacker” series).

HighWire“Our conversation touched upon issues such as how Highwire makes a distinction between itself and university presses,  the open access debate to changes in the definition of “scholarly impact,” and what sorts of electronic data journals may be able to provide to individual authors. Present at the interview were Tim McCormick (@mccormicktim), Anh Bui and Laryssa Polika.

Quotes from Tim: ” ‘It is early days yet for digital publishing, and there are great areas of opportunity that are not yet well-defined or settled. We like to see scholars and authors being bold and experimentative, not just waiting for terms to be given to them.  While it’s true that certain structures of academia, such as tenure criteria, may tend to operate conservatively, on the other hand change happens eventually, and we see many signs of impending change, even disruption.’

” ‘We would suggest that scholars…think entrepreneurially about the many ways they could publish and be recognized / rewarded for it.’”
read full article.





Video of my Healthier Information talk

Healthier Information talk at Quantified Self, March 29, 2012

This is the video of my presentation at the meeting of the San Francisco (original) chapter of Quantified Self, March 29 at Google West Campus, Mountain View.

I discuss the informational value of phone calls from family members compared to television, and the interestingness of my cat and possible value of Rush Limbaugh, among other things.  See the presentation slides on Slideshare.

The format of this was “ignite+”, which is a talk accompanied by 30 slides, shown for 15 seconds each, auto-advanced, which is 7.5 minutes, plus 7.5 minutes for Q&A.  You have to start and finish exactly on time. (regular “ignite” format, also known as Pecha Kucha, is 20 slides, 20 seconds each.  See also Wikipedia entry on Ignite.).

Note: I had difficulty getting this video (hosted on Vimeo) to play well. You may want to download the file, using links at bottom of the Vimeo page, and replay it once downloaded.





Welcome and instructions for #twitterfunding round one

Welcome round 1 group!

A stellar group of 11 people were selected from those who replied to the “Twitterfunding Experiment: Call for Participants” last week.  You have all kinds of great interests, backgrounds, and affiliations, and I’m delighted that you’ve joined this experiment.

Welcome @stew@emilybell, @kvox, @mrgunn, @mj_coren, @jess1ecat, @jschneider, @slifty, @mstem, @katenieder, & @morganpintarich.  You are international (US, UK, Ireland), timezone-crossing (PST, EST, GMT), gender-balanced, and diverse in age and twitter experience, among other things.


1) You don’t really have to do *anything*, except possibly tell me your Paypal email address if you want to get paid at the end of the trial..

2) The trial will:
start:  Monday, April 23, 12:00 am PST
end:  Tuesday, May 22, 11:59pm PST

3) You each have $10 credit to start.  I and my robot monkeys will watch your Twitter public activity during the trial, and count any of these ways in which you cite another member’s tweet:

  • RT  (as recorded by Twitter, or just designed by RT @<twittername>)
  • favorited
  • MT @<twittername>
  • via @<twittername>
  • HT @<twittername>

The intent is to observe and capture the ways people cite or credit others, to the extent feasible.

4) At the end of the trial, I will apportion your $10 among the other group members in proportion to how many of the above cites/uses you made of their tweets. (and do the same for everyone else).  If you cite nobody, I’ll divide your credit equally among the others; if you cite only one person, I’ve give your $10 all to that person, etc.

(Note: this means that you can do whatever mixture of RT, MT, faving you choose – it’s effectively just your way of indicating how you want your credit distributed.  RT- or faving a lot or a little doesn’t in a sense matter, in this setup, because you have the same credit to give out regardless.)

5) I set up a new Twitter account, @talkfunder, for news and notices about this project.  I may cross-post there and at @mccormicktim for a bit.

6) At @talkfunder, there is a Twitter list for the group:
You or anyone can go here and see all posts by group members. This may be a more convenient alternative or supplement to reading group members’ posts via your regular tweetstream.  Keep in mind that tweets may become unfindable via searches / lists in as little as a few days.  Looking at specific user’s page, however, usually shows tweets going back many months.

7) Here and below are logo concepts for Talkfunder that my expensive branding agency came up with:  +F, or alternately, T+ (imagine that “+” with a bit of an “f” head on it).  You get the idea, I think?  Like G+, or +1, or Twitter+.  Thoughts?

8) Everything here is open for discussion and suggestion.  Please feel free to send ideas and questions / issues to me directly, to the group by email, or by public posting, or by Op-Ed in the New York Times.

I have pretty much no idea what will happen now. Which is the idea.




Twitterfunding Experiment: Call for Participants

Might people agree to pay and receive money based on their level of use/creation of social media?  This is a small independent experiment to look at whether and how this might happen.


I. Overview
II. How It Works
III. Requirements
IV. Signup
V.  Frequently Asked Questions
VI. Acknowledgements

I. Overview:
I’m looking for a group of, say, 10 trial participants to sign up to try it for a period (probably 1 month, I am aiming for May 1-31, 2012).  If interested, add yourself to the signup list.

II. How it works:

  1. At the start, you are given an Initial Credit (expected to be $10) in a virtual account.  
  2. During the trial period, we track how much you “favorite” and/or retweet other participants’ tweets.
  3. At the end of the month, we count up everyone’s favorites/retweets, and adjust everyone’s account balance in proportion to how many YOU received.  If you got none, you might end with a balance of $0.  If, on the other hand, you got all of the favorites/tweets, you’d get the whole pool of money, or about $100.
  4. You then get this money via Paypal.  That’s it! Your reward for playing, thanks.
  5. Note: I realize there are various ways to use/credit tweets, such as RTs, HTs, paraphrases, etc.  To simplify tracking, the trial will be based only on favoriting, so you would do that always for a tweet you want to credit, regardless of what other use / RT you make of it). [Update 4/11 8am: We're looking at which types of crediting/reuse can feasibly be tracked automatically].


III.  Requirements:

  1. You must have been an active Twitter user for at least the last three months, and understand how to follow other users, how to “favorite” and RT (retweet), and how to view a user list’s members and tweets.
  2. You must be able to receive funds via a Paypal account.
  3. You agree that your favorites and other publicly visible activity on Twitter will be monitored by the trial organizer for the purpose of this experiment.
  4. Participants are selected by trial organizer at his sole discretion.  I am looking for a group of people who might have a relatively well-distributed degree of interest in each others’ activity, and whom I think are likely to yield useful feedback and data.

happy participants will make this project fly!

IV.  Signup List:

Actual signup list (requires Google account to edit document).


V. Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Q:  WTF?
    A: I know, right?!
  2. Q: Who are you, anyway?:
    A:  Tim McCormick, I work as Product Manager for Emerging Content at Stanford HighWire Press in Palo Alto, CA.  This is just an independent project for personal interest.

    this picture is not me, it’s of course Noam Chomsky. But we think he’d approve of this project.
  3. Q: But what problem does this solve? Why would a system like this be necessary?  Doesn’t Twitter work fine already?
    A: Yes, Twitter works now, this may not be necessary.  But, on the other hand, perhaps interesting things may happen if you introduce a funding / royalties sort of mechanism, and it may be easier to try it out than to predict what would happen. This is just a small cheap experiment to do that, following Eric Ries’ model of “Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat.”
  4. Q: Hasn’t this been tried before?
    A: Yes, there are many precedents, starting with any system of voluntary support for media — e.g. the U.S. public radio model.  (Think of Twitter now as analogous to there being no way to give financial support to the local public radio station you enjoy.  How would the NPR crowd even know who they are?).
    On the Web, there is for example Wikipedia’s campaigns, and many other projects that have used so-called “tip jar” protocol, or what are sometimes called “street performer”, “threshhold pledge,” or “fund and release” protocols.
    The idea of apportioning funds for media automatically based on third-party monitoring is also quite old — going back at least a century in U.S. copyright law & practice, and providing the basis for royalties systems such as ASCAP.
    There have also been zillions of different efforts and models to monetize Web content in the last 20 years, using just about any imaginable variation on advertising, referral credit, traffic monitoring, apportionment of aggregated subscription revenues, etc.
    Perhaps the most direct precedent is Kachingle (thank you @emilybell for pointing this out) which employs a model of monitoring enrolled users’ visits to Web sites in the network, and distributing voluntarily pledged funds to the site owners based on usage.  Also quite similar to this is Flattr (thanks for @jschneider for tip on this). Both of these, as far I understand them, are essentially for crowd-funding Web sites as a whole, not really for social-media activity as in this experiment. .
    While Web “tip-jar media” may generally be seen as having had little adoption, there are some interesting new properties about Twitter that might allow different phenomena to emerge.  In particular, Twitter is a relatively transparent 2-way linking system, with much usage behavior publicly visible by default and efficiently monitorable by third parties.
  5. Q:  Why would anyone voluntarily give money for what’s currently free on Twitter?
    A:  First, for the reasons that anyone voluntarily donates to anything:  because they value it and want to support it and want to express and demonstrate their values.  Second, because they may want to encourage an experiment in radically distributed yet monetized media, and provide incentives for new value-creators in this medium.  Third, who knows? maybe they won’t. That’s why we’re experimenting and not, say, burning huge piles of cash to try this out as an actual company.  Yet.
    [update 4/12 10pm:  several participants voluntarily offered to put in money.  Ok, they’re my friends / associates, so perhaps crazy unrepresentative. But it happened. See F.A.Q. #9 below].
  6. Q:  but I use another social-media site to “favorite” and share stuff, like Facebook, Vimeo, Pinterest, Weibo, MyFunnyPoodles, or, oh, what was that one Google thing? Can I do it there?
    A:  Not yet.  This social-funding concept is quite possibly extensible to many other social-media systems, but so far we’re just testing the concept on the easiest / most familiar system for us, Twitter.  [update 4/12/12 2:30pm: @mrgunn has suggested a way to add Facebook & G+, considering it for this or possible next round].
  7. Q:  Are there other related, clever terms you want to coin regarding this?
    A:  Yes. Here goes one:  Tweetfunding is a system somewhat like royalties for media, except it’s peer-to-peer so we call it a socialties system.  (If this term mostly falls flat or incurs scorn — you know who you are — well that’s why blog posts are editable, down it goes and let’s move on, children are starving).
  8. Q:  I want to support / buy / invest in / hire / you / this.
    A:  Great — run, don’t walk.  Instagram sold for $1B: 12 people and no revenue?  I’m just saying.  My contact info is at top.
  9. Q: wouldn’t it be better if I paid you the starting money, rather than getting the credit?  May I do that?
    A:  Yes, I accept money.  You can Paypal me using this email address:  paypal at tjm dot org.  This is about learning, but I can work with money.  As Schleiermacher said, I’m not one of those cultured despisers (see: NPR crowd, haters), and it’s like that New Yorker cartoon where a guy goes to a bar and orders “vodka on the rocks, in the rocks, and under the rocks” — I can use it.
    No, seriously, originally I planned to just give credits and put in the funding myself — ok the VCs’ money, suckas — thinking it necessary to incent participation (and because the basic idea is voluntary funding, and I imagine most users in any larger system on this model would be recipients and not funders).  However, since several people offered to put in their own money, I’ve decided to allow that, to add some new dynamics to the experiment for observation, and so I can go to that great Cuban place for dinner tomorrow to think all this over.


VI.  Acknowledgements

Thanks to:

  • Emily Bell, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University, for feedback and discussion of Kachingle. @emilybell
  • William Gunn of Mendeley, for feedback and ideas. @mrgunn.
  • Kate Niederhoffer of Knowable Research for discussions. @katenieder.
  • Jason Priem of UNC-Chapel Hill and, for feedback and ideas. @jasonpriem.
  • Jodi Schneider of Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), Galway, for ideas on all things discussion and argumentation, and for tip about social-funding service Flattr.
  • Barry Wellman, University of Toronto, for helping to circulate the idea for discussion. @barrywellman.
  • Karen Wickre, editorial director at Twitter, for feedback. @kvox.







Kathleen Fitzpatrick speaking at Stanford on Peer Review, Digital Futures

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Tues April 10, 4:15pm lecture:  “Planned Obsolescence and the Future of Peer Review.”
Weds April 11, 12:00pm discussion: “The Digital Future of the Profession.”
Pigott Hall, Rm 260-252, Stanford University. map


Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, and is on leave from a position as Professor of Media Studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. She is the author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, which was published by NYU Press in November 2011; Planned Obsolescence was released in draft form for open peer review in fall 2009. She is also the author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television, published in 2006 by Vanderbilt University Press, and she is co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons. She has published articles and notes in journals including the Journal of Electronic Publishing, PMLA, Contemporary Literature, and Cinema Journal.

Stanford University – Pigott Hall, Rm 260-252 (aka Building 260, aka Language Corner, at SE corner of Main Quad, corner of Escondido Mall and Lausen Mall),

Sponsored by
Stanford Humanities

Event hashtag:  #kfitztalk
(use for your tweets, posts, photos, & other media coverage)




Day of Digital Humanities: new mixtures, medias, disruption and opportunity

My Day of DH (Digital Humanities) might be said to have begun around midnight last night, when I got a tweet from Twitter friend Adeline Koh @adelinekoh of Richard Stockton College, who said:

hey r u signed up for #dayofdh ?? Do it…

I had been only vaguely aware of Day of DH until then, but since I do whatever Adeline says, I went and checked it out and signed up.  I read Adeline’s post about Day of DH, in which she relates a Twitter chat between her, me, and Rosemary Feal in which we talked about, as she put it, “What principle are you?” (e.g. Shirky Principle, after Clay Shirky). She suggested it would be some kind of “uncertainty principle” (alluding to Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle from physics, I think), and I added that, thinking of Keats’ “negative capability”, we might propose a Koh Certainty Principle, meaning confidence through accepting doubt.  Ok, this is some serious nerd backchannel, but good academic fun, and a moment where I stopped and thought, how remarkable it is that networks exist, and that I have constant and rich interactions with so many scholars and creators of all kinds, few of whom I’ve ever met in person or perhaps ever will.

Later I read all the prior registrants’ submissions in answer to “What is Digital Humanities”, which was quite entertaining, nice example of the diversity and wit and intelligence of this community.

Today was an unusual work-from-home day, consisting of several conference calls and various emails / docs / Web research on assorted projects for my job at HighWire Press, Stanford.  I am product manager for “emerging content”, which includes eBooks, APIs, Semantic technologies, personalization/recommendation, and social media.

At lunchtime I went out for a coffee on University Ave., where as usual at the tables around me were students mostly with laptops, some also or instead with novels, essays, course packs, law & medical texts.  Also, the usual tech / startup types peering intently into laptops or clustered around a sketch, diagram, or marketing document.  All kinds of “content,” format, and device, old and new, all mixed up.

While having coffee I noticed a number of people in my tweetstream were using a hashtag “#dsevent”, so I followed the tag and looked up what it was, and found it was an event going on in London right then, called “Inventing the Future”, organized by a company I follow called Digital Science. DS is a spinoff of Nature Publishing Group that develops and invests in new technologies for researchers.  I follow many companies and projects in that area, often with a thought for how STM (Scientific Technical Medical) research developments may also apply or be informed by what’s going on in Digital Humanities.  Both of these areas, and others, in the scholarly world, are in an amazing state of creative ferment, but I find that STM and DH worlds seem to often operate quite separately, sometimes unaware of quite parallel developments in the other area.

Since HighWire serves publishers and journals that span all disciplines (1600+ journals, + ebooks and other content), I have an opportunity to be involved in both STM and DH publishing and conversations.  Important customers such as Duke University Press and Oxford University Press have large presences in humanities and/or social sciences, and they are very exploratory regarding new publishing tools and models.  I see DH as an area where creative reinvention is occuring partly out of dire necessity, i.e. a perceived state of breakdown in the scholarly monograph sector and (relatedly) the traditional tenure track.  For me, areas with a sense of crisis and disruption are areas with possibly the most interesting problems to tackle and greatest opportunities.

After coffee, I headed over to campus to pick up a book I’d requested from the School of Business Library, after getting an email alert that it was available.  As I walked back from the library, I nursed the slight remaining charge on my phone, and cradled the book under my jacket against the light rain, reflecting on how each media/device was showing its own vulnerability, and coexisting in my life, a mixed and serendipitous life and surely a unique time.