Category Archives: Technology

On children’s books via devices

I admit it, I got pretty excited when I saw the July Authors’ Earnings report. It mainly focussed on ebooks and those ebooks bought through Amazon; however, it wasn’t the earnings that got me excited. I was excited because as I read, I came to a graph. This graph:

Children’s. (They forgot the apostrophe.) But “Children’s” was on a graph suggesting it was possible to earn some money (not much money) from publishing children’s ebooks.

I went away, emailed the husband, all excited and then it hit me.

What exactly did Children’s mean? The definition of children’s books, at least in the publishing world, tends to include Young Adult novels. So is this graph showing actual children’s books (books for under twelve-year-olds — my own definition) or children and young adult books (books for anyone under 16 years)?

In my experience, I have not seen a strong uptake of children (under twelves) reading on digital devices. They play games, young children like interactive apps, but actual reading? Give a child an e-ink screen, would they know what to do with it?

I don’t think we’ve revolutionised the way children read books — yet. I think adults are very comfortable reading on devices, but do they give their children devices to read on? Probably not.

Which makes you think: if you’re not comfortable with a child reading a device, why are you reading on a device?

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On The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This week, I’ve discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Considering it’s Pride & Prejudice’s 200th birthday this year, it’s quite apt that I found it. Quite honestly, it is amazing.

While I would not recommend watching them all in one go like I did, I do believe that you should watch them all. The actresses get on my nerves. I’m a little sick of them. But then, if you watch anything for long enough, the people will always begin to bug you. Like the book characters, they are over-the-top and soemtimes irritating and insufferable.

Despite this, the adaptation is quite good. It is definitely set in modern times (being a video blog, it would have to be), and the characters have been updated to suit. (Collins is a business man, Pemberley is a digital content company, Lydia parties and drinks in clubs–while still being quite silly.)

This is not my favourite part of the production though. I am particularly interested in how the related media interacts with the original story. Each of the characters have their own twitter accounts–which they use to interact with each other and fans of the show. Some have facebook, others have Pinterest and most have a tumblr. Some characters start their own video blogs, and we get to see the story that Lizzie isn’t apart of through their eyes.

It feels like a true transmedia event. (It feels very similar to how I want Shattered to be told.)

I think what works for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is that their main networks at YouTube and Twitter. They have picked the ones that work for them and the story. LBD doesn’t try to do everything. And it makes LBD a better story for it.

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On running a start-up (a Drabbl.es post)

My third project for the year is plugging along in the background. Drabbl.es are being posted and challenges are being uploaded. We have had a steady stream of new users and drabbles.

It’s an interesting challenge and quite a job running a trial of a start-up product, especially one that lives in the online community.

But it’s an insane job. You hear about these start ups, and how much fun it is to work in them, how much creativity there is in the air, and how rewarding it is.

What no one tells you is the history, the highs and lows of running a start-up. Everyone says, yeah it was hard; no one tells the whole story. It’s damn hard work. It’s updating the site when no one else is using it. It’s sending updates to users so they know what’s going on, so everything is transparent. It’s reading feedback requests and wanting to do something about it, but not being able to. It’s applying for funding and not quite making the cut. It’s wanting to be brilliant and settling for okay because there is nothing more I can do right now. It’s having to do everything myself–any new implementation, if I can do it, I have to do it because there is no money.

It’s difficult being a technical start-up without a dedicated developer on the team. I have to pay for all development. I have wonderful developers, but they are a development company. I can’t call them in the middle of the night because I have this great idea for the site and they’ll do it, just because they’re as excited about it as me.

If I have learnt anything about working in start-ups this year, it’s that you need a great team. You need a team that is as excited about the idea as you are. You need a team that has a business person, a technical person (or making person*), a marketing/sales person, and an ideas person. You don’t need four people, but you do need those skills. Without them, being a start-up is more difficult than it needs to be because you need to pay for the people you don’t have, and start-ups do not have money.

Drabbl.es is heaps of fun, but I am definitely learning a great deal about running a start-up along the way.

* I say a making person because not all products are technical, and if they’re not technical, they probably need to be made (clothes, jewellery, toys, etc.).

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On late-night writing (and #NaNoWriMo-ing)

This is going to seem like a sponsored post. I am going to put it out there right now: this is not a sponsored post. Although, if they felt like paying me, I wouldn’t say no. (The writers’ dream, right? To be paid for wriiting.)

I am one of the team that run @NaNoWordSprints in November for NaNoWriMo. This is probably my favourite part of being an ML. I get to connect with more people via twitter and there is less of that awkward silence that crops up at in-person write-ins, because on twitter, especially in word sprints, you don’t have to talk, you don’t have to respond, and if you’re not there, you’re just not there.

I run a lot of the sprints at night. In my house, we work at night. Being freelancers, contractors and project managers, we have many projects and work on them whenever we can. That includes night-time. Part of my work is actually writing this novel. So writing at night is good.

I was trying to be funny, while trying to provide useful tips to wrimos. I tweeted on the @NaNoWordSprints account:

Appparently a lot of people hadn’t heard of it before.

It is important to find things that make writing at ALL hours easier, because you never known when inspiration strikes. f.lux is one of the best things I ever did to my computer. I can’t look at the screen without flux turned on anymore.

Of course, if you’re working with colours (such as an animator or graphic designer) you can turn f.lux off for a designated amount of time. But, if you don’t need real colours, you won’t even know the difference.

Not only does it save your eyesight, but it saves your brain. I can stay up at all hours and still go to bed and get to sleep easily. I am suprised that people haven’t heard of it–if you’re one of those people; go download and try it!

photo credit: selva via photopin cc

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Books without Words #storyappchat

Yesterday I participated in my first live twitter chat. I also thought of titling this post “Twitter Chats and Your Typing Speed” because, goodness, do you need some fast fingers to get involved in a twitter chat! It moves a million miles an hour.

The twitter chat I participated in was #storyappchat which is held every Sunday 9pm (US Eastern time)–11am my time. This week’s topic was Books without Words. The transcript for the discussion is available through Scribd. (Please note, I was tweeting under @bnemedia.)

As I am currently in the process of creating a children’s storybook app with sister Beth, this entire chat series intrigues me. This topic, however, more so than most–we never thought of creating a wordless book.

We never thought about it because the two of us–the animator/illustrator and the writer–together seems like a match made in heaven. If we wanted to create a wordless picture book, I would become obsolete. If the idea was there, and we could still work on the story together, but no text was needed, I would have no issue supporting an wordless picture book (or picture book app, as is more my flavour).

Having said that, I personally would find it as dull as dullsville if a picture book had no words, no matter how amazing the images are–and I wouldn’t create something I find dull. If it’s dull for me, then it’s definitely going to be dull for its readers. It should be noted that I haven’t ‘seen’ a picture book without words, either. (I originally typed ‘read’ instead of ‘seen’, but you can’t technically read something that has no words.) **

I came into the discussion a little late, when the chat began talking about narration in storybook apps when there is no text. I am not sure what the purpose of this would be. Yes, I understand that sometimes fitting text to a screen page is difficult–we’ve had several discussions about this over the BnE Media app. But I don’t think the solution is to remove the text entirely.

We started debating the idea of audio books: why can’t there be narration-only apps if audio books exist? As I mentioned in the chat, audio books go hand-in-hand with their hardcopy partner. We were talking about the text being nowhere. Apps need to grow with children, as books do. As a child, you are read a story to you until you are old enough to read it yourself. Often that story becomes a favourite.

My sister loved the book The Littlest Bunny. (A bad home-taken Amazon pic of it.) She absolutely adored it. Whenever we could pick a book to be read to us, she would pick that one. She had it read to her so many times that she could point to the words as our parents said them. She heard it so many times that she could eventually recite the entire book, pointing the words out one at a time. She read it to a class of kindergarten-ers when she was at preschool. And then eventually, she could actually read the book.

That’s the point though: kids grow with their books. Take the words away and they’ve got nowhere to go.

What do you think? Narration and no text? Does a text-story add anything to the book that a picture-story can’t say?

 

**Record for saying dull the most times in a sentence? Anyone?

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Forced Idea Generation via Start-Up Camp Canberra

There are some seriously decidated students in Canberra. I attended the opening session of Start-Up Camp Canberra last night, and am attending the main development session today. For those reading this at a later date, let me make clear–that’s a Friday night and a Saturday day and night, and there is a Sunday day session that I won’t be able to make.

A general introduction: Start-Up Camp is just that, a weekend-long camp (with the luxury of sleeping in your own beds instead of uncomfortable blow-up mattresses) that has the aim to have started a web business.

This time the majority of participants are students, but registrations were open to the public. Anyone can sign up, however, if you have skills in web development, graphic design or PR and marketing, you will be highly prized.

Last night teams were formed–many people sign up as individuals and create their team on the night. Two or three people form each skill set are placed into one team. During the night, you come up with your idea and your name. You decide on the platform and on the URL. You pitch twice through the night to the other teams.

Today is focused on marketing and development. Logos, about pages, social media accounts and press releases are being created. The web app–often a website as it is more easily developed in 24 hours, but mobile apps are also acceptable–gets further developed. By 10am on Sunday, hopefully each team has a working version of their idea and a well defined pitch to present to interested public and local investors (at University of Canberra,  building 24).

For those that can’t make tomorrow (myself included), tonight at 9pm pitches will be rehearsed at UC in building 24. All interested people are welcome.

There are seven groups:

  • Halpr: A stylised way of saying Helper. From what I can gather, it is a gumtree or craigslist for university students. If you need roommates or are looking for a place, Halpr can help. Textbooks and second-hand uni items are also covered. Furthermore, local businesses can provide student-only deals on the website for the struggling youth as they work their way through university.
  • Comp-Out: I know the team says it’s like Kaggle for university students in less digital/statical analysis fields. I think it sounds like Freelancer. I am yet to be convinced as lovely and knowledgable these devs are.
  • Imaginarrative: A social game in the realm of Words with Friends. The idea is to add a sentence to an ongoing story, but you only get to see the sentence previous to yours in the story. At the end of the story, it is shared with all participants to read the final story. Addictive, creative, entertaining.
  • HabitMaker: An interactive and fun way to reach healthy goals. Their official write-up: “At Habitmaker.me, we know how important it is to build healthy habits and we believe that making new habits (or breaking old ones) should be a fun, interactive and social experience. Turn your habit challenge in to an exciting experience! Define your goals, track your progress and celebrate your achievements.”
  • VeggBox: “Veggbox is a marketplace for sustainable food products. Our aim is to improve health and reduce food miles buy connecting local food growers with local buyers.” In my mind, they are creating a map populated by users where the public can find local food growers (outside of markets) that you can pick up individual items when you want them. Two heads of cauliflower here, fourteen carrots elsewhere, some sprouts from the third grower.
  • Fruitful Foragers: In contrast to the above sustainable living proposal, this one is free! They are creating a resource that is user-populated with places where people can forage off the land. For example, there may be a pear tree that reaches over a fence in your street. You are allowed to pick the pears on that side of the fence. This resource records all these areas where there is free, sustainable produce that the public can collect.
  • TimeOffConditioner: Based on a psychology study that states if you are shown two neutral images, two neutral images, two neutral images, chocolate and dead cat, two neutral images, two neutral images, etc and you watch this for six 45 minute sesssion ou will associate chocolate with a dead cat and therefore no longer want to eat chocolate. An interesting idea, but a bit time consuming for a web app.

If you asked me, I would say my favourite to take out investment is Imaginarrative. It helps that I’m a writer and am easily sucked into addicitve games. (My history includes Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Triple Town, Where’s my Water, Cut the Rope and probably a few more.) What’s more is that this idea is simple. It has a clear concept. It is not trying to be everything to everyone.

Forced idea generation works just as well in the writing world. The ideas that are brainstormed will not all be winners, but sometimes you’ll hit a gold nugget.

I can not wait to see what becomes of Imaginarrative.

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