Saturday, 16 January 2010

Auto Screencast teaching tool.

I just came across this in my twitter stream (c/o @geekami ) and it's marketed as a 'help you friends and family' type app. The software sends a url via email to the person you're looking to help, they follow the link and from this new page they record a screen cast. The software then automates the upload and sends you an email to say that the movie is ready to be viewed.

I'm thinking this is a really quick and simple solution for the remote student, and as the movies are easily downloaded, a quick return movie showing the correct method or solution to the student's original problem, could be auto embedded into a FAQ section removing the need to do it again. ( #ReducedWorkloadTeachingJoy )


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Monday, 11 January 2010

Given Things away.



I've kind of been putting off writing up a concluding post to the 'Giving Things Away' trial, not for want of sharing it, but because I've been implementing the things that I've learned and in lots of ways moved the whole thing much further forward. Which means I have to now go back and untangle the various strands.

Laziness perhaps, but in my defense, the critic shouldn't mistake my drowning for waving, this 'live trial' is a pragmatic necessity from which I earn a living (call it R and D), not a passing whimsy. The write up I still find harder to justify because my photographer 1.0 brain stills sees talking about and sharing what I do as, at best indulgent vanity and at worst, commercial suicide.

However, in truth and in a Photography 2.0 one line summary, I've learned more and come further in the the last three months than I have over the last three years, the conclusion of which is that sharing
what I do as well as the mechanics of how I do it is crucial for my practice, and possibly, for others like me.

Hence, I begin my year looking backwards.

In brief summary: the original 'Trial" consisted of trying to use the internet for what it's really good at (distribution) rather than fighting those same dynamics. So rather than stifling use of my images with brutal copyright terms, I gave them away for free and then tried to make money out of the wider reaching audience.

In full: here are the links to the posts Part I Part II Part III and a further follow up (which riffs a bit, but buried in there are some outcomes).

In keeping, the following is split into a skinny and a full fat version, the former consisting of the numbers the latter pertaining to the broader fall-out.


Caveat: God knows, I'm not an economist so please indulge my language and please do correct me if I use the wrong terms. If I don't know of a term to describe what I find then I make one up (which I'll try to prefix with a 'what I'm calling'). I'll probably also mis-use terms, mis-quote people and inadvertently plagiarize , though on this last point someone once said that 'Amateurs plagiarize whereas Artists steal', a quote which (in keeping) I have stolen.



The Skinny:

Total gross cost of making the original images of Cory £114.00 GBP*
Total cost of producing the 111 small prints for sale £111.00 GBP (that's approx)
Total cost of Printing the three large contact composite prints £ 150.00
Total cost of packaging (archival sleeves, envelopes and tube) £65.00

Overall cost per unit £ 3.85 GBP
Total overall cost £ 440.00 GBP

Income from Etsy print sales £ 875.00
Income from Print usage $250 (see here for client refusing to use the image without paying)
Income from Guest Speaking about the trial £ 300
Total income £1
325
Minus £125 donation to charity (tax deductible)

Net Profit to date £ 760.00 GBP

*These costs don't include the net costs of doing business (cost of my time, business overheads etc) nor the opportunity cost (opportunities forsaken to produce the work, in other words - what I could have done instead during that time).


The fuller fat version:

The skinny really doesn't tell the full story. For a start there remain sixty unsold prints which I've already said here, will go on sale for one month when Cory's "For the Win" is published at ten times their current price. There will be no second edition and any remainders will be destroyed. So there remains potentially, a significant further income from sales.

There are a number of what I'll call 'perceivable non-material benefits' which range from my learning experience in general to the increase in number and make-up of my contacts, to my general status as a practitioner. What to include and what not include here is a bit messy and really the untangling of which I spoke earlier, but here are some clearly tangible and relevant examples:

The original image that Cory annotated to date has been viewed 8,321 times on Flickr, the others from the set have been viewed 972 times and 1,344 times respectively - every page of which links to my site and credits me.

One of the images appears on Wikipidea - again crediting me and driving traffic to me and my site.


Cory also has a significant twitter following so when he tweeted what I was up to it went out to 30,000 plus people. I tried to keep up with the (what I'll call) 'compound retweets', in other words the total number of people reached when someone following Cory or me, retweeted what we were saying to their followers, and them in turn to theirs and so on. For this purpose I had columns in my Twitter desktop application that were just searching the relevant key phrases, the upshot of which is that after 36 hours I lost count somewhere around a conservative 750,000 people reached. Perhaps this is what Clay Shirky means when he refers to Twitter's “algorithmic authority”.

Cory wrote about the experiment on his Craphound blog:

Jonathan Worth is "experimenting with new business-models for photography that leverage, rather than fight, the Internet"

and also at BoingBoing where he is an editor, these both directed more traffic to me and my site
(and continue to do so).


"Jonathan Worth tries out a copy-friendly photography business-experiment"

In turn, a further series of articles and blog posts followed, which likewise generated more traffic, reached even wider audiences and so on.

"In the New Media World, Photographers Who Embrace Change Will Succeed" by Wayne Ford

"One Great Idea – Meet Jonathan Worth" by Lori Osterberg

"Social Skills: Using the Web more effectively
" by Charlotte Griffiths

Likewise, the experiment and now references to my practice as a whole, crop up in articles and blog posts amongst yet other strata of audience (and potential collaborators) :

"Required Reading: Posts about photography’s future you can’t afford to miss" by Miki Johnson

"Revolutions in the media economy (5) – the pay wall folly for photographers" by David Campbell

"Towards a Sustainable Journalism" by Fred Ritchin

Then in "recognition of (my) innovation and influential role in developing new business models for photographers using the social web”, I was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, another network whose pertinence was illustrated to me on a recent trip out to New York. I was out there primarily to try to meet Fred Ritchin (After Photography, Pixel Press) and see Stephen Mayes (VII) in the hope of getting advice. Fred kindly invited me to talk to his students at NYU, and the morning I was due to do this I tweeted to that effect. Within ten minutes I'd received an email from the RSA in the US asking if the talk was public as there were over four hundred fellows in the NY area and they'd like to offer the chance out to them to attend and meet me.

I mentioned earlier one of the publications that used the image of Cory to illustrate an article insisted on paying to do so, yet another (Jon Levy of FOTO8 magazine) after having used the same image, also contacted me to discuss the opportunity of producing a series of portraits for him in the same visual vein.



Conclusion :

The cold maths of this one-off trial don't equate to a viable business model, at least not my execution of it. Not when one takes into account the costs of doing business however, this is only a fraction of the story and the learning that I've paid for here with my time, someone else can pick up and take forward much more efficiently, as I intend to from now on.

There were a few things that made Cory an ideal su
bject and I think are worth reflecting on:

He has a cult following and he interacts with these followers, in fact he actually involves them directly in the production of his work, so that they become in every respect, partisan. Take for example when people point out typos Cory amends the mistake and thanks them in a footnote (who wouldn't buy a second copy of the book with your name in it?) and the very fact that his CC licensing actively encourages reworking or 'derivative' versions of his work. He takes Jeff Jarvis's advice to "make more customers take ownership of your brand" to the next level, literally.

He was also willing to motivate this community and so thereby indirectly grant me access to them.


The mechanics of how he does what he does are also detached from the end product. You read his books, you don't watch him write them, and so there's an element of mystery, wherein for the fan there's an inherent value. Think at base level of the autograph, then think of the actual pen that was used to write the autograph or the desk that it was written at, or the author's favourite chair/typewriter etc. This stuff is only valuable to the avid fan but the bigger the fan the greater the inferred value, the trick is enabling every level of fan to access their particular version of the product.

I incorporated this by employing something that Chris Anderson refers to in his book "Free: The Future Of A Radical Price" as 'Versioning'. The prints were available from zero cost and infinite availability (Flickr and Archive.org) towards infinite cost for the singularly unique, though in truth this was also where I learned about 'price discovery'. The most expensive prints were the first to go, from which I conclude that I should have pitched their price much higher. These more expensive prints enabled me to sell the cheaper prints at break-even but they should have made me a much larger profit or perhaps even more delicate versioning .

This still gave the fans access to versions of the product and because Cory granted me access to his followers I overcame the second traditional problem - that of geography - how to economically reach each and every level of fan, wherever they might live, which might be what
Jeff Jarvis describes as effectively 'targeting masses of niches' for which the internet is the only viable tool.

Distilled out - the Internet enables access, Social Media enables discerning access. Versioning enables the customer to dictate their individually perceived value of the product and at the same time it justifies that choice to their peers (see the comments section at BoingBoing where fans joust about who got to buy Ltd. Ed. Number 1).

It seems natural to me that the next step is to use this same heady cocktail to
ask the masses of niches "Who do you want me to photograph?". The product of which I could then afford to allow magazines to publish for free, so disseminating my work again amongst their paper-fans and using them for what they're still really good at (physical distribution and cross-promotion, such as when a reader of X-Magazine stumbles across my article after reading another unrelated piece), as opposed to relying on them for what they're no longer able to do (commission and pay).


UPDATED ARTICLE LINKS :

Saturday, 2 January 2010

My Naked Avatar.

Reading Fred Ritchin's After Photography blog I'm always caught drifting into a space where I think I'm listening to a Sci-Fi author predicting the future, rather than someone picking apart a here and now that I'm largely blind to. Here's what I mean, this is Cory Doctorow on the role of the sci-fi author (the rest of which is here), Fred follows on down the page:


"There's this old aphorism that the job of the science-fiction writer is to look at the movie theater and the automobile and predict the drive-in ... but I think if you want to be a great predictive science-fiction writer, you should look at the automobile and look at the movie theater and say, 'We will have drive-ins, which will incentivize children to get driving licenses, which will mean that for the first time, citizens of Western democracies will routinely carry photo ID, and in 25 years, we'll have a surveillance state.' "

I just got back from a Photo job in Sweden for Popular Science magazine, the complicated nature of the subject meant that I could use no electrical equipment so I revisited the joys of international travel with x-ray sensitive film. Suffice it to say that sick of arguing with security personnel for hand checks and knowing that I would have to negotiate a minimum of six machines, I developed an alternative strategy.


A week later someone with a markedly more malign intent, developed the 'Hot-pant' technique to smuggle explosives aboard a plane bound for the US. Sweden then promptly announced that it would introduce routine scanning of individuals thereby capturing an image of the person without clothes. This in itself was pertinent to the story that I'd gone to shoot in the first place, as the microwave energy used would have been enough to kill the man that I'd gone to photograph (the reason for the story).

With this new x-ray image banked, it occurred to me that along with the rest of data stored about me, from my fingerprints taken at US entry points, to the information that I share voluntarily via social media sites, my Augmented Reality self (my real world avatar) is utterly exposed, it's more of me than I even know! or am capable of knowing ... as Fred says in his post:


"..once Google decides to raid Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and all the rest (let’s not even talk about databases of college students, drivers, criminals, soldiers, etc.), then our cute little cellphones will also be able to identify many of our fellow humans. How many unpaid parking tickets? How much alimony owed? Inner circle of friends? Favorite ice cream? Arrest warrants? Favorite fetish? Walking in the street without scarves, sunglasses and hats would constitute a baring of the individual way beyond what occurs in any nudist colony."

And Google just scratches the surface - literally - there's the deeper web yet to be stirred up, no one even knows what lives down there.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Photo Pro Magazine interview.

Q: How long have you been experimenting with social media?

A: Understanding what that means is really important - if you mean 'how long have I been using Facebook and Twitter?' then a couple of years and a few months respectively (I signed for twitter way before I knew what to do with it). But if you mean how long have I been sharing resources (inspirational/technical and otherwise) with a select community of friends and colleagues then - always. The mechanics of doing this has changed and so has the scale but in principal we've always shared and sought like-minds, and I think it's important to communicate this in these terms to people baffled or equally bored by the prospect of micro-blogging.

Q: What did Cory say to you to convince you to try this experiment?

A: That he makes money from giving his work away for free. That convinced me that this needed to be investigated to see what relevance it had for photographers. Bearing in mind that most editorial fees don't cover expenses, so I already often work for free either, that or I pay to work!

Q: What was undesirable about the National Gallery’s copyright stance?

A: You'll have to ask Cory about his position on the NPG's copyright stance. And I'm not sidestepping due to anything other than the knowledge that Cory would answer with a brutal clarity that I can't. However, knowing that the NPG began collecting my work this year I wanted to photograph Cory because he's so important and he was bent on holding that very free flavour of CC license sign (which contradicts NPG policy). I loved the idea - it reminded me of Banksy.

Q: How does/has disseminating the picture online increase its perceived value?

A: Well I think maybe it's better to turn it around around and ask a similar question to explore it, say for instance , if Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa had gone under his bed and no one had ever seen it, along with everything else he shot. Then what would be the perceived value of that image today? The answer has to be nothing, because no one would have heard of it or him, in fact it probably wouldn't have survived. If it had though, then once discovered, the news of the image's quality and it's historical importance would spread, and as more people demanded to see it so the value of that experience would increase likewise. We'd find ourselves in the situation today where the picture is probably one of the most copied in the world and very few people get to see the original. Because everyone knows about it the perceived value of the picture is priceless. Now I understand that we're not comparing like with like as the painting itself remains unique but this was the point of the trial. The images were and are available to download high res from both flickr and archive.org And yet people still wanted to own a signed ltd edition version, and they were willing to pay for it ( incidentally the most expensive were the first to go - I understand now that economists call this "price discovery" - I should have set the high-end price a lot higher)


Q: Who bought the prints? Were you able to track how the buyers found out about the images/manuscripts?

A: Yes I kept record of who bought the prints but I don't know how each of them found out about it - I did real-time searches on Twitter for Cory,his various aliases, the trial, my name, my domain name etc, then used Google searches to tell me each week where these terms were cropping up. One of the things that I learned from this is that the community of followers one has, are a powerful force and that's super-relevant for photographers. Cory has 30,000 twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of blog followers. Really this is just learning from what magazines have done in the past (by leveraging a subscription base) except Cory's followers don't pay to follow him.

Q: Have any other “perceivable benefits” (excluding the print sales) come from the shot of Cory’s desk being released online?

A: Yes I've been paid for usages of the image (even though they're free to use) which covered the costs immediately. I've also been booked for another job though not done it yet so that 'potential new client' would go into the perceivable non-material benefit.

Q: Could you explain “perceivable non-material benefits”?

A: These are things that we work for all the time - I'm sitting here writing these answers , it's taken me two hours for which I'll not be paid. However I understand that there may be benefits in doing this other than material. In this case it's spreads the interest in the trial and engages other people, some of which might have better ideas and choose to contribute them at my blog or in the comments here (from which I'd benefit), it raises the profile of the trial and my profile with it. There are plenty of other examples of perceivable non-material benefits, magazines like Dazed and Confused, iD and most of the others have always traded a discounted fee (or no fee at all) for the promise that 'the exposure will be great for their contributor's business and profile' - prestige in other words. This is something that I think we as photographers need to formalise explicitly, take control of and lever to our advantage.

Q: Should this be something that photographers factor in when they work out the ROI of doing a similar “free” project?

A: Yes and surely everyone does and always has - again, essentially nothing has changed, what I'm doing isn't very radical. I'm just talking about taking control and using something that in the past has been perceived as an obstacle and turning it into tool.

Q: Had you worked with Creative Commons licensing before? What do you think of it, as a photographer?

A: I think CC is brilliant. I've never understood lawyer speak and resented being financially beholden to their dark art. CC enables me to take control of my licensing in an informed and easily communicable manner.

Q: Will you use it again?

A: Yes absolutely I've registered my whole site. I haven't used the same flavour of license that Cory and I did as that was too free at this point for where I'm at, but hopefully soon. I think some photographers see CC licensing and think they're giving they're images away for nothing. That's rubbish. The flavour/version that I'm using is very similar to the traditional copyright that I always assumed I had in place anyway; BY (you must attribute the work to me when you reproduce it) NC (you can't charge people to access it) and ND (you can't make derivative works). So this way, when people use my images on their blog, fan site or screensaver I just ask that they make it attributed to me (which usually means a link) and I get the best of all worlds. They get my pictures to people that otherwise wouldn't see them and I get advertised. I need to explore further but I think I need to ditch the ND part, because when a kid somewhere who's way more creative than me, mashes up my pictures with some music and a video and subsequently the Levis/Pepsi of this world want to buy it, then I want to be able to charge them to do so. If I don't enlist (collaborate with) that creative kid (albeit virtually) then I'll never be able to reap the potential fees from the cash-rich client that wants to charge people to see it .

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Q: Has your experiment been a success, in your opinion?

A: I just got back from a week in NY where I met with Fred Ritchin (After Photography) and spoke to his class at NYU. I met with Stephen Mayes (Vii) , Aiden Sullivan (Getty) , Steve Pyke and David Campbell amongst a bunch more. I got instant access at every magazine that I tried to see. I've been made a Fellow of the RSA (which alone provides collegiate access to thousands of inspirational people), I'm working with Jon Levy at FOTO8 on new strategies for Photojournalists and we're collaborating on an exhibition and event for next year. And hundreds of thousands of people have heard about me and seen my pictures in a particular context that I decided upon. That has never happened before and for once I feel in some control of that. So yes, in my opinion these represent a successful two months work.

Q: Would you advise other photographers to try this approach for themselves?

A: No I'd advise them to move the trial forward with particular (and creative) relevance to their mode of working and their practice. Then I'd ask them to share what they do with the broader community at newphotographics.org .