September 16, 2017
by Dave Digest
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Remembering Harry Dean Stanton at The Bottom Line

Rest in peace, Harry Dean Stanton. Circa 1988, I worked the ticket booth at The Bottom Line Cabaret on weekends, during the day, while I was at NYU. Stick thin, long-haired little weirdo. One rainy day, the night’s band was loading in. Suddenly, in the little yellow ticket booth, Harry Dean was next to me at the counter. No big production – it was as if he had worked at the club for years. He was singing that night – I was instantly starstruck – but he seemed to want to see the world through my eyes. Maybe he was slightly nervous – wanted to take it all in. Cubbyholes with stacks of tickets, cash drawer. Phone with punch buttons for five lines. He was one of those few famous people who rather than project celebrity uplifted your own humanity. (Among all the other performers at the Bottom Line, Herbie Hancock and Al Kooper also visited me like this. I’ll never forget them – or Harry.)

October 24, 2015
by Dave McClintock
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Why Does Your Company Exist? Brand That Before How and What

It’s refreshing to rewatch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

The lesson of first communicating why you do what you do, before how or what, is convincing.

We’re barraged with messages online, and our filters are thick. Why has the best chance of getting through. Just be sure the how and what are worth the attention.

December 14, 2013
by Dave McClintock
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Duolingo.com: Learn a Language, Translate the Web, for Free

In this TED video, Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon introduces Duolingo.com, a free online language tutorial site that (in the background) uses your quiz answers to help translate the web. Massive online collaboration.

Along the way, von Ahn explains reCAPTCHA – those two-word “type the mangled words to prove you’re a human” tests found on forms on Facebook, Ticketmaster, and many major sites.

Amazingly, in those tests, one word is from a digital book that computers couldn’t read – the OCR failed. So, when you fill out those reCAPTCHA forms, you’re helping to digitize books. (The other word is truly a test, to cross-check the digital book word.)

The video description:

After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. In this talk, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the Web quickly and accurately — all for free.

Here’s the video, “Massive-Scale Online Collaboration“:

August 22, 2012
by Dave McClintock
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A First Look at Medium.com

Medium.com is in beta launch, allowing posts from friends and family and inviting reader reactions via Twitter sign-ins.

The intro page describes it as a new platform for sharing stories and ideas. It’s longer-form than Twitter and organized into collections, by topic. So far, the design is very readable – gray-on-gray and all text (no ads or images).

I’m thinking it sounds like a giant shared blog, categorized by a core of editors … Like a wiki on human experiences?

With the founders’ track records at Blogger, Twitter, and other sites that revolutionized content generation and sharing, Medium is one to watch.

Here’s a snip from the overview:

While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience. …

Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer. We know that most people, most of the time, will simply read and view content, which is fine. If they choose, they can click to indicate whether they think something is good, giving feedback to the creator and increasing the likelihood others will see it.

Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience. All posts are organized into ‘collections,’ which are defined by a theme and a template.”

August 18, 2012
by Dave McClintock
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John Battelle’s “Musings on ‘Streams’ and the Future of Magazines”

John Battelle muses on the shift from page-based content (magazines, blogs, and similarly grouped content) to streams of aggregated content.

What’s lost is that experience of consuming one publisher’s meal – instead, we stream a mishmash of snacks.

That “page-based content” experience has value – editing and designing a publication is an art – but getting paid for that is more complex than ever. As Battelle enumerates, digital publishing has brought new complexities: Producing content for different screen sizes and content platforms while creating ads that can piggyback on each format and succeed for advertisers.It’s a daunting challenge, but Battelle is hopeful:

So far, we’ve written off magazines as dying, because we can’t figure out how to replicate their core value proposition in the digital world. But I’ve got a strong sense this is changing. Crazy publishing entrepreneurs, and even the big players in media, will sooner rather than later drive solutions that resolve our current dilemma. We’ll develop ads that travel with content, content management systems that allow us to automatically and natively drive our creations into the big platforms, and sensible business rules with the Big Guys that allow independent, groundbreaking publications to flourish again.

June 21, 2012
by Dave McClintock
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Grammar Is for the Front Office and the Back Office

I have to agree with the managers quoted in Sue Shellenbarger’s June 19, 2012, Wall Street Journal article, “This Embarrasses You and I*” – practicing good grammar in the back office can help ensure that a company’s external communications are boo-boo free.

Internal proposals and communications – especially when pitching a strategy or explaining a decision – need to be as clearly presented as anything a client can see.

It’s part of building a culture that keeps the customer’s needs in mind.

That said, I’m a fan of satirically ungrammatical yet efficiently terse IMs among team mates (i.e., “R u ok w dat?”), depending on how chummy the team is. A fast, funny note can keep a team together and ultimately save time.

Some peg social media and texting as bad influences on today’s speech and writing. I think those technologies are only amplifying misunderstandings that were already there. The roots of those misunderstandings are vast and deep.

More people are writing – and that’s great – but with increased volume, we should expect more errors. Also, the constraints of the technologies themselves – character limits, expectations for speed – invite shortcuts on what some treat as the self-righteous path of good grammar. And let’s separate true errors from texting syntax – it’s a legitimate language (though rarely appropriate for communicating with customers).

As the article mentions, arguments in the office about grammar can be scary when management endorses errors – especially on a deadline. But having a grammar referee can help, whether it’s a style guide or an outside expert.

Grammarians – do you refuse to use texting syntax, even in jest?  In communications with clients, have you been pressured to ignore or impose errors?

Grammatically challenged folks – have you ever wanted to throw a grammarian out the window? Or offered a grammarian your first-born child as a reward for a critical, last-minute edit?

April 14, 2012
by Dave McClintock
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Benchmarks for Estimating Editing Speed – Update

I was happy to hear my article “Benchmarks for Estimating Editing Speed” will be discussed in Heather Severson’s workshop “The Mercenary Writer’s Guide to Setting Fees: How to Bid a Project in 5 Minutes or Less” on Tuesday, April 17, in Tuscon, for The Arizona Chapter of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Heather was kind enough to list the article as a resource, on her Mercenary Writer blog, too. (Thank you, Heather!) Check it out!

If you’re an editor, please take a look at the article and e-mail me your “personal word processing speed” – how long it takes you to edit at heavy, medium, and light levels of detail.

Here’s a snip from the article:

The trick to estimating is to identify your brain’s preferred rate of word processing – not the optimum, two-espresso brain speed, but something more comfortable and sustainable. Just as you are unique, so must your estimates be unique to your skills and the constraints imposed on you. Once you’ve determined your personal word processing speed, you’ll find it easier to schedule your work when the ideal amount of time your estimate calls for is compressed by an external party’s deadline. Shifting out of heavy-editing mode should become easier for you the more you’ve measured yourself in the other modes.