Archive for February, 2011

Wikipedia and the World Wide Argument Web

February 27th, 2011

I spoke about my first year Ph.D. research in December at DERI. The topic of my talk: Wikipedia discussions and the nascent World Wide Argument Web. I was proud to have the video (below) posted to our institute video stream.

The Wikipedia research is drawn from our ACM Symposium on Applied Computing paper:
Jodi Schneider, Alexandre Passant, John G. Breslin, “Understanding and Improving Wikipedia Article Discussion Spaces.” In SAC 2011 (Web Track), TaiChung, Taiwan, March 21-25, 2011.

Jodi Schneider – Constructing knowledge through argument: Wikipedia and World Wide Argument Web from DERI, NUI Galway on Vimeo.

This is ongoing work, and feedback is most welcome.

Posted in argumentative discussions, PhD diary, social semantic web | Comments (0)

What a text means: genre matters

February 26th, 2011

Can you distinguish what is being said from how it is said?
In other words, what is a ‘proposition’?

Giving an operational definition of ‘proposition’ or of ‘propositional content’ is difficult. Turns out there’s a reason for that:

Metadiscourse does not simply support propositional content: it is the means by which propositional content is made coherent, intelligible and persuasive to a particular audience.

– Ken Hyland Metadiscourse p391.

I’m very struck by how the same content can be wrapped with different metadiscourse — resulting in different genres for distinct audiences. When the “same” content is reformulated, new meanings and emphasis may be added along the way. Popularization of science is rich in examples.

For instance, a Science article…

When branches of the host plant having similar oviposition sites were placed in the area, no investigations were made by the H. hewitsoni females.

gets transformed into a Scientific American article…

I collected lengths of P. pittieri vines with newly developed shoots and placed them in the patch of vines that was being regular revisited. The females did not, however, investigate the potential egg-laying sites I had supplied.

This shows the difficulty of making clean separations between the content and the metadiscourse:

“The ‘content’, or subject matter, remains the same but the meanings have changed considerably. This is because the meaning of a text is not just about the propositional material or what the text could be said to be about. It is the complete package, the result of an interactive process between the producer and receiver of a text in which the writer chooses forms and expressions which will best convey his or her material, stance and attitudes.

- Ken Hyland Metadiscourse p39

Example from Hyland (page 21), which credits Myers Writing Biology: Texts in the Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge 1990 (180).

  1. I’m really enjoying Ken Hyland’s Metadiscourse. Thanks to Sean O’Riain for a wonderful loan! I’m not ready to summarize his thoughts about what metadiscourse is — for one thing I’m only halfway through. []

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Posted in argumentative discussions, PhD diary, scholarly communication | Comments (0)

Apple seizes control of iOS purchase chain: enforces 30% cut for Apple by prohibiting sales-oriented links from apps to the Web

February 16th, 2011

Apple’s press release about its “new subscription services” seems at first innocuous, and the well-crafted quote1 from Steve Jobs has been widely reposted:
“when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing.” Yet analysts reading between the lines have been less than pleased.

Bad for publishers

The problems for publishers? (See also “Steve Jobs to pubs: Our way or highway“)

  • Apple takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases2
  • Apps may not bypass in-app purchase: apps may not link to an external website (such as Amazon)3 that allows customers to buy content or subscriptions.
  • Content available for purchase in the app cannot be cheaper elsewhere.
  • The customer’s demographic information resides with Apple, not with the publisher. Customers must opt-in to share their name, email, and zipcode with the publisher, though Apple will of course have this information.
  • Limited reaction time; changes will be finalized by June 30th.

Bad for customers?

And there are problems for customers, too.

  • Reduction of content available in apps (likely for the near-term).
  • More complex, clunky purchase workflows (possible).
    Publishers may sell material only outside of apps, from their own website, to avoid paying 30% to Apple. Will we see a proliferation of publisher-run stores?
  • Price increases to cover Apple’s commission (likely).
    If enacted, these must apply to all customers, not just iOS device users.
  • Increased lockdown of content in the future (probably).
    Apple already prevents some iBooks customers from reading books they bought and paid, using extra DRM affecting some jailbroken devices. Even though jailbreaking is explicitly legal in the United States. And even though carrier unlock and SIM-free phones are not available in the U.S.

More HTML5 apps?

The upside? Device-independent HTML5 apps may see wider adoption. HTML5 mobile apps work well on iOS, on other mobile platforms, and on laptops and desktops.

For ebooks, HTML5 means Ibis Reader and Book.ish. For publishers looking to break free of Apple, yet satisfy customers, Ibis Reader may be a particularly good choice: this year they are focusing on licensing Ibis Reader, as Liza Daly’s Threepress announced in a savvy and well-timed post, anticipating Apple’s announcement. Having been a beta tester of Ibis Reader, I can recommend it!

If you know of other HTML5 ebook apps, please leave them in the comments.

  1. “Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

    - Steve Jobs at “Apple Launches Subscriptions on the App Store“ []

  2. Booksellers call this “the agency model“. []
  3. Apple has confirmed that Kindle’s “Shop in Kindle Store” must be removed. []

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing, information ecosystem, iOS: iPad, iPhone, etc. | Comments (0)