Friday, July 26, 2013

50 Shades of Gray in Space!!!



 
Grab my debut novel

NASTRAGULL: Pirates
Price: $4.49 Purchase at amazon.com
 
B00UXK9W6K cover

An epic space adventure that holds danger at every turn... The human cadets on the interstellar transport, Bright Star, are heading home after eight long years of military training...but things don't go according to plan. After a bloody battle with a group of space pirates, the Bright Star and its survivors are taken prisoner with the intent of selling them into slavery...or worse. Cadet Alec Horn, along with the captain of the Bright Star escape, taking an emperor's ransom in loot with them. Together they set out on a dangerous adventure to rescue their friends and comrades. But can they succeed without bringing forth a war that will bring death and destruction across the universe? 
 
 

Here is another great review from the amazon:

5 stars 50 Shades of Gray in Space!!!, July 25, 2013

Amazon Verified Purchase


WOW - this one came as a shock! A new author that knows how to write a really great sci-fi story! As a sci-fi fan I have a tendency to compare anything I read with the best: Star Wars and Star Trek. What was missing in these epic stories you will not miss in this awesome story. It has everything any reader could want. Even though at times there are some very detailed described acts of violence and some sex the story itself overwhelms all that. What we have here is a new great author. A very fast read, cover to cover and the best part; you don't even have to be a sci-fi fan! Overall I think most people will fall for this epic story. Watch out Star Wars and Star Trek a new star has risen!
 

On Twitter, More 'Favoriting'


Why more people are pushing the "favorite" button
What's trending on Twitter? The use of an option known as 'favoriting,' which is becoming a go-to tool for some people who long for a more discreet, less public way to navigate the raucous waters of the popular social network.

The Twitter feature allows users to mark with a star icon tweets they find amusing or useful. Doing so both bookmarks the tweet and alerts its creator that they appreciate the sentiment without republishing it in their own streams.
This May, Twitter users hit the favorite button on tweets 1.6 billion times—four times more than they did in May 2012, according to Topsy, a data-analytics company that is a partner to Twitter, Inc., which now has 200 million monthly active users.
The rise in 'favoriting'—or starring, as it's also known—is a safer way to engage with others on the network. Rather than retweeting risky comments or observations, users can more quietly add their approval or note their amusement by favoriting.
Choire Sicha, a writer and co-founder of the blog The Awl, says a "lack of impulse control" got him in trouble a few times on Twitter. Now he relies heavily on favoriting as a means to let him more carefully communicate with his Twitter network of friends and strangers.
In a recent 24-hour period, he tweeted, retweeted or replied to other users' tweets 47 times. During the same period, he favorited tweets 150 times. He favorites tweets when they make him laugh. "I also use it to back one side in a fight, when two people are going at it and I don't want to get involved," he says. When a tweet annoys him, he does what he calls "hate-favoriting," a sort of sarcastic use of the favorite option. "When someone is totally awful, hitting 'favorite' is the most perverse thing you can do."
John Manoogian III, the founder of 140 Proof, a social-advertising company in San Francisco, has been using Twitter since 2006, the year it launched. He considers favoriting the most valuable Twitter currency. Mr. Manoogian says that a tweet with many favorites often suggests that it has caused people to laugh spontaneously—and to quickly hit the star icon as a wink, a hat-tip, a show of appreciation. "Favorites are like a secret discovery mechanism to find who is the funniest," he says.
On Twitter's website or its smartphone apps, user profiles include a favorites tab that reveals a list of the user's favorite tweets. But it takes several clicks to land on that list, and in the twitterverse, that is a lot of effort.
Enter Favstar, a website dedicated to ranking tweets and tweeters by the favorites they generate. Founded in 2009 by Tim Haines, Favstar has 3 million monthly users. Mr. Haines, an engineer, says he created the site because he realized that the favorite was an important feedback signal that could help him get a sense of what his Twitter followers were interested in reading in his feed.
Favstar has morphed into a tool that helps people find writers and comedians, as well as a community for writers and comedians to meet online. It now offers pro accounts. For $29.99 for six months, premium subscribers can nominate tweets for the Tweet of the Day award and connect with other pro users.
Josh Hara, an associate creative director for social content at a marketing firm in Columbus, Ohio, joined Twitter in 2009. He built a following of nearly 59,000 by surfing Favstar and learning how to craft a joke in 140 characters or less. He still judges his own humor based on favorites. "If I don't get more than 10 faves in first three minutes after tweeting something, I'll probably delete it," he says.
Heather Denkmire, 43, became active on Favstar a few years ago. She says she met talented writers through the site, but became obsessed with monitoring how many favorites her tweets were generating. Ms. Denkmire, who lives in Portland, Maine, says she pays no attention to how many people are starring her tweets. "It can have a high-school popularity-contest vibe," she says.

The Wall Street Journal, Life & Cultur,July 24,2013, 7:33 p.m ET By KATHERINE ROSMAN

Write to Katherine Rosman at katherine.rosman@wsj.com

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aimee Mann Files Huge Copyright Lawsuit Over Digital Music


The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter suggests that many online streaming services might be relying on the wrong company to properly license her work.

 


In the past week, there's been quite a bit of chatter about Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's decision to pull his music from Spotify, a popular streaming service. In a comment that had many in the industry discussing the economics of digital music, Yorke's longtime producer Nigel Godrich complained that "new artists get paid f--- all with this model."

Now comes a lawsuit from another acclaimed songwriter, Aimee Mann, who presents the argument that artists like her are being systematically robbed of digital royalties. According to Mann's lawyer, Maryann Marzano of Gradstein & Marzano, "Not only does this case seek redress for Aimee Mann against one of the world's largest but least known providers of online music, it also serves as a call to other artists to follow the lead set by Radiohead and Pink Floyd to put an end to the unlicensed, uncompensated use of their music by online services."

In the cross-hairs of the lawsuit is a company called MediaNet, which might be somewhat obscure but plays an important role. The company was founded in 1999 as a venture backed by EMI, AOL, BMG and RealNetworks before being sold to a private equity firm in 2005. Today it is essentially a white label that serves up more than 22 million songs to over 40 music services, including Yahoo Music, Playlist.com, eBay and various online radio services.

But according to Mann's lawsuit, not all of the music being provided by MediaNet is properly licensed. Mann is demanding statutory damages for willful copyright infringement of some 120 songs, which could amount to damages as high as $18 million.

The laws that govern the distribution of music are complicated and have grown more complex over time. Every song starts out as a composition, which is protected by its own copyright. When that composition becomes a sound recording, there is a separate copyright that protects it as well. The owner of the sound recording pays a mechanical licensing fee to the owner of the composition.

Starting in the 1990s, music began to be distributed digitally, and Congress amended U.S. copyright laws to extend compulsory licensing to the delivery of phonorecords in digital form. However, the statute didn't apply to certain services that offered on-demand streams and limited downloads. That was confirmed by a New York judge in 2001.


To address this absence, representatives from the Recording Industry of America and the National Music Publishers Association began negotiating with each other and reached an agreement whereby RIAA members were able to make payments through the Harry Fox Agency. Later, an entity called the Copyright Royalty Board emerged that set rates and allowed some digital services like Pandora to pay compulsory licensing fees. Other services, such as Spotify, have made direct deals with record labels.

MediaNet falls somewhere in the middle of all of this. The company appears to have had an interesting, legally contentious journey toward becoming some form of back-office aggregator of music for dozens of online music services.

After being sold to private equity firm Baker Capital, MediaNet continued to distribute works, which led to a class action lawsuit filed in 2008 by the Harry Fox Agency. That matter was settled in 2008, but another lawsuit came from various song publishers in 2011.

According to a declaration that was filed in the case by Stephen Grauberger, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, MediaNet attempted about a decade ago to seek compulsory licenses. But the lawyer said that notices sent by the company "were facially defective" for various reasons, including the failure to reference other entities who would utilize the music.

Also in Grauberger's declaration (read it here) was the astounding claim that sworn testimony had revealed that by 2012, "23 percent of MediaNet's catalog remains unlicensed."

The lawsuit was then confidentially settled.

Enter Aimee Mann, who hit it big in the mid-1980s with her band 'Til Tuesday and the single "Voices Carry," earned Academy Award and Grammy Award nominations for her song "Save Me" from Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, and has been producing critically celebrated music ever since.
 
According to her complaint (which can be read here), filed on Monday in California federal court, Mann entered into a license agreement in 2003 with MediaNet (then known as MusicNet). The term of the license agreement was scheduled to end in 2006 but had automatic two-year extensions unless terminated by either party.
 
Mann's representative is said to have sent a termination notice in 2005, but nevertheless, "MediaNet continued after the Termination Date to transmit, perform, reproduce and distribute the Compositions as part of MediaNet's service, despite having no right or license to do so."

Besides suing for direct infringement, Mann is also claiming that MediaNet induced its business partners to commit copyright infringement. Mann also says she has not been paid any royalties by the company since Sept. 30, 2005, with the exception of a $20 advance this past March that was returned.

MediaNet hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.
 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gaming Twitter: How one man turns fake followers into windfall profits


PCWorld  @christophernull Jul 17, 2013 3:30 AM  

Short on friends? James Clegg can sell you a few. How about a thousand or so followers on Twitter, delivered overnight for about a penny apiece?  

Clegg (not his real name) is part of a growing and extremely profitable underground that thrives on the sale of followers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social networks. But Twitter—where your follower count can be a prized badge of honor—is where the real money is. Following my July 3 report on the growing popularity of the fake-follower sales business, Clegg emailed me to offer an inside look into the way the business works, including detailed reporting on all the money that changes hands.  

Clegg’s business is simple: You visit one of his 13 websites that sell fake followers, and punch in how many you want to buy. Today, the going rate for 1000 Twitter followers is about $11.  

For many people who look at this mammoth industry, the first question is "Why?" Why would anyone spend money for friends who don’t exist? “There is no one single type of buyer,” says Clegg. “I have had minor celebrities, big corporations, comedians, people buying for their friends for a practical joke, and many more. I’d say the majority are companies looking to get themselves from 20 followers to 1000 followers—and they start their real social media marketing from there.”  

A business is born 

Clegg is relatively new to working on the fringes of the Web. He was a chartered accountant in the United Kingdom when he got the idea for his current venture from the website Fiverr, an online marketplace where users can sell anything for $5: Folks were selling thousands of fake Twitter followers on that site for cheap.  

Realizing that such services were selling for more on eBay and elsewhere online, Clegg figured he would buy the follower offers on Fiverr and then resell them on eBay for twice the price, pocketing the difference with minimal effort. Eventually eBay got saturated and prices fell to the point where it wasn’t worth Clegg’s time. The wheels were turning, however, and within five months Clegg had quit his finance job and was in the fake-follower business for himself, full-time.  

Today, Clegg’s vast network sells thousands upon thousands of social media followers to those hungry for instant social media credibility.  

Clegg sent a few hundred followers to one of our accounts. This is what happens.  

Not your typical scam artist 

Clegg is 29 and, like most entrepreneurs of his ilk, he works from home. The Cheshire, England-based businessman relies heavily on outsourcing and on the law of large numbers to turn a profit.  

Google frowns on the fake-follower business, so running just a single website for such services isn’t likely to be successful. To stay ahead of the search engine, Clegg now runs 13 follower-sales websites, only a few of which have made it big, thanks to a heavy SEO investment to boost those sites to the top of search engine results. The smaller sites support the broader business by appealing to different niches.  

According to Clegg, the monthly P&L for a solidly performing fake-follower site will look a little like the list below. (I’ll explain the line items afterward.)  

Sales  

Twitter followers: $6000  

Twitter retweets: $300  

Total: $6300  

Expenses  

Twitter followers: $600  

Twitter retweets: $30  

Link building: $2400  

Outsourced SEO: $600  

Customer service: $600  

Total: $4230  

Net profit: $2070  

To summarize: From a single website he operates, Clegg earns about $2000 on sales of $6000 worth of Twitter followers per month. A top performer, he says, will do even better. “The sites that rank well will receive around 80 to 100 orders per day. An average order value of $29.50 gives a potential daily sales of $2500-plus.” In the past ten months, he says he has cleared £85,000, or about $128,500.  

As the financials indicate, fake Twitter followers are the best sellers, but the hot emerging market is in fake retweets. Clegg says that customers often purchase them alongside followers, and that they give the buyer an extra bump in legitimacy.  

One of Clegg’s faux followers. Looks legit, no?  

The high cost of manufacturing faux followers 

None of this comes for free, of course, and keeping all the websites up and running involves significant expense, almost all of it in the form of outsourced labor.  

An Indian programming team produces and maintains the followers. It’s all bot-based, collating information from a variety of sources, which are sliced, diced, and compiled into the bio, photo, and tweets that make up a “user.”  

Some of these users (see the screenshot above) look frightfully legitimate. A fake follower is often designed with a specific theme in mind: A Justin Bieber fan will tweet out only pictures that come up in a search for Bieber in Google Image Search, and will retweet messages that use the #JustinBieber hashtag. New tweets might be a combination of two old tweets from unrelated users. “All this can be controlled from a central point at any time,” says Clegg, “so creating a specific sort of follower isn’t that hard to do once you get started.” 

This kind of work is surprisingly inexpensive. Much more challenging is the job of keeping the fake-follower sites out of the cellar in Google’s search results. Google is prone to penalizing such businesses as spam, but it also recognizes inbound links to a site as a form of legitimacy. So, Clegg labors on link building to combat any spam penalties. It’s a delicate dance that works most of the time, or at least for a while. “In a typical month, I will have a team of four full-time link builders (from the Philippines) working 40 hours per week, each earning around $150 per week,” says Clegg.  

Complaints are natural, and they often arise when Twitter manages to find and delete a large number of fakes. (PCWorld reached out to Twitter for comment, but didn't receive a response by press time.) A customer may request a “top up”—for which Clegg is happy to oblige—but customer service requires an outsourced agent who can be present to answer questions, all day, by live chat, Skype, or email.  

Still, after all of those expenses are paid, Clegg is earning about a 30 percent return.
 
 
Can the party keep going? 

Clegg concedes that the fake-follower industry won’t be a gold mine forever. There isn't just Google to contend with, there’s also Twitter. “They are becoming faster and much more efficient at stopping the practice,” says Clegg. “A low-quality follower that has been created on the same IP as 50 others in the past 24 hours will be deleted within the next 24 hours, and any accounts that are related to it will be suspended pending verification. This is why we focus on uniqueness in the followers themselves, to try to stay one step ahead of Twitter security.”  

Clegg is, in fact, getting out of the game. His final website—FollowersBoost—is near completion, and after it’s done he’ll be moving on to other projects. “I left finance because I fancied myself as an entrepreneur,” he says. “In a few months I will have paid off my mortgage, and I can start to invest in different products and services, some online and some offline.”  

There’s also plenty of risk. A tiny policy change from Google or Twitter can destroy six months of work overnight, so it’s natural that Clegg might want to find something a bit more stable. And then there’s the social fallout: “Selling fake followers isn’t something that you tell your girlfriend’s parents about. It’s a little bit embarrassing,” he quips.  

Clegg says he has some qualms about the ethics of the business, saying that he thinks it’s the wrong way to build social presence, and that, ironically, he doesn’t set up fake followers for his own social campaigns. (The real Clegg has fewer than 100 followers on Twitter.)  

Explaining his position, he says, “On a personal level I find it difficult to justify, but it goes a little something like this: If I were selling a product that nobody wanted, then I wouldn’t make any money, so I pass the moral-judgment decision to the consumer. Additionally, I always offer a money-back guarantee and advice on how to remove the followers. It’s the easiest way to clear the conscience.”
 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On the Road (2012)


Director: Walter Salles
Writers: Jack Kerouac (book), Jose Rivera (screenplay)

Storyline
Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.
 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cenizas eternas


Director: Margarita Cadenas

Storyline
"Cenizas Eternas" ("Eternal Ashes") tells the story of a mother, Ana and her daughter, Elena. Although they are separated, in the space and time they remain united forever.

The people and the millenarian culture of Yanomami are the framework of this story about the unbreakable bonds of filiations.

After an accident in the furious flow of the mythical Orinoco River, in the fifties, Ana was considered dead. Elena as an adult and facing the negligible possibility that her mother is alive decides to leave to the Amazon to search her.

"Eternal Ashes" is a story of filiations, poetry, wisdom and especially of humanity.
 

Friday, July 12, 2013

E-Book Ruling Gives Amazon an Advantage


Reed Saxon/Associated Press

By DAVID STREITFELD, Published: July 10, 2013
Jeff Bezos, chief of Amazon, introducing new models of the company’s Kindle e-readers in 2012.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, loves disrupting markets. In that regard, he must be having a delightful summer. The book business, once so mired in the past it seemed part of the antiques trade, is up for grabs.

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Apple had illegally conspired with five of the six biggest publishers to try to raise prices in the budding e-books market.

The decision came two days after Barnes & Noble lost its chief executive and said it would not appoint another, signaling that the biggest chain of physical bookstores could be immediately broken up.

The verdict in the Apple case might have been a foregone conclusion, telegraphed by the judge herself, but it emphatically underlined how the traditional players in the book business have been upended. Only Amazon, led by Mr. Bezos, seems to have a plan. He is executing it with a skill that infuriates his competitors and rewards his stockholders.

“We’re at a moment when cultural power is passing to new gatekeepers,” said Joe Esposito, a publishing consultant. “Heaven forbid that we should have the government telling our entrepreneurs what to do, but there is a social policy issue here. We don’t want the companies to become a black hole that absorbs all light except their own.”

The Apple case, which was brought by the Justice Department, will have little immediate impact on the selling of books. The publishers settled long ago, protesting they had done nothing wrong but saying they could not afford to fight the government. But it might be a long time before they try to take charge of their fate again in such a bold fashion. Drawing the attention of the government once was bad enough; twice could be a disaster.

“The Department of Justice has unwittingly caused further consolidation in the industry at a time when consolidation is not necessarily a good thing,” said Mark Coker, the chief executive of Smashwords, an e-book distributor. “If you want a vibrant ecosystem of multiple publishers, multiple publishing methods and multiple successful retailers in 5, 20 or 50 years, we took a step backwards this week.”

Some in publishing suspected that Amazon had prompted the government to file its suit. The retailer has denied it, but it still emerged the big winner. While Apple will be punished — damages are yet to be decided — and the publishers were chastened, Amazon is left free to exert its dominance over e-books — even as it gains market share with physical books. The retailer declined to comment on Wednesday.

“Amazon is not in most of the headlines, but all of the big events in the book world are about Amazon,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “If the publishers colluded, it was to blunt Amazon’s dominance. Barnes & Noble’s troubles may stem from a misstep with its Nook tablets, just as Borders’ bankruptcy might have been hastened by management mistakes, but its precarious position is that of any rent-paying retailer facing a deep-pocketed virtual competitor.”

Last week, Penguin and Random House officially merged, creating a publishing behemoth that might be able to determine its future rather than suffer the fate of Barnes & Noble, a once-swaggering entity that now seems adrift. Random House was not a target of the Justice Department; Penguin was.

Penguin and Random House were innovators who made paperbacks into a disruptive force in the 1940s and ’50s. They were the Amazons of their era, making the traditional book business deeply uneasy. No less an authority than George Orwell thought paperbacks were of so much better value than hardbacks that they spelled the ruination of publishing and bookselling. “The cheaper books become,” he wrote, “the less money is spent on books.”

Orwell was wrong, but the same arguments are being made against Amazon and e-books today. Amazon executives are not much for public debate, but they argue that all this disruption will ultimately give more money to more authors and make more books more widely available to more people at cheaper prices, and who could argue with any of that?

This was not a prospect that many on Wednesday were putting much faith in.

Amazon, its detractors argue, is not a nonprofit or public trust but a hard-nosed company whose investors hope will make lots of money someday soon. It shares closed Wednesday at $292.33, a record.

“The Justice Department’s guns seem pointed in the wrong direction,” Mr. Aiken said.

But the more pressing concern for the industry is the fate of Barnes & Noble. When Borders collapsed two years ago, analysts said there was an unexpected consequence to the loss of 400 stores: the e-book growth rate began to taper off, as readers could no longer examine new titles before ordering them from Amazon.

E-books, in other words, were not a magical technology that could shed all the existing infrastructure of publishing. They needed the existing ecosystem.

“If all of those corporate outlets vanish, there is suddenly a hell of a lot less space devoted to showcasing a large number of titles,” said J. B. Dickey, owner of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. “We’ll probably see a continuing shrinking in print runs, maybe fewer titles published, fewer authors published and the New York houses retreating into the known best-sellers. Which means more novice and midlist authors scrambling to find a way to stay in print and more authors self-publishing their print books — or more likely releasing their works as e-files.”

All of that sounds dire. Perhaps the only consolation for those who fear the power of Amazon is the knowledge that all companies eventually peak, no matter how unlikely that seems when they are in the ascendance.

Mr. Esposito, the consultant, remembered that 30 years ago there was a book called “The Media Monopoly,” which worried about the excessive power of the Gannett chain of newspapers as well as the three major television networks.

“The book reads almost quaint now,” Mr. Esposito said.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 11, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: E-Book Ruling Gives Amazon An Advantage.