Links abound in this post, but dig in if you’re a Star Trek fan as there’s lots of insights and revelations into the production of one of the most unfairly dismissed Star Trek films. I actually rate Insurrection as one of my favourite Next Gen movies, but there’s no doubt it felt like a heavily compromised entry. An unpublished book by the late Michael Piller, Fade In: The Writing of Star Trek: Insurrection, tells the story.
“They’re not out to make a quick buck, they’re looking to protect the integrity of the franchise and its mythology.” 1998’s Star Trek Insurrection went through a number of different plots before becoming the film we ultimately saw. Starting out as Star Trek: Stardust, the first take on the idea involved Captain Picard going all Heart of Darkness on a former friend from his Starfleet Academy days in a bid to find the Fountain of Youth. That treatment evolved into a remarkably Avatarish story called simply Star Trek IX in which Picard must go upriver to kill a malfunctioning Data as part of a Federation/Romulan alliance to displace strange alien natives from a planet teeming with a valuable and rare ore (spoiler: Picard actually kills Data in this treatment, and Tom Hanks was supposed to have a major role somewhere).
The PDF of the book was originally released by Trek Core. They included this note:
When we received this submission, we were told that Michael Piller considered this book his last great gift to the fans and to aspiring writers everywhere. Unfortunately, Paramount somehow got it suppressed from being published. Michael Piller passed away in 2005, so getting this book published will never be possible (not to mention Insurrection is quite old now, so a book about it wouldn’t be financially feasible for a publisher). It’s clear Michael Piller wanted this book read, so we felt that making it available to the fans made sense. It’s an amazingly detailed look at the process of writing the movie including internal memos, letters, pitches, story drafts, etc. Enjoy this unique glimpse into writing Star Trek Insurrection! And lastly, if anyone can provide the draft of Star Trek Insurrection that is missing from this document, please email us.
Douglas Rushkoff is absolutely right, Facebook will go down. It’ll be another long decline that – like AOL and Yahoo! – will still be hugely profitable and popular in the mainstream for years after its prime.
[…] These companies are being valued as if they will be our permanent means for identifying ourselves.
Yet social media is itself as temporary as any social gathering, nightclub or party. It’s the people that matter, not the venue. So when the trend leaders of one social niche or another decide the place everyone is socializing has lost its luster or, more important, its exclusivity, they move on to the next one, taking their followers with them. […]
So it’s not that MySpace lost and Facebook won. It’s that MySpace won first, and Facebook won next. They’ll go down in the same order.
Maybe not though… I wonder if Facebook could become the Arcadia Group of the web. Maybe the next big social networking site could be… Facebook. Sort of. Just like most of the big high street retail brands are owned by the same few companies, Facebook would be the parent company of many federated niche-networks.
A new edition of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, scheduled to be published in February by NewSouth Books, substitutes the word “slave” for the “n-word” and “Indian” for “injun” throughout the book.
The publisher has been accused of censorship and altering a classic of American literature for the sake of political correctness. Early argues that this is just another case of tinkering with texts in order to create a version that best serves its audience.
There’s no easy answer here. Andrew ‘Zarf’ Plotkin is a big name in interactive fiction, and without his reputation backing up his idea, it would probably have failed. Still, he has some smart suggestions:
Some subjective factors that I can’t measure, but which I’m sure helped:
- Say up front what you want to do, why you want money, and how that money will be converted into something awesome. (A list of features is not exciting, of itself. Describe an experience.)
- Have a great video. I wrote a script, and then my co-conspirator Jason McIntosh and I whaled over it. Jason threw away a bunch of stuff and added a bunch of stuff; then we filmed it. Twice.
- Think about your audience and who wants what. I have contributors who want an iPhone game, contributors who want interactive fiction, contributors who want to support my open-source projects, and contributors who want to support me. These are not all the same people. Rewarding all of these groups appropriately is non-trivial, and there has been some discussion about the way I did it.
- For a game project, include a demo. (I realized this only barely before launch-day! The demo that I posted represents two intense weekends of work; I hope that’s a good omen for my production rate in 2011.)
- Don’t be afraid to plug yourself and your CV. I know you’re all saying “how could you fail to promote yourself?!” but I had to be chivvied into it. (Thanks, Jason Scott.)
- Contrariwise, don’t be a jerk. Actively don’t be a jerk. Say thank you to everybody, early and often.
This is a novel form factor for a point-and-shoot. If anyone gets serious about making an open source camera, they should definitely try something inventive like this.
The design of the “variable frame” allows it to act as a sort of tripod, giving you steadier shots for video or low-light exposure and giving you one less thing to carry. Another odd feature is that the lens is not a zoom, but instead a fixed wide-angle.
I’m not really sure the benefits are worth the hassle though. The thing is almost like a puzzle!
Engaget has some specs.
The 12.1 megapixel shooter sports what the company’s calling Exilim Engine HS, which equates to 1080p 30 frames per second video, up to 240fps (at 432 x 320 resolution) slow-motion, and various HDR and panorama options. there’s also a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, but the biggest draw here is the swiveling enclosure that serves as a stand for setting up just the right shot. We got an early glimpse at a non-functional prototype, and the size is definitely interesting — we still need to see it in action, though. Price is a penny shy of $250 and shipping date’s April 2011.
Here’s a handy list of the business models featured:
- Free with in-app sales
Not every interesting revenue model was included. Some of course missed our selection. I personally didn’t choose penny auction concepts like Swoopo and others. People that joined one of our workshop sessions knew already that these concepts are quite fraudulous. Auction platforms like this aren’t very sustainable. Recent figures already showed that Swoopo is indeed in decline. Other emerging concepts like Quora aren’t on the list either. Although everybody is talking about this relative new content platform, they didn’t figure out what business model to roll out. Sounds very Twitterish, not? If I had to include 1 extra revenue model to this selection, I would go for Gilt.com, which has another interesting approach for selling ‘online deals’. Read more about their margins, cash conversion and so on here.
I’ve blogged about the Humble Indie Bundle before. Kickstarter really does deserve to be at the top of that list. Though you can support projects from anywhere in the world, you have to be in the US to raise funds. There are lots of imitators though, including IndieGoGo. Flattr is a concept I’m probably going to try out soon too.
Magic Lantern is an open platform for developing enhancements to the amazing Canon 5D Mark II and 550D/T2i digital SLRs. These cameras are “game changing” for independent film makers:
- It allows the use of a wide range of lenses (anything that can be adapted to the EF mount).
- The 5D’s 35mm full-frame sensor is larger than the RED ONE’s sensor, Super 35 film. It is approximately the size of VistaVision. This means shallower native depth-of-field than anything on the market, except for the Phantom 65.
- The dynamic range and latitude are close to the capabilities of high-end HD cameras.
- The low-light performance is currently unrivaled, even by the RED ONE.
But, the software in video mode has limitations, even after the recent 1.1.0 upgrade from Canon that fixed the most glaring manual exposure “bug”.
That’s where Magic Lantern comes in — it turns your 5D Mark II into a 5D Mark Free. We’ve written extensions and widgets that fix many of the annoyances in working with the 5D Mark II on a film or video set. Our first set of fixes are targeted at the audio limitations of the camera, but there are some video enhancements included, too:
How cool is this! Though the (slightly cringeworthy) video above talks specifically about the 5D, there is also firmware for the 550D I use, which could open up a world of possibilities.
Reddit has an interesting ask me anything thread running at the moment: I run ThatHigh.com and it pays my rent in San Francisco. AMA. Someone asked how the owner built up traffic and established the advertising, prompting a candid reply…
How to build a social entertainment website:
- Build site
- fake lots of user activity
- steal a tiny bit of content from all around the internet
- reddit ads ($20)
- stumbleupon ads ($5)
- put easily shareable links on each story side note: I put facebook “like” buttons on each story when they unveiled their opengraph stuff and facebook referrers skyrocketed, so that was awesome.
For advertisers, I literally email them out of the blue. I had a seed seller in the UK for awhile that didn’t pan out, so he quit. I’ve had lots of humor sites advertise, some hydroponics stuff, and while prop 19 was under the media’s eye, adsense was giving me TONS of high CPC ads. I made $3k during that time period in one month. It was nice.
I use Google Doubleclick for Publishers to manage ads, I use freshbooks (the free plan) to charge advertisers with my paypal and google checkout accounts. One time someone wired me money from the UK.
Throughout my investigation I had nagging doubts that we were seeing serious cracks in the algorithmic search foundations of the house that Google built. But I was afraid to write an article about it for fear I’d be claimed an incompetent kook. I wasn’t comfortable sharing that opinion widely, because we might be doing something obviously wrong. Which we tend to do frequently and often. Gravity can’t be wrong. We’re just clumsy … right?
I can’t help noticing that we’re not the only site to have serious problems with Google search results in the last few months. In fact, the drum beat of deteriorating Google search quality has been practically deafening of late:
- Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google
- Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
- Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried
- On the increasing uselessness of Google
- Google, Google, Why Hast Thou Forsaken the Manolo?
Anecdotally, my personal search results have also been noticeably worse lately. As part of Christmas shopping for my wife, I searched for “iPhone 4 case” in Google. I had to give up completely on the first two pages of search results as utterly useless, and searched Amazon instead.
People whose opinions I respect have all been echoing the same sentiment — Google, the once essential tool, is somehow losing its edge. The spammers, scrapers, and SEO’ed-to-the-hilt content farms are winning.
Yesterday I was searching for CSS rounded corner techniques, and the majority of top Google results were utter trash. This is definitely a trend.
I’m going to have to do some research on measuring search engine quality…