Finishing books is all about the first 100 pages

At least that's what Jellybooks' analysis seems to indicate. Jellybooks are a data collecting service for publishers. They give their members free digital books and in return track their reading behaviour.

eac24e6f-1418-4bc6-a9f0-cda786b1d577.png

It's interesting how closely the microcosm of author data collection mirrors the broader world of online data collection. According to the NYT article:

"Jellybooks has run tests on nearly 200 books for seven publishers, one major American publisher, three British publishers and three German houses. Most of the publishers did not want to be identified, to avoid alarming their authors."

It feels like there's something sinister about testing your author's books with a speculative technology and not telling them. Imagine being bared from your job without knowing why or whether the analysis was valid. That second part is important: we often adopt data-driven tech far too early because our ideological compulsion towards optimisation outstrips real world capacity for optimisation. It's why good ads are tested to death and why the best innovations don't tend to come from the R&D labs of major companies. But that rarely stops marketers from putting their faith in new tech:

"...some are using the findings to shape their marketing plans. For example, one European publisher reduced its marketing budget for a book it had paid a lot of money to acquire after learning that 90 percent of readers gave up after only five chapters. A German publisher decided to increase advertising and marketing on a debut crime novel after data showed that nearly 70 percent of readers finished it.”

Still, there's something attractive about understanding how we read (my favourite stat was that business books have "surprisingly low" completion rates).

Books occupy such a personal space in our lives and readings shapes how we think and interact with everything. In fact, I'm shaping your brain right now. 

Do you like it?

~Read the full NYT article on Jellybooks here.~ 

Manosphere Grusel

There are some real limits to the English language. The German word "Grusel" translates roughly to "horror" but what gets lost is the fact that there's an undercurrent of enjoyment; horror in the theatrical sense rather than the real sense.

I get a sense of Grusel from Australian artist Tiyan Baker's Hard As You Can. It's a short film/video art piece that explores Fight Club as a text of significance to the online manosphere and alt right groups.

On one level it's simply worth watching to get a quick idea of that milieu. Baker does a good job of conveying some of the insecurities and vulnerabilities that often form the centre of these groups' misogynistic "might makes right" ideologies. 

On another level I wonder how aware the artist was of her own sense of Grusel when she made the piece. How straight is it being played? There's something inherently comedic about some of the body builder and pick up artist conversations that are documented in the first half of the video—especially when you remember that the author of Fight Club is gay. 

a0a2d851-0240-4ecf-a452-adc2f59b4e28.png

The second half of the piece explores the undeniably fascistic groups that are regularly engaging in Fight Club-esque one-on-one brawls. But the two are presented with a stylistic flatness that implies that they are essentially one and the same thing. I'd agree that there's cross pollination but I don't really buy that body building or "Pick Up" is always a gateway drug into fascism. 

But maybe that isn't even what's being said. As a video artwork rather than a straight documentary Hard As You Can has the liberty to explore machismo and insecurity in a more archetypical way. Ending on a flickering freeze frame of Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden hints at how Fight Club seems to be imprinted onto so many mens' subconscious in a way that I found thought provoking. 

Oh, also the Prototype (the site/project the video is being curated on) has some squishy, awesome web design that you should go have a look at. Very 90's cyberfeminist—which is perfect because that movement also originated down under. Woop! 

~Check out Hard As You Can and Protoype~ 




Scientific proof that living abroad makes you awesome

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, scientists explained how living abroad generally gives people stronger "self-concept clarity". In summary: 

"...people’s self-discerning reflections—musings on whether parts of their identity truly define who they are or merely reflect their cultural upbringing—are a critical ingredient in the relationship between living abroad and self-concept clarity."

In other words: being exposed to a drastically different culture makes it easier for you to decide what parts of your own identity and beliefs you genuinely like.

Honestly you can probably skip the rest of the article. I know most of you do that anyway. Don't think I'm not watching your click through rates... your CTRs!

It made me wonder whether I got any of that magical self clarity from living between New Zealand, Australia and Germany as a kid and teen. It's really hard to say as I don't have a control. I do tend to feel quite solid in my own sense of self. But the trade off has always been that I don't have as many roots in a single culture or place. Maybe you get the most out of time abroad when you've reached a certain level of maturity...

~Here's a link to the article you won't read.~



The Futuregasm Podcast #2 - Talking to Heather Morrison about sex toys for disabled people

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to Heather Morrison about how her and her brother at Deliciously Disabled are creating sex toys for people with physical disabilities. It’s an inclusive and exciting project that you should have a listen to.

You can do that here. Or you can go to the Soundcloud link here (I’d recommend the latter if you’re on a mobile).

Show notes

Deliciously Disabled’s page on the project

Their GoFundMe (go help out if you can!)

And you can reach out to Heather at heathermorrison@deliciouslydisabled.ca

Bringing a semblance of order to the freelance lifestyle

I am sometimes asked how I juggle all my different projects, or how I manage to pump out a weekly newsletter so consistently. To be honest it’s often fueled by passion. Things happen because I’m excited by them. You wouldn’t catch me studying accounting with the same fervour. But there is a limit to how far passion gets me. Every so often I end up spinning too many plates at once. Recently the plates were stacking up, so I sat down and assessed where I was spending my time. It ended up being hugely valuable so I thought I’d share.

Step one: list all your projects
I’ve gone ahead and called everything in my life a “project” regardless of whether it’s personal or professional. Father time doesn’t differentiate either. Some of the projects are time spent with friends and my partner. Some are projects like this newsletter.

Step two: allocate hours to each project
I listed the hours I would ideally put into each project in a week and found to do my current commitments justice I would need 119 hours! Assuming I had around 70 hours to “spend” a week, that meant I was 70% over capacity. Knowing that was honestly liberating. I figrued, “Wow I shouldn’t feel bad that my output is sporadic. I should be amazed that I’m getting anything done.”

Step three: interegate the nature of each project
Then I classified each project with a number of tags:

1)

Must Do (a non-negotiable part of my week)
vs
Can Do (anything I can ‘pause’ if need be)

2)

Finite (a project with a foreseeable end e.g. a zine I want to publish)
vs
Ongoing Primary (an ongoing project that demands a large number of hours, e.g. FTRGZM)
vs
Ongoing Maintenance (a project that is a constant but can run on a flexible number of hours—weirdly, I found that friendships fall into that category for me)

You can see I used different icons for each. Most things can only be one of the 1) tags and one of the 2) tags. The exception was that some projects felt like Ongoing or Finite, depending on what perspective I took.

Step four: start prioritising
This wasn’t necessarily about how much passion I had for a project. E.g. my friendships and relationships are fairly low on the numeric list. It’s more about how much time the project needs and what the project’s level of urgency is.

Step five: allocate your finite time
I then started playing around with how many of my 70 weekly hours I’d feel comfortable allocating to each project.

I quickly learned that even with 70 hours, I spread myself thin relatively quickly. There’s only so many projects that you can allocate serious volumes of time to each week. Once you see that you realise that having much more than two big projects on at a time becomes impractical.

This part of the process becomes about negotiation. For example, could you stretch eight hours of friendship time across two weeks?

Another negotiation that you can do is accepting that you are strategically overloading yourself. For example I just couldn’t get myself to pause certain projects, so I accepted that once a week I’d have to “work overtime”, that is work well into an evening to get things done. We are usually all forced to do this in our work life anyway. We often accept it without considering the consequences, or even noticing that overload is being inflicted upon us. Not good. It felt much better to make these decisions consciously as part of a bargain I struck with myself.

Step six: what will you sacrifice?

This was the toughest part. I had to concede that I just didn’t have the capacity to write a comic script at this point in time. I also didn’t have the capacity to do any political economy reading for the foreseeable future. So, sadly I had to park both.

Again though, doing this consciously with a realistic rationale felt a lot better than having an ongoing sense of guilt for neglecting them. I had a few projects that were tagged as “finite”. Once those wrapped up I’d be able to get back to comics and politics.

I ended up with a plan that put me at 79 hours/week. Bear in mind that I was also counting things like “gym” and “art” here. I don’t want to pretend that I work 79 hours a week. I don’t want to pretend it’s only four hours either ;)

Step seven: create a weekly schedule

Finally, I took the knowledge of how much time I could spend and overlaid it with the natural rhythms of my regular week. I have two non-negotiable deadlines: FTRGZM and my meetings with Stop Adani Sydney—an activist group I’m part of. I also knew that because my partner and friends are bound by different patterns than I am, they’d often only be free on the weekend. I used these facts to start putting a rough framework on my week. One interesting implication that came from the process was that in a way Tuesday is my Sunday because that’s the day FTRGZM is sent. Another was to allocate the bulk of my FTRGZM writing time and Stop Adani time to the two days prior to my weekly deadlines.

Step eight: use all of this to inform your weekly and daily planning

Wall Calendar.png

Now I have a small diary that I physically populate based around the above wall chart. I find that for me personally a manual process forces me to focus. The physical restrictions of the page remind me that I can’t just magically create more time in any given day.

All of this probably sounds dry, especially for the more free spirited, creative types. The interesting thing is that the impulse to do this actually came from my creative processes, rather than a love of rigour.
I wanted to make sure that I have enough time to play and create in a meaningful way. So in a way the ends justify the means.

The entire exercise took me about a day but was well worth it. If you haven’t done something like this in a while or maybe even ever, I’d highly recommend you give it a crack.

Using social media listening to quantify sponsorship value

Something weird happens with brands when they decide to do sponsorships. Marketers who are usually very careful about how and where they spend their money suddenly start making gut calls.

Brand managers tend to ignore red flags like small audience pools or poor brand alignment if they are a fan of the sport in question. That's really the only way I can explain why Columbia Pictures decided to sponsor Atlético Madrid back in 2003.

 
Yup. Hitch came out almost 15 years ago. You are old.

Yup. Hitch came out almost 15 years ago. You are old.

 

On the flip side, it's easy to be blind to the potential of something because it's outside of your own personal interests. Christine Aguilar over at Talkwalker published some data on the Formula 1 last week that reminded me of how limiting my own social bubble can sometimes be.
I was surprised to see that the Melbourne Grand Prix generated over 1 Million mentions on social. Clearly I'm not a car guy.

 
0341d1f4-2417-40a9-9353-55de8a1c4eb8.png
 

Like with any data It's important to go deep and really understand what it's saying before jumping to conclusions though. For example, 97% of the race day mentions originated from outside of Australia. That means a sponsorship probably isn't the best opportunity for a local brand but could be great for an international one that's looking for a prestige alignment.

 
Some top line data on the fans. Not surprised to see the male skew.

Some top line data on the fans. Not surprised to see the male skew.

 

To know for sure you'd want to pull together data from a bunch of sources but there's something comforting about being able fall back on some quick numbers instead of having to have a gut-off with your clients.

~Read the full Talkwalker blog post here.~