Jul 10

Paying for The Times: my very own obstacle course

An American friend of mine, standing once at the entrance to a restaurant which seemed to have no interest in seating him, said: “This is the only thing I don’t like about this country. Here I am, trying to give people my money. Do they want it? No.”

I found myself in a similar position today trying to pay an online subscription to The Times and Sunday Times. I’m fond of The Times (disclosure: I worked there for many years) and while I have doubts about the particular paywall scheme they’ve begun, experiments in charging are good. If this kind of thing isn’t tried, we won’t know. And we don’t know if other business models will keep good journalism going.

A few weeks ago, I was infuriated by the new site’s habit of dropping down a registration window and making you enter your details again. And again. And again. Eventually I left the site alone for a bit and the snag was fixed – but apparently not before this problem had irritated many others, including people working on the paper.

Yesterday, having missed his live appearances in London this week, I wanted to see the Q&A with author Clay Shirky. It wouldn’t load for ages and I had to go and do something else. OK I thought, maybe the site was getting heavy traffic yesterday as people used it for free on the last day before payment. I thought I’d better have a look at the Shirky interview because I’m reviewing his book. For The Times.

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Jun 10

Morozov on Shirky, plus the internet and your brain

Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus comes out here in Britain at the end of the month. Here is a long and critical review by the sceptic of digitopia, Evgeny Morozov from the Boston Review.

Plus a fascinating collection of contributions to the question: what is the internet doing to our brains? Reassuringly to me, Steven Pinker doesn’t think that the web is doing much harm.


Jun 10

A little Shirky for the weekend

The anarchic variety of web-born information expands faster than we get meta-info to filter and navigate what is bountiful but often bewildering. Taste-making can’t be done by algorithm and so someone has to commit journalism for useful stuff to be created.

The Atlantic Wire has been asking well-primed pundits to download their favourite sources of information, news and wisdom (these categories don’t inavriably overlap). This week they reached Clay Shirky, already something of a guru-hero to this blog. I haven’t looked at an alarmingly-high number of his sources, so I’m going to spend at least part of the weekend (the part when it rains) checking them out.

Shirky, incidentally, has a new book out soon and will be in Britain for two days at the end of June to publicise. Appearance at the LSE details here. Piece based on the book from the Wall St Journal here.