Archives For May 2009

I’ve always had a thing for detective fiction. As a 7 year old I wanted to grow up to be Sherlock Holmes (not *a detective* but specifically Sherlock Holmes). I ended up becoming a researcher at various places, but never really followed that urge to be a detective.

I’ve been struck recently by the way the that the fantasy of the investigative journalist has been played out in science fiction and noir.

The investigative journalist and the private detective do have quite a bit in common. The autonomy to follow one’s nose, to find out secrets that will embarrass someone, to have a hands-off benefactor who funds your jaunts with only a directive to find the truth are all part of the fantasy. The reality of the roles are very similar too – lots of boring work going through reams of data searching for that elusive bit of telling information, pressure from the funder to get results, incomplete data and insufficient time and coming up against the tawdry realities of human existence. And, of course, a worrying tendency to end up dead.

What really strikes me though is the way in which the detective in some of my favourite novels functions as a journalist, and vice versa.

Continue Reading…

Mel Gregg has a great post up about the difficulties of publishing as an Australian academic interested in Australian politics. It’s piqued my interest in academic publishing, particularly as the publishing and newspaper business is changing at the moment.

I’ve long been a fan of open-access academic journals such as M/C and initiatives such as ePrints and arXiv, and even more so now that my university enrollment has lapsed, taking my database login with it.

I’m fascinated by the economics of academic publishing, because it seems to work in a remarkably different way to most other forms of publishing. It’s quite rare to make any money out of academic publishing, unless your work gets assigned as a course text.

Anecdotally I’ve heard of a few senior scholars making money from reprints in course readers and popular textbooks, but certainly not enough to warrant much more than a few nights on the town. (And we’ve all had that one lecturer who insists the students buy the latest update to his textbook each year – sometimes warranted, sometimes not.)

Paper publication is also quite strange. Some journals charge exorbitant fees for access via databases. There’s also the odd phenomenon of universities paying journals for publication. I’m not condemning closed access journals – they have to figure out a way to pay their workers in an environment of cut budgets, lowered endowments and hedge fund blowout.

What interests me is where the value lies in publishing a book in your field. There’s little to no monetary gain outside of university promotion – so I’m guessing the value lies in reputation? Is publishing a book much better than publishing papers?

I’m also curious as to how much value is placed on different academic imprints and why, and what an Australian academic e-book publishing house might look like. The ebook and POD market is getting more respect each year, and the Kindle is being promoted as a possible option for textbook distribution. I’m wondering if a canny publisher with an eye to serving Australian academia and politics, rigorous quality standards and an army of peer reviewers, and a simple, low cost distribution process might be something to look at creating.


I’ve decided to shutter my other blog for the time being.

It’s been a while since i’ve posted anything of interest here. I’ve got a job, of course, over at Geekdom which will involve a fair bit of blogging, but from a business perspective.

I’ve not really had a great deal to say about online journalism for a while – certainly nothing that I hadn’t already said 5 years ago – and I feel like the field’s doing well enough without me. So rather than drag this blog out any longer, I might kill it. I’ll still be blogging over at Geekdom and writing for New Matilda, Thinking Points, TechWiredAU and other places when I get the time, but those pieces will be syndicated at

I’m also spending a bit of time doing video work with my friend Andy, that will be at monoclepopsoff.

I might resurrect the blog if I get back into my PhD, or I might use it for another project. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, let me know.

Onward and upward

May 1, 2009 — 5 Comments

I’ve started a new job at geekdom doing SEO and social media. I’ve not done a great deal of SEO before – or at least, not done OMG SEO MAKE MONEYS WITH KEYWORD STUFFING – but I’m finding it interesting and it feeds into my interest in social media metrics and conversational media.

I’m working with Cathie McGinn.


The view is gorgeous.