Famous writers just have more readers

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, 'Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.' On this Ernest Hemingway commented, 'Yes, they have more money.' Are the very famous writers different from the obscure ones?

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Predicting the 2014 Academy Awards

Another year brings another academy awards spectacle our way on Sunday March 2. The Oscar remains the film industry’s biggest prize, all the other awards pale in comparison to the lure of the golden statuette. For the nominees, winning is the ultimate in career recognition. But for me as a film fan, who wins and who loses has never had much riding on it, apart from financially, but more on that later.

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How Netflix is going beyond five stars

Awards season is in full swing and one of the biggest parties of the red carpet cycle will take place on Sunday, when the 71st Golden Globes ceremony airs on NBC. Whoever goes home a winner, there are bound to be some viewers who will say that the 'best' work or artist of the year was robbed. Taste is nothing if not idiosyncratic and with 2013 widely regarded as one of the strongest years in TV and cinema, divergence of opinion is sure to be pervasive.

As video streaming has grown, more and more media moguls are trying to crack the code of personal preference in entertainment. Studio heads still want to know what is going to be a blockbuster with the mass of moviegoers. But, in the 21st century, predicting what each individual likes has become a growing concern. Driven by the aims of execs at online on-demand media companies like Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu, to provide increasingly tailored entertainment delivery.

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Every noise at once: using big data to explore new music

At The Echo Nest we collect pretty much every bit of data about music we can find. We crawl millions of web pages about music every day, we keep track of the listening habits of millions of streaming-music-service users and we analyze the actual audio of hundreds of millions of songs by millions of artists. Then we try to make some sense of it all.

One of the many ways we try to organize all this information is by genre. We want to know what kinds of music there are in the world, which artists are making which kinds and how the genres relate to each other. Sometimes this is useful in itself (want to hear some Finnish hip hop? we can do that). Sometimes it's a way of cross-checking other data (if we think somebody is making Finnish hip hop, but we think they are from Thailand and were active from 1952 to 1961, at least one of those things is probably wrong.)

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When terms and conditions apply

I overheard a conversation with a man representing a Silicon Valley company the other day. He was bragging about how they apparently had millions of phone conversations recorded. This bounty was the outcome of the allegedly 'free' service they had been providing. A vast trove of data, perhaps waiting to be merged with more data, or sold to a company that figures out how to monetize it. And those people using the service, lets call them ‘data mines’, these ‘data mines’ had received something without understanding the cost.

In my film Terms and Conditions May Apply, I show how companies have used contracts of adhesion to legally sweep up as much data as possible without meaningful consent. There is a notion that companies have a right to any data they can accrue, no matter how personal, no matter if the person surrendering the information is even aware it’s happening.

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