Friday, May 04, 2007

Coolhunt Log #15 - Friday, May 4, 2007

Coolhunt Log #15
Friday, May 4, 2007

On Stage: Scott Cooper, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of
Steve O'Keefe, moderator

MODERATOR: Could you tell us where you're calling from?

SCOTT: Today, I'm calling from my home office in Newton Highlands, MA.

MODERATOR: I'd like to remind everyone of the rules of the Coolhunt. We do at least one site, one blog post, one comment on another blog, and try to make one personal connection via email or phone.

SCOTT: We're going to start at The New York Times today at Click on the Most Popular tab at the top of the page, then let's look at the Most Blogged column. The third item is "Are Book Reviewers Out of Print?" by Motoko Rich. It explains why you're seeing fewer and fewer book reviews, mainly because of social networking replacing formal book reviews. It says that Dan Wickett is a former quality-control manager for a car-parts maker wrote 95 book reviews on his blog, Emerging Writers Network. Whether or not it will impact book reviews is one question, but it still is yet another outlet for other information via social networking.


SCOTT: Emerging writers can be bestsellers based on these recommendations rather than on reviews by traditional book reviewers. See the Emerging Writers network at


MODERATOR: I'm going to suggest that this site is largely a labor of love, even though there is some paid advertising.

SCOTT: You can see a lot of nice quotes from authors. So despite that this is an amateur site, it is having an impact, as evidenced by the fact that he's the lead story in The New York Times.

MODERATOR: There are lots and lots of links, which increases the search engine position since engines find importance in the number of links to something. I'm trying to take a unique phrase from one of his reviews and see if it's located elsewhere when I perform a key word/phrase search. I'm copying a phrase into a Google search window with quotations and I find three
sites. I'm now using Google Blogs search engine to do this same. This is proving that, although his material may not be widespread, at least it is being syndicated. I'd be willing to say that our book reviewer here is not really particularly concerned about someone using his material on their site.

SCOTT: Back to the New York Times story, scroll down to the fourth paragraph. These links are to some of the sites that have become very influential. Go to Bookslut, which is an equivalent to an online magazine. See the blog at the top of the page.


MODERATOR: You can tell that this site is developed by someone who appreciates the aesthetics of website development.

SCOTT: Now we're going to the site ElegantVariation. You can post on this blog, and it has become a darling of publishing companies. There's a Friday giveaway, using a random generator to select a winner.


MODERATOR: ARCs, or Advance Review Copies, primes the pump for early reviews. This has really grown with the public being fueled with free copies.

SCOTT: Go to It shows that, while you may not appear in the Times, you may end up on Curledup.


MODERATOR: Curledup is also supported by advertisers. Another way to gauge the impact of citizen reviews on overall reviews is to google a title to see its popularity. I'm going to type in "Age of Spiritual Machines," a book by Ray Kurzweil, also from MIT.

SCOTT: Put "Age of Spiritual Machines" in quotes, then add "Reviews."

MODERATOR: Amazon is the first review, because of the amount of traffic it experiences. You can scroll down to see Mike's Book Reviews, showing that his review evidently is more influential than the New York Times review, which could be because it's probably not restricted as much by copyright protection. But Mike probably also understands the use of tags to syndicate reviews, making his review more widely spread.

SCOTT: Let's go to Shelfari, which is a fascinating example of social networking. This is a way to social network with other readers all over the world to have discussions, post opinions, write reviews, etc.


MODERATOR: Let's go to Sample Shelf on the Start Exploring line at the top of the page.

SCOTT: Artemis_98 writes a great example, and you can read his entire posts here. This paradigm is interesting because you can reach out well beyond what you could do face to face.

MODERATOR: No longer do you have to be in the same city but you can also go online, make a phone call, or participate in a videocast to network to experience each other and the author in a more rich environment than ever before.

SCOTT: I learned about shelfari from someone who asked me if I was going to be at an upcoming event in New York. I looked online at the site for BookExpo America 2007 in New York City. Steve, you must know about this. Do you plan on going this year?


MODERATOR: I'll not only be there, as I have over the past 20 years, but I'll also be teaching there at the Publishers University.

SCOTT: On the site I noticed on the fifth link down in the center of the page, a story about Lance Fensterman titled "Blogging with BEA Director." Then I looked at the blog "Build Your Own BEA Event!" Here, I learned about Shelfari, which is a cool example of social networking, going from online to face to face. Lance encourages readers to recommend authors, then he creates an event at BEA based on recommendations. What's more cool than having authors on social networking being contacted because of social networking, to present at a function?

MODERATOR: There was quite a bit of grumbling from authors about them being signed up to blog early in the blogging phase, but now blogging on books has become quite popular. However, that doesn't necessarily affect book sales since the audience is different between those who read blogs from those who actually walk into bookstores.

SCOTT: It's often more interesting to me to read online about online issues, than to read about it elsewhere.

MODERATOR: On the other hand, publishers may be wise to figure out how to make available information from blogs to people who buy books and don't read blogs. The content could find a whole new market this way.

SCOTT: If you go back to the BEA site and see the My BEA section in the middle of the page, the "more" link takes you to another page titled "My BEA & Book Industry Characters." See There is an online social network of BEA attendees, so in advance of the event, people are given a chance to get to know each other. There was the MIT graduate
student who developed "end tags" that allows you to recognize when another member approaches. As they walked around at the conference, their tags alerted them to the fact they're near someone who has similar interests. The organizers at the conference added another function that allowed them to identify who the most important social networkers were, identifying trendsetters, to anticipate how the next conference would work.


MODERATOR: Next week will be our last week of the coolhunt, and we'll be exploring how many profiles a person can sustain since there are so many social networking sites. So I'd like to talk next week about how many profiles we have and how much time it takes. Go to It's like leaving books sitting on a park bench, hoping a finder will register it on the site. Today the number of books registered is approaching 4 million. You can gauge the international reach of the Internet from this site by the active participation. On the left hand navigation column go to Books, then Search Books and type in Wild Animus, which is supposed to be one of the worst books ever written. There are over 2,500 negative reviews on this site. It's fair to say that the swarm didn't care for it.


SCOTT: It's like movies that are so bad that you just have to see it because of the novelty.

MODERATOR: Now, click on the Forum tab, then Community and you'll see from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of posts.

MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you, Scott. We've been talking today with the co-author of Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about any connection problems you're experiencing or commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt. The transcript of today's coolhunt will be posted with previous ones at The Swarm Creativity Blog:
Join us on Monday for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.

Thank you.

Copyright Notice: Please feel free to duplicate or distribute this log as long as the contents are not altered and this notice is intact.


  1. In defense of Wild Animus, or rather, in defense of there being that many copies of it registered on, you should know that the author gave a bunch (read: a ton) of free ARC copies to BookCrossers in hopes of getting the word out about his book. Sadly, the word got out, but it might not have been quite the word the author was looking for :)

    Here's a link to the copy I read ... under duress :)

  2. Thanks for the comment. I also read your review of the book. One thing "Wild Animus" shows is that the review-and-rating engine of the Internet works pretty well. Even free books don't buy positive reviews. I've heard from thousands of people who have read Wild Animus but I've never heard from a single person who *bought* the book.


  3. An interesting book - and an interesting post on book reviewing on the net.

    Amongst the issues your site has brought to the fore are really important points re social internet networking, setting out ways forward for publishers, writers and reviewers to create a better networking community within a framework which has the book-buying readers' interests in mind.

    This is truly an amazing site which I came across yesterday in one of Elegvar's most recent links to their Technorati profile and today through your comment on Elegvar's Monday weblog post, Monday Grabbag.