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29 March 2007

The wisdom of writers on publishing

There are those that would ask us why we look so often to the science fiction writers for insight into matters normally considered beyond the scope of mere entertainment. We have attempted before to answer this question – see our previous post on Jesters at the Futurist Court’s Table.

But we think we need no defense to support our contention that one should always watch the leading edge of those who make their living solely by the public sale of the written word as a bellwether for all who work in information industries. After all, the publishing sector is among the oldest of all such endeavors, and the changes wrought by the digital era that impact us all are felt most keenly there.

Thus, we recommend the following discussion by author Charles Stross, which surfaces a fascinating question- what is the true value of a digital information product, and how is such a value calculated in the absence of actual market information given the constraints which inhibit normal market performance?

These are not trivial questions when transposed into the intelligence community. The increasing privatization of intelligence has turned what was once a government monopoly operating based on political perceptions of priority and value into an increasingly market driven field, albeit a strangle distorted market influenced by major factors far outside of traditional commercial dynamics. It is not merely the contractor consultancies, nor the commercial competitive / business intelligence sector that is struggling to come to terms with these questions.

On a related note, see Robert Scoble’s take on the death of the newspaper model.
His money quote: “The industry has NOT invested in its future. It is reaping the rewards of that.” It is also very interesting to note that the academics were warned, but they did not listen – and persisted in training the next generation in an environment, and a set of skills, that were increasingly less relevant to the assignments of the future.

In the end, these issues are the concern of every analyst that is responsible to a consumer for finished intelligence; and of every consumer that is faced with the proliferation of often competing and contradictory voices – whether called intelligence by name or otherwise.