Indie magazines
Craft and creativity

Making a sustainable independent print magazine

Kai Brach is the publisher, editor and designer of Offscreen Magazine. He has written about the lessons he has learned in a comprehensive Medium post: Indie Magonomics

Kai covers everything from sourcing content (“The hard truth is that most indie publications rely on a lot of favours by a lot of generous people”), to printing (“A lot of indies start with 1000–2000 copies. I started with 3000 for my first issue, but it did take me more than a year to sell them all”), to distribution (“Ask anyone who sells physical products and they will tell you that one of the most biggest challenges is getting the product from A to B. Shipping is hard”), and marketing (“…no matter how boring or old-fashioned it seems, email is still the most powerful marketing tool for most online businesses”), and finally, to making moneyContinue reading

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The Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level.

The Big Mac index - 2015

Burgernomics was never intended as a precise gauge of currency misalignment, merely a tool to make exchange-rate theory more digestible.

This adjusted index addresses the criticism that you would expect average burger prices to be cheaper in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower.

Shape of things to come

The Big Mac index

The Big Mac index is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. — The Economist

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J. Michael Straczynski
Shape of things to come

Rules of the New Aristocracy

By Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski:

It doesn’t matter how much food costs increase, doesn’t matter if you can only afford fast food, we will always be able to buy steak. And we will invest heavily in fast food stocks to ensure we make money off this. Doesn’t matter how much gas costs, we will always be able to afford it.

Burger

In addition to poor food choices and health coverage, your kids will grow up without proper nutrition which will cause them problems on every level, from physical to educational difficulties. Our kids will grow up straight and true and healthy.

It doesn’t matter how much an education costs, doesn’t matter if your kids can’t afford to go to college or come out with massive debt, we will always be able to send our kids to university. And because a lot of our income is derived from tax incentives and taxpayer-financed bailouts your taxes are sending our kids to school. But you do not have the right to any of our money to send your kid to school.

If you or your kids want to start a business, you will find that because we’ve sucked all the money out of the economy, there is simply no available cash around to help you finance your startup. (Unless you want to go to your friends online at sites like Indiegogo, and isn’t that just cute?) We just cut our kids a check and tell them to go have fun.

Your kids are born with a glass ceiling above which they will almost certainly never have the opportunity to rise. Our kids are born with a marble floor beneath which they will never be allowed to fall.

Continued →

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Poverty is not only the lack of income and wealth but also the poverty of power. A key part of the poverty of power is to be defined as dependent: dependent on charity, handouts, welfare.

Yet, it is the wealthy, not the poor, who are dependent on government subsidies. To transform dependency into self-determination is the work of poor people’s movements. To demonstrate the dependency of the wealthy on welfare as well as on the labor of the poor must be our collective work.
“Who is Dependent on Welfare” with Ananya Roy

Life After Pi is a short documentary about Rhythm & Hues Studios, the L.A. based Visual Effects company that won an Academy Award for its groundbreaking work on Life of Pi – just two weeks after declaring bankruptcy. The film explores rapidly changing forces impacting the global VFX community, and the Film Industry as a whole.

This is only the first chapter of an upcoming feature-length documentary Hollywood Ending, that delves into the larger, complex challenges facing the US Film Industry and the many professionals working within it, whose fates and livelihood are intertwined.

Serco
Shape of things to come

The biggest company you’ve never heard of

The Guardian reports on Serco, a giant global corporation that hoovers up outsourced government contracts from prisons to rail franchises and now has the NHS firmly in its sights. The company stands accused of mismanagement, lying and even charging for non-existent work.

All told, its operations suggest some real-life version of the fantastical mega-corporations that have long been invented by fiction writers; a more benign version of the Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner, say, or one of those creations from James Bond movies whose name always seems to end with the word “industries”.

The strangest thing, though, is the gap between Serco’s size and how little the public knows about it. Not for nothing does so much coverage of its work include the sentence “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”.

Once I started looking, their logos were everywhere, suggesting a shadow state that has since grown ever-bigger. Their names seemed anonymously stylised, in keeping with the sense that they seemed both omnipresent, and barely known: Interserve, Sodexo, Capita, the Compass Group.

Continue reading on The Guardian →

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Humans and other animals

The trick to successful haggling

Psychologist Malia Mason, a professor at Columbia University’s business school, recruited volunteers to test a theory that assigning a precise value is a better haggling strategy than rounding your offer up (or down):

The study’s hard data will not be revealed until the paper is published this month, but the broad conclusion was unmistakable: people who offered or asked for precise amounts — including such arbitrary-seeming figures as $5,015 for a piece of jewelry as opposed to $5,000 — almost always wrung more concessions from the person on the other side of the table than those who opened with neater numbers. The reason, Mason believes, is that a precise number — rightly or wrongly — implies you’ve done your homework and know the actual value of the thing.

“It’s a powerful signal,” she says. “It suggests, ‘I know what I’m taking about.’” Even if the negotiations are protracted, a precise figure at least frames the discussion. “If you say you want $10 for something, the other party takes that to mean a range of $7 to $13. If you say you want $11, that range becomes $10 to $12. The initial figure exerts a kind of gravitational pull.”
Revealed: The One Big Secret to Successful Haggling

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Shape of things to come

Have years of austerity been the result of a basic Excel mistake?

“I clicked on cell L51, and saw that they had only averaged rows 30 through 44, instead of rows 30 through 49.”
Thomas Herndon, grad student

This Excel mistake is in a spreadsheet that was used to draw the conclusion of an influential 2010 economics paper that was later cited to justify programmes of austerity in the UK and around the world. The researchers who wrote the paper, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, have now admitted it was wrong.

Another UMass Amherst professor, Arindrajit Dube, followed up on Herndon’s paper with additional proof that there were serious theoretical and causal problems (as opposed to just sloppy Excel work) in the study.

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Craft and creativity

The Crabby Wallet

A minimalist wallet designed to hold just what you need. There’s space for 5-10+ cards, you can hang a key off the loop and tuck it under the elastic, or you can use the band to attach the wallet to your phone. It comes in a range of colours.

The CRABBY Wallet

The CRABBY Wallet on Kickstarter

As of writing this product has surpassed its $10,000 Kickstarter goal, with $90,000+ in pledges. There are 24 days left to grab one for yourself for $16.

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This is an impossible problem. You focus on the possible problems, like eradicating polio from the world, or taking an image of every single street across the globe, or building the first real universal translator, or building a fusion factory in your garage. These are the manageable problems, so you ignore — so you ignore this corruption.

But we cannot ignore this corruption anymore.
Lawrence Lessig