ayo tech

Digital Transformations in the Publishing Industry

Everything digital fascinates me. We're living in such a fast-paced technological world, it's hard to keep up as individuals with what's new and what's hot. Can you imagine what it's like to undergo these changes as an institution? As an industry?

The publishing industry has been shaken up by new technological advances and media hype has even threatened its very existence. I recently had the opportunity to interview freelance editors Britanie Wilson and Jeremy Lucyk who have recently penned a new ebook series on breaking into this industry in an uncertain environment. The bulk of the interview is covered in TalentEgg and discusses educational training, internship, resumé, and networking tips. But here's a snippet that deals exclusively with the digital face of the publishing industry  

Why did you decide to publish your book electronically as opposed to print? 

Jeremy: Part of it is practical, part of it is ideological. What really appealed was that given our working schedules, we knew we wouldn’t have the time and freedom to sit down and go through a classic book writing schedule. We’re doing is drawing out the normal process. We’re putting out what would be normal individual chapters in a full book. In a few months, once we get all the topics we want to talk about, we can create one giant e-book and potentially print. E-books are easy to edit and revise as you go. One of the things we’re focusing on is how quickly things are moving in the industry so it would’ve been out of date by the time it hit print.

Britanie: It takes about a year to produce in print. By the time you add in the production schedule, manuscript, etc...you’re always a year behind. In publishing right now, it’s not possible to keep up. It’s changing by the month. Copyright is changing right now, digital is changing, some of the middlemen are being taken out, some added. It’s constantly in flux and trying to catch up with that in print is really tough and it arises in educational publishing a lot, which is kind of what we’re doing. It’s a bit of a hybrid trade and educational series because it’s for people coming into university who may have this career in mind or they’re not sure of what to do. It’s also trade because it’s also interest-based. It’s a look into the industry. There’s not a lot out there that shows you the innards of publishing, especially in Canada.

Jeremy: The idea was that it would be equal parts textbook and for general readers so we tried to write it and market it that way. We’re trying to reach out to people who are like us a couple of years ago, flailing around not quite sure of what to do. If we had something like this at our fingertips, it probably would have made the decision easier if not immediate.

So what's your take on the whole debate about the publishing industry's future in this digital era?

Britanie: There are people so stringent on keeping print that they ignore digital completely. One of our major points in this digital series is that it’s not that there is no place for digital or print. There’s a place for both. The industry just hasn’t discovered which is which yet. There are certain books that should be digital and should only be digital. There are other books that cannot convert into digital. Like coffee table books. You want to be able to hold that in your hand and see those colored pictures. There are children books that have felt in them and that just can’t be replaced. That physical experience. This is all happening so fast that the industry just hasn’t quite caught up on how to market them and sell them differently. Instead, they put out a copy of both and let the consumer decide, which is a bit inefficient when you think about it in terms of cost. But it’s all they can do to keep up with everyone else. Publishers haven’t had time to sit back and question if this really makes sense.

Jeremy: The other thing is that publishing is, by nature, very conservative and that mostly comes down to the people that work in it. It’s partially a generational thing and partially an attitude. Those who get into publishing obviously love books so there’s a tendency to idolize and fetishize the book as an object. There’s also the generational aspect because we’re right on the cusp of the digital transformation. But we’re at the point now where the people who have the decision making powers either don’t have or don’t want to have any experience with the digital world. They just naturally resist it. So it’s very difficult to convince them of the switchover. That’s going to ease up in the coming years but it’s a major bone of contention right now.

Britanie: We want to stress that coming into publishing right now is not a disadvantage. You’re very much in an advantage in that you see the market differently: how we can market these books, how we can reach different audiences with different platforms. Executives in publishing companies have been in this for so long that they’re trying to squeeze new ideas into old models and it’s not something that can happen. It’s a clash. The whole process of publishing needs to be reformed.

You're both graduates from the post-grad certificate program in Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. Have you been given digital training as part of this program?

Jeremy: As much as possible. But there's a lag time between reality and teaching. Rather than teaching us directly how to use digital platforms, it was more of a philosophical stress. Be aware that you are in a time of massive change. Be ready for it as needs require.

Britanie: They were very honest. If there was something that they weren’t very sure of, they told us. In terms of actually creating the e-books, like coding, it’s not even at the point where they’re offering that ability. It’s mostly because there’s no standard to teach a student. So for example, Apple has different standards for an iBook than Amazon. Amazon has different standards for the Kindle. Kobo has different standards for it's e-reader as does Sony. So you’ve got four different platforms and on top of that, each one is constantly updating their standards. To try to formulate a program right now and teach a student on how to code an e-book would be near impossible and I assume that’s why it hasn’t happened yet.

Jeremy: I do some digital production work for an educational publisher and every single book project is completely different. There’s much more emphasis on being trained in-house by the publishing company than a universal way to do things across the industry. This can be very alarming to some people if they don’t want to be off on their own accord and they want to be told exactly what to do every single time. But it’s a huge advantage for self-motivated, self-starters because they have all the freedom in the world. 

The first two titles in Britanie and Jeremy's eBook mini-series, A Very Brief History of the Book Publishing Industry and The Editorial Department are now available on Amazon.com.

Read more about how to break into the publishing industry by reading my interview with Britanie and Jeremy on TalentEgg

Technology Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

I've just recently wrapped up a course with the Institute of Technology and Social Change (TechChange). If you know me or read this blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm deeply involved in the tech space. But recently I've also taken a keen interest in social entrepreneurship, a field that's been increasing in popularity over the past few decades. More recently, there has been a real movement of social entrepreneurs developing technological solutions to complex social problems. Naturally, I had to learn more. I storified what I've learned over the past few weeks along with some of my favorite readings and videos from the course. Enjoy!


Technology Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

Highlights from the Institute of Technology and Social Change's (TechChange) inaugural course on Technology Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship. For four weeks, we explored social media, mobile phone applications, and crowdsourcing tools for policy, advocacy and development.

Storified by Justine Yu · Thu, Nov 01 2012 22:19:23


We kicked off the course with an introduction to social entrepreneurship, deconstructing the term and exploring the current landscape. The article below from the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is one of my favorite readings from the course. Making a case for a definition that sets clear boundaries as to what and what does not constitute social entrepreneurship, it's a great introductory read for anyone just beginning to learn about the sector.
Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition (SSIR)Nonprofits The nascent field of social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly and attracting increased attention from many sectors. The term...
An interesting question was brought up by the TechChange facilitators and moderators: Does the financial model of an enterprise necessarily determine whether or not it is an example of social entrepreneurship? In other words, does social entrepreneurship need to have a profit-generating business model? Some responses...
JUSTINE: "I’m not sure if a profit-generating business model is necessary to qualify an enterprise as an example of social entrepreneurship but I do think that financial sustainability is vital. How an enterprise achieves this (through profits, grants, etc.) is another question. It’s essential that a social enterprise be financially sustainable so that it may do its work without disruption. If, according to the article, a social entrepreneur aims for “large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large”, then his or her enterprise must have the financial means to do so. I’ve worked with a number of non-profit organizations that, relying on conditional grants and inconsistent donations, have been burdened with financial hardship and their programs have suffered as a result. It would be difficult (impossible??) to create large-scale social change without a financially sustainable enterprise!"

MANUEL: I have often thought of social entrepreneurship as using business-acumen to fill in the gaps where government infrastructure and provision is failing in order to deliver public goods (e.g. energy, water, healthcare, and education).  In addition, social enterprises should operate with a vision to achieve social impact.  In fact, I tended to hold the view that the enterprise needed to generate a self-sustaining profit, without which they would simply be classified as a nonprofit.
As many of the students in the class are interested in starting their own social ventures, we also discussed the importance of mission statements. Below is another interesting article from SSIR that advocates for organizations and enterprises limiting their mission statements to eight words. I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare's "brevity is the soul of wit" so I'm all for this...though I'll be more lenient and give a ten word allotment!
The Eight-Word Mission Statement (SSIR)Don't settle for more. Whatever windy drivel they might put forward as a corporate mission statement, mainstream for-profit businesses ha...
...and here's Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, on her experience starting up this wildly successful social venture. It's a wonderful TED talk and just full of Jackley's optimism.
Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and lovetedtalksdirector


Design thinking--an approach totally unknown to me before this course--is all about using design techniques to tackle complex social problems. It's about working closely with users to usher innovations from the bottom up. Reminds me of Eric Ries' Lean Startup.
Design Thinking for Social Innovation (SSIR)Designers have traditionally focused on enhancing the look and functionality of products. Recently, they have begun using design techniqu...
A really insightful presentation and chat with Adam White, co-founder of Groupshot, about technology-based solutions for social problems.
TC108:Adam WhiteTech Change
SocEnt and Tech- TechChange and Amani.pdf - Google Drive


We explored various social innovations in the field...all tackling very different social problems but all leveraging technology for solutions.
Digital Green: www.digitalgreen.org
Digital Green in ActionAdam Booher
tem_computer_0608.pdf - Google Drive
TurboVote: www.turbovote.org

TC108 Katy PetersTech Change
Social media and advocacy
Katherine MaherTech Change
mGovernment (mobile government) initiatives
Parliament Watch: abgeordnetenwatch.de
Gregor HackmackTech Change


Though we covered high level technological solutions, our class also shared simple, everyday tech tools that we could all use to run our nonprofits and social enterprises more efficiently. Nick kicked off the discussion with a run down of the tools he and his team use at TechChange.
6 Tech Tools for Growing Your Social EnterpriseTech Change
MAX: Evernote is another great one, not just for remembering things, but also for keeping a real-time updated set of notes between team members. We created a username that several of us had access to and could put down anything important we thought of using our smartphones. People at home can log in and check anything we’ve added on computers as well and add their own notes.
- Fluid Surveys: Wonderful survey tool; more functions than SurveyMonkey if you are using the free version.

– Lucid Chart Very quick way to produce flow-charts if you don’t have MS Visio!


- Salesforce Chatter for collaboration and communication

- Ning groups to manage relationships with some customers and partners

- Skype and other VoIP technology to cut communications costs

- WebX for presentations and demonstrations

- Twitter and WordPress for micro-blogging and blogging

- LinkedIn for recruiting (and Twitter)

- Drupal for content management, Intranet


- Google Drive/Dropbox: We’re a pretty dispersed team of people. We’ve got team members working in all corners of the globe so having our working documents on the cloud is essential.

- Google Analytics: Fantastic way to keep track of stats and analytics for our website. Gives us a great understanding of how visitors our using our website: where they are clicking, their paths throughout the website, and how long they stay on the site or when/where they drop off.

- CrazyEgg: This one goes hand in hand with Google Analytics…the tool specializes in eye tracking, generating heat maps for our website showing us where people are looking and clicking.

- Zoho: We are currently in the middle of implementing this CRM software. Before this, we’ve been working to keep track of applications and trip participants through a clutter of Excel files and Google spreadsheets. Hoping this will make our work flow a lot smoother and a lot less frustrating.

- Facebook/Twitter: These two social networking sites have been vital to our success. Our biggest referral source for applications has been through word of mouth and Facebook especially has been an incredible tool to facilitate that. 

- Hootsuite: Use this amazing tool to schedule Twitter posts in the future so that I don’t have to sit on my computer tweeting all day every day. As a dashboard, it’s also a great way to keep track of all the conversations going on about topics we’re interested in as an organization.

- Vertical Response: Email marketing tool.

- idealist.org: We post jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities here.

- Causevox:  A great fundraising tool that gives each person a unique and interactive fundraising page.


- Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress blog

- File-sharing: SugarSync, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, Jing (for screenshots and image sharing)

- Design: InDesign

- Research: LinkedIn. I admit that’s a strange choice but I find I use LinkedIn extensively to research people I’m meeting.


Armed with this knowledge, we're now off to apply our learning to the real world and begin cultivating our own social ventures. Another tech tool to help us on our way is Ashoka's Changeshop, a global marketplace where anyone with an idea for social change has the opportunity to track their progress, connect to new funding opportunities, and highlight their achievements for the public. Here are some of the inspiring ideas and projects members of the class are implementing...
Terah Crews' Access Elite
Access EliteAccess Elite
Manuel Peralta's Partnering for Vocation and Engagement
Partnering for Vocation and EngagementMy idea is to start an online vocational training/civic engagement match program with multinational corporations (MNCs), universities, an...
Aldo de Pape's aswegrow
aswegrowBuilding Classrooms for Quality Education #aswegrow believes each child has the right to a proper education that matches its needs and ef...

Roots & Shoots: A Social Media Workshop with the Jane Goodall Institute

I quietly snuck into the James Room at the Delta Chelsea downtown where I was giving a social media workshop for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada's Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The small but energized youth were in the middle of a networking activity assigned to them when I first walked in but I was happily greeted by a friend and old co-worker of mine from Journalists for Human Rights, Carissa. We'd worked closely together giving workshops on how to use social media to spread human rights awareness and it was nice to reconnect again.

The room was filled with the 12 dynamic members of the YLC who act as ambassadors of JGI's Roots & Shoots program, a network of youth creating positive change in the environment and fostering respect and compassion for all living things. We jumped right into the workshop by discussing the significance and magnitude of social media and how to communicate effectively on these platforms. Talking social media to youngins is one of my favorite things to do because they just get it. They are the digital natives and our conversation yesterday proved that.  I was struck by their depth of understanding and critical thinking when interacting with social media.

One of my activities for the group was to deconstruct Facebook posts from various non-profit organizations and to determine which ones effectively engaged their audience, which one's didn't and how those one could be improved. I was happily surprised when the group began debating what exactly constituted an engaging post anyway. Does a "like" or a comment constitute deep enough engagement? Or does it just represent another classic case of slacktivism (or as one participant referred to it: clicktivism)?

It's a question I've struggled with while working for different NPOs and it's one that I don't readily have an answer for. For NPOs (and for businesses too), a "like" doesn't really mean much if it doesn't translate into some sort of deeper action...whether it's a donation, signing up to get involved, or spreading the word and raising awareness. Unfortunately, most interactions on social media are shallow acts under the guise of true and deep activism/involvement.

I showed a couple of posts from NPOs that encouraged their audience to "like" a post or tag themselves in photos (you'll catch 'em in the slideshow above) and one participant expressed her disdain for "cutesy" and "cheap" posts like that. I agree with her and was so happy that someone brought this up. But I do think that NPOs need to find a balance between these kinds of posts and serious messages with specific and impactful calls to action (like donating, volunteering, etc.). Although it might not seem to mean much, the act of "liking" a post can have important ripple effects. That post could show up on a friend's Facebook feed and lead them to click on that organizations' page and learn more about their projects. Maybe that friend is someone who actually wants to get more deeply involved and ends up signing up to volunteer for a local initiative. It's not easy to track or measure things like that but leveraging word of mouth and increasing brand visibility is one of the key opportunities that NPOs really need to take advantage of. 

All in all, it was really a lively workshop with a lot of healthy debate and valuable insights to draw from. It was refreshing to see a group of youth critically assess social media and consider ways to make something as seemingly simple as a Facebook posting into a conduit for deeper social engagement. Looking forward to seeing what the YLC gets up to this coming year!

Follow Roots & Shoots on Facebook and Twitter.

Bridging the Worlds of Social Media and Contemporary Dance

Last week I sat down with The Chimera Project, a unique and edgy contemporary dance company in Toronto, for a social media workshop. You'd think social media and contemporary dance would be worlds apart but the truth is that the two actually complement one another wonderfully. Social media is all about building and cultivating a community and it just so happens that contemporary dance (and dance in general) already has such an organic and vibrant community around it. This comes as no suprise because really, is there anything that brings people together more than the arts?

Below are the slides from the social media workshop with some tips on how dance companies can form a social media strategy and engage their followers. What's important to remember is that social media provides an amazing opportunity for dance companies to tell their story beyond the stage and to continue celebrating the beauty of physical movement with an audience that is truly passionate about their work.