Decoding newquill: from literature to music and why.

I’m still finishing Jay-Z’s “Decoded” on my iPad. It’s difficult to find book reading time when you’re starting up a company. So this won’t be a “book review.” It also won’t be an “app” review. If you want to see a review of the app then check out this guy’s thoughts – he’s focused mostly on the flaws of the user experience with the app, and you can temper that with the Amazon reviews of the book to get a holistic understanding of “Decoded.”  My experience with “Decoded” has been an inspiration to take a leap of faith with our company.

We at newquill are building off of how learning is about the relationship between consumption and creation. This is the bridge we’re building. This post is a bit of a decoding itself – an explanation – for why we’re landing ourselves in the entertainment vertical with a specific focus on musicians. We’re still about learning, we’re still about literacy, we’re still about new media, but we’ve found our wedge – and we are in love with it.

“Art elevates and refines and transforms experience… [Artists] bend language, improvise, and invent new ways of speaking the truth.” - Sean Carter, aka Jay-Z

We started newquill because we want to make learning an enjoyable experience. We started building bridges between traditional learning and what students love to do. But the more time that we spent in the traditional space, the more we looked at classic literature and the more my romantic idealism for text wore off, the more we realized that it’s interaction with media – forced to happen outside of classroom – that really matters most.

The publishing conventions we went to, the education technology conferences we attended, the conversations we had with New York City teachers, taught us three very important things about 21st century learning:

1. Content isn’t the only king; connection is, also.

2. Traditional education technology companies are not interested in disruption as much as they are in solidifying market control. If change is going to happen it will have to come from the ground up.

3. Teachers love media as much as their students do – everyone learns from music, movies, and games.

So who are the real curriculum creators of the 21st century? Who are the socratic teachers of our time? The true philosophers? They are the performers, the programmers, the artists: the doers.

Music is our team’s passion. We’ve often been compared to a band based on how specific our talents are in making contributions to the creative process. Two of us have been in bands and make music. Ryan loves Animal Collective. I love Kid Cudi Remixes. Robert loves Creedence Clearwater Revival. Jackie loves David Tao.

So why not build a company around our collective passion? Why not help musicians share their stories through the convergence of art and science? Education psychologist Lev Vygotsky showed the world that learning happens through play. We’re taking his socio-cultural theory to the next level.

So, now’s the point where everyone should be holding their breath. Well, newquill, HOW are you going to do this?

Let’s just say:

We’re bringing vinyl back. And, in the process, we’re bringing sexy back. We can’t help it.

More to come.


Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Transmedia Navigation

Angels entertaining me unawares,
here in New York City.
Angels entertaining me unawares,
in New York City.

Angels are everywhere
open up your eyes and you’ll see them.
Angels are everywhere
open up your heart and you’ll meet them.

Angels are everywhere
open up your eyes and you’ll see them.
Angels are everywhere
open up your heart and you’ll meet them.

We came here from the city of angels
but coming from paradise we still need savings,
yo, we got a company,
but got no payment!
We’re already in the game,
but to keep on playing,
once we’re out of the dream – it
seems so mean -
so we got to be winning like Charlie Sheen.
we’re here to implore you -
on behalf of California
give us some cash
so we don’t become like California!
We’re still so young, just like little babies
to grow big and strong we had to be incubated,
we’re still in our infancy
we fight like infantry
just to get cash money
to extend out our runway
we bootstrap and stay low, still need many things
here’s how you can get your halo and angel wings
open up your hearts,
open up your wallets,
cause this team’s got brave hearts
like William Wallace.

Angels are everywhere
open up your eyes and you’ll see them.
Angels are everywhere
open up your heart and you’ll meet them.

Angels are everywhere
open up your eyes and you’ll see them.
Angels are everywhere
open up your heart and you’ll meet them.

newquill is a noun, a place and an experience,
that let’s you take your life and make it a remix
Take a long look
like it’s a piece by Piccasso
and let your thoughts out
thinking is our motto.
Take a close listen,
a leap into the deep end
a dive off a tablet
without needing a back end.
I’m having a blast when
I share with a passion
what makes it even better
is it helps me make cash, when
everything is mobile
why aren’t you on an iPad.
We’re global with Apple
It’s going to be tight, man!
a tip for investors
hit with thousands of pitches
keep your eye on the quill
together we’ll get riches
Cause we’re here to hit home runs
we’re about world series’ rings.
We’re here in New York:
concrete jungle made of dreams.
newquill is about progress in a world that won’t stop moving!
Take a chance with us because we believe in what we’re doing.

We ARE newquill.

I’m a rapper/teacher/CEO
and business is just freestyle
Ryan’s a musician
code is mathematics – the foundation of life.
Yo, I’m Harknasty (Dirtnasty). My rap debut.
Jackie Qi.

Angel List

Focus, Commitment, Consent: Glorious Creation

newquill came out of my frustrations of not being able to tell a media rich story about my life that, just so happened, to be media rich. Since the explosion of web 2.0, media has become a part of our social DNA. We identify ourselves through our pictures, our videos, our tags. It makes us who we are.

I remember sitting in my apartment in Northern China writing a chapter where one of the characters gets gastronomic surgery. I have never had a gastric bypass. I won’t get one. How am I supposed to know how to describe it? All I had to do was watch a YouTube video to see it – then I was able to write based on my interpretation of those images.

I listened to two albums most of the time I wrote my book – BT’s “This Binary Universe” and “Bound Together” – a remix soundtrack for a Super Nintendo game called “Earthbound.”

That set the destination for where I wanted to go: I wanted to be able to tell my story my way.

If I, the writer, was using media to write – why shouldn’t my audience use media to read? If I write a book that gains a huge following, why should I have to sell it to a movie studio to retell the story in a different way? Too many authors sell out and option their stories to big studios and let them take over the vision. In today’s day and age authors can be directors, producers, and distributors. The vision no longer has to be compromised.

But there has not been a platform that allows anyone, anywhere to become a modern renaissance storyteller. Until newquill.

It requires commitment – you make a pledge to get there with everybody else.

The four of us at newquill created our own rich multimedia version of a chapter of Huckleberry Finn and it was a real pain in the ass to do. We had to get an objective-c programmer to build the book as an app, we had to use InDesign to bind and format the story, and we had to use professional media recorded using ridiculously expensive equipment to bring to life a story everyone knows.

The 21st century should not be interested in duplicating old and inefficient ways of development – that is precisely where the ebook industry stands right now.

We are committed to making a tool that will allow anyone – anyone – to make it fun to collectively create and tell stories in the same way we experience them today. We know how it is to be on the other side. It sucks. We don’t want anyone – especially fellow creative geniuses – to have to go through all of that. We want newquill to do for the web what Gutenberg did for paper. Make it easy.

When you commit to reading you are committed to melding minds with the author – and joining an ephemeral collective of minds who have also read the book. When you commit to writing you commit to diffusing your thoughts – bearing your soul – to anyone and everyone while asking them to respond.

Reading and writing are inherently social. newquill will not let you forget that.

It requires consent – you recognize the power of yes and get out there with everyone else.

Consent is the most powerful force on earth. Every story we have ever heard we have consented to. We consent to the books we read. We are required to purchase or find the piece of literature and “open it up” for our eyes to take into our mind.

A more complex example of consent is cinema. Watching a movie at the theater is a complicated, multi-step process. We first decide what movie we want to see. Then we decide where we will see it. Then we travel to the location. Then we exchange money for a ticket. We give the ticket to the ticket man. We walk into a dark room and stare at a screen for a number of hours until we are told the story is over. Then we leave.

If that much consent is required for consuming a story – imagine how much consent is required to create one! We consent to imagination, to collaboration, to publishing our tale. Although newquill‘s shared creation experience will be simple, it will still require collective consent.

We at newquill has said yes to disrupting the publishing space by flipping the process upside-down.

There will be different users on newquill – some will want to have fun, others will want to produce high quality content to share with friends or sell in the marketplace. The difference between these users will vary based on their level of commitment – but, ultimately, they will all need to consent to the muse to belong to the community.

It is much easier to say yes when everyone else around you is saying yes. More importantly, the less people around you are saying no the more likely you are to say yes. newquill will create an atmosphere of yes – which doesn’t mean a license to make anything you want. On the contrary, newquill will provide the constraints needed for productive collaboration.

The Pareto Principle is often cited by crowd sourcing skeptics: 80 percent of people like to stand on the side of the dance floor while only 20 percent get out to dance. newquill wants to switch those numbers by creating many dance floors out of one to change the way people think about dancing with others.

We’re focused. We’re committed. We’ve given our consent to the newquill. We want you to do the same thing.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with.