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August 29, 2007

Reading List

As promised, here's the reading list :

(See my previous entry explaining what the list is for.)

Reading #1: Internet Infrastructure
http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet-infrastructure.htm/printable

Reading #2: Web pages
http://www.howstuffworks.com/web-page.htm/printable

Reading #3: O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Paper & Followup
http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228
http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/08/not_20.html

Reading #4: Riding the Waves of Web 2.0
http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/189/report_display.asp
*also required: Life With Alacrity: Tracing the Evolution of Social Software: http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/10/tracing_the_evo.html

Reading #5: Pew Report - The Future of the Internet
http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/188/report_display.asp

Reading #6: Google vs. Osama
http://mydigimedia.com/2007/08/17/from_the_um_i_dont_think_so_de.html

Reading #7: Google vs. Osama, Part 2
http://www.buzzmachine.com/2007/08/18/just-kidding/

Reading #8: Yahoo
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/100_days_for_yahoo_intro.php

Reading #9: Yahoo, Part Deux
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/top_10_yahoo_properties.php

Reading #10: What is RSS?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(file_format)

Reading #11 - 12: Micropersuation
This week, please read Steve Rubel's Micropersuation Blog every day. Make sure to also read his bio and profile so that you know who he is and where he's coming from... It is located here: http://steverubel.typepad.com/

Reading #13: Jay Rosen
Watch this 30 minute video:
http://s3.video.blip.tv/0250000362552/Americanmicrophone-AM019JayRosen172.mp4

Reading #14: Citizen Journalism
Read the following articles:

http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=83126
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/18/AR2006061800618.html
http://cjrarchives.org/issues/2003/5/alt-rosen.asp

Reading #15: The jurnos vs. blogger war
http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/01/21/berk_essy.html

Reading #16: The jurnos vs. blogger war Pt. 2
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/024644.php

Reading #17: Content - 1
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/newser_human_edited_news.php

Reading #18: Content - 2
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/blogging_ethics_disclosure.php
http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php

Reading #19 - 20: Widgets
This week, I want you to read the Sexy Widget blog every day: http://www.sexywidget.com/

Reading #21: Multimedia tutorial
http://journalism.berkeley.edu/multimedia/course/choose/?mode=course

Reading #22: Storyboarding
http://journalism.berkeley.edu/multimedia/course/storyboarding/?mode=course

Reading #23 - 24: Rising From Ruin
This week, spend time on the Rising From Ruin site at MSNBC. (It will take you more than a month to get through all of the content - so do the best you can.) This site has won every major digital journalism award and then some... http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/stories.html

Reading #25 - 26
This week, spend time at MediaStorm: http://mediastorm.org/

Building a Better Business Model for Journalism

Tomorrow night marks the beginning of a new graduate class I'm teaching at Temple University, where I've been on the adjunct faculty for the past few years. The official title of the course is "Web Publishing," and I've decided that come hell or high water, we're going to try and develop a working model for sustainable journalism. One that doesn't rely 100% on advertising.

The 18 or so folks in my class have already been out in the field working. Many of them know what challenges our industry faces now - and they're just as interested as I am in making sure that good storytelling and solid reporting aren't supplanted by ad-supported sites with questionable ethics.

We're going to learn multimedia techniques: audio, video, the whole ball of wax. More importantly, we're going to rip apart current publishing trends to see if we can't innovate a more entrepreneurial approach towards pushing content. We'll look at metrics (how and why). How advertising in the future might impact publishing. The push to involve citizen journalists. What kinds of stories work best online. How to attract a "sticky" audience.

In the end, my hope is that we'll have developed a workable plan to fund traditional journalism across non-traditional platforms.

(Will post our reading list next. If you'd like a copy of the syllabus, email me: contact @ mydigimedia [dot] com.)

 

August 28, 2007

R.I.P. WaPo Radio

Next month will mark the end of WTWP 107.7 FM (1500 on the AM dial), Washington Post Radio.

...wait, you're likely thinking. What radio?!

That was part of the problem. Since the spring of 2006, WTWP was broadcasting news and commentary a la NPR. The idea - and I agree with it in principal - was that storytelling would bring the audience, regardless of platform. WaPo has obviously mastered the art of connecting readers to vital information about their communities.

But it always struck me as odd that at a media organization known for advancing the cause of digital radio, WaPo Co. execs would leverage its brand and whatever capital was necessary to co-launch a terrestrial radio station with mid-sized broadcaster, Bonneville International Corporation . Especially since there are dozens of ways (and there have been for years) to broadcast audio content on the web.

Here's what the WaPo's own Marc Fisher had to say in a blog post this morning:

Not long after Post Radio launched, National Public Radio helped local public stations WAMU (88.5 FM) and WETA (90.9 FM) finance a series of focus groups with listeners "to help us see what Washington Post Radio would mean to us," said Caryn Mathes, general manager of WAMU, the third-most listened to public station in the nation, after outlets in New York and San Francisco.

The four focus groups were united in their perceptions of Post Radio: Listeners said that after they tuned in to the Post station, which launched with the slogan "There's always more to the story," "there wasn't more to the story," Mathes said. "People felt the station didn't deliver on deeper, more insider kind of stuff from the reporters who were on the air."

For the Post's hundreds of reporters and editors, going on the radio was something new. From the start, some people were good at it, some were just awful and a lot perhaps had potential, but didn't have much idea of what we were doing. This was learning by doing--in a very public way.

Listeners had every reason to wonder what had happened to the increased depth they had been promised. Print editors accustomed to a more serious news menu clashed with radio producers who argued that their medium required a more populist and lowbrow selection of stories. In each newsroom, too many people rolled their eyes over the cluelessness of their cross-town partners.

Speaking as a listener myself, I wasn't enthralled with what I'd heard on the radio - I found myself slumping in my seat, much like I did remembering my own adolescence watching Superbad.

But here's what was super-worse: the station wasn't programmed well for the web. The iTunes link led me to a maze of other sites. (Shoutcast was among them, and I was able to see WTWP's web traffic and unique listeners at any given time because the stats weren't hidden.) But the most I ever heard was an 18-second advertisement that reminded me of why I dislike commercial radio so much.

It all comes down to content, yes. But the delivery mechanism has to work, too. And people have to want to participate - after a few tries, I gave up and, until this morning, didn't look back.

 

August 24, 2007

YouTube Launches Ads; Developers Already Blocked 'Em

Less than a week after YouTube rolled out new embedded ad overlays on video content, Netscape developer Chris Finke has already released a useful Firefox extension. It's called TubeStop, it works beautifully, and it'll guarantee that you don't see any ads...well, unless Tay Zonday starts sipping a Coca-Cola in his Chocolate Rain followup.

Download and have a go here.

More to the point, it's obvious that we're avoiding online advertising unless something - interesting content, say - compels us to watch. Marketers will continue finding ways to insert ad material into digital content, but programmers will always find a way to block it.

And that's the central problem that's plagued the media industry since its inception. Journalism needs to be separate, independent. Marketers need a vehicle to promote their publication. And media consumers just want to listen to/ read/ watch what interests them.

I'm starting to think that highly-speficied, content aggregators are going to be the future vehicle for media distribution. Hell, look at the rumors surrounding a proposed targeted ad module for Facebook...

Promotion Alert: ONA Conference Oct. 17-19

I'm helping to plan this year's Online News Association conference (I'm coordinating all of the business track sessions and helping out with the Super Panel). I know that October is a busy conference month, but I can guarantee you that the ONA gathering in Toronto this year will be spectacular.

We've got Ross Levinsohn (former prez, Fox Interactive), Hilary Schneider (EVP, Yahoo!), Ian Clarke (thoof), Dan Froomkin (WaPo's White House Watch), Mindy McAdams (interactive guru), Anil Dash (Six Apart), Erik Schwartz (foneshow), Meredith Artley (LATimes.com), Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion and Edelman), Sree Sreenivasan (Columbia's J-School Dean), Brian Gruber (Fora.tv), Robin Miller (Slashdot and others), Jay Rosen (NYU) and many, many other bright minds.

So here's a plug: If you're interested at all in this online journalism stuff, and you'd like to spend three days talking shop and learning new multimedia skills, come to the ONA conference. You don't have to be an ONA member, and you don't have to be a journalist working for the mainstream media. Students are welcome, too. You can find specifics here. Registration here.

Oh, and thanks to our current Administration, Americans will need to brandish a valid U.S. passport to get into Canada.

Want more info? Give me a shout. And if you're planning to attend, definitely let me know - Oct. 18th is my birthday, and I'll be hitting folks up for drinks...

August 22, 2007

Blogger Credentials

How's this? The press invite for BlogWorld and New Media Expo - the "world's largest blogger convention" - is being circulated, and apparently the only folks eligible for credentials are those accredited by their official local press corps.

To wit:

Press credentials are open only to accredited members of the professional media and will require submission of articles and verification that you intend to write for a publication on the conference.

Nice!

(via Jen Kronstain via Information Week.)

5000 Web 2.0 Apps in 333 Seconds

This ought to either impress - or depress - you. SimpleSpark tracks new Web 2.0ish applications and indexes them according to function. As of this post, they've tracked 5132, and they're ripe for your exploration.

SimpleSpark just launched a video showing 5000 of the first applications they tracked in a mezmorizing, uber-montage video. Watch it and get inspired...or in my case, realize that you have a hell of a lot more work to do.

Another thought: with all these new applications and so many other launches daily, what's the value of this flooded market? And who's calling the shots?

via Josh Catone @ Read/WriteWeb.

PolyCola: Split-screen searching

From Arbel Hakopian, the maker of GahooYoogle, comes PolyCola - a super-charged dual search engine interface.

The name is bizarre, but the site works beautifully. Mix and match Google, Yahoo, Windows Live, Ask, Dogpile, Altavista and (inexplicably) AOL Search. You can even narrow results further by searching only news, video, web, images, etc. Standard Boolean definitions work, too. Oh, and there's a Firefox extension to boot.

Google Fails at Something?!?

It's 10:37 a.m., and I've been attempting to get through all of my morning reading. Today, I had a small list of various blog entries to visit, and they all happened to be via blogspot accounts. For more than an hour, I've been getting this same error:

Did a server farm somewhere on Google's campus go (gasp!) dark??

August 17, 2007

Dig Up Digital Dirt: People Searching

There've been a number of new search tools released in the past few months. Here's a roundup to help you search for sources while working on your next story.

You can also download a PDF version to keep on your desktop here.

 *Creative People Searches (General)


Spock (http://www.spock.com)
Spock is now in public beta and delivers thorough results on people.  It pulls content from other websites and allows users to enter their own information, wiki-style.


Pipl (http://pipl.com/)
Pipl searches the deep web to find information hidden within databases and other areas that standard web crawlers can’t or won’t search. 


Wink (
http://www.wink.com)
Wink is a smart search tool that pulls information only from social network sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo and Facebook.


ZoomInfo (
http://www.Zoominfo.com)
ZoomInfo offers two search strategies, free and paid.  The site is geared to recruiters, but it offers plenty of leads for reporters, too.  You can search by person, by a person within a company, or just by a company.


*Search Across Networks


Infopirate (http://www.infopirate.com
)
Infopirate allows users to share their bookmarks, which reporters can then use to look up individuals or companies.


Sputtr (
http://www.sputtr.com)
Sputtr offers single search window with many different options:  Type in “Second Life” and search through YouTube, Flickr, Digg, etc. by selecting your button of choice.


Whonu (
http://www.whonu.com)
At Whonu, search through images, videos, news, maps, blogs, books, calendars, notebooks and more.  After, you can share or bookmark your search results.


*RSS/ Blog/ Podcast Searches


Blogdigger (http://www.blogdigger.com)
Blogdigger is a powerful search tool that digs only through blogs to retrieve information.


Everyzing (
http://www.everyzing.com)
At Everyzing, search only for audio or video files for information.



* Search The Zeiggeist


Omgili (
http://www.omgili.com)
Search through what people are saying in forums and discussion boards.


Pixy (
http://www.pixy.com)
Mega-search for images and videos on dozens of journalism/ news sources, now divided by category.



*
For Fun


Gahooyoogle (
http://www.gahooyoogle.com/)
Search through Google and Yahoo on one combined split screen.


Gizoogle (
http://www.gizoogle.com)
Return Snoop Dog-flavored search results.

 

From the "Um, I don't think so..." Department

Who hasn't yet seen the incendiary editorial from the LA Times this morning? You know, the one saying that publishers say (because apparently the Times wouldn't) that Google is "a greater threat to [publishers'] livelihoods than Osama bin Laden."

The editorial lambasts the recent Google announcement to allow unmoderated comments after stories published on Google News. And since Google News is aggregating content from newspapers that don't allow any comments, let alone unedited ones, the Times would like to know what the value is in suddenly allowing folks to discuss the news without a recess aid.

To wit:

The essence of good journalism is asking the right questions. Google, however, won't ask anything of those who submit comments. According to the company's announcement, its only interest is that the submissions are authentic, not that they're relevant or even truthful...

There will be some valuable responses too, plugging holes in stories or correcting mistaken impressions. Google, however, won't help readers separate the factual wheat from the public-relations chaff -- a reminder that Google may strive to be the world's index, but it's not journalism.

This editorial is emblematic of just how troubled our industry is right now. It's another indication that traditional news media outlets don't fully understand not how, but why the 'net works. On the print side, newspaper consumers have an expectation that their morning paper will have a certain number of local news stories, sports stories, a recipe or two, some editorials and a handful of letters to the editors. Sure, I'm generalizing, but the point is that American newspapers have succeeded in branding themselves into a corner. Part of the problem is that newspapers are static in both form and content. Think of what happened when the New York Times announced a reduction in size... or what happened with the Journal went color. Bedlam!

Print pubs are, by nature, static. Broadcast news changed that mindset just a bit, and if we all remember what happened when the first episodes of the Today show were airing, publishers all thought the end was near. But the industry adapted and survived.

It's transition time again - but rather than feverishly working to adapt and adopt, we're crying foul: Google isn't playing nice! Where's the lady with the whistle when you need her? Isn't someone going to give Google a detention?!?

The Internet is by nature and, well, in terms of its technology, dynamic. That means that it's bound to change and evolve much more quickly than we're able really comprehend. The whole reason we now have 70 million blogs indexed is because the Internet offers an adaptive, open publishing environment. Anyone can play, and for the most part, there are few or no barriers to entry.

While the 1990s saw the first transition - folks pushed content out to their consumers - the mid-2000s are seeing the second: participation. Why are sites like Facebook and Flickr exploding? Because consumers have (1) become more technically savvy and willing to try new web tools during the past decade and (2) because more people than ever are able to participate in the digital conversation.

It is unrealistic to believe that consumers still want news only pushed one-way. Even if that news comes via a seasoned, trained journalist. The expectation has morphed dramatically - we want, and we have, the ability to talk back.

It astounds me that news organizations are continuing to discuss whether or not to allow comments on their websites. Or if those comments should be moderated. Or watched. Or whatever.

Of course consumers should be able to take a story and run with it. Ask more questions, contribute their own ideas. Hell, that's what I'm doing right here, no? Difference is that I'm talking here, on my blog rather than reacting to the Times' editorial over at LATimes.com. And for the many, many people who come to mydigimedia every day, you're reading what I have to say here - and not at the LA Times. Lots of times you're commenting here, too.

And guess whose site is benefiting from that traffic?

Moderation? Absolutely - comments should be moderated to some extent. I wind up with at least a hundred spam comments and trackbacks for porn or Viagra every day. But there are workarounds - easy tech solutions that don't require me to sit for hours going through each commenter.

And so what if a flack at the LA Times chooses to respond here, to explain the editorial board's viewpoint? In the editorial, the Times gives an example of how commenting may result in unfettered publicity:

For example, if The Times ran another expose on conflicts of interest within the Food and Drug Administration's drug-approval process, Google News would provide a forum for the FDA and any researchers or drug manufacturers implicated in the story to respond, unedited...

...As a result, the comments section is likely to be larded with spin, hype and obfuscation. A seemingly heartfelt comment may carry the CEO's name, but the words will probably have been typed by corporate flacks.

What's to stop the obfuscation around the water cooler at your office? Or the spin dished out on talking head "news" shows? Funny, I haven't seen anyone from the Baltimore Sun show up at my neighborhood bar to moderate a discussion between me and our district councilman about a recent story that appeared in the paper.

Point is, newspapers cannot - cannot - rebuke the web as it realistically functions today. Nor can they continue to stare at the ground, waiting to be told where their cheese moved. Or for that matter, where the cheese will be tomorrow.

 

August 16, 2007

Oy! The Philly.com and Yahoo! Partnership

Philly.com will get revenue via ads and links, and Yahoo! will get content. Guess I need to update that Web 2.0 chart to include new partnership deals...

Read the official Yahoo! press release here.

Philly.com, which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, joins 18 (or 19? numbers are unclear) paper publishers of nearly 400 newspapers. Those companies include GateHouse Media, Tribune Review Publishing Company (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) and many others.

Philly.com prez Eric Grilly was first out of the gate to bring Yahoo! into an ad distribution partnership with print while he was with MediaNews Group Interactive.

Again, why all the hubbub over Murdoch? Someone please remind me...

Links to other blogs/ sites covering the deal: paidContent, clickZ, Yahoo! Finance, Philebrity.

Rant No. 2: Domain Names

Grrrrrr. I've spent more time than I'd have liked to today attempting to find a name for a new set of digi-tools we're working on here at MyDigiMedia. Why did I say "name?" Because these days, there's just no point working on branding until you've nailed down an available URL. I tried removing vowels (requisite, these days). I tried using phonetic spelling. I tried using obscure, Edo-era Japanese words. At one point, I made up my own lingo!

Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

(By the way, all those are taken, too.)

So I looked up the guy who registered ehirs.com, which by the way, I created by randomly hitting the keyboard with my fist. Ask me for how much he was willing to part with that domain. No wait - put yourself in his place. How much would you dare to ask for a domain that resembles nothing at all in any language?

Four thousand dollars.

Four thousand dollars!

Time to rethink English. We're gonna have to develop a new language to accommodate the bajillions of make-believe real estate out there.

 

Rant: The Ken Burnsification of News

Two significant events occurred yesterday that've had me thinking. (Three, actually, if you include the fact that after losing my copy of Getting Things Done four times I finally found it in my office and was able to start reading...)

First - I started testing the Apple's new iLife and iWork '08. As much as Katherine Boehret (via Walter Mossberg) recently gushed platitudes about all the spiffy improvements, there are some very irritating - and potentially dangerous - bugs associated with each program. The new iWeb '08, for example, will overwrite some important files and without strategic fixing, you'll be hard pressed to open projects you'd created in the last version. The graphics and features in iMovie, an easy app to create web-ready video, make things more cumbersome (but yes, the program looks a lot more sleek on your desktop).

In the older (and current) version of iMovie, there's something called the "Ken Burns Effect," which means that you can zoom in or out of pictures as you narrate a voice over. The result is a modern moving picture, reminiscent of the work that characterizes a Burns documentary. I created a super quick example using pics from a recent Cubs game we attended back home in Chicago last month - have a look below.

 

Second - I spent a few hours watching video from various news outlets online yesterday. For example, at chicagotribune.com, I sat through a video about the trial of mobster Joey Lombardo. (I'd link, but there's no way to share.) A reporter read a script and showed either court sketches or photos of folks mentioned in the story as each was being quoted. The Greensboro News and Record had a video up about a local high school preparing for the fall football season. (Again, no sharing.)

And at the NYTimes.com, I watched video stories about nuns in Hollywood, Brooklyn artist Duke Rily and Karl Rove's resignation. In all cases, the photography used was very, very good (hell, it is the New York Times). The content was solid, too.

But the videos weren't that spectacularly compelling. And there weren't opportunities to embed or share those videos on other sites.

Meantime, someone uploaded a C-Span video to YouTube that had a brief intro voice over (this video is five minutes and it is Karl Rove's resignation speech) before offering straight footage of what happened. While the NYTimes.com video was slick, it missed something that I was promised in the title: Rove's speech. To be fair, the user who uploaded this particular video clip also inserted an unflattering picture of Rove at the end - but the video is what I'm talking about here...

Point is, what is the initial result of the recent video push at newspaper websites? Yes, yes - I know there's an argument to be made for traffic. On the other hand, most newspaper reporters and photogs aren't trained documentarians. Lots of the newspaper-produced video out there looks, well, Ken Burnsified. Like someone locked themselves into a dark room, went on 24-hour Civil War and Jazz bender and emerged as the "multimedia guy" for his newsroom armed with the Ken Burns Effect button.

As much as I disagree with Murdoch - more to the point, as much as I take issue with the disproportionate coverage he's getting compared to Google and Yahoo - his WSJ action plan calls for grand integration. And that's a good thing. TV news video is done best by TV news teams, and that video content doesn't necessarily translate well to the web. Newspapermen and women are used to writing copy for a print product - again, cutting and pasting doesn't resonate online.

Murdoch has talked about integrating systems in a comprehensive way. I think that idea has a lot of merit, and there's no reason other news orgs can't learn a little something from all this.

If a newsroom is going to offer multimedia training - and they all should - why not start out with the fundamentals of what makes for good web content? A journalist already knows what makes a good story. The trick is to train folks on what content from that story is best suited for the web. Don't just arm your reporters with sets of high-def cameras and audio recorders... Learning the technology is a piece of cake. But there's a shift in perception and understanding that needs to precede a big change...

...the Ken Burnsification of news isn't a bad thing, necessarily. After all, the man tells a damn good story. But there's a difference between a trained documentarian and the "Effect" button on iMovie, no?

August 15, 2007

Publish2 Live (beta-ish)

Scott Karp just unveiled his Publish2 project - the idea is to create an aggregated news site by journalists. And he defines jurnos in his introductory post just what that concept means:

Publish2 is a social network and 2.0 platform for journalists (and independent “news bloggers,” “citizen” journalists, student journalists, i.e. ALL journalists, BROADLY defined), which aims to put journalists at the center of news on the web by creating a journalist-powered news aggregator.

His team is using Drupal (open content management system) to power the site and the collective wisdom of journalists to feed it. Definitely read the first post - Scott lays out a good argument for why Digg and other aggregators are missing the mark.

But I have two thoughts:

First, isn't aggregating what jurnos were supposed to be doing anyway? Go out into neighborhoods, collect information, distil it down into reasonable chunks, then publish the important stuff for citizens...

Which leads me to thought number two: We've created a world that now requires more high-tech hunter-gatherers. All this easy publishing software has empowered the millions of folks out there with millions of things to say, and that's created much more open information than ever before. Hunting-gathering v 1.0 were social sites like Digg, del.icio.us, Reddit. The next phase requires a smarter shovel - so humans are back in the picture, helping to decide what's really relevant once again.

I just posted an entry about the semantic web (Web 3.0)...Publish2 is part of the beginning. Very, very excited to see where Scott Karp and team goes with this venture.

What Is Web 3.0?

What Is Web 3.0?

Defined by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Seoul Digital Forum.


Read what Nova Spivak has to say about Web 3.0 here. Nova is an entrepreneur and the mastermind behind Radar Networks, which is supposed to launch this fall...and I, for one, can't wait to see it!

From the article:

[Web 3.0] is expected to debut in 2007, will be more connected, open, and intelligent, with semantic Web technologies, distributed databases, natural language processing, machine learning, machine reasoning, and autonomous agents.

Why Is Data Visualization Popular?

A few days back, I posted this question about data: Why is it suddenly so popular?

Services like Many Eyes, Swivel and Data360 have taken off - they all enable you upload your data and then apply different tools to visualize it (create cool charts and graphs) online.

Tom Paper, the guru behind Data360, posted this comment - and I think it bears repeating:

I think it's because knowledge of the current condition, about most issues of social importance, is actually quite foggy. Businesses get good data because they've got money and pay strategy consultants a fair amount of money to figure things out; however, when it comes to issues like education, from the perspective of the parent, or health care, from the perspective of the patient, or global warming, from the perspective of the citizen of the world...there just isn't good data about what is so. Smart people or people who have money figure out what is so, but the rest of us grope along with the herd, knowing that a) something is wrong with education in our country, b) something is wrong with health care, c) something is wrong with global temperatures...but it's not always clear what to do about it besides jump on the bandwagon, join the herd and complain about the problem.

Social data will allow for better understanding of the current condition. If you know where you are and where you've been, it's usually pretty apparent where you want to go. One other factor which adds to cloudiness of current conditions is politics. Lawrence Lessig recently commented: "our government can't understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding." So politics by its nature tends to throw additional smoke bombs in the direction of what is so and what has been.

One last thought is an opinion: I believe that we are in the complete infancy of data visualization; there is a pulsating mass of data about what is so (at both very macro and very micro levels) that we are going to uncover in the next five to ten years. People who "get it" are often described as having good instincts; in the very near future, "getting it" will become a lot easier. More people will understand causal relationships, about what happens in their world and what happens within themselves.

I suppose I was thinking back to my college days or to various reporting gigs I've had. I always loved crunching numbers to see what story unfolded, even if the result was a scary-looking Excel spreadsheet. But I think Tom is on to something here...we absolutely want to understand our current condition better. We're fascinated with it, no? Look at Michael Moore's success, our fascination with lifestyle shows on TV (Biggest Loser)...lots of that content relies on some form of aggregated, crunched data that leads to a prophetic conclusion.

Call it practical math or digestible data...but I think that newsrooms ought to spend more energy using these kind of tools on their websites. If you offer "citizen journalism" content in the form of a story or blog, why not citizen data? If you've created an environment to check and vet your citizen video/ text/ audio/ photo content, how about data culled from public records?

Mobile Advertising - Without a phone

This made me stop. I was getting off of a train in DC recently and this interactive billboard caught my eye. It was a shelter area not unlike one you'd see waiting for the L in Chicago or for the subway in NYC.

Difference was the interactivity - this particular ad was for Target, and I could plug my headphones right into the damn thing and listen to a new CD the company was trying to sell.

Here's how something like this might apply to journalism. A news org might rig an interactive billboard with a handful of jacks, each offering a sponsored news clip. You could feature the bloggers/ columnists you're trying to promote, and the beginning could be a 10 second "this newsflash is sponsored by ### company" so that you could monetize while you market. Brilliant!

And now here's where I think it could really be neat - make that billboard wireless by sticking a receiver in. Could be as simple as wiring it with a Verizon card - and then offer streaming audio content from your website, or send updates to it throughout the day.

Since I'm on a mobile audio kick, here's another thought. We were visiting the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute over the weekend and found an area at the end for our iPods. If we wanted more audio commentary on the exhibit and on Tut, we could plug in, download from iTunes and take home an mp3 souvenir for free.

Turns out that I wasn't impressed with either the exhibit or the audio (Egypt didn't let out some of the better artifacts - you'll have to visit the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo to see the flashy stuff). Still, it seems like a good idea to make downloadable video or audio content available to folks when they'll likely already have gear on them...

August 11, 2007

Data Visualization: Prez. Bush's favorite words

Here's a great tool - especially for political reporters - that will enable you to upload a creative digi-feature to your news organization's website. It's called Many Eyes, a project by IBM, that enables extremely interesting data visualization. Not unlike Data360 and Swivel, Many Eyes will translate numbers into a pretty chart... it'll then be made public for commenting and sharing.

Many Eyes also has a feature that allows you to upload speech (transcripts, interviews, articles) and will create a tag cloud visualizing the number of times a particular word is said and showing the references. This could potentially be a great reporting tool (upload your transcript, learn more about the subtext by analyzing which words were said more often). Below, I compared the transcript of Bush's 2003 State of the Union to his 2007 iteration. Interesting to see which words changed...

[State of the Union 2003]

[State of the Union 2007]

And dig this - the damn thing works in foreign languages (well, at least the ones I speak). I pasted in the transcript of a recent speech made by Japanese Prime Minister Abe and it worked...kinda sorta worked. It visualized sentences and phrases rather than words - impressive, nonetheless!

One drawback: Right now, you have to upload data in order to create visualization charts, which means that your data (or interview, or transcript) is made available for public consumption.

I wonder why social data has become so popular suddenly... Many Eyes is a fantastic program, yes. But so is Data360 (if you haven't yet tried it, Tom Paper and crew were one of the very first to develop an online data visualization/ sharing tool). Swivel is cool as well...and there are lots more. Thoughts on why we're excited about socializing data?

Thanks to data guru Aron Pilhofer who introduced me to Many Eyes...

 

August 10, 2007

I Know About the Bugs...

...yes, I know that my blog is acting funky right now and that the comments, permalink and some of the redirects aren't working properly. Has to do with bugs still left after Yahoo! crashed. If you're a Movable Type developer out there and can help, I know the three specific things that are wrong...just don't know how to fix 'em. Give me a shout if you want to try.

Convert Text to MP3

The past few months, I've had several questions from folks about converting text-based documents into audio - and vice versa. I haven't found a fantastic voice to text solution just yet, but I did stumble upon this script to convert virtually any text into an mp3. (And it's easy!)

I know that I never get through everything I'd like to read during the day - this script will turn articles, blogs, documents, etc. into an audio file that you can take with you to the gym or on your commute. It works beautifully - if you want proof, I converted the script instructions below for you. Download here. This is for Mac users only and comes via Liana Lehua at Apple Phone Show. She also has instructions for Windows, though neither of us has tested to see if it works...

First, convert the file to .txt (plain text) . If you're on a web page, for example, you can simply copy and paste the story into Text Edit (this application comes standard on all Macs).

1. Make sure the document you want to use is converted to plain text and that your document is saved with the .txt extension.
1. Open Automator.
2. Add an action by searching for and dragging “Get Contents of TextEdit Document” from the menu on the left to the blank box on the right.
3. Add action: “Text To Audio File” and complete the fields: System Voice, Save As, and Where.
4. Add action: “Rename Finder Items (Make Finder Item Names Sequential)”. In the first drop down box, select “Make Sequential”. Select “Add number to existing name”. Place number “after name”, and separated by “dash”
5. Add action: “Import Audio File”. Select “AAC Encoder” and check the “Delete source files after encoding.”
6. Save the Automator workflow as “Text to Speech”. Go to File - Save as plug-in, and select Script Menu to save.

Now you are finished with Automator and only have a few more steps to complete. Continuing with the process:

7. Open the document in TextEdit.
8. If needed, make any modifications to the text at this time.
9. Select the Scripts menu located in your menu bar. It looks like a scroll or curly “S” and choose the “Text to Speech” workflow.

August 09, 2007

Who Owns What: Media v2.0

Think Murdoch's acquisition of the Dow Jones properties is scary? Then you haven't taken a look at Google's scorecard lately.

In the past year, Google has been hunting prospects and nabbing some of the most innovative communications tools out there. Among the group: GrandCentral, Feedburner, Panoramio, Tonic Systems, Adscape Media...the list goes on.

A few weeks back, I started compiling lists of major media companies and their acquisitions. I'm usually not surprised to hear that a deal's gone through...the DoubleClick announcement didn't rock the digital media world. But when I look at the companies in aggregate form, that gives me pause.

We're so darn concerned about what Rupert will do to the Journal, what will happened to Times Select next, whether or not reporters should be allowed to blog that we're losing sight of the bigger picture.

The central figure in that picture is Google, which by the way is hedging $4 billion to gain open access to the wireless spectrum.

The future of media isn't only about content, it's about delivery. While jurnos are busy bickering about whether or not to allow visitor comments on their websites, other companies are moving full-speed ahead with radically different business models. They're thinking broadly: aggregator + search + content + mobile + gaming = sustainability.

So strike that paragraph above. It is about content, and content will ultimately save journalism. It seems to me that the smartest thing for us to do is to develop alternative ways to communicate news to consumers - and to think about convergence in terms of broad media consumption, rather than paper-broadcast partnerships.

The Who Owns What v2.0 chart is downloadable here. Pin it to your cubicle wall...then take a few aspirin. It's going to be an interesting few years ahead.

(And if you notice a correction, please let me know. The chart doesn't have every acquisition - there wasn't enough space.)

 

August 08, 2007

Tooting Horns...

Congrats to sometimes MyDigiMediaGroup contributing team member Sarah Ruddy (and former employee at Dragonfire), who just launched a fairly impressive online catalog for the New York Times Syndicate this morning. Have a look - I like how the pages move using multiple directions...

August 07, 2007

Murdoch Already Stirring Up Trouble...

I still get print editions of a few newspapers and magazines. One of my subscriptions is to the Wall Street Journal.

This morning, I was surprised to find this gem in the Opinion section:

Bad Advice for Lindsay Lohan
by Stanton Peele

People have been offering advice to Lindsay Lohan since she relapsed soon after leaving her last stint of rehab. Now that she's entering another clinic, it's time to reevaluate many of these recommendations. Following are the four main mistaken pieces of advice...

Has the Journal already thrown in the towel? Better yet, does anyone think that Lohan has the capacity to read a piece about her ability to survive rehab in a financial newspaper?

Peele's grand summary:

Ms. Lohan needs to grow up, realize her talents and find ways to fill her time that aren't self-destructive

And now, I offer you commentary from another of my regular reads, Star magazine (Aug. 13, 2007, p. 43):

Promises Malibu Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Facility has helped many celebrities battle addictions, but Lindsay's stay didn't keep her out of trouble... a doomed love affair while in rehab sent her spinning into a deeper downward spiral that ended with a total meltdown - and her latest arrest on July 24.

Meantime, the New York Post is reporting that the New York Times is about to set its content free:

After much internal debate, Times executives - including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. - made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, according to a source briefed on the matter.

The timing of when TimesSelect will shut down hinges on resolving software issues associated with making the switch to a free service, the source said.

Why? Murdoch fear. Rumors are circulating that he'll change the WSJ's budget model to include more (or universal) free content...

And his name isn't even on the door yet...

 

August 04, 2007

Liveblogging the CapitolBeat multimedia panel...

I'm at the CapitolBeat conference in Philly, where I gave a presentation on using web-based tools to deliver content online. (If you were there and didn't get a software CD before they ran out, give me a shout and I'll drop a copy in the mail to you.)

From Besty Russel of the Spokesman Review:

SpokesmanReview.com broadcasts its newsmeetings live twice a day. There's a "transparent newsroom" section on the main page with "notes from our daily news meetings" and an "Ask The Editors: We answer your questions about our editorial decisions and operations" section. I haven't seen this - at least not this prominently - on other news websites yet, and I think the transparency section is a fantastic idea. Also great for jurno students who want insight into how newsroom managers' meetings go... They have a "mo-jo"... a mobile journalist.

Mark Binker of the Greensboro News & Record is talking about blogging. Says to use blogs for short takes of stories you're currently reporting on. Include links to source info.

Next up is Chris Krewson, Online Editor at the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. Says he doesn't want any more reporters blogging by themselves... wants instead topic-based blogs with multiple contributors. Wants updates at least three times a week, not necessarily throughout the day, every day. Says that online, other newspapers aren't your competitors. Says that news orgs should certainly link out to every other media publishing that story online. Audience wants as much information as they can get online.

Aron Pilhofer (NYT CAR team), Tiffany Shackelford (Stateline.org) and I had a frank discussion about the use of blogs in a newsroom during our panel. We tried to explain that blogs aren't the place for jurnos to post snippets of newspaper stories. That they can't be published the same way that a newspaper is published...a one-way communication street. Doesn't work that way.

I don't understand why journalists have jumped on the blogging bandwagon without understanding fundamentally how and what blogs are. Blogs are about community. They're conversations that happen in the comments section. They're collaborative. There's no point in having a newspaper produce a hundred blogs if reporters are just repurposing what either didn't make it into the paper or wasn't ready for a full story.

Meredith Artley, new Exec. Ed. at the LAT is using blogs for breaking news...and they're doing a fantastic job of it.

August 01, 2007

Google Maps in Africa!

From cit-j guru and lately my favorite cartoonist Danny at Journalistopia:

Interactive Timelines Made Easy

I've been playing with xtimeline, a new digital tool that enables anyone, regardless of coding ability, to create and share an interactive timeline online. Comes from Famento Inc. - not able to see who's in the group, but on paper they've incorporated in Delaware.

Using xtimeline, you can upload a spreadsheet (year, event) and a timeline will automatically be generated. Later, you can add pictures and links. Famento just announced that users can now automatically create timelines from RSS feeds.

Have a look at a timeline about newspapers in the Twin Cities:

 

A few problems: you can't really customize the layout of the timeline template, which means that white space can be a problem if multiple years separate events. I also resized the timeline to embed wihin MyDigimedia - and it doesn't look pretty. The original (and fixed size) is 928 wide - which can pose problems for some newspaper sites. See the full version of the Twin Cities timeline here.

Timelines posted on the xtimeline.com site include data from other sources around the web - so accuracy is a problem, as it has been for another data tool, swivel. But using this xtimeline within a newsroom and running numbers through the copy desk should protect data integrity.

On the other hand, timelines are easy to create, easy to share, and you can include lots of contextual information ... all without knowing a lick of code. Since you create a timeline on the site, it's automatically shared with the rest of the users/ site visitors. Slap some corporate branding inside the template and publishers may see a spike in traffic - especially if the timeline is creative. Pretty neat.


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