Thursday, November 29, 2007

The future is now



I began my computer obsession in fourth grade, when my parents purchased their first PC, a Packard Bell 486 DX-II. That thing was freaking awesome. The cutting edge graphics, combined with the awesome sound card and Windows 3.11 For Workgroups was a virtual playground for my 10-year-old self. I used to spend hours clicking away, trying to guess what file names meant and opening MS-DOS programs.

Then, it happened. My 14-year-old brother arrived home with a fresh copy of Doom II, and the fragging began. I was blown away by not only the awesome graphics and the game's ability to take up hours of my life, but also the new venue of PC gaming. I had already enjoyed Mario's enthralling storyline on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but the graphic re-enactment of my favorite action and sci-fi movies blew me away, pun intended.

About four years later, I took a basic HTML class and helped assemble the St. Francis de Sales school Web site. We also put together basic personal sites (which remained offline). I was amazed at how quickly I picked up the ability to post photos of fast cars and animated skull and crossbones. This course was the bedrock of my web knowledge.

Fast forward to highschool and my parents Dell 8100. My poison of choice was Counter-Strike, an online first person shooter which used the Half-Life engine. This game became my passion for about 4 years. A number of tournaments and competitive league victories later, I moved to San Marcos and lost touch with computer gaming. I have recently began thinking about getting involved in the industry, and I believe it would be a good move.

Cindy Royal's arrival at Texas State could not have come at a better time for me. I needed a production course, and because I did not want to work with magazines, I chose Web Design and Production. I gained more working knowledge in this course than any other. The basic HTML came rushing back to me as Cindy began lecturing on it, and I crafted a decent (albeit rudimentary) personal Web site. This course gave me invaluable knowledge into areas of technology that I had not experienced before. While I feel I know the basics, more work is needed before I would be confident enough to get an assignment and just run with it by myself.

The Multimedia Journalism course was awesome, too. By combining the web production skills with journalism, Cindy gave us a great view into the future of the industry. It is foolish to ignore the web as a means of news reporting. I believe each project was meaningful, and will serve all of us as invaluable in the future. My favorite assignment, by far, was the video project. Todd Schaaf was a great partner and his thirst for Slurm cola is insatiable.

In conclusion, I am very glad I took both of Cindy's courses and I urge anyone who read this novella to take them. However, I will always be a PC guy, no matter how "uncool" that makes me. Long live computer gaming!

What I've learned after a semester of multimedia journalism

I know this sounds ridiculous coming from someone my age who has grown up using computers, but I kind of hate them. My hatred for computers stems from the fact that I’m not computer savvy. I don’t know how to use them. Honestly, before taking this class I pretty much only used my computer to send e-mails and write papers. I’m not claiming that computers aren’t useful. I use one every single day of my life, but now I see how much more relevant they are in my life now that I can actually use one to do something other that check my facebook.
After having taken this class, I have a new found respect for computers and technology in general. I no longer loathe computers because I’m so proud of the fact that I’m no longer computer illiterate. I have learned how to do so many cool multi-media things that are relevant to the direction in which journalism is now heading. All of the projects we have done on bobcat living are a testament to my growth. I did so many things that I didn’t think I would be able to accomplish. The hardest project for me I think was the first one. I had absolutely no idea how to put our stories into html because I didn’t really know what html was. (Sad, I know) I figured it out eventually with a lot of help from Cindy. My favorite projects were the photo essays and podcasts. The photo essays were cool because they were a creative way to tell a story without using words. I really enjoyed taking all of the pictures and putting the slide show together, even though I’m not a great photographer. The podcasts were fun because I got to interact with a lot of different people that I probably wouldn’t have talked to otherwise. I really like the idea of letting the subjects tell the story themselves.
One of the things that stuck out to the most to me over the course of this class was the prevalence of social networking. I had no idea how much social networking has changed the way we communicate as a society. I realize that social networking has grown to something that is so much bigger than just me checking my friends facebook accounts for new pictures.
I didn’t know blogs are as prevalent as they actual are. I don’t think I realized what blogs were used for before I entered this class and had to contribute to our blog. I am amazed that some people actually make a living doing this. I thought blogs were just something for lonely losers with nothing better to do. Now I understand that they are a huge part of the new journalism.
Also, I predict that Google will have taken over the world by 2013, at the latest, but most likely sooner. Heil Google!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shameless Plug - Multimedia Panel

The Society of Professional Journalists Texas State chapter invites you to join us for our last meeting of the semester, complete with free food and drinks, and a panel of professionals who work with multimedia, including:

~Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon from the Austin-American Statesman

~Dustin Coleman from 210 SA, and

~Dr. Cindy Royal, who teaches multimedia classes at Texas State

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29

Where: Old Main, Room 234

We hope to see you there!

Multimedia Journalism

After taking this course, I sincerely believe anyone who wants to enter the journalism field have multimedia knowledge. It’s the direction of the industry, and I’m glad I know more about these aspects of journalism.
I enjoyed the Bobcat Living projects.
My favorite was the SoundSlides project. I’ve worked in SoundSlides before, and I think it is a great tool for telling stories in a visually compelling way. It also gives you the opportunity to add audio and text.
I’ve thought a lot about how multimedia plays into journalism this semester. In the past, I hadn’t given it much of a glance. I just wanted to write.
But I am currently wrapping up an internship at 210 SA, a weekly publication in San Antonio. Originally, my job entailed writing stories. As the internship progressed, I took on multimedia assignments. My first was shooting video of an AIDS walk. Afterward, I was shooting and editing my own video on things like costume shops around Halloween and San Antonio chefs cooking with pumpkins.
Now, I have my own podcast with 210 SA that I record, edit and produce every week. It's called Art Attack, and it was a concept that I conceived and have carried through to the end. I consider myself fortunate to work in an environment that allowed me to do this. And I am glad that I learned the skills to apply my knowledge to a practical application. That has been the most rewarding experience for me this semester.
During one of our recent classes, many students said they were glad that they’ve learned how to shoot videos and make podcasts because of this class. But they said they still didn’t feel confident or prepared enough to ask for a job with these skills. I feel that my fellow students just need to bite the bullet and do it. We're just as capable of doing this stuff as the other journalism students and job-seekers out there.
I didn’t know how to edit a podcast earlier this semester, but I wanted to learn how to do it, and I learned. If my classmateas are capable of creating podcasts for class, then they have a great opportunity to apply those skills in a professional environment. The more we try and work at something, the more we will learn.
I guess my hope is that I see more of my fellow classmates taking advantage of the new prospects they have created for themselves by taking a class like this. We are at a new age of sharing and distributing information, and we have a wonderful opportunity as journalists to tell the stories we have been telling. The stories are the same. We still are guided by the same code of ethics. We are still journalists. It's our way of telling those stories that have changed.

Your/Our Future


When I was in the seventh grade, I took a basic computer class required of every student. It was boring for the most part: word processing, spreadsheets, how to un-jam the printer, things of that nature. However, one section covered web design and the Internet. Keep in mind that this was 1997 and web pages were very, VERY basic. But I was hooked.

Taking Multimedia Journalism this semester has just cemented my desire to focus on "new" journalism for my career. My favorite project thus far was making the video for YouTube. The subjects we interviewed seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and the feedback we received was nothing but positive.

The idea of being a journalist with these new skills is freakin' sweet. Not only can we write, but we can shoot video, take photos, and make awesome Flash packages. One can now do the work of many (which is where the fear of less job opportunities comes from). It's like we're Super Journalists. But at the same time, you have to wonder if these new abilities will somehow cheapen our mission: to bring information to the masses. If all new journalists are going to focus on new media, will the inverted pyramid disappear? Are we just exacerbating our flashy culture? And with blogs, is every citizen with a computer and a rant going to be given the same privileges of old-school journalists? All questions that will be answered in time.

Unfortunately, there is not enough time in just one (or two) semesters to learn everything we need to know about the convergence between print journalism and new media. Hopefully, Texas State will get the hint that their students are interested in the subject and will provide more classes in the future. Cindy has done the best she can (no brown nosing here- she has really worked wonders) to educate us about this new field, but there's only so much that can be taught in 16 weeks.

The coolest thing about what we're doing now is that the news is no longer a one-way street; it's a dialog between journalists, citizens, and subjects. There are more voices to listen to, and that doesn't mean there are less opportunities, just more stories. And that's what we're here for; to help tell those stories in new ways.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tech geek visions fulfilled

Just when I thought I knew what I was doing, I realized I knew nothing at all.

Multimedia Journalism has helped me learn new tips and tricks for creating online content, which I know will be invaluable as I enter the job market in the future. Prior to this course, I had some skills in video editing and very, very basic web design knowledge. As the semester progressed, I started remembering more and learning new things about the technology.

Perhaps what I didn't realize I would learn in this course is news and information about technology, which I would dabble in on occassion, but now I find myself reading more about Google's takeover of the world and closely following the every move of Apple. This class was the first to emphasize multimedia and techonology news, particularly from publications such as Wired, which I had never read before prior to this semester.

I have always considered myself a wannabe technology geek. Now I have extra motivation to learn more about multimedia because I find it not only fascinating personally, but I am seriously considering it as the route I would like to take as a journalist. I love writing and reporting, but I'm always proud of myself when I can take that a little further and create something visual for as story as well.

What Learned in class this semester: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

When I look back on the semester in my multimedia journalism class I realize there is a whole world of possibilities for a career in this field. Also I think about all of the new things I learned about the interactive media world, like how to make a podcast, post videos to youtube and blogging. I knew before I took this class what each of these things were, I just didn’t know exactly how they were made and published.

I feel that this semester in Cindy’s class really cemented a good foundation of knowledge of web design, video and audio editing, and the future of things to come in online journalism. Before this class I had always assumed the only world for a print journalism major was reporting for a newspaper, but I now know there is so much more I could do for a publication than just write stories. I still need to do some independent learning and further study the things I’ve learned in order to say that I’ve mastered them, but Cindy did a great job getting us to where we are comfortable and confident in our skills.

Another aspect of the class that I was not expecting was to learn so much about how social networking plays such a big part in shaping the Internet of the future. Learning about applications such as second life and discussing the implications of sites like facebook and myspace was not only enjoyable but also informative (considering I already use both of them).

All in all I will hopefully go down a path that not only allows me to write for a great paper, but also maybe help out with web design, flash animations and infographics, blogs and anything else I can.

Anyone reading this who might be considering taking one of Cindy’s classes in the future I strongly suggest that you do, just don’t click the mouse while she is talking.

Time Flies With or Without the Fun

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all within a few weeks of each other its easy to get caught up in costumes, turkey, and wish lists.. I feel like I snapped out of it just in time to realize that this semester is over. Usually I associate the end of the semester with stress, but a hint of relief. Relief from knowing that in a weeks time all of my cramming and all-nighters will pay off with a month long vacation. This semester, I feel like that relief has been replaced with fear. As oppose to spending the month of December home catching up with old friends, I'll have to finally put some thought into what I'm gonna do with my life once I graduate. This semester flew by, the next will do the same, and I'll be forced into the "real world." Scary!
After taking this multimedia journalism class this semester, I can honestly say I'm a little less nervous, and a little more excited about the future.

This semester I've been introduced to new programs and skills which I would have never thought myself capable of learning. So rather than fearing that I have only a semester left, I instead feel grateful I have another semester to become more familiar with a lot of things we were briefly introduced to earlier this semester. I think this course did a good job of touching on different aspects of multimedia being used in journalism today. Because a semesters time obviously isn't long enough to teach us in detail the ins and outs of every program, I think we got a pretty thorough introduction. We were able to put together slide shows, podcasts, and blogs, and more importantly, we were shown that if it was something that we had an interest in, we could easily go home and practice on our own to better familiarize ourselves with these skills.

I was also glad we were required to attend different panels during Mass Comm Week. It was good to hear people who had been in our shoes a few years ago speak about where multimedia journalism had taken them. I was glad I got to hear Angela Grant say that a lot of the skills she learned, were learned on the job. Its nice to know that the buzzer doesn't go off upon graduation. That isn't all the time you have allotted to learn what you're gonna need to know for the future.

For the most part, I'm still not sure what I want to do once I graduate, but I can say that after taking this course, I have a better idea. Thats more than I can say for any other classes I've taken. So no, I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm okay with that.

Lessons in Contradiction



Coming to the end of a long, long education inevitably inspires thoughts of the future. It’s frightening to imagine beginning something completely new and I can’t help but wonder if I have done enough to prepare: learned enough, read enough, taken enough of the right classes.

The world has changed with the advent of the Internet and our field has changed immensely as well. Though I came into this class with this understanding - to an extent- this point has truly been driven home as the course is wrapping up and I think of all that we've learned, discussed and debated.

More people are writing the news than ever before, whether they are actual journalists or not. The everyday person is contributing to the media in ways few ever imagined. That media constantly surrounds us and we find our society with an entirely new set of issues, having to now debate the rights and uses of media that not long ago weren’t even a consideration.

Ironically, I actually feel more prepared and yet less prepared, more confident and yet more frightened all at the same time. I am grateful for my experience with Flash, iMovie, Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but feel like there is so much more to learn and wonder if perhaps I’m stuck in that infamous Alanis Morissette song?

I have been inspired by the work of others, Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon and Angela Grant in particular, who have been down this same path - but intimidated at the same time.

The one thing that could have enhanced this class for me would have been more time to explore the different medias we were merely introduced to. But, in theme with the theme, I simply can’t imagine a longer semester!

I’m excited about continuing to learn more and experiment more but scared sh…well, you know how that ends.

Fantaginormous is the triple chocolate cake of adjectives

The semester is almost over? I need a cigarette. Nothing says "times up" or "it's over" like a gulp of ammonia, rat poison and tobacco. Sweet relief: that's my kind of finality.

This semester has been hectic: I've fallen behind, attempted to catch up, been tripped by a tortoise and kicked by a hare. "The Tortoise and the Hare," by Mother Goose, is flapdoodle*: both animals are malicious. But I got my revenge: I hired Tonya Harding, an unscrupulous female boxer who knows some people with crowbars, to help me get back in the game. The turtle/rabbit team of destruction hasn't bothered me since.

Moving on...

I took the multimedia journalism course for enjoyment more than anything else. The class satisfied a degree requirement, but I wanted to take a print journalism class that tied into my minor: communication design.

I will not being working within the multimedia subfield of journalism. I don't need to know how to write html. I won't be using Flash. I have no desire to make a career of photography, and I doubt I'll ever make another podcast. But why shouldn't I be familiar with all of those things?

I will be making a career of copy editing. I need dictionaries and the AP Style Guide. I love grammar. And, because I am a journalist, I need to understand every facet journalism. It's the responsible thing to do...

There are specialized doctors, lawyers, computer programmers...the list goes on and on...and all of them, no matter what field and specialty, must have a general knowledge of their field before they specialize. Journalists are not exempt from this. I will not be a photojournalist. I don't plan on designing online extras, working in broadcast news or becoming an radio personality. However, I am not an island and, as a result, cannot learn about only those subjects pertaining to copy editing. A child cannot learn to walk before learning how to crawl (eewww, that's as like totally overused as the sounds "uh" and "um").

Mine is an abstract reflection on the material we covered in Multimedia Journalism. I enjoyed the class, but none of the projects struck me as exciting, though the Flash project will probably change that; I love Adobe Illustrator, which Flash is similar to. Either way, I'm glad I took the class: it expanded my knowledge of journalism as a whole, and was an opportunity to gain experience in areas I had not worked in before.

* I've achieved my No. 1 goal for the semester: use the word "flapdoodle" in a graded blog post. I will receive a yellow smiley-face sticker at the award ceremony, in addition to a fantaginormous cookie served on a Braggart plate.

Multimedia Crammed into 16 weeks

Now that this course is ending, I can say that I have learned new skills, but I don't think I have learned enough. I feel like I'm more familar with terms, and I understand how things work. I just wish I had more than one opportunity with each skill. I think that we are all storytellers, but I would have liked to experiment with the camera and voice recorders a little more. With each assignment, I learned my mistakes, but I'm still confused at what separates the amateur from the multimedia professional at this stage in the game.
Careerwise, I feel like I'm only at the beginning. The scary part is that if I want to further my skills in multimedia, I will have to do it on the job. The first part is convincing someone to give me a job, and the second part is accepting that I'm going to learn by trial and error while working on real stories.
I think the blogging would have been more beneficial by having everyone run their blog as if it was on their own site. By doing this, we would be more compelled to read each others posts on a regular basis. I usually would only read a couple, because reading a dozen posts on the same topic can get dull.
For the slideshow, I would have like to go over some photography basics, and for the podcast, I would have liked to discuss what the sound of the podcast could soundlike before we started on the project.
I do appreciate the amount of information that I had access to, but I wish it didn't feel like I just crammed for my the future job hunt. In the future, hopefully a variety of multiamedia skills will be available throughout the mass comm courses.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Early Future


It's just a matter of time before the things we have done in this class and in Cindy's Web Design class become their own concentration.

A large majority of the people in Cindy's classes are print journalism majors. But there's nothing "print" about what we're doing.

We may follow some basic guidelines of print journalism (inverted pyramid), but the things we do seem more like electronic media.

But we know it's not that, either. Electronic media focuses mostly on radio and television. What we do doesn't fit that mold.

A lot of people throw around the term "new media" for what we do. That's a very lazy term if you ask me. "Hmm, there's something new going on here in the media. What should we call it? I've got an idea...."

Another name being thrown around is "online journalism." It's a pretty accurate term. But there's nothing that about it that pops out to you. It's kind of boring. But we're getting closer.

The official name for this class is "multimedia journalism." You know what? That sounds about right. We're journalists, of course, that's why we're here. But we're doing it in a much different way.

It's electronic, but in a different way from radio and TV. It's new, that's true. But in 20 years is it still going to be new? It's online, but that doesn't begin to describe all the ways news can be presented online.

No, we're presenting the news through multimedia. We can give you information on the 2008 Presidential election via a flash presentation. We could tell you how a music festival went down through a slideshow. We can analyze the latest sports news in the form of a podcast.

We're a part of the new wave of journalism. We may not know it yet, but we're going to help determine the future of the media. Radio, TV, and print will be there. But multimedia can go anywhere and we're the ones who will help drive it.

It's not going to be long before students here are mass communication majors with an emphasis in multimedia journalism.

A wrap up of the year-just in time for Christmas

This semester, though fun filled, flew by. It seems like just yesterday I was stressing about which topic to pick for our very first Soundslide project. Though I am still just as stressed if not more, the end of the year a.k.a. semester before my last, is quickly approaching.

When I think back to all we did in our multimedia class, I am astounded by my tech savvinous (I know that's not a real word). I felt like I was above my game in terms of computer skills in the beginning, but it just goes to prove that there is always room for more knowledge.

I originally took this class because it was open and I needed an extra class. I was very doubtful that I would “learn” anything new, but with all our information slowly becoming digital there is never a time when one person can know it all.

I think this class mainly opened my eyes to the different aspects of the field I am earning my degree in. At first, my career path was to work strictly in the journalistic aspects of magazines. Now I am excited about my future because I’m not only interested in the writing, but in the layout, design and any other aspect. Having taken this class and learned more about an otherwise unknown field, I feel that I am able to go out into the field with a level head and an optimistic attitude about straying from my chosen career path.

I am ready for the future because I feel like I can keep up with it. The Internet may be changing everyday, but we are changing too and I think that’s the first step to becoming successful in the real world.

Multimedia today

I feel like the things covered this semester have been very helpful to all who wish to work in mass communication after college, whether one aspires to be a journalist, advertiser, public relations agent or anything else in media. Obviously the Internet has changed how businesses, groups and publications alike must work at getting audiences' attention, so it makes sense that your skills in this area must expand.

I only wish these topics were brought up sooner in one's university education, and I'm sure they will be in the future. It seems almost every class I've had over the last two semesters had stressed the same things; even in print reporting classes convergence almost always hangs over what we are doing. I've noticed a huge spike in the amount of stress given to multimedia reporting over the last half of my education at Texas State, and feel young students in the future need to be exposed to this and have interactive access to the software, skills and guidelines as soon as possible from now on. I think as the media arts get more saturated with convergence journalists and other professionals, having dabbled won't be enough. Students need to refine these skills beyond that.

Right now I'm not sure if I wish to continue pursuing journalism, but the multimedia aspects are very appealing, if only to try new ways to produce stories. I had fun doing my video project for Bobcat Living and will try more of that in the future. I think print will always have a place for harder, dense news, but seeing as I have never been that interested in news, I'd like to get better at convergence reporting and move towards features that bring individuals stories to light, stories that might not have been told in the past.

For example, I was watching a sports show on TV that ranked the top inspiring stories of all time. One was Jason McElwain's performance after being inserted late into a high school basketball game last season. McElwain was a senior and the manager for the Greece Athena High School boys basketball team in New York, but has autism and as such did not play during the season. But at the end of the season he got in the game and hit six three-pointers and scored 20 points in four minutes, much to the enjoyment of his friends, family and teammates. This was one of the few inspiring stories that wasn't filmed professionally, and wasn't about pro sports. I thought it cool that years ago people wouldn't not have known what McElwain did.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bobcat women's basketball


Texas State women's basketball win its opening game of the season against Texas A&M-International.

Video produced by Drew Hampel and Maira Garcia

Music mixed by Drew Hampel

Battle of the Bands — San Marcos

This is a video of the Wavebreak Productions' Battle of the Bands, held at Gordo's in San Marcos. Enjoy this work by Todd Schaaf and Colm Keane.

The Secret Life of Tattoo Artists

Interview with three tattoo artists at Classic Tattoo in San Marcos, Texas. College students seem to be fascinated by tattoo culture, and here are the answers to many common questions. By Haley Fontenot and Anna Tauzin.

Saxophone Recital Video

Texas State students perform at the Saxophone Studio Recital on November 14, 2007, after practicing various solos since the beginning of the semester.
by Chris Boehm and Emily Messer

Taus for Tots

This is the Alpha Tau Omega November Toy Drive by the LBJ Student Center. They are conducting a toy drive to help disadvantaged children and families. Bring new unwrapped toys or make a cash donation. They will be collecting every Tuesday and Thurday. By Charlotte Almazan and Meagan Singletary.

Latin American Journalism

Here is our video on Claudia Mellado-Ruiz, professor of Social Communication at Universidad de Concepcion in Chile and an International Fulbright Scholar. She spoke at Texas State on November 13, 2007 about her research on Latin American journalism and how it compares to American journalism. This video was done by Katrina Moline and Andrew McNeill.

Media at Texas State

View Sarah Garcia & Cheryl Jones' YouTube video:

We went around the Texas State University campus to ask fellow students what their favorite piece of technology is and why. Most students, we discovered, found their cell phones to be the one thing they couldn't be without.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google's taking over the world

Google is one of those innovative companies that comes along only every so often. While its constantly introducing cutting-edge information searches, Google is also becoming somewhat of a monopoly in the search engine business.

Since the company announced OpenSocial, which will provide a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple Web sites such as Friendster, MySpace, orkut and a multitude of other social sites. This means users can create web content that can be used in each of these Web sites as seamlessly as possible. Users will have only one profile versus having to join each site.

Google is getting a lot of sites under its umbrella and has the chance to make the company even more money through advertisements, which is its main source of revenue. It is asserting its web influence and dominance, which will be difficult to follow. Google was ahead of the game a long time ago and now it will be hard to stop this giant.

And here I though MySpace was just about telling people what I did this weekend.

The 'oo' in Google


The latest brand name to become so synonymous with an act that the former word is no longer used must be Google. Kleenex, Xerox, and now Google (replacing search) are but a few of these brand names. But how did Google reach such huge status from such humble beginnings? The answer is simple -- Google has and will continue to jump to the forefront of Internet and World Wide Web technology at the beginning of each era.

In the early 90s, the biggest concern of web surfers was finding what they needed, and what better search engine exists than Google? Even Yahoo! is powered by Google's search feature. Soon after, Google unveiled Google Maps and then Google Earth to give users directions and better geographical knowledge. The next step is, obviously, social networking. The term social networking has far exceeded the original vision of Tom from MySpace, and I'm willing to bet Mark Zuckerberg, as well.

According to this Wired article, Google's plans for OpenSocial seem to be less sinister and more genuine love of technology. I think the people working for Google should listen to groups like the Open Rights Group, and address the very real concerns brought up by them. However, I do not believe it is Google's intention to keep track of everyone by using their new OpenSocial platform.

By staying logged in, users can easily access each Web site, whether it be MySpace or Plaxo. The fact Google is allowing outside sources to design software for the OpenSocial platform should show they do not have anything to hide. Google is merely trying to stay with the technology game by taking charge of the next step. I'd much rather a proven, solid brand like Google take the lead into Web 2.0 than another less experienced company. I think it is imperative to watch what Google actually does before anyone screams Big Brother.

The Breakup: My Love Affair with Google

It started out innocently enough. I was tired of Yahoo's sad little search engine. It wasn't bringing me what I needed in the relationship, and so I went looking for something else, something more confident, more hip, more streamlined. That's when I found Google. To say it was love at first sight (site?) was putting it lightly. I was hooked.

I signed up for the Gmail beta waaay back in the day. I loved the storage capacity, the design, and the ease of use. When Google came out with Maps, I knew I'd never need MapQuest again. I was already a Blogger user, but when Google took that over, I was elated. "It's going to be so easy.. I just have to log in once and Google will remember everything about me. No more running from page to page, remembering passwords, etc...," I thought.

That is until recently, when Google announced its OpenSource campaign. Basically, Google is combining three Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that will allow developers to access information based on social networks. This includes:
  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff) (source)
Now, this bothers me. A lot. Beforehand, I always had the ability to log off of Google. I could step away. I could log into my social networks, and only the people I knew on there would know what I was up to. For example, I know every single one of my friends on Facebook, but would I necessarily want them to know what I'm looking at on the web? More importantly, do I want to be so ingrained that I know what all my friends are looking at? Not really, no.

Google has partnered with social networks Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle and developers Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide.

Does all this mean I'm going to stop using Google? No.. we've gone too far at this point. There's too much history, too much at stake. But will I be skeptical, privatize all my information, and fake a headache when Google asks for more? Yes; on more than one night per week.

The honeymoon is over.

Google introduces OpenSocial:

Social Networking: The New Frontier

Recently, Google has announced details regarding its social networking project Open Social. History has shown thus far, that all of Google's innovations and applications have been successful. Shortly after emerging on the scene, Google quickly became the most popular search engine. But they didn't stop there. Google didn't just want Yahoo!'s place on the internet, it wanted Mapquest's, Hotmail's, Drudgereport's, and now Facebook's as well. It seems like Google has aspirations of making all other sites obsolete. It's ambition to make it's site a one stop shop for all internet activity has now led the company to try its hand on the social networking scene.

I personally use Google on a daily basis. I started using Google as a search engine, and as they added new features, slowly I started going to the site to check my mail, read the news, get directions, etc. People have encouraged Google's growth by using new it's new features and applications. Whether they will do the same with Open Social, we'll have to wait and see.

I think with everything Google has set its sights on doing, every feature they've introduced, they had to make improvements to already existing applications to compete with an already existent provider. It had to give Gmail accounts more space then Hotmail, otherwise why switch? So if Google thinks it can make improvements to or expand upon the social networking scene, by all means go ahead. If its better, innovative, more convenient, people will use it. If it's not, they won't, and they'll stick to what they know.

Google has aligned Myspace, Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle to participate on Open Social. All the big players, except Facebook. I think it will be interesting to see if people will embrace Open Social. I personally am content keeping my internet activity separate from my Social Networking. I don't mind visiting multiple sites for different things. I don't need to get my text books from a friend of a friend of a friend on a social network. I can go to Amazon. Google might be getting to ambitious in its endeavors. They can't be the entire internet. I mean, thats why they created windows with multiple tabs.

I ? Google

My opinion of Google? How would I live without it? What did we did before it?

Sure there are other search engines out there, Ask, Yahoo! and so forth and so on, but you don't Yahoo! something do you? No, Google isn't just a search engine, it's a verb and a necessary tool in my everyday life.

For a tech company that started out wanting to be just a search engine, not even a company, Google's done pretty well for themselves, pretty quickly. Founded in 1999 with a measly $100k they swiftly became the fastest growing internet company with 6,700 employees, according to the Google documentary.

Would I like to be one of them? Sure, where else could you work in what they attribute to a university lifestyle within the company, where the company motto is, "Don't be evil."

So, but what about their record of your searches, of your life, privacy concerns? Is there anyway to avoid this in today's day and tech age? Personally, I don't think there is and too much focus is on Google, while our government is readily doing the same thing.

We are, in fact, living in a, "sort of scary, Orwellian world." It may not be 1984, but it's also not just Google contributing to this. Facebook, MySpace, the US government, advertising agencies, GPS systems, cell phone companies, and the list goes on and on - they're all contributing to this new way of life. It just so happens it scares the $**! out of everyone who ever read the book.
After watching the Google documentary, I'm less trusting of the company. Some of the employees interview really didn't have good answers to privacy concerns, at times offering little more than "I just don't see it that way," or something of that nature. I shared a lot of the same concerns that Ian Brown did from the Open Rights Group.

I think Google is invaluable to how the world operates today; it's the only search engine I use on a consistent basis, and being able to log in once to use several applications (such as this one, iGoogle and Gmail) is convenient. But it is good to ask if this one company should really be spearheading so much of the information collection in the future. It is, after all, a company, not a philanthropic group or something similar. I agree that it is ignorant of us to trust a company and hand over the reigns to this new way of making classic books available. I know Google has a good track record with free services, but some non-profit or government organization should still be tasked simultaneously with archiving books. A lot of business in media today deals with exclusive information/content, and it would be a problem if a company tried to do that with books throughout history.

A lot of what they have already done is useful, whether its Google Maps, docs, and from what I've read people are welcoming the introduction of Open Social, but I'm skeptical as to whether or not it actually is of great importance. I know social networking is a growing part of today's business and intellect, but not everyone out there is using this aspect of the Internet for any real uses of importance. Updating a Top Eight isn't part of that movement.

That being said, I wouldn't mind working for Google. From the documentary the employees seem like good-natured, forward-thinking people. I just was a bit unimpressed by the lack of concern shown with some of the questions raised against their company.

Googled: Google and OpenSocia

The New York Times reported Nov. 2 that MySpace and Bebo, two of the world’s largest social-networking Web sites, recently signed onto a collaboration led by Google to link all the social-networking sites together — at least all but one.

Facebook isn’t a part of this group. It’s given Google the cold shoulder, and now the search engine seems to be fighting back with a mega-social partnership. Google says Facebook was allowed in what is the OpenSocial project.

The selling point of OpenSocial is that it can save companies time. It allows third-party companies and programs to create one set programs that will work across the most popular social networks online. So they won’t have to make separate programs for MySpace, Friendster and Orkut. But they will for Facebook.

“The alliance now presents a powerful counterweight to Facebook, which, after opening up its site to developers last spring, has persuaded thousands of them to create programs for its users,” the Times story states. “The addition of MySpace, the world’s largest social network with 110 million active members, and Bebo, the No. 1 site in Britain with 39 million active users, could also put pressure on Facebook to drop its own standard and join the alliance, called OpenSocial.”

Maybe Facebook thinks it doesn’t need Google. Or maybe Google thinks it can team up with everyone but Facebook. Both are popular, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Sure, Facebook is the default go-to network right now. But that doesn’t mean much in a long-term sense. That doesn’t mean the OpenSource collaboration will really bring about its destruction either.

But let’s face it. Whenever Google does anything, it is likely an effort to get even richer.

The Times story points out that exposure may not be the benefit for the search engine. Google can use the sites it collaborates with to sell more advertising. “The Internet search giant already has a $900 million advertising partnership with MySpace, and sells advertising on various other social networks. Its ads sometimes appear inside the applications created by third-party developers,” the story states.

Google specializes in advertising, but I don’t think this is widely acknowledged. Our main perception of Google is that it is a search engine, which it also is.

Think about how Google has made so much money.

Its advertising revenue is enough to make any newspaper jealous. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission report states that during the last fiscal year, Google reported $10.492 billion in total advertising revenues and only $112 million in licensing and other revenues.

Google is a wealthy Internet tool. The Times also published a recent story on Google stock. The Nov. 12 story reported that Google’s “stock has risen more than 44 percent, or $203 a share, this year.”

I sometimes think Google has too much money and power, and that my dependency on Google should be limited. But then again, I just “googled” Google.

We depend on Google for maps, videos, images, news and even e-mail accounts. Google’s power is prevalent, and we must look at it closely to explore the future of the Web.

Effacemygooglebookbay, the Electronic Toilet Paper

Google has long been considered an internet innovator. Why?

Soon after launching, Google became one of the most popular search engines on the internet. This is not innovation. When Google launched it was a blatant rip-off of the Yahoo! and Netscape search engines, which were the most popular at the time (there were others, but not many worth mentioning...and if I could remember their names I would "not mention" them specifically).

Later, Google created new software that kept track of what users searched for, and tracked the most popular search results. This is not innovation. Google refined "search engines" (not redefined...which reminds me, coming soon to The Caustic Dictionary: "search engine").

As time went on, Google added such features as video and image searches, which allowed users to specify the content they were seaching for (other features include: mapquest...er, sorry: Google Maps; News...not so much a feature as a competitive addition, considering Yahoo! and Netscape had News from the "get go"; and a number of others that only qualify as conveniences). This is not innovation. Videos and images were already included within normal search results. This was mere convenience: allowing users to search for only images and videos was a natural (unavoidable) evolution of search engines. Inventing the wheel is an innovation. Making the wheel out of wood rather than stone is a refinement. Making the wheel out of metal rather than wood is a necessity.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important Google "feature": context-sensitive advertisements based on search parameters. Google, a company, wants to make a profit (color me shocked: a medium blue of high saturation...no, medium blue is teased and painfully uncomfortable; color me lime green). While Google was the first to have contextual advertisements, this is hardly an innovation and by no means convenient (except to Google and its economic compatriots). It gave Google an economic edge by offering advertisers a higher probability in reaching their target markets (and a way to say "Hey you! Check this out..." to millions of people at once, which may be the one innovation Google actually made: a way to annoy millions of people simutaneously, and make a good bit of money doing so; their inspiration was Ashton Kutcher, whose inspiration was Tom Green...incidently, this is why "lime green" is the color of "shocked")

Finally, Google has begun its trek into social networking (make Orwell's 1984 dystopia attractive: "All your friends are here"..."Hmm, what about them? Who are they?"..."They are of no concern to you."). They call it "Open Social," and what a pointless trek it is. This is not an innovation. The goal is to incorporate everything you love about facebook.com into every website you can think of (minus the overwhelming majority of websites you can think of). Many are praising is as the next coming (haven't heard that before...why is the next always coming shortly after the arrived? At least religion waits a few years before announcing the coming of its next messiah), but if it is indeed a "better facebook" why hasn't anyone been able to argue the point? Saying, "Open Social is an evolution of social networking because its going to do this and this and...something else," is not an argument. It is a spineless statement of opinion.

Here: pointing out that "something" will do "this and this and this" is not a reason to say it is an evolution of anything. That type of anti-reasoning is the idiots way of pointing out what "something" is capable of, and an attempt to sound intelligent in the process (saying something is innovative or a potential evolution, and using that "something's" capabilities as justification is known as a circlular argument...and the first sign of stupidity).

Many people are saying Open Social is going to an evolution in social networking, but none have offered any reason beyond the typical "it can do this and this and...something else" answer to "why?". "You could log in at Google, then go to craigslist, and find stuff your friends, or friends of your friends, are selling," is just one more way of listing a capability. Why is this important? Screw that: why should I give half a s**t if my friend's friend is selling something (Answer: you trust your friend's friend more than you trust a stranger..."Who is that?"..."They are of no concern to you.").

Google, facebook, myspace, Ebay, and a number of other websites seem to think they are important to the future of the internet. They aren't. The concepts those websites are built around, and in some cases the ideas that were born from them, are important to the future of the internet, but the websites themselves are more disposable than toilet paper (Google has been rather absorbent).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Onward Internet

The new application of Google’s Open Social provides a common set of social application codes across multiple Web sites. There will be a standard and developers will be able to create easy access to a social network's friends as well as update feeds. The Google code has already been joined by: Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Salesforce, Oracle, iLike, Flixster, RockYou, Slide and now just recently MySpace and Six Apart.
Now that Google has incorporated yet another application to make it the ruler of the Internet, I can’t help but feel sorry for the little companies that got lost along the way. I remember when the Internet first started to accelerate into the days of out lives, and all I can ever remember is Google. There was never really any other talk in my household; or if there was, it was just bashing.
I like Google because it provides all the information I could possibly ever need as well as stuff I absolutely do not need. As a company I think it is probably one of the smartest of our time. Any company that’s created itself in such a short amount of time earns a page in our history books and deserves to be recognized as being superior to any other Internet site.
As far as the applications they have created, I’m not quite sure exactly how I feel about them. I just recently discovered IGoogle, and I think it’s really cool, BUT I think that they are grouping everything too much. I read somewhere that one of the up and coming applications to be added is having your bank included. Google is notorious for having back doors and safety issues, if my bank is enclosed in this tangle of applications, I’m afraid of fraud.
As far as the future of Google, it’s inevitable that they will be around. Who really knows how far they will progress up the Internet ladder web. I think in order for it to truly be the Internet goddess, they are going to have to work out any type of foreseeable security issue before they can rule the web.
Since “most” social networking sites (ehmehm not Facebook) have already migrated to the flame of Google, it already is a success. Although Facebook is slowly but surely rising to the social networking status of superior, MySpace for now seems to be holding the reins when it comes to the number of people involved. However, with that being said, I think that the social networking craze will see a decline in the near future. Already, the frantic need to get one has died down and most people are so bored with it that they are deleting their account and/or not checking it anymore.
Without Google, most students and most professionals I think would be quite lost when researching. It is such a mainstay and helpful resource for everyone that without it how would we obtain all the information that we gain now?
I think the Internet is cool and all, but I absolutely would not ever want to work for the company. I do think their stock will rise, so I’m seriously looking into that, but the Internet is such a boring set of numbers and codes that I feel my life would stray so far into the boring routine that I’d end up hating my life and the Internet along with it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Did You Mean: domination

Is Google the evil, giant corporation some are making it out to be?

Or is Google the fun, playful corporation creating applications that make life better on the internet?

A little of both if you ask me.

Google is easily the most talked about corporation on campus, and in a lot of other places. They are the go-to search engine when you need to find some quick information.

They also make some of the most innovative web-based applications ever seen. I still remember the first time I used Google Maps and saw a satellite image of my house in San Antonio.

It's one of those almost-mind-blowing events. How can they have an actual picture of my house?

Google positioned themselves as the most important company in the Internet. But with that position, comes responsibility (I tried my best to avoid the "With great power comes great responsibility" cliché).

In the Google Documentary, Ian Brown of the Open Rights Group is very skeptical of Google and their motives. While he agrees that they have done some amazing things for the Internet, they have inched closer into becoming a "Big Brother" type of corporation.

One of his fears is that Google is gaining so much access to people's personal information that they run the risk of endangering people's privacy, whether through their own doing or someone else's. And with the recent announcement of Google forming the OpenSocial network, Google stands to gain even more access to people's personal information.

But what would happen if, down the line, this ultimately led to the demise of Google? What if this company became too powerful, and abused that power to the point where it was destroyed?

What if the company that created and owns some of the most used Internet applications was no more?

What would we do?

Google vs. Facebook

Looking through the online material involving OpenSocial, I'm still on the fence as to whether Google's latest venture will dominize the social networking world and annihilate Facebook. Facebook is surviving by its fanbase who remain true to their social and now exclusive circle.
I am not a fan of Facebook (never have been). I came into the social network world by way of MySpace. I'm attracted to simple applications that don't involve too much time to operate. OpenSocial appears to be the answer for those like me who don't want to make a career out of being involved in social networking. With the open platform, it seems like the social networks are banding against Facebook's intentional domination over social networking just as Google dominated the search engine platform. Google is trying to regain strength with the help of Digg, Twitter, and such sites to overpower Facebook in a final attempt.
Facebook's strategy of remaining closed off answers the privacy issue that Google thinks will work itself out. The plan could possibly backfire and drive users towards Facebook for its exclusive atmosphere. Google might expose too much information, but in the broader sense I think the two will share the playing field. Facebook has such a built reputation that it has already solidified its users. Google's new OpenSocial will cater to those who have rejected Facebook. Techcrunch clarified the OpenSocial agenda much clearer for me.

Google's Quest for Internet and Later World Domination

As far as search engines go, I can’t really claim that Google is the best. I am pretty much a search engine whore. I’ve used them all. Every engine you use will get you to the same Web pages so I really don’t know how any of them can claim to be the best. All though Google does often. If you want to listen to Google employees talk about how great and superior Google is then you can do so here. Google is faster than the others? I don’t really know because I haven’t really sat down and calculated the time it takes for results to pop up, and anyway my computer is kind of slow so everything takes a while to retrieve.

It is fairly apparent that social networking is the new it thing. For some reason people would rather interact via the Internet than actually have to leave their homes and see people face to face. Mass agoraphobia anyone? Google’s whole Opensocial thing freaks me out a little bit and I think it may facilitate perpetuating people’s laziness. Also, I really don’t like the idea of being logged into a lot of different things at the same time. Sometimes I don’t want people to know where I am on the Internet. Not that I’m doing anything I shouldn’t be I just enjoy my privacy as does everyone else. Opensocial would make me feel as if I were constantly being watched and monitored and that my personal information is up for grabs for whoever wants it.

As for the applications that will be on this giant social network, I am not impressed and I don’t really care. Some of these applications are on Facebook and I don’t use them there so I’m sure I wouldn’t on this network either. Developers may create some really cool applications for this network, but I will never know about them because I don’t plan on joining Opensocial.

Despite the way that I feel about Opensocial, I feel like it will be a successful venture for Google. Obviously Google has done well for itself because it is the most popular search engine. Launching this enormous social network will only help Google reach its ultimate goal of complete Internet domination. Bonne chance Google!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

borderbeat.net: a model for online journalism

At this year's Online News Associations Journalism Awards, the student journalism award was given to Border Beat, a Web site dedicated to U.S.-Mexico border relations. The site was created by University of Arizona students.

My immediate impression of this site was it deserved the award it received. It is filled with content, print and multimedia, and it is all within range of the topic.

The site is divided into sections such as in-depth, lifestyle, news, health, education and blogs. Each section is filled with stories pertaining to food in Arizona's barrios to healthcare issues Hispanics face in the area.

What I wasn't so impressed with was one of the slide shows depicting the barrios in Tucson. Watching the first few minutes of it was rather dull because it was picture after picture of signs labeling the neighborhood, versus photos of buildings, people and generally life in the area.

No site is perfect, but Border Beat is definitely a good model for other students journalists to consider.

Border Beat Review

For the multimedia commentary, I decided to look at the Border Beat site, because I wanted to compare the student work that was recognized. It was interesting to see the criteria for award-winning student categories.
The first thing I noticed is that the slideshow was created in Soundslides. I thought the slideshow was something that I could easily create on my own. I thought the photos of the barrio signs was a creative idea that wasn't implemented very well. The photos were just descriptive but not interesting or engaging. I think the photos could have had more of a creative angle to them to make the slideshow enhance the total package.
I liked that along the sidebar, the site had sections that reminded me of newspaper sections. I thought the stories in these sections were very personal and very much a representation of niche journalism of the barrio communities. I also liked how the site separated the Blog and Resources sections to show that those links involved another type of info-gathering from the journalism stories. I think that the Blog section adds a dimension of modernism to the site that you may not see in a veteran journalist site.
Lastly, I felt that the special reports section was the heart of the site's packaging. The stories show various angles of the topics of choice, and the slideshows are very impressive.

Hip-Hop 101.. and then some

Because hip-hop isn't the type of music I generally like or listen to, I decided to look at and evaluate Wisconsin State Journals interactive website Hip-Hop 101 and see how much time I would spend on the page. Hip-hop 101 won the Online News Associations Journalism Award for Outstanding Use of Digital Media for a small publication in 2007.

Hip-Hop 101 is a page intended to educate people about hip-hop and the activities of the hip-hop community in the Madison area. On the site’s home page, hip-hop is described as being more than just music, it is described as a culture. For this reason, I think it is very fitting that WSJ chose to cover this story in a non-traditional way. Because hip-hop is not just music, but fashion, breakdancing, DJing, MCing, poetry, and beatboxing as well, it seems right that different multimedia vehicles should be used to cover the different elements of this culture.
Though the website is chock-full of content, it is presented in a very simple and easy to navigate yet innovative fashion.

The links section of the website has been cleverly designed into a spinning album with the links circling on the record. For some reason I did find myself more inclined to click on all the links because they were presented in this way. If the links alone were presented so creatively I found myself wondering how the actual topics linked to would be covered.

After visiting all 5 links: DJing, MCing, graffiti, breakdancing, and poetry, I had barely noticed I had passed nearly 20 minutes perusing the site. Because all of the subjects weren’t simply covered using text but video and slideshows as well, I found myself more interested. Naturally when the subject is dancing or rhyming, these are more effective and interesting when actually heard and seen. The DJing link even had a little game in where the user could scratch their own beat.

I also liked the section where different artists described on video what they thought hip-hop was. This gave the story a personal element to it, and also made it more interesting to me.
Overall I thought the website did a good job of balancing a good amount of information and interactive features, or relaying one through the other. For example, as oppose to simply writing out a timeline of hip-hops history, the time line was presented in the form of a turntable and sliding the different bars along provided more information.

I thought the site was very effective in being both informative and interesting because I wasn’t initially very interested in the topic of hip-hop, but through using the different multimedia features I in turn learned more about the culture.

2007 ONA Awards

Several distinguished online news outlets were rightly recognized at this year's Online News Associations Journalism Awards. To highlight a few, there was the unique multimedia package On Being by Jennifer Crandall, from washingtonpost.com, which took home special recognition. Although not your traditional news piece, certainly worthy of recognition for its unique story telling point-of-view and clean design.

The Oakland Tribune took home two awards for their work, Not Just a Number, which demonstrates an expansive reporting of the murder trends in Oakland, CA. They were awarded both the service journalism at a small paper award, as well as the Knight Foundation Award For Public Service which gives the paper $5,000 for their use of digital media to impact their community. This was by far my favorite and deserves a great deal of respect for the well rounded and detailed journalism - this multimedia package does what they should all strive to do: tell the story in a way that just cannot be done with print alone.

Another favorite, although not exactly traditional journalism, was the Discovery Channel's work titled Everest: Beyond the Limit. This piece was breathtaking and highlighted such multimedia aspects as real time dispatches from Mount Everest expeditions, some really cool flash, games, interviews, amazing footage and much more.

All in all, I'd say it was a great year for multimedia journalism and the future looks challenging but bright.

ONA Journalism Awards, 2007

In the online journalism world, we know who the big dogs are: Washingtonpost.com, Annenburg School, Wired.com, etc... and so it wasn't surprising to see them take home honors from the recent Online News Association Journalism Awards.






However, to me, the more interesting award winners are the smaller dogs. The toy poodles of the online world, if you will. One in particular is Border Beat, US Border news and insight done by the students at University of Arizona. From slideshows about the barrios in Tuscon to the best taquerias around town, the site is informative and interesting. It reminds me of the Bobcat Living site that we work on.

My second favorite on the list of awards is FloridaToday.com's beat space coverage. They have live video feeds from the space shuttle and links to NASA TV. It's obvious by the banner ads on the site that FloridaToday relies heavily on its advertisers for revenue, yet they do a stellar job (pun intended) on both covering the subject matter and receiving comments from readers.

Not just a blog post

Not Just a Number, presented by the Bay Area News Group and The Oakland Tribune, is an interesting and unique way to handle the alarming trend of murder in the Oakland, Calif. area. The interactive map, featuring 22 stories, was very well done. Each story is accompanied by a photo, and when the photo is clicked, a person tells a new story. The listen, watch and interact features give this multimedia project a feeling of freshness, as I have never seen the three classified and linked at the bottom of each scene before. By adding that last level of interactivity and showing what concerned residents can do to help curb the violence, the Bay Area News Group and The Oakland Tribune succeeded in telling the story in a much more effective way than solely print could.

Everest, Beyond The Limit is another well done Web site. The clean interface and smooth interactions are just a couple of the immediately recognizable reasons this piece won an award. Although the site itself is pretty taxing on any computer system, I believe most computers built within the last five years or so should be more than enough to run the piece efficiently. The superb use of links and video also put this Web site over the edge. The inclusion of Greg Childs' blog shows the desire to be more than just a promotional piece for a Discovery Channel TV show, but instead, a journalistic project.

Our Tahoe, one of the student winners, is pretty impressive. The simplistic and straightforward layout serves the content of the site best. I also enjoyed the nonlinear storytelling by the six subjects. The link at the lower bottom of this page gives viewers a chance to hear each subject's views on the corresponding subject. This is a very cool idea. Finally, the people, places and games sections are all implemented successfully. The people scene's two main sections are very interesting. I especially enjoyed the I Live Here piece.

It was exciting for me to see all of the award winners try out so many new and different ways to carry out multimedia projects. I feel like I am getting to the point where I could be involved in one or more of these styles of pieces.

Viewing the online journalism award winner

“OnBeing” is a seemingly simple topic approached in a grand sort of way. Its simplicity, though, is what makes the Washington Post multimedia poignant storytelling through multimedia. The videos are well-done and a great way of exploring what makes people. It reminds me of NPR’s StoryCorps, which the public radio organization describes as a way of telling America’s oral history. Both are brilliant and powerful because of their simplicity.

As for the winning piece, I’ve tried to load “Not Just a Number” several times now, and it has not worked. I'm curious to see it, but my computer is too slow.

The hip-hop piece was just plain cool. Even the way the multimedia loaded on the screen incorporated hip-hop elements. I love the idea of all of this. I love that this incorporates everything from graffiti to breakdancing. The turntable is a clever way to display different topics. The Web page has a definite hip-hop style. There’s also a The overall piece sheds light on the evolution of hip-hop and views the subject with more depth than it’s usually given at face value.

The student pieces are well-done and a reminder that multimedia is something not limited to the experts with expensive equipment and seemingly unlimited time. It’s obvious that the work isn’t the same quality as something produced by ABC News or the Washington Post, but it is commendable multimedia journalism. I think people need to keep in mind the resources, time and experience that student journalists have when evaluating their work.

What I like about the Online Journalism Awards is that has separate contests for large and small publications. Sure, the Washington Post, New York Times and other high-circulation newspapers are in the forefront of multimedia journalism, but small newspapers are tackling this as well. Small newspapers often less funds, time and people to work with, and their efforts should not go unrecognized. These are my highlights from the awards.

WSJ's Hip-Hop 101: So fresh it had to be covered twice.

For this weeks blog post I chose to write about the Wisconsin State Journal’s interactive multimedia website, Hip-Hop 101.

Hip-Hop 101 is WSJ’s attempt to educate people who otherwise might not ever be told about what hip-hop is. The website explains that hip-hop is a culture not a genre of music. There are four elements of traditional hip-hop, MCing, DJing, break dancing and graffiti. WSJ added poetry or spoken word. Each of these five elements is explained with video, audio slide shows, even a game.


The site is well done as far as content delivery is concerned. It is well laid out, easy to navigate, and interesting to the eyes. The functionality of some of the segments of the website work better than others, I experienced some herky-jerky video on some of the pages, while other videos played flawlessly. I enjoyed the fact that they covered all four elements essentially differently. Yes, most of the coverage was a mix between video and audio slide shows, each video was shot differently, some more journalistically, some more feature-y, and some documentary style. I appreciated the fact that the people talking about the corresponding sections of the website actually lived the life they were talking about, this lends credibility to the site.

The flash work on Hip-Hop 101 looked great, but was a little difficult to control. On the video clips, they auto-played which I just personally am not a fan of, and to go forward and back in the video you had to drag a slider the size of a pin’s head, not easy. The same goes for the controls on the time line (which is cleverly disguised as a turn table). The game was a good attempt, but the audio was a bit off, which bothered me considering how true to hip-hop the website was overall.

The website is great so long as your cursor-eye coordination is good. All in all, well done to the Wisconsin State Journal, and more importantly, thank you for covering this.

2007 Online Journal...[yawn]ism

The 2007 Online Journalism Awards [ABOUT] was held October 19 in Toronto. The awards honor excellence in English-language Web journalism. Twenty categories placed 70 finalists in the running after it was narrowed down from 700 entries by judges. Many news sources were recognized throughout the night in the packed Dominion Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel, but some stood out further than others. I’ve added my two-cents, after some of the named winners.

Big-time Duo Winner: Oakland Tribune's "Not Just a Number"
I liked this site. The loading page was cool, a little slow, yet still very entertaining for my mundane mind. I liked how the creators developed all of the pieces and put so many unique aspects into it. One thing I though could’ve been used in a more effective way was the color pallet. “Not Just a Number” has nothing to do with homicides and the tan color is too…fresh, I would have gone with a darker, more mellow tone to really set the mood for the piece.

Special recognition: washingtonpost.com for its multimedia package, OnBeing.
This site bothers me, I like the concept of putting ordinary people out there for the world, but some of the stories presented are so…dumb, it really turns me off. There’s no point to the entire site, it’s a waste of time and if the site hadn’t been submitted to judges, no one would have gone to it besides the people involved in it.

Beat reporting, small: Florida Today, Space Beat.
The layout for this site was interesting, I had to double check it because I thought I had been sent to an advertisement page. They could have done something really cool (i.e. a space ship landing on the page and expanding to different portals of the project) there were many possibilities for this page. This page by far was my least favorite of all the sites recognized.

Beat reporting, large: Wired.com.
There’s not much I can say about wired.com. It’s a good site, it gives a lot of up-to-date information for all types of computer and gadget geeks. I think everyone and there dog knew that wired.com would be honored for something.

Outstanding Use of Digital Media, small: Wisconsin State Journal, Hip Hop 101.
This might be bias because I love Wisconsin, but this site was very informative given it’s a topic I wouldn’t know much about. The layout is nice, the different types of multimedia are intriguing and overall the presenters did a good job of making navigation easy and fun.

Outstanding Use of Digital Media, large: super-slow Discovery Channel’s , Everest Beyond the Limit.
Whoa! Pretty! But, of course it would be. The whole Discovery network is rolling in the dough, so for them not to be up to par would be surprising. I really like all of the photography, it makes for a clearer, better grasp of what is trying to be conveyed.

Investigative journalism, large: ABC News, Brian Ross Investigates: "The Mark Foley Investigation."
Boo! I really hate blogs, any type of blogs, especially political ones. However, abc.com did do a good job of presenting all sides of the information and giving as much detail as possible. Even if I don’t agree with the topic, I’ll hold my peace and say no more.

Investigative Journalism, small: Center for Investigative Reporting, Danger On Your Plate.
I don’t understand this site, is a foreign language site too? Either way, I personally don’t think it works. The color scheme is off, the pictures do not seem to tell any type of agenda and the stories featured are so boring I wouldn’t have taken a minute reading them if I hadn’t had to.

Specialty Journalism, large: Livescience.com.
This site just exudes professionalism, which I guess is a good accomplishment for a company dealing with health. I especially liked their “Yahoo”esque story slideshow highlights. It’s spiffy, clean and let’s you know where to go for what in a new, interesting way. Overall, it’s good!

Specialty Journalism, small: Council on Foreign Relations.
This site dedicates itself to publicizing the challenging issues of primarily policy-makers. I didn’t so much care for this particular winner, I thought the judges could have picked a better site. The information that I, as a citizen, would want to learn about was difficult to find easily. There was a lot of information, but not very relevant information, but that’s my opinion.

Student Journalism had two winners:
*Border Beat.
It looks like an elemental set-up otherwise done by a junior high student, has over 10 different multimedia packages which was surprisingly pleasing.
*Our Tahoe.
Again, is not a very intriguing layout, actually contains a lot of useful information, but does not have as much multimedia as the latter. I guess you could say, don’t judge a site by its cover. I think if I were a judge, I would have gone with Border Beat alone.

All in all, I was pretty disappointed in the pickings by the judges. I’m thinking maybe the entrys weren’t so good this year, who knows. I think my favorite one would have to be the discovery.com site, I really enjoyed looking at that one. My least favorite would have to be the OnBeing site, don’t even get me started on it again. It just fires me up. Next year’s award show will be held in Washington.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Innovative designs in online journalism rewarded

The Oakland Tribune has done an excellent job creating a site to help memorialize the deaths of so many individuals in their community. Not Just A Number, is a communtity action site that was recently awarded for its creativity and design in online journalism. This site allows the community to become more involved in the problem of homicide that they have been dealing with for years. The Oakland Tribune did a beautiful job of designing this interactive site for their community. The large numbers of murders is affecting Oakland and the paper is enabling people to see the problems and discuss the issue in a very user friendly format. This is a successful way of bringing a story to life and allowing online readers to interact and find an abundence of information. They took such a sensitive issue in their communtity and turned it into a well-designed multimedia package. This site is a great way for people to get involved in the problems of their community and take action.

Props to the Wisconsin State Journal



Many people hate hip-hop.

Many people don't understand hip-hop.

And when most people think hip-hop, the last place they think of is Wisconsin.

So when I browsed through some of the winners for different awards in the Online News Association's Journalism Awards, the multimedia piece the Wisconsin State Journal put together really shocked me.

In a good way.

I'm a huge hip-hop fan, and I'm a fan of exactly the hip-hop that was covered in this piece. When people hear the term hip-hop, there are a lot of negative connotations that go into their head.

But this piece focused on the hip-hop that is at the root, why hip-hop was started. It focused on the roots of hip-hop.

The piece creatively used videos, audio, and a flash package to put together a beautiful and functional presentation. The hip-hop timeline was particularly great.

This was really an amazing piece that deserves the recognition it has gotten.

Florida Today's Space Coverage Wins Online Journalism Award

The Florida Today space coverage, winner of the 2007 Online News Association's Online Journalism Award for small beat reporting, is impressive considering how niche the subject matter is.

The site would benefit from a more appealing design aesthetic (they've gone plaid). Also, the layout is cluttered, and finding articles within the space section of the Florida Today website isn't as straightforward as it should be. A poor layout and unattractive design do nothing to generate interest in a topic that is largely ignored by the public (no "pop" stars in space...only Patrick Stewart).

However, the award Florida Today received was not for visual design, it was for reporting, and the wealth of content bordered on overwhelming. A video gallery compiling footage of various shuttle launches, a number of televised news reports, and videos about satelites and deep space missions, is accessible from the main page.

A video about Dawn, a satellite scientists will use to study Vesta, an astroid, and the dwarf planet Ceres (both believed to have formed early in the development of our solar system) in order to gain insights into how solar systems form, was particularly interesting. The video explained how the satellite's onboard instruments will be used to study Vesta and Ceres.

There are two interactive features in addition to the videos already described. The first interactive feature is titled "9 Minutes to Space," (followed by 7 minutes in heaven) and details the time between a shuttle launching and then escaping the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. The other interactive feature is about the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It boasts interactive photos taken by satellites, webcam feeds, a number of written articles, and both video and photo galleries with content specific to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The only subject missing from Florida Today's space coverage is astrophysics. This is a disappointment because astrophysics is a fundemental part of all space related research (nerd-gasm thwarted). However, the breadth of Florida Today's coverage makes up for the lack of information concerning the theoretical side of astronomy.

Some of Online News Associations Journalism Awards for 2007

My favorite site by far was the Oakland Tribune’s "Not Just a Number." I think that murder is a tricky topic to cover but I believe they did so in a way that was tasteful and respectful. I especially liked the puzzle. That was a really interesting way to present the risk factors for violence. I have never seen a puzzle incorporated into a multi-media presentation like that. It was very creative. The homicide map was a good way to get the viewer’s attention. Having it set up that way probably captures the audience’s attention more than a simple list of names would have. I liked that it was interactive and you could click on the numbers to see the people that they represented. I clicked on one where the deceased’s father was speaking about his murder and that was really powerful.


I really liked the concept of the "On Being" piece that people should get to know each other. I would much rather hear a story right from the source and not some cheesy reporter or something. Real people speaking about their lives is much more interesting than reading about it. I like that the filming was simple. Having the subjects just sit in a chair with a white background puts the focus completely on them. I think a lot of time people try to do too much with film and it makes it hard to know what to concentrate on. The simplicity of this was beautiful.


When I looked at Florida Today's "Space Beat," I immediately didn’t like it. I thought it was way too cluttered. I have a hard enough time trying to concentrate on things as it is so I had no idea what to look at. I did really like the 9 minutes to space multi-media presentation. That was the only thing I looked at on this site though.


"Hip- Hop 101" was really cool. I liked all of the different videos of people describing what hip- hop is to them. The entire vibe of the site was laid back and cool. It mirrored hip-hop itself. I would liked to have seen more examples of graffiti when I clicked on the graffiti videos. It seemed to me like they talked about it more than they showed examples of it. There were some examples but I would have preferred it been all examples of graffiti and the guy in the background doing a voice-over off camera.