Death sells Pat!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

I love Pat’s idea of an online obituary site but I guess it helps that I don’t consider myself in the least bit ’squeamish’ (except when it comes to large insects of course).

She was kind enough to incorporate Biography.com in her abstract but I don’t think we’d be a competitor for the site she’s envisioning creating.  With regard to the sites she would be competing with, I love the clean look and feel of legacy.com and think it’s easily navigable.  Tributes.com is great too. I love the search feature on both sites and think that would be vital to her site as well.

But the original idea of creating your obituary while you’re still alive sets her site apart from the rest.  And I like the tongue-in-cheek attitude she’s planning.  After all, who says death has to be serious?

After my dad got cancer, he was determined to ‘put his affairs in order’ and went down to the local funeral home to plan his own service.  We nearly died laughing when I came upon a to-do note he had written to himself while in the hospital. “Plan funeral. Buy coffin.”  Happy to report the old fella is still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of 81. :>)

Objectivity doesn’t exist

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

What exactly is ‘news’ anyway?  “I’m watching the news.” “I’m reading a newspaper.” “I only get my news online.”  We use the term so often and the definition seems so basic, that we assume we know what it is.  But do we?

CNN
RushLimbaugh.com

Where do we draw the line between opinion and news?  Bruns argues that the news (online at least) must contain opinion for it to be compelling.  However, how do we know where one begins and the other starts?  When a user visits RushLimbaugh.com they know what to expect, venomous right-wing rhetoric.  Wait!  Stop right there!  That’s clearly opinion, right?  Not fact or news.  Agreed, and it was easy to spot.  When a user visits cnn.com, most people expect just the facts, m’aam and people with opinions can comment on the news stories in the area clearly outlined for such use (creatively labeled ‘From the Blogs’).

But that’s assuming that the writers for cnn are purely objective and can separate out their feelings and opinions from the news.  And who chooses the stories that are published or written?  Writers are beholden to editors.  Editors are beholden to publishers.  And publishers can be beholden to anyone from shareholders, to a board of directors to the media outlet’s owner(s).  It’s not called ‘mainstream media’ for nothing.  Bruns’ bolsters this view in his argument against Wikinews’ NPOV doctrine.

“Wikinews could be said to suffer from something of an inferiority complex which seems to lead to a dogged pursuit of traditional journalistic ideals of objectivity and neutrality even though these ideals themselves may stem from an outdated worldview which posited the existence of irrefutable objective facts even in the context of human affairs. A truly multiperspectival approach to news, by contrast, acknowledges that virtually all ‘facts’ are subject to interpretation, and unlike Wikinews’ attempt to synthesise them, simply presents these interpretations and offers a space for a dialogic engagement between them.”

Interestingly, in this study done by a UCLA political scientist, they found that:

“If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox’s ‘Special Report’ as ABC’s ‘World News’ and NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news,” said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Curtis and KubySo the solution seems to be visiting several news sources in order to get a ‘balanced’ view.  This brings to mind the radio program, Curtis and Kuby (since     cancelled) that showcased the left-leaning Ron Kuby, famous NYC defense attorney and right-leaning Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels. The program had no objectivity in that both of its radio hosts had serious political agendas and viewpoints but the fact that they were on the same program is what made it the ideal news source.  Maybe the new objectivity should be none at all.

Like Sunstein writes in her article, “Unanticipated encounters, involving topics and points of view we have not sought out and perhaps find irritating, are central to democracy and even to freedom itself.”  By showcasing different points of view in one arena, people can find like-minded bloggers and users with opposing views.  The trouble is, on the internet people tend to gravitate towards forums that house only the views they espouse.  Maybe Wikinews NPOV could be put to good use in that it would attract people from all mindsets. Instead of right-wingers going to rushlimbaugh.com and left wingers going to newyorktimes.com, people could converge in one blogosphere.

I’m sure there’d be  lot of nasty back and forth but at least there would be back and forth.  After all, a bunch of people agreeing with each other about how right they are gets boring.  So maybe Wikinews could be the UN but for blogging (without the tedious 1+ hour speeches).

Beer sites must be run by drunks

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22nd, 2009 by admin – 2 Comments

If I’m going to develop a site for serious beer lovers, I must assess the competition first. What do they do right? In what areas are they lacking? Are they easily located? What kind of people would they attract? Do I think they have a loyal following?

A common issue that I’ve found among beer sites I’ve visited in the past is their lack of clean layout and lack of decent information architecture. I am curious to embark on a quest to find my possible competitors to see if any of them have changed since I formed my initial opinion.

Realbeer.com is a site whose slogan is “What part of beer don’t you understand?” The site’s design and architecture are outdated and seem schizophrenic. You feel overwhelmed on the homepage with all the seemingly unrelated links and there seems to be no clear direction of where the site is trying to take you or what it’s trying to accomplish. This to me is a clear example of what not to do.

RealBeer.com

Beeradvocate.com’s slogan is “Respect Beer.” Again, this site’s homepage is full of links with no clear focus for your eye or your mind.

BeerAdvocate.com

Ratebeer.com is a slight notch up from the previous two. Its motto is “Bringing you the craft beer movement as it happens.” At least based on that, the site’s users have an idea of what kind of content they may find here. The homepage also has some focal points which makes it more engaging from a layout perspective.

RateBeer.com

Presumably the most commonly visited URL for all things relating to beer would be beer.com but I couldn’t get the site to load. It’s description on page one of bing reads, “Covering beer, girls, nightlife, gaming and entertainment.” Sounds more like a site for a fraternity than for real beer lovers. I’ll pass thank you very much.

beercom

Another annoyance that Realbeer and Ratebeer have in common is text ads in very prominent areas on the homepage. Most users understand the need to monetize a website if only so that we can get free information, but I think there are better ways to accomplish this.

Eureka! I found a site that has a clear mission, has a great logo and is fairly easy to navigate. BeerChurch.com pulled me in and had me clicking around to find out more about the site and its creators. Drinking beer and charity, what a great combination. I don’t know that this site would be a competitor. In fact, I would like to contact them to see if we could cross-promote.

BeerChurch.com

I think the typical demographic of a beer lover is a middle aged, middle to upper middle class,white male. Anyone who has ever been to a beer festival can validate this claim. It’s the same demographic as the ‘early adopters’ that Jenkins described in Module 2. These beer lovers presumably gravitate towards search engines to find more information on their favorite brew. The sites I mention above were all found on page one of google or bing which is where I need to end up if this site will be a success. But overall, judging from the competition, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

OldTVNews Guy, Evan and our Second Lives

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21st, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

I loved OldTVNewsGuy’s rant about Second Life and felt similar in my own experience with it. But what gave me even more food for thought was Evan’s comment about the rant. Evan says,

“I do see what’s behind it though and can draw some parallels to even our own ICM program. Even though we’ve met in RL technically this class takes place in a sort of SL.”

What a new spin to put on Second Life and my negative opinion of it! How can I possibly disparage Second Life when I rave about the Second Life I’m currently involved in, albeit as part of my ‘real life?’ How confusing!  It is somewhat odd to be connected and communicating with many people I’ve never met and maybe never will meet.  We’re sharing thoughts, ideas, feedback and just random comments with each other on a daily basis. I’m communicating more with some of my fellow ICMers than I do with people in my ‘real life.’

Thanks for the new perspective!

Web project abstract

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20th, 2009 by admin – Be the first to comment

I decided to go with the idea for the website geared toward beer snobs. The URL is still in question.

The people I know that have a passion for beer are truly passionate. It’s not just a passing fancy but a lifelong obsession (or hobby).

An obvious sign that more people are becoming particular about the beer they drink is that the large breweries are trying to capture some of that market. A Bud Light Wheat beer has just been released and Michelob has a selection of ‘wannabe’ microbrews available. So I know the audience is there and that they need all the help they can get in their quest for perfection.

The website will need the assistance of its users (user generated content) to create the database of locations where good beer can be found. The user should be able to search by zip code, city and state or just peruse a map in order to zoom in on one area. One site that does this well is Trails.com.

Trails.com Screenshot

It will be imperative that the interface is very easy to use and navigate. There will also need to be a registration process so each member can upload content or comment on someone else’s post.

There will be general information about beer on the site to compel users to visit the site in the first place. I agree with e-mickann’s suggestion about allowing users to rate beer as well. This will be a site for beer lovers on multiple levels. It might be possible to use an API such as daylife.com’s to aggregate all news related to beer. This way there will always be fresh content but the webmaster would not have to worry about updating it every day.

I will know I have created a compelling site if I get a high percentage of repeat visitors and if people create content. I am unsure of whether I will have a partner yet or not.

Reponse to KM Diehl’s “To game or not to game”

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

I enjoyed Kim’s blog about gaming and thought her breakdown of the different types of gamers to be pretty accurate. What I felt compelled to write about though, was her assessment of the Wii Fit. I was so interested to see the console in action after my niece and nephews got one for Christmas. After all, I complain about the lack of activity that seems intrinsic in gaming and here comes a game console that defies that stereotype.

I was so unimpressed with the graphics that I was convinced it was just the one game I saw played initially (boxing). Then they put on golf and I couldn’t believe my eyes. As Kim mentions, comparing it to a game like Madden is like comparing Pac-Man to Medal of Honor. There was so much hype about the release of the Wii and it seems unfathomable that they didn’t spend more time and money investing in graphics. I can understand not releasing that ‘bells and whistles’ version first, since you want people to purchase an upgrade at some point (Steve Jobs seems particularly adept at this process). But I could not imagine investing several hundred dollars in a game console in this day and age only to be disappointed after playing. Looks like Nintendo has a ways to go to convince someone like me that this could be a worthwhile investment.

My first life keeps me busy enough

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

I gave Second Life a shot having absolutely no idea of what it would be like and never having played a game like it before. From the outset I was intrigued. After all, who wouldn’t like the chance to play an anonymous counterpart, feasibly becoming someone else and seeing what that feels like?

I initially found the instructions fairly easy to use and found it easy to change my avatar’s appearance and chat to others. After figuring out the basics, I found myself pretty bored. I finally located an area where other people had gathered and found the experience to be entirely bereft of anything remotely entertaining or engaging. It was like being at a really bad singles bar. Though admittedly, I have a negative view of games such as these and generally consider them a waste of time. So this reviewer is admitting her prejudice from the get-go. But aside from my admitted prejudice, my assessment of Second Life is: I don’t need a second life, my first one keeps me busy and entertained enough.

I can happily report to having located games I do enjoy though. One such game is History.com’s Expedition Africa. I had low expectations but the game was so compelling, I spent thirty minutes trying to finish it. The game required spending time to learn the strategy and then utilizing that strategy to get further and further each time you play. I found the interface interesting but easy to understand and the plot and details of the game very engaging. There were times when the game frustrated me because I had to learn the strategy as opposed to being instructed but that added to the game’s appeal.

Aside from my pre-conceived notions about games though, I am going to keep an open mind since I know games appeal to such a high percentage of the population and are an increasingly important part of digital media.

Playing vs Gaming

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16th, 2009 by admin – 1 Comment

I was having conflicting thoughts when I saw the title of this module. I find gaming (at least as we know it today) to be somewhat unsettling. In its most base iteration, it may involve a human being spending many consecutive hours in front of a television or monitor, trying to achieve an outcome, the means to that outcome sometimes involving dubious actions. Let me use Grand Theft Auto as an example because that is the most obvious and extreme. In the game, users take on the role of a criminal. In order to ascend the hierarchy of the criminal organization, players may kill, rob, pimp, maim and assault people just to name a few options available to the game’s main character. While I certainly appreciate the right for games like this to exist in our society, I question the need people have to play them.

Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto

Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto

Abt extols the virtue of play in his chapter, “The Reunion of Act and Thought.” I wholeheartedly agree that play is vital to learning and to leading a fulfilling life. Children play, and as a result learn about decision making, interacting with others, actions and their consequences amongst many other concepts which will benefit them throughout life. Adults play to learn, as a means of stress relief, to engage in physical fitness, to interact with others or just for fun. Play has many positive attributes.

I see gaming as opposed to playing, in a slightly different light. The stereotypical gamer plays video games to ‘beat’ the game, ‘win’ or ‘finish.’ After ‘beating’ the game, the gamer feels exhausted relief and some sense of pride in the accomplishment but is there true happiness to be found in this moment? Certainly not everything we do in life brings us happiness but those activities in which we engage in our free time should bring us some sort of contentment. Watching TV is a good example of a comparable activity that people tend to spend a lot of time doing that doesn’t necessarily bring them happiness. However, television shows, even the most violent and exploitative don’t have a level of interactivity to them that lets people feel as though they’re the ones in control or taking part in the situation.

There are arguments and counter-arguments about the effects of playing violent games. Some say they provide an outlet for aggression while others contend they provide a catalyst for real-life actions, often with dire consequences.

There are certainly benefits to gaming several of which Maliet briefly touches on in “Adapting the Principles of Ludology to the Method of Video Game Content Analysis.” The article mentions:

“goal-oriented thinking (Blumberg, 1998), spatial cognition (McClurg & Chaillé, 1987), memory rehearsal (Oyen & Bebko, 1996) or eye-hand coordination (De Aguilera & Méndiz, 2003).”

This article in Discover magazine also sheds some light onto possible benefits of gaming. I also realize that I’ve used the extreme example of the stereotypical gamer while making my argument even though casual gamers are numerous. In general though, when I think about gaming, I envision my 12-year old nephew alone in his room, playing games when he should be out engaging in activities with other kids. I don’t think that spending lots of free time in a solitary environment with only a game as company is really beneficial in the long run. Humans are social creatures and games provide a false sense of interactivity. After all, interacting with a machine is not the same as interacting and developing relationships with people.

3 or 4 Ideas for Final Project or My Confession That I’m Not Creative

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13th, 2009 by admin – 5 Comments

In some of your introductory blogs, you worried that your lack of technical prowess or digital media experience would somehow hinder you in this program. I did my best to persuade you that this is not the case. Here’s why.

You can learn HTML, CSS, Flash and a host of other software programs and languages to make you ‘educated’ in interactive communications. You can learn what’s good and what’s bad in web design and usability. What can’t be learned sadly, is what I lack. I’m not an artist nor am I a writer. I hesitate to say I’m not creative because I think everyone is creative in some way, but the difficulty I had with coming up with good ideas for a final project confounds me. I do this for a living for pete’s sake! So now I’m just convinced I’m utterly un-imaginative and am drowning in self-pity. Well ok, not really, but I certainly do envy those of you have have a natural gift of creativity.

My ideas are very ‘nichey’. As I was thinking of blogging this as my audio post I found it very funny that nichey and Nietzsche sound similar. Guess I was feeling punchy at the time.

Those of you who love neither hiking nor beer and who are not a parent or a pet owner may find all these ideas extremely boring. Please let me know if that’s the case, I can always beg Dr. Alex for an extension and buy a creative friend some drinks to help me come up with better ideas.

1) A forum (blogosphere?) where imperfect parents can share their stories. My inspiration for this came from my friend’s Facebook status update:

“(name) realizes she’s not winning any parent of the year awards for replaying Dora, but then thinks-who am I kidding- I wouldn’t be friends with the the people winning those awards anyway. My people would be sitting in the corner with a glass of wine enjoying the quiet!”

So many people commented on her link all of them essentially saying, “Amen sister!” With parenthood comes guilt even if you think you’re doing a decent job. It helps to share stories with other imperfect parents to keep yourself sane.

2) I love good beer. Sometimes it’s hard to find. I am envisioning a site with user generated content where people can post stores, bars, delis, etc where good beer can be found. If you’re a beer snob, you’ll understand the need for this.

3) I had what I thought was a brilliant idea to start a website for pet swapping. We were going to Ireland for 10 days and the idea of spending $400 to board my dog left me feeling slightly ill. I found a couple of sites that purport to help find people willing to care for someone else’s pet as part of an exchange but they stunk. I still think it would be a valuable service but I need to work out the details of functionality first.

4) We love hiking and I’m always on a quest to find new trails. There is a great site already called trails.com that helps you find a trail and also allows other members to rate the trail, comment on it, and upload photos. The problem is that the site costs $50 a year. But I can’t harbor any resentment about that since it’s a kick ass site. So instead of competing with a site that already does a good job, I was thinking about a site where you could keep a hiking journal. We hike so frequently that I forget where we’ve been or how we got there. Sort of like a hiking diary but you could share it with friends. Maybe this is more like a Facebook but for people who hike? I guess I need to think more about the details…

Audio post – I realize I say umm a lot

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13th, 2009 by admin – Be the first to comment

Well here is my first audio post.  I found it really difficult to talk to my computer and didn’t like the idea of using a script. I’m sure I’ll get points deducted for saying “umm”  a lot.  In it, I respond to Desiree’s comment on my ‘rant of sorts.’

module_2_audio