It has been almost a year since geolocation services like Fourspare and Gowalla came into the iPhones of nerds (myself included) that made the annual pilgrimage to Austin Texas for South by Southwest Interactive. The Austin based Gowalla had a significant marketing presence at last year’s conference while Foursquare was stronger out of the gate, being the must have app for SXSWers looking for the hot parties and the who’s who’s of the tech world each night and filling out their badge sashes with the all-night benders that are a SXSW staple. Gowalla picked up steam throughout last year, and now many people (myself and most of my friends) use both apps whenever they remember to check-in somewhere.
Yesterday WordPress released an early Christmas present for all us bloggers with the update to 2.9. The update is mostly chocked full of bug fixes and improvements to the wordpress code. Below is a breakdown.
1. It’s faster: Although not a listed improvement, many users, including myself, are seeing that sites are running faster with the 2.9 upgrade.
2. Built in Image Editor: WordPress now includes a basic image editor including crop, edit, flip, rotate and scale images all available through the media library and when uploading/inserting images into posts.
3. Batch plugin updating: Now more updating each individual plugin site wide, under tools, in the update tab, a new option to update all plugins at once makes managing multiple sites more easy and the updater checks to make sure the plugin updates are compatible with your version of WordPress.
4. Oembed support: no more embed codes for inserting videos. Just paste the url for the video on its own line inside your post and the video will automatically be embedded. Currently all the major players like Youtube are supported with more providers coming.
5. Sitewide Trashcan: No more accidentaly deleted posts or comments; the new trashcan saves the posts for thirty days.
Below is a WordPress video highlighting some of the new features.
Below is a post I wrote for discussion in my Mass Media and Behavior class about Stupidity and the Internet.
The topic of stupidity and its suspected growth has become a topic for conversation in the culture. Movies like Idiocracy and the documentary titled “Stupidity” have investigated the roots and imagined the possible future world of idiots. I think what lies at the root of the issue is a lack of critical thinking about our lives and the world around us.
In Idiocracy, Mike Judge shows us his vision of the future we’re headed for as people become mindless zombies and are beholden to the large corporations that infiltrated the government. I personally would enjoy having a Brawndo-esk energy beverage piped into my home, but not replacing water as in the movie.
I hate to go on a education bashing rant as I aspire to become a teacher, but I feel that there is a lack of using critical thinking skills as a way to examine the world. In school we are taught the scientific method as a way to test our hypothesis about a science experiment but that valuable analytical process isn’t applied to other arenas.
Everything we’ve learned and discuss in class involves looking beyond the first glance and analyzing the issues and motives of the people who bring us the news and entertainment.
I think the internet and the growth of new media can lessen the brain drain of TV with the larger variety of content the reaches targeted audiences and engages audiences better. Certainly spending countless hours watching cat videos on YouTube isn’t going to expands one’s horizons, but it is the interaction through the internet that engages people. A recent study from the University of Stiriling showed that avid facebook users had an increase in working memory capacity versus control and social networking and youtube study participants.
It was in colleges where the internet was born and raised and academia as a whole has a vested interest in seeing knowledge spread and the internet not become a vast wasteland. Most teachers dislike Wikipedia, but I see that as a missed opportunity for academia to open the gates spread the knowledge for the betterment of society. Projects like MIT’s open course ware are all about sharing the mountain of accumulated knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton was famously quoted as saying “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He was referencing the great minds that had come before him and their learning making his discoveries possible, and I think that the internet can be a tool to help others jump up on our backs and see farther.
Below is a post I wrote for discussion in my Mass Media and Behavior class about newspapers and their role in the digital age.
Newspapers like other old media formats has had to find ways to coexist and continue to be profitable in the digital age. The subscription and classified revenue models that newspapers subsisted on for decades is in rapid decline as subscriptions continue to drop because more and more people are getting their news from internet and TV.
With the growth of ebay and craigslist the money that newspapers would get from classifieds ads has been drastically decreasing as well as more and more advertisers are finding better success and higher engagement with internet advertising putting more strain on newspapers.
Today it was announced that the New York Post is going to close its bureaus in New York, Chicago and Las Angeles; another strike for newspapers. With the growth of the internet the number of news outlets has grown and the pace that information travels is something that Gutenberg could have never guessed. Even now the 24 hour news networks are having trouble keeping up with breaking news and more and more people are using twitter where breaking news can travel the globe in seconds. MSNBC has recognized this shift and partnered with a leading twitter account, “BreakingNews”, to share content and assets with each other.
The way that people access the news has also changed, RSS readers and search engines are huge sources for new content and News Corp has recognized an opportunity to profit. News Corp signed a deal with Microsoft and their new search product Bing.com that will give Bing exclusive access to indexing News Corp content. News Corp has been vocal in their opinion that search engines should be paying newspapers for access to their content and the deal with Microsoft told to be worth one hundred million dollars could be the first in a wave of print publications that begin to limit access to their content. Several newspapers have tried subscription models with minimal degrees of success.
There has been a rash of newspapers going out of business or consolidating, reducing competition and consumer choice in print, but blogging more a viable reality than ever. It’s odd, colleges are reporting an increase in the number of journalism majors yet regular jobs in the media are on the decline. There is a twitter account called “themediaisdying” all about reporting the painful death of old media. The opportunity is for journalists to dive deep into topics that interest them and they can become their own boss. A battle that has yet to be tried out in the courts is in matters of freedom of the press, where reporters need to keep secret their sources and the court system will someday have to create the water test of what nowadays can be counted as the press.
The below is a rant I wrote for a school discussion topic for my mass media behavior class and I thought I would post it here too.
The digital revolution and the growth of the internet has vastly changed the music business with the availability of cheap multiple track recording software, and the sharing and social networks the internet has made possible. I think that the idea of “making it” has drastically changed in the past fifteen years. I am reminded of the movie, Airheads, where the protagonists take hostage of a radio station in attempts to get their demo tape aired and get a recording contract. The idea that today any artist would be signed by only listening to their demo tape is laughable as well as the idea that signing the record contract would make the artist rich.
The digital age and file sharing has greatly hurt record companies and radio stations, but has been used by artists new and old to grow and strengthen their fan bases. For artists, selling records is no longer where the majority of their money comes in from, it’s from touring and merchandise, and ancillary revenue streams that come from being a star. The business of selling 20 dollar CDs as been replaced with 99 cent download singles and 3.99 dollar ring-tones; for too long record companies and the RIAA fought to protect their old business model instead of innovating and embarrassing new technology. They thought for too long that using DRM would force people to purchase their licensed digital goods, but often forced consumers to other places to find music.
Radio stations too are fighting to protect their long held business models in the new landscape of audio options that consumers have as the number of devices that listeners increases. With satellite radio, iPods, CDs, and internet radio, and others there is no lack of choices in audio entertainment where terrestrial radio once dominated. Video killed the radio star and the internet killed the radio station; radio stations can no longer charge their outlandish CPM rates with declining listener-ship and cheaper, more effective targeted advertising that is available on the internet. Radio ownership deregulation reduced the variety in programing and the days where DJs had actual influence on which songs get played are long gone. Clear Channel has national syndicated programming that airs across the country reducing costs and jobs; this also gives them huge sway with record companies that are trying to get their music played.
A topic that wasn’t covered in either side is the consolidation of music venues and ticketing agencies and the impact that has on newer artists. Earlier this year, Live Nation and Ticketmaster announced a proposed merger worth 2.5 billion dollars that would merge the largest ticket seller and largest venue/concert promoter. Luckily the merger has been meet with some vocal opposition, mainly in the UK as the merger would almost certainly create a monopoly on first rate concerts and shows. Already large music acts like Michael Jackson and Madonna sign deals with Live Nation because they no longer need the support of a record company to get their music out there, but the problem is for newer and indie acts that can be locked out of Live Nation venues. The merger could mean higher ticket prices and could almost eliminate the secondary ticket market.
The first episode of “Put This On,” a video podcast that comes from two “Monsters of Podcasting” Jesse Thorn (host of “The Sound of Young America” & “Jordan, Jesse, Go”) and Adam Lisagor (member of the “You Look Nice Today” podcast) made it’s web debut today. Put This On is a change from the normal tech based talk that often comes to mind when talking about podcasts. Put this On also is different in how it got started, they used Kickstarter.com to help raise funds to get the podcast project started. Kickstarter.com is a site that touts itself as ” A New Way to Fund Ideas and Endeavours” and provides a place for those with an idea and the willingness to to the footwork to gain funds to get started. Many of the Kickstarter.com projects come from artists wanting to make a book, record a new album, and other projects of the like. Thorn and Lisagor were able to use Kickstarter.com in a way to test the virtual waters to see if their idea for Put this One would work and to attract sponsors and gain the startup cash to get the series started right.
Thorn and Lisagor were looking for $1,500 to start “Put this On,” and within days of announcing their intentions and using twitter to get the word out quickly exceeded their initial goal and at the end of the funding round had pledges from people and businesses in total of more than $3,900. In full disclosure, I was one of the backers pitching in a couple of bucks to the cause. Most of the donnors pledged fifty dollars or less while Metafilter.com (a longtime sponsor of Thorn’s other podcasts) stepped up with $1,500 in return for a post-roll advertisment by Thorn and Lisagor that airs at the end of each episode.
The production value of “Put this On” is excellent and should serve as an example for anyone who wants to start a video podcast and really shows that online video has grown up to take on old media. Certainly, anyone who has ever worn jeans or ever will should check out the first episode of “Put this On.” I think the use of Kickstarter.com is an interesting development in the world of podcasting. It is a twist on the donation model that many podcasters have tried, but with varying degrees of success. Not only do the donnors have the enjoyment of seeing the project come into reality, but they also feel a sense of ownership as they were there on the ground floor, getting the project started. It will be interesting to see what Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor come up with in future episodes of “Put this On” as they attempt to educate people on how to dress like grownups. I will admit that I could use the advice as there was a period in middle school where I wore sweatpants everyday, and despite what Michael Jordan’s hanes commercials would lead you to believe, sweatpants will not help your jump shot or help you in the ladies department either.
At the end of this week’s Diggnation (episode 221) Kevin and Alex show a trailer for a new show Revision3 that is launching on October 7th. The show, Web Zeroes, is a departure from the normal variety and current events programs that make up the rest of the Rev3 lineup. The show is centered around three best friends living in Houston, TX that aspire to become internet superstars. Check out the trailer below.
Many twitterers awoke Friday morning to find that they had a significant drop in the number of people following them. On Thursday, twitter admins pushed several changes through the system to help identify and clean out spam accounts as well as clear up some lingering database issues that reported incorrect data for some users. I, myself, saw a drop of more that 60 followers following the recent change. As one might imagine, the sudden and drastic change in follower count alarmed and angered many users. I feel these users don’t really “get” twitter and are fixated on increasing the number of followers they have, but I feel they are really missing out on what twitter can offer to those who engage in the community and provide useful content.
photo credit: playerx
Having been a twitter user since January 2007, I can regale new users of a time when there was free access to the public time-line, and the top users were almost exclusively the nerd famous, with the top user with the most followers switching back and forth between Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose. Those times are now just a distant memory as twitter has become infiltrated by spammers and self branded social media experts. Not long after twitter integrated the trending topics section into the main site design, did those topics become the opponent’s flag in a online capture the flag game where spammers latched on to twitter and spew forth their wares in attempts to gain the recognition of being on the trending topics list. Trending topics is a whole other issue as its usefulness has decreased and doesn’t give any back story as to why something is a trending topic. When you click on a trending topic in hopes to find out why it is a trending topic, you are bombarded with dozens of users tweeting out that same question as well as an alarming amount of users that send out tweets just listing all the trending topics in hopes that someone will click and follow them.
Fighting spam is something that twitter has to be very proactive in if they are not turn into a myspace of friendster. If twitter were a comedy club, spammers would be hecklers shouting out nonsense in attempts to get attention. The spammers feel they have a right to be there, but are ruining the show for everyone else that came to the show. To the people dismayed at their loss of their fake followers, I say get evolved, and engage users; if you provide value to people they will follow you. The true value of twitter is in the conversation.
It’s been almost a week since I left the awesomeness that is SXSW Interactive. In that time I have been trying to put together my plan and get focused on what are going to be the one or two projects that I tackle and and get off my ass and make a real effort in making something happen. This was my first year going to SXSW and for me on of the highlights was Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote session. I’m getting on the Hustle 2.0 bandwagon and Gary’s session was really inspiring and game changing. It’s great to see someone that really gets it and wants to genuinely help others in the space. Embedded is the session, the video isn’t great but just hearing it gives you a real sense of the energy of the room.
With Macworld and CES going on this week, I’ve been looking forward to this year’s SXSW. This will be my first SXSW and I’m really looking forward to getting to see some of the panels and all the going ons at SXSW. Last year a lot of new media and social networking start-ups have been hit hard and even the big technology blue chips like Microsoft have had to announce layoffs. This brings me to my point. In these troubled times (take a drink) companies that normally throw huge parties during south by southwest are expected to drastically cut their budgets or not throw parties at all. This, I find to be very sad. At a time when people throughout the tech sector face layoffs, we need free beer. It will be a true travesty of epic proportions that any nerd find themselves walking down sixth street sober. Without the social lubricating elixir of free beer and an open bar, the code monkeys of the world will curl up in their shells like a armadillo along side a dusty country road. I urge tech compaines to keep the beer flowing, if not for us but for the future of the web.