Category Archives: technology

Computers are becoming the standard text book

Millions of trees could be sighing a breath of relief in the future as computers become the standard in schools instead of textbooks if some reports are correct. Still those mighty oaks will have to wait a while before they are in the clear.
Not everyone is in favor of textbooks going the way of the dinosaur but it does make ecological sense. Textbooks are quickly outdated while computers are updated within minutes. Still it depends on what level of education to understand the near future trends when it comes to textbooks vs. computers. It may be many years before the companies that make those heavy textbooks delve into a world without pages to turn. In college those tomes are a money maker. Students generally spend over $1,000 a year for their books. As professors demand the latest editions the used books are worthless for the next year’s students. Delaware Online reports:

“It’s safe to say that paper, printed texts continue to be the bulk of the demand,” said Elio DiStaola, spokesman for the Follett Higher Education Group, which manages 800 bookstores in North America, including those at Delaware State University and St. Mark’s High School. “But we’re seeing more of those texts available in the electronic format. Our bookstores are preparing for that shift to accelerate. We have to assume that it will.”

There are about 4,500 college stores in the United States that survive because of those heavy tomes. With average sales hovering around $3 million the owners are unlikely to push for computers being the new textbooks. Computer teaching has a more self-study approach than standard textbooks approach. Information on the computer is grasped in a different way than when it is obtained by reading a book. It’s hard to write in the margins of a computer after all. While higher learning institutions don’t see the textbook being replaced by computers United States school systems may be nudging towards that day. A report in The New York Times shows that many school districts are providing their students with computers for lessons and homework assignments. Some teachers see the day when the computer is the textbook.

“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite. “They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”

In California some science and math texts are being replaced with open source digital versions. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes that this initiative could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The computer is not a reliable text tool though unless every student is equip with not only their own device but also with Internet access.

“A large portion of our kids don’t have computers at home, and it would be way too costly to print out the digital textbooks,” said Tim Ward, assistant superintendent for instruction in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey Joint Union High School District, where almost half the students are from low-income families.

The fairly near future though may see kids toting their computer bags instead of backpacks jammed full of books weighing half of what they do. The future student may not understand how their parents sat in a class listening to a teacher lecture and then going home to read chapters at a time. They are liable to ask, “But what program did you use to store the information in so that you could use it later Mom?”

One in Four Tweets Created by Bots?

As many as one in four tweets on Twitter are sent by automated bots but most of those tweets are not spam. Around 32 per cent of all tweets made by the most active Twitter users were generated by machine bots
With most Tweets made by actual humans the social network is not going anywhere soon. It’s estimated that by 2010 there will be over 18 million people worldwide using Twitter. Most Twitter users hail from the United States with 60.6 percent of tweets. The United Kingdom comes in a far second place with only 6.91 percent of users. Japan, Canada and Brazil round out the top five twitter usage. Almost half of those that use Twitter have more than 100 followers. Mashable reports:

We found that 32% of all tweets made by the most active Twitter users were generated by machine bots that posted more than 150 tweets/day. The actual percentage of machine-generated tweets among the most active users is probably higher than 32% because there many bots that update less than 150 times/day.

With over 3 million Tweets a day Twitter users appear to actively use the social network a lot. The average user sends 15 messages a day.

The Peace Corps launches YouTube channel

Jody K. Olsen, the acting director of the Peace Corps, has announced that they have their own YouTube channel. The agency is also on Twitter and has a newly designed website.

The Peace Corps channel launched with 45 videos about the agency and their current projects around the world. It also has videos that deal with the history of the organization, founded by President John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver.

“The YouTube channel is an excellent resource for anyone considering Peace Corps service to better understand what Peace Corps service is really like on the ground,” said acting Director Olsen.

During the first week the Peace Corps channel had about 1,000 viewers.


Bloggasm’s Simon Owens Talks Citizen Media, Blogging

Bloggasm is a site that really shows the way of modern journalism. Run by Simon Owens, a 25-year-old former newspaper journalist, it hits today’s media issues with Owens’ special style.
Owens is no slouch when it comes to journalism. He writes on a regular basis for PBS’s Media Shift. The blog, Bloggasm was named in 2008 as one of PC Magazine’s favorite blogs. Focusing on media subjects Owens recently tackled the rumors about Sarah Palin divorcing and questioned the ethics behind repackaging news articles. Mr Owens took the time to discuss his views on citizen journalism, his site and online journalism. KJ- Why did you go digital journalism from print? SO- Well in many senses I was immersed in the online blogging world well before I became a print journalist. I started my first blog when I was a freshman in college and then launched one that began conducting original interviews when I was a junior, and even as a print journalist I secretly maintained Bloggasm, staying sometimes up until 2 in the morning after work interviewing sources and trying to break stories. Eventually it got to the point where I had made so many contacts within the blogging world that I got some job offers and jumped into the digital realm completely. KJ- Digital Journal is comprised of both professional and citizen journalists. What do you think of citizen journalists? SO- I find myself between the new media evangelists and the old media curmudgeons. I think that citizen journalism has a fascinating role in how information spreads and yet being immersed within the blogosphere daily I get frustrated with the sheer amount of misinformation and shoddy blogging that goes on — I think the traditional journalism filter does do something to battle that, though traditional journalism has its own problems that citizen journalism helps counteract. KJ- Bloggasm is a really cool site, I see you launched it prior to graduating. Has the focus changed since that time? SO- Oh yes, it wasn’t a very good site when it first launched, I had an idea that it would just feature Q and A interviews with prominent bloggers, and so they were just conducted via email and weren’t very specific or interesting. But as I began working as a print reporter and learning how to break news, conduct good interviews and weave them into a narrative, I thought: “Why couldn’t I do this for my blog?” I also got incredibly adept at getting my stories to spread using blogger outreach (I now do digital PR utilizing these skills) and so I began publishing feature-length stories, getting really good scoops and interviews having to do with online media. KJ- I read that you do marketing articles at times. Would you write a positive piece for something that you completely disagree with? SO- I’ve done digital PR outreach for clients that I wasn’t 100% behind. I doubt I would do anything on my blog along these lines without any kind of full disclosure, I tend to not ever write about clients on my blog anyway. Maybe “not 100% behind” is a bad phrase, more like it was a political issue I was somewhat indifferent on. KJ- Are you able to support yourself as an online journalist? SO- That’s the plan. Basically my blog is a “loss leader,” in that I don’t make much direct revenue on it (I do sell ads, though I don’t think I’ll make much that way). My blog is basically an advertisement for my online media and digital PR skills. If I can get a lot of people to come to it, then a certain percentage of them will need my skills to help spread the word about their product/media outlet/issue and contact me to hire me. KJ- That makes a lot of sense. Last question. What advise do you have for people just starting out in the field of online journalism? SO- Keep your blog layout simple and easy to read. Make your contact info readily available (you’d be surprised how many don’t do this) in case some kind of scoop lands in your inbox. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and actually pick up a phone and call a source, because 99% of your competition will take the easy route, giving you a leg up. That’s good advice from Mr. Owens. As traditional media moves closer to digital media the old tricks of the trade like confirming sources are as needed as much they ever were. Pulling up your sleeves and doing the hard work will in time see citizen and digital news have the same weight as old school print journalism.

Flickr announces new ‘Flickr 2 Twitter’ service

When Internet giants Flickr and Twitter team up, it’s huge news. Today the two photo-sharing site Flickr and the social networking site Twitter are announced the latest feature dubbed “Flickr 2 Twitter.”
The new feature allows Flickr users to automatically post images to Twitter. A press release from Yahoo (the company that owns Flickr) says, “Once authorized, members will be able to tweet photos from the “Blog This” button on their photo page or from their mobile devices.”

User’s photostreams be visible on their Flickr account, and their Twitter account will be updated in real-time with a fancy new Flic.kr shortened URL.

The feature has been in the beta testing for several weeks as Yahoo was gathering feedback from members. Today “Flickr 2 Twitter” is available for the more than 39 million Flickr members.

In order to use “Flickr 2 Twitter” members have to authorize Flickr to post to their Twitter accounts. After the authorization has taken place all members have to do when uploading new photos is select the “Blog This” button.

Flickr has also joined Twitter, so Twitter members can follow them at @flickr.


MySpace proposed restructuring will slash 300 international jobs

MySpace is restructuring its international operations in order to refocus personnel with a reduced area of territories. MySpace believes it will be able to retain a robust global consumer presence by doing this.
According to a press release from the company, MySpace’s international staff will be cut back from the current 450 international employees to 150. The company also announced four offices outside of the United States would be closed down according to a press release.

The MySpace offices in London, Berlin and Sydney would become the primary hubs for international operations under the proposed plan. Offices in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, and Spain would be placed under review for possible restructure.

Since the 2005 purchase of MySpace by News Corp., the company has faced difficulty adding to its user base. Facebook has surpassed MySpace in usage with more than 200 million members compared to the 125 million that are members of MySpace.

Jonathan Miller, the recently appointed CEO of digital media and chief digital officer at News Corporation has stated that MySpace had grew too big when one considered the marketplace in today’s economy.

“With roughly half of MySpace’s total user base coming from outside the U.S., maintaining productive and efficient operations in our international markets is important to users worldwide and our immediate financial strength,” said MySpace Chief Executive Officer Owen Van Natta. “As we conducted our review of the company, it was clear that internationally, just as in the U.S., MySpace’s staffing had become too big and cumbersome to be sustainable in current market conditions. Today’s proposed changes are designed to transform and refine our international growth strategy.”

Last week MySpace announced the company was reducing its staff by 30 per cent within the United States.

Times Online reports:

Owen Van Natta, the chief executive, said: “As we conducted our review of the company, it was clear that internationally, just as in the US, MySpace’s staffing had become too big and cumbersome to be sustainable in current market conditions.”

The total restructured work force for MySpace will go from 1,950 to 1,150.

The MySpace offices in Japan and locally owned MySpace China are not affected by the proposed plan.


Facebook May Start Vanity URLs This Week

Just like vanity plates for your car, Facebook will soon be offering vanity URLs for profile pages this week according to a reliable source to Tech Crunch.
There will be words that are in a blacklist according to Tech Crunch. Those words will include trademark infringements and many generic terms.

At this time Facebook profiles have been using user id numbers instead of words. Since March some Facebook pages have had the vanity URLs. Those who have the vanity tags are in a business relationship with Facebook.

The vanity URL is a useful tool on many other sites including MySpace and Twitter.

Facebook employees will get first dibs on the vanity URLs. Mark has already been taken by Mark Zuckerberg.


What the Public Wants From News Media

What do the masses want when it comes to a news sites? Is it the hard news that takes time to collect or quick jots to keep everyone updated in one place? A small survey was done for DigitalJournal.com to discover those answers.
News is happening everyday all around us, but what is it that the public wants? Do we want to be informed or do we want to be entertained?

Does what we want depend on our age, career or social settings?

Setting out to find the answers I asked 100 men and women from around the globe what they wanted in a news source. My goal was to have at least 1/5 of the surveys returned.

The survey was taken by 25 participants. The age of participants was from 19 to 72 with being the median age of 44.

16 males and 9 females answered the survey.

One student responded, two of the participants were disabled, careers ran the gamut from IT techs, web developers, construction consultant,engineer, management in the software industry, editors, writers, journalist, mental health worker and a translator.

Of those offering their social-economic status three are dealing with money issues and the remainder of 12 are in the middle class.

The survey was sent out to people in Australia, Europe, Africa and North America. At least two from each area responded with the majority of responses from North America.

The survey consisted of five questions about news media and then the above information. I did not divide the survey answers into the statistics of which gender wanted what as the results showed that all genders were divided in areas of division and visa versa.

Participants were also asked if they had additional comments concerning the news media. A sampling of those comments are:

I simply believe in the old news values: Audience, Impact, Proximity, Prominence, Conflict, Human Interest. These don’t change, in my opinion. And the story should answer the Four Ws and an H. Some opinion can be included, as long as it is near the bottom and can be seen as such. -CS

In general, I look to the news for facts. Opinions are available everywhere, at any time. Facts are more rare and thus more precious. And you can use my name as long as it’s associated with factual content 🙂

I Like to know what’s going on in the world and if issues are being reported they should be tracked. I like to have an understanding of what is going on with local politics, arts and innovation and I always love a feel good human interest story to renew my faith in humanity.-TB

Now it’s time to examine the results of the survey.

What do you want in a news source?

Overwhelmingly those who took the survey read the news for facts. They expect their news source to be well balanced and the source to be known for accuracy. People wanted their news to be unbiased. While the article can be short readers want more than a few sentences to digest. They also want today’s news and they want it fast.

The need for hard news is also mixed with the need for human interest stories. Gossip is not something that news readers are a fan of.

Readers like a mix of writing styles also. They also expect the articles to be well written, lacking spelling errors, proof read and fact checked. Readers want to be able to trust the information that they are consuming.

Some of the comments from this question are:

I have varying news sources that I go to for varying reasons, I like quick concise reports and the in-depth reporting that some provide.

Good writing is essential. Prompt news-breaking articles are important too, and I am a big fan of science and research articles, particularly space exploration, of which there are not nearly enough in my opinion

A wide range of subjects, well written, fact based, across ethnic and racial lines done with thought and good documentation.

varied, unique, research based,attributable stories that tell me local and international events in more than one 2 sentence paragraph…

A few things. It should be objective & un-biased. It should be comprehensive and broad enough to include news beyond the tiny focus of the typical western media. It should be NEWS – i.e., however much a fan I am of Obama and his adorable family, their pet dog is NOT news to me. Nor is Britney’s latest disaster.

A balanced offering of daily news from around the world. I want to hear both sides of a story (especially in politics) and have every question answered. The “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions are very important.

Adding context, applicable photos/media and building a community is always appealing.

Most of all, credibility.

Do you like opinion based articles?

Survey takers were divided on opinion based articles with 12 in favor, 8 against and one person saying that sometimes they enjoyed them.

One theme that came across clearly was that people do not tolerate news articles are in reality opinion based ones. They also are very much against articles that have an ‘anti’ message.People have very strong opinions on this issue as a selection of the comments show:

Not unless the opinion is the icing on the cake – the bulk should be facts.

If the opinion has intelligence behind it.

I detest out-and-out “anti-something” opinion, aka “I detest Jews/Arabs” when they are written with overtones of violent thought.-MC

With documentation not just shoot from the hip, unless it is done first person with the person someone who has some authority by education or experience relevant to the opinion, for example like a scientist who gives an opinion on the swine flu and whether it will spread and the political implications or a counselor who gives opinions on why people cry a lot and whether or not that is associated with just today’s stress or not, whatever. Again not shoot from the hip unless supported with facts of some sort. -CF

Yes, very much so. Especially if the “news” is as I described above. I enjoy a well-informed, well written article that posits a point of view, especially if it’s different from my own. How else to learn if your own assumptions and views aren’t challenged occasionally?-JO

Do you want long involved reports?

This question was evenly divided with survey respondents. Eleven want long articles, six want shorter articles and six said that it depended on the subject matter.

Reports should be as long as needed to cover the subject. If they are long and involved, that’s fine. It depends again on the subject.
through and to the point.

When issues are ongoing they should be covered for the duration, not just sporadically as other stories deteriorate.

Absolutely…although it doesn’t always have to be long. I like the idea of “executive summary” type stories, followed-up with more in-depth reporting, so I can choose to read/learn further on particular stories that interest me.

Do you want just the facts?

Of the 21 who answered this question most (15) do want just the facts in an article. The other six wanted a mix of facts and background about the story issues.

It is important to have a balance of facts with flavor.

I think background to the facts would also be needed.

I don’t mind some speculative angles if the reporter has proven he has done his background, or that reporter has proven some expertise. but if they are expressing “facts” that favour an interest they have, I want disclosure…

All news should be based on fact, even the opinion pieces.

If the article has pictures does that bring in more interest?

The overwhelming majority want pictures to illustrate a story with 21 positive responses. People also wanted those pictures to be relevant. While it can take time to find the proper pictures to work for an article it makes sense to seek them out or provide your own photos when writing an article.

Pictures definitely intrigue the viewer. It will stimulate more parts of the brain and that’s what news is all about: stimulation and entertainment-MC

I want to thank those who took time to answer the questions. Hopefully the answers you gave will be reflected in future articles not only at digital journal but from other journalists who read this article. It is my hope that the answers can provide journalists some insight into their audience’s needs.


Craigslist Stopping Adult Ads, Will Lawmakers Go After Others?

Within seven days Craigslist will have removed the “erotic service” section from their US sites. This is a good step but what about ads in local newspapers for the same services? Will newspapers remove those?
New posting for adult services will now come with a price tag on Craigslist. The cost will be $10 for the first posting and $5 for any following posts.

Craigslist has been targeted by the media for having the ads after one of the ads lead to a murder in Boston. But what about crimes that stem from other newspaper adverts? Are they heading for the chopping block also?

Craigslist has worked with the police when an ad is targeted. An electronic trail helps to quickly catch criminals that use the service. They also post personal safety tips.

The craigslist blog reports:

Our announced intention to contribute 100% of net revenues for the “erotic services” category to charity has been fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, notwithstanding criticism questioning our good faith in this regard. However, in light of today’s changes, and to avoid any future misunderstanding, we are making no representation regarding how revenue from the “adult services” category will be used. Our commitment to philanthropy remains, and craigslist will continue to develop its charitable initiatives.

Every week daily alternative papers features pages of sex ads. They find fund the smaller papers. Eye Weekly is one of those papers based out of Toronto. Owned by Torstar digital their adult ads are online but require a person to click a button saying they are 18.

When Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated to CBS, “It’s clear to everyone that Craigslist’s erotic services section was nothing more than an Internet brothel,” Madigan said in a statement. “I’m encouraged that Craigslist has agreed to fundamentally change how they operate and monitor their site. The steps they’re taking are the only effective way to prevent the exploitation of women and children.” Did she stop and look at the weeklies published in her state? The Chicago Reader has adult ads and it is online. Is Madigan going after this paper as well?

Craigslist is famous and that’s what makes it a target. If the lawmakers want to be fair though they need to either target all or none of publications that carry adult ads.


Courts using Facebook profiles as evidence more often

Posting your life on Facebook may not be the wisest move for criminals and those in civil lawsuits. Courts are using the information from the social networking site more often as part of their evidence.
One such case is that of Dennis Terry, a Newfoundland man who was going for a settlement after suffering whiplash from two car accidents in 2001 and 2003. Terry was hoping to get money for the harm his social life suffered after the accidents. Terry also claimed that he was unable to move well enough to play pool, a favorite past time.

Enter to the court Terry’s Facebook profile that showed he wasn’t really sitting at home by his lonesome.

CTV reports:

“He went to and hosted parties, attended weekend outings at summer cabins, drank alcohol frequently, smoked marijuana daily and appeared to have a number of friends with whom he communicated and socialized on a regular basis,” Adams wrote in his April 17 ruling.

“I find it incredible that Mr. Terry’s social life miraculously improved in the few months he was communicating on Facebook and that for the remainder of the time from 2001 to 2007 he essentially had no or little social life. Without this evidence, I would have been left with a very different impression of Mr. Terry’s social life.”

Terry had been hoping for a $1.5 million payout, he was instead given $40,000 for his pain and suffering.

Facebook
was used in a trial in Australia recently when Mark McCormack used the social network to track down a couple that owed him money. When the couple moved and were unable to be contacted through regular means McCormack turned to Facebook and it provided. The documentation from Facebook was excepted by the courts because it included their names, dates of birth and listed each other as “friends”.

Slashdot reports:

“Lawyers for Janice Roman, the defendant in the lawsuit, believe information posted on John Leduc’s private Facebook site — normally accessible only to his approved ‘friends’ — may be relevant to his claim an accident in Lindsay in 2004 lessened his enjoyment of life. As a result of the ruling by Justice David Brown of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, Leduc must now submit to cross-examination by Roman’s lawyers about what his Facebook page contains. Brown’s Feb. 20 ruling also makes clear that lawyers must now explain to their clients ‘in appropriate cases’ that postings on Facebook or other networking sites — such as MySpace, LinkedIn and even blogs — may be relevant to allegations in a lawsuit, said Tariq Remtulla, a Toronto lawyer who has been following the issue.”

One woman believes that Facebook and other social networking sites could prove to be more useful in court cases than DNA. Gill Smith whose son was murdered spoke out on the matter when it was revealed that up to 850,000 profiles of innocent people were part of the 4.5 million on an official database in the UK.

This Is Bristol
reports:

Referring to social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, she said: “If people are law abiding, it shouldn’t worry them at all. I would be more concerned about what was on the Internet than having my DNA profile held on file because there is so much information out there.”

“What we campaigned for was taking DNA profiles with the permission of the individuals concerned,” said Mrs Smith. “We believe that if a policeman knocked on your door and asked for DNA, most people would say ‘yes, keep it’.

“It wouldn’t worry me if my DNA was taken. If all the records were taken at birth, no one could complain they were being singled out.

“In Europe they are digging up the soldiers from the First World War and using DNA so relatives can find out where their loved ones are – it’s not just for criminals. DNA profiling has other uses as well.”