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 Textbooks are quickly outdated while computers are updated within minutes.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.