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Put down the controller and back away… February 9, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments.
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The long-awaited Mass Effect 2 came out on January 26, 2010.  On that day, several of my friends disappeared.  

They weren’t in class.  They weren’t at lunch.  They were nowhere to be seen.

I walked the empty streets pondering the War of the Worlds-esque stillness, and braced myself for the end of times.

The next day, I found my friends living out their usual routine as if nothing had happened.  Weary and sleep-deprived, they told me they had beaten the game.  It was a long, arduous battle — without food, sleep, and minimal bathroom breaks — but after 18+ hours they had beaten the game.

I don’t know which was scarier:  thinking all forms of life on earth had been wiped out by an alien attack, or finding out that my friends had willfully imprisoned themselves all for the sake of a video game.

But this is not a rare phenomenon.  In fact, “video game addiction” is becoming quite a problem in some places.  Take, for example, South Korea.  According to a marvelous documentary on PBS, video game addiction is overwhelming that country’s youth.

They flock to places called PC Bongs, which is a type of internet cafe/arcade where they spend hours upon hours playing online games.  And, like Starbucks in Manhattan, there’s one on almost every corner.

Since houses and apartments in Korea tend to be small, these are the most popular places for kids to hang out.  There are even different types of PC bongs, depending on what type of game you want to play.

But some fear that it’s going too far — the games are taking over people’s lives.  Time that should be spent studying, talking to others, or even going outside is being consumed in front of a glowing screen.

That’s why the Korean government has established the Jump Up Internet Rescue School, a sort of rehabilitation program designed to teach children to use the internet wisely and for the purpose of enhancing their lives.

And after Stanford University’s School of Medicine found that one in eight Americans suffers “from at least one sign of problematic Internet use,” it’s possible that these rehabilitation programs may be coming soon to a computer near you.

But, I guess we’ll just have to wait until the new Halo comes out.

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Crossing the finish line… February 8, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments.
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After blogging every single day for a week, I have a newfound respect for those who blog this often of their own free will.  

Of course, I can’t help but think that these people are either those with a lot of time on their hands, or are paid to blog professionally.  I highly doubt the super-bloggers are those trying to make it through X amount of credit hours, or study for multiple tests in the upcoming week, or keep up their GPAs.

One thing I did enjoy about blog-a-day week was that it increased readership to my blog.  Since my posts were part of a series, I had several people add me to their blogroll so they could keep checking back for the latest updates each day.  

I ended up with quite a few comments from these people, so I started checking their blogs, and actually engaged a few of them in conversation about the subject matter.  It was nice being able to connect to people with similar interests.

In the end though, I doubt I will be able to keep up this fast pace of blogging, at least while I’m still in college.  Maybe after I graduate I will have more time to devote to it, since I would like to keep my blog going after this class.  But for now, grades trump all.

Keeping up with the Joneses January 31, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Assignments, Facebook, Journalism, Twitter.
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…and the Smiths, and the Johnsons, and the Williamses, and… 

Real time web is the newest trend to hit the net.  Ironically, it is a technology devoted to helping us spot… well, trends.

It allows users to receive information as soon as it is published, rather having to manually check for it.  An offshoot of social media, it is based on the idea of Facebook’s live newsfeed and the constant updates of Twitter.

By getting these “real time” updates on what their social circles are doing, users can spot the latest trends of what people are talking about.

Internet pundits are having a heyday monitoring the “latest” topics people are commenting/blogging/tweeting about; using this knowledge to engage other in conversation and bring traffic to their own sites.

Several companies have even developed free customizable widgets so users can stream this real-time content directly on their computers.

Despite its fancy new name, this is a concept we’re all familiar with.  How many times have we researched something further after seeing it posted on a friend’s Facebook page?  Or clicked on a feed in our CNN ticker to read the full article?  Or checked our RSS feeds over the first cup of coffee in the morning?

But although it may be old hat for us, the real news story is how Web 1.0 giants like Google are trying to keep up with this recent advancement.

In his personal blog, social media guru Michael Brito says that today’s technology isn’t fast enough to monitor these live conversations.

Traditional web searches crawl and index web pages periodically, seldom returning results differing from the day before.  But real time web search results change hourly; sometimes, by the minute. 

Last year, Google tried its hand at real time web by introducing its “Latest Results Box”.  A quick search for “Haiti” or “State of the Union” and you can see the latest results from Twitter, news organizations, and blogs galore.  

Truly, the real-time web is redefining what we mean by “breaking news”.

Blogs to help Bloggers January 24, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Assignments, Journalism.
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1. Soshable

Soshable encourages its users to help them sort through the myriad fads of social media; to pick out the best of the best of social media and examine how it will change the future.  I like the idea of a blog being a two-way street — instead of just ranting, I’d like to hear others’ opinions on the topics I post about.

2. Social Media Blog

A great example of a personal blog.  Michael Brito has worked for Silicon Valley giants such as HP, Yahoo! and Intel, and considers himself one of the pioneers of social media.  I hope his successful real-world experience will help me in writing my own personal blog.

3. Smart Mobs

Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs, believes that instead of letting social media control you, you should control your use of social media.  His blog offers suggestions on how to use technology as a tool to connect to others.

4. Socialbrite

The goal of Socialbrite is online philanthropy.  They offer tips and techniques to help bloggers use this media to “advance the social good.”  Hopefully, I can pick up a few pointers on how to make my blog meaningful to society, and stand out from all the other cyber soapboxes.

5. Technosailor

To truly keep up-to-date on trends in blogging and social media, you must also know how users are going to view the content you post.  Technosailor investigates which smart phones/browsers people are using, and its writer boasts the creation of “The WordPress Bible.”

6. The Blog Herald

The Blog Herald was founded in 2003, and was the first blog designed to exclusively cover the news of the blogosphere, including the latest updates on Blogger, and WordPress to name a few.  A must for any newbie.

7. The Blogger’s Blog

A bit silly, a bit snarky; The Blogger’s Blog is to social media what The Daily Show is to traditional media.  Still, the site is awash with story ideas and links to more reputable sources.

8. The Buzz Bin

The Buzz Bin tries to examine everything it can from the view of social media — from current events and entertainment news to the cyber “age gap” and gonzo advertising, it provides great statistics and links to articles around the ‘sphere.

9. The Huffington Post

As an avid reader of The Huffington Post, I just had to list this one on my blogroll.  While stories about social media aren’t its main focus, I find it is one of the most accurate, reputable blogs out there about the world and its issues. 

10. The Social Networking Weblog

The Social Networking Weblog is great tool to keep up with all things social networking.  From Facebook to MySpace, its writers give you pointers on how to increase traffic to your page… or how to keep it private.

What this means for the future January 17, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments, Journalism.
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In the last two installments, we’ve examined why blogging is good for journalism, and why blogging is bad for journalism.  Our own personal views aside, I think we can all agree the blogosphere is going to definitely going to change things.

But how?

Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian says that blogs are, “nimble, constantly updated, opinion-driven internet journals, freed from many of the constraints of the established media.”

But while blogs may be free from the constraints of “the established media,” the reverse is certainly not true.  We’ve all heard the horror stories of the blogosphere ripping mistaken journalists to pieces: 

*Reuters doctoring photos

*The UK Times ‘recycled’ photos 

*Radio & TV channels in Bolivia and Poland falling for hoaxes 

*And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and (you get the point)

But, the trophy for the blogosphere’s favorite kill goes to:

Rathergate.

Here we had the sketchy, hotly opinionated Free Republic take down Dan Rather, one of the most well-known faces of broadcast journalism.  I mean, the man had been in the business for over 50 years, covering issues like the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal!  

And one little hot-headed blog ended it all.

With this example, we could go on for days arguing whether blogging is good or bad for journalism…

BAD:  It killed Dan Rather!  If it can take him down, we’re all doomed!

GOOD:  Well, maybe the mainstream media will actually fact-check their stories from now on. 

Either way, we have to acknowledge that blogs aren’t going away anytime soon.  But what does that mean for the future?  It means we all need to practice a higher form of journalism.  Maybe instead of rushing around like idiots to get something published, we should actually…

I don’t know…

what’s that word they always use in journalism…

oh yeah…

INVESTIGATE. 

So fact-check your stories, people.  Leave Photoshop to the artists.  And for the love of journalism, USE SPELLCHECK!!!

Because if you don’t, there are plenty of people sitting around their keyboards who will do it for you.

Why blogging is bad for journalism January 15, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments, Journalism.
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There are two main arguments that every professional journalist (and journalism student) has heard over and over again as to why blogging is bad for journalism.

They are:

1. Blogs are opinion; Journalism is fact.  Most people can’t tell the difference between the two, therefore the entire field of journalism will be soiled by slanted reporting. 

2. Bloggers are going to put all journalists out on the street.  Why pay someone to report the news when millions are doing it for free?

Christiane Amanpour once said that there are three rules of journalism: 

*Be objective

*Be objective

*Be objective

I don’t think it would come as a shock to anyone to realize that the majority of blogs are run by average individuals ranting about topics they don’t know anything about. 

Oops.

Anyway, this hardly constitutes as journalism.  And some believe that blog readers are more wise to what’s opinion and what’s fact than they are given credit for.  Kevin Muldoon of the Blog Themes Club believes that fake stories are hurting the credibility of bloggers.  He worries about the bloggers who stage events, make up stories, or even create elaborate hoaxes to bring more traffic to their sites.  He argues that all this will do is backfire in the blogger’s face, and his or her readers decide to get their news elsewhere.

Mark Morford, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, agrees that most people don’t believe blogs have the same credibility as the long-standing pillars of journalism.  According to Morford, “saying ‘I read it on XYZ blog, so it must be true’ still carries little weight in a serious discussion, whereas, ‘I read it in the Washington Post,’ gives you instant authority.”

But why aren’t blogs credible?

Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb writes of a study by crowd-sourced copy editing service GooseGrade that suggests spelling and grammatical errors on a blog are red flags for readers.  The reasoning being that if someone doesn’t even have the brains to run spell-check, they might not have the brains to be analyzing economic trends or providing political commentary, either.

James Mowery of Performancing.com thinks that bloggers who run fake stories to gain popularity and fame will eventually lead to readers having a more scrutinous eye when reading blogs, just as spam messages lead to harsher email filters.

Perhaps he sums it up the best when he says, “bloggers are beginning to prove why journalists still have jobs.

———————————————————————————————

If you’re unsure of which blogs may or may not be credible, I suggest reading this checklist by blogger Steven Streight.

Why blogging is good for journalism January 14, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments, Journalism.
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We live in an information age.  For the first time in human history, we can communicate with people across the world as quickly as we could someone standing in the same room.  News that in the past would have taken days to reach us by mail, telegram, or messenger on horseback can now be accessed with a few key strokes and clicks of a mouse.

And the blogosphere is a large part to thank for that.  In fact, sometimes the citizen journalists can get out there faster — and give better reports — than the professional ones.

Take, for example, the recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti.  It took Anderson Cooper, the first American television reporter on the ground, a full 17 hours to get there and start reporting.

But, a Christian missionary stationed in Haiti starting blogging about the damage shortly after it began.

And freelance journalist Michael Deibert posted actual video of the aftermath on his personal blog 10 hours later.

But the professionals eventually caught up.  Jason Leopold, Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout.org, began posting minute-by-minute commentary on the tragedy with links to other news organizations, relief agency press releases, and aid hotlines by 9:30 the morning after the earthquake.

A full half-hour before CNN got there.

Not only can the blogosphere be the first to report on breaking news, but it can even help make the news a bit more personal to media consumers than simply watching two anchors sitting behind a desk.

On Facebook, I discovered through a friend’s status update that a U92 alumni was creating quite a buzz in the blogosphere.  The Huffington Post tells the tale of Frank Thorp, a young American (West Virginian) living in Haiti.  He was six hours away from the capital of Port-au-Prince when he got a call from his wife — she was trapped under the rubble of their house.  He made the long trek back to the city and pulled her out brick-by-brick.  In the aftermath of this tragedy, he’s becoming something of a folk hero. 

As a viewer/news consumer, that personal connection I received through social networking and blogging hits me a lot harder emotionally than anything The Big Six could ever say.

The web is awash with amateur photos, video, and constant Twitter updates about the situation in Haiti.  With a simple search, you can be transported to the streets of Port-au-Prince, feeling the grief of mourning families, and watching the workers sifting through bodies.  

Even though it may frighten the traditionalists in this field, blogging is doing just what journalism was designed to do — to give the public detailed information as quickly as possible.

So isn’t that a good thing?