Saturday, March 31, 2007
Here's the crazy part...I asked the panel a question about suggestions for students who want to go into the field of creating multimedia journalism packages, types of skills they would need to hire. Each one emphasized basic storytelling, journalism, ethics, and critical thinking. This I all agree with. But, they de-emphasized the role of technical skills. Then in the next breath, Devigal mentioned that the last two they had hired at NY Times were
Flash programmers. Actions don't seem to mesh with what they said. While I agree that the journalism skills are a given and critical thinking is part of what every college student should be learning, I think that communication students with good technical skills provide a strong and valuable skill set that will be sought after by media companies. I certainly agree that students must have the ability to learn, but they also need confidence with technology and a passion for using it. I teach my students to take initiative after the class and to develop skills in a variety of technologies, with the understanding that they will be expected to keep up in this constantly changing field. I do not think that hiring computer science majors into media companies provides the proper perspective in telling engaging stories.
Guy Berger's keynote on Saturday was an eye-opening look at international journalism, first covering the situation in South Africa, where he is a journalism professor. He showed images of the conditions of technology in some schools of communication (particularly one in Nigeria), antiquated technology that had been donated, lack of electricity, Internet connection. His talk was a good introduction to the issues discussed in the first research panel, dealing with international issues regarding strategic positioning of new media.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Another interesting thing he mentioned was that rather than building communities, media should be greating "elegant organization," crediting Facebook founder Zuckerberg with that phrase. He said that the communities are out there, doing what they are doing, and media's job is to help them do what they do better. (I'm paraphrasing, he was much more eloquent).
Jarvis also mentioned the job role of programmer/journalist. I first discussed this concept two years ago, after I was motivated by some panels at SXSW 2005. I think there is broad opportunity in Communications to teach technology skills to people who are not traditionally in the technology pipeline. They will have a better perspective on developing media applications than computer science majors (see http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/041304royal/index.cfm).
So, Jarvis was great. Next up was a power panel of newspaper executives from Washington Post (Jim Brady), NY Times (Neil Chase), USA Today (Kinsey Wilson), and Wall Street Journal (Bill Grueskin). They each discussed their individual approaches to Web offerings, some having merged their newsrooms (NY Times), some still have separate operations, and some having recently redesigned with new multimedia features and social networking (USA Today). The gave some good examples of their excellent multimedia packages that I will show in class:
Being a Black Man and Citizen K St. - WP
Rehnquist Obit Package and A String of Denied Claims - NY Times
The WSJ rep (Bill Grueskin) offered a suggestion that I wanted to remember...reporters need to make record of the URLs they encounter when doing a story to provide to Web producers as they complete packages. That is a simple requirement, but often overlooked in traditional newsroom processes.
The next panel deals with revenue at media organizations including representatives from Star Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and MySanAntonio.com. This one is less interesting to me, because companies are going to continue to lose money until they embrace the new technologies and get comfortable with taking risks. The MySA.com GM Julie Weber had the most interesting presentation in this bunch, showing content areas and how they integrate with revenue generating strategies, rather than showing a barrage of slides charts illustrating revenue trends. She showed the Pets page, stating that these types of topics creating a good deal of interest amongst certain groups of users. Former student, Julie Ruff, works at MySA.com, and I know she works on the Pets page. Another former student, Angela Grant, also works at MySA. Weber discussed The Long Tail of advertising online, which was alluded to in Jarvis' speech as well. Media companies can mobilize the long tail, by selling volume of ads that each hit smaller markets, as opposed to solely focusing on large advertisers. Wb 2.0 concepts can help identify the niches and make The Long Tail model efficient. Weber also suggested that media companies should partner with competitors (gasp!) who are doing things better.
There was a great lunch sponsored by Pluck (www.pluck.com) , and I was able to make contact with the Pluck CEO for future research and career (for students) collaborations. They are an Austin company that provides social media services, with recent projects including the USA Today and Reuters. The afternoon offered a session on Citizen Journalism with a fascinating presentation from Blufton Today from SC and Lisa Stone from BlogHer. BlogHer (www.blogher.org) is a great organization to support and encourage women bloggers. Her research showed that a significant amount of women are blogging, and they are doing so across a variety of topics, not just those stereotypically associated with women. This is counter to what I have seen in looking at mainstream media bloggers hosted on the Web sites of NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune, whose bloggers are primarily male. When they are female, the blog topics are home, family and fashion. BlogHer has an annual conference, this year in Chicago, so I am going to try to attend.
The end of the day included a look at some international Web destinations including Le Monde from France, Semana Magazine from Bogota, El Pais.com from Spain, and UOL Brazil.
A concept that was bantered about throughout the day was "Web-first journalism." This basically means that media organizations are creating for the Web primarily, then repurposing for print, which is a complete turn around from traditional methods. Interesting...
Monday, March 19, 2007
John Edwards has a Twitter, and that's pretty fascinating. You can see short blips of what he is doing, where he is on the campaign trail. The shortness of the posts is much improved on a blog that rambles on and on...for those of us with short attention spans. But, is this how we really want to engage with our candidates?
Former student Omar Chatriwala mentioned on the WebPubNET forum that Twitter seems a lot like Dodgeball, which was the darling app several years ago. The best I can tell is that Twitter is easier to use and has a cuter interface. And, Omar's right, it is the hot thing of the moment, lots of buzz around it from SXSW, where it won an award for best blog.
Trish and Darin Murphy channel Simon and Garfunkel
McLemore Ave and Nakia perform some Booker T and the MG's
I would loved to have stayed for the rest, but alas, I need to get home and work on this blog. It was a great, exhausting, annoying, fantastic, painful, amazing, gigantic SXSW this year. All aspects of the festival are firing on all cylinders, Interactive, Film, and Music. It really is the place to be in March. Now we wait for ACL tix to go on sale.
San Saba County at Peacock
Former Student Kristin and her friend at Public Enemy
Public Enemy at Auditorium Shores
Pete Townshend, Martha Wainwright, and Rachel Fuller at SXSW Live in the Convention Center
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Helvetica is an interesting look at the history and prominence of the typeface that is so widely used. It came into existence in the late '50s, after an era of design in which type was script or old style and design included staged photographs or illustrations, mainly of people or buildings. Swiss graphic designer Max Miedinger developed Helvetica. It was originally called Neue Haas Grotesk, but was later changed for marketing purposes. Helvetica is a derivation of the word Helvetia, which is the Latin word for Switzerland. It was meant to signify clean, official, and efficient design, with white space as important as the type itself. This was a clear break from earlier design styles and launched the modernist aesthetic.
In the late 70s and early 80s, a backlash was mounted against Helvetica, with a preponderance of type that looked hand-styled and chaotic, representing more the post-modern movement. The late 90s is seeing a return to the tenets of Helvetica with new theories. Some love its no-nonsense approach, but others are critical of what it stands for, corporate efficiency. One designer said that there is a fine line between simple, clean, and powerful... and simple, clean, and boring.
Whatever the view, Helvetica is ubiquitous in our environment, from corporate logos to signage throughout the world. I loved this film, and if it is released for distribution, it should be seen by all design students.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly at Stubb's
Aqualung at Stubb's
Former Student Nam Phan and his friend enjoy a snack from the Hot Dog King of Red River - Nam was in my class in 2001, and now works as a Webmaster for Golfsmith.
Statesman multimedia journalist Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, hamming it up on 6th St.
Brett Dennen at The Parish
Starsailor at The Parish
Bobby, Neal, and Joe Walsh
Limbeck at Latitude 30
The Honorary Title at Latitude 30
Kris and Andy enjoy The Honorary Title
Amy Winehouse at Eternal
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Bruce Sterling delivered his traditional SXSW closing speech/rant to a packed room. Sterling is a futurist, author, and frequent contributor to Wired and other publications, and has been involved with SXSW Interactive since its early days. Sterling was skeptical about the quality of online work these days, saying video is the pits, and that most of the things online that are user-generated really suck. While I can't quite disagree with that observation, I have to disagree with its spirit. I'm not sure this is about making good things, it's more about expression. And franky, some of us express ourselves poorly, like I am doing now. Nonetheless, it is an outlet in which many derive all sorts of social capital, notoriety, esteem, community standing, and a host of other values.
He referenced Lev Manovich (author of The Language of New Media) and Yochai Benkler (author of The Wealth of Networks). While he went on and on about Benkler's recommendations for creating a wealthy network (self-selection, trust construction, norm creation), Sterling finished up by referencing that Benkler's own Wiki was by no means successful.
Sterling said he doesn't see this Commons model of production going away any time soon, even with the questionable quality and other problems. On the contrary, he sees more traditional models being unseated by the Commons. For example, Craigslist, a non-profit endeavor, has single-handedly upended the entire newspaper classified system that generated the majority of revenue for those publications.
So, another SXSW Interactive is in the bag, and now I will be switching gears for the music festival. The Interactive was great this year, bigger than ever, and full of more information than I'll ever be able to process. I learned about Ning and Twitter, things I will talk about with my students, and I met people from Pluck, Salon, and a variety of other Web design and development operations. People are always so friendly and interesting here, and I am sad to say goodbye to it for this year. Once again, I would like to give a shout out to all my students, past and present, that I ran into or saw here: Elaine Mingus, Lou Rutigliano, Jonathan Horak, Aarin Brewer, and Kristin Nicely (came in all the way from Richmond!). So, glad to see such enthusiasm and continued interest in this area.
Joel Greenberg Sr Planner, The Electric Sheep Company
Amber Dalton Owner, PMS Clan
Morgan Romine Frag Doll & Online Mktg Mgr, Maximum PC-Ubisoft
Amy Brady Professional Gamer, PMS Clan/Frag Dolls
Great idea for a panel. These women talked about creating their girl gamer communities and how other businesses can use the same methods for success. These were grass roots endeavors, creating lots of buzz, and authenticity. The user community is very passionate, not to mention having something to prove in the male-dominated world of games. These women play all kinds of games, even the most violent. They are definitely experts in this area and forces with which to be reckoned.
I do wonder why Amy said she's not a feminist, but does believe in many feminist ideas. Then, what's a feminist? I know the word has a bad connotation, but shouldn't we call it what it is. If strong women like these do not want to be associated with the term, then we need to think of something else that will signify strength and equality for women, and not let the media taint it with images of bra-burning man-haters.
Will Wright, creator of the Sims and the upcoming game Spore, delivered a very interesting presentation. He started out talking about different story arcs and how certain films, like Memento and Groundhog Day, were already using non-linear storytelling techniques. He showed how pieces of a story can be made into modules, and how they can be connected in a meaningful way at decision points. Above is a screenshot from Spore, a fascinating game that allows you to create your own world via evolution, with decisions that you make early on determining outcomes later. I am not a gamer, but I am amazed at the level of detail and quality of graphics on this game. I don't know if I could ever have the time to advance past amoeba stage, but I can see where this game will create thousands of addicts.
I won't show a far off pic of Wright at the podium, but I did catch this shot as he was being seated for Bruce Sterling's final address. Notice the sling and cast, apparently from a skiing accident.
Lane Becker Satisfaction Inc
Michael Sippey VP Prod, Six Apart Ltd
Gina Bianchini CEO, Ning Inc
Eric Hellweg Sr Editor, Harvard Business Review
David Hornik General Partner, August Capital
Narendra Rocherolle Co-Founder/Principal, 30 Boxes
On top of hearing about cool things like Ning, a place where you can start your own social network (of which I have now started one for all my former students) and more about Twitter, this panel had a good perspective on the direction for the future. While they didn't all completely agree, it was obvious that the situation is much different now than during the original tech bust. 1)There's more private equity as opposed to IPO or market money; 2) there are more users now; 3) there are more ad dollars now; 4) Lots of free software out there now for people to try things out before they seek investment.
The main thing discussed throughout this conference is that there has to be substance for online endeavors to be successful. There has to be a reason for the community to develop. And, users are more savvy, they don't like being marketed to. Create a layer of play around your offering. The audience was able to ask lots of questions, which made this a great panel.
And check out Hornik's kid's video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW3CeqHiadc
Mark Boulton Owner, Mark Boulton Design
Richard Rutter Production Dir, Clearleft Ltd
This was a good panel. Boulton and Rutter provided some good examples of how to improve online typography, addressing issues of typeface selection, creating vertical rhythm by establishing a relative line-height, and proper margins for lists (see above). These are great suggestions for me to incorporate with my Advanced students, subtle changes that will immediately improve the look of their sites. They provide resources at http://webtypography.net/sxsw2007/
Monday, March 12, 2007
This panel on the Future of Online video was interesting for several reasons. First, because Kevin Rose of digg.com and diggnation was on it. I've been a fan of his since his TechTV days, and frankly, he's adorable. Secondly, the variety of panelists included both independent publishers of video and a rep from Disney. It was a good mix of opinions, but I wish there had been more ammunition to thwart some of the claims of the Disney guy, like we are running out of bandwidth on the Internet. They discussed Net Neutrality, really deserving of its own panel, and the limitations and benefits of using a video hosting service. Finally, they all drank beer, and there's something about listening to drunk people talk about the Internet.
This panel was way too short for the topic. In a brief 25 minutes, the moderator went over Libel, Service Provider Liability, Protection of Sources, and Copyright. This is an important topic that deserves a longer time slot with a variety of presenters
Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this Keynote interview. While Rather deserves the ultimate respect for his years as a journalist and CBS anchor, his comments for this audience were superficial and vague. I thought that he might have some ideas about the future of media or some new online projects on which he was working. Instead, he rambled about the state of journalists today, how they needed more guts. But, he was vague on how bloggers or online media organizations could fill that role. Usually SXSW Interactive Keynotes are inspiring and informative, but this was simply a chance to see a veteran journalist.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I screwed up last January and didn't buy tickets in time for the Snow Patrol/OKGo show at Stubbs, preventing not only me, but Neal, Monique, and Robbin from going. I stayed home, but those guys were troopers and they set out to either scalp or listen from outside. They didn't get in, but Neal got to play the OKGo mascot for a minute. Hysterical.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I love these guys. I snuck away from the Interactive to take in an afternoon film. The Ten is directed by David Wain and written by Wain and Ken Marino, both from the cult hit comedy from MTV in the mid 90's, The State. I laughed all the way through this film, although a bit crude at times. Basically, it does a vignette for each of the 10 Commandments, with Paul Rudd introducing each one. Every single member of The State (except I didn't see Michael Patrick Jann) appeared in it at one point or another. The most hysterical moment for me was when Ben Garrant, now of Reno 911, reprises his scene from State sketch Chip's Party, where he explains in his unique way, his interpretation of Pink Floyd's The Wall. In Chip's Party, he was telling 8 year olds, in The Ten, he is talking to naked men skipping church. The Ten is also a homage to The State in its editing and its referencing between sketches. News flash: Wain said a State DVD was in the works and close to being released, ending fans' 10-year wait since the group disbanded. Coincidentally, Wain disclosed that the last show of The State was performed in Austin at the very same theater of this screening, The Paramount.
Kathy Sierra delivered her Keynote Address on Creating Passionate Users, coincidentally the title of the book on which she is working. She has an interesting background, having worked as a game developer, an interactive marketer, a trainer at Sun, and in academia. Her talk focused around how you deal with users' confusion via the interface, how a computer doesn't understand emotions or facial expressions. She recommended that something as simple as a WTF? button would be good, but it would have to have better responses than your typical FAQ or Help files. Those are written for people already comfortable with tech, but what about the rest? She said that the only way to create passion amongst users and to get them creating cool things is to give them confidence in what they are doing. Basically, if you feel you suck at something, you won't be passionate about it. I have to agree. As a college professor teaching Web design and other multimedia topics, the majority of my time with students deals with answering their questions and giving them the tools to answer their own. I have to be so careful with my approach, something I deal with constantly. I want this to be fun for students, but if they are confused or stumped, they don't view it as fun. I am lucky, because over the course of a semester, I get to see students go from a state of complete anxiety over computers to slowly feeling a level of confidence in their own abilities with technology. This is particularly important with female students. I have seen many students, both males and females, who started out unsure of their computer skills, move on to careers that seamlessly integrate their double threat, communication and technology. This, to me, is the best feeling and why I love teaching these topics.
It was interesting that Sierra pointed out that companies spend so much money on materials for people before they buy, like flashy brochures, but little to no money on them after they buy, boring, b&w user manuals. This was a great speaker to kick off this event. And Wired doesn't think there are women doing anything with technology (basically two women technologists on the cover in their entire history). Yes, I'm still on that kick.
Richard Linklater is one of my favorite directors. From Slacker to Before Sunrise to School of Rock, he is prolific and always makes a cultural statement. His talk today at SXSW reflected his down-to-earth nature. He made some interesting comments about his style, people like Godard, that integrate their lives with their filmmaking. And, even though he has business savvy, he doesn't sacrifice his art for commerce. The moderator read a letter from Linklater that he had sent in 1990, before the release of Slacker, and though his youthful naivete was evident, he was clearly focused and understood the films place in commerce, speaking of appealing locally as well as to hippie and Bohemian counter culture. He also addressed one of his less successful films, the recent release of Fast Food Nation.
It was such a treat to be able to hear him speak in person.
This was the first panel of the day, but alas, the Internet was not working during that one. Here are the notes that I captured...
Laura Moorhead Sr Editor Culture, Wired
Andrew Blum Contributing Editor, Wired
Robert Fabricant Exec Creative Dir, Frog Design
Eliot Van Buskirk Columnist/Blogger, Wired News
Peter Rojas Engadget
Daniel Raffel Product Mgr, Yahoo!
Emerging Social and Technology Trends
Talking about privacy, doesn't make sense to younger people
Twitter - has come up in both sessions I've been to so far.
Negotiating private and public
blurring of business and pleasure
not just pushing a product, thinking about ways to use it, work across standards that support projects
Transparency - backlash?
Freebase looks like Googlebase
More private networks, where you have to know someone before you can connect, not wide open. You have to know someone, they have to trust you.
What's online? if a word is not on google, does it exist? if people aren't blogging about it, does it matter?
I found this panel to be superficial. When questions were opened to the audience, they got more to the point. One person asked about international social trends, pointing out that the panel had been very U.S. specific. It is clear that no one really can predict the future...
Well, finally...the Internet. It's a Web conference and the Internet was down for the 2 hours...geesh. So, this is a fun panel, more comedy for geeks than real information. First up, Andy Budd Creative Dir, Clearleft Ltd talked about how Web 2.0 isn't really anything. Just something old that is repacked in a shiny new way. His definition: "Web 2.0 is a state of mind. It's a zen thing. It's the sound of one hand clapping." He basically makes fun of all the buzzwords that get dropped in the tech world, longtail, tipping point, leverage. According to Budd, Web 2.0 consists of the following:
- Social interaction
- user participatiohn
- enhanced user experienc
- open data
Vag, Myriad Pro, Clarendon, Arial Rounded, Helvetica, DIN, Interstate...these are the fonts of Web 2.0, joking that logos in Web 2.0 are chunky and 3-D. He said that lots of people misunderstand Web 2.0, just have a surface understanding.
Jeremy Keith Web Developer, Clearleft Ltd
When Keith took over the mic, he described that the components of Web 2.0 apps include Microformats, RSS, API's. You put these things together and you get a mashup. He gave an example of a map mashup. For example, he showed an example of using crime data in Chicago along with Google Maps.
Something to check out is Twitter, which is a social networking site that asks the question: What are you doing right now? www.twitter.com
AJAX has taken over the semantic form of DHTML (even though they are the same thing...like everything else with Web 2.0.
Budd came back up and talked about a Web 2.0 name generator, hysterical...Zahoo, Mazu, rid.iculo.us, etc.
Keith ended his talk by saying that "a blog without comments isn't a blog," then a blog without absolutist opinions isn't a blog"...then a blog without all sorts of Web 2.0 jargon, also not a blog.
In talking about the wisdom of crowds, his final slide said "None of us are as dumb as all of us."
A question was posed about Flash, and they said that Flash was cool, but it's too easy for too many people to use. You should use something as obscure and isolated and elitist as possible.
The most astute things these guys said was that all this Web 2.0 stuff is not new, it's all the stuff that has been in the Web since the beginning, when Tim Berners-Lee developed it. Keith said that the biggest revolution was the hyperlink, and everything else just flowed from that. I was just in a panel on social media this past week (see below), and in my presentation, I said basically the same thing. Social media's not new, but the Web 2.0 stuff has made it easier to use for more people and it has gotten more coverage. See www.cindyroyal.com/present/socialmedia.ppt.
Really, they were joking, but some of this stuff was funny because it's true.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Well, the lines were longer than I thought, and the bags were heavier than I remembered, but registration has occurred. I am now the proud owner of a platinum badge, which during SXSW, is the golden (or platinum) ticket to all your wildest dreams...if those dreams include being in crowded bars for several nights in a row and listening to people talk about how cool their blog is during the day.What you get for the money...
So, I schelped home, taking the #7 bus up Duval, with about 80 lbs. of SXSW's version of schwag. Most of it is flyers for parties and unnecessary media publications. There are roughly 25 magazines in these bags. Do you know how heavy 25 magazines are? I also got a hangover kit complete with mouthwash, aspirin, a Band-Aid - for head wounds that I am likely to receive in a mosh pit somewhere, and coffee extract - some kind of liquid coffee juice you mix with water. There are also CD's from Ani DiFranco and Public Enemy and a VooDoo Doll from Rykodisc. And since Austin is no longer smoke friendly, there's something called Nicogel, the cigarette alternative - "When you Can't Smoke, Rub Nicogel on Your Hands." Mmmm, Cigarette Lotion. I think my favorite is the Blogger window sticker. Look for it on an Old Main window, soon... All this for a mere $650 (and that's at the Sept price point). Anyway, it will probably take me a week to weed through this crap. I'm off to plan my strategy...should I see a film tonight, rest up, buy something cute to wear?...so many choices. Panels start at 10am tomorrow. Stay Tuned.