Posted: under Blogging, Blogs, Platform obsession, Web Tech.
Tags: Blogging, Blogs, CES, Las Vegas, NMX
The blogging community is notoriously hard to please. Check out the vitriolic tweets directed at the poor victims who dared to sit onstage at the close of the NMX convention, talking about “Inventing the Future.”
Check out the silvery television-headed robots:
Despite the rather ugly tone at the end, there were some creative attempts at serving the pajama-clad tech nerd lynch mob:
First, there were the somewhat shellshocked crew behind the counter at the BlackBerry booth. They were apparently laboring under the misconception that there are actually talented developers in the world that, given a choice, would pour their time and energy into creating an app for their platform.
If there is a clearer indication that upper management at BlackBerry is delusional and out of touch, I haven’t seen it.
The signs plaintively exhort the fictional mobile developers to “blog about it!” Not sure if publicly acknowledging that you’ve just wasted your time & effort on a platform that’s got one foot in the gave and the other on a banana peel should be seen as a complicated cry for help, or a confession of bad business judgement.
Next, the folks at Readz, promising “Simply Beautiful Tablet Publishing.” I’ve been grinding my mental gears on the various tablet-publishing solutions for the past two years, most recently with Atavist, iBook Creator, and the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. What I’ve learned is that these tools promise much, but run headlong into the contradictions inherent in this chaotic new space.
For example, there are the crazy quilt screen resolutions, video formats and typographic specs. Ad then there’s the whole horizontal/vertical screen orientation layout problem. IBook Creator is particularly ugly and opaque on this issue — your layout will look fine one way, but flip the iPad the other way, and some elements will show up and others … won’t. No rhyme nor reason to it either.
Meanwhile, the InDesign files churned out contain such spaghetti code that you are directed to open them in Dreamweaver to clean up the CSS3 and HTML 5.
I’ll give Readz a spin, even though they inexplicably have “Wilson” the volleyball from Castaway as part of the booth decor.
I did like the quirky spirit displayed by the WordPress “Happiness Bar,” where they touted the fact that the WordPress platform is being used by everyone from giant corporations to “your dad’s book club.” The folks there were talking about vague plans for better ecommerce plugins.
If someone were to come up with an open-source PayPal, that would really rock a lot of worlds. The challenges would be enormous – whenever there’s money involved on the web, you WILL get haxxors. It’s inevitable. Then again, getting out from under a corporate monolith that is vulnerable to pressure (such as in the Wikileaks case) would be a step in the direction of international press freedom.
Next up, Raven. I’ve been looking at them for a while – they’ve been struggling for a long time, trying to compete with Radian6, Crimson Hexagon, et al. They seem to be engaged in a re-branding pivot, trying to go to the low-end blogger side of the spectrum, to sell us indie freaks the long-awaited way to monetize our audience(s).
They’re offering a 30-day free trial, and that alone differentiates them from the competition.
UStream was one of the big sponsors for the conference, and they (allegedly) worked to fatten the backhaul pipes so that the bloggers in attendance could all either upload live streaming video of themselves, or download everyone else’s livestreams. Which is kind of a strange thought-exercise: an entire conference room full of people all looking at themselves looking at each other on their ubiquitous tablets.
I’ve worked with clients over the past few years to use UStream to give their fanbase and users access to live events. Where it starts getting tricky is when you want to archive the events and make them available to the audience later, or even store them on your own site’s multimedia library.
Posted: under Multimedia, new media.
Tags: adsense clickfraud, blog monetization, Blogging, New Marketing, New Media Migration, paywalls, Politics & New Media
This is the last class I taught in Astana – they were very engaged with the idea of moving from traditional media to “New Media,” particularly with blogging. The main question on everyone’s mind was “How do I drive more traffic to my site?”
I didn't know the Russian phrase for "Group hug, people!" So I just stood in the back and spread out my arms.
I showed them some of the very basic tools to promote your content – the simplest being the blast e-mail alert to people you’ve signed up on a subscription list. A couple of people in the class were already up on Twitter, and I sang that particular gospel, as well as the advantages of setting up Facebook groups or using the same functionality in the Russian equivalent, which is a Classmates.com-alike.
As always, the skill level in the audience was very uneven. Some people were way out in front of the pack, others seemed to be lost. I tried to deliver a wide variety of tools to hit everyone. I got just a couple of hours to do some very basic tourism after this session. The scale of the construction going on here is truly awe-inspiring.
It's pretty chilly here; not snowing yet, but it's thinking about it - thus the heavy clothes. Also, behind me is the new Presidential Palace.
Posted: under Mobile commerce.
Tags: Blogging, CMS, mobile training, MoJo, New Media Migration, newsgathering, ONA 2009, san francisco, scavenger hunt, social media
Ask not for whom the Mooseinator tweets…
Last Friday, I conducted a training session for the reporters attending the Online News Association’s national conference to demonstrate how to build the basic skills needed to cover a breaking news event using mobile phones.
That sounded rather cold & stilted. Let me re-phrase:
I created a scavenger hunt (which, if you want to be picky, is technically an Alternative-Reality Game (ARG)) to be the spoonful of sugar to entice the journalists into using their phones to cover a “breaking news” event that I had designed beforehand. I have put a full description of what the basic steps are to create a mobile training session like this up on our main Artesian Media site.
The lucky winner of the "Alaska Canned Moose." Like I said at the time, this is the kind of persistence and ingenuity that won Brazil the Olympic Games that very morning...
The conceit was that a visiting national candidate has had her pet moose (gee, I wonder who that could be based on?) escape into the hotel. I then doled out clues that led the reporters on a scavenger hunt where they had to use their phones to interact with both the real and virtual worlds. I drew on my short experience designing D&D computer games (my agent in the 90s got me a couple of commissions writing game modules, but none of them were ever used – trust me, it’s a Hollywood thing). I tried to make the training experience challenging enough that the reporters would stick with it to the end to unravel the puzzle of what happened to the poor beast, and to collect a (somewhat) valuable prize.
My aim was to get the journalists going through this training to use ten basic skills:
- Use Twitter and Twitpic
- Take a picture with their cellphone cameras, and then use a wireless connection to email that picture into a CMS (I used Posterous, because it’s the simplest open-source blogging tool I’ve found recently – posting there is as simple as sending an e-mail.)
- Receive an e-mail message on their phone, and act on it
- Watch a video on Flickr, and follow up on a story lead contained in the video
- Browse Facebook, and find information on a social-media profile
- 6. (The next five skills were deleted because of limited time and uneven bandwidth at the hotel.) Write a two-sentence news summary of events and post it to a WordPress blog
- 7. Use GPS to navigate to a location
- 8. Create a photo gallery, and geo-tag the photos
- 9. Stream audio/video live to the internet, and then upload the same local recording to a podcast/vodcast directory
- 10. Transmit/share files with another reporter’s mobile device
All these were taken from examples of real-world news events, and the various skills the journalists had to have to cover the news live & in-person, using only the tiny (yet increasingly powerful) mobile phone. Unfortunately, once I got to the Hilton in San Francisco, I quickly learned that I was going to have to scale back my training a bit. Quite a bit, in fact.
Twitters from that ungulate-obsessed madman, The Mooseinator.
The effects of having more than 700 of the most internet-savvy journalists in the world in one place – and then adding the mobile-phone crazed USC college students who had made the road trip to watch their team play Cal – overloaded the hotel’s internet connection. I could barely send/respond to email through the hotel’s wi-fi system, and I quickly found out that despite San Francisco’s rep as the epicenter for all things cool & new in digital technology, the 3G cellphone coverage in and around the hotel was abysmal.
ASIDE: I have never had so many dropped phone calls in my life. Maybe this was due to the overloaded cell zone & the usage of all the journos & college kids. But even at night, I found myself wandering my hotel room with my new iPhone held apart from my body like some kind of cell signal dowser, hoping to strike a pose that would allow me to complete a call without having the person on the other end start screaming “What? WHAT? YOU’RE BREAKING UP!!!” Either all the people whining about AT&T have a point – which is probable, considering the amount of chatter on the web about them – or the new iPhone 3Gs is a great handheld computer and a lousy phone. Which also seems (sigh) likely. All I know is that I had the iPhone 1.0 on this same AT&T network all over the world (Colombia, Moscow, Kiev, Amsterdam, Costa Rica, Mexico), and I didn’t have problems like this.
Back to the subject. With the fragile connectivity at the hotel, I had to scale back the plans I had made, so that I didn’t have frustrated crowds of journalists howling at the ceilings and shaking their phones at hotel staff (although that might have made a cool scene for an ad for some new mobile company). While I knew that everyone likely to attend my session would have a smartphone and would probably at least have some skills in how to use it, I whittled away some of the more advanced features that are not common to all phones. Given more time and resources, I could certainly make these things work, which would really take the experience to the next level.
Nerd alert: The basic skill set needed to set up a training session like this is pretty much the same one it takes to be a great dungeon master (DM) in the dice-based Dungeons & Dragons game. You have to set up a framework where you allow your players to use their ingenuity and improvise enough so that they feel like they’re the ones telling their own story – but also controlled enough so that you can lead them from step to step towards the set-piece goals you have established beforehand.
The first thing that I did was to post a handwritten clue in an unused conference room next to the ONA registration desk. This was a stand-in for a confederate – I was hoping to have someone there to play a recorded statement that I had on a little digital voice recorder, basically telling the reporters “I’m sorry, but we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation.” Hey, I was going for the verisimilitude.
The next step was to have a couple of people over in the corner giggling over a picture on their phones of the moose on the loose. Again, the hotel was uncooperative. Seeing as how they’re located in “The Tenderloin,” maybe they had other problems on their mind. See Dave Mitchell’s excellent blog post “Country Mouse in the Big City” to read about some of our adventures as we tried to leave the hotel on Saturday night (they involved drunked brawling, drug ODs in the bathrooms and SFPD cops circling a handcuffed pursesnatcher).
I had to make do with a foamcore sign on which I posted the link to the Twitter account of someone in the hotel who was an eyewitness to the moose wandering the grounds.
The contestants then had to navigate to the Moose_inator Twitter feed and click on the Twitpic link to see the picture of the place where the next clue was located. Their next task was to go there and upload their own photo of the pool to the Posterous CMS (standing in for the CMS of their paper/TV station/website).
The beast seems to be taunting us, carefree and grinning...
After they uploaded their own photos, they then got an email with a link to the Facebook page of the Moose Inator, who claimed to have shot a video of the moose in the hotel. I was going to put it up on YouTube and Vimeo, but found that the hotel’s wifi system was clamping down a bandwidth throttle on the video sites.
Flickr was streaming without a hitch, so I put the video up there, with a message at the end of it to come and meet me in the CityScape bar atop the hotel.
By the way, I really put a lot of work into fleshing out the character of the Moose Inator on Facebook. so take a few seconds to click around and look at all the photos that I uploaded, such as this one.
The photos were shot in our backyard here in Los Angeles, but the videos of the moose in the hotel were shot the day of my presentation, using the video camera functionality on my new iPhone 3Gs. It’s not the greatest video in the world, but it’s low-bandwidth and it was fairly easy to edit using Premiere Pro CS3.
I’d also like to extend a special shout-out to Sony-Ericsson for sending me their cutting-edge smartphone, the C905a. This little beauty comes with an 8.1 megapixel camera, which I used to good effect in setting up this training exercise. If the bandwidth had been a little less iffy, I think I would have tried to do a live video feed using Qik or Kyte from the site.
Channeling the spirit of Lord John Whorfin, grinning and taunting, "Laugh-a-whila you can, monkey boy!"Actually, The Moose Inator tends to issue odd permutations of classic Melville lines, such as "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last chaw of Copenhagen at thee!"
The most gratifying part of this whole exercise was the way that some of my contestants came up to me afterwards, gushing that they had had a blast, that they had learned how to upload pictures directly from their phone to the internet, and that they loved the feeling of being immersed in a carefully thought-out experience. This was one of the few sessions at ONA that actually got the attendees out of their seats and out doing something new, trying to accomplish something on their own, rather than just sitting and listening and watching yet another PowerPoint session.
Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: Blogging, cats, vet
I’ve been remiss in posting here for the last couple of weeks. Some if that has been because of all-day video shoots and travel to & from the Bay Area.
But this is the other reason. My cat Duce, who I rescued from a cage just before 9/11, is clinging to life after an intestinal blockage worsened into peritonitis over the weekend.
I’ll return to writing about digital media & new revenue models in due time. But for now, just send some positive virtual vibrations (in a Bob Marley meets Twitter kinda way) in the general direction of the Century Vet in Culver City.