Check Out This Cool School Project

Dan over at Backroads Newsroom is hosting a cool project for some high school seniors going to the Inauguration.  They’re updating details of their trip on Twitter, Flickr, Twitpic,etc. and he’s aggregating the updates.

Very cool use of technology and journalism going on as these students document their trip to DC for their community.  I’m also following the students who have sent updates so far on Twitter…@morganesmith, @SColgrove, @tkelliott, @jwrundle, or their hastag– #wcindc.  And here’s their Flickr pool.

A Quick Hi and Some Thanks!

The last few days have been pretty crazy.  Last Thursday Newscoma and I launched a little project, NewsTechZilla.  We thought it was a good idea and would be a fun way to document some stuff.  Little did we know it would explode.  We’ve seen an unbelievable amount of support (and traffic) so far, and I want to take second to thank some people from this side of the State for their help.  Without you guys, we would not have seen this kind of success.

Seriously, you guys helped us get the word out, give us feedback, encouragement, and even content.  We can’t thank you enough!

Michael Silence was unbelievably generous in writing our first feature article, and he went a step further by featuring us in his Sunday deadwood column.  Jack Lail wrote a very nice intro for us on his blog last Thursday too.  These guys got us noticed by Glenn Reynolds, who gave us an unbelievably successful first day “live” when he linked to us from Instapundit. All this within the first three days!!!

Guys, I know a link from me here is worth about 1/100 of what you did for us, but it’s all I can do for now.

Since then, we’re receiving more support from people like SVD at KTownLowDown, and some local guys from Copa Creative, Abunga.com, and TUAW who were generous with their time in answering some questions about the iPhone for an article we were doing.  I can’t even begin to thank all the people who’ve talked about us on Twitter and sent their followers our way.

I’m uber-busy with work (real job) right now, but I intend to (at some point) thank all the local people I’ve forgotten in this short post and all the other folks around the country who’ve been so supportive.

I’m also going to change that poll before the eight week period (I hope).

The Death of News Stories?

I was running with @Mr_Schwartz the other day, and we were (once again) coming up with solutions to the world’s most difficult problems.  Unfortunately for the world, I’m not doing too much distance these days, so there isn’t enough time to fix every problem.  Nonetheless, the topic of conversation this cold and rainy night was the news.  See, @Mr_Schwartz made a funny comment to this post last week, but in making a joke he also made an excellent point:

Why is is that NO ONE in the popular media has talked about how much this guy looks like Stephen King? You don’t see many of those haircuts out there, and if you do then they aren’t hung on jack o’ lantern sized noggins like this guy. AND he wears track suits??? Awesome!
We have someone that is trying to turn himself into the most stereotypical corrupt politician since the Mayor “diamond” Joe Quimby on The Simpsons.
I need these angles played, media! Do the work, Campbell Brown! You have to earn it…

I’ve been harping on this for a while in a roundabout way.  It’s a little baffling to me that newspapers are continuing to struggle in a market where the appetite for news is insatiable.  Of course, the management of newspapers can lay some of the blame at the feet of bloggers, but the fact that bloggers are beating them at the news game seems like proof to me that the market is thriving.  Is this just a management issue?

I’ve also realized that so many people at the top of the news business (print in particular) are still dealing with old standards that no longer exist. Instead of using the tools available and realizing that there has to be a balance between newsroom/tech crews, there are some local papers that are just seeing the dark at the end of the tunnel.

That’s a scary proposition to me, and I’ll tell you why.  I’m afraid that the death of newspapers is going to be the death of news stories.

Not the death of the dissemination of news facts–I can get those on Twitter.  Actually, I prefer to get them there real time.   Not the death of news analysis–I can get that on countless blogs and cable stations.  Actually, I can just read my own blog for that.

But news stories that are investigated, fact checked, pieced together through multiple interviews and accounts may actually disappear with the newspaper.  I would hate to see that happen.  Anyone with time to hit 140 buttons can tell a lie on Twitter, and blogs are like opinions–everybody’s got one.  But writers who can piece together and accurately tell a story are rare, and a lot of them are working for newspapers…for now.

The good news is, I believe there’s a place for these folks online.  I think the ability to accurately tell a good news story is about as rare on the web right now as it is in newspapers (yeah, ouch).  And I think journalists who are enterprising may utlimately find they are more comfortable and productive working for themselves online instead of working for bosses who just don’t get it.

But that’s just the opinion of a guy behind a keyboard at 7:30 am…not a proven fact, and definitely not researched.  😛

Chrome is Like QuickSilver So Far

Just downloaded Google’s new browser, Chrome.  Wow.  Super fast.  I can’t even type fast enough to keep up.  The only review I can give right now is “fast”.  Hopefully I’ll get some time later to give it a more thorough test drive.  Check back for updates.

iAm iStupid

That’s what this iPhone application should have been called.

I Am Rich was available for purchase from the phone’s App Store for, get this, $999.99 — the highest amount a developer can charge through the digital retailer, said Armin Heinrich, the program’s developer. Once downloaded, it doesn’t do much — a red icon sits on the iPhone home screen like any other application, with the subtext “I Am Rich.”

Apple has since removed this application from its store, but not before eight people bought it.  I say bully for the developer and his clever application.

I keep waiting for Apple to come up with a clever “A Fool and His Money” commercial.

I Would LOVE to RTFM

So I’m working on a project for my job job (I’m not quite able to support a family on blogging–yet), and have been wrestling with a biggish enterprise software package.  As you’d expect, there’s quite a bit of convolution to it–things like hundreds of database tables with nondescript names like T001, T0043, H3222, etc.  (Was this thing designed to run on AS400?)  It’s actually not that big of a deal.  A part of me secretly enjoys stuff like that.  It’s like a giant sudoku, except instead of 1-9 the numbers go 1-100.  And no matter how much of the puzzle you solve, there’s still more to work on.  That means no boredom, provided you like puzzles.

Most packages of this size were designed and coded up long long ago in a galaxy far far away.  Any growth, expansion, or enhancements they’ve undergone were probably done piecemeal with who knows who taking over and steering the thing onto the latest technology at each fork in the road.  That’s bound to happen to any project this size I guess.  It’s sort of like what you’d expect to happen to a person who was reasonably good looking in their youth and, as they aged, had countless plastic surgeries performed by different doctors of varying abilities.  The individual pieces may be really nice, but put them together and you have an odd colored face mess.

Usually these type products involve a lot of RTFM.

Don’t get me wrong…I like to RTFM.  My willingness to RTFM means I’ll probably never be out of a job for long unless I want to be.  You could say I make a living Ring-TFM.  But please, large software corporations who charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for your products, make the manuals readily available.

One of the manuals I was reading this morning referred to another manual–the “Installation and Tuning Guide”.  Like any good manual reader working for a company that’s shelled out some bucks for this pricey behemoth, I used the login for our company (they don’t give the info to just any old body), and searched for this manual on their site.  No dice.  So I searched the support base to see if anyone else had trouble finding it.  That didn’t work either.  I did find two other manuals–one which whose title led me to believe it was relevant but wasn’t, and the other to the last version of the same product.

So I asked my boss if they’d provided a DVD, pack of CDs, or even physical books when we bought the product.  Nope.  But he was able to find the manual I needed nonetheless.  Guess where…

Google.

Freaking Google found it, even though their own search engine on their own site that is available only to customers who paid for support couldn’t.  Now, not only am I irritated that it couldn’t be found on their site, I also feel like an idiot for not trying Google FIRST.

Thinking Games Useful For Corporations

Most video games hold my attention for about 3 hours. That’s not 3 hours at a time, that’s 3 hours total. The one exception is strategy games, which I can play into the wee hours of the night. Civilization is my all-time favorite, mostly because it absolutely destroys me, but there are several other “thinking” games out there, and now they are being used to do good instead of evil–unless of course you find corporations evil, in which case they continue to do evil.  Then again, that probably makes you a communist, so evil in your eyes is probably good in mine.

Now video games are making their way into corporations. These “serious games”—the term that’s been kicking around the last few years to describe games that are learning tools—use the same technology as the latest PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 titles, but they’re not targeted at Doritos-munching 14-year-olds

The Rise of Corporate Games.

Oh yeah…Rock Band 2 Comes out in September.

Twitter “Buys” Summize

The official addition of search–real time search–is definitely going to take Twitter to the next level and offer up monetization possibilities, but at what cost?  I don’t expect Twitter to go on commercial free forever, but is summize going to take the spammy stuff we’re already seeing there to the next level too?  And how exactly does a purchase like this work?

The one thing that remains a mystery is the acquisition price. Twitter hasn’t raised a huge amount of money and Summize had almost a million dollars in funds raised itself. What percentage of its coffers did Twitter just spend on all the Summize technology and five employees? It’s probable that Summize investors saw their investments in Summize turn into favorable investments in Twitter, rather than a pile of cash. When one startup buys another one, though, one always has to wonder. It’s usually a sign of desperation on the part of the acquired company – but that’s not likely the case here.

Confirmed: Twitter Has Acquired Summize – ReadWriteWeb.

For the Love of Technology

Taylor says don’t leave voice mail–she has your number from the missed call.  She’d prefer that you text her instead.

I say the exact opposite.  If you call my phone, leave a voice mail if you want me to call you back.  If you call and don’t leave a message, I’ll assume you only called me because you were bored and I’m the most entertaining person you know–you didn’t really want anything in particular or you would have left a message.

And don’t send me a text.  Texting is for communicating at loud places (like concerts), quite places (like church), and talking in front of people who you don’t want to hear your conversation (like people at concerts, libraries, and churches).

Sending a text message to and from a mobile phone is like sending a fax over a land line.  If you don’t need to fax it, you don’t need to text it.  Just leave me a voice mail.

And please, enough with the naked photos.  Until you get a phone with a higher resolution camera, use a real camera and email me the pic.  Or buy a Polaroid and snail mail it.  Or fax it.

If You’re Thinking of Upgrading WordPress

I’ve already received a few emails about this upgrade and keeping WordPress up to date.  First off, the one I posted about last night is a release candidate.  I wouldn’t recommend upgrading until the new version is actually released.  Example, I’m not running it on this blog yet, only on a development blog.

When you do decide to upgrade, I recommend Keith Dsouza‘s Automatic Upgrade plugin.  It handles all the steps required for a manual upgrade for you.  Make sure you make a donation to his cause…this plugin will save you a lot of time and hassle.  It even downloads the newest version of WP for you and prompts you when upgrades are available.

I do recommend doing a manual upgrade at least one time in your life.  First of all, it will help you appreciate the automatic plugin.  Secondly, you’ll be able to handle any odd issues that arise later on if you’ve been through the process.  To upgrade manually, there are a few basic steps.  WordPress has published a full article on upgrading, but here are the high points:

1.  Back up all of your files

2.  Back up your database (there’s a plugin for that too)

3.  Download the version of WP you want to install

4.  Disable your plugins

5.  The only potentially tricky part.  FTP the files for the new version to your server…DO NOT upload the wp-content directory and overwrite the one that you already have.  It contains your theme, plugins, and images.  If you overwrite it they’ll all be gone…good thing you backed them up, right?  Only overwrite the contents of the wp-content folder–not the actual folders within it.  In most cases, this is an index.php file that does nothing, and you won’t be in any trouble if you avoid the wp-content folder altogether.   You also don’t want to overwrite your wp-config.php file either.  This shouldn’t be a problem because there usually isn’t one that ships with the new version, but double check.

6.  Go to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php.  I’m assuming here that your blog is located in your root directory.  If it isn’t, just adjust the URL.  For example, if your blog is in the /blog directory you’d point your browser to  www.yoursite.com/blog/wp-admin/upgrade.php

7.  This will handle all of the upgrades and prompt you if there is a database upgrade (there is for 2.5).  It’s a very simple process and tells you when you’re finished.

8.  Reactivate your plugins

9.  You’re done!