J-School Weblog Panel Discussion Online

Just finished titling and encoding Weblogs — Challenging Mass Media and Society in QuickTime format for our Darwin Streaming Server. Posted both Sorenson3 and MPEG-4 versions (but no modem-friendly version, sorry).

We’re sort of testing the waters with MPEG-4 here, so let me know how the viewing experience is for you. Was kind of suprised not to get better filesize savings with MPEG over Sorenson. For example, the 2nd segment is 43 minutes long, at 320×240, 15fps, keyframe every 12, QualComm Purevoice 22kHz 16-bit mono. The Sorenson is 181MBs, the MPEG is 140MBs. I had hoped for something like a 50% size reduction. Hmmm…


The number of blogging packages now available has become staggering. This is the best meta-comparision of all the different approaches I’ve seen yet. That page also links to this blogware feature list (yes, I’ve already sent the author a list of mistakes on the LJ feature set). LJ fits into a category the author calls “hosted community” and his analysis of the pros and cons of that model are pretty accurate, although I don’t understand the AOL comparison he’s making.

LiveJournal, O’Reilly, and RSS

Ack packet via : LiveJournal now supports automatic RSS detection, and you can output your LJ blog in RSS format just by adding /rss to the end of your LJ URL.
Will take some experimenting to figure out how best to take advantage of these new capabilities. My goal is to have the equivalent of an LJ friends page but that also picks up on non-LJ blogs. Don’t have a lot of time for fiddling. Pointers welcome.Meanwhile, O’ReillyNet invited me to post a blog in their authors blog collection. So what I’m going to do is keep my LJ blog for personal / miscellany, but put all my tech-related posts in my ORA blog. I’ll also install a permanent link from this blog to that, eventually.

Jon Udell on Personal RSS aggregators: “The relevance engine that powers the emerging RSS network is, very much like Google’s relevance engine, decentralized and ultimately social in nature. The raw output of the online news collective is filtered for me by people doing what they do best: spotting patterns, alerting the tribe.

Third Wave

Just returned from a couple of days in Los Angeles at USC, attending a seminar co-hosted by Berkeley’s and USC’s j-schools. Around 125 educators and online journalism professionals from around the world, arranged in panels discussing the state of online journalism, how it could be done better, etc. Much discussion of whether and how much it’s appropriate to utilize the audience as information gatherers, which touches on the topics of community-driven sites, blogs, etc. In fact, there was quite a bit of discussion about the blog phenom, professional journalists who maintain blogs alongside their regular journalism, etc. Also much discussion about training – old-world journalists need to know how to use typewriters, but that’s not enough anymore. How to bring the old guard up to speed. Debates on whether we’re “doing it right” or not – what does that even mean? Is there a succesful online model yet? Is the internet different enough a medium that it deserves to be treated as categorically different re: journalistic techniques, or is it just another means of distribution with a few unique characteristics. Is the “immediacy” of the internet anything new? Radio and TV are immediate too, so no, not really. Anyway, some interesting discussions, but mostly debate, not a whole lot of concrete stuff to take home, and nothing technical. Worth the trip though. Shook some good hands, made some contacts, etc.

Anecdote: At one point, a panelist was talking about the “three-dot column” form of journalism, like Herb Caen of the SF Chronicle. “… three guys in a restaurant trading bites of top sirloin … Time for a new mayor … ” So this woman in the audience raises her hand and asks “What was that address again?” Confused looks, awkward silence. Took a while to realize that she had thought he was talking about something.dot.com. The term “three-dot column” is fading out because, well, because there aren’t many three-dot columns anymore. Well, it was funny at the time. Maybe you had to be there.

Danny Pearl

Just attended a memorial service for murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. A panel hosted by two WSJ reporters and Michael Lerner, rabbi and editor of Tikkun. Fascinating perspectives, especially since it was the first time I had gotten to see a rabbi and an atheist sitting side by side at a round table.

Got a lot of behind the scenes information, far outside of what you hear in the press. Stuff about how news organizations deal with overseas reporters, about the preponderance of Jewish editors and reporters, and how they’re received overseas. Heard the Kaddish recited for the first time (not counting Ginsberg’s version ;). It was beautiful.

Seeing Bill Clinton

Went to see Bill Clinton speak today. The J-School sponsored the event, but it was held in Zellerbach Hall. Cool to see Gray Davis, Orville Schell, and Bubba all onstage at once. Very inspiring. Listening to him really made me aware of how quickly we synopsize our feelings about leaders into a few summary thoughts. “Democrat. Two terms. Mixed track record. Kinda liked him, kinda not. Reputation tarnished by scandal.” It also made me aware of how our impressions of leaders are almost entirely governed by the sound bites and snippets the media choose to publish. But listening to him speak in complete thoughts, and without having to be on the campaign trail and sell himself, was fascinating. Lives of politicians are so complex, the issues so huge, the problems so multidimensional. The country was left with the impression of a kind of bumbler, and many people forgot just how intelligent he is. But his wit is so quick, his grasp of the big picture so vast.

His main talking point was globalization, and he had a lot to say on that. One of the most interesting things he pointed out was how we took the long view towards Japan and Germany, and poured resources into those countries to help shape the world for the future. If we had just won WWII and left it at that, our relationship to Germany and Japan today would be very different than it is. So what about Afghanistan? It’s not enough to bomb it further into oblivion, and it’s not enough to eliminate Al Qaeda (efforts he supports completely). Taking the long view, we have to pour resources into the Middle East to foster freedom of thought, education, etc. That kind of thing costs us peanuts, and has a huge pay-off for the future. But how much are we talking about that now?

He also made an unusual point about exhaustion. All of our senators and congresspeople, and in fact all the leaders of the world, live under such heavy workloads and under so much continual stress that the world is basically run by walking zombies. Scary thought.

I had felt non-committal about going to this thing, but was really glad I did.

Also got to hang out before the event with the founder and editor of Wired Digital. Had a very interesting conversation about what kind of media is successful today. Now that everything is so specialized – people have 100 TV channels and infinite web sites to choose from – the really successful publications are super specialized and all about lifestyle. Yoga magazine has a huge circ and is fat with ads. U.S. News and World Report is sinking out of view. Slashdot (tech specialized) is doing great, but Plastic (general topics) is struggling. Etc. etc. Interesting.

Here Is New York

The J-School hosted the California exhibition of Here Is New York – photographs by people and journalists who were there on the front lines of ground zero. They’re selling copies around the country for $25.00 each and giving the proceeds to relief efforts. The show is so moving, so amazing. We also had photogs from the NY Times and NY Daily News who came out and showed slides and recounted their ground zero experiences.


Went to see Battlebots live at Treasure Island (halfway between Oakland and San Francisco, at the nexus of the Bay Bridge – a former naval station) with . This was just the prelims, so they didn’t use the hammers or saws or pistons coming out of the floor, which deadened the excitement level a bit. Only about half an hour of really exciting stuff out of a five hour event. Amazing how fragile a lot of the bots are – non-starters, quick-quitters, radio control problems, wheels out of alignment… but the strong survive.

It didn’t get really good until the end, when the best of the heavyweights competed. Then we really started to see shit fly. The best offense is heavy stuff that spins fast, like hammers on armatures or chains. The best defense is still the wedge. But plain wedge designs are such cop-outs – just a “try to survive” strategy, which works as far as far as it goes, but isn’t really in the spirit of the game.

How many years before we’re watching human-piloted bots, or cyborgs doing battle? How long before we’re taking our kids to android soccer matches?

Ate too much kettle corn. I have no self control where popcorn is concerned.