A chain is only as strong as its..

29 04 2009

I think this saying is quite apt in light of the readings for this week.

If the links on your page are either weak or non-existent, then the chain of communication (or web, as Rosen puts it) will be broken. Weak links (like those that direct you to pages that aren’t there, or types of files that won’t load) are severely detrimental to your web page, effectively rendering your page the weak link in the chain of communication.

If I visit a page without links, I might look around for a bit, leave, and not go back. A lack of links gives the visitor an impression of a stagnant website that doesn’t draw from external sources, doesn’t want to share its knowledge, and doesn’t refer to anything other than itself. It’s a dead-end. In short, the message is to love the link.

Gradual engagement kind of reminds me of meeting someone for the first time. You don’t say to them, ‘Well, before I get to know you I’d like to know your home phone number, how much money you make and why you’re at this party.’ You shoot the breeze for a bit, and then if you get along, you might possibly exchange some more information, some contact details etc. Nobody wants to put themselves out there all at once – you want to suss things out first, just as you want to suss out a web page’s services before you actually let them have you as a member.

Websites: make friends with your users!

In other news, as I sit here adding albums to my iPod on iTunes, Apple is being sued for shutting down an online discussion about how to use iPods without iTunes. Seems Apple is a bit miffed that their stranglehold on the mp3 market is being loosened.

Google has also launched an information-finding network to rival Wolfram Alpha. On the official Google Blog, a blogger writes:

Since Google’s acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago, we have been working on creating a new service that make lots of data instantly available for intuitive, visual exploration. Today’s launch is a first step in that direction. We hope people will find this search feature helpful, whether it’s used in the classroom, the boardroom or around the kitchen table. We also hope that this will pave the way for public data to take a more central role in informed public conversations.

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more.

With Wolfram Alpha’s launch looming, it will be interesting to see what happens.

A new study has also shown that a large percentage of people who sign up to Twitter lost interest after a month. Facebook and MySpace apparently have a much higher user retention rate. I only signed up today, because I’m always behind the trends. I can see the appeal of Twitter, but I think if I were faced with a block of spare time, I’d probably find other things to do.

Like write an essay. See you tonight!


Easy as ABC

22 04 2009

I don’t know about you guys, but I love the ABC. They continue to provide some of the most comprehensive and culturally aware broadcasts on TV and radio, and they’re still so tuned in to their audience. The fact that they’re continuing to reasearch the way forward with digital content, and being innovators with their approach to digital streaming and broadcast, shows that their attentions are focused outward rather than inward.

Ominously, however, the ABC seem to be feeling that it may be necessary to start charging for content or make certain areas of their digital information password-only, and I agree with Knight when he implores the ABC to expand rather than contract its public offerings online. Otherwise the ABC’s ethos of being a publically owned channel is negated and their credibility is called into question.

Now, with the Federal Government’s plans to invest in higher speed internet for the country, the ABC are poised to take full advantage. Hopefully they can do so without detriment to their audience.

Alan Knight presents his view that we as consumers now have the ability to control, or at least skew the angles, of the media. Some citizen journalism is now becoming as valid, if not more so, than the journalism at major news corporations. This ties in with the third article about gatekeeping and gatewatching.

Gatewatching is evidently the way that the news world operates at the moment. Where I work, I write articles for various publications, and much of my research is performed online. Searches for various topics and news stories result in the same story being returned to me over and over again via different sources, or gatewatchers.

As Axel Bruns points out in his article, there are inherent problems involved with the gatewatching process. Due to the fact that it relies on existing stories, gatewatching, though lack of original content, merely passes on the information in its sources. Some sources will inevitably by inaccurate, misleading or biased, and this is the content that will be passed on via numerous portals. Wikipedia is one such portal, delivering content compiled by the general public. This is why you must never use Wiki for your assignments!!

The user is also aware of this fact, and therefore now has to go to greater lengths to verify the accuracy of the reports encountered. This effectively makes the audience a much more active participant in the news. Does it make them more knowledgeable on the topics they’re researching, having read more than one story, and separated the wheat from the chaff? Possibly, but it also requires more time and effort on their behalf.

In other news, our choco group has started on our website, and since our meeting at Koko Black last week, we’ve really begun to sink our teeth into the project (no pun intended). More to come!


20 04 2009

Last week’s readings concerned online networking sites, and while I think they’re an interesting study of human nature and social interaction, I tend to be a bit on the ‘scoff-y’ side when it comes to analysing them in the way that we tend to do.

The way that society works nowadays is that we do spend more time on the internet than we ever have before. Yes, people spend excessive (and sometimes scary) amounts of time on these sites, and in their most extreme form (ie. Second Life), I think that they can be rather detrimental to the life of a person in the ‘real world’. But, these really are the extreme, and for the most part I think that SNSs are a facet of most people’s lives, but they’re not dominating us.

The boyd and Ellison article actually states that ‘most SNSs primarily support pre-existing social relations.’ This is certainly the case for me and any of my friends who use such sites (incredibly, I still have quite a few friends who don’t engage in online socialising). I use SNSs to check in with people who I regularly see offline, and none of my ‘friends’ are people who I’ve never met. In an age where we have less time to catch up physically due to work and time constraints, it’s pretty easy to log on, say a quick hi, catch up on day-to-day things, and basically nurture the relationship between ‘outside world’ meetings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a coffee and eye contact any day over status updates and ‘Gemma likes this’, but it’s handy to have a system to let people know that I’m studying, and I haven’t dropped off the face of the Earth.


1 04 2009

I just watched EPIC 2014 for the second time. It’s an interesting take on the world of journalism, both print and online. I found the doomsday tone of voice and the sombre music to be a little off-putting, but I suppose what Sloan and Thompson were trying to do was posit the world of journalism in a post-apocalyptic type setting, and to that end their presentation is quite effective.

I also found the newer version of this video here – named EPIC 2015. It’s been updated to include things like iPods and GPS positioning. It’s still pretty much the same premise, though.

As for the idea of EPIC itself, it doesn’t seem wildly far-fetched (perhaps just a smidge dramatic!). Such an information network is probably inevitable, it’s just that the effects of such a system don’t necessarily have to be as intense as portrayed here.

Judging from the past week, which brought the cessation of print runs for several long-running newspapers and magazines in favour of online versions, we’re heading towards tough times for print media. This means that the existing print media companies need to really focus on how to stay current in the digital age.

The idea of the New York Times being a newsletter for the elite and elderly is a little scary, but personally, I don’t think that such an iconic pillar of the media will be taken down so easily.

I also can’t imagine that an all-encompassing online world information system will necessarily phase out the existing (highly regarded) news services.  With no journalists, and the majority of the editing being done by computers, it seems that a system such as EPIC wouldn’t be a particularly reliable source of information. Much as Wikipedia’s content is user-based and not always fact, EPIC would struggle without proper research and editorial processes.

Sloan doesn’t think that this view of the future is a prophecy either, saying that all he was hoping to acheive with this presentation was “to illustrate the fact that the various monopolies of the large media organizations are currently being threatened by many of the new online services.” He adds that if there were to be such a “crazy integrated suite of Google services that will rule the world”, it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

Yesterday I posted a link to a blog about preparing for the onset of online news monopoly, by Patrick Kuras. I see EPIC 2014 as a similar sort of commentary, portentous for the purpose of making the news conglomerates aware that they have to diversify if they’re to ward off obsolescence.

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