Chuck's Q Blog


Just another ICM blog

Do I pick a topic or does it pick me?

A quick look at links I’ve been posting to Facebook lately tells me that — surprise — I seem to have a deep interest in digital media, its delivery on various devices (especially the iPad) and the transformation of the news industry.

That’s probably due in large part because I’m part of the news industry, I work in digital media and I own an iPad and other mobile devices. Go figure. and the Nieman Journalism Lab are two of my favorite sites and provide a lot of interesting source material. Through those sites and others, I’ve tried to keep track of how various news organizations are dealing with paywalls, developing mobile apps and other aspects of our changing industry.

I’ve already formed a few opinions about what will and won’t work and under what circumstances some of these ideas will succeed or fail. Some of those ideas have been shared with colleagues in and out of the newsroom. I’ve even written about a few for other classes using this blog.

That will probably be the thrust of my writing in #506DE as well.

Keep it simple

I was glad to see William Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well listed for #506DE. It just so happened I had a copy on my computer desk.

I own the the sixth edition, which has a 1998 copyright. I see the current edition was published for the book’s 30th anniversary in 2006. I thought my copy was actually older than that. It seems like the lessons I learned from reading it had been learned long before that point in my newspaper career.

If you don’t take anything else from this book, consider this passage:

Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy? Is anything pompous or pretentious or faddish? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it’s beautiful? Simplify, simplify.

I couldn’t agree more. I know that I improved my writing by reading the Elements of Style from cover to cover. I think I took it up another notch after reading Zinsser’s book.

What will I take from it this time?

Saving a few more trees

I had been meaning to buy my textbooks for #512DE this week and finally went on last night to put in my order. (I’d already checked the iTunes bookstore and didn’t see them listed.)

When I found them on Amazon, I noticed that both had Kindle editions. I also noticed the Kindle versions were about $10 less than the dead-tree editions. So, I bought them both.

I don’t own a Kindle. But I do have an iPad.

Early on, well before the iPad, Amazon developed a Kindle reader app or the iPhone. Now there’s a full version for the iPad as well. I downloaded that and figured I’d buy a few things to give it a shot.

I’m impressed enough with the results. But more importantly, I can carry those books — and hundreds more — all at one time in the iPad. And no trees were killed in their printing.

When I bought the iPad, I was hoping I’d be able to find some of my textbooks before I was done with the master’s program. Looks like I’m off to a pretty good start.

Getting to know me — again

Didn’t get any use out of this blog last semester, but it looks like it will be a key component for at least one class this summer (506DE), so try to ignore the earlier posts and we’ll start over again with a little biographical information.

I think I’m what they call a late bloomer. It may take me a while to get up to speed, but when I do, I make up for lost time.

It took me a long time to finish my undergraduate degree. Longer to work my way into a job at a major newspaper. Longer still to find the right girl and settle down. And now, at 50, I’m anxiously awaiting the birth of my first children — twin boys, expected to arrive inside the next six weeks. (Stay tuned for pictures.) Read the rest of this entry »

Writing sample for 506DE

Reprinted from It’s older than I thought, but I still like it:

Video-game Review | Fallout 3

Survival poses challenges aplenty

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 3:00 AM

By Chuck Nelson

Wake up and smell the radiation, America: Fallout 3 has arrived.

Bethesda Softworks has knocked another title out of the park. By taking the elements of the classic Fallout games and draping them over the framework that runs the world of Oblivion, Bethesda has created a post-apocalyptic sandbox full of challenges and adventures that should be on every top-10 list this year.

The game is set in Washington in 2277 — 200 years after a nuclear war struck the United States and 30 years after Fallout 2 took place. Generations have lived and died in the controlled environment of the underground fallout vaults, never venturing outside.

Players witness the birth of their character and learn the game controls through a series of events as their avatar matures. When an incident threatens their lives, it’s off to the Wastelands to start the real adventures.

While Fallout 3 is years away from the worlds created in Oblivion, players who enjoyed that game will have no trouble picking up the control schemes of the new title.

Players roam the vast areas of the game map to complete quests. Along the way, they’ll look for food, medicine and weapons. Key characters will provide information, food, lodging and medical skills. Many will invite gamers to complete tasks for them that advance their story.

There are few, if any, flaws in this game. The graphics are impressive — including the ruins of the capital. The game also takes full advantage of campy art reminiscent of the Cold War culture of the 1950s.

The only complaint might be the use of some salty language that seems gratuitous at times. But expecting the inhabitants of the brutal world of the Wastelands to be gentle is probably unrealistic.

While fighting has its place, it’s the quests that will occupy much of players’ time. If they are as plentiful and engaging as they were in Oblivion, Fallout 3 will provide hours of play.

And, as with Oblivion, it’s probably safe to expect expansion opportunities.

Final project pitch

[podcast format="video"][/podcast]

Read the rest of this entry »

Lifelogging vs. lifestreaming

Lifelogging and lifestreaming (or storystreaming as some news outlets are calling it) are basically two versions of the same idea. Both are used to capture and store memories, but while lifelogging is geared more towards storing information in private, lifestreaming shares your information through a blog.

The Old Media, New Tricks blog has been talking about lifestreaming or storystreaming for a while. The first piece I saw about it talked about how the Austin American-Statesman used a service called Posterous to gather photos from readers on a specific topic. As Austin approached a record for 100-degree days last summer, the editors set up a Posterous account where readers could submit photos for a weekend that showed how they were coping with the heat. They then ran a story about this in the paper and used the photos that were collected for a slideshow on the site.

Like other blogging sites, Posterous is only as good as what’s being sent to it. It’s really designed for mobile photo posts, but I see people using it as a regular blog as well. (“Office” fans might want to check out Rainn Wilson’s blog.)

Memories, like the corners of my mind

In his lecture this week, Dr. Alex mentions examining science fiction as a predictor of the future. And then I listened to the “On The Media” piece about “lifelogging” and it made me think of some of Philip K. Dick‘s work.

While the “lifelogging” piece centered on extraordinary measures to preserve memories, many of Dick’s works went a step past that and explored the idea of embedding memories.
Read the rest of this entry »

Going mobile

The information age is taking its show on the road. Mobile is clearly the next computing revolution finally moving across the U.S.

While Japan and some European nations have been at the forefront of this movement for some time, better devices in the last few years are luring more U.S. users into the ranks of mobile computers.

More and more, cellphones — especially the latest generation of the Apple iPhone — are being used in journalism. Blogs can be updated via the WordPress app. Videos for news sites have been shot and edited using just the tools on the phone. Even live reports have been produced with it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Web site issues

My project’s legal implications are fairly clear cut and shouldn’t pose a particular threat to what I’m planning.

One of the things I want to do on my project site is to present in whole the lessons contained on other sites. The main reason for this idea is to create a bigger collection of tutorials while also making sure that the material exists somewhere other than its original Web site, as something of a backup. This way, if an original site containing this kind of material is hacked, closed or otherwise becomes unavailable, all of the valuable material on that site won’t be lost. went through this about a year ago, but managed to reconstruct his site and press on. I’m not sure that would be the case for everyone that has content to offer.

Since the bulk of the content that I expect to provide on my project site will have been authored by someone else, I will have to rely on obtaining permissions to reprint or reformat that information, depending on the type of copyright under which it was produced.

Some of the information I’m likely to use was developed under Creative Commons licenses, which will make it easier to build the collection on my site the way I want, giving full credit to the original authors and linking back to their sites.

Also, since the site is likely to be non-profit or educational, I believe I’ll have a little more leeway under the copyright laws, though I think there are ways to proceed with more limited listings for various pieces if their authors aren’t interested in taking part in my project. Abstracts, or some similar construct, could be used with direct links to the projects.