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Big Brother is alive and well

If this week’s readings and videos don’t already have you looking over your shoulder, check out this story from MSNBC.com:

What will talking power meters say about you?

Would you sign up for a discount with your power company in exchange for surrendering control of your thermostat? What if it means that, one day, your auto insurance company will know that you regularly arrive home on weekends at 2:15 a.m., just after the bars close?

Welcome to the complex world of the Smart Grid, which may very well pit environmental concerns against thorny privacy issues. If you think such debates are purely philosophical, you’re behind the times.

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Don’t fence me out

It’s a classic story of two wrongs don’t make a right.

On one side, we have the telecommunications companies who built the infrastructure of the Internet and are determined to scuttle all attempts to challenge their dominance to its access, as well as their profits. And on the other side are the folks who see the Internet as one big free market where everything should be shared, whether they created it or not.

Both are in polarized positions, dealing with their own ethical demons.
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Pogue’s slippery slope

David Pogue of the New York Times

David Pogue of the New York Times

Earlier today, Dr. Alex raised the musical question Is David Pogue a journalist?

The short answer is yes, despite what Pogue says. But the real question is deeper.

Pogue says he never claimed to be a reporter and that he didn’t go to journalism school. My undergraduate degree is in political science, but I’ve worked as a journalist for nearly 30 years.

But the fact that Pogue is a columnist and not a reporter also isn’t the point. The New York Times, like most other large newspapers, has an ethics policy that spells out the kind of freelance work Pogue and other employees are allowed to do under the terms of their employment. The policy clearly states that “Staff members must ensure that their freelance work does not interfere with their normal responsibilities.”
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I’m my own best customer

Who do I think the typical user of my site would be and what are they looking for?

Well, considering that I’m in this program and that I’ve been a frequent user of these kinds of tutorials over the years, I guess I would be User 0 for this site.
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Clipbook option

If you’re looking for ways to save ideas for the final project, or anything else, Evernote.com can be a good option.

Like Delicious.com, you can save Web clippings here. But the service also has a mobile option that allows you to snap a picture on a cellphone and e-mail it to your account. It will also store PDFs and other documents as well as voice memos.

The standard (free) account has a monthly upload allowance of 40MB. The premium service ($5 a month/$45 annual) boosts the upload allowance to 500MB.

I’ve had an account for a bit and haven’t done much with it. But I’ll probably use it a little more now.

He’s doing it wrong

As designers, is it ever safe to assume that users will understand how to operate a product as soon as they pick it up? Is it possible to work from a baseline of shared experience or do we have to consider the lowest common denominator in every decision?
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There’s more than one way to skin a Web site

As I was going through our course material this week, I got caught up in trying to determine what the design process meant to each of the authors. While they all seemed to have the end user’s best interests at heart, it seemed like there were a lot of variables in their production paths.

Here’s a quick attempt to get to the essence of their their production processes.
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Comparison shopping

[podcast format="video"]http://www.welsfordroad.com/501videob.flv[/podcast]

Read on for more detail on these sites.

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Media vigilantes

If I were to guess, I’d say Dr. Alex Bruns has never worked in the field of journalism. If he did, he must have been disgruntled or he’d never have written about the profession in such an uninformed fashion.

“Wikinews: The Next Generation of Alternative Online News?” is just one more shot across the bow of the beleaguered news industry. It’s riddled with false assumptions about the state of journalism, the self-importance of “user-driven online news Websites and blogs,” and faulty ideas about news gathering and editing.

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What’s next?

I was interested to read Old TV News Guy’s post about the new study “Life Beyond Print,” which surveyed 3,800 journalists in an attempt to gauge their eagerness to make the transition to digital.

Today’s newspaper journalists have no trouble envisioning a career where news is delivered primarily online and to mobile devices instead of in print, according to a new report by the Media Management Center. In fact, almost half think their newsroom’s transition from print to digital is moving too slowly.

Though I wasn’t surveyed, I’m one of those print folks that has moved to multimedia duties and I couldn’t be happier about it. But there’s no doubt I also feel my organization is moving too slowly towards an all-online model. I came to the realization long ago that the only way for the newspaper newsroom to survive is to realize that we’re a news organization and not just a newspaper. We can do the same thing online as we do in print each day and do it better by utilizing more tools that aren’t available to us in print. But we have to adapt to a different news cycle, staff the newsroom differently and get a better handle on how we present the news online.

The folks who own and run and the company aren’t prepared to embrace that view. While they’re more willing to pay attention now that things have changed, they’re still hoping an economic rebound will bring their advertisers back, which I guess would put them in the “Turn Back the Clock” group.

I don’t know if newspapers will go away entirely, but I do have a feeling we’ve just stepped through the looking glass in terms of a business model. As NYU professor Clay Shirky said earlier this week, “the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.”

Let’s hope that changes soon.

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