Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is this

This was a blog for a graduate school class Spring 2007 in Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for a course on web design.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Storytelling: Nostradamus has the seven-year itch

Visual Blogging - Storytelling and interactivity: your future vision.
You have 500 word and unlimited images. On your blog page, write your vision for the future of media. 100 years is too far away. What will we be interacting with in 7 years? Keep your focus on interaction and storytelling.



Shedroff's 100 Years piece published in 1995 is a fascinating look 12 years back at the art and science of prognostication. 1995 was the year I got on the Internet (although I had been an AOL/Prodigy/Compuserve user since 1990).

Nathan speculated that in 100 years:

"Windows® will not exist (Bob® should be gone in less than 5)"


Ah yes, Microsoft Bob, born March 1995, the first major attempt to "humanize" the personal computer computing experience, a social interface that never caught on, the leading edge of Web 0.5.

Bob lasted just one year. RIP Bob. The future of media is people telling their own stories, in a format that will vary greatly based on the type of story. Computing in 1995 when Shertoff wrote his piece involved people interacting with their computers. Microsoft Bob might have been a good application for that, but computer users by and large are interested in interacting with other PEOPLE, not with the computer. Interacting with the computer is a means, not an end. Bob failed. But interpersonal interaction has developed exponentially.


The future of the media in 2014 will involve people telling stories. This will largely be amplifications of two developing trends, wikis and blogs. The wikis and blogs will be used both by journalists and the public, often interchangeably. The democraticization of technology will make the technical details of maintaining, designing, and publishing a blog (or adding comments on a blog with design elements) transparent to the user. There will no longer be a need to learn how to alter CSS for simple design elements as programming will automate this. The old media method of centralized mediation for storytelling will give way to the new media method of distributed mediation.

Posted by Picasa(image from Reichenstein, 10 Newspaper Myths Deconstructed)

Wikis are computer applications that allow visitors to add, remove, edit and change content. The community can tell stories about individuals and events. After the Virginia Tech massacre, the New York Times noted that the wikipedia article on the massacre, which appeared instantaneously, was developed from the contributions of 2,074 editors, "... creating a polished, detailed article on the massacre, with more than 140 separate footnotes, as well as sidebars that profiled the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, and gave a time line of the attacks." This community storytelling has itself become an invaluable resource for the mass media. According to the New York Times: "As unfamiliar as it may seem, the contributors insist there isn’t even a shadowy figure who becomes the mastermind of the process." Wikipedia has catalogued under its history the thousands of edits to the Virginia Tech Massacre, a history of the story-telling process. (For some reason, users Mark Chilton., Jcbarr,, Ineffable3000, Jehb,, and Theguvnorgc decided to tell my story on Wikipedia.)

Since 1934, the News & Observer has carried its political column "Under the Dome" on a daily basis. This week, in an expanded version of the print column, (which will continue to run) Dome is now a blog. The political community has viewed this is as not just a useful attempt to expand the political news and take it to a wider office, but as a democratization of politics, which will enable others to tell their stories. Anglico, one of the main bloggers at BlueNC, welcomed Dome to the blogosphere, with his most telling comments: "I'm excited about this for lots of reasons, the most important being my favorite thing in the whole wide world: transparency. The blogosphere is one big happy fishbowl. We now have a direct line to a handful of people who play an important role in shaping the political agenda in North Carolina. And make no mistake, that's what they do. The stories they cover, the verbs they use, the angles they play, the things they leave out. It all adds up to agenda-setting, and I personally believe that's the name of the game .... With this new blog, the playing field gets leveled ... [i]n an open-source world ..." Anglico clearly envisions newspaper blogs that accept comments as a place for citizens to tell their stories, free of filtering.

Blogs will enable citizens to tell stories without filtering, whether in the comment function of a blog or in the writer's own blog, or as a guest post. Blog moderators can also promote comments to posts. For example, when the National Conference of State Legislatures' staff blog "Thicket at State Legislatures" posted on the effect of redistricting on voter turnout, I continued the story with my own comment inline. The moderator liked it so much he made it a guest post, noting "This originally appeared as a comment on Increasing Voter Turnout II. We thought it was important enough to publish it as a guest post." The comment became its own story, with the moderator promoting it from comments to the front page (until it vanished below the fold in a few weeks).

In seven years, we will be interacting with each other. Interacting with the computer, while important for techies, will continue to recede for most web users as it is a means and not an end. Storytelling will be the key to media in 2014.


(from Dilbert)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

persona 2: Jimmy Hattricks

Jimmy Hattricks lives in Minneapolis zip code 55407. His neighborhood is an immigrant community, a lower income urban mosaic with a mixed populace of younger Hispanic, Asian, and African-American singles and families.

Jimmy was born May 11, 1981, the day of Bob Marley's death. At age 25, Jimmy has lived in Minneapolis for four years. Jimmy got his GED last year, he dropped out of high school and fled South Philly, playing backup guitar for several bands until he got into hip-hop music marketing. Jimmy's income is derived solely from being the leader of a street team, being paid by record labels, bands, night clubs, record stores, and performance venues to paste up broadsides publicizing albums, bands, and live peformances. He spends his time stapling or glueing them on utility poles, vacant buildings, and storefronts.

Jimmy lives in an urban row house, renting from an absentee landlord who lived in the neighborhood when it was all Italian immigrants. Jimmy is working class, with a household income of $34,070, including that from his live-in partner by civil union. Jimmy is very artistic, and is a practicing Rastafarian. He is an abstract thinker, and keeps up online with many cultural issues and music issues, especially the hip-hop culture. He is an advanced computer user, downloading both cutting edge and well established music of the hip-hop culture. He has a high-end Windows Media Center PC and a laptop with 2 Gig of RAM that he stashes in his car when on the road.

Jimmy has no brand loyalty, he will buy whatever is cheapest or castoff. He and his partner want to be recognized within the hip-hop culture. Jimmy is thinking of dropping the hip-hop record label street team and hooking up with the threadless Street Team.

Jimmy also enjoys reading about sports online, and is a big Minnesota Wild hockey fan. The arena is just a few blocks from his house. His birth surname was Wales, but he uses the surname "Hattricks" in his professional life to show his obsession with hockey. Jimmy is dyslexic, and sometimes has trouble reading information on the computer screen.


Jimmy is a useful case study for the newspaper website. This is a region with a substantial minority population that has not been heavy newspaper readers. Jimmy has not read the print edition of the Pioneer Press or its online for six months. With an accessibility issue, Jimmy represents that important user group as well. If Jimmy signs up with the threadless Street Team, he might be a potential advertiser on Pioneer Press/ as well.

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Persona of Scott Kennedy

Scott Kennedy lives in St. Paul zip code 55105. His area of town is a collection of young, mobile urbanites, a Bohemian Mix that represents liberal lifestyles. Its residents are a progressive mix of young singles and couples, students and professionals.

Scott is 43 years old, a college grad, and a native of St. Paul. He spent a year in an PhD program in English before dropping out. Scott and his wife live in an urban area of St. Paul, in a two story Victorian era house. In another generation, Scott would have been a novelist, but is a manager of an independent filmhouse. His household income is $51,558.

Scott loves to entertain in his sprawling house. Scott is a lapsed Unitarian, and does not criticize the lifestyles of his customers or neighbors, who are an ecletic mix. Scott considers himself a Renaissance scholar, with a broad personal library collection of hundreds of rare volumes.

Scott is an avid reader, but is rarely online. He is open to new experiences, and has told his friends that he wants to start following indy films online rather than continuing his expensive subscriptions to the daily and weekly issues of Variety that arrive in his mailbox to be carefully catalogued away after a late evening of reading while he finishes a Havana cigar preserved from the 1940s.

Scott's computer still runs Windows 95, and its media viewers were last updated in 1999, as Scott is afraid to download programs lest picking up viruses. He has tried to use the Internet to follow films, and his manager recently set up a website for his art house.

Scott is fiercely brand loyal. He read the Pioneer Press religiously for 25 years, but cancelled his subscription six months ago when the paper editorialized in defense of Mel Gibson.


Kennedy is a significant influence on the newspaper website redesign. He is a former subscriber in an area where newspapers are losing readership. He has broad connections in the community, and if he adopts the new website others of his ilk will surely follow.

Photograph courtesy Library of Congress, photographer Carl van Vechten

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

somber day at virginia tech


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A somber day for all Hokies. The website has been revamped, images gone, only a small VT logo. The website conveys a somber tone.


UPDATE: Thursday, April 19. The Hokie website is revamped again, this time an entirely black background with white letters, a highly emotional picture two columns wide on a 3 column layout with text 2x1 below the pictures. At the bottom of the page (not visible in the screen grab below) are text links to regular university functions. The grid is reinforced with a dashed white line running vertically between the columns, and with solid horizontal white line separators.


Classes resume, website returns to normal pre-April 16 colors on the top banner, but retains the right column of names of victims with white letters on a black background. A good transition back to the old layout.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Interaction design: Museums worst practices: Old Prison Museum

I'll refer you back to my best practices post to see the scope of the assignment.

The Old Prison Museum website (Deerlodge, Montana) is an example of bad interaction design.

It is basically a four page design, with a link for a self-guided tour, local links, and a contact page.

The interaction design is miserable. I can find none of the information my grandmother and son need. Only the contact page tells me even what city the museum is in. There is no information on parking, little on exhibits, nothing on accessibility or food. The design make the museum less attractive. The museum hours are listed, and the names of the tour guides. The grammar is atrocious, leaving a negative feeling: "Guided tour's are available."

The top navigation bar is consistent between the four pages, that's the only thing positive I can say.