Photos, Multimedia and Journalism

Well, it’s been a long time since my last post, but for good reason! I’ve had quite the busy term and I thought it would be nice to show you what I’ve been up to all term. The main thing keeping me busy was a photojournalism class at the University of Oregon. I ended up with a pretty nice portfolio and a multimedia story on Eugene’s local (now defunct) Bar 201. You can view the awesome multimedia slideshow here:

Most of my other photos are up at my Flickr account, but you can also click through to see some highlights from my portfolio.

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Media Literacy: Who's Responsible?

We had a really interesting discussion in my Ethics of Strategic Communication class today. What started out as an analysis of “stealth marketing” techniques segued into a discussion of media literacy.

There are a number of organizations that strive to protect consumers from the adverse affects of advertising and marketing (such as the FTC), but how effective are these regulations if they only protect “reasonable” consumers of media. Who protects the unreasonable ones?

As students of media as a whole, we tend to forget that we may be more aware of the techniques used by marketers to get our attention. But in a society so saturated by marketing as ours, is it even necessary to promote media literacy? Or is it reasonable to expect a certain level of innate awareness?

My question is this: To what extent should we, as strategic communicators, be responsible for promoting an awareness of marketing and advertising techniques in young people? Is media literacy even a problem? If so, why or why not?

The Buzz on Netbooks

Dell Inspiron Mini 9

Netbooks have existed for some time now, but have just recently become popular. A type of sub-notebook computer, netbooks are small, light and inexpensive. Originally, netbooks almost exclusively ran Linux operating systems due to performance and price benefits over Windows. Now many netbooks offer a choice between a Windows or Linux based operating system.

Although not as powerful as traditional notebook computers, the small size of netbooks makes them excellent companions for people on the go. The surprising thing is that they’ve proved tremendously popular with all kinds of consumer groups, from tech savvy bloggers, to English professors and even soccer moms.

Dylan McGrath writes in a recent EETimes article that “The Information Network estimates that 11.4 million netbooks were sold in 2008, up from 400,000 in 2007. For 2009, the firm estimates that netbook sales will grow 189 percent to 21.5 million.” That’s a 2,850 percent increase in sales!

So why have netbooks become so popular so quickly?

Asus Eee PC and AP Stylebook

They’re Cheap
If you have to lug around a computer every day, it’s going to take some abuse. If your $300 netbook breaks or gets stolen it’s going to be much less of a hit to your wallet than $1299 for a new MacBook.

They’re Efficient
Although netbooks aren’t suited for intense multi-tasking or graphics design work, they are perfect for everyday tasks like surfing the web or taking notes in Google Docs. Keeping your documents in the cloud means you can start a presentation on your netbook and finish it at home on your desktop.

They’re Cute
Ars Technica has a good article espousing five reasons to consider a netbook. They hit on a key point at the end of the article:

It may be a hideously embarrassing truth, but the netbook appeal goes well beyond businesses—a lot of soccer moms and grandparents are buying netbooks because they have a basic ownership appeal. Netbooks work well for anyone who regularly moves around and wants to bring a certain level of computing with them.

Because so many netbook owners end up working in coffee shops or other public places, they tend to attract a lot of gawkers. Let’s face it, netbooks are cute and definitely ooze a certain “cool factor.” I think this has greatly contributed to the lasting buzz about netbooks.

Acer Aspire ONE

For the past couple years I’ve been watching the popularity of netbooks grow, both online and off. Yet I’ve remained on the fence. I found it hard to believe anyone would want to work with such a small screen. It wasn’t until my roommates brought two Acer Aspire Ones home that I began to see their benefits (purchased at our local Circuit City’s liquidation sale).

The popularity of netbooks is certainly due to several factors. Cheaper hardware and better web applications have greatly contributed to netbooks rise. But I think that the biggest factor is the influence of thought leaders. That professor sitting in a café working on their Asus Eee PC has probably been the single biggest boon to netbook sales.

Ars Technica has an interesting series going on the history of the netbook. The first entry is entitled “The State of the Netbook, Part I: WEee have lived before.”

Thanks to -eko-, raster and quentinsf for the great netbook photos.

Google Makes Mistake, Fixes it, Then Blogs About it

Early this morning a few lone souls noticed that Google Search was behaving a bit oddly. Google had flagged every site returned with the message “This site may harm your computer.” The problem started happening around 6:30 a.m. PST. Several tech news sites (Ars Technica, Slashdot) quickly picked up on the problem and posted stories about the issue only a few hours later.

Luckily, Google wasn’t sitting still either. By 9 a.m. they had posted a detailed statement on their official blog attributing the problem to “…human error.”

Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

This statement was revised several times in response to a statement by

All in all Google did a fantastic job in a difficult situation. Many users were put out by this error. Imagine having your e-commerce site flagged as being potentially harmful every time someone googled for you, even if it was only for half an hour. This could lead to lost sales or at least confusion.

Luckily Google’s official statement was apologetic, detailed and accurate. They worked with to clarify any misleading wording and were completely transparent about the updates made to their initial statement.

Windows 7: The Favored Son?


Well I hate to say it, but I’m excited for Windows 7. I downloaded the beta the other day and burned it to a DVD that is now sitting on my desk taunting me. I was going to write a blog post about my experience with the beta, but since I haven’t had time to install it yet it’ll have to wait. Then I started wondering, “why am I excited for Windows 7?” I wasn’t excited for Vista, or even Window XP. In fact, I continued my monthly ritual of re-installing Windows 98 SE for several years before I finally caved and bought XP.

Emil Protalinski, contributing writer for Ars Technica, writes that he’s “…watched the media completely destroy the public opinion of Vista” [article]. While I can’t say I disagree with his argument, I don’t think the media was the real reason Vista failed.

Windows Vista was released five years after Windows XP. For a little perspective, consider that we went from Windows 98 to Windows XP in only three years (Windows XP was released in 2001). That’s an incredible advancement and today Windows XP is still the most widely used operating system in the world.

Vista’s release was unfortunately doomed from the beginning. Consumers were confused by the six different editions of Vista; wondered why they should spend so much to replace something that was working well already (Windows XP); and couldn’t trust that their new “Vista Capable” computer could actually run Vista. Microsoft also failed to deliver on several key features of the new operating system, such as “WinFS.”

Now, I used Vista for about a month after it came out, and to be quite honest it was an improvement over Windows XP. It was more stable, more secure and more efficient than Windows XP. However, It also required significantly beefier hardware to run and had some significant compatibility issues with certain legacy software. Frankly it just wasn’t “enough” of an improvement over Windows XP and certainly not a $300 to $400 improvement.

Now here comes Windows 7 and people can’t stop talking about it. Why is that? Vista certainly set the bar low, but it’s not even that it’s simply better than Vista. Frankly the buzz is that Windows 7 will be the best Windows operating system ever.

Honestly I think the issue here is that Windows 7 is really what Vista should have been in the first place. You can’t have good hype if you don’t have a good product, people will eventually catch on. Microsoft has really taken users’ complaints about Vista to heart and has made significant performance and usability improvements. They’ve made the Windows 7 beta easily available and are getting it into the hands of as many reviewers as possible. This has led to increased coverage and good marks all around. This is probably a better way to spend their marketing budget instead of hiring Jerry Seinfeld.

The big question is, if Microsoft had taken Blizzard’s “done when it’s done” policy and delayed the release of Vista, would things have been different?

The Digital TV Transition…Delayed?

DTV Coupons

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. I took some time off for the holidays and am just now getting back into the swing of things. On a side note, I just upgraded my blog to WordPress 2.7, which got me excited to start blogging again.

With the Digital TV transition looming on February 17, the Federally sponsored DTV coupon program is officially broke. Obama and several other legislators are apparently supporting an effort to delay the DTV rollover, but at this point is it even a good idea?

Consumers have had the February 17 date burned into their heads by TV ads, radio spots, newspaper articles; you name it. If the date were to change, it could only lead to confusion and the belief that all the commotion was for nothing.

Broadcasters aren’t too happy about the possibility of a delay either. They’ve spent millions of dollars on equipment and marketing while gearing up for the switchover. Any delay could lead to the further expense of maintaining defunct analog equipment or rescheduling the installation of new equipment. Chaos would literally ensue. At least that’s what they’d like you to think.

Honestly I think it would be a huge mistake to delay the DTV transition. Frankly, despite the funding problems of the coupon program, this transition has been a long time coming. Delaying it would only prove that someone screwed the pooch and didn’t have a backup plan. Sticking to your deadline is key and it’s important to be able to adjust your plans in order to make that happen. Bumps in the road don’t mean you have to throw up the white flag.

Photo by ThisIsIt2.

What's Up Google?

For the past 24-hours or so, all my Google services have been intermittently slow. That means Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger, Google Docs and so on. When they work they work fine, but when they’re slow they’re slow as molasses.

It’s not just me either. Twitter is all abuzz about this problem. Yet there is still no response from Google.

What could be wrong? Did someone seriously screw up a system update? Did one of Google’s server farms bite the big one? Who knows! Google hasn’t said a peep. Even the official Google blog has been quiet on the issue.

Granted, a problem big enough to affect all of these services must be keeping them pretty busy, but still. Not even a heads up? Not a smart move Google.

Civil War LAN Media Coverage

Well I think I’ve finally recovered from Civil War LAN. Despite OSU trouncing us in the tournaments the event turned out really well. This was the first year since the original emuLAN that I actually got to sit down and enjoy myself. I played some Command and Conquer 3, Heroes of Might and Magic II (yes I’m old school) and Unreal Tournament 2004. I didn’t even do half bad in the UT2k4 tournament.

What I’m really excited about though is all the media coverage we got this year. The original press release I wrote was picked up by the University of Oregon’s Public and Media Relations and sent out to the world.

Magically, during the event, a reporter from the Register Guard stopped by, followed by a videographer from KVAL.

Register Guard Article

I missed the Register Guard reporter, but was able to do the KVAL interview myself.

Initially, I had sent my pitchengine release to some blogs, including Kotaku, but didn’t get any bites. During the LAN we had streaming webcams from both Universities so I decided to toss it out to Kotaku once more. I left the LAN at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, went to sleep and woke up to an e-mail from Owen Good, one of the weekend Kotaku editors. He couldn’t believe he had missed the e-mail and banged up an awesome post about our event!

Kotaku Coverage

As of today the Kotaku post has 2,288 views and 28 comments. The Civil War LAN website received about 400 additional referrals from Kotaku alone (in a 24-hour period).

Unfortunately none of us thought about this extra traffic until today. My co-worker Paul had the awesome idea to throw up a mailing list sign-up on the Civil War LAN website. Hopefully not too late. In the future we definitely need to have some strategy in place ahead of time for taking advantage of the increased website traffic.

How "Cooking Mama" Handles PETA

Recently the game “Cooking Mama,” published by Majesco Entertainment for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS, became the target of a new PETA campaign. PETA developed an online flash game dubbed “Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals,” which is accompanied by recommendations for vegan Thanksgiving recipes.

Majesco took a day or two to whip up this awesome and slightly tongue-in-cheek response. Great quote below:

Cooking Mama World Kitchen includes more than 25 vegetarian-friendly recipes including delicious breakfast, dinner, dessert and snack options. And, while Mama is not a vegetarian, she fully supports the humane treatment of animals, particularly for her canine protégé Max who makes his doggie debut in World Kitchen.

I think it’s really cool that Majesco had some fun with this. They obviously weren’t a fan of PETA’s portrayal of their game, but they still managed to come up with a witty and smart sounding response. I think PETA totally loses this battle. This just goes to show how a well thought out response can completely defuse a potential crisis. What do you think about Majesco’s response?

Via Kotaku

Sit back, relax and prepare for a shameless plug.

With a little cajoling from my boss, Lee LaTour, we were able to get some play for the Civil War LAN on the University of Oregon’s home page. Doing some double-dipping, I wrote a social media release for the Civil War LAN and posted it to Pitch Engine (see my release here). Lee was able to get in touch with the right people in the UO’s Public and Media Relations department and they decided to use my release! They made some small edits and added a little more content for clarity, but the bulk of my original release is still there. It was only on the UO home page for a few hours (before being bumped down by other content), but that’s still pretty cool. You can read the revised PMR release here.

Thanks to imjustincognito for the image.