Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Museum For Webpages

I love art museums because of the freedom of navigation and the lack of time restrictions. As James Stovall explains in his book Web Journalism, navigating a museum is very similar to navigating a webpage.

When you enter an art museum, you can walk from room to adjacent room, or you can skip a few rooms and find your favorite, you can even take the elevator to the second or third floor, stop by the café and get a snack, and if you want, you can stamp your hand and come back later. Similarly, when browsing a webpage, you can read the entire page, or you can link to another page, skim that page and link to an entirely new site, you can get up from your computer to grab a snack from the kitchen, then you can come back to the original page because you noticed a link there that you want to explore now.

It is the job of web editors to creatively organize the material on a webpage so that information is formatted logically and can be browsed and accessed with ease. Just like museums have their resources (maps, pamphlets, curators, staff) so too should webpages in the form of site maps and links to related stories and auxiliary pages. With no resources, it would be easy to get lost in an art museum, just like it would be easy to get lost browsing the internet if web editors did not organize their sites effectively.

The fundamental difference between a curator of a museum and the editor of say, a news webpage, is immediacy. Often, art work is tens, hundreds and even thousands of years old. Historical information does not change, and therefore, there is no need for constantly updated the information of famous pieces of art. Conversely, with news webpages, the opposite is true. With a breaking news story, an editor must not only provide information relevant to the news break but also background information so readers can learn of related events in the past. A web editor’s job is never complete and changes at the speed of the world.

Soon, what am I saying soon...I am sure there exists a plethora of webpages about museums; perhaps someday there will be a museum of famous webpages.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where Is The Line Anymore???

If you are anything like I was 2 months ago, you would routinely surf the next without recognizing the fact that some websites were websites and some websites were blogs.

Nowadays, many websites are begining to resemble blogs, and many blogs appear like websites. I learned to distinguish the two right in time for them to mold into one...at least this is the sentament expressed byTecnorati founder, David L. Sifry in this article.

This fushion is caused by mainstream sites adding blogs to reach out to viewers, and blogs are simultaneously seeking to become reliable news sources.

As a student, I have come across hundreds of illegitimate websites while conducting research. Teachers rarely recognize websites as legitimate sources for research. The difference I find in blogs is that blogs almost always claim to be the opinions expressed by the writer, while websites often claim to express the truth despite often being inaccurate. Therefore, I feel that blogs can be used at least minimally as sources of opinion, while websites normally can't be used at all (aside from official news websites like cnn.com).

Blogging For Good!

I have recently come across blog-related news that may have a potentially endearing effect on humanity. Could blogs save an innocent man's life from the death penalty?

Radley Balko has initiated a national blogging effort to propel the story of a damned yet innocent man into the mainstream media. The man, Cory Maye of Mississippi, was convicted of killing a cop who had mistakenly barged into Maye's home on a drug raid intended for Maye's neighbor. Maye shot and killed the cop, Ron Jones in a clear-cut case of self-defense.

I am sure most people with a one-year-old daughter, like Maye has, would have responded in a similar fashion to the threat of an intruder crashing through the window in the middle of the night.

It is likely that RACE played a significant factor in the trial as Maye is black and Jones is white (as well as the son of the town's police chief).

Balko has the opportunity to be a pioneer in the blogosphere: If his blogging campaign raises enough public awareness, then it is likely that a competent organization like the ACLU may step forward and investigate the case. Currently, Maye's lawyers have acted with incompetence, and it will be a true shame on the state of Mississippi if Maye goes down for this.
Perhaps, as you read and I type, Balko is turning his blog into a life preserver and stringing it over Maye's neck, which, as far as I know, will be the first time that this great medium will save the life of an innocent man.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Walker Walks Us Through Narration

Who can forget the classic computer game, Doom? I personally never had the game, but eagerly anticipated playing it at my friends house after school on a near daily basis. What fun! Oh sweet Nostalgia!
Part of the game's success should be attributed to the feeling one had while playing that he or she was in the game. It was completely interactive: you could look up at the ceilings, crouch down and check out the floor, and of course blast your way out of dungeon with hell fire.

The game was certainly designed to be interactive, and as our blogging class learned by reading an article by Jill Walker, many successful writings are designed in the same vein. Her article called Do You Think You're Part of This? Digital Texts and the Second Person Address, compares a successful narration to the success of the video game Doom. Walker tries to break down the essence of narration by teaching the importance of allowing the reader to feel like he is in the text.

What could be a better analogy than the classic video game, Doom? Perhaps her attempts to compare a successful narration with voyeurism. "When you read a narrative, you enjoy being a voyeur." I looked up the word voyeur in several dictionaries to see if it had a connotation that didn't relate to sexual gratification. I didn't find any, and this made me cringe when I read her repeated allusions to voyeurism. Perhaps she should have found a more suitable word.

Maddox is King

If you do a google search for The Best Page In The Universe, the first page listed will take you to Maddox.xmission.com. The page is full of Maddox's humor writings which range in topics from How to Spot a Pedophile to How to Kill Yourself Like a Man.

While his postings are often hilarious, I must admit that the funniest post of his that I read was incidentally the first post of his that I read over three years ago. It is called, I am Better than Your Kids, and it is a critique of a series of crude drawings presumably created by kindergarteners. Maddox bashes the children's work as if they were submitting a first novel to a publishing house, and it made me laugh out loud.

Maddox's website is very similar to a blog: it simply has a long list of links to the various humor articles that he has written. He used to update his site several times a month, but recently informed his readers that his updates will be limited because he is working on a book deal.

Maddox has never put any ads on his site and claims that he gets more daily traffic than websites for huge corporations like Pepsi.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

STOP THE WAR (blogs)

I have no sympathy for American soldiers who were ordered to stop blogging by army officials as stated in the article "The Blogs of War" by John Hockenberry.

According to the article, some soldiers were ordered to suspend their blogs for various reasons including the fact that some blogs gave away information about military position and capabilities. Suspending blogs with such content seems to be the most logical thing that our army has done in recent years.

Hockenberry provides snippets of soldiers' blogs that are not only extremely well written and poetic, but are also largely insightful into the life and minds of our current soldiers. I admit that these war blogs are captivating, but I don't think they should exist.

If our soldiers are so compelled to share their stories, why not keep a journal and publish it after the war? Is the instant gratification of blogging so necessary that it could potentially jeopardize our war efforts?

The whole issue reminds me of my grandmother's wartime letters. My grandfather was stationed at Pearl Harbor during its infamous battle. My grandmother wrote two letters home every week, and then suddenly stopped for over three weeks from December 7th till sometime in January.

In her first letter to her family after the attack, my grandmother neglected to mention anything about the war, the Japanese, or the state of Pearl Harbor. The military censored every letter she wrote, and prohibited any content related to the status of the base. Perhaps the army was more paranoid back then, but I think it is a no brainer for them to censor or even prohibit war blogs during wartime. Because information is power and too much information could be dangerous.

Cha Cha Cha Cha Changes

Okay, I made a few changes/improvements to my blogs.

I sperated the paragraphs in the Bernstein article so that it is easier on the eyes.
I added a link my blog about a woman's blog entitled "Miles From Fenway" because I realized that it might be helpful for readers to reference what I was blogging about.
I also felt that my blogs needed some color, so I added a picture of Biz Stone to my blog about him.

I also felt like adding this chart of countries that I have visited. If you want to make your own, click here.




create your own visited countries map

Gudalunas: The Essence and Impact of Blogs

Yes, I am aware that the newspaper industry is suffering in the light of the internet and information age. And I can't argue that blogs are growing rapidly, with tens of thousands of new blogs being created everyday. But will blogging replace the need for newspapers? In ten years?

This is the casual sentiment of Dr. Gudalunas, a Fairfield University Communications Professor who spoke to our class about the essence and impact of blogs. I can't say that I agree with much of what Dr. Gudalunas feels is true about the blogging industry. How can he even propose a question like: Will newspapers exist in 10 years???

I believe that there is a certain understood integrity about the newspaper industry that is void in the world of blogging. Are blogs interesting, provocative and informative? YES. Do I believe things I read on blogs? Yes, but not everything, and I would never rely on it as a substantial news source.

Why not??? Because The United States has a larger land mass than China Clearly any joker out there can write anything he pleases and there are virtually no bloggin' rules to comply with.

Certainly Dr. Gudalunas has a lot to teach people about blogging, but I feel that he is slightly carried away with their current impact on our society. I think this was made clear when he asked for a show of hands of students in our class who read blogs regularly, and there were barely enough to bake a cake (assuming that you need at least two to bake a cake).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Poo Poo FUSA Raffle: Who Cares?

Imagine: the power to park ANYWHERE.

This may appeal to you if you are a Fairfield University student who is confined by strict parking regulations. This may be especially appealing to upperclassmen who have a 15 minute walk from their townhouse to the Dolan School of Business (and aren't allowed to park at the Dolan School of Business).

This is why our student government, FUSA (Fairfield University Student Association) organized a raffle which gave all-access parking passes to benefit the Special Olympics.

The Problem: Two FUSA Senators were among the winners of this coveted prize.

So two of the FUSA Senators won their own raffle? Where does the mirror’s editorial staff (the mirror is our student newspaper) get the audacity to accuse Senators (elected representatives!) of foul play? “Shame on the FUSA Senators…”

Naturally, I could care less because I am a Fairfield University Resident Assistant equipped with an all-access faculty parking sticker (Oh Yeah!). But seriously, the fact is that we all know that anyone involved in FUSA constitutes the minute percentage of students who actually care about anything at this school, and are working to improve it. The apathy is sickening and I think all members of FUSA should have all-access parking stickers, just because.

Because The Mirror is one of the only Fairfield institutions that a majority of the FU community pays attention to, I feel they should use their powers for good instead evil. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Biz Stone Let The Blogs Out

Biz Stone has the coolest name: BIZZZZZZZZZ!

He also has a cool, edgy and readable writing style. In his book Who Let The Blogs Out?, his writing is instructional, yet humorous. The content of his book, while often repetitive, seems essential to anyone new to the blogging world (like myself). Here is a picture of Biz:





Incidentally, my favorite quote from his book is only analogously related to blogging and is provided by computer programmer, Larry Wall, “I am told that when they built the University of California at Irvine, they did not put in any sidewalks the first year. Next year they came back and looked at where all the cow trails were in the grass and put the sidewalks there.” This quote pointedly illustrates how the rules, regulations and customs of blogging fell into place on their own.

One of the “unwritten” rules of blogging, emphasized by Stone, is linking to other bloggers and websites. This practice often proves to be mutually beneficial in that it will add traffic to blogs and sites that you admire, and hopefully the favor will be returned and links to your blog will be added. While it is less formal than citing sources for something like a research paper, linking to other blogs is a common courtesy well-understood in the blogging community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Interesting Blog: Miles From Fenway

I found this blog after searching for blogs about the Red Sox, my favorite baseball team. This blog is about a girl who lives 217.7 miles away from Fenway Park, in New York City! No, she is not a Yankee fan; she just ended up in New York because of some unforseen circumstances (her job). Her most recent post was about Theo Epstein returning to Boston's front office, and her sentiment was that she did not care to hear the reason, she was just glad to have him back. Most of her other posts were diary-like about her personal life with little mention of the Red Sox. I suppose it is difficult to write about the Red Sox in every post in the middle of January, but I am sure someone out there does.

Bernstein's Basics for Blogging

1. Bernstein asserts that a weblogger must consider his audience to be paying subscribers, and that their subscription is conditionally based on the quality of each new post. When writing for other mediums, such as a newspaper or magazine, a reader base is already established and perpetuates because of the content of the medium. Therefore, Web writing must always be fresh with an individualistic and provocative style that hooks a reader and keeps him coming back. Both forms of writing should strive to avoid awkward constructions, as clarity leads to quality.

2. Bernstein would not agree that weblogs are intended to be personal diaries of the author with little attention given to a reader base. Instead, he believes most weblogs are created for the purpose of gaining readership, and catered to keep the readers coming back. He acknowledges that most successful weblogs are written with declarative sentences and clarity so that readers can create concise images which helps them relate to the writing.

3. One of Bernstein’s tips is to write something new. Although this tip seems simple, I believe it is critical. Because there are thousands of weblogs already in existence, I think it is crucial to at least attempt to create one with fresh and edgy content so that it is not swept under the radar. Another tip that Bernstein suggests is: when writing a personal story, pretend your readers weren’t there. This is the only way to retell a funny story or anecdote with the utmost clarity, as the readers will not be able to picture the images of your memory without good, creative writing. Successfully telling a great story is a vital part of weblogging.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alicia Cuttonaro: Life After Fairfield

Alicia is one of the fortunate seniors at Fairfield University who already has a job lined up for after graduation. She will be working at the Bank of New York in Manhattan.

As a Queens resident, Alicia is lucky in that she will not have to search frantically for an apartment in New York like many other future Fairfield graduates seeking employment in the city. She believes her commute will be about a half hour. While she is excited about the internal auditing work she will embark on for the Bank of NY in late May, Alicia also has plans to pursue a masters degree in business within a few years of real work experience.