The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

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Mobile Know-How: Responsive Web Design

ImageEvery day, more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated globally — far more than the number of babies born each day. By 2016, there will be 1 billion smartphone users on the planet, with 257 million mobile phones and 126 million tablets used in the U.S. alone. And before the end of the year, more internet-connected mobile devices will roam the earth than people. Users are leaving their desktops behind, with more than half of all website traffic coming from handhelds now, and many users, especially in the Third World, have only their phones to connect to the Internet. [Sources: Cicso and Forrester Research as analyzed by TheNextWeb]

So, the better your website looks and functions on a small device, the more future-proof it will be. And especially if your company caters to women, think mobile first: a recent survey found that more women use smartphones than men (58% vs. 42%).

Successful brands have revamped their online presence to work on any device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. We all crave communications that work everywhere — and we want to shop anywhere on the go. Web design is changing in the mobile age and adopting full tablet and mobile functionality. But why stop there? Since users want clean, simple, smart and scaled-down interfaces on their handhelds that load content quickly — why would they want anything different when returning to their desktops? Less is more on all platforms — and good content always matters.

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The Web’s Baby Babble

Forkly, Mingly and Grovo. Twitter with its tweets and peeps. Digg, reddit, Bebo and Mixi. Tumblr, Flickr and folkd. Oovoo and Zoomr. Prezi and scribd. Badoo, Rapt, Mubi and Wooxie. Spotify, Blippy and Twilio. Zynga, Scribd and Tsy.

Pet names? No, all are real companies, social media and web 2.0 platforms — some better some worse, some useful some mere copycats and others just a waste of time. But they have one thing in common: Their names are pretentious and annoying. Spelled lower case or upper case and backward and what not. I am not really sure anymore. Web 2.0 galore. Well done!

To all you Silicon Valley and Alley cats: Enough already. Give it a rest. Don’t try too hard to be original. All you came up with was yet another syllable in a crowd of too many other similar syllables. But we are able to remember names with more than one syllable, you know. Regardless of what your branding guru says.

Please ditch your babyish sounds. Don’t make us repeat those sounds over and over (and my fellow peeps, let’s stop using them as verbs), as in: “Hey, have you digged (dug?) and pinned my flickr pix, shared them with your Mingly contacts and oovooed about them? xoxo”

Seriously?

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The Mobile Revolution: Apps for Journalists

Guest Post by Giuliana Lonigro

Gutenberg’s movable type printing press is often cited as the first 15th century mechanism that enabled the mass dissemination of information. But it wasn’t until the 17th century that the first newspapers were mass distributed in Europe. The last two centuries have seen bewildering advances in technology, which have all benefited journalism — from radio correspondents to broadcast television news and news organizations’ websites.

A previous blog post on this blog references a Nieman Journalism Lab article, in which Nicholas Carr postulated that 2012 would see the appification of media. Six months later, Pew’s newly released 2012 report on the state of American Journalism found that close to half of all adults own a smartphone, and the number of tablet owners has risen to nearly 20% of Americans over age 18. Media are increasingly being consumed via mobile devices, and journalists are following suit by creating media and using apps to get their reporting done on their mobile devices.

Apps for journalists fall into several categories, including social media, reporting, workflow, blogging, photography, and video/audio recording, editing and streaming. Many of the most popular apps also seem to be favorites with journalists, with some variations for iPhones or Android phones. Below are some of the apps used most often by journalists. What apps do you use most often? Let us know in the comments section below!

SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Twitter – can be used to track news from AP and other sources and also to tweet URLs to articles once they are posted. Has long been hailed as an extremely well written and user-friendly app.
  • LinkedIn – can be used to find professional sources for quotes, depending on the beat(s) you cover.
  • Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer – help with productivity and time management with dashboards and helping schedule tweets.

REPORTING/WORKFLOW

  • Evernote – This award-winning app lets you take searchable notes, capture photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders.
  • 5-0 Police Scanner – to listen to radio traffic from police, fire, or ambulances.
  • Skype – offers surprisingly clear connection as compared with regular mobile phone lines for interviews.
  • Merriam-Webster dictionary – Because every good reporter needs to check on a word once in a while! Also features audio recordings of pronunciation.
  • AP Style book ($24.99) – surprisingly pricey, but it’s considered the Bible in many circles, and it’s worth it for the reporter on-the-go.
  • Dropbox – store files in the cloud and access from computer, laptop or portable devices anywhere.
  • Cardmunch – works with LinkedIn by scanning pictures of business cards and automatically adding contacts to your LinkedIn profile.

BLOGGING

  • Tumblr – can post text, video, a URL, audio, photos from a mobile device.
  • WordPress – The platform of choice for many bloggers; the app allows you to create and edit blog posts as needed.

PHOTOGRAPHY/PHOTO EDITING

  • Camera+ ($0.99 for a limited time) – includes a timer, a grid to make sure photos aren’t crooked, settings for exposure and focus, a fill light and digital zoom.
  • Instagram and Hipstamatic – Poynter has reported on the debate about whether these photo filtering and sharing apps are dumbing down and whether news organizations are cheating their audiences by their use of filters.
  • ProCamera ($2.99) – this app is similar to Camera+ but also shoots video.

VIDEO & AUDIO RECORDING/STREAMING/EDITING

  • iTalk Recorder – records from iPhone and emails files.
  • Audioboo – records up to three-minute voice memos; audio files can then be uploaded to the Audioboo website with titles, tags, geolocation information and a photo. “Boos” can then be easily shared to social media channels.
  • Ustream and Ustream Broadcaster – allows live streaming of interactive video. Allows you to poll your audience and follow other broadcasters’ streams.
  • 1st Video Net – Unlike most of the apps in this post, this video editing app is for networked commercial customers of VeriCorder who are professional reporters and other content creators.

REPORTERS WHO TRAVEL

  • JiWire Wi-Fi Finder – Finds Wi-Fi hotspots for public Wi-Fi anywhere in the world; works both online and offline
  • Word Lens – Translates English, French and Spanish in real-time with the phone cam. A network connection is not needed, and language packs are sold separately via in-app purchase.

Giuliana is a writer and social media strategist who lives in Jersey City.

New Media’s Lack of Diversity

In “New Media—but Familiar Lack of Diversity” (Fairs EXTRA! June 2012), Janine Jackson writes that women and people of color are still marginalized online.

“Traditional outlets, of course, did not and do not report ‘for everyone,’ but demonstrably exclude and marginalize many people and perspectives, particularly the less politically and economically powerful. Progressive critics and activists, seeing corporate journalism’s ‘crisis’ as an opportunity, hoped that newly emerging outlets would avoid repeating those myopic patterns, forging not just new pay structures, but a new definition of news as something more than what powerful people say and do.”

It seems New Media have failed women miserably.

The Op-Ed Report features on its homepage an interactive count how many women are represented each given month at various new and old media outlets. At last count (May 22-28), 69% of posts in the Huffington Post were written by men and 31% by women. Salon had an even larger gap: 79% of its stories were written by men and only 21% by women.

The Op-Ed Project published a survey in May that states that women tend to write a lot of stories on ‘pink topics’ — food, fashion, family and furniture. Among the new media organizations surveyed, 34 percent of the stories women wrote were on pink topics.

But to be fair, many women writers tend to pitch their editors pink stories that they think other women want to read and they don’t submit enough op-eds on heavier topics. A classic Catch 22 that only we can resolve.

Ladies, get your pens out, err, polish your keyboards and get to work.

Too Old to be Online?

According to a PewResearch study, for the first time, half of seniors over 65 are online.

“As of April, 53% of adults ages 65 and older said they used the internet or email. Though these adults are less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, this represents the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant. […] One third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day.” 

CISPA = SOPA 2.0?

Remember the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? This controversial privacy act was up for a vote in the House and the Senate respectively at the beginning of the year and caused a huge uproar, an internet blackout by more than 115,000 websites, an outpour of comments and discussions on social media and more than 3 million e-mails to Congress, urging lawmakers to change their vote. Read my recap here. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Now comes CISPA. The so-called Cybersecurity Bill, or by its official name the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act“, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 26 by a vote of 248 to 168. The Senate is due to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Obama has vowed to veto the bill. (You can follow the voting process of the bill in the House here). While SOPA was about intellectual property, CISPA is about cybersecurity.

Propublica offers this rundown on the debate and explains why you should care:

“CISPA’s liability shield has sparked concern based on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Opponents contend the law would make it too easy for private companies and the intelligence community to spy on users in the name of cyber security.”

Here is another take how CISPA would affect you, via Cnet:

“For all its flaws, SOPA targeted primarily overseas Web sites, not domestic ones. It would have allowed the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It was kind of an Internet death penalty targeting Web sites like ThePirateBay.org, not sites like YouTube.com, which are already subject to U.S. law. CISPA, by contrast, would allow Americans’ personal information to be vacuumed up by government agencies for cyber security and law enforcement purposes, as long as Internet and telecommunications companies agreed. In that respect, at least, its impact is broader.”

More resources: http://www.privacyisawesome.com/

 Feel safer yet?

Toby Young on Journalism

“[The media have] gradually become more respectable, which is a bad thing. Luckily, the Internet is making it less respectable again. To paraphrase Ben Hecht, journalists should occupy a rung on the status ladder somewhere between whores and bartenders.” […]

“I’m sure journalist/activists will become more common. It’s something that goes hand in hand with blogging. It’s a combination of roles that seems to be more and more popular with young journalists just entering the profession.” Read more (via The Browser).

SOPA/PIPA: It’s Not Over Yet

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), two controversial privacy acts that were up for a vote in the House and the Senate respectively, have caused a huge uproar, an internet blackout by more than 115,000 websites, an outpour of comments and discussions on social media and more than 3 million e-mails to Congress, urging lawmakers to change their vote.

The bills were designed to stop online copyright infringements by cracking down on websites that offer copyrighted material abroad and block Google search from displaying them. For now, it seems, the two attempts to stifle internet piracy by censoring website abroad, has been put on hold with many representatives switching sides. The proposed bills have not been, however, outright cancelled. 

I understand the need to protect copyrights. As a writer and “content provider,” I’ve had my fair share of articles and quotes “stolen” reused, quoted out of context and copied by others. That said, I still don’t want the government imposing censorship, and it doesn’t matter if the censored sites are located abroad or within the United States. Once we start policing the web, we go down a slippery path.

For more background info, read Wikipedia’s entry on the Stop SOPA/PIPA Initiative and excerpts of a primer on the bills via ReadWriteWeb:

“The Internet is in an uproar over the Stop Online Piracy Act. The battle lines are drawn. Big Media (the record labels, movie studios and TV networks) support the bill while Big Tech (search engines, open source platforms, social networks) oppose it. The bill, introduced to Congress by Representative Lamar Smith, is ostensibly supposed to give the Attorney General the ability to eliminate Internet piracy and to “protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. support of infringing sites.

There is a lot that may be wrong with SOPA, but putting the power to censor the Internet into the hands of the government is chief among citizens’ concerns. The law would force Internet Service Providers and search engines to cut off access to infringing sites as well as give the government the ability to stop payment to those sites.”

Below is a recap of the events. Combing the web in the past weeks, I have gathered links to the best articles that I could find on the topic. Keep this as a reference tool, because it is not over yet. And make sure to sign this petition by americancensorship.org, who states on its website that more than 24 million internet users have had their voices heard in a “collective flexing of internet muscles”. Be one of them. Because backers of both acts are “still working on backroom deals” to get similar bills passed.

Feb. 2

Jan. 31

Jan. 20

Jan. 19

Jan. 18

Jan. 17