Category Archives: Week 7 Assignment C

The five best and worst sites, Part V

Cluetrain Manifesto

Focus: Connections, design, serendipity, and a long, long tail

The best: Dan Gillmor’s blog. This site appears to be Gillmor’s personal space, not associated with the Center for Citizen Media. It answered a big question for me this morning, and sent me on some serendipitous rabbit trails.

The tale starts with a “404 Not Found” message at the Center for Citizen Media. I searched Google for Gillmor to see whether he had suddenly disappeared from the Internet, found his blog, and got my answer that the Center’s site was down. That in itself is a good lesson for bloggers who are hosted somewhere else: Have a findable backup place where you can tell your readers what’s going on. They’ll love you for it.
Gillmor’s personal site’s serendipity then sent me to some interesting places, past and present:
Doc Searls weblog: This early web visionary is alive and well and sharing through a Harvard blog. He’s a fellow with the Berkman Center and has focused on business and the web for years.
His site led me to the Cluetrain Manifesto, a place I had not been in years. This manifesto, circa 1999, speaks louder than ever at a time when many people are ringing their hands about the state of business and the Internet, especially the media business.
Then on to Harvard blogs, a place where many smart people are writing.
Then on to Reflections from Beijing, a place that has not forgotten about Burma. The region’s woes might have fallen off the radar of big media quickly, but the issue of communication access there and in China remains a high priority for some big brains, young and old.

The best worst (warning: turn down your sound before you click): The World’s Worst Website.
It speaks for itself.


The five best and worst sites, Part IV

Cognitive Daily2

Today’s focus: sustainability.

The best: Cognitive Daily, a blog about cognitive psychology from a couple in Davidson. The academic focus is refreshing. The blog has a high-quality institutional ad from Dow Chemical, plus contribution boxes and links to a network of science blogs that support each other. You could question the ethics of taking money from Dow, but this blog’s ability to sustain itself with quality information over time is amazing. It has two authors, which helps, plus a network of other blogs to increase traffic and provide further content and support. Great site, great network.

Don’t Back Down2

The worst: Don’t back down. This Charlotte area blog seems to be an exercise in seeing how many Google line ads can be squeezed into a small basic Blogger template. Design is sad. Lots of wasted space on either side of the template, and then the Google ads dominate the top of the blog, providing readers with a shopper-type atmosphere from which they’ll likely click quickly away. The post is a history lesson on Columbus Day — not unique information, but merely a vehicle, it appears, for the ads. Sustainability relies on quality, unique content, with a sponsor that provides more than the pennies that liner Google ads provide.

The five best and worst sites, Part III

Today’s best: Nine Neighbors, a filtering and aggregating tool for local blog readers in Boston with clean, elegant design. At the moment, it appears as if there are only five neighbors, but I guess it will grow. How found? Followed a link from a comment at Scott Karp’s Publishing 2.0 blog from Rick Burnes. He made a smart comment on a post, “Should newspapers become local blog networks?”

He said: “I don’t think local news organizations are going to get very far by simply publishing more content, which is what the effect of a blog network would be.
Folks already struggle with an abundance of content. The way to help them (read: generate revenue) is to find ways to organize/filter that content for them.”

Worst: N.C. Blogs, which has been around for a very long time. This site is the most comprehensive aggregator of North Carolina blogs, but will eat hours of your life if you let it, without lots of concrete, useful information. The site has not had a design update in quite awhile, and it shows. I love an aggregator if some thought has been given to taxonomy and organization; you can search this site by geography these days, but it has grown to the point that it needs more classification of content.

The five best and worst sites, Part II

I had concerns about identifying any site talking about citizen journalism as a “worst” site, because I have so much to learn from everyone. But I Googled “mainstream media,” which took some months for dense
me to realize was code for “liberal-leaning East Coast-centric media that doesn’t agree with my political stance on their editorial pages.”

And I found one. So on to it:

Today’s Worst: Sad Bastards, also titled, “The end of elite media empires and rise of citizen journalism: News you don’t see in the mainstream media. We have their playbooks. They can’t stop us.”
The site has an obvious right-wing political agenda, and some posters there seem to have a reckless disregard for spelling. All of that is fine, and certainly, no one can stop them from posting. That’s the beauty of the Internet. Still, please do not call it journalism. Good journalism at least tries to aim for objectivity, and smart journalists know that there are always more than two sides to any story, and they recognize they have their own personal “filters” for judging and writing news. The best ones work for objectivity and balance with that understanding.

Today’s best: Global Voices Online,a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. This site is one of my primary five sites listed in my research proposal. I had not explored it extensively previously, but had a hunch that it would be inspiring because of its association with Harvard. The site has a manifesto, but not one that takes a particular political stance beyond supporting free speech. It says in part: “We pledge to respect, assist, teach, learn from, and listen to one other.”
I urge you to visit. Not all of the links are apolitical, but they will broaden your world.

The power of tags and site metering

I used these tags in my post about “The five best and worst sites, Part I:”
Apple, blogs, chuck, nerd herd, software, technology.
Between 2:57 p.m.  and 5 p.m. on Saturday, I received hits from Los Angeles; Jid Hafs, Bahrain; San Francisco; Dumbravita, Timis, in Romania; and Falkirk, Caldercruix in the United Kingdom.
In the initials of the younger folks, OMG.
So now I’m puzzling, and just might have to experiment later. Was it the tags that drew hits through WordPress? I’m new to the software, and I’m wondering whether Chuck from the Nerd Herd is that popular, or perhaps the draw was the word “Apple.”
Or did web crawlers (otherwise called “spiders”) go and seek the content that used the word “stock” right after the word “Apple?”
Either way, I recommend anyone experimenting with WordPress in the class to try the power of tags, in addition to categories, if you’re not using them already.

And if anyone has recommendations for site-metering software that works well with WordPress, please share. I’m using Site Meter now, and I don’t get lots of details.

The five best and worst sites, Part I

This week, we’re writing about the five best web sites and five worst web sites related to our research topics.
Today, I’m focusing on one best site and one worst site related to communications software. My topic is about building sustainable, findable, objective journalism online, and software and computers are a key component because they are the tools that make online journalism happen.

I’m trying to evaluate online sites holistically now, going beyond just one posting that might grab my attention to make sure posts over time are credible, useful and objective.

So on to it:
One best site: The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog. As others have noted in class discussions, blogs associated with media organizations that we already trust carry more weight than independent blogs.

Ben Worthen, lead writer, joined The Wall Street Journal from CIO Magazine, and the blog can include contributions from other reporters and editors at the Journal, and Dow Jones Newswires.

Worthen defines his subject broadly, including a fun post about TV’s latest IT guy, Chuck, from the Nerd Herd, and posts about the coming generational clash between older and younger workers. He even talks with design guru Don Norman from Northwestern University about the importance of design in software.

Of course, technology news is included as well, but I appreciate his broad sweep of including business management with technology, because the best technology takes into account how people work.

One worst site: The Baltimore Sun’s David Zeiler has a blog since May 2007 called “Apple a Day,” following developments for Apple, Inc. I in no way mean to denigrate Zeiler’s knowledge or skill in sleuthing out all Apple developments. He does a great job of writing actively about every Apple company twist and turn, from online rumor sites to official company information.

However (you knew that word was coming), by adding opinion to spice up his content and writing, he ends up sounding like a spoiled customer in his latest posting, which denigrates Apple’s current customer service, pricing policies and partnerships. It’s called, “How many times must Apple shoot itself in the foot?”

He posted this article on the same day that Apple stock hit an all-time high.

It doesn’t appear that the company is shooting itself in the foot — it just appears that some customers are disappointed that they can’t hack the Iphone.

I found the site through the class blog of David Shabazz, “Write for Freedom.” He has a feed set up called “Around the World,” and many posts on it are about Apple. I love those kinds of feeds in blogs, but wonder whether a feed that only uses keywords or tags as filters will give readers consistent quality.

I clicked on the Zeiler blog, primarily because the headline seemed interesting and controversial, and then was disappointed in the results. Zeiler’s working hard; he’s a designer who probably volunteered to do a blog on the side because he was interested in Apple. But he needs more credentials for me to come back again.

Does Apple have some connection to Baltimore? Does Zeiler own Apple stock? Why should Baltimore newspaper readers trust his blog more than a just-as-accessible Apple blog from California? What does Zeiler bring to the information table that no one else can? Are newspapers turning to blogs too much because staffers love to do them, will often do them for free on top of other duties, and the technology is quick and easy? Is the quantity obscuring quality?

(Confession: I own 10 Apple shares, recommended to me by a 17-year-old, which I bought shortly before the Iphone was released. I do not own an Iphone).

Free speech and free software

Gillmor in Russia

Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media is visiting Russia. That’s part of one of his pictures above.

His web site is one of the sites I’m evaluating for my research topic: building sustainable, objective, findable journalism on the web. Over time, Gillmor has built up credibility about the idea of Citizen Media, because of his dead-tree book, his blogging and his affiliation with Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University Law School.
His postings from Russia add to my belief that “citizen journalism” is only fueled by oppression. He’s mildly surprised that the concept of citizen media is going globally so quickly, but I think that the state of free speech and a free press in other countries adds to people’s yearning for tools to help them speak freely.

Please note: I understand oppression doesn’t just come from governments. Imagine a dystopia in which we all work for one company, Bogoohooazonfa. That’s as frightening to me as worrying about oppressive governments.

But “citizen” involvement is going on in the business world too. Open-source software — free, shared software that is open for modification and development by others — is continuing to evolve. That movement has the potential to not only change how people publish online, but also how they publish in print. Perhaps in the future, even newspapers and magazines could be published with open-source software instead of expensive proprietary systems.

The Raleigh area of North Carolina is right in the middle of those open-source developments, because the company Red Hat is there. You can learn more at Red Hat Magazine.