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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Can Glass break Rock?

Can Glass break Rock?

One of the most striking features of the stories about the Russian meteorite was the volume and quality of videos capturing its blazing arc across the sky. You would have thought that half of the autos in the small town where the meteorite crashed had cameras mounted on their dashboards. And you would have been correct.

Because drivers in Russia don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of their court system to correctly assess who is at fault in an auto accident, many have mounted small cameras in their cars to record a few minutes of video into a buffer, which can be saved in the event of a crash — a persuasive bit of evidence in court.  And as a result, video of car crashes is a popular subject on the Russian versions of YouTube. See here, for example, for some highlights.

You rarely see auto crash videos in the U.S., because they happen suddenly, before anyone can turn on a camera. The ones you do see are often from cameras mounted on police cars, similar to those in Russia.

But Google seems close to changing all of that, and in a way that may transform what we now know as commercial TV.

Watch the video embedded in this PopSci article on Google’s hush-hush meeting with developers recently in New York. The session was to show selected developers the latest iteration of Google Glass, the eyeglasses the Web search giant has been crafting that allow users to overlay info from the Web onto the real world.

Up to now, the glasses have seemed intriguing, but not revolutionary. Curious about what it costs to live in a ritzy neighborhood in northern New Jersey? If you’re wearing the glasses, just ask Google to overlay data from Zillow or Trulia or some other Web-based real estate firm onto your vision and you can see what houses have sold for recently, as you look at them. Thinking about stopping at a new ethnic restaurant while running errands? Ask Google to call up Yelp reviews and display them right in your vision. Intriguing, yes, but not that more advanced than what I can already get from a smartphone.

But as this latest video makes clear, Google is far more ambitious. Now the glasses have voice control, and the ability to record video and stream it live to friends. Just tell it to “Start recording” and a small image of what is being captured shows up in one corner of the glasses. Tell it to “Start Hangout” and it begins streaming the video live, allowing up to 9 friends to join in a Google Hangout video chat session, texting their reactions to what you’re seeing. And Hangouts have a URL, which anyone in the world can access.

In other words, anyone wearing Google Glass becomes a TV producer, streaming live whatever they are seeing, and anyone in the world with Web access can watch. That’s a big step up from dashboard-mounted video cameras in a small town in Russia.

Just a few months ago, Twitter was being touted as a revolutionary tool for journalists because it allowed them to monitor what was happening with the “Arab Spring” protests in Egypt and elsewhere. Imagine if even a fraction of those protestors had been wearing Google Glass. When protestors outside the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago chanted “the whole world is watching” before the cameras of the national TV networks, they were right. Until the cameras went away.

But what if anyone, anywhere could show everyone else what was happening? Not just protests — walking tours, traffic jams, nightclub performances, crime scenes, plus the more mundane examples of classes, lectures, museum visits or local sports. YouTube today seems bottomless, but it would be dwarfed by the Google Glass output.

Would commercial TV as well? If the print media’s experience with the Web is any guide, today’s broadcasters should be wary.

When Web news and information sites first launched, they were touted as better replacements for stodgy print media — allowing the use of text, photos, video, interactive graphics and interaction with readers at a lower production cost, all ad supported of course, just like their predecessors in print. But what has slowly been dawning on Web journalists is that they are not the only folks out there who are talented writers, photographers or videographers. There are thousands of people who are passionate about something and willing to produce content about it, for free. As a result, the volume of quality content has increased exponentially and as a result, commercial news and information Web sites producing original content have never been able to attract enough readers to charge the same advertising rates as print media.

Is the same fate in store for the TV industry? There have been many articles recently touting the success of web-only commercial video. Google itself is funding 96 start-up channels via YouTube, and NetFlix was in the spotlight for its release of a second season of House of Cards, it’s Internet-only dramatic series.

But TV producers have always appreciated the power of “live,” for viewers to sit forward in their chairs to experience “being there.” That’s what Google Glass offers. Tens of thousands of live streams, on any topic imaginable. Yeah, some folks never get beyond the first dozen channels on their cable box, but lots more will find niche programming that will take them away from commercial TV.

And that is not good news for traditional producers counting on large audiences to cover large production costs.

But can Google pull off the Glass revolution?

Six years ago, there was no iPhone. Now, many of us would say our smartphone is our most valuable possession. No, Google doesn’t have Apple’s track record with launching consumer gadgets, but they have billions of dollars to invest and if this latest video demonstration is any indication, they’re figuring out a great feature set. My bet is that Glass will have some early hurdles, but eventually will win wide acceptance.

So in six years, when the next meteorite hits, don’t flip over to CNN. Click here to watch it live.

How many SD cards can a DC-10 hold?

How many SD cards can a DC-10 hold?

The basic idea here is that I’ll list every thing I’ve bookmarked in the past week that might be of use or interest to others. And it helps when I saved one item in Safari on the university computer and another in Firefox on the home machine — and I’m in class with my iPad.

This is by far my favorite. Which is faster, FedEx or the Internet? No, silly, I know that FedEx doesn’t own a wired network. But it does own machines (e.g., trucks and planes) that can haul around a large quantity of devices that store data. So if you have to get a few petabytes of data from here at Montclair State to Los Angeles, and it really, REALLY has to be there tomorrow morning, who you gonna call? Spoiler alert: FedEx wins, and will continue to do so for many years. Yes, the Internet will get faster, but storage devices will get smaller and hold more data.

A great map here of the underseas cables that carry data for the Web and other devices around the world. A little-appreciated historical fact: In the late Victorian era, Britain’s vast lead in ownership of underseas telegraph cables gave London a big commercial advantage. When the volcano Krakatoa exploded in 1883, for example, sending an immense dust cloud around the world, Lloyds of London (and readers of the Times of London) learned of the news in only three hours, giving them a leg up in trading stocks affected by the supply of rubber, spices and other products from Java (Simon Winchester, Krakatoa).

Kudos to my buddies at NBCNews on this one — A look at gun deaths across the USA over one weekend. The criticism of the media for ignoring gun violence seems to be having an impact. It’s obvious that journalists everywhere are giving greater play to stories about folks who should never have had access to a gun committing horrendous crimes.

I’m fascinated by the progress in 3-D printing. Assuming I don’t get run down by a bus, I’m certainly going to own one, but I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Sort of like how I felt in 1982 when I paid $3,000 for a Mac and an Imagewriter printer. According to this piece, I could use it to “print” food for astronauts.

Some tips on using Pinterest in the classroom.

And Tech Crunch has the latest data on social media — Facebook is still way ahead, but Pinterest has caught up with Twitter. Two other surprising data points: Blacks are more likely than whites to use Twitter, and the more college ducation you have, the less likely you are to use social media.

ImageThe folks at Poynter had a nice Twitter chat on using mobile devices for reporting. A lot of it was about radio and how many pro reporters are doing most of their work on an iPhone or Droid device. The transcript is here:

http://storify.com/mediatwit/mediashift-twitter-chat-on-iphonereporting/elements/5112aeb0d83e88a7090e8b7a

But what you really want is this link, to the latest version of the Mobile Reporting Guide, from UC Berkeley:

http://mobilereportingguide.com/

You can get it as an iPhone or iPad app, but its also downloadable as a PDF, for free.

The Guide includes the pros and cons of apps you need as well as reviews of gear to extend the capabilities of your smartphone.

There’s been a fair amount of handwringing about NBCNews’ decision to shut down Everyblock.com. Everyblock was touted as a pioneering information Web site that posted local data on such topics as garbage collection, snow removal and graffiti eradication.

But to me, Everyblock never made much sense and for the fundamental reason a lot of data journalism faces — readers don’t care about the raw data. They want the story within the data.

That thought came up a couple of weeks ago as I watched the presentations during our  hack-a-thon here at Montclaieveryblockr State. The winning project analyzed traffic accident data on the Garden State Parkway and concluded that the most dangerous stretch of road was between exits 130 and 140, and the most deadly time to be on the roadway was during a snowstorm.

Yes, the raw data was interesting, as a regular parkway driver, but it was the conclusion drawn from the data that was the real headline.

Everyblock never figured out a way to write those headlines. I remember checking their site in the early days to see what data they had on lower Manhattan. There were reports on what graffiti the city said it had erased each month, by neighborhoods. But what was missing was context, and photos. If I’m a reporter doing a story on graffiti, I want to show before and after photos, AND, more importantly, I want to know whether the city is successfully fighting the graffiti artists, i.e., who is winning. The raw data didn’t provide that.

Here’s hoping someone else picks up the everyblock staff and coding and finds a way to better integrate them. The original decision to buy them was driven by the folks at msnbc.com, as some poorly-thought-out way to gain traction in the hyperlocal market (The NewsVine was another example). A much better partner would be AOL’s Patch, which already has 850 reporters and editors writing about local communities who could pull headlines from the data, or the Journal-Register folks (digitalfirstmedia.com) who seem to be in the forefront of figuring out how to do local.

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