Social media

UPDATE: When I wrote about the value of Flipboard’s user-created magazines a couple of days ago, one of my major complaints was that folks could see them only if they own an iPad, smartphone or Android tablet. Well, the FB folks have fixed that. As of today, I (or any other FB user) can mail you a link to my magazines or post a link on social media, and when you click, the magazine opens in your Web browser. This vastly expands the utility of the magazines, since you can now let anyone see them. Here are links to three of my magazines, on Web Video,  Photos, and Data Visualization.

My purpose in creating these is to collect stuff on a given topic that I can then use in class, and now I can use FB’s web page to organize each magazine and then mail links to it to students at the beginning of class.

HINT – Once you open one of my magazines, click on the small icon at left with three short parallel lines. That will take to FB’s choice of best user-created magazines.

I’ve been using Flipboard’s new “Create Your Own Magazine” feature for about three months now, so it’s time to report on how it’s working.

I’m basically very happy with the software, that allows you to store your Web page bookmarks as “magazines” on Flipboard, displayed in the software’s unique layout.

For now, Flipboard is only available for iPads and iPhones, Android, and Windows 8 phones. The basic application allows you to select feeds from Twitter, Facebook or various magazines and pull them into Flipboard. The app then displays the headline, photo or illustration, and the first 1-3 grafs of the content, laid out magazine-style, with 2-6 items on a page. You turn the pages by sliding your finger from right to left, “flipping” them.


It’s a far better way to browse a Twitter feed featuring links or photo, e.g., because you don’t just see the url — you see the actual photo or article headline, along with the first few paragraphs of the text. Content from several dozen Web sites, including The Economist, Salon, National Geographic and The Guardian, are also available, in the same format.

But about three months ago, Flipboard announced a new feature that allows readers to create their own magazines. First, you set up your magazines, by title and category. For example, I created magazines for Photos, Data Journalism, Web Video, Teaching, Journalism, Mobile apps, Gadgets and Music.

Now, as I browse content on Flipboard, a small plus sign is visible to the side of every article, and if I want to save it in one of my magazines, I just click.

Far more powerful, however, is a Pinterest-like feature that allows me to add a link to my Firefox or Safari browser. With that installed, whenever I am browsing anywhere on the Web, I can click on the “Flip” link and a window pops up, allowing me to add the link to one or several of my magazines.

You may be asking how this is any different than just storing the URLS for those Web pages in my bookmarks folder. At a basic level, there is no difference. I generally add both a bookmark and “flip” the link to my Flipboard magazine whenever I find something of interest.

But Flipboard’s magazine-style layout makes it much easier to find a URL long after you’ve forgotten why you saved it. By displaying the headline, photo or video or illustration and the first few grafs of a story, you can quickly remember what the article is about.

Here’s a quick illustration of that comparison. Below is a screen shot of my bookmarks folder for Web video (OK, I could do a better job of organizing it):


Now here are several pages from my FB magazine for Web video:


Your magazines by default are public, so they can be followed by anyone else interested in your topic. At some point, for example, I could send a note to my fellow online journalism professors across the land, letting them know that I have collected several hundred links to great examples of web video, available for their classroom use.


Flipboard has already made one upgrade to the service. About six weeks ago, they announced a Web page where you can log in and edit your magazines. You can drag and drop each item into whatever order you like, and you can also create a permanent title page for your magazine (by default, Flipboard uses the art from your most recent post as the cover page art).


There are still some missing pieces for Flipboard to be more useful. I’d like to be able to write new headlines for the articles, e.g., and I’d like the ability to create subsections. For example, in my Photos magazine, I’d like to have one section for great examples of photos, another for photo gear, and a third for how to take photos.

And most importantly, I’d like to be able to share the content on the Web and not just on a tablet or smartphone. Most of my students have laptop computers, but almost none of them own a tablet computer.

BigDataI’ve seen some great data lately showing how folks are using the Internet in 2013 and also comparing that data to other online and general computer activities (remember, a HUGE amount of the stuff we do on our computers worldwide is NOT on the Web).

Anyway, great post here showing the top 30 Web sites in terms of monthly traffic. Bet you have never heard of a lot of them, unless you also read Chinese:

But that article is in part based on this really useful list over at Digital Marketing Ramblings of every social network the author can find:

It’s a great place to check out some networks you haven’t heard of.

I also wanted to link to this chart over at Wired, however, that I discovered while researching info for a class last week on data visualization. It compares some really big data sets, including all of the business e-mail sent in a year and Google’s index of all of the content it has found on the web. Most surprising to me? The size of Kaiser-Permanente’s database of electronic health records of the folks it insures.

FlipboardFlipboard, one of my favorite iPad apps, has a Significant Upgrade.

Here’s their take:

First, if you’re not familiar, Flipboard takes links to content from the web and organizes it on the iPad into well-designed magazine-style pages that you can turn by “flipping” the pages. It’s free, and particularly useful in helping you to read your Twitter and Facebook feeds. With Twitter, for example, it takes your feeds and instead of showing you the text only, separates out those tweets that also include a link to content. Instead of just the text, you get the text as a headline, plus the first 1-2 grafs of the article the tweet links to, as well as any art accompanying the story. So instead of clicking on every link in your Twitter feed to see what’s attached, you can “flip” thru Flipboard and quickly decide which linked-to articles are worth further reading and retweeting. It works the same way on Facebook and several dozen Web sites or magazines provide their own feeds (Salon, The Economist, The Guardian, Nat Geo, Neatorama, Nieman Lab, e.g.).

What Flipboard does really well is to curate content and display it in an appealing format. Yeah, there are occasional hiccups, but often you get striking images with text super-imposed, or magazine-quality pages assembled by an algorithm — dozens of them.

Which is why Flipboard’s latest announcement, that you can make your own “magazines”, is so intriguing. The app has always allowed you to mark a story as a Favorite or to retweet it or e-mail it to friends with a simple tap on the screen. So when I’ve rambled across something I want to come back to later, I generally retweet it and then e-mail it to myself and then click on the link to open the Web page, and save it to a folder in my Bookmarks. Not very efficient.

So what’s new? Now there’s a small “+” sign added to the margin of every article. If you “like” the story/video/photo, as you can do with Pinterest and several other apps, you can add it to your own magazine. With Pinterest, which is photo-based, that is a “board”, a web page that includes favorite images that link to the web pages on which you originally found them. But on Flipboard, you don’t just get a page of photos — you get the Flipboard magazine-style layout, page after page, which you access by flipping each page.

That’s nice, for the iPad, but there is more. Go to the Flipboard home page and you can add a button to your bookmarks bar for Firefox (so far, that’s the only browser in which this works, though more are promised). As with Pinterest, once that is in your browser’s bookmark’s bar, clicking on it automatically brings up a window with images of the magazines you have created. Find a great article on the Web? Click, and Voila! it’s added to your personal magazine on the iPad. Want to add it to one you have yet to create? Just create a new one and give it a name and description.

The magazines can be private or public, so again, as with Pinterest, we can assume we’ll soon be able to follow obsessive folks who have curated (collected) content we like and add it to our own magazines.

In the past 1-2 years, the idea of curation has drawn a lot of attention as a way to use both human editors and algorithms to search through the ever-growing haystacks of content on the Web to find the insightful needles worth your attention. The idea isn’t new — whether it is the Drudge Report, Boing Boing, Reddit, Digg, Google News Alerts, Sulia, TrapIt or some hours-old alternative. But what Flipboard offers is a smart, attractive interface that gives  you a deeper view of the content before you have to decide whether or not to click.

Now, with the ability to easily create your own Web magazines, Flipboard makes you an über-curator, with the power to organize what you believe is meaningful and to share it with friends and the outside world in an attractive format.

I’ve spent the past week building five magazines, for Web video, Photography, Social Media, Journalism, Teaching and Favorite YouTubeMusic Videos. None of them have enough content yet to show off (and I need to figure out how to do a screen grab on an iPad). But the potential seems clear — this is really something useful I could share with students or the real world without a lot of effort. Do it over several years, and it becomes a series of well-designed, graphically rich Web sites that you can build one article at a time, a form of iBook publishing that is free and easy and impossible not to recommend.

FOOTNOTE: What’s not to like? Currently content is last in on top, just like your blog. So you can’t drag stories around to arrange them the way you’d like. You also can’t create subsections for sub-topics. I have a magazine for Photography, for example, and I’d really like to have subsections for photojournalism; how-to articles; stories about Canon EOS DSLRs, since those are the ones we use at Montclair State; striking individual images; and perhaps photo galleries including those with audio. I also can’t add context to the content myself, either through text or some other form of organization. My ideal is for this to become a textbook or at least a complement to a textbook. Right now, it is just a much more attractive alternative to my Bookmarks folders.

The other obvious issue is that Flipboard only works on an iPad and NOT on the general Web. The reason is obvious — it works like a magazine. You swipe with your hand to turn the pages instead of scrolling down a Web page. That highlights a battle I think is one of the most important we’ll see played out on the Internet in coming years — whether we continue our scatter-brained, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Web page design of the past 17-18 years, based around Web pages that scroll down indefinitely, or whether smartphones and tablets, which emphasize individual pages that cleanly fill their entire screen and are navigated by touch to “turn the page” win out. Personally, I’m a big tablet/smartphone fan, since that schema lets designers know the real estate they have to work with and design accordingly. But that’s the topic of a later post.

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.

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