Category Archives: Writing

Mentioned on Diggnation

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that poured one out for GeoCities, the ancient network of websites that Yahoo axed after buying it for way too much money. The article, “Goodbye GeoCities: 7 Retro Things We’ll Miss Forever,” hit the Digg front page and top in all topics with over 1400 Diggs.

But more importantly, it earned a spot on last week’s episode of Diggnation (skip the intro, it’s the second segment above… or follow this link). That’s right. Being mentioned on an actual television show every week isn’t enough — I’d like to be mentioned by two drunk guys on a couch in a web show instead.

It’s been a goal of mine for about 3 years to get an article on Diggnation. Check that one off the list.

I’m starting my own magazine. Not.

Hooray! It’s my first official LA Times Tech Blog post! It’s about how I’m starting my own magazine. Or how I could if I wanted to.

And you thought starting a blog was easy…

Why start a blog when you can start a nice, glossy print magazine? Hewlett-Packard recently launched a new service called MagCloud, which flattens the entire magazine distribution process into one website. Give HP the content in PDF form and out comes a magazine. The cost: 20 cents per page. HP handles all the printing, mailing and subscription management. Users can set the subscription price for their rag (above the base price plus postage), leaving some room for profit if they choose. Gutenberg would be proud.

…Read the full story at the LA Times Technology blog

Mobile De-Vices

Update (9/24/08): It seems that the Chronicle of Higher Education got wise to this story as well. Unfortunately, no mention of the article that started it all. Read their story here: Wired Campus: Neighbors Blame Microblogging for Wild Partying at Loyola Marymount.

The Westchester community is charging my dear university and peers for such vices as: drunkenly cussing at them, having sex on in their bushes and pissing on their lawns. Fair enough. I expect such behavior near a university and so should they.

Independently from the controversy, I wrote an article in the Loyolan about how micro-blogging will get you into parties. I still quite like the article. The idea is that you could more efficiently plan out your weekends by coordinating things with Facebook and Twitter. This is what I did in San Francisco and it lead to many new connections as I discovered parties I never would have otherwise attended whilst avoiding the charlie foxtrot of coordinating a hundred people.

The key here is that you could use it for efficient parties. Unfortunately for geeks like me, nobody actually does this in college.

A still from the KNBC story that covered my article

A still from the KNBC story that covered my article

But if you talked to a non-student you might think otherwise. A mention of my article was the sole appeal to the students in a remarkably journalistically irresponsible news story by KNBC about LMU parties in Westchester. This video actually features a policeman who doesn’t seem to know what a cell phone is, stating, “As soon as the 100-150 kids came out of the house, I saw all the things lighting up in their hands.” Then came a blog post by Living90045 (I suppose, as in “Martha Stewart’s Living” – what a laughable bunch of yuppies) which purported the same misconception. And then another from anonymous “westchester dad” – who won’t even put his name on a blog post.

Another shame behind these misconceptions is the same-old whine from curmudgeons: “I don’t understand technology! Get me out of here! Give me back my AOL!” Think about it for a second, Westchester. Wouldn’t you rather have people privy to every party and get-together in the neighborhood – spreading students broadly – instead of seeing 500 kids crash the single frat party that has a monopoly on party word-of-mouth? Once a party gets rolled by the cops, would you rather have the students quickly find something else to do or wander around on the sidewalk outside your home?

But all this feedback is fantastic. Maybe this will catch on and students will actually use it. Read the article to get a good rundown of how to party with microblogging.

Gossip Assistant

This article was orignially published in the official Revision3 intern blog. I’ll be interning with Revision3 through August 2008.

I have a secret and for a while, I’ve been embarrassed to admit it. My Facebook profile is missing a piece, my Twitter account has yet to comment and at every mention of New York (a city I’ve never even visited before) I have to bite my tongue to avoid divulging this personal bit.

I watch Gossip Girl. And I like it.

I find myself rationalizing this immature fondness much more than my pretentious coffee hobby, my iPhone ownership or even my brief “Toxic” obsession. But in my Gossip Girl rationalizations, a pattern has emerged: I’m convinced that the show is actually good. So, here I am, sharing a testament to its wisdom.

…Read the full story at Intern Row.

Social network showdown

I published this piece in the Los Angeles Loyolan as part of a Myspace versus Facebook debate — indeed, a hackneyed topic. I think we both bring new things to the table. You can read the Myspace article here and mine below.

facebookcartoon

Let’s talk about our campus as though it were a social network like Facebook or MySpace. The students are represented by their profiles, McKay is like a Facebook group and John O’Connor is kind of like Tom. The confines of the bluff are what make this geographic location into its own social network. Our particular geography makes us feel safe – we’re bordered by a bluff on one side, a quaint neighborhood on the other and there’s only two gated entrances to this cute little compound. When I stand out on the bluff and watch from afar as a helicopter beams its spotlight on a burglar (hacker) in the streets below, I feel safe – which is just good enough. I feel safe, but in reality, this is Los Angeles, where people will come from off-campus. People get harassed right on Loyola Boulevard, or shot right outside the back entrance.

…Read the full story in the Los Angeles Loyolan

Technology in College — for its own sake

This was an article originally written for the Los Angeles Loyolan but it was also published at HackCollege.com.

I’m part of the last generation of “Film Production” majors to go through LMU. The School of Film and Television is phasing out the major and already, the sophomores and freshmen major in something different: just plain old “Production.” The point is to encompass both television and film (and maybe even new media) into one major. The class structure is altered now so that students have to take both television and film classes. The idea is that the two workflows are gradually converging, as one-hour television dramas shoot on film and action movies get shot on digital video. That sounds pretty progressive for a film school, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, changing the name of a major doesn’t do the trick. If you’re going to shoot a junior thesis, AKA PROD 300, you have to use film – actual film, like the stuff we used in still cameras once upon a time. Real film is expensive. That means the bare minimum budget for a junior thesis is about $3,000. Indeed, it’s as goofy a requirement as it sounds. Effectively, when you’re a junior, you can’t shoot a fictional piece on a digital medium in spite of the dawn of iTunes, high-definition television and outstanding digital cameras like the Red One. Granted, 35mm is certainly not obsolete, but it’s noncore for a media person these days.

Our school is chock full of such techno-hypocrisy. Tenured professors who still use AOL meet in 2008 with young people holding iPhones. These bigwigs sit on boards and control policies to prepare students for real life – if our students were graduating 10 years ago. Someone out there saw this happening at LMU and decided to do something about it: hence, the ITA. Every school at Loyola has an Instructional Technology Analyst, whose sole job is to push people toward podcasting and blogging. The ITAs report to IT – not the deans and Jesuits from the past – which gives them enough autonomy to make changes quickly. It’s a step in the right direction, which I applaud, but I still have to watch my peers struggle with celluloid just to meet the requirements for graduation.

Why do people need to learn digital video instead of film? It seems silly to ask this question, but it sheds light on other situations. If the industry is moving towards cameras with hard drives instead of clockwork, then shouldn’t our students be learning about those instead? By the same token, if PR is moving towards MySpace and lectures are moving towards iTunes U then shouldn’t the same follow for our communications and education majors?

In the technology biz, people are critical of one such new phenomenon: the wiki. A wiki is a simple online space for organizing and sharing information. There are other wikis besides Wikipedia – ones for traveling, planning weddings or Philosophy 101 classes. Few would argue that there’s anything inherently bad about a wiki. The resentment is for the “throw a wiki at it” mentality that many leaders trumpet – where letting users put all the information in one place can supposedly solve every problem. Wikis can’t solve every problem and neither can digital video, blogs or Blackboard. One might say: “But isn’t that what these ITAs are doing? Just promoting technology for the sake of it?”

They are, but in the classroom, it’s different. I never thought I’d be doing this, but this is an argument for “technology for the sake of technology.” I really think that educational institutions are an exception to the “throw a Wiki at it” misconception, because throwing a Wiki means a class of students has to learn how to catch one. Students need to know these technologies so that they can use them when they graduate. In other words — if we still wrote our papers on typewriters none of us would get jobs.