Online Journalism

Tech Blog #10: BlackBerry’s New Tablet

April 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #10: BlackBerry’s New Tablet


 Adam Ostrow and Christina Warren co-authored a new article on titled “BlackBerry PlayBook Enters the Tablet Race.”  The review was based on feedback after Mashable tested the device for a week. 

The results: 

Build, Form Factor and Screen 

  • Weighs 425 grams, feels sturdy and compact
  • 7-inch
  • Resolution 1024 x 600
  • Landscape mode: feels similar to iPad; text clear, graphics bright, keyboard feels good to the touch
  • Portrait mode: reading text on most web sites almost impossible without zooming, keyboard uncomfortable
  • Screen: WSVGA rather than IPS, colors still look good, touch screen very responsive, accelerometer fast,  works in all directions

User Experience 

  • Interface: easy to pick up
  • Screen: black bezel on top and bottom is touch sensitive; swiping finger up from bottom minimizes apps and shows home screen; menu or status bar accessed by swiping down from top or diagonally from top left; swiping from lower left or right side switched between open apps  
  • Notifications: accessed by tapping on them in status bar; dismissed by swiping from left to right


  • In addition to apps built in Adobe Air, PlayBook supports older BlackBerry OS apps and (though not at launch) Android 2.x apps
  • Ships with a variety of pre-installed apps
  • To access BlackBerry mail client, BlackBerry Messenger, address book: must connect BlackBerry devices to PlayBook through a Bridge mode that allows PlayBook to access data without storing it; non-BlackBerry owners need to use a web client to receive and send email 


  • Supports Adobe Flash 10.2 out of the box, but some heavily Flash-based sites like Google Maps didn’t work well in PlayBook’s browser
  •  Facebook: user can’t get notifications from Facebook or easily accessed messages from a central location  

Connectivity and Camera

  • Both cameras have solid optics
  • PlayBook too large to act as a real optical device; should work well in the field and for video chat
  • Mini-HDMI port: allows users to interact with content, games and video on a second screen
  • Ability to sync wirelessly with your desktop or laptop computer   

Sink or Swim?

  • Appeal of PlayBook currently limited to existing BlackBerry smartphone customers as a result of email and messaging limitations
  • Lack of apps until Android apps become available on PlayBook
  • Users preferred a larger screen
  • PlayBook not recommended over iPad 2 or Motorola Xoom at this time   



Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #9: King for a Day Vacations

April 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #9: King for a Day Vacations

Tired of those generic hotels?  Got plenty of dough to throw around?

Airbnb, a vacation rentals startup, in partnership with Rent a Village by Xnet, offers some ultra luxurious listings for those with deep pockets.  You can “rent anything from a couch to a country.”  Examples include:

  • Austrian villageGoldegg, in the heart of Salzburg land — $65,000 a night
  • German wine village – Deidesheim – $50,000 a night
  • A Swiss mountain village — $60,000
  • An entire  European country (granted, a very small one) – The Principality of Liechtenstein – $70,000 a night

You will be happy to know that the little people — local vendors and service providers — will earn a living from your excesses.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

To be fair, Airbnb, ” a global network of accommodations offered by locals,” also offers many vacation rentals at reasonable prices for the rest of us.

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #8: “To Tweet or Not To Tweet: That is the Question!”

April 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #8: “To Tweet or Not To Tweet: That is the Question!”

Scott Gerber, whose article “8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Get More Out of Twitter” is featured on, asked a panel of young, successful entrepreneurs how other entrepreneurs can utilize Twitter to their advantage.  They advised:

  • Twitter is a social tool — interact and be social, find out what customers want or need
  • Avoid insecurity work – limit Twitter time to less than half an hour a day
  • Engage with your followers — converse about their lives, don’t market
  • Set up an Autoresponder
  • Provide value — get software like Tweet Adder to help
  • Provide relevant information — create genuine dialogue + interaction
  • Be personal and interesting — retweet interesting links, useful articles + photos
  • Follow Twitter etiquette: listen, be relevant, mind your brand, engage, give more than you get

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #7: New Apple Video Editing Software

April 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #7: New Apple Video Editing Software


Ben Parr’s article, “Apple Unveils Final Cut Pro X,” on, offers some details about this rebuild of the 12-year-old video-editing software introduced at the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas:

  • First 64-bit version
  • Can utilize all eight cores and more than 4 GB of RAM for professional editing on the Mac
  • Many new features

             — Advanced people-and-shot detection

             — Automatic audio cleanup

             — “Range-based keywording” gives video editors ability to apply keywords to specific portions of a video

             — Feature that prevents audio and video tracks from accidentally being pushed out of sync

             — Feature that automatically matches color between two clips

  • Will be available for download from Mac App Store in June for $299

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #6: Browser Privacy

April 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #6: Browser Privacy

Tired of being tracked? features a new article by Jolie Odell titled “Apple Adds ‘Do Not Track’ Features to Safari.”  Part of a test version of Mac OS X Lion, this new version of the Safari browser includes an option that lets users prevent cookies from tracking their online browsing behavior.

Public concerns about web browsing privacy and security caused Congress to introduce a Do Not Track Me Online bill.  This bill would allow consumers to opt out of online tracking. 

Major web browsers responded by adding do-not-track features:

  • Firefox 4 — users can opt out of advertising-related tracking
  • Internet Explorer 9 – “Tracking Protection” option — consumers can disable third-party ad software from reporting on their activities
  • Google Chrome — “Keep My Opt-Outs” extension for personalized advertising and related data tracking

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #5: How a Government Shutdown Could Affect Tech World

April 9th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #5: How a Government Shutdown Could Affect Tech World

In her recent article on, Sarah Kessler explains “How a Government Shutdown Could Affect Tech.”

  • IPO Filings Put on Hold – Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn’t process any company filings
  • Government Web Sites Go Dark — only essential sites necessary for operation will remain open (ex.: IRS site for filing taxes)
  • Telemarketers and Spammers Celebrate — Do Not Call Registry and Spam Database won’t be available to law enforcement
  • Employees Go Without Paycheck – government employees; people working for private companies on government contracts, including Google (cloud-based services) and Microsoft (Office suite services)
  • Government BlackBerrys Switched Off unessential employees would turn in BlackBerrys or be banned from using them; essential employees permitted to keep checking essential emails

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #4: Improving Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page

April 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #4: Improving Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page


 features a new article by Lauren Drell titled “How To: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page.”  The advice comes from a new study of 200 large, well-established brands by Buddy Media

Advice for large brands: 

  • Be Timely

             – Posting time/day of week depends on when brand peaks on Internet 

             – Patterns and trends unique to particular industries 

  • Be Concise

             – Content should be 80 characters or less (27 percent more engagement) 

             – URL should be full-length so readers know where link will take them 

  • Ask for Engagement

             – Simple instructions more effective getting a “Like” 

             – Put question at end of post (15 percent more engagement) 

             – Don’t ask invasive “why” questions, ask “what” 

Advice for Smaller Brands: 

  • Balance data from study with what you know based on Facebook Insights and personal experience with your Page
  • Social marketing space constantly evolving; statistics can change in months
  • Your Facebook marketing program must be flexible

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #3: What’s in Store for Apple in the Next 35 Years?

April 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #3: What’s in Store for Apple in the Next 35 Years?


Apple Inc.

     In 1976 Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded a small company named Apple Computer.  For its first 35 years, Apple was the underdog to its rival Microsoft.  In his article on, “35 Years & $317 Billion Later, Apple Intends To Dominate a Post-PC World,” Ben Parr shares some little-known facts about Apple, “now the most valuable computer company in the world:”

  • Apple’s market capitalization exceeds $317 billion, $100 billion more than Microsoft;
  • Wayne, one of the co-founders, got cold feet and sold his 10% stake in less than two weeks;
  • 1985 — CEO John Sculley forced Jobs out of the company; and
  • 1997 — Jobs was brought back when Apple “was on the brink of destruction.”

     Apple’s golden years followed with wildly successful products such as the iPod, iMac, MacBook, iPhone and the iPad. 

     So, what’s in store for Apple in the next 35 years?  Parr believes Apple will dominate a post-PC “world of mobile devices … for decades to come” by competing “on design and user experience”  instead of hardware specs.

     Someday Jobs will leave some big shoes to fill.  Parr wonders “whether anybody can provide the design and product vision” Jobs brought to the company in his “quest to redefine technology.”

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #11: Guest Speaker Mark Potts

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #11: Guest Speaker Mark Potts

Mark Potts, journalist and digital pioneer, spoke to our class today. He helped create the Washington Post website, served as editor for various news websites and has worked in the media field for nearly 20 years.

Check out his blog Recovering Journalist.

Potts showed us a variety of different websites that all present unique ways of telling stories:

  • Wikipedia — As soon as a story breaks, there is always a collection of new data and compilations by citizen journalists. A lot of journalists look down on Wikipedia, but Potts believes it’s a great tool for researching.
  • Washington Post article “A Facebook Story” — used Facebook as a story telling device to create a human-interest story
  • Storify – Pulls pictures and tweets to create a unique storytelling platform. However, it doesn’t work for everything. A downside is that the reader has to pull together the story themself without any transitions.
  • Baristanet – example of hyperlocal news with an organic focus.
  • TBD — Combined a variety of users’ blogs to create local news coverage from the public without having to hire other local-based journalists.
  • FiveThirtyEight – A blog that follows and analyzes political polls and looks at how electoral votes are being represented during elections.
  • The Texas Tribune – Non- profit website that covers serious topics in the state government that other news organizations seem to overlook.
  • Tubeify — Music website that uses the Billboard program and lets users travel through the years to see what was ranked on the charts in the past.
  • New York Times interactive map “A Peek Into Netflix Queues” — Lets you mouse over neighborhoods in big cities to see what the top 10 rentals are according to zip codes.
  • Google’s Flu Trends — Maps flu trends based on searches the Google database.
  • Newsmap — Kind of like a Tag Cloud, it features a variety of stories color-coded by type to see what’s going on in the world.
  • A few websites like NCAA Probe  , Play the News  and Predict the News  let users play interactive games featuring certain news-worthy events or situations.

Potts also explained the term crowd sourcing, which is asking the audience what they know and letting them report on what they find. For example,  certain news outlets might ask the public to call in when there is a pothole somewhere or allow them to go through government documents to see if they can turn up any suspicious information.

“Twitter is nothing but noise,” said Potts. It has “a fire hose of stuff.” Potts believes that at times Twitter can be useful, and says it is an excellent publicity tool and something necessary that journalists should keep up with. However, Potts says there are too many posts without filters, something I definitely agree with.

When asked what the most important tool for journalists in the last five years has been, Potts pointed to his iPhone.

Potts encourages the use of a variety of different mediums for telling stories and writing articles. “You don’t have to tell every story in words,” said Potts.

Tags: Comm361 · New York Times · Storify · Student Blog Posts

Tech Blog #2: New Dictionary Words

March 28th, 2011 · Comments Off on Tech Blog #2: New Dictionary Words

     There’s a fun new article on titled “OMG, the Oxford English Dictionary Added New Words! We ‘Heart” It! LOL!”  So, OMG, maybe the dictionary’s editor is just a Valley Girl at ‘heart,’ you know?

     OMG and LOL, along with FYI, are all, according to the OED, “initialisms associated with the language of electronic communications.”  It’s interesting to note that the first use of OMG dates back to a 1917 letter and in 1960 LOL meant “little old lady.”  Official recognition for a word seems to be as slow as the beatification process.  Who knew?

     A symbol for the verb “love,” the heart sign “may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper stickers.”  In the future, we should brace ourselves for a flood of new entries based on the new social media.

     There are many other new entries you can check out for yourself by clicking here.  My favorites are “doughnut hole,” a dessert made from the cut out center of a doughnut, and muffin top,”  defined as “a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers.”  Too many of the first can definitely lead to the second.

Creative Commons

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · Student Blog Posts