Sunday, February 26, 2006

plugged into SXSW

This week I was witness to an amazing example of the internet age. In 90 minutes Waterloo records sold 1,400 SXSW wristbands, and another 2,000 more by 5pm. This was ALL in walk up sales, no internet or phone sales.

Photo courtesy of the Austin American Statesman

But what's really amazing is that ticket sales were only announced the day of the sale in a print publication, and word was able to spread quickly enough the night before that there were hundreds of people there to buy tickets. SXSW is a model of wireless connected activity, the type of people that come to this festival are tapped in.

Waterloo Records announced a secret sale the night before via text messages to list subscribers. SXSW blogs and forums buzzed with people with tips from insiders. Waterloo didn't need to publish their release date, they had a whole league of people doing it for them.

Secret industry parties don't stay secret for long, somebody blabs and it's all over the internet weeks before the festival. The official SXSW website features downloadable mp3s of nearly every band. Mobile bloggers have a field day at the festival with mini cameras and audio recorders.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Computer on the TV

Wow, no faster did did VH1's Web Junk take off then Bravo's Viral Video appears. And even with the total slew of material online they've managed to use almost all the same clips as Web Junk (President Bush screws up, SNL "chronicles of narnia" rip offs, pinky the crazy cat), with even worse commentary. One big difference between the shows is Web Junk shows the clips in all their pixelated glory, Viral often goes and finds the original video and shows it clear and crisp, not to mention they take clips directly from their OWN shows and use them! Kind of defeats the point doesn't it? If you aren't using the internet clip then you're just doing another funny video show like Maximum Exposure or America's Funniest Home Video.

And this is only the start, evidently NBC is planning Carson's Cyberhood and USA is basing a show around the website Ebaums World. Cyberhood plans to award people for their videos, maybe they should hire Bob Saget to host the show instead of Carson Daly.

Looks like reality television has taken the next step: real people are not only the subject but the producers and distributers too. These shows also bring up issues of ownership that have been ciruculating for a while when video sites or their TV counterparts use clips from TV shows or commercials, such as with NBC requesting their clips being pulled off of Youtube.

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PDF publishing

The idea of online web 'zines has been around for a while, as has the idea for photocopied street 'zines. What I like is the new fusion of paper style publishing in an online format; putting a PDF of the magazine on the web so that readers can click through the pages just as they would flip through the pages. My friend at Austin based magazine Misprint started doing this. While they do print and distribute some copies, they don't use advertising and they have a limited budget so they publish their magazine as a pdf in the order you would read it with split pages just as if it were in your hands. Austin magazine Box also publishes in this manner.

I realize that part of the appeal of magazines is the tactile experience, the luxury of buying something you don't need, carrying it on the bus etc. But there are UK magazines that I'm not willing to pay $100 for a one year subscription, but would be happy to pay a smaller amount to have access to a digital copy in this format. I actually prefer the PDFs to reading the stories online because I don't lose any effects of the layout and I'm seeing everything in context. I think as digital and print media start clashing and sorting things out this will end up as one of the solutions.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

AT&T and blogging

I saw this sign on an Cap metro bus this week. The two things that surprised me were that blog (even in a city as connected as Austin) is regarded as a common enough word that it's used in a big bus campaign and secondly..I wasn't really sure what it meant or what AT&T was promoting.

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(note: this is not my photo but one just like the bus i saw)

On their site they define the term blog, and it makes me wonder if people who haven't heard of blogs or are learning about them will come to connect them with AT&T. It's neat that they're trying to facilitate a new technology, but I get the feeling they're more trying to exploit it and get the corner on the market (which is weird since blogs were created so no one could corner them). Their Project D.U. appears to be a blog aggregator and they also sport their own reader program. They have incorporated a few top blogs, such as Arjan writes in their "network" in exchange for running a fat ad on the blogger's page.

But what are they selling? High speed internet, because after all "a majority of the systems that publish these blogs require a high-speed Internet connection and the blogs can only be updated only as rapidly as the author's connection will allow." Seems a little deceptive. I think AT&T, like many other companies in relation to the internet, are trying so hard to stay ahead of the game but they don't really know what they're doing or how to utilize it.

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Museum Podcasts

You know those dorky headsets you can rent for ten bucks at the museum desk that give you some dusty old professor giving academic blah blah about the paintings?

Well replace headset with ipod, replace ten bucks with free, replace dusty old professor with anyone, and replace blah blah with poetry, music or humor. Several museums across the country have started putting their art tours as mp3 podcasts online where visitors can download them before they visit. At SFMOMA they'll even give you a discount on admission if you show them your loaded mp3 player.

A group called Art Mobs has taken museum tours out of the museum's hands entirely. Instead of just giving listeners history, they may give them feelings. Working with university students the group has made a collection of podcasts touring the Marymount Manhattan College's 8th floor gallery. Their next target? The New York MOMA.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Myspace is their space too

This summer when UT student Colton Pitonyak killed a woman in West Campus local news outlets used as a source of information for Pitonyak's photos, interests and background. Well it seems that just because it may be "your space", doesn't mean it's free from the prying eyes of parents, employers or police.

Those photos of you snorting coke and flashing at mardi gras aren't just being viewed by your friends, and young people are forgetting that what's published online goes to a global audience. Searching for a person's page is easy as typing their name in the search option, so using an alias doesn't mean anonymity. The moral of this story? If you wouldn't want your mother to read it, don't post it.

When I was looking into writing a story on graffiti artists I contacted one via myspace. He treated me very skeptically, saying that police have been using myspace to bust artists. I figured he was just being paranoid until I found this article.

Evidently there are several conspiracy theories as to what's been done with all this information people are so willingly giving up about themselves. I don't buy into all of them, but just as people are beginning to question all the information google controls they should consider what's happening with these networking sites.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Safer dating through the internet?

I noticed a billboard advertising this website on 24th street near my college campus. Online background research has been touted for employers and adults for a while now, but Safe Date is the first time I can recall seeing it directly targeted at young women. The site is all pastels, and while there are photos of men, it seems clearly directed at women. For $10-$70 a person can submit their date's name and birthdate and get a history of their past addresses and a sex offender and criminal database search. Even more intriguing, for $30-$70 one can become a "certified dater" where they willingly run through the gauntlet (it doesn't seem accidental to me that men are more prominently featured in this section's photos).

While it's difficult to search criminal databases outside of professional services like this, there are ways you can access this information for cheap. For a free sex offender search in Texas visit the state's database. For about $4 one can search Texas criminal records database. While I'm sure this site is well intentioned I encourage women to remember that things like domestic violence and date rape are rarely reported to authorities, don't think that throwing down money for a search means your date is free of a dangerous qualities.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Shuffle life

I loved having 1000 songs at my fingertips, but after the sixth time I had to take my ipod in for repairs I finally realized it was not the right mp3 player for me. On that fateful sixth occasion the apple store clerk literally had me list all my activities and told me which of them I couldn't do with my ipod..what's the point if you can't jump on a trampoline or gogo dance? This is when I went shuffle.

Flash players are where it's at, cheap and near indestructible. I've ceased to think of my shuffle as an electronic device and simply think of it as jewelry, I've "pimped my player" and now it even looks more like an accessory.
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It seems this technology is becoming so integrated into people's lives that it's given birth to ipod jewelry. The player is totally removed from it's original design and is just another wardrobe piece.
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So in December I reasoned that if flash players were so easy to use and so sturdy and so easily decorated, why weren't there more kids models available. The day after I had this genius idea I opened the Toys R Us catalog to find this. In a genius move to hold on to customers who may have outgrown the doll but are familiar with the brand Bratz has designed a lipstick mp3 player, priced from $45 to $85 with 256MB memory.
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House pet blogging

I thought I was just clever as hell when I made a myspace page for my friend's cat Napolienne. Clearly I have once again underestimated the weirdness of the web, meet Catster and Dogster. I know people who still don't have time to maintain their own myspace page and these folks evidently have enough for them and their beasts. And the worst part is I can't really tease them because I've been engaging in my own pet blogging.

It was a weird sort of pleasure I got anonymously hiding behind Napolienne's identity and writing sassy messages to my friends. Deciding what music she would like, what background she would choose..she's got 33 friends! I suppose the anonymity combined with profiles like this being free encourages people to do crazy things. Seems that maybe this ties in with my sex blog?

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Sex online: Too much information?

The web is an amazing tool for learning and discovery, and its given people a private place to explore embarrassing medical or sexual questions. But bear with me for a moment in the idea that perhaps a person can get TOO MUCH information, they can delve deeper than they mean to, and that the anonymity encourages them to act in impulsive ways. It's similar to the problem of people self diagnosing and treating medical concerns online...even though you are researching you are not an expert, your information can be bad or misinformed and you may be reading something inappropriate for your situation.

I started pondering when I stumbled across this article that discusses the phenomenon of husbands discovering their homosexuality online, and hiding it from their wives. Internet sexual content seems to generally be associated with men so I was wondering how this is affecting women, surprisingly nearly three quarters of men and women have had sex with someone they met online. The web is also such an open door for infidelity, the casual encounters section of Craigslist is one of the sites most popular areas. I worry that the internet increases people's isolation and can encourage deviant behavior..just because bondage may pop up in the search hits for "sex", or trannies may pop up in the search hit for "gay" doesn't necessarily mean that the two terms should be connected for the person searching.

Other links I read for this post:

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VH1 sees the future of entertainment

Newscorp bought myspace in july and has yet to do anything with the purchase. It seems they're having trouble translating the internet into television entertainment or news vehicle. Well VH1 has taken the lead in marrying the idea of user created online content into a television program with their new show Web Junk. In October VH1 purchased online film aggregator ifilm and is using those silly clips that normally get passed around in e-mails, to make a up a television show of the weeks funniest films. The show and the site really feed off one another; the show sends users to the site, they can download clips to their myspace pages or upload their own clips and tune back into the show in hopes of seeing them. It's also a cheap-as-hell way to make a TV show. It's really only a matter of time before Rupert Murdoch figures it out and has a myspace equivalent.

What's strange to me is their choice of host, comedian Patrice O'Neal, whose commentary is loaded with racial references and put downs. Perhaps they saw putting a black host as a way to balance out the predominantly white videos?

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tech opportunities for women

A study of the supply of information technology workers in the United States estimates that if the number of women in the IT work force were raised to the level of men, the shortage of IT workers that currently exists would be filled says the Congressional Commission on the advancement of Women and Minorities in Science Engineering and Technology Development

For six months I've been volunteering with Girlstart , an organization aimed at bridging the gap between boys and girls in technology. It's been really exciting and fulfilling to see these 7th grade girls coming on Saturday, of their own free will, to learn about computers and really enjoying it to. By the end of four hours they had web pages and were glued to notepad tapping out code, largely without my assistance. It's fun to teach and I'm glad to give them something I never had BUT it's scary to see them coming up from behind me with youth and knowledge on their side

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