Finally, last week I bought myself an iPad. I resisted long enough and was completely out of excuses not to buy a new iPad 2 in Austin :)
I wasn’t really new to the device, Marco (my partner at SOMEHOW) brought the original iPad to the office quite quickly after it was released and I played with it a lot. Owning one is different. Like a mobile phone the device is personal, and the most interesting applications for it are personal as well.
The applications I like most are the ones where my social networks organize and select the content. I don’t need newspaper applications or magazine apps. For now, those applications are still very one dimensional. How weird this might sound, they aren’t very good in filtering, yet.
The most interesting ‘mag’-like applications for now I think are
– The native Twitter application, that handles hyperlinks extremely nice (free)
– Reeder, a great Google Reader application (paid) (you should also try the desktop application)
– Tweetmag, a social wall/magazine (paid)
– Zite, a social magazine (free)
– Flipboard, a social magazine (free)
These apps are all using your social “link” networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader).
If you ask me, this is the future of the magazine.
This saturday we have the first Eclectro party in De Unie in Rotterdam (which itself is pretty amazing). It’s the first offline event for something (a group of people blogging) that until saturday does only exist online.
To Eclectrofy this evening we started thinking about doing something extra with the location. How can we make the place visually and interactive exciting as well. Without making it too difficult to use or showing computers.
What I’m making for this saturday
Basically Roomware turns my Mac into a server that is able to read bluetooth names and convert this data into xml. We will ask people at the party to change the bluetooth name of their mobile phone into the username of their Last.fm account. With these Last.fm names an application searches the Last.fm API and extracts data about two random visitors and tell them how much Last.fm similarity they have and which artists they have in common.
Meet new people
The project autorepeats and makes new random matches with names of people that are actually in the room. The results are projected on a screen. Showing public information about people is a gimmick, but it might encourage visitors to meet new people.
Things to do before this saturday
All the technology works. What’s left is finding a beamer, finishing the design and the timing of the interface. The application doesn’t need much time to load, but I’m thinking about adding finctional timing to make it more exiting to watch.
For example first show one player. Show the second player a few seconds later. And finally show the bar (hearth) that indicates the percentages. And maybe add some hidden messages when people have 0 or 100% Last.fm similarity.
I’m a big fan of public databases, the live web and storytelling. I think they all give new opportunities for interactive and online storytelling. Twitter itself a very interesting database. Because it tells you what is going on and the API is very good.
About “I voted”
The next days American citizens will vote for either McCain or Obama. My guess is a lot of Twitter users will say on Twitter when, and on who they voted. This Flash application uses Twitter Search to see who voted on who. The animation automatically updates with the most recent tweet.
Two major financial losses have we seen in the last two months. Not because of the credit crunch, but because everything in this digital world is connected.
On the web new information is true until proven false. This is something you might like, or not. It is not a choice, it’s the fact of a connected medium that gives everyone a voice. We have to find ways to work with it. And we are just starting to find out the effects of this dense and very well connected network that is continues searching for the next big thing… And the network is trigger happy.
Last week a wrong story about Steve Jobs having a hearth attack made it to CNN iReport. News spread across the web very fast and Apple stock plunged. Instant decrease in value: $9 billion.
Both stories started an online fire that could only be stopped by checking the story. But, when there is smoke in the air, the whole town is already alerted. You can’t hide it. All you can do is report facts as soon as possible.
In a dense societies, like the web, and cities in the seventeenth century. The high speed spreading of information is crucial. If there was a fire in your neighborhood. It didn’t really matter that much if it small or big, you would wanted to know about it. Since all houses were close to each other and stopping a fire was difficult. Alert first, check later.
The web is not paper
Reporting fragments of information is what the web is good at. We still use it as if it is a piece of paper. We publish hypertext, but we won’t alter it, like paper. We give web pages unique addresses, like paper. After all these years we still treat hypertext like paper.
Wikipedia doesn’t. This is what makes Wikipedia more an internet product instead of a print product. Wikipedia is alive, it uses fixed urls and the content changes all the time. Everything can be altered and deleted. Hypertext is alive. Wikipedia is – like the web – a continues and endless process.
Open Source Journalism
The live web poses not directly new problems for journalism, but it requires more speed and a different way of working. It will eventually require a different approach. Journalists will have to be live reporters. They don’t decide if it will be news or not. They will decide if something will stay news or not.
As a reporter you can’t ignore the smoke in your town. Everyone wants to know what’s going on and it’s the job of the journalist to figure this out, as fast as possible. And the best way to do this is by using the collective wisdom and make his or her knowledge and process public. The open source journalist will be a better informed journalist.
And about the truth?
We will see many more of these short-time information failures in the future and those will probably also lead to large financial losses. We have to find a way to live with it. The journalist that works on the web will be more active as a firefighter instead of a fire starter.
The news is all about he financial crisis we are in. Maybe you don’t have a financial crisis, I seriously hope you don’t. The financial world is already for a year searching for ways to get some grip on the credit crisis. So far without much success.
Masters of Storytelling
The voice is an incredible tool in storytelling, we (or I) often forget how good radio (or audio) can work in making a complex story simple. Ira Glass is a master in telling stories and it is great how an episode of the American Life series is devoted to the problem of the Giant Pool of Money.
No matter how difficult the problem is, if you can make a good story about it and know how to use your favorite tools, you can explain it.
Listen to the podcast
[audio:http://audio.thisamericanlife.org/jomamashouse/ismymamashouse/355.mp3] open in player
The Giant Pool of Money
Host Ira Glass talks with an NPR business and economics correspondent about two gatherings he attendedâ€”one at the Ritz Carlton and one at a community college in Brooklyn. The first was an awards dinner for finance professionals who created the mortgage-based financial instruments that nearly brought down the global economic system. The other was a non-profit conference for people facing foreclosure. Ira explains that today’s show lays out how the finance guys and the people facing foreclosure are connected by a chain of middlemen, and that together, they all brought about the current housing and credit crisis. [more]
The web is becoming a more live medium, the medium itself isn’t changing it is how we publish to it. I think the ‘live web’ is the most exiting development since the rise of social networks. You write a Twitter notification on your mobile phone, post a picture to the web or stream a live video with Qik or Seesmic. Often recording is publishing.
When you write a blog or create a podcast your entry has context in itself. It has a start and it ends. Most postings on micro blogs don’t have context in the messages. The context is in the stream or in time. For example Twitter messages often make sense in your personal timeline or in the conversation within your personal network.
Twitter and Qik are just the first services. Realtime platform independent micro services, that distribute contextless fragments of information are here to stay.
This sense of a ‘live medium’ is something that is changing the web as it is and how we use it. It will change search, or at least sorting search results and it will change reporting news.
A service like Twitter makes news travel fast. This makes it the #1 breaking news source for a lot of people. Why? Because it is reporting as it is happening. It isn’t always right, but it is reporting, open for conversation and correcting itself. It is live coverage and it is a storytelling experience.
News on the web is presented like news on paper. This is good since text on the web is – apart from certain screen specific style rules – the same as on paper. An article is written, checked and published.
Spreading the news
These services like Twitter are making reporting news a more public process. For example if something happens the first people who notice are there when it happens. Uploading messages, pictures and video, to a personal community or group of friends.
With Twitter people start repeating (or retweeting) messages distributing the news among followers and informing a very large audience within minutes. This is the signaling part. It’s not about being a citizen journalist. It is about telling your friends what you are doing, or what you are seeing.
The signal reaches the audience at the same time it reaches the journalist. A journalist has to check the story, is it true? Should I publish about this or wait until it is checked? The reader is expecting that his favorite news website knows more about it and visits the website after hearing about the news. Often resulting in a bad user experience, since there is nothing on the news website about the subject.
What is the role of journalists and media in this? Should they directly report serious rumors? Should they check for more sources. I don’t know. It has to be somewhere in the middle I think. A situation where journalists are producing with updated versions.
I think CNN is giving this a very prominent place on the CNN website. Maybe because they are from television and reporting breaking news is what they are good at. They are using storytelling mechanisms on the website. Reporting what is happening right now, and directly updating it when the story turns out to be something different.
These are the breaking news messages CNN showed last week. I heard the news about Hillary ending her campaign through Twitter and CNN was one of the few news websites with the news on it.
CNN message before
CNN message after
What are your thoughts about this? When should news be published on a web site and should we adapt the design of news sites to make space for a more storytelling ‘as-it-is-happening’ approach? Or does this make news websites vulnerable for misinforming the audience?
While waiting for Murcof at the airport we asked Jimmy Edgar if he would like to improvise something on an old Casio keyboard. Recorded on the roof (full recording) of Schiphol (Amsterdam airport / AMS)
The festival was a great success. Exhausting, but really great. During the festival we made around 400 posts on the special microblog.
Mobile services worked very well. Sending a photo through Mobypicture and directly sending an audio file through Gabcast give a really strong storytelling experience. Twitter messages are like SMS. Great to keep context in the timeline without actually having ‘to produce’ something.
I think our idea to connect everything you post to an avatar (like Twitter), and make the coverage as personal as possible really helped keeping it clear for our viewers. At least for how much this is possible given the enormous amount of information produced. Organizing it on time gives a very good overview of what was important or special during the festival.
Microblogs are really strong live applications. Afterwards they are less exciting to watch. You can use it as a collection of material where you can search items for articles elsewhere.
The WordPress XMLRPC is wonderful. From the 400 posts we have published almost none of those was made on the website itself. The posts were created using other websites and automatically posted to Eclectro.nl/live. Making publishing really easy.
What didn’t work
Video is difficult. Or at least uploading video is difficult. if you record a video it is still difficult to upload. When we recorded a video in high quality using a mobile phone (N95) the files get easily close to 10 Megabytes. If you want to upload/e-mail these files using UMTS you’re not only giving your battery a hard time, you’re also making it impossible to upload anything else during this process. Wifi often wasn’t available and when it was it was too unstable to upload or e-mail video.
I think services like Qiktv or Seesmic Mobile are interesting because the web-server is recording instead of your camera. Unfortunately those services can’t directly post a recording to a blog, yet.
We used a photo camera for recording video as well. This worked very well, the quality is good and Flickr is a great service for distributing files shorter than 90 seconds. The files recorded with the 8 Megapixel Sony Camera are around a 100 Megabytes. Uploading a 100 Megabytes in size. This requires you (or your laptop) to spend at least a few hours on a restaurant Wifi. Missing out on the festival. In the end we uploaded most files at night or in the morning.
We recorded the interviews on DV camera. This worked perfect, since there is no urge in getting the longer interviews directly on the web.
My idea was to maintain two blogs. The Eclectro blog and the Eclectro Live blog. /Live would be about us, a personal story about how we experienced the festival. The main blog would present interviews and reviews. This was just too much. We simply couldn’t make all this in a weekend and have a good time.
Ideas for live blogging / micro blogging
You need a central spot with a computer and good internet connection. A central spot on the festival where you can empty a camera and upload a batch of files.
Think about what you want to do and if this is possible. Think about how you keep it clear to your audience what they are looking at. Most people don’t know what is happening and they have to understand what it is and why you are publishing. We explained it with a short introduction movie.
A few people asked me to add more structure to the website and make it easier to scan what happened over time. I think we need even more timeline based structure in a next version.
If you are telling a story make sure to tell everything. Tell what you expect and afterwards tell if your expectations were right or wrong. Make returning jokes / running gags. Keep it personal and keep your audience informed.