Saturday, September 30, 2006

Total Recall

A few months ago, I remember checking the serial number of my dell laptop because it was possible that my battery had been recalled. Thankfully, my computer wasn’t explosive, but recalls seem to be exploding on the technology scene.

Toshiba is recalling 340,000 laptop batteries made by Sony. Is it possible that advancements in technology can backfire on us, literally? According to an article on, “Dell asked customers to return 4.1 million faulty laptop batteries, while Apple recalled 1.8 million batteries worldwide.”

Many years back my mother use to warn me that if I stood in front of the microwave for too long I would get radiation poisoning. Her threats have evolved. She has moved on from household appliances to technology infused gadgets. Her current warnings are more like, “your cell phone is going to give you a brain tumor” and “your back and eyes will eventually give out if you keep spending all that time by the computer screen.”

Maybe I am not so paranoid with complaints about my cell phone heating up on my ear or my keyboard burning my palms. Is technology getting too hot for us to handle? found, “Earlier this month, Sony said it would postpone the European launch of its PlayStation 3 by four months to March over problems with producing a component in the Blu-ray disc part of the machine.” That’s not the only postponement made by Sony; the launch of their new digital walkman is not yet being released due to malfunctions.

Is this super competitive mentality leading to incidents like exploding batteries because companies are so busy trying to beat their rivals in the tech race that they forget about the people they provide products for?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why is a cardinal's blog making headline news?

On the front page of the Boston Globe's City & Region section today the headline ran, "O'Malley Recounts 'LOL' on his Rome Trip Blog.-- Cardinal reaches out to internet generation." Now, why is this news? According to reporter Michael Levenson, "Catholics and blog specialists are taking notice, offering praise for a blog they say is surprisingly readable." The use of popular internet phrase "lol" is a favorite for O'Malley. At first glance, the blog seems pretty typical. O’Malley introduces himself and discusses his travels.

What intrigues me about this blog is the reader feedback:

Dear Cardinal Sean,
Thank you for this blog. Your lovely sense of humor caused me to lol! I know Rome well and it’s delightful to revisit through your eyes. I loved your inclusion of quotes in Italian. Thank you for the spirituality this blog offers. It is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Boston (and the world) to really come to know their Cardinal. Preghiera, carita e la gioia de perdono!

Francine Bell

Comment by Francine Bell — September 27, 2006

This is yet another example of an older generation reaching out to the current generation and embracing the internet revolution. Will this gain the cardinal more popularity? It seems to be doing just that, but how will the religious community feel about it? The Globe observes, “The medium has forced O’Malley to walk a fine line between the dignity his position requires and the irreverence that fuels many of the most successful blogs.”

See the Time left until the Pope's planned visit to Turkey (up to the second) on the American Papist blog.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Entertainment Sans Professionals

Today a classmate did a presentation on video feeds uploaded to people’s blogs. I didn’t realize just how popular they were until encountered a site called Real People Network. The first thing that caught my eye on the site was not the dozens of faces squished into small screens, but the slogan/ promotion on the top of the page saying:

A Hollywood Free
Video Blog.

Now, what is the difference between a video blog and a vlog? Well, apparently nothing. The dictionary definition for vlog is “a video blog; a blog that is mainly video content.” So why all the different names? It seems kind of silly to me.

Boogie Nights meets the Newspaper Biz.

I hate to compare the two, but this conversion to reality-based video blogs and the rising popularity of citizen journalism over print newspapers reminds me of the transition that the porn industry made when they decided to go from professional porn stars to common folk porn. I can’t help but think of the 1997 film Boogie Nights. For me, Jack Horner, (played by Burt Reynolds,) represents the original newspaper business, while Floyd Gondolli, (played by Philip Baker Hall,) if I remember correctly plays the man who sells out to citizen porn. I think this all ties in together.

Although professionals creating porn is not completely dead, neither is the newspaper business. So, how much longer will professionals stay alive in industries where the average public consumer is rooting for their demise?

To Blog or not to Blog...Is that the question?

I am writing an article for another journalism course on a speech given by John S. Carroll, former editor of Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Lexington Herald. His speech, “What Will Become of Newspapers?” outlines the demise of newspapers by “the flagrant betrayal of the reader” and the emergence of web based journalism.

As I try and find the will to live in this depressing state of journalism, I wonder how I will ever be able to keep afloat in a world where you really don’t need to buy newspapers or magazines to get the news.

In my search for some positive feedback and re-enforcement that I am not on the wrong career path, I stumbled over an article on Press Think entitled, “The Pros Gonna Blog You Under the Table.” It describes David Carr, a blogger at the New York Times as a quitter of his Carpetbagger blog. Apparently as stated in the article, “It was too hard to keep blogging with everything else he had to do!”

After reading the article, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I read the comments and reactions beneath it. They were pretty angry, protesting that journalists should stop whining and jump on the blogging bandwagon. I guess we have no choice… or do we? I wonder what advice Carr would give about all this?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Are virtual tours too informative?

As I surfed through the Globe online, a headline in the art section caught my eye: “Audible Art: The Rose Art Museum.” So, just like any diligent web surfer, I clicked on it to find a visual tour of the museum and its history given by the museum director, chief curator and educational director. The museum is in Brandeis University in Waltham. I live in Brookline and am relatively busy, so when I do go to a museum it is usually a several hour affair. This leads me to the question, why should I take two trains to get to the museum when I have it right in front of my fingertips in the comfort of my own home with a guided tour of the museum given by none other than the experts themselves? Sure, the tour is only five and a half minutes, but I felt it satisfied my curiosity on what the museum is all about. Maybe I will go there someday, but for now I have had my fill.

How much information is too much? Will people get so dependent on the internet for stimulation that it will deter them from going out and physically seeing things for themselves? I am open to online adventures, but will never stop being a skeptic of this wonderfully evolving technology. Do virtual tours like these take business away from the actual venues?

When a friend of mine asked me what I did today I simply responded, "did some reading, went to the gym, took a short tour of the Rose Art about you?" Am I wrong to say this? Where do we draw the line between reality and virtual reality? Does the line even exist anymore?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The internet gives hope to holocaust survivors

I was moved by something I read on the Boston Globe website today. In an AP article by Aron Heller, Holocaust survivor Hilda Shlick, who thought she lost all of her family in WWII, was reunited with her 81 year old brother in Canada, all because her two grandsons have good internet skills.

This story amazes me because I know a few holocaust survivors who can’t operate a cell phone let alone figure out how to email or surf the web. It makes me think about the ways this generation can help other generations reconnect with a society seemingly lost in web space. This use of internet connection is one of the most positive kinds I have seen thus far. Sure, we can track down sex offenders in our neighborhoods and explore our innate paranoia through a different form of internet stalking, but we also have the chance to do good for others.

Although Holocaust survivors are a dying generation, they will live on through the Yad Vashem database on which Shlick’s grandchildren found her brother. Heller said, “They logged onto the Yad Vashem website and found a page of testimony submitted in 1999 by her brother Karol, of Montreal, who wrote about his sister Hilda, who ``perished in the Shoah."

I hope when I get old and out of touch with reality, my grandchildren will reconnect me with the things I love through whatever means possible.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Khatami's visit gets blogged

The print version of the Boston Globe and online websites like the Center for Citizen media and The Daily Item discussed the arrival of former Iranian prime minister Mohammed Khatami to Harvard Universities Kennedy School of Government. The Globe recieved criticisms from Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly for their editorial on the former prime minister. News Hounds said that O’Reilly “admitted he didn't understand what the Boston Globe was communicating but he just knows that Khatami is a "bad guy."

Globe staff writers, Scott Helman and Farah Stockman quoted governer Mitt Romney in a September 6 article entitled; “Romney bars state security for Iranian's Harvard visit- Cites unacceptable use of funds on `a terrorist'.” Helman and Stockman interviewed Romney, who did not support the arrival of the political figurehead. He did not want a terrorist to come and speak on 9/11, a day commemorating the people who lost their lives in the face of terrorism. He was quoted by the Globe saying, “There are some people who we can all imagine who by virtue of their acts would not be welcome at a campus, and this is one of them."

John Gibson from Fox News interviewed Romney in, “Gov. Romney on Harvard Inviting Former Iran President to Speak on Sept. 10.” Romney said:

I think it's a disgrace to have an individual who has been a supporter of Hezbollah, who has advocated the destruction of Israel, who has jailed dissidents and who developed nuclear technology, to have a person of that nature come to Harvard… I have insisted that our state agencies do not provide the support which we would normally provide for a visiting dignitary.

The online coverage of the opinions following Romney’s opposition to Khatami’s visit is more varied than it was with the print publications. Personal blogs are more openly opinion based, while professional ones like Fox and the Globe include interviews with the subjects themselves. Whether you agree with either publication, I think people will trust print news sources more than opinion blogs that rely mainly on secondary sources for information.

Some differences I observed between the coverage of this story and follow up reactions is that unlike print editorials, online website articles can be followed with unlimited posted comments from the public.

Anyone is free to read a blogger’s opinions and reactions as well as reader's comments. Even if I don’t agree with certain opinions, at least online I can leave my own; if I choose to do so.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Yesterday, I received an email from the Facebook team inviting me to a group called, “I will quit Facebook if it is opened to all internet users." Members of the website are outraged over the new Facebook format. Groups like “Facebook is for stalkers” have been created because every movement or click you make is now shown to all members on the homepage. Where does Facebook draw the line between the public and private spheres? Are we all exhibitionists secretly wanting others to see intimate details of our lives by joining sites like this?

Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote a letter to all members apologizing about the new format, but stated in his defense that he was proud people were protesting because that is what freedom of speech is all about. His apology was not enough according to one member who said, “Somebody's got to call Mr. Mark Zuckerberg about this new Facebook situation... First this news feed thing (thanks for the apology, but please get rid of it!), now rumors of it going public (as in creepy-old-guy status!) ew!”

In an open letter from Zuckerberg posted on Sept. 8:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings — to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about.

If you have more comments, please send them over.This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that’s what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I’d encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Today (Friday 9/8) at 4pm edt, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


There are many unresolved issues here and people are torn between wanting news feeds and thinking that public information like “Alex is taking a nap” and “Erin is doing a 10 minute Pilates DVD workout” is downright creepy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Are we Safer?

The question is on everyone's mind. Are we safer five years later? I don't know if I feel particularly safer. The day before 9/11 I didn't really think about a terrorist attack occuring in the U.S. It never occured to me that we could be so vulnerable, but even Israel with the best intelligence agency in the world is attacked on a daily basis. So I guess anything can happen.

Journalism of the Web Course

Today, I am starting fresh with a new blog in an attempt to keep up with the "Internet Revolution." I guess that Myspace, Friendster and Facebook aren't enough.

Me and Charles

Bonding with my new city.