Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New Blog: MKT 595

September 13, 2010

I will again be taking a graduate course that requires I update a blog. However, we will be using the Blogger platform instead of this already-created WordPress site.

To follow my blogs for MKT 595: Internet Marketing, visit me here: http://brianwaynemiller.blogspot.com.

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Project Report: Week 8

May 20, 2010

This week, I finished up a design for St. Joseph’s letterhead, as well as filming Sister Theresa from the Daughters of Charity for the St. Joseph’s video. This was the only time I actually ran the camera for this project, as previously I’d just been kind of a PA and conducting the interviews. Honestly, it was nice to get on that side of the lens for a change.

The video is going both well and not so well. We’re getting a lot of great footage, and the shots are getting done, but I’m concerned about the time it will take to edit into something that we’ll be proud of. I’m confident that we’ll get it done – this group just does it. I’m just expecting it to be a lot of work right down to the wire.

My goals for this week are to finalize my part – and the whole – of the graphics standards manual and get that approved by St. Joseph’s. I’ve got the trial version of CS5 now, so hopefully I will poke around with that a little more. Brooke, Hannah and Joe have been very helpful in lending a hand and showing me a few tricks, but I’m thinking the next step may be to try out Lynda.com.

Project Report: Week 7

May 13, 2010

This week, I have been assisting in the production of the video for St. Joseph Services. Though I had not planned on doing much video work, I’m putting in more here than with the logo/graphic standards team because of my schedule (available in the afternoon for filming) and because of the other group member’s superior design skills. Of course, with the recent developments that may be derailing the logo redesign, I’ll likely continue (like today) to work with the video team. Last week, our three person team worked quite well – Amanda as camera operator and set design, working with Brian C. on lighting; Brian C. on audio; and me on PA duty and interviewer. We’ll have a similar setup today.

I did gain some pretty useful resources and guidance from Brooke and others on the design team this past week. Not quite enough to really surpass their years of expertise, but some cool tips and tricks. Still tricky is getting everyone available at convenient times for the client. Busy schedules and interruptions make for tricky collaborative work. Once filming gets done today, I’m hoping to focus on starting a mock-up of a graphic standards manual (using a blank filler for a logo, of course). The group has been good with feedback on art, and I see the same thing happening this week.

Project Report, Week Six

May 6, 2010

This week was a busy week for the St. Joseph Services group. We’ve set deadlines for the completion of all tasks. The group has already met a few of these, most notably: beginning filming interviews and starting the logo remake vetting process.

I feel more comfortable in my group this week, which was my goal from last week. I think trying to stay out of the way of the video team while trying to learn things from the logo/graphics manual team was a poor idea, so essentially volunteering wherever help or expertise is needed has become the modus operandi of the group. As such, I’ve probably done more with the video team than I have with the logo team. Also, the switch to Basecamp instead of the Blackboard message boards has made a world of difference.

Honestly, there is very little that isn’t going well. It’s a lot of work, and coordinating schedules between group members and the client has been stressful at times, but things are getting done.

For next week, I hope to have the logo finalized and begin mockups of the graphics standards manual. I’d like to shift my attention there, as I still have plenty to learn in graphic and document design.

The group has done a great job getting resources in front of everyone, such as some ideas for graphic manuals and standards from professional sources. As we’re planning on discussing the logos tonight in class – that was about the only area where I feel we could use the class’s help.

Multimodality – Part 2

April 15, 2010

This one’s a thinker.

Does social media redefine neighborly interaction?

December 14, 2009
It's a jungle out there.

It's a jungle out there.

I like social media.  Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat.  I think it’s a valuable tool for communication, and can even be a source of entertainment.  It’s definitely increased the flow of information between people.  But I don’t think that social media is radically changing the way that people communicate.

As Ivor Tossell points out in his audio piece in this article from Canada’s Globe and Mail, there seems to be an equally ridiculous prevalence of people on both sides of the social media spectrum:  a) the so-called Social Media Experts who are regular people who just really, really like playing on Facebook and Twitter, and b) the Get-off-my-lawn brigade, whose “underlying philosophy is that social networking websites…are one big frivolity and anti-social distraction.”

The dichotomy between the reality of the situation and the drivel that both of these camps spout off brings to mind this GraphJam.com chart about political coverage on television:

US Political Belief vs Media Attention Given
US Political Belief vs Media Attention Given

And just like the never-ending political debate, rational thought is really somewhere in between.

Here’s where I get defensive about social networking.  Because online networking is done in front of a computer, there are those who equate the decline of western civilization to the abundance and prevalence of online friendships.  The hypocritical people who decry social networking practices as information overload or invasive of privacy are often the same ones who shake their heads and grumble about how it’s a shame that people don’t know their neighbors anymore.  How is communicating with an acquaintance on Facebook that different?  As Tossell notes, the get-off-my-lawn camp “…operate[s] on the presumption that online friendships are fraudulent or somehow debased, as opposed to the kind that are maintained over telephones, or nurtured in stoic silence, or maybe those extra-special friendships that are maintained by sending stacks of Christmas letters once a year.”  For the vast majority of us, our online networks are filled with real people who we know and care about at least on some level.  Of course, there are the few people with 10,371 Myspace friends that raise a red flag to the get-off-my-lawn folks.  But really, they’re no different than the guy from the early 80’s with the massive black book of phone numbers:  nobody is taking either of them seriously.

The most common complaint I hear about why Twitter (or any status update) is trivial goes something like “I don’t care that my college buddy in Omaha is making a sandwich.”  (Yet millions of Americans tune in each week and get emotionally tied to the contestants – most of whom the average viewer does not know personally – on American Idol or any other reality show.) Even the most independent of us – I’m definitely included in this camp – still naturally crave a certain level of human interaction.  The behavioral information you pick up about a person – whether through status updates on Facebook or through picking up her subtle body language out of the corner of your eye – pretty much tells you the same thing.  Social scientists refer to it as “ambient awareness,” as defined in Clive Thompson’s New York Times Magazine piece “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.” So maybe deep down, on a subconscious level…you do care about your buddy’s sandwich.

So what’s my point in all this?  It’s that there is a point to all of this.  Social networking isn’t radically changing the way that human beings communicate and behave.  It’s simply opening another avenue to allow real people to do what they’re going to do anyway:  group together in little bunches, make friends, socialize, and share their lives with each other.  We’re just doing it a little faster now.

Response – Video Editing Project

November 12, 2009

I realized I never posted the reflection on my video editing experience. Here it is:

I’m a Mac guy. Not a snob like many of my friends, but I’ve been a Mac user for about 5 years now, and only used a PC at work for email and MS Office kinda stuff. So…my first impression is that iMovie blows away Windows Movie Maker in terms of functionality and usability. Thus, most of the beginning of the process was aimed at figuring out how to use the interface to make it do what I wanted it to, and in turn, exploring its features and limitations.

I’ve done some video editing before, and as a video geek and musician, I noticed that I was naturally looking and listening for transitions in the audio track to synch up my video cuts. This is not something that’s completely out of the ordinary, but if you’re someone who had not done video editing before, this is not a sure thing that you’d know to look for in creating a compelling video.

My biggest complaint was not being able to use two audio tracks. I wanted music throughout, but WMM only allows one audio track. Thus – no commentary from Shaun, and my short video was rendered even more artsy because it contained music but no spoken words. Edgy, man. The other pet peeve I had: why are the title screens blue? And only blue? What gives?

As soon as I get near a PC again, I’ll upload the video.

From WIRED – Mob Rule! How Users Took Over Twitter

November 9, 2009

Read this article in the print version (!) of WIRED. Excellent article about how Twitter’s creators deliberately let users define a medium and technology with great results. My favorite quote that sums up the article:

“Essentially, Twitter left a ball and a stick in a field and lurked on the sidelines as its users invented baseball.”

Article here: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_twitter/

 

“Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky

November 2, 2009

Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations

Clay Shirky opens the book with a long, detailed, and hilariously entertaining anecdote, “It takes a village to find a phone,” about the “StolenSidekick” story of late 2006. In short, a woman loses a phone in a New York City taxicab, finds out who took it after the person used the phone to send emails and pictures, and her friend Evan sets up a website drawing public attention to the situation – and the eventual return of the phone – strictly through the power of his network. This was, of course, a great example of the power of technology to bring people together for a cause with minimal effort on the part of most. But it was really a summation of the points he went on to make through the rest of his book, being:

1. Coasean economic theory

2. The power law distribution

3. The power of aggregation

Coasean economics

Yeah, I had to look up Coasean economics too. But Shirky does explain it fairly well in subsequent chapters. It basically states that the cost of creating and keeping an organization afloat revolves around transaction costs. Thus, the reason why hierarchical organizations exist is the ability to control transaction costs in regards to the division of labor. But for an organization formed and executed online, there often is no need (or desire) for a hierarchical system. In the case of the lost mobile phone, hundreds of thousands of people were organized for a common cause, and the outcome of this organization was roundly successful. Very few (and closer to zero) people had to expend any time, money, or effort to contribute to making this successful. Wherein the only person who expended any real time, money, and effort is Evan. Thus, the transaction costs for organizing a group this large were minimal. Which brings me to his next point…

Power law distribution

Have you ever heard a store manager (for example) say that 20% of his inventory drives 80% of his profits? The same is true in organizations, and much more true with the aid of technology. As in the case of the lost mobile phone, the vast majority of this group (those following and commenting on the blog, offering tips and advice) were basically inactive, offering only the support of their eyes and ears. Most likely did not comment, or commented only once. There were the few who offered tips and suggestions and research that ended up being useful. There was Evan, who did the vast majority of the work, but without the rest of the thousands of inactive or partially active users, the experiment would have failed.

Most modern organizations and networks follow the same distribution, be it Myspace or the blogosphere or whatever. The majority of the connections and content are being produced by a very small number of users, whereas there are exponentially more participants who are completely inactive. Thus, there is no way to categorize an “average” user, as the extremes on both ends will render this figure useless.

Aggregation

This we of course all know. Technology enables us to compile large amounts of data quickly. What’s the big deal now? As it relates to organizations, and as Shirky mentions, the sharing and exchange of ideas is central to the new model of organizations. Shirky talks about the support of a programming language like C++ – a hugely successful and powerful bit of technology with a support desk to match, versus a language called “Perl” that relied mainly on crowdsourced information and fixes from the forums with much success. Certainly this will not always be the case, but the aggregation of ideas from many different users (all with different levels of involvement of course) yielded a very successful organization of programmers. In the case of the mobile phone, the individual contributions of one person – even Evan – were meaningless, but the aggregation of many of these ideas led to the success of the organization.

Where I most agreed with Shirky was his assessment of human behavior as it relates to technology. As others have pointed out in book reports, there is a sentiment that technology is destroying the social fabric of which we are made up. I disagree, as does Shirky. Calling to mind Marshall McLuhan’s “extensions”, Shirky explains that “We adopt those tools that amplify our capabilities, and we modify our tools to improve that amplification.” (p. 187)

Another complaint specifically regarding online social networking is that online friendships and life are somehow different or less worthy than “real life”. But Shirky and I agree that there is not a great dichotomy between the online world and the offline world. “In the developed world, the experience of the average twenty-five-year-old is one of substantial overlap between online and offline friends and colleagues. The overlap is so great, in fact, that both the word and the concept of “cyberspace” have fallen into disuse. The internet augments real-world social life rather than providing an alternative to it.” (p. 196) In a prior blog post, I also discussed this topic in detail.

In regards to the web in general as it relates to traditional “one-to-many” communication, Shirky has this to say, by far my favorite quote from the book: “Now we know that the Web is not a perfect antidote to the problems of mass media, because some of those problems are human and are not amenable to technological fixes. This is bad news for that school of media criticism that has assumed that the authorities are keeping the masses down. In the weblog world there are no authorities, only masses, and yet the accumulated weight of attention continues to create the kind of imbalances we associate with traditional media.” (p. 94)

Of course, I can’t end without mentioning the modern free-publishing theme of publish-then-filter. Essentially, this is a way of crowdsourcing content, the only negative of which is a multitude of information. There are no editors to be the gatekeeper – rather, the gatekeeper is society’s general acceptance or rejection of a particular piece of content and how willing they are to pass it on to one another.

Though many parts of Here Comes Everybody delve into the business and economics of organization (and thus can get tedious), this was absolutely an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t consider it entirely useful in the sense of “this is a manual for X kind of managers to capture the future of the internet” or anything like that, but simply a more detailed explanation of how “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.”

Response – An Interview with Andrew Feenberg

October 27, 2009

http://nms501x2009.pbworks.com/f/feenberg_interview.pdf

In this interview with Andrew Feenberg, I took away three main themes out of the multitude of technological design points he hit.

1. User Agency, or the impact of users on design. Considering Feenberg was talking and writing about this in the 80’s, he’s obviously a pretty forward-thinking fellow. I do enjoy the seemingly contradictory assertions that design innovation is often created by hackers repurposing technologies for user-centered activities, but that “technology influences users behavior”. (p 470) I honestly don’t know how to rationalize both of these statements together, other than to assume that when a technology influences a users behavior, it is due to good design. How he fits it into the educational software category is interesting however.

2. The impact of technology on society. This is of course a larger more encompassing point. Feenberg’s example of a centralized technical instutution – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – brings to mind how important that the current net neutrality debates are. I think that Feenberg would agree a free and open system would be more conducive to design and innovation – no hackers necessary. However, I think his criticism of the Murdoch empire may be a bit unfounded…unless of course you believe McLuhan’s claim that we as a society are helpless to the reaches of technology. I’m not advocating centralized media by any means, I just don’t believe that central ownership controls people’s every thought. On-air content, yes. But the effectiveness of this may be overblown by Feenberg.

3. Technology’s impact on education. Online education has become both a way of life for many educators and students, but also a multi-million dollar industry of educational institutions. We think of traditional institutions as communities of people, but very seldom do we consider online education as a community concept. As I mentioned in the first point, Feenberg’s ideas for online education revolved around well-designed software that, by its inherent good design, would properly influence students and communities.