Featured, journalism, Media, social media, Technology, Uncategorized, video

Journalism In Ferguson or Just One Big Selfie?

Livestream

The movie camera has always been the boogeyman of authority. In Vietnam, color movie cameras were used – the film was shot, shipped, processed and telecined for broadcast on nightly news programs. This first television war with action shot by photojournalists in the field, specifically in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, was a strong influence on the American public’s perspective of the conflict. When cable TV in the home was popularized in the 1980’s, video broadcast technology was ready with 24-hour news channels that relentlessly covered conflict around the globe via satellite. This CNN effect became the new normal for how we expect to watch war, conflict and unrest.

Technology of the new century has given us in miniature a movie camera and a world wide publishing network not of broadcast journalists, but of individuals. This movie platform is so quick it’s viral. Anyone with modest means can live stream (broadcast) what is happening in front of them to the rest of the world. It sounds earth shattering and it very much is. Beginning in 2010 during the Arab Spring we saw the impact of this through the lens of people closest to the conflict. But now I feel a new twist to citizen journalism since the Arab Spring that we may have seen take shape during the Occupy Movement of 2011. The camera has turned back to look at us. This selfie generation is really only a few years old and it’s network effect is seen worldwide. If broadcast photojournalism was selfless, is internet journalism the news selfie?

Monday night (8/18/2014) I watched a two live streams from Ferguson by KARG Argus Radio and the other by Tim Pool (@Timcast) of Vice News. Most of what I remember from KARG’s “I am Mike Brown Live from Ferguson, MO” was two guys driving around for hours trying to get directions on how to get to the designated media area. Perhaps I missed the important parts that took place outside the car. The latter from @Timcast was representative of what I believe is selfie journalism. This is not a direct critique of Tim and his work, but more a reflection on what I’m seeing as the journalist becomes the subject of the story. It’s not a brand new thing – Geraldo Rivera’s work from the 1970’s is an example – but the trend appears to be amplified by the immediacy of the platform.

If the tendency in each of us is to turn the camera inward to capture the mundane and important events of our lives, if that’s now in our DNA, then it stands to reason that both professional and citizen journalists are adopting this reporting style. Like getting a phone call from a friend on vacation who wants to tell you about the amusement park ride she just enjoyed, the movie camera is now just a subset of the communication device which conveys the storytelling of the person who is there. Camera’s are no longer the important cold lens of truth that they once were.

Since Monday, some journalists have been arrested and the police in Ferguson have suggested that they are part of the problem because protesters would tend to “act out” for the camera. If journalists seem eager to insert themselves and become part of the story, does this change the narrative of what’s happening on the ground? Would a focus on editorial, aggregating footage from cameras of the subjects of the story be a better alternative? What is the value and role of the journalist?

Here are some time coded samples with notes from @Timcast for you to consider:

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h30m Good place to start @Timcast on camera

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h40m Shots fired and police fire teargas

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h46m Shots are fired over the heads of the journalists

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h48m22s Journalists are down on the ground

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h52m @Timcast back on camera, talks about what just happened

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=2h54m40s He finally interviews someone! This woman lives in the area of the riots and talks about what has been happening between residents and the police. I think this was the most important part of the video and we get a valuable perspective.

http://youtu.be/CmqHVKNZkhM?t=3h30m Later @Timcast has an infamous run-in with the police about press credentials. It looks like a tense situation and seems that the cops wanted media out of the line of fire.

Standard
Event Video, Featured, Tech Community, Technology, Uncategorized, WordCamp

The State of The WordPress Ten Years After

wordpress-logo-notext-rgbAll of the sites I maintain run on WordPress, except one. That’s a legacy site that I hope can eventualy be moved to the WordPress platform in the near future. Why? Because WordPress can handle the complexities of media embedding and sharing without requiring a PhD in computer science on the part of the webmaster. The reason for this is that the development community around WordPress is a vibrant and active one producing for example, 336 themes and 6,758 feature plugins in just the last year that provide new features to the websites that run WordPress- or 18.9% of the entire web. Whether you know it or not, you probably frequent several websites built on WordPress. After ten years of development as a simple blogging platform, almost 70% of websites run WordPress purely as a CMS, 20% as a hybrid blog/CMS, 6% purely as a blog and a new 7% as an app platform. After ten years, WordPress has changed not only the look of blogs, but of the entire web.

Check out this video by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, for in depth discussion of the statistics above and the future of the platform, as discussed below:

http://wordpress.tv/2013/07/27/matt-mullenweg-state-of-the-word-2013/

This is all great, but the “web” now and in the future is all about mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, social sharing and rich media streaming to these devices. WordPress must address this complexity to thrive and I’m happy to say it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening. As a personal sidenote, the majority of my frustrations as a WordPress user have been around the wp-admin panel (or “Dashboard”) and arcane methods of embedding, formatting and presenting media, such as pictures, audio and especially video. Social sharing buttons can be a special place in hell all their own as new services pop up that you may want to link to from your blog. This blog right here- imperfect as it is- is a bit of a sandbox for me to try out new themes and plugins that solve some of these frustrations.

So what’s coming in WordPress that will define it’s second decade? First, in 3.6 code name “Oscar” (for jazz pianist great Oscar Peterson- got to love Mullenweg’s penchant for jazz-based code names as a homage to his saxophone playing youth), a focus on the 2013 theme formatting well on all devices, media streamlining with native audio embedding and smart video handling using simple content URL’s rather than complex embed codes, and much needed changes to the wp-admin UI. These are welcome changes to the point release that I’m looking forward to. Very rarely can I create a post in WordPress right now without switching out from the “Visual” WYSIWYG editor to the “Text” page source code editor and playing around with some embed codes and basic HTML formatting. But there’s more under that hood in how WordPress will address development moving forward.

As I understand it, WordPress’ new software/feature model will now support parallel release development and will follow a layered stack. The “core” will be the foundation of the stack along with layers for other services, plugin features and presentation layers. As a much less monolithic approach to development, this allows teams to form around these layers and submit updates to the project when ready. That to me is the definition of platform development, having seen such models work successfully on past open source kernel projects I’ve been a part of. Based on comments during the Q & A section of the talk, I gathered that this new cycle of development could possibly cause headaches for those who support the installed base for their clients. Change is always difficult initially, but the needs of the installed base will always be heard. Perhaps WordPress ends up with an Ubuntu-like LTS model with a stable release maintained for x number of years for enterprise customers?

While listening to Mullenweg’s presentation, it struck me how much thought was put into realigning WordPress as a platform and adopting a nimble and distributed development approach. The first ten years was birth, early development and feature growth through add-on plugins and themes. The next ten years will see a faster integration of new features, bug fixes and security updates. For the WordPress end user the Google Chrome model was referenced: WordPress would automatically update with the latest fixes and enhancements without direct user intervention, ensuring that all installations were running the latest/greatest codebase. This is how all our modern operating systems and most apps behave today so it’s great to see that idea ported to WordPress.

This brings me to my last thought, what do I think is in store for WordPress in the future? These are my predictions going into the next ten years, so let’s seen if any of this speculation turns out to be fact. One theme Mullenweg has mentioned often (and again in this presentation) is that WordPress can be the antidote to the walled garden of the web, especially those places where user agreements allow those companies rights to your content. So as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. change your rights and privacy continually, your site’s content is owned by you and I do believe WordPress will evolve to a richer feature set that provides the usefulness of a social network with a distributed and individually owned content model. Just take a look at Pressgram to see an exciting example!

Then there’s the app. I was surprised but not shocked at the newly reported growth of the platform supporting standalone apps. In the presentation there was a demonstration of a kiosk built on the CMS. That could be a “killer app” for WordPress. The software was already designed for the cloud day one, based on open source web standards and now it could have the potential as a software stack running on hardware. Think of this app as a complete CMS framework with connectivity built in, but also on standalone devices including mobile and embedded. Would we eventually see the WordPress environment branch out into something like a Facebook Home or Chrome OS?

What other developments could we see on the horizon for WordPress? Although a seemingly fiercely independent company, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) could see interest in outside partnerships, investment and even attempts at acquisition during it’s next decade. In the competitive environment of behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, I could see WordPress providing the foundation for a mainstream social network or CMS strategy as a competitive edge for a company with deep pockets of cash. Apple has come and gone with iWeb, Microsoft could make it’s first foray into open source without negatively impacting it’s core, proprietary products, Google’s culture could mix well with WordPress folks although they already have their own blogging platform and Yahoo is just buying stuff (although they just recently bought Tumblr)… This is just far-fetched speculation and I have no insider information, but it’s interesting to consider that as WordPress platforms grow to power 20% of the web, it’s not hard to wonder what the market will make of this asset in the future.

Most important, I look forward to working with all the new features to come in WordPress in the coming years. Great software, developers, content creators and communities make WordPress one of the very best things of the web.

Standard
Event Video, Featured, In Memoriam, Tech Community, Technology, Uncategorized

Douglas Engelbart and The Future, Now

© Mike Gebhardt / drnormal, All Rights Reserved

© Mike Gebhardt / drnormal, All Rights Reserved

The Future (intentionally capitalized) is important. It’s as important to us as food, water and shelter and is made from our dreams and desires to create a prosperous life for ourselves. It exists in the earliest cave art, religion, science, literature, education- because we visualize and desire to bend the inevitable Time, to our own will. It’s the heart of creativity and who we are and we should pay reverence to it as amazing and somewhat mystical because it transcends needs of The Now, pointing a compass to a destination- a collective idea- traveled by like minded people. The Future is both large and complex, and small and personal.

Douglas Engelbart was a special man who actually lived in The Future. Not just in his dreams- Engelbart manufactured The Future for himself and for all of us. I can trivialize his biography simply as “inventor of the mouse” or you can read more about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart  I think his memory is best served if you watch and listen to a man who invented The Future right here, on this blog, in these embededd videos, on this Internet. All of this existed in 1968, just not in that collective Now.

I’m concerned about The Future. Mainly because a person who thinks about these things everyday has pointed out that The Now seems to taking over more thought time in our consciousnesses which is confusing to me, since we have every bit of information, technology, and tool at our disposal to create The Future on a grand scale. I never imagined Instagramming my lunch to post on Facebook when I was a kid watching Star Trek on rerun television. I imagined we’d cure disease, eliminate poverty, bigotry and war, double our lifespans, and travel the stars exploring strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. I think we can still do these things and they’re easier than we think. What we need is a collective dream- a grand challenge much like “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”. We haven’t even done that in over 40 years!

I think we should tackle the problem of Time. We’re slaves to this fundamental thing that we still don’t understand well. Matter on the other hand, is becoming very clear to us- how it exists, where it exists- but we need a detailed understanding of Time if we are to grow into The Future next. We have it inside us. We can do it individually by starting small, making every thought have a future component to it, but we must begin to dream again of The Future here in The Now.

 

Standard