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Posts Tagged ‘tools’
08 Sep

My work featured in CJR – twice!

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Columbia Journalism Review logoI’m really proud to share that two of my projects were featured in the Columbia Journalism Review – in both print and online.

While you can read the article online, I strongly recommend you check out the latest issue of the print magazine, which focuses on The Future of Media (this minute, at least).

In it you’ll find a two-page spread about my Tech & Tools project, where a Mad Men version of myself showcases some of my favorite apps. Below is a screenshot of an early proof, but go get the magazine!

Coincidentally, a few days later, CJR also decided to write a piece for its site exploring Twitter chats: Building a community 140 characters at a time.

While others are mentioned, #wjchat was prominently featured. For those that may not know, Twitter chats are virtual meetups held around a hashtag to discuss a topic. #wjchat is on Web Journalism and is a chat I created with four others in February 2012.

It’s crazy to think that this weekly miracle has been happening for two-and-a-half years!

21 Sep

Talk Journalism with Me

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I’ve written about experimenting with Google+ Hangouts before, and finally did a project inspired by Jon Favreau‘s Dinner for Five on IFC and Talking Funny on HBO: http://talk.journalismwith.me.

@talkJournalism or #tjwm hopes to be an entertaining and insightful look into the minds of some of the country’s leading journalism thinkers/doers. The informal ‘show’ is held through a Google+ Hangout and broadcasted out using UStream.

Here’s the first episode… you will notice it’s a work in progress… it did not pick up my audio for some reason.

There *will* be another episode. Trying to align the schedules of the next panel.

Please, feel free to send me feedback. Email: talk [at] journalismwith.me or tweet us by using the #tjwm hashtag.

02 Sep

NiemanLab’s Journo Ipsum generator: I love it and cringe at the same time

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Inspired by the Lorum ipsum, which is a random collection of Latin words often used by designers as placeholder text, Nieman Lab created the Journo Ipsum generator.

In a few paragraphs, you get randomly selected journo-buzzwords mashed up with every refresh/page load. Thanks to the randomizer, you get things like:

hyperhyperlocal plagiarism trolls TBD 5%”

Patch stupid commenters”

Jeff Jarvis prostate do what you do best”

election-night hologram media bias”

the medium is the message if the news is that important”

Aron Pilhofer Android”

if the news is that important, it’ll find me dead trees”

layoffs put the paper to bed”


It’s useful for dummy text, but also as a good lesson on how taking words out of context and randomly mashing them together is unintentionally hilarious.

While I love it, is a generator potentially a bad idea?

My gut tells me, this was a good idea on paper… but not such a good idea in practice… especially because it’s connected to journalism.

These are real people, companies and brands that are being randomly paired with words they most likely want to avoid.

I guess I’m sounding like a wet blanket… I know. But there’s a reason why we use Lorum ipsum: It’s to avoid awkward phrasing and taking random words out of context!

If it were me, I’d unplug the word generator/randomizer portion and just display a dozen or so paragraphs of Journo Ipsum text … I’d even edit some awkward ones out. You’ll still offer the awesomeness of the concept, without having the, for the lack of a better word, liability.

But hey… that’s just me. What do you think?

Also, join the unintentional hilarity of the randomizer by tweeting out your finds, using the #JournoIpsum hashtag!

Well, what I can say for sure is that I’m glad I’m not a big enough name to be in that randomly mashed up mix!

24 Jul

How to live broadcast your Google+ Hangout

The moment I played with the Google+ Hangout function I, like many others, immediately had a ton of ideas: communal movie-watching experience, a new form of Web chat, a vodcast and more.

The first question, though, was how do you record a hangout to make a simple, informal vodcast? That was answered right away. (While not ideal, the answer is screen capture software, like Camtasia or screencast-o-matic.com.)

The next immediate question was, why stop there… while there is a ten-person limit in a Hangout, how can I broadcast this and make it a live talk show?

Today, I found the answer!

Some background: I’ve been experimenting with livestreaming at locations for a few years. At Seattletimes.com we experimented with a few setups that led to live shots from bars, outside Safeco Field and an MST3k-style commentary of a governor’s debate.

Oh the challenges we faced… but the setup has been pretty much perfected by the crew since I’ve left, but I recall the hacker tools like the “Wok-Fi.”

Justin.tv, Qik, UStream and Livestream have been the key players exploring the live streaming space, each one releasing something new and advancing the technology.

I flipped when UStream released their mobile app that allowed streaming directly from your phone over the 3G network. There are more apps that offer this now, including Twitcasting.

But today’s tech development goes to Livestream.com (formerly Mogulus) that has been owning the desktop/laptop broadcasting space. They have a downloadable application called Procaster.

The piece of software has a simple interface and is loaded with a ton of features, including the ability to broadcast your desktop. What’s also great is that you can zoom in/out to frame your shot, which makes it the ideal Google+ Hangout broadcasting tool.

Here is the video of my test with Kate Gardiner earlier today:

The first minutes of the video are of me setting everything up, but jump 7:30 minutes in to see the start of the finished product. The main need to tweak is to amplify your Hangout colleagues’ audio, but that’s an easy fix.

All you need is a free livestream account, a Web cam, strong audio speakers and people to join you in a Hangout.

Let me know how your experiments go!

09 Mar

Q&A with Al Jazeera Online Producer Bilal Randeree

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NOTE: Originally published on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201103/1949/

Without a doubt, the leading news organization covering the historic Middle East unrest is Al Jazeera. Available in limited markets here, their Web site has been the home for its impressive coverage.

“We had figures that indicated that we had 2,500 percent increase in traffic; 60 percent of that traffic was from the United States of America,” said Satnam Matharu, the director of communications, in a recent interview with NPR.

From my point of view, the lack of distribution for the English broadcast, the use of technology in the unrest and the quickness of the evolving news has been a prefect combination that has enabled Al Jazeera to be a leader in coverage and use of tech.

Bilal Randeree, Online producer for Al Jazeera EnglishFor this week’s post, I ‘interviewed’ Online producer for Al Jazeera English, Bilal Randeree. Because of the time difference and the constant news developments, Randeree and I ‘met’ on a collaborative document to have this conversation over several weeks.

First, Bilal, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I know you and the entire Al Jazeera crew have been extremely busy. Why don’t we start with you introducing yourself, your role at AJE, and how you started in journalism? Also, while it’s clearly been a newsy few weeks… how does it compared to your usual daily routine?

Hey Robert, sounds good. Really busy with Libya at the moment – I’m sure you’ve seen all my tweets (@bilalr) – our live blog is hugely popular once again!

I’m going to give a few very brief answers now cos I’m taking a quick break from the shocking news, so here goes:

I’m from South Africa – worked in banking for a few years, based out of Johannesburg – I then moved to London, but the timing was bad cos the financial crises hit as I was settling in!

As a freelance writer at the time, I was constantly asked to cover the crises from the ‘inside’ – what I learned then made me realize that working in corporate was not for me. I went back to school and did a post-grad in journalism. It was that degree together with my experience in corporate that landed me the job at Al Jazeera as a Business Journalist.

However, after moving to Doha I soon changed over to a general Online Journalist. I write for the Al Jazeera website, and update and maintain our various social media and online platforms. The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, with most of my colleagues and I working long shifts, day after day.

Can you describe the online operation at Al Jazeera? How incorporated is the Web staff? Do the different ‘sister stations’ with different languages have different Web staffs?

The English and Arabic channels are largely editorially independent – and so are the two websites. However, there is always the necessary collaboration and exchange of information, sources and resources.

The English website actually started before the English channel, but I’m not sure how things operated back then. These days, the website news desk is in the AJE newsroom, so we interact with broadcast quite a bit.

Typically, broadcast has reporters around the world covering the news for us – they are limited in terms of time on air, so the website is where our audience comes to for in-depth coverage and analysis of international news. Together with news from our reporters, we use the main news wires as sources, together with good old fashioned telephone journalism – the internet is a major source obviously, and we are constantly finding and using new online tools for news gathering and contacting sources on the ground.

Bilal Randeree, lower right hand corner, works a only few feet from the set.

Bilal Randeree, lower right hand corner, works a only few feet from the set.

So, when it comes to AJE, the Web site came first … that’s a quite different experience from most newsrooms. And it sounds like it has had some interesting effects. How would you describe the culture of the ‘converged’ newsroom?

Well, to be honest I’m not in the ideal position to answer this question, seeing that I’ve been here for a year now, and the English channel has been running for a good few years already. In terms of convergence, its a constantly changing relationship – broadcast and web are continually finding new and better ways to work together and support each other, over and above the obvious. The most recent development, starting with our Tunisia and then Egypt coverage, has been the ‘Web Desk’ that TV hosts – they prop a presenter in front of the camera, that discusses what is going on online, how readers are interacting with us on different platforms, and also what is being shared, discussed and debated on the internet.

Can you talk about, and perhaps list, all the different Web platforms and tools AJE employs (Twitter, Tumblr, iPhone Apps, etc.)

I have only recently started the Al Jazeera Tumblr account, but we’ve been active on Twitter and Facebook for a while now. The New Media team has traditionally been very strong and innovative, but the link between the tools they develop and experiment with, and how they are used on the News Desks was not at its best about a year ago. In that time however, Network wide training courses in Social Media were held, and the change is quite noticeable – besides the Web team, lots of other AJ people are active on different platforms.

Our live blog has been the latest hot development and we are seeing an incredible following, mainly for the hot news events that are constantly developing – first with Egypt, and now with Libya.

I tweeted that I was interviewing you and got this question from @Abdulla_AlAthba. He asks ‘Did twitter make it easier for [journos] @ AJA to track the news?’ Can you talk about how technology has changed the way Al Jazeera does its reporting.

Well, while Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic both form part of the Al Jazeera Network, the two stations operate relatively independent of each other. There is collaboration between journalists on both sides, but not all stories are covered by both, or in the same way.

In my personal experience, from the beginning, when things started in Tunisia and English broadcast was not covering the story in depth, due to a lack of sources on the ground, I was able to build up a good network of trusted sources through Twitter. While Twitter does alert us to events that are unfolding, its rare that Twitter itself will be a source – rather, a journalist can find sources and make contacts on Twitter, and then follow up with phone calls or emails, etc.

What stands out for me, when I look at Al Jazeera, is how technology is so embraced and employed in all different types of coverage. What do you think is the reason why it seems to be more open and willing to embrace technology, while other news orgs may be… a little… more reluctant. Or, is it my imagination, and Al Jazeera is facing with the same tech cultural issues other newsrooms are?

Well, I can’t speak for how other media organizations work – and for us at Al Jazeera, it’s not just the way we embrace technology, etc that makes us stand out from the rest, but rather almost every aspect of our coverage.

I would assume that compared to most other big media organizations, the fact that we are still not able to be broadcast extensively around the world, we know and value the importance of the internet more, and hence make more/better use of it.

Can you talk about the equipment/gear Al Jazeera reporters, those that cover breaking news and file for the Web, carry with them? I hear Flipcams and phones instead of laptops.

We have been using Flipcams for a while now, and have some cool campaigns running where we give citizens Flipcams and they produce content that feeds back to us.

For reporters and producers that cover live events, there are a few different tools they use – mobile phones for tweeting, sending through Audioboos and Twitpics, from places where there is no internet or the internet gets blocked, we issue Thuraya IP modems.

Our New Media team also has iPhones and BB‘s that they issue out to anyone going out into the field, that has all apps and software, customized and tested for ease of use.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I know you’ve been quite busy!

Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail (r.hernandez@usc.edu) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

25 Oct

Tips and tools to innovate with during election night coverage

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201010/1900/

In our world, there is no better story that reflects the power and value of good journalism like an election.

Regardless of the medium, the stories from an election can include investigative pieces, people profiles, contextual stories, and, because politicians are so colorful, stories of the weird.

Put these under an umbrella of breaking news and see us do our thing.

The midterm elections are just around the corner and they have proven to live up to a newsy season. By now many of us have established a general plan for election night coverage.

But to help foster innovation and advancement in journalism, last’s week #wjchat, a weekly chat about Web journalism held through Twitter, had its first Elex Exchange where we shared ideas and tools to help with this year’s coverage.

Inspired by the chat, here’s a list taking advantage of the latest technology to help election.

TWITTER // reporting + distribution
It’s a basic tool that should be part of your daily journalism routine, but Twitter is still best tool for covering a real-time news event, especially when covering breaking news or election.

As written before, Twitter is the tool to help you find sources and trends in real-time. Either by zip code or by topics/keywords, make sure you are using and monitoring Twitter throughout the election. Use a Twitter-client like TweetDeck with predetermine searches that you occasionally check on.


The next basic minimum is to have a Twitter feed on your homepage specifically for the election coverage. No programming is required to create this widget, you just need to decide whether you want public tweets with a hashtag or you want to create a list of the accounts that will appear in the feed.

Either way, Twitter has got you covered with their ‘goodies.’ Make sure you take the time to customize the colors to have it match your site design.

If you haven’t yet, check to see if a hashtag or hashtags relating to your local races have been created by the community. If no one has, create them right away. If someone beat you to it, don’t worry and embrace them… but either way start using them NOW!

This simple act gives you a head start in becoming the lead authority on these races, in social media and beyond.

Take a page from the Pulitzer Prize winners for Breaking News, seattletimes.com, and get in the habit of creating and using hashtags when covering all types of news.

FOURSQUARE // geolocation + distribution
This election season, news outlets should create ‘check-in’ places for polling locations in their town. The geolocation community is small but growing and will be checking in as they go to vote. Like a hashtag, if you don’t create a location, they will.

Become the leader in coverage by not only creating the locations but add a tip (Ex. Tip links to LAT story about Venice Beach fight) that links back to your site’s live, active, up-to-date election coverage.

Remember, by having these locations, you can also find potential sources as they check in to the venues.

USTREAM // live streaming
Who says TV broadcast gets to have all the fun with their live coverage. Okay, it may not be your idea of fun, but live streaming is a tool more newsrooms need to embrace. No expensive satellites required, services like Ustream allow you to do a live shot from your newsroom with a laptop and camera or from your smart phone.

Stream the candidates’ celebratory or concession speech election night live straight onto your homepage. It’s easy and it should be another standard tool in your journalistic toolbox.

CROWDMAP // crowdsource reporting + mapping
This tool comes from Sarah Day Owen, #wjchat colleague and Augusta Chronicle‘s Social Media Editor, who heard about it from the new hyperlocal site TDB in Washington D.C. She is hoping to experiment with this tool that takes crowdsourced information from cell phones, news and the web and maps them.

This application, originally built to crowdsource crisis information, begs to be used by news outlets, especially for something like election coverage. It’s free and pretty simple to setup… so you still have time to pull this off. Even if you don’t get participation from the community, get your reporters to file dispatches.

STICKYBITS // social media + user-generated content
I recently wrote about this tool and want news organizations to experiment with it, so here’s a second pitch.

Like Twitter’s hashtag or FourSquares’s digital makers, create your own barcode and literally post it at as many polling places in your town, asking a question (Ex.: What do you hope comes out of this election?) and a note encouraging them to download the stickybits app and upload their responses. See if you get people in your community adding election related “bits” – video, text, photos, audio, etc. – to your barcode.

IMAPFLICKR // user-generated photos + geolocation
Okay, so getting the community to download an app to scan a barcode then post a message is a sizable hurdle (I know, but try it anyway!), so here is a simpler tool that takes a Flickr feed and maps it.

In other words, you can open up a Flickr account and have people submit photos from polling places and get them mapped. Like the Twitter feed, no programming is required and the biggest decision you have to make is whether or not you make this a public or staff driven feed.

PHOTOSYNTH // photo + crowdsourcing + magic
This tool, originally created by the University of Washington before it was purchased by Microsoft, is something I’ve been trying to push into newsrooms’ toolboxes for years. It finally made its mainstream debut with CNN’s “The Moment” in 2008, but hasn’t been used much in news since.

It may not work perfectly in this scenario, but I would remiss if I didn’t mention it. PhotoSynth takes a collection of photos – from different contributors – of one location and “stitches” them together to create a virtual experiment.

So, let’s say we’re at a candidate’s headquaters for the party… take a ton if photos of the scene, throw them into this program and post an experience like no other. It’s more powerful if you crowdsourced the images.

STORIFY // social media + curating (Invitation required)
The great thing about Twitter and other social media networks is the real-time stream of content that flows out of them, often like a fire hose of information. The bad thing about these tools is the content can get drowned out rather quickly. Storify, who’s creator we profiled recently, is a tool that let’s you build a story through social media elements, adding context and comments around elements from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and more.

You create an article on their site, but you embed the created piece on yours. It’s in beta and there are a few limitations with it, but if you want to tell the story of how the election night was covered through social media, this is the tool to use.

Do you have a tool you plan to use? Have you experimented with these? What examples of great election coverage have you seen? Make sure you add your thoughts and experiences in the comments, before and after the election.

Robert Hernandez is a Web Journalism professor at USC Annenberg and co-creator of #wjchat, a weekly chat for Web Journalists held on Twitter. You can contact him by e-mail (r.hernandez@usc.edu) or through Twitter (@webjournalist). Yes, he’s a tech/journo geek.

05 Oct

Two new Social Media emerging tools — possibly useful in Web journalism

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201010/1891/

Think about it, two or three years ago most people had never heard of Facebook. Tweets were still mainly owned by birds, not limited to 140 characters. FourSquare was some vague game from elementary school.

In general, most people had written social media off as some sort of high school fad.

Well, you should know by now, Web-based Social Media is not a fad.

If you still doubt this, temporarily remove your head from the sand and go talk to one of the more than half a billion people that spend hours and hours sharing news, photos or running a virtual farm. (For the record, I am not a fan of FarmVille.)

In its constant evolution, though, technology routinely leapfrogs past itself as it innovates and disrupts the status quo.

In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

What’s next? It’s geolocation paired up with augmented reality, in my opinion.

Those creating these new tools typically don’t have journalism as a possible application in mind. But I, an admitted tech/journo/mad scientist geek, can’t help but apply the journalism prism to some of the latest tools and technology.

So, in that vein, here are two emerging tools I’ve came across that I think are worth keeping an eye on. They may not be perfect now, but I encourage you to experiment with these and see if there is a journalistic application here.

NOTE: I recently posted my Web Journalism’s rules of tech engagement, so feel free to refer to them and keep them in mind as you read. All of them apply, especially #1 and #5.

Whrrl
This new social media site may sound similar to its forefathers, but it has one clear difference (that I think they underplay). It’s not about you, it’s about community… and it’s about moments.

On Twitter or FourSquare, you are telling the world where you are… in Whrrl, you are “creating a story.” Your posted photos and notes from your check-in are auto-grouped with others and, potentially, are telling the story of a moment collectively.

Example: We’re celebrating your birthday at a bar. We capture the moment by sharing pictures, videos, comments, etc. Those not attending could virtually experience the moment and add to the conversation.

Neat… but where’s the journalism?

Change the previous example from “birthday” to, say, “election.” Reporters and citizens are posting their experiences — comments, photos, videos, etc. — at polling sites, leaving a virtual marker filled with content for others to add or re-live. This would also work for a sporting event, a protest/rally or any news event where people gather in one location.

Collectively, we can capture the moment in real-time with rich multimedia. This doesn’t replace the article or video piece, but can really enhance them.

stickybits
This tool launched earlier this year at SXSW and is referred to as digital graffiti. Now, how to explain this… um, think of a digital bulletin board or wall where anyone could post anything.

Like a Facebook wall? Sort of.

Instead of the wall living in your computer, it is at an actual, physical space… because the information is embedded onto a sticker with a barcode. Scan it with your smart phone and read or leave messages in multiple media.

While finding these stickers is a cute game, they’ve recently graduated to using standard barcodes, which are on millions of products.



You can get barcodes for free and even order them in sticker form if you want.

Where’s the journalism here? Well, my brain is still thinking of different applications, but what immediately stands out here is the distribution.

Imagine going to a polling place where people can scan a sticker to read or leave messages. The only way to get that unique experience from that polling place is to be at that location.

From news to reviews, we could possibly embed our stories on anything and anywhere. And, more importantly, we can get user engagement. We’re not talking about from behind a computer, we’re talking about out in real life.

Take some time and play, er experiment, with these new emerging types of technology. Get in the habit of exploring this stuff… and share your experiences.

24 Apr

HTML editors

A few days back, I was asked for a recommendation for a good, relatively cheap HTML Editor. I use BBEdit and Dreamweaver, but I asked the Twitter-verse for advice. Here’s a list of what they recommend. NOTE: I haven’t used these.

 
Works on Mac and PC:

KompoZer | http://www.kompozer.net | FREE

JEdit | http://www.jedit.org | FREE

Amaya | http://www.w3.org/Amaya/ | FREE

NVU | http://net2.com/nvu/ | FREE

Komodo | http://www.activestate.com/komodo_edit/ | FREE

 
Mac only:

Taco | http://tacosw.com | $24.95 & Demo

Coda | http://www.panic.com/coda/ | $99 & Demo

Espresso | http://macrabbit.com/espresso/ | $79.95 & Demo(?)

BBEdit | http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/ | $125 or Demo

 
PC only:

Notepad++ | http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm | FREE

 

Categories: Tools & Technology Tags: ,
11 Dec

Gaming changing tool: UStream iPhone App

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With all the new technology that continues to come out, it actually is hard for me to get impressed by something. I can think of only a handful of times that my jaw dropped.

This may be one of those times.

For more than a year now, I and some seattletimes.com colleagues had been experimenting with livestream. It’s been a virtual arms race to see who would own and lead that technology. From Justin.tv to livestream.com (formerly Mogulus) to Kyte.tv to UStream.tv, each had very cool features and some significant weaknesses. (When I get a chance, I’ll post my experiences with each and a review of them.)

These free live streaming apps allowed journalists to do live video from just about anywhere, taking on TV’s ownership of live shots. All you needed was a camera, laptop and a strong, reliable Internet connection.

At ST.com we tried a variety of experiments, some more successful than others… but we tried. We knew it was just a matter of time before the technology would catch up to our ideas. While not perfect yet, technology has been making some significant strides… and yesterday was a big step.

In addition to live streaming from your laptop, there was an even smaller arms race from a few folks wanting to stream from your cell phone.

Qik was one of the first… but you had to have a special phone. When the iPhone came out, Qik would only work if you had a jail-broken iPhone. Then they finally had an approved app, but live streaming was not a feature.

Skype would work on one-to-one calls, but only on WiFi, not 3G.

No one had cracked the nut to offer streaming from your phone, broadcasting live to the world. Well, no one, until UStream’s new iPhone that was released earlier this week.

Let me just say it: This is a journalism game changer. Professional, citizen, whatever! You can now cover breaking news from your phone to your homepage to the world. Awesome!

I downloaded the free app and took it for a test drive. As with all technology, there are some strengths, there are some weaknesses… but, for the most part, it worked!

Here are some videos I did the morning the app was released:

STRENGTHS: WEAKNESSES:
> It works on both 3G and WiFi. > UM, you’re depending on the AT&T network. Enough said.
> UStream’s video-related chatrooms is displayed on your iPhone screen. > The quality of the content coming from those chatters is still, well, low.
> It gets published and promoted on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and your channel. > When you are testing it out, you may swamp your friends with repeat “Check out this video” as you practice.
> You can offer polls during your stream. > I don’t know if you can craft the question, especially when live streaming.
> Visual quality is as good as the iPhone’s camera. > Visual quality is as good as the iPhone’s camera. I have shaky hands, which means you see shaky video.
> The audio quality is decent for what it is. I used the mic/ear buds, but found that actually hurt the quality. > No real external mic jack — because it’s a PHONE, not a camera!
> It’s free! > People see a lower third ad when viewing your video. But it’s freakin’ free to use!

Overall, if you have an iPhone, you HAVE TO GET THIS APP! (That’s right, all in caps.) Get the UStream app and get to work!

π