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Posts Tagged ‘Web Apps’
06 Nov

NYT VR: It’s just the beginning of a long road

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I watched NYT/VRSE’s VR mini documentary called The Displaced, through the newly launched NYT VR app and it is clearly a sign of things to come.

Here are some thoughts after I watched the piece.

First, like other VR apps, the app itself took seconds to download, but the actual VR content took more time. The Displaced was 329MBs and took a few minutes to download. How long? I don’t know, I set it to download and worked on other things.

Whether we like it or not, this is the current state of VR… streaming is still clunky, but, of course, it’s just a matter of time before the tech catches up.

Now the piece itself.

It was gorgeous.

There are some truly beautiful shots they got and could only capture through a 360 rig.

They displayed creativity by having diverse shots, ranging from static with a tripod to mounted on a bike to handheld by a kid run after another.

You can tell by the rig's shadow, it's not the GoPro setup.

You can tell by the rig’s shadow, it’s not the GoPro setup.

The stitching, which is one of the major challenges in video VR, was pretty impressive and, based on the shadows the rig left, this was captured and stitched through something more advanced that the “simple” 6-camera, GoPro rig. Perhaps a Jaunt VR or Nokia’s Ozo setup.

The audio was the “voice of god” style and was not 360, but it was still powerful to hear the children in their our voices and languages, telling their own stories.

Due to the languages, the piece relied on subtitles.

And, while they cleverly placed the subtitles around three locations, the text was still hard to read, at least via Google Cardboard.

Bonus: You can watch this piece holding your phone vertically and but’s a great experience. (Whether you like it or not, vertical video is winning!)

Now, the bad news.

Outside of the high-level understanding of the story – three displaced kids – I don’t know what they really said. I couldn’t quote it back to you.

This is one of those it’s-beautiful-like-Snow-Fall-but-I-don’t-remember-the-actual-story situation, which VR is going to face as it starts out.

Most VR offers the flash of new and cool through tech rather than substance of story, but this piece really tried to deliver the story. It has incredible shots and visually takes advantage of each 360 degree.

But it’s not a powerful piece like, say, Perspectives I: The Party.

The real test is whether or not people download the next set of stories and continue to use the app – with or without Cardboard. That’s a high bar that content I can’t remember may not make it over. It’s a high bar that we all have to overcome if we want this to truly take off.

I am excited for what’s to come and – from I hear through the VR community – you should be too.
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I spy the production crew (the only show you really see them).

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!

12 Mar

Tips and tricks for a successful SXSWi 2010

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NOTE: Originally published on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201103/1950/

Robert Hernandez: Well Pekka, we are just a few days away from the SXSW / SXSWi 2010 conference … aka Geek Spring Break. We’ve both been to the festival before and, for this post, are going to interview each other to share tips, experiences, goals, etc. as we do final preparations for the week. Let’s start with sharing our experiences. What number is this one for you? How many times have you attended?

Pekka Pekkala: This is my number three, did first one back in ’96! I was a starving student, so no Interactive tickets for me, just free music… You?

RH: For me, this is going to be my second. I was a n00b last year, a rookie. And, boy, did I learn a lot … and think I’m ready for the coming week.

How would you describe the conference to people? Mainly SXSWi.

PP: Best place to meet people like you who are not journalists. It’s really a good way to mingle with programmers and business-savvy people who understand content. And a total 5-day hurricane of seminars, meetups and parties.

RH: A ‘hurricane’ is a great way to describe it … tech, smarts, hipster glasses and more. I was really overwhelmed last year, attending so many different, random sessions and meeting great people. I have really started to prepare for this year.

For me, I think it’s an international meetup of innovative minds that mashup technology, business, art, culture, news and information. The Future of Journalism has been officially added as a track this year. I got inspired last year and hope that happens again.

PP: What did you pick from the Future of Journalism track? Is it all the same people that you’ve seen in journalism seminars before?

RH: Well, I have to be honest… half of the sessions did not resonate with me. Some of same ol’ same ol’ topics … and some things that aren’t really reflective of the topic. That said, there are some that I hope to attend. Naturally, I want to attend a breaking/late addition: Lessons Learned from the ‘Arab Spring Revolutions with Mashable‘s Vadim Lavrusik among other panelists. I’m a super NPR and Public Media fan and see a lot of sessions related to that, so I plan to attend those. I also am thinking of attending The Death of the Death of Longform Journalism, Conde Nast in Start Up Mode, and Hacking the News: Applying Computer Science to Journalism panels. Here’s a link to my SXSW schedule: http://schedule.sxsw.com/user_events/user_8645 Here is my event calendar: http://bit.ly/eaj5EK

Are you attending the journalism ones?

PP: There’s a lot of good stuff there, but I couldn’t help noticing the vast amount of consultants / inspirational speaker types. I’m trying to find the people who are actually making stuff and creating financially sustainable sites. So I’m probably hopping between the Journo and Business tracks a lot. My calendar here: http://schedule.sxsw.com/user_events/user_dc1b96a2231851a7ebe0e02fe4a0b1a5

RH: Yes, I noticed that too. Did you notice the number of advertising panels that suggested storytelling and journalism as the answer? Brand Journalism: The Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising is the session that surprised me. Journalism to save advertising? I might have to check it out.

PP: Umm… yes. That sounds like a trap :D I’m more interested in Free Your Content! Who Really Owns UGC? session. :)

RH: Ha! Speaking of ‘trap’ the beauty of SXSWi is the randomness of some of these sessions. I have a few personal interest ones I hope to attend like, Star Wars Uncut: The Force of Crowdsourcing. Other personal picks are: A panel about an audio-only video game, a TRON session (yes, I’m a geek!), trends in Internet art and hearing from the ad agency behind the Old Spice guy ads. Do you have some random panels that peaked your interest?

PP: Yes. My advice would be to pick some big names you haven’t heard yet. I’m trying to see at least Bram Cohen (BitTorrent), Jason Calacanis (Mahalo), Clay Shirky (NYU) and Christopher Poole (4chan). Secondly, pick some really weird stuff like “Singularity,” “Synthetic Life” or “IBM: What is Watson?” sessions. Thirdly, do some boring stuff just for networking. Which is not really that boring in SXSW atmosphere.

RH: I attended a session last year led by Jonathan Stark, who taught how to do an easy iPhone app … the guy has written several books about designing/building apps and will be a panelist on the Building Native Apps Across Platforms session. Also, I have to promo the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights session with USC’s Prof. Jack Lerner and Lisa Borodkin, both have spoken to my classes numerous times about media law.

Can you talk about your goals and strategy for SXSW? What do you hope to learn and get from going to this conference? What is your strategy behind what sessions you try to attend?

PP: I always try to get away from the journalist mindset: I’m really scared of the journo hive mentality in every aspect. Mix it up! Trying to find some interesting cases to be interviewed for my Sustainable Business Models for Journalism study. Bootstrappers and small sites mainly. What about you?

RH: Yes, agreed. The session I pick tend to be more techie… I like to go to ones where I learn something new and, ideally, I can find ways to incorporate it into journalism… long before someone else even thinks about that angle. Right now I’m obsessing about Augmented Reality, and there are several sessions on that… mainly on biz/dev side. My goal is to learn more and more coding, building… and that tech constantly evolves. Last year I attended a great HTML5 vs. Flash panel … this year I hope to attend a few of those. Anything that experiments and pushes me to grow and think about the mashup of technology, design and information. Lots to choose from… and, sadly, some are at the same time!

PP: Sounds like a cool plan and something SXSW is really good for! Last year I went to Jaron Lanier speech and right after it (the cyncical journo in me) was saying “blah, another hippie from the Bay area saying you guys spoiled our Internet.” But the stuff he said really haunted me somehow and now I’m turning into a hippie myself. :D Ted Nelson FTW!

RH: He’s an extremely interesting guy. He recommended reading The Machine Stops … a must read for tech people.

Let’s get to some tips … what apps/tools do you use when at the conference? Now and while attending? What tips do you have while there?

PP: Just mark down everything that looks interesting via the SXSW schedule page, download the mobile app and off you go. Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to go according to it but it helps to visualize what is going on. It’s a shame sxsw.lanyrd.com doesn’t sync with SXSW schedule, would be great. Any cool apps you’ve found?

RH: Exactly right, I’ve signed up for a ton of things … who knows if I’ll attend them. But at least I know what’s, generally, out there. Last year’s app was, well, less than satisfying. That said, I’ve download this year’s version and it looks much better. I’ve used the official session selector. But I have to also pass along a great recommendation from SXSW veterans that recommended sched.org because it includes *all* events, even the many unofficial ones. I also used SitBy.Us last year and thought that was very cool. I’ll be tweeting and checking in on FourSquare, of course. Mashable has a SXSWi great guide, which has a good collection of apps/tools.

PP: Sched.org looks cool, have to try that one. Being from Finland, I have to plug @dittoapp! Any tips how to survive the physical aspect of SXSW, meaning the walking, not sleeping and forgetting your gear in the cab at 1am? (I’m still pissed I lost my FAIL book with Ben Huh‘s autograph last year!)

RH: Oh yeah… I learned you have to ditch the laptop! I have a shoulder that is about one inch lower than the other because I’ve carried a messenger bag with my laptop for years. Skip that! This year I’m rolling with just my iPad and iPhone. I also bought an external battery to charge them both :) I’m still traveling with my laptop, in case my plan backfires. Also, wear comfortable shoes, ’cause these will be looooong, fun days. I just downloaded Ditto (but it keeps crashing).

PP: iPad 2 I hope, it’s SXSWi! I find it hilarious when people take iPhone, iPad and MacBook out in a seminar: tech is supposed to make your life easier, not _literally_ harder :D I’m taking my Droid 2 Global (physical keyboard is still WINNING) + charger. Travel light.

RH: Let’s end with this question… how will you know you’ve had a successful SXSW 2010 experience?

PP: I fall asleep in the plane before it takes off from Austin. And when I’m home, I notice my brain is a mess of weird ideas and my pockets are full of business cards with hastily written notes on them. You?

RH: Ha! Well said. For me, if I feel like I’ve learned some new things and expanded my network of smart innovators, it’s been a success. I want to walk away energized and ready to go try some new tech experiments.

Well, sir, it was great chatting with you and I’ll see you in Austin!

PP: Same here, can’t wait! Let’s keep in touch via Twitter! @pekkapekkala

RH: Yes. I’m @webjournalist

07 May

Real-Time Reporting, the next level of journalism

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I don’t know if this post will make sense, but let’s just call this a rough draft of a rant… or prediction… or I don’t know what. I just wanted to put some thoughts down, no matter how raw, because we’re on the verge of some significant changes.

I was asked recently by the Online News Association to lead a session on Social Network Reporting (SNR). That’s when we as journalists harness the power of Social Media throughout our process – looking for sources, crowd sourcing, distributing content, engaging with our community, etc.

I’ve done several presentations for classes and a couple of workshops, but the request was to be more “advanced” … not SNR101, but the next level.

The thing is SNR is actually very simple and built on basic concepts. After you understand the power and value of Social Media, learn the lingo and play with the tools, there isn’t much else to learn. Just make it part of your journalism routine.

In other words, there’s not really an “advanced” to SNR except maybe experimenting with the latest tools and apps.

But the idea got me thinking… While SNR is an incredibly valuable tool, one that is still being under utilized… it’s really still just a tool… and it’s a tool inside a toolbox that I am labeling Real-Time Reporting (RTR).

For me, that is the “advanced” level. That’s the next logical step for us.

The Real-Time Web is a concept that has solidified because of Social Media. What are you doing now? What do you think now? And this applies to us in journalism because it’s the same behavior as breaking news.

Social Media is key. But there are other aspects to explore in this real-time reality.

As journalists, RTR takes the latest from technology (hardware, software and infrastructure) and mashes it up with our core journalistic values (news judgment, ethics, law, spelling/grammar, etc.).

It’s journalism without a safety net… it’s hyperlocal AND global journalism… it’s working under the deadline of now, in 15 minutes and 15 minutes ago… it’s MacGyvering technology to do journalism by any means necessary.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say there is a breaking news story. Let’s imagine that there is a shooting at a local mall. We hear the news breaking on the police scanner.

Typically, the Metro/Assignment desk immediately dispatches a reporter or crew to go to the scene. Meanwhile, someone calls the authorities to get the latest information on the record.

Eventually the reporter arrives at the scene and begins to hunt for witnesses and sources. As they get information, they file it or call it in… well, they should. Or, if they are broadcast, they do a live report when they have gathered enough information.

With SNR, in addition to calling the authorities for official information, someone is also searching Twitter, Flickr, and other social media looking for people at the scene… looking for potential sources. They should also be asking for any tips and contacts through their social networks… and ask the community to spread the call for help.

When the reporter eventually makes the scene, they should announce their arrival, location and availability on their own social networks… this allows potential sources to reach out.

The news organization should make sure to take the time to thank those in the community who helped with the coverage. It should also promote the pieces, which essentially distributes the work.

In addition to the real-time of social media, there are new tools we should employ when appropriate… which takes this to RTR.

A reporter can be sending out images or live video (UStream, Qik, Twitcasting, etc.) from their cell phones. A photographer or reporter could be automatically uploading images from their camera using technology like the Eye-Fi.

If they had a laptop, camera and stronger Internet access, they could do a more complex live shot that includes participation from the audience… a live chat from the scene.

I can’t wait for the day when a low-end camcorder is going to have an external mic jack for better audio and the ability to upload immediately… we’re almost there. Kodak’s Zi8 and the Eye-Fi would be powerful together… but they currently don’t work together.

People chuckle when I pitched this, but I foresee the day when a device becomes THE reporter’s super notebook. A laptop is too heavy, Internet connections are unpredictable and it needs a power source. Meanwhile, a smart phone is too small, horrible to type on and needs to be recharged often.

In the meantime, technology is giving us patchwork solutions. The MiFi from Verizon and Sprint gives you broadband anywhere. There are external batteries that keep your iPhone and laptops charged for longer periods of time. You can buy accessories to like an external keyboard for you phone or an app to sync your iPhone camera to your cameraless iPad.

But it is only a matter of time when text, photos, audio and video are available in an appropriate sized device that easily takes journalists to the next level… real-time reporting.

And when this technology arrives, it will really begin to separate those who can produce quality journalism on deadline from those who can’t. It will test our core values. There are a lot of challenges when you go live… lots of opportunities to fail… to get wrong. So we need to be at the top of our game to build and maintain our credibility.

Professional journalists – with or without formal training – will emerge as they are no longer worried about technology they routinely use. We’re not going to be wow’ed or scared by the latest device. We’ll just embrace it and return the focus on the content… because it’s always been about the content.

I don’t know if this made any sense… or if this future scares you… or if you are as excited about it as I am… but I believe this is where we are headed.

Journalism continues to evolve… are you ready for the next level?

15 Jan

Tech & Tools: A collection multimedia tools

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This pages was created some time ago, displaying a collection of tools, including those pictured below. Go here for the complete list or click on the image.

Click on the image to go to the Tech & Tools page.

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