Wii – Video games PROMOTING physical activity

December 15th, 2009 1 comment

For over two decades, video games have been blamed for the steadily increasing number of overweight and obese American children.  Unreliant on fair weather conditions and friends to participate, children are able to “play” without exerting any energy or engaging in social, yet physical activity – or rather, they were until the Nintendo Wii came along.

My father asked me this weekend to pick up a Wii console as family Christmas gift. I thought the idea to be ridiculous at first. I knew my father and brother would get a ton of us out of the thing, but I’ve always been more of a gym junkie than a gamer. My mother certainly wouldn’t have any reason to use the thing, I thought.

I’ll admit now that I’m actually pretty damn excited to open the Wii and get it running in two weeks. The Wii console includes the “Sports” package, with tennis, bowling, baseball, golf and boxing already loaded. The game’s design encourages the player to physically move his/her body parts, simulating movements of a player engaged in the actual sport. Not only is the system incredibly accurate, but the movements required to perform well on the screen are almost as vigorously demanding as they would be outside!

The Wii Fit and fitness games are also offered. I picked up a pilates video to share with my mom, in hopes that the digital workouts and pilates exercises would act as substitutes for rainy days when running outside is difficult.

I’ll add that I’m battling a head cold this week, one that’s prevented me from hitting the gym – not because my sick body isn’t capable of physical activity, but because don’t wish to share my germs with the healthy. The Wii system will allow me to continue to exercise in confinement when I come down with any future illnesses.

One has to wonder, if the Wii is now enabling an individual to stay active 24/7, unreliant on the weather, gym hours, or work out buddies, is it actually a superior mode of exercise? My, have we changed our playing fields!

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Online Schedule– Social Media and the Workplace, Almost

December 13th, 2009 No comments

This past week, I returned to work at Applebee’s, after a near five-month layoff. I was met with many changes, most of which were welcome, such as staggered schedules, which cuts down on down time at work, and less side work. But most welcome of the changes were the online scheduling system. After giving the manager our work availability, they send us an email. Once we sign up for the service, which is called “StaffLinQ,” our schedule will appear on screen.

In the past, when the new schedule was posted, we needed to go in to work to see the schedule, or hassle someone who was already working .


We can exchange shifts or pick up new shifts, and all of these changes are monitored by the service. Also, if we try to exchange a shift, it can be approved or disapproved by a manager. Just having the schedule online isn’t a big deal, but this is what the interface looks like. I’ll have shifts next week.


But now, shifts must be exchanged online. When someone wants to give up a shift, he/she will alert everyone through this service. When this happens, we now have the option of receiving a notice via email or text. Or, we can opt not to receive these notices, in which case we will not know there is a shift to be gained.This is good for the people who want to pick up shifts, and also good for the restaurant.

While this isn’t necessarily about literacy per se, it does illustrate the fact that technology is beginning to pervade industries that at first may appear to not need to bother with technology. But an apparatus like this makes it difficult for people to ignore technology. Doing so will affect these people’s ability to pick up extra shifts and make extra money.

I thought about whether this development requires users to develop any new literacy. I’m not sure. I haven’t had the ability to use the service yet, so it may show itself to be more robust than it appears. The most interesting aspect of this is, to me, that communication technologies are being leveraged in a way I never imagined in such a technology-adverse industry.

Twidroid Review

December 13th, 2009 1 comment

twidroidI picked up the MyTouch G3 about a month ago on a whim.  I was fueled by my recent desire for a phone that allows me to access Twitter a little more effectively than Virgin Mobile’ ARC.

Twidroid is the a third-party application for Twitter.  It was developed by Ralph Zimmerman and Thomas Marban for use on the Android Operating System.  Twidroid is available for free on Android’s market, which is accessible through the phone and from a computer.  Mashable.com, “the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Media news,” (said themselves) rated Twidroid as one of the best free Twitter applications for the Android.  How could I say “no” to something so highly regarded?  And free?

Before I continue, let me say that my photos were taken with a digital camera.  Getting screenshot software to work was more complicated than I imagined and I just don’t have the knowledge or time to deal with the process.

Once opened, Twidroid presents itself in a rather straight forward manner.  Tweets are displayed on the majority of the screen while at the bottom are several icons:twidroid2*Photo courtesy of michael-lipson.com

This is the home screen.  To send a tweet, I just need to press on the speech bubble on the bottom bar, just right of the house.  At the top of the screen, a space will appear.  After tapping on that space, the G3 keyboard will appear at the bottom of the screen.  Now it’s just a matter of carefully entering whatever message I want with my clumsy fingers, but my problems with G3’s keyboard are for another post.

Pressing @ icon opens up my list of mentions, displayed in reverse chronological order.  The envelope icon shows my list of direct messages in a similar fashion.  The magnifying glass icon opens the searching tool with which I can search for other users and keyword.  The circular arrow on the far right refreshes whatever list I’m looking at, which is quite useful when I have the automatic refresh set for longer periods of time or when I’m engaged in a conversation that requires a certain degree of swiftness in replies.

To reply to other users’ tweets, I just press on the arrows to the right of their post and a menu will appear:


From here I am able to reply, look at their profile, favorite that user, retweet their post, send them a direct message, copy their tweet to my phone’s clipboard, share their tweet (email, Facebook, SMS), or report the user as spam.  The last two options aren’t visible in the picture, but the menu does scroll down.

The menu button on my G3 opens another menu on the bottom of the screen:

twitter submenu

From here I can choose to jump to the top of the tweet list, enter Twidroid settings, view my lists, view my profile, and exit Twidroid.  The “More” icon opens a sub menu containing access to my Twitter accounts, my favorite users, and an option to manage my lists, though List Management is an offer available to those who have Twidroid PRO (which users have to pay for).

Viewing my own profile on Twidroid is quite similar to viewing it on Twitter’s website: Twidroid displays personal information on the top, icon to the right, and tweets below whereas Twitter keeps the personal information confined to the far right.

twitter profile

The large similarities between Twitter  and Twidroid  allow more users to comfortably shift from one to the other without becoming confused by the interface differences.  In this particular case, the layout is simple enough to navigate without much prior knowledge of Twitter.com.  This can be done by simply exploring the application.  But that can be said of anything.  The best way to learn a new skill is by using it.  You’ll be clumsy and uncomfortable at first, but all new interfaces are reflective for while, and “even the most reflective interfaces tends toward transparency as a user becomes accustomed to it,” so sayeth Colin Brooke in Lingua Fracta, page 133.

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A Second look at Jenkins

December 9th, 2009 No comments

In earlier Writing for Electronic Communities class we discussed changes that need to be made to our collaborative essay.  I have been assigned the section on Remix culture and Youtube.  Prior to this essay, I had every little experience with the art of composing remix. I needed to do quite a bit of research to be able to discuss the components and issues of remixing existing works to create something new and unique.   I looked to scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Chuck Tyron, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, Nick Diakopoulos, and others.  I explored relevant intellectual property laws at the U.S. Copyright Office and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Jenkin’s Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, which I recently (re)explored in light of the this essay, provides an insightful look at remix and sampling. Jenkins, like many others seems, to feel that remixing should be encouraged and embraced.  This is particularly important in the education system where students can learn to analyze remixes and discuss what must be understood to compose a remix such as various materials and relevant copyright law.  Similarly, he discusses how “students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together again” (p. 55).

Jenkins spent some time explaining the concept of influent and how this is similar to remixing in many ways.  He states, “the digital remixing of media content makes visible the degree to which all cultural expression builds on what has come before it” (p. 55). He discusses the artistic process and explains that artists do not create uninfluenced by other works.  Instead, they “build on, are inspired by, appropriate and transform other artist’s work…by tapping into a cultural tradition or by deploying the conventions of a particular genre” (p. 55). Jenkins points readers to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey as a remix of Greek mythology and the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a “mash up of stories and images from across the entire biblical tradition” (p. 56).

He explains the complex nature of remixing and its many components which may not be well understood by those who have not worked in this area.  Jenkins explains that successful sampling from “the existing cultural reservoir requires a close analysis of the existing structures and uses of this material; remixing requires an appreciation of emerging structures and latent potential meanings” (p. 58). This process may also include making relevant connections between sources that are not usually thought of as related.  Jenkins and the other before mentioned authors have given me much to consider when composing this section of the project.

Google helping newspapers?

December 9th, 2009 No comments

I recently retweeted Siva Vaidhyanathan’s link to Eric Schmidt’s op-ed, “How Google can help newspapers.” It’s a great article. For anyone that missed it, I’ve included the link here.

The article begins with how Schmidt envisions Internet technologies in five years, describing optimum speed and accessibility promised now, but not always available. He addressed the events we’ve witnessed – the death of the afternoon newspaper with the introduction of 24-hour news and the creation of hand-held technology with FREE access to whatever stories the consumer wants. But Eric Schmidt takes a very different approach from the article’s beginning. Online writing, valued for its free, easy and fast accessibility, Schmidt says, often isn’t any of the three.

“I can flip through pages much faster in the physical edition of the Journal than I can on the Web. And every time I return to a site, I am treated as a stranger,” he says.

While Schmidt values print as a preferred news source, he adds that newspapers, losing their revenue from advertisers to the Internet, are dwindling. Rather than blaming search engines such as Google for their failure, Schmidt says that newspapers should be embracing Google as just what they need to fight for existence.

“Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.”

Schmidt also claims that Google recognizes that the many inaccuracies published, viewed, and linked to on the Internet create issues for the news consumer.

His solution:

“Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory—which seems to work in practice—is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.”

His (or rather, Google’s) ideas are great. Maybe the death of print news isn’t inevitable.

Review of Echofon, a Twitter Application for the iPhone

December 8th, 2009 No comments

Introduction– Why Think Critically About Twitter?

Our class, Writing For Electronic Communities, has been investigating questions regarding literacy in the hyper-mediated time in which we live. According to Jenkins et al. in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture,” some of the core competencies for people who are literate in the new media include performance, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, and networking (p. 6). Twitter touches on most of these concepts. Therefore, it is worth investigating how Twitter typifies the development, or retardation of these competencies. Next, I will touch on how Twitter relates to these topics more or less in order.

I think it is safe to argue that Twitter certainly touches on performance. After all, we are constructing identities of ourselves which are certainly only reflections of our “true selves.” This is especially true because we are using Twitter as first, an academic tool, and second, as a social/leisure tool. We are following other academics, and  some of them are following us. It’s safe to assume that this company will certainly constrain the image of ourselves that we are projecting in Twitter.

Many of us multitask with Twitter, another competency that Jenkins et al. discuss. I often Tweet while reading, listening to music, surfing the web, or watching television. Sometimes I am having an issue with an assignment, and ask the class for help. This multitasking is going to become increasingly important with the development of interconnected media devices.

Along the same lines, we tapping into a distributed cognition of sorts when we consult the wisdom of the crowds or even the wisdom of our classmates and colleagues. We are tapping into an interconnected network of people who may be exceptionally well-informed about any number of topics. Twitter encouraging us to tap into this potentially limitless resource.

Because we don’t always know the people with whom we communicate on Twitter, and we may not always be familiar with the sources of information presented to us on the service, it is becoming increasingly important exercise sound judgment when faced with this information. The old rules of media savvy still apply; with the huge pipeline of information available to us, these rules take on even greater importance.

Because Twitter is a multimodal, image-based medium, it certainly encourages transmedia savvy. Tweets often contain links to written articles or videos. We need to be able to follow information across representation systems, as Jenkins et al. suggest in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture.”

When I think of Twitter in this light, I believe that Echofon more or less serves preserves the medial qualities that make Twitter unique; with Echofon, however, these features are simply more accessible. Twitter is largely the same on Echofon, and supports the same sort of new media literacies that I discussed earlier. Next, I’ll discuss Echofon’s features and compare it to Twitter’s primary web interface, where appropriate.

Echofon’s Features Detailed

The new skills include:
Play — the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
Performance — the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation
and discovery
Simulation — the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world
Appropriation — the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
Multitasking — the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient
Distributed Cognition — the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand
mental capacities
Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with
others toward a common goal
Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information
Transmedia Navigation — the ability to follow the flow of stories and information
across multiple modalities
Networking — the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting
multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

Echofon is a relatively feature-filled, highly functional Twtitter application that can be used for the iPhone. I suppose that makes Echofon an iPhone app too. You get the point.

Echofon provides near-full Twitter functionality. I’ve been using it since July, when I bought my iPhone. The various profile settings, however, are not accessible through Echofon. This includes a homepage, bio line, and location.


Echofon was built to work on a screen like the iPhone’s. The Bottom of the screen shows some of the application’s main functions. Tweets are displayed in reverse-chronological order, just like Twitter’s original interface. The Friend icon allows users to view their friends list. Friends are listed alphabetically, with their profile pictures shown on the left of the screen. There is a bar on the right of the page that allows users to quickly scroll down. For instance, if the user wish to scroll quickly down to his/her friends whose names begin with “T,” he/she simply clicks on the T on the right of the screen. This is very similar to iTunes on the iPhone. When the application is opened after being closed for any length of time, the number of Tweets that have been made from the user’s friendlist will be displayed. Users can refresh the page by hitting the refresh icon on the top. At the top of the page on Echofon, ads are displayed. I think it’s a small price to pay for such a solid application.

The “@mention” button will display every time a Tweet has been directed toward a particular user. When the application has been closed for any length of time, and is re-opened, a number is displayed above the @mention icon displaying how many @replies have been sent to the user.

The “Message” icon displays the private messages that have been sent to or from the user. Individual conversations are kept together as “conversations,” in much the same the iPhone’s text messaging interface works. I would put up a screen shot displaying this, but those are private.

The “Favorites” icon displays any Tweets that the user has marked as his/her favorite. I apparently have three favorites though I don’t remember “favoriting” them.

The “Search” function is extremely useful. It works just like “search.twitter.com,” but is conveniently located on Echofon’s main interface.


Echofon’s Search function. Here, I searched for our class, #wecf09. The zig-zagging arrow indicates trends. This is how Trending Topics can be followed on Echofon.


When the user clicks on a friend’s profile, this interface is displayed. Users can easily reply to the Tweet, reTweet, or Direct Message. This is especially useful for re-Tweeting. (I used N’Gai’s profile because he’s the man– he linked to two of my blogs when he used to write for Newsweek. He’s worth following on Twitter if you’re interested in videogames, writing, movies, music, or basketball.)


This is the friend search function, very similar to iTunes’ equally excellent and intuitive interface.


If the user wishes to Tweet a picture, that can be done easily. Simply click on the camera icon. Then the options to “Shoot Video/Photo,” “Choose Existing Media,” or “Cancel” appear. It is very simple and highly intuitive.


Users can Tweet their geographic location as Echofon is compatible with Google Maps. Users can “Update Profile Location” or “Insert a Google Maps Link.”


Users can adjust various settings for Echofon through the iPhone’s settings screen. Auto scroll can be turned off, or can be adjusted to display either the last Tweet the user posted or post all unread Tweets. This feature is useful as it allows users to see exactly where the last Tweet is that he/she saw.

Also, users can adjust how often Echofon refreshes. There are options to turn the function off entirely, or to refresh every minute, two minutes, three minutes, or every five minutes. Font size can be adjusted from small, medium or large. The default search screen can be switched to search, history, trends, or location.  Users can also set Tweets to be read at a later time.


This review is more of a justification of a critical evaluation of Twitter and a review of a particular application that facilitates the use of Twitter. I am not sure if there is anything about Echofon that adds or detracts to the theoretical discussion of Twitter, save the former’s relative convenience. I think it is worth noting that Echofon is designed so elegantly that it doesn’t obfuscate the great things Twitter already does, with adding some highly useful features to the service, making the creating of multimodal micro-texts possible.

Procedural Literacy– “Reading” Games

December 7th, 2009 No comments

Since I was introduced to the concept in the Summer of 2007, I have been smitten with the idea that games can make arguments.  After all, this was a seeming justification for a medium which I always believed was superior to film for entertainment purposes, but lacked the depth that writing enjoyed for more intellectual pursuits. Since then, I have learned to not think of which medium is better or worse, and instead have learned to think of what medium’s affordances can be leveraged best for a particular purpose. Our class has focused on how new media, broadly conceived, sheds new light on literacy or otherwise makes obsolete previous notions of literacy. Previous notions of literacy, based on an understanding of alphabetic text alone, do not account for visual mediums, such as videogames, which can certainly convey information.

Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, presents a coherent approach to “reading” and interpreting games, based on his notion of procedural rhetoric. Ian Bogost argues, first, that games can be and are expressive human artifacts. He states that previous notions of rhetorical traditions, such as visual rhetoric, can only shed so much light on games’ rhetorical value; the notion of procedural rhetoric must be employed to explain rhetoric in games more fully. Procedural rhetoric, to the author, describes the computer’s (and in turn, the game’s) ability to simulate a rule system, which can be imbued with an ideology. When taken this way, the “games as container” metaphor can take on a new shape. Games are not simply a site for education, but a medium with real cultural currency, an abstraction of a real-life system that can be filled with any message the designer intends.
One book that discusses the rhetorical capacity for games is Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. The book presents a coherent approach to “reading” and interpreting games, based on his notion of procedural rhetoric. The author argues, first, that games can be and are expressive human artifacts. He states that previous notions of rhetorical traditions, such as visual rhetoric, can only shed so much light on games’ rhetorical value; the notion of procedural rhetoric must be employed to explain rhetoric in games more fully. Procedural rhetoric, to the author, describes the computer’s (and in turn, the game’s) ability to simulate a rule system, which can be imbued with an ideology. When taken this way, the “games as container” metaphor can take on a new shape. Games are not simply a site for education, but a medium with real cultural currency, an abstraction of a real-life system that can be filled with any message the designer intends.
This sounds really abstract, so I played one of the games produced by Bogost’s company, Persuasive Games. His games have appeared on the New York Times website and various government agencies. The game I played, Windfall, discusses some of the challenges energy companies face.

This screenshot shows the game’s interface, which is present all the time. The icons on the left represent the various actions the player can perform. The information on the right shows the player’s funds, popularity, and the amount of energy being generated.
Because games are different from prior media forms, a new means of interpreting and critiquing them must be devised. Ian Bogost performed such a work in Persuasive Games. He argues that, “videogames open a new domain for persuasion, thanks to their core mode of representational mode, procedurality” (p. ix). This new rhetorical approach, procedural rhetoric, is defined as, “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures” (p.ix). Bogost explains that “procedural rhetoric is a technique for making arguments with computational systems and for unpacking computational arguments that others have created” (p. 3). It is this trait of computers, procedurality, that “fundamentally separates computers from other media” (p.4). Thus, if we take this assertion seriously, we cannot ignore this element of videogames that make them unlike other media. It is a “form of symbolic expression that uses process instead of language” (p. 9). This lengthy summary is in place to flesh out this novel idea that may at first sound foreign to those with humanities backgrounds. It may be helpful here to discuss a particular game that represents these ideas, Windfall, a  “A strategy game about building wind farms to create clean energy profitably,” according to Bogost’s company’s website, Persuasive Games.

In this game, the player is charged with building windmills for particular geographic location. The view is top-down, like other strategy games such as Civilization. The player uses the mouse to pick and action, on the right of the sceen, to “Research”, build a windmill, build a power line, or “recycle.” The game’s recycle feature allows a player to buy back a windmill or power line that he or she bought for half of the original price. On the right of the screen are icons, which indicate the various actions the player can perform. There is an optional tutorial in which the game teaches the mechanics of the game. Normally, there is clock that runs for “three years” in the game’s time. During this time, the goal of the game is to reach a certain energy output. But, there are a few rules to keep in mind. First, that a windmill must be connected to a powerline, which must be connected to the transformer. Also, there are some places where windmills cannot be placed, such as on hills, sidewalks, touching bodies of water, or on other buildings. And there are suggested rules, such as, “Be careful. Nobody likes large windmills in their neighborhoods.” The player can, in fact build large windmills in neighbords, even next to houses. But, when that happens, people will protest, which will affect your company’s popularity. If your popularity decreases because the people are unhappy with your actions, namely, where you are putting windmills and power lines, they will protest, which will actually cost you money in the game. Popularity is tracked with an icon the right side of the screen. Under the icon, the player’s popularity (or lack thereof) will be translated into a loss in dollars if the when the player’s popularity dips below 100%.

Players can choose to make small, medium, or large windmills. The larger the windmill, the more it costs, but it will generate more energy. People, however, resent the larger windmills more, forcing your company to incur political costs, calculated in real dollars.

This shot shows how the “research” function works. Players can pay a small fee to conduct research on a certain piece of the grid. The “windier” the location, the more efficient a windmill placed in the location will be.

The player can perform “research” on a particular block, as the game is laid out in a grid-like structure. For a price, this research will reveal information about the earth, such as how much wind the area garners. Making this small investment is worthwile to player, which ranges between $100 and $200 dollars. By putting the windmills in the most advantageous places, the player will acrue the most revenue. The player essentially has to balance multiple interests. He or she wants to first, make money by building windmills. But there are times when the player must decide whether he or she will opt to build near neighborhoods if the land is particularly desireable or it he or she is better off keeping the people happy. When the people are unhappy to the extent where it is no longer politically expedient to keep a windmill and its adjecent power line in the same location, the player can recycle the item. This will provide the player with half the value of the item, and will raise his or her popularity in the game. The game makes a claim about the complexities of the energy business. Businesses have a job to do, and sometimes this upsets people. Those who run businesses must decide where his or her priorities are. However, when businesses realize that they are upseting people, they can compromise, to make the make the people happy, and improve the bottom line, even if this entails taking a momentary hit to the bottom line. Instead of being an overtly political game, this game, through the abstraction of a simulation, evokes the spirit of the real-world system, while keeping it simple enough that one can learn how to play the game very quickly.

TweetDeck enhances social networking experience

December 6th, 2009 No comments

I came late to the use of TweetDeck – I played with other applications before taking the plunge into this interface. Those applications were easier to immerse myself in because of the limited capacity they shared – simple, straightforward, one use applications (i.e. twitpic). TweetDeck is in a class of its own. It is a far more interactive, multifaceted application.

TweetDeck was slightly more daunting than other, simpler, applications because it requires two downloads – an additional Adobe program that hosts the TweetDeck platform as well as TweetDeck itself, which resides in the program system of your computer. I am often hesitant to install or download anything on my computer. I pushed that hesitation aside and took the plunge. Now TweetDeck has the capacity to run anytime I tell it to. The tiny yellow bird icon appears in the toolbar of my computer. By clicking that icon or the larger version which appears on my desktop, I can launch TweetDeck. It was easy to download and launch, but there was still a learning curve.

tweetdeck main page

At first use, I didn’t feel TweetDeck was user friendly. Also, having become accustomed to the continuous updates and changes that occur on my Twitter homepage, I thought TweetDeck might hold me back from real time interaction. I later found out that the real time interaction, while following so many people, caused me to miss some tweets that were directed to me. So, habit and hesitation held me back from exploring TweetDeck to great disadvantage. It’s unfortunate that I was unsure of myself with this application and therefore didn’t explore all the nuances of what it can do until recently.

my TweetDeck page

TweetDeck defaults to four columns – all friends, mentions (where you are mentioned in a tweet), direct messages, and TweetDeck recommends. Each column has something valuable to offer. The all friends column is a real time Twitter homepage type section where every tweet by the people you follow appears – so you never lose touch with what is occurring in Twitter-space. The mentions column covers all messages where your ID/name is mentioned – I found messages to me that were initially missed on the regular Twitter homepage. The mentions column has been invaluable in keeping touch with conversations that include me. The direct message column shows all the direct messages I have received – I don’t have to click a separate area to see them as I would have to do on the Twitter homepage (those messages have totaled to 106 as of today). Finally, the TweetDeck recommends column shows members who may have something in common with you – I have followed 3 people based on the TweetDeck recommendations after looking at those members’ profiles and their last few comments.

There are other things that TweetDeck can do that the Twitter homepage cannot do. A few of those capabilities are useless to me (i.e. the facebook and myspace functions – I don’t have a page on either site). However, I did find something even more interesting – the search function. If you click the magnifying glass in the upper left area of the TweetDeck platform, you can put in a word, term, or hashtag and it will automatically add a column with the results (tweets) related to that search. For example, I put in #wecf09 and it opened a column with all the tweets with that hashtag. I also put in the search term “collaborative essay” and TweetDeck created another column with tweets on that topic. So what do you do if you are finished with your search and want to eliminate a column? Simply click the “x” at the top of that column to close it. One other TweetDeck action that deserves serious mention – TweetDeck automatically shortens lengthy URLs. Where you might have to go to a separate link shortening application to plug in a URL on the Twitter homepage, TweetDeck saves you that step by shortening the URL for you.

TweetDeck, if anything, has made Twitter as a whole, more user friendly. I had enjoyed the use of Twitter on the simple Twitter platform and find it even more enjoyable using TweetDeck. Though I still revert to the simple Twitter homepage when I am at a computer that does not have TweetDeck installed, I am more apt to use TweetDeck on my own computer. I believe Twitter is a valuable networking tool that has enhanced my social networking experience.

A bibliophile nears a compromise with technology

November 26th, 2009 No comments

I have books all over my house – some are in large designated bookcases, some are tucked away in inconspicuous places out of sight. I have collectible books that are first printings of first editions (well defined in a paper written for another class – not all books that say first edition on the inside are true first editions). Most are books I have read and loved, some are books that I found interesting and plan to read. This scenario probably fits the description of many households of other bibliophiles.

This morning I clicked on a link in a tweet by Debbie Ridpath Ohi that took me to an enlightening article about ebook readers on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020:

Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020

The article contains a fairly detailed discussion about ebook readers, starting with the Kindle. I took a trip on a link provided in the article to see the Barnes & Noble version of their ebook reader, the Nook.

Barnes & Noble Nook

I read a comparison of the features of the Nook vs. the Kindle on Barnes & Noble’s site that showed the features – of course in the Barnes & Noble comparison, Nook came out on top. However, the comparison does show indisputable proof that the Nook is a probably a better product than the Kindle.

So all of this set me to thinking, should I get rid of my books and get and use an ebook reading device? Well, yes and no. It’s easier to address the yes answer first: it would free up a massive amount of space in my house and lighten the load of overburdened bookcases. Also, carrying an ebook reader would allow me to have the availability of a book to read at any time of day, anywhere, without carrying a book that may be less portable. Now to the no answer: would I get rid of all my books? No. There will always be a place in my home for well loved books that I have read multiple times, as well as the collectible books that I would never part with. Another issue is cost. What if you download a book that you discover you don’t like? The money you’ve spent on the download is wasted money in this scenario. I wondered, does the yes outweigh the no? After all, you can borrow a book from the library or look at a book at Barnes & Noble and confidently decide if a book is worth reading before making a purchase of the ebook. Another discovery: the Barnes & Noble site gives links to download the ereader to an iphone, blackberry, or to your computer. More to think about …

So, I feel I am nearing a compromise. Perhaps it would be worth considering an ebook reader instead of maintaining my massive book collection. Still, it is hard for a person like me to let go of the feel of a book in my hands. This is a subject that clearly requires more research…

Not Thinking About Movies– It’s Not You, It’s Me

November 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Chuck Tryon’s “Reinventing Cinema” was a pretty cool read– an academic text about popular culture with an approachable style. I always liked this style, similar to some of the things I’ve read from Henry Jenkins. In part of his book, Tryon discusses recent developments that have served to shift the demographics of movie-watching. While movie-going habits have stayed rather steady overall, it seems that children with parents and teens make up the majority of movie-watchers. I am not not in that category, and am more a part of that geeky group that isn’t interested in the whole social aspect of having my movie viewing experienced compromised by a noisy crowd. I’d much rather rent a movie on Netflix, and watch it on my 40-inch Sony, with the surround sound turned up. At night, I’ll plug in headphones. The meddlesome cord is well-worth the inconvenience.

The movie theater, to me, is reminiscent of a time when most people had small televisions and VHS cassettes. Now that my technology recreates the experience of seeing a film well enough at home, I have no need to go to the theater. If I get a Blu-Ray player, I’ll have even less reason to go to the movies.

I really dislike the whole movie-going experience. I don’t get the $6 soda or the $7 popcorn. I understand the economics of the theater, but I don’t understand its appeal. The market should dictate the price of such items. I resent theater’s insistence on marking up their prices.

But really, I think it’s the ability to watch movies from the comfort of my home, and the ability to rewind if I missed something important, that makes home movie-viewing so much more compelling.

Then again, my Netflix account goes largely unused– I’ve had DVDs for close to a year, and haven’t sent them in yet. So I’m really rambling about nothing. But, you get the point. If I did watch movies, I’d watch them at home.

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