A note on the TweetDeck hack from one of the hacked

 The initial tweet

The initial tweet

TweetDeck, a popular service which lets people separate out their Twitter stream to follow certain people and hashtag topics, has been hacked today, allowing unintended retweets to be posted on user streams.

In a quick response, Twitter said that its users should logout of the service and log back in so that a fix can be applied.

Numerous users, myself included, noticed the fix hadn't worked and unwanted tweets were still getting through.

This is all causing quite the hubbub amongst media outlets which frequently use TweetDeck to manage multiple accounts. From the amount of complaining I'm seeing, you would think this was #journogeddon.

Twitter took the service down and later said they verified their fix. Things seem to be working right now.

I guess I'm here to calm heads. The good news is based on the very nature of the tweets this looks like a simple script hack that didn't compromise passwords.

I'm as guilty as anyone, but I do find it interesting how much we are compromised when one service has a minor hiccup for under an hour. These are definitely problems of the first world variety, but perhaps we should develop backup plans.

TrueCrypt ending support? A possible alternative

  Is this the end of the line for TrueCrypt?

Is this the end of the line for TrueCrypt?

The developers of TrueCrypt, open source encryption software capable of encrypting whole hard drives have posted a message on their site as of yesterday saying that the software is no longer supported and urging migration to other tools.

TrueCrypt is used by many people to strongly encrypt their data. This is useful in many fields including journalism for those working on sensitive stories. I've played around with the tool myself in case I should ever need to use it.

Theories as to the abrupt announcement vary, ranging from something being found in the well-publicized crowd funded security audit to questions of whether the site was hacked to security researcher Steve Gibson's assertion that the developers may just be tired.

Until someone knows what's actually going on, it's probably not constructive to comment on rampant speculation, but I can point you to an alternative.

I don't have the technical expertise to evaluate the security of any given encryption platform, but Steve Gibson recently stated on his Security Now! podcast that AxCrypt was a "perfect, clean, simple encryption tool."

I can say that I have used this in the past and in many ways, AxCrypt is easier to deal with than its TrueCrypt counterpart. After installation, the user gets a new AxCrypt entry in their right click context menu that allows them to encrypt files. Clicking the encrypt button, a user is prompted to enter a passphrase. The next time they open the file, they must put in the passphrase before gaining access. The encryption puts the file in a different format. This means if you encrypt a Word document, the document will no longer be accessible through the open menu in Word. You must open the file and input the passphrase from the folder the file was saved in.

Unlike TrueCrypt, AxCrypt doesn't offer full disk encryption, opting instead to encrypt files and folders you specifically select. Those looking for full disk encryption on Windows are pointed by the TrueCrypt website to Microsoft's BitLocker. Unfortunately, however, this is only available on the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 Professional and above. Mac users can turn on FileVault. If you need encryption, I would recommend doing this because AxCrypt doesn't appear to have a Mac version. It's also free and saves you from having to find another solution.

For those looking for a deeper analysis of the TrueCrypt situation itself and the many possible theories, I would point you to this Forbes article.

A case for Google Glass

Video from Google

Much of life is focused on images. We share photos and video with our friends on social networks. We print pictures on books and calendars to pass around the family at holiday gatherings, snapshots of our fathers at age 6 or 7 standing in front of a rocking horse. Our own memories work this way (or at least mine). I'll see a fleeting image of sitting in my grandma's kitchen at age 3 before I will ever remember what I said or did in the recollection.

These photographs are slices in time that may only be captured in a single moment. What if there had been no camera when Michael Jordan jumped from the free throw line, sticking his tongue out just before slamming the ball through the hoop? Suppose an Associated Press photographer wasn't present when the flag was raised at Iwo Jima? These images probably don't exist, or at the very least they are different from the iconic ones we've come to appreciate.

We've now reached an age where everyone has a camera. You don't have to be Joe Rosenthal (Iwo Jima) or Walter Iooss Jr. (Michael Jordan-The shot from the sideline is probably the basis for the Air Jordan logo created later on, but for my money, the photo from the baseline of Jordan facing the camera as he's about to dunk is better.) There's something democratizing about a world in which anyone can capture a moment.

It's against this backdrop that I begin to wonder why even the staunchest supporters of Google Glass wonder about its viability as a consumer product. Photographers are always saying the best camera is the one you have with you. This is why I would argue that we see just as many great pictures from point-and-shoot cameras as we do from expensive DSLRs.

Critics of Google Glass wonder why you wouldn't just use your phone or a Go Pro. Early Glass adopter and general gadget enthusiast Robert Scoble acknowledged privacy concerns last week in a Facebook post  stating that wearing Glass could feel "freaky."

Before I counter the first point of the above criticism, I feel the need to lay my cards on the table. I do own a camera (a 12 megapixel point-and-shoot; nothing fancy but it gets the job done). I can also take photos with my phone. The problem in my particular case is that they have to be attached to a mount that sits atop my chair. I very rarely use this because when I'm done taking photos, the mount must be unscrewed in order to move to a desk to work. I'm aware of this is not a problem most people deal with. I will admit to being a fan of any technology that makes my problems, however niche, easier to deal with.

However, imagine this scenario. Your child has just begun to take their first steps. Let's just say for the sake of argument that those first unsteady steps probably last for a maximum of about five seconds. How many of us could whip our phone out, start the camera app and hit record before the child stumbled and fell again? By contrast, we can say "take a picture" or "take a video" in a second. A wink (this also tells the device to take a picture) would take even less time.

I acknowledge obvious potential privacy issues. You have a camera on your face at all times. People feel like they can be constantly recorded and they are naturally somewhat leery. Privacy has been an issue since the invention of the Kodak camera.

I would argue that these issues are not rooted in any particular technology. New developments might bring these ethical dilemmas to the forefront, but ultimately these are problems we already have a code for. Among these basic principles of respect:

·         Don't record anyone without their permission (in several states, including Michigan, this is the law).

·         When out with someone, it's bad form to be constantly staring at a screen of any kind in the middle of a conversation.

I'm going to add a third point specifically for Glass. Become an ambassador. By this, I don't mean you have to extol the virtues of the product and encourage everyone to go run out and buy one. What you should do is take an active role in explaining how the technology works and why you are using it. In this way, you can make those around you feel more comfortable. I often do something similar with interview subjects in explaining why I record interviews on my computer.

I'm not saying Glass is a perfect product. I realize right now Google is pitching this as a beta for hardcore enthusiast developers, so $1,500 would probably not be a retail price tag. That being said, right now it's basically a camera with a few other functions. They need to upgrade the camera to at least 12 megapixels and come in at a price of not more than $500. I'm not telling Google anything it doesn't already know, but most people will probably have to add some sort of prescription so the cost of the frame cannot be too high. The battery life is also not great.

Glass has a few improvements to make before I think it can be a viable consumer product. Nevertheless, we should not dismiss such a technology because of concerns that can be handled with proper education and respect for boundaries.

Stand behind your work

I can't believe I'm writing two posts in a row on the subject of netiquette (neither NaturallySpeaking nor spell check are raising any red flags about that word so I guess I can roll with it), but another interesting situation came up this week that I thought I would write about it.

About a year ago now, I completed work on a wiki for The Oakland Post student newspaper.  There are portions of it that are a little (okay, a lot) out of date because there was a lot of administration changeover just as I finished and before I could figure out a plan for training the rest of the staff to update the resource. It started out as an individual class project in media design that I envisioned reporters could use to get up to speed on new beats, contribute analysis of public university documents and learn background on important university officials. (It could still be used this way with a little work.)

In determining which people to profile, I selected the top 50 highest salaried employees at Oakland University. If an individual was in that rarefied air, I reasoned they are probably doing some important work at the university.

If you are unaware, the great thing about a wiki is that anyone can edit it meaning you can gain a variety of perspectives on a subject. The bad thing about a wiki is that anyone can edit it. To be well executed, the wiki must be carefully policed for bad information.

One of the things I included in every profile template was a section on controversies. While not always bent on dredging up the past, a good journalist should know pertinent details regarding the backgrounds of those they cover. It is not unheard of for history to repeat itself.

I finished the project around this time a year ago and I haven't touched it in any significant fashion since August. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I got the email that someone had edited one of the pages.

Someone had deleted the controversy information on one of the profile pages. The action was undertaken by an anonymous OU IP address.

There are legitimate reasons for anonymity. These might include free speech concerns in countries with oppressive authoritarian regimes or maybe blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing.

However, in a database such as this that anyone can edit, it can be important to know who last edited information in order to better judge the likelihood of its accuracy.

During my time at The Post, we went to great lengths to verify our reporting. I have no reason to believe this practice has changed or will change anytime soon. For example, we had a rule (except in very rare breaking news and emergency circumstances) that every story must have two independent sources.

Given the time and verification work put into articles, information should not be removed lightly. I'm not saying errors of fact don't happen. We're human and probably every journalist who is worked in this profession for any length of time has found themselves the subject of the corrections corner. However, when a person deletes something without leaving an explanation or a name, it becomes very hard to judge their credibility.

I put the original version of the page back. I trust the reporter whose byline it was did their verification work.

It's possible that someone didn't want this information on the public Internet. The irony here is that nothing ever came of the incident for the faculty being discussed. It was probably minor office politics in the grand scheme. By trying to suppress it, they bring more attention to themselves.

If you're going to contribute, or remove information from a public database, put your name behind it. It's better for all involved.

Signed,

 

Is sharing always caring?

A friend of mine sent me the above video the other night. After watching the video, I felt compelled to share it. It has the effect of bringing a smile to your face, might remind you of the beauty of the human race and just generally make you happy.

It wasn't until after I shared the post on Facebook with our collective connections that it dawned on me I may have broken a social contract. Should I have shared this? I realized this depended in large part on how the other person viewed this interaction. Was this supposed to be a fleeting exchange between friends, something to be broadcast to the public at large or somewhere in between?

I will save you the suspense. I consulted with my friend before writing this and they were fine with the fact that I shared. They even provided their own thoughts on sharing culture which I will discuss briefly a little later in this post.

In order to avoid saying "my friend" for the rest of this post, I will refer to them from now on by the gender-neutral name Sam.

Sam has been trying to rehabilitate my taste in music for several years. Although s/he  has never been able to cure me of my Taylor Swift fandom, I must say Sam's taste in music is impeccable. Whenever I receive a new music video, there's a 95 percent chance that $.99 will be debited for purchase from Amazon within six minutes. S/he always seems to find something off the beaten path that isn't receiving radio play but definitely should be.

Maybe it was because the song was not available for purchase (my first impulse for any good music), maybe it struck me as something different than you normally hear, or maybe because the emotional message of the song tugged at my heartstrings. Whatever the reason, I chose to share this particular song on Facebook, something I don't normally do.

I suppose I had a couple of different options at this point. I could have just posted the video and talked about how great it was, how it made me feel the innate goodness of the human spirit. After all, Sam did not make the video, but instead just shared it with me. There is no real obligation to give him/her credit for the find. I could have discovered it on my own on YouTube.

The other side of this argument is that it's sometimes nice to credit the original source. Maybe it's my journalistic training, but you source everything you do. I think as humans, there's something that feels very good about being recognized for the work you do and gems you dig up. Maybe journalism analogies aren't directly applicable to every situation, but I can tell you I would much rather have something attributed to my reporting or my media outlet rather than have someone say "reports" when I know they are using something that could have only come from me.

On the other hand, the argument can be made that perhaps journalists (or anyone remotely in the public eye) are an edge case. My phone number and e-mail are easily accessible in a number of places on the Internet because I have chosen to put them there. I can also be reached via a number of social networking profiles. It's a hazard of the profession that your hours don't necessarily end when you leave the office. I don't mind this because you get to tell the stories associated with people and issues from any number of angles. I have also been asked to share my perspective in some columns on disability related issues around Oakland University in the past. This was a great experience and I feel it's sometimes important to get your opinion across on these issues, especially when it comes from a point of view sometimes innocently overlooked. If in the process of reading that column you learn a little bit about me as a person, I don't mind trading a little bit of my privacy for awareness.

Still, most people are a lot more private than this and we wouldn't consider them a recluse. Every once in a while, I get someone that doesn't want to be interviewed. More often than not, you will not find someone's personal email or cell phone number on the web. It's not necessary that your average person tell you what he did at work today, let alone put his name on it.

Another factor is the issue that what may be appropriate and received a certain way in one situation might be received totally differently in another situation with a different audience. I think of Pitch Perfect as a relatively upbeat movie I watch with my little sister. When we watched with my grandmother today, I suddenly became aware of how much they actually pushed the line in that movie. Her reaction was, "How can you watch this crap?" I realized that maybe the line is different for everybody. My Facebook is intentionally tame, but if I were to post something that would potentially offend someone that might hire me, I wouldn't want to put the friend that shared it with me privately in the same boat.

When I told Sam I was planning to write this, s/he said this is just the way our generation shares culture. We see something we think is cool or that touches us emotionally and we pass it on.

I don't think there's any right answer. It's just something to ponder as we tweet, share and post in this social media age.

(Also, I'm apparently out of touch because Tom Fletcher's band McFly has been around since 2003 and recorded numerous albums.)

Random musings

As I near the end of my college career (I will end up one credit short of officially graduating this semester, but that's another story), I'm coming to some realizations. In no particular order:

  • While doing a preliminary search for jobs earlier this month, I discovered there are (or were at the time) six reporting jobs listed in all of Michigan across the three boards I checked.
  • The job situation in public relations is not necessarily much better.
  • Nearly all of these jobs require two to four years experience in journalism, PR or a related field. This brings its own set of questions. Does experience on the college paper count? What about internship sites?
  • It's becoming clear that if I want to do anything with this degree, I may have to make my own job and make myself indispensable to an audience that can't get enough. In my view, that should be the goal of any journalist/writer. The challenge is figuring out what you can write about in order to appeal to an audience that is loyal, but also one that is not so niche that it doesn't attract ad dollars. (Yikes.) It's challenging, but with the slow death of mass media, I may have to give it a shot.
  • This really has nothing to do with anything else, but given the title of this post, why not? The Tigers just traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. I'm really distracted suddenly.
  • If you're going to freelance, make sure you read the contract. Some of them include provisions that you can resell a story if it's outside a certain radius of a paper the publisher owns. Odds are it won't happen very often, but you never know when something you write might have appeal in more than one market.

Long story short, I think I have a lot I will be finding out over the next few months. I'm ready for adventure.

I'm looking through you

candid camera Today I begin a series of posts where song titles will serve as the inspiration. Today's song is "I'm Looking Through You" from The Beatles 1965 Rubber Soul album.

In the wake of yesterday's revelation in the Guardian that a blanket order was issued in April to obtain the phone records of all customers of Verizon's Business Network Services division, I definitely won't be using my Verizon cell phone to conduct interviews with potential government whistleblowers anytime soon.

Seriously though, I think it is time to come to grips as a society with the fact that we are constantly being surveilled, sometimes through actions of our own volition.

It is not my intention for this post to serve as an area for the discussion of whether these government actions are either politically, morally or legally justified. I will leave those decisions with the reader. We live in complicated times.

Rather, I think this is a good time to bring up this topic in light of several recent revelations in technology.

There has been much talk recently over potential privacy concerns about Google's hands-free Glass project.

For those unfamiliar, the Glass project is Google's attempt to create a heads up display atop faux eyewear. The project is still in beta form and will almost certainly be adapted to work with regular prescription lenses when the product goes commercial sometime next year.

Among the features of the product are the ability to take pictures and video. This has caused privacy concerns and Congress is debating legislative action on the issue.

However, at this point Glass requires you to give an audible cue to take a picture or start a video.

Google isn't even the first company to do this. There is a product on the market called Pivothead that does the same thing without an audible cue.

It also wouldn't take much for someone to surreptitiously record anyone with a cell phone camera.

It doesn't stop with cameras. On the Internet, advertisers are following us around.

I've noticed over the past few days that products I've searched on Amazon are finding their way into advertisements on other sites. I recently bought a product based on a Facebook advertisement. Facebook knowing what I like may be convenient, but I also couldn't help but feel it was a tad creepy.

The Internet enables us to consume and produce more information and media than ever. I can't help but feel that maybe some of the actions that have made the news lately on the part of the government are indicative of a society trying to reconcile old laws with the rapidly changing world. With great power comes great responsibility.

In the meantime, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera."

Why Pistorius Should Run

Recently sprinter Michael Johnson said that Oscar Pistorius should not be allowed to run at the 2012 London Olympic Games, citing what he believes to be an unfair advantage given by the South African sprinter's prosthetic leg blades. The problem is, Johnson's assertions simply have no basis in fact. According to his website, Pistorius underwent double amputation as a result of being born without fibulae in both legs. He competes in both single amputee and double amputee events as a Paralympian. He holds the Paralympic records in the 100, 200, and 400 m track events.

In July 2007, Pistorius began racing other able-bodied men at an International Association of Athletic Federations event finishing second in a 400 m race with a time of 46.90 seconds. Shortly thereafter, he underwent testing under the supervision of the IAAF which found that the blades Pistorius wore gave him an unfair advantage over other able-bodied runners by enabling him to expend less energy while running at the same speed over the course of a race.

Pistorius took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport following a series of tests done by researchers at Rice University. The CAS overturned the IAAF ruling saying the initial tests only considered Pistorius's speed over a straight line distance. They failed to consider problems getting out of the starting blocks and decreased acceleration ability which actually put Pistorius at a net disadvantage.

This is the backdrop surrounding Johnson's comments.

Now, before going any further, it is only fair for me to say that as someone in a wheelchair that has been able to achieve my goals and a high degree of workplace independence, I tend to view any claim that I can't do the same things anyone else can do on a level playing field with a certain degree of skepticism, no matter the reason. That being said, I would not want to compete if I had to be given an advantage in order to make it fair. However, there simply is no advantage here.

For one, Pistorius is running on blades, not human feet. This makes it very easy to trip if you step the wrong way, a fact pointed out by one of the athletes quoted in this San Francisco Chronicle article on amputee athletes.

Secondly, the numbers just don't reflect the advantage Johnson thinks Pistorius would have. Oscar Pistorius is the world record holder in all three events in which he competes. He is widely regarded as the fastest man ever with no legs. Yet, his fastest time in the 400 m for which he qualified is 45.07 seconds. By comparison, Johnson's world record-setting time for able-bodied athletes at the same distance is almost two seconds faster.

While we're at it, the argument that he already has the Paralympics to showcase his skills doesn't hold water with me. That's like saying the Major Leagues shouldn't be integrated because we have the Negro leagues or that women shouldn't play on the PGA Tour. Both of those things have come to pass. There is also nothing wrong with someone wanting to prove himself at the highest level.

Then there's the fact that I would probably be hard-pressed to find the Paralympics on TV anywhere, so clearly they are undervalued as compared to the main Olympic events, but I could likely do a whole separate post on that.

So when I tune into the Olympics, I will be keeping a close eye on the progress of Oscar Pistorius. There is simply no place in today's society for singling out those that could otherwise compete without advantage simply because they do it in a way we aren't used to.

Sports officiating not totally above board?

I've been saying for years that officiating in the NBA is a little suspect. I shouted vindication from the mountaintop when referee Tim Donaghy was found to be entangled in a betting scandal. Now I would never report something without substantiation of course, but what happens when a reporter knows they heard something and can't prove it. This exact situation happened to Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski last year.

Krawczynski was covering the Minnesota Timberwolves (I can't think of a worse basketball assignment) when he overheard referee Bill Spooner promise Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis

a makeup call. He tweeted it.

"Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he'd 'get it back' after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That's NBA officiating folks."

The problem was it became a case of he said, he said. Spooner filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming he made no such promise to Rambis.

This is a classic case where the reporter would've been saved had he only followed my cardinal rule: record everything.

Obviously you will have a hard time getting some subjects to agree to this, but most people will understand it is to their advantage to be recorded. You can certainly get more words down on a recording faster than you can in a reporter's notebook. This in turn leads to a much smaller chance of misquoting someone or writing a quote down in the wrong context.

This reminds me a bit of the Boy Scout rule. Always be prepared. Keep the mic hot at all times because you never know what might come up. It occurs to me you might have trouble getting an audio recorder in to the arena because of the broadcasting rules set up by sports leagues, but at the same time in this case he would only be recorded what was within earshot.

As a journalist, it's important to bring ammunition to back up your point.

The verdict is in: Databases (might be) useful

The Oakland Post is a good training ground for any Oakland University student majoring in journalism, and it's generally a fun paper to work for as well. This story I'm about to tell was not one of those fun instances.

Last July the New York Times and several others ran articles about a study saying that the practice of college grade inflation was on the rise. "A" grades were being given in 43% of cases.

I decided I wanted to get an Oakland angle on this story. The university publishes grade reports by semester.

The problem with Oakland's databases is that they are actually Excel spreadsheets. This does not make the data easily sortable and there's a lot of manually clicking on the numbers to do math.

Nevertheless, I pressed on with this one. Maybe I saw a portfolio piece (one of my six clips I need to graduate from the journalism program here). Maybe I'm just a journalism masochist.

Through a painstakingly long process, I was able to determine that for both winter 2005 and winter 2010, OU's numbers for A’s given was theoretically higher than the national average.

That's right. I just broke a cardinal rule in journalism. I used a bailout word. Why do I say "theoretically"?

None of the articles I saw on this actually listed the study authors’ definition of an A. Is it strictly 4.0? Is it anywhere between 3.6 and 4.0, the "A range." I actually attempted to look into this again for the purpose of this blog post, but it appears that the publishers of studies don't believe quite as strongly as journalists that information should be free.

Even if I had a solid definition of what was considered an A grade, at some point between 2005 and 2011 Oakland just started lumping all grades between 3.6-4.0 together for statistical tracking purposes. This means that if the authors had only tracked perfect GPAs it would have been impossible to make a fair comparison.

At some point, I would like to take another stab at this particular story if I can figure out how to do it. One of the interesting things I noticed was there were certain classes where 95 or 100 percent of the class got a grade in the A range. I noticed this a lot in some of the art classes, where one might think it would be very difficult to objectively grade something. In comparison, there were times when there was no one in the A range in the upper-level science classes. One could look into what makes those so hard.

Databases can be useful, but you have to make sure they actually tell you the information you're looking for.

Egyptian revolution shows power of social media

Wael Ghonim, a Google executive, used Facebook and Twitter to help lead a revolution in Egypt that led to the resignation of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. In an interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Ghonim said he was inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. He was further enraged by police forces' treatment of Khaled Said, a man beaten to death (WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE) for criticism of government corruption, his family and friends said.

Ghonim started a Facebook page in response titled "We Are All Khaled Said." He encouraged followers to make signs with the slogan as a way of getting people engaged in the movement.

Ghonim was eventually kidnapped and detained by Egyptian authorities for 11 days, but thanks to activism on Facebook and Twitter the movement was able to continue in his absence.

He resists taking too much credit for the campaign because in his eyes all he did was open lines of communication. In an interview with Harry Smith of "60 Minutes," Ghonim said:

Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.

While certainly not on the scale of the Arab spring, I can personally attest to the communicative power of social media, particularly Twitter.

One seemingly innocuous tweet turned into a pretty big scoop for then Oakland Post Managing Content Editor Nichole Seguin and I.

So the @oaklandu residence hall showrooms have been converted into actual rooms. Clearly, this is a sign that we need more residence halls.

This person requested that they be left out of any eventual story because of their position as an RA in the housing department.  I've chosen to leave the name undisclosed here as well.

After following up, that tweet eventually became this Oakland Post cover story.

It wasn't the Egyptian revolution, but it did prove the power of social media as an important communication platform.

The path from "Blogs to Riches"

Clive Thompson's 2006 piece for New York Magazine, "Blogs to Riches," takes a look at what separates those few moneymakers in the blogosphere from the mountain of blogs struggling to get by or not making any money at all. Part of the answer is blood, sweat and tears. The key lies in posting as often as you can and beating the competition. Something else is necessary too though.

Good journalism.

Elizabeth Spiers, a former gossip blogger, now thinks the future of the medium lies somewhere between the individualism of writers found in the blogging community and a more traditional journalistic approach. She says:

Blogging is increasingly becoming a survival of the fittest—and that all boils down to who has the best content. The blogs that are going to stand out are the ones who break news and have credibility.

Six years later, Spiers appears to have hit on something.

Most of the blogs within Technorati's top 25 would probably be best categorized as either news or news aggregation blogs. Some of the blogs are even operated by more traditional legacy media outlets.

Going further still, this Pro Publica piece links to an AP report, giving the reader further information on the subject.

Respected sites linking to each other add credibility to posts and create an environment where journalists link to the best information from other journalists.

Blogging is no doubt a modern day example of the "marketplace of ideas" theory. Everyone has a voice. However, eventually the best work rises to the top. Readers develop a trust in certain sources.

Put simply, people always want the best. If they had no hometown affiliation, I'm sure a basketball fan would much rather see the 30-8 Bulls than the 12-26 Pistons.

Journalism, and its cousin the blog, are no exception to the rule. Credibility leads to trust and readership. Readership leads to advertising dollars.

That's the path from blogs to riches.

Five tweet tips for good photos and slideshows

Here's my list of a few basics. 1. Take shots from wide, medium and close perspectives.

Variety keeps things interesting, and photography is no different.  No one is going to look at photos that are taken from the same distance and angle.  It's boring.  I'm no great photographer, but I do vary distances and angles in this slideshow.

2. Make sure the pictures match the audio.

This seems obvious, but it is nevertheless something that needs to be looked out for.  In audio slideshows, make sure you get pictures of the things your subject is talking about.

3. A picture should be on the screen no more than five seconds.

Zac Efron

Just because some of you J school girls think this is the dreamiest picture of Zac Efron doesn't mean everyone that comes to your site to view an informational slideshow about him wants to stare at that picture for 30 seconds.  Make sure you have enough photos.  That's my friendly tip, because we're all in this together.

4. When all else fails with a camera, read the manual. This will help you take full advantage of the functionality.

If you're prone to losing such things, you can usually find your manual online.

5. Make sure to always brace yourself so the camera is steady and immobile in your hands.

When shooting your niece's birthday party, you don't want the photos to look like an earthquake disaster flick.

The Long Tail and Its Relevance in the Digital Age

Chris Anderson's article on the "Long Tail" holds more relevance today than it did when he wrote it six years ago.  The basic premise of the article is that with the rise of services offering digital publishing of content that could previously only be found in physical media, it has become easier for an independent publisher to get their contents seen. Perhaps the easiest way to explain the phenomenon is to look at what's going on in digital music sales.  With the emergence of iTunes and Amazon over the last decade as major players in the music retail space, consumers have been given more choices than ever before.  Both iTunes and Amazon will offer recommendations based upon your purchasing habits.  If you buy one of those recommended tracks, the process continues.  Within three clicks, you could go from the hot new Jason Mraz single to a catchy track from an independent piano pop band from Windsor, Canada  just getting its start.  (I recommend “Eighty Eight Keys.”)  This trend should continue as digital music sales just surpassed those of their physical counterparts for the first time ever.

The theory doesn't just hold true for music.  Various services have popped up all over the Internet to publish books for practically nothing.  Apple recently jumped into the fray in a big way by offering its iBooks Author program for free to anyone with a Mac.

Free blogs like this one are leading to more independent journalism.

Slate: Impressions of an Independent Journalism Site

Slate is an independent online news site.  For the purposes of comparison, I've chosen to look at how the same topic was covered on Slate and on the New York Times, a legacy news operation.  President Obama gave a speech at the University of Michigan today on his plan to stem the tide of rising college tuition costs. The New York Times article is very thoroughly sourced and highly technical in terms of how the plan would affect students and taxpayers.  The reporter included quotes from Obama's speech and talked to various officials within his administration.  Also included were a couple of higher education experts.

The Slate article is probably more digestible for Web audiences because it's much shorter.  It's a quick synopsis.  They reference a Washington Post article, something that would probably not normally happen at traditional media outlets.

Also, from a usability standpoint, the Slate interface is much more web friendly.  Articles are teased slideshow style and everything on the front page has a photo.  The New York Times appears to have tried to copy and paste the newspaper format onto the website.  While retaining a somewhat traditional look, it has the effect of making things jumbled on the front page.  There are very few pictures to draw your eye in.