The Blog Where We Keep You Posted
a person's attempt to make sense of his surroundings

Nov
06

With the technologies available online, the average citizen can be a journalist with nothing but an internet-enabled device. Although online journalism and citizen journalism share some similarities, the two have some important differences between them.

They both utilize online technologies that allow for journalism , such as blogging services like WordPress and Blogger, or instant messaging services such as Twitter. These allow for condensed, independent, or a combination of both types of news articles to appear online.

Citizen journalism has exploded in popularity, with people reporting on everything from local food (ieatishootipost), to the latest celebrity gossip (Perez Hilton), to Singapore political commentary (mrbrown).

These websites are usually independently owned, and they usually contain the content creator’s own ideas and opinions. They might also have several tie-in videos, or accounts from other media websites that supplement their main website. For example, mrbrown and Perez Hilton both have their own Twitter accounts which they use to share information that might not be substantial to warrant a full article, but are interesting enough to warrant some attention. Being mostly operated by people who have no formal training in journalism, the credibility of these websites might not be that entirely trustworthy. However, these websites tend to have more lax censorship, and might be run by people who are unaffiliated with any organisation, hence giving these websites free reign to report on whatever they want, no matter how controversial it is. An example of citizen journalism brought to the most extreme and controversial would be WikiLeaks, which has published many scandalous official government documents from many countries. As a result, the owner of the website (Julian Assange) has been under a series of lawsuits.

Online journalism, however, largely refers to the newspaper and media companies that have embraced the above-mentioned internet technologies to further increase their market reach. Additionally, these websites usually have electronic versions of their newspaper reports online. For example, the International Herald Tribune has a physical copy available for sale on news stands, but also has an electronic version free online. They also have a Twitter account to share bite-sized information at a much faster cycle than the print cycle that newspaper companies usually adhere by. Since these websites are run by newspaper companies, they usually adhere to the journalistic regulations and self-censorship that have been traditionally practiced in the pre-internet age.

 

As such, while the internet has allowed for news that would have never made it onto other media to be published, it has also allowed for the average citizen to have greater convenience in accessing the news. However, the reader has to take everything with a grain of salt. This is especially so for internet journalism, as the amount of useless ‘fluff’ available online far outweighs the reliable. As always, the discretion lies with the reader.

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Nov
06

The internet has leveled the playing field of politics. Why did I just make a sudden statement and expect you, dear reader, to believe me?

Let me explain.

Mass media has traditionally been a downward trickle, from the creators (anything from pamphlets, posters, to television advertisements) to the public. The exorbitant cost in producing these media messages meant that the regular members of the public were largely unable to create large-scale mass media political campaigns.

In the beginning of the internet, this traditional approach was also taken. Official websites containing descriptions and agendas of various political parties sprung up.

But as internet technology matured, different and novel ways for members of the public to get involved in politics sprang up. The advent of Internet 2.0 (which is a catch-all phrase to mean various applications of social networking programs) helped raise grassroots level awareness and involvement.

This grassroots-level involvement could have been a contributing factor to the current U.S. President Obama’s successful election. An example would be the Obama Girl, for her Youtube videos:

With 23 million views on this video alone, Obama Girl has managed to reach a level of viewership that traditionally would have cost millions of dollars to even purchase the air-time for broadcast on national television. As 53% of internet users are between 18-44 years of age, the internet is also able to penetrate the younger generation, which have been traditionally politically apathetic. In fact, youth voters saw a record turnout in more than 20 states, with 59% of voters under 30 years old voting for Obama.

Internet 2.0 technologies have helped introduced political change, whether peaceful or not. The 2009 Iran protests against electoral fraud  were largely organized spontaneously via Twitter. Several websites dedicated to following tweets and news stories relating to the situation in Iran, such as Iran.twazzup, have been set up and are frequently updated as well.

It is important to note, however, that the internet and its tools are not the CAUSE of these changes. They have only made possible an means of communication that can be made accessible to millions with minimal cause, and maximum effect.

Oct
30

I realize that there are many applications and tools available for use for the average person to enjoy a more productive life. But recently, there has been a trend rising in many of these applications: Synchronicity.

Apple is at the forefront of this, with its newly released iCloud.

With iCloud, the user can store pictures, videos and music, and the cloud service automatically pushes them to all the user’s supported products. For example, I downloaded the game application Angry Birds on my computer, and my mobile iPhone rang to notify me that it was downloading Angry Birds as well.

I can even edit a draft on my smartphone and save it into the cloud service when I’m outside, and I can go home to put the finishing touches and publish it from my desktop.

The online game client Steam allows users to synchronize data such as keyboard, mouse and controller settings, or player data, allowing for those data to be accessed on different computers as long as the user logs into his or her own Steam account. Previously, all these data were stored locally.

I feel that synchronicity in our applications removes a large amount of duplicate work; I don’t have fill out my contact list on both my smartphone and computer when any updates from one will be automatically applied to the other.

Certain drawbacks, however, become apparent when using the cloud service. What happens when we, for some reason, get locked out of the service? For example, if my iPhone was stolen and my user information compromised, my corresponding data stored on my computer would be compromised as well.

Secondly, the end-user can be put into a position whereby he is at the mercy of the cloud service. Since cloud services require the use of an Internet connection to synchronize data between its cloud servers and the user’s devices, if by any chance the user is unable to connect to the Internet, the data would be unavailable as well.

Thus, with the advent of convenience in synchronicity, we must also take care not to put all our eggs into one cloud. Thus, users should exercise caution with cloud services and take adequate steps to ensure personal safety, such as protecting passwords and backing data up locally.

Oct
30

Multimedia is a multi-sensory experience. Multimedia is defined as “using, involving, or encompassing several media” as defined by Merriam-Webster. Put simply, multimedia means the combination and usage of media such as video, music and image to convey a message.

Traditionally, this means that video and film are all examples of multimedia. However, the personal computer has expanded our multimedia options exponentially. For example, we can use computer software to perform diverse tasks, from conducting a business presentation (Microsoft Powerpoint) to searching for the latest film trailers (RottenTomatoes).

Nowadays, multimedia available on the Internet is hyperlinked, leading to the term “hypermedia”. An example of hypermedia would be videos that are viewed online from streaming websites such as Youtube and Dailymotion, which have a list of suggested or related videos to hopefully hold the viewer’s attention longer.

An interesting example of hypermedia is the website last.fm, which also has an application for the iPhone. What this website does is that it compiles the user’s personal playlist and recommends songs that might be of interest to the specific user. For example, the website offers me (a heavy metal listener) to bands I have never heard of, yet are also of interest to me, such as Mastodon (which is a death metal band). 

Various multimedia software are readily available on the internet. People use programs such as Fraps to capture the video feed from their computers so that they can share interesting videos online. Amateur video directors upload various tutorial videos to share their experience with others. For example, the amateur film maker Freddie Wong recently uploaded a video called “Battlefield 4 Trailer”:

In his tutorial video, he goes behind the scenes to explain the process behind the abovementioned short film:

As you can see, hypermedia is an excellent method allowing for deepened user impression.

Hypermedia can also be an exciting new way of advertising that allows users to interact with the advertisement, instead of a simple linear line from advertising to consumer. An example would be the series of short videos for the recently released Orcs Must Die computer game, allowing the viewer to choose 1 of 2 implements of destruction to assist in defeating those pesky orcs:

As you can see, the Internet allows for so much possibilities for increased multimedia interactivity. Have you seen any interesting forms of multimedia, dear reader?

Oct
09

As my recent posts have shown, the internet is a BIG PLACE.

Anything from e-commerce to e-comedy can be found online.

The vast majority of content on the internet is user-generated, such as blogs, podcasts, webcomics, and videos. Blogging is but only one facet of the spectra that is produced from the creative juices of internet users.

I’d like to flex my scrawny and non-existent video-editing muscles to make a short video that will hopefully tickle your funny-bone.

Having said that, here is my maiden video upload on Youtube, showcasing the best sampling of the various humorous compilation of clips that I have cobbled together into one package:

Please enjoy.

Sep
30

As the American psychologist and educator John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”.

Education does not simply end after graduation from school. The world is constantly evolving; to continually educate oneself is a way to stay informed and relevant.

Can learning be made more effective through the use of digital media? We must first define how learning is experienced. Learning can be divided into six levels as according to Bloom’s Taxonomy on the Cognitive Domain:

Bloom's Six Levels of Learning in the Cognitive Domain

The learning process starts from the base and moves to the top in a linear fashion, starting with “Remembering” and ending with “Creating”.

The first three categories from the bottom reflect a lower order of thinking; The “Remembering” category refers to the basic recalling of facts, terms and basic concepts. The “Understanding” category refers to the demonstrative comprehension. The “Applying” category refers to the utilization of the bottom two categories “Remembering” and “Understanding” categories to solve problems to situations.

The last three categories refer to a higher order of thinking; “Analysing” is the scrutiny of the elements, relationships and principles behind a concept. “Evaluating” is the appraisal of a subject to judge its value. Lastly, the “Creating” category refers to the usage of all five previous categories to create something new.

How do we apply this to digital media? Digital media refers to any data is stored in digital form. This is an extremely broad definition, and can encompass anything from such as computer games, to electronic books read off a digital device. A version of Bloom’s Taxonomy updated for the digital age can look like this:

There are countless examples of digital media that utilize the lower order thinking levels (“Remembering, Understanding, Applying”) of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using presentation software such as Microsoft’s Powerpoint for lectures has been a mainstay of education since computers became affordable. Four schools in Singapore have replaced their textbooks with iPads, allowing students to take notes and use worksheets.

Students from Nanyang Girls High School using Ipads

Students from Nanyang Girls High School using Ipads (Credit to: http://www.ubergizmo.com/2011/01/singaporean-schools-ipads-classroom/)

Electronic book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle have allowed people to store thousands of books into a single digital device, allowing for greater convenience. In fact, e-books have grown so popular that Amazon reported that the sales of e-books overtook traditional printed books for the first time in January 2011. Websites such as Google Scholar have allowed  easier access to academic texts.

Just as many examples of the higher order thinking of Bloom’s Taxonomy (“Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating”) exist in digital form. The social video sharing website YouTube hosts millions of user-created videos, some showing excellent “Creating” skills:

Opportunities for interactive learning have sprung up in games such as Second Life, where people from all over the world can create an avatar of themselves and “enroll” in classes in virtual representations of universities, such as the Ohio University Second Life Campus :

I shall end with this quote by the English writer Gilbert K. Chesterton: “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” As our generation embraces digital media t to educate, perhaps the soul of our society evolve digitally as well.

 

Sep
25

This week, I’ll be touching on various online security, privacy and legal issues for businesses.

The basic definition of e-business is the process of buying, transferring, or exchanging products, services, and/or information via computer networks, including the internet.

The internet has grown from its original roots as a means of transferring information to a fully fledged communication channel, like its predecessors radio and television. Some would even argue that the internet is capable of communication much more efficiently that its predecessors.

Thus, it is only natural that businesses have utilized the internet’s potential to further augment growth and business reach. In fact, e-commerce sales in the U.S. alone will reach US$197.3 billion this year.

Unfortunately, with the internet being only a few decades old, the security, privacy and legal measures to protect business interests online remain very convoluted.

Security

There are two key security issues for businesses online. Data integrity is a foremost concern. As such, to prevent their data from being tampered with, businesses should have anti-virus software and firewalls in place. While these may be adequate, hacking incidents have been known to break into business networks for malicious intent. The recent hacking spree of the group Anonymous, which has launched attacks including crippling the Sony Playstation Network which cost Sony 14 billion yen or US$171 million, illustrate e-businesses’ need to remain vigilant from attacks.

There can only be ONES AND ZEROES. Well, that's because everything's in binary.

The second concern is with the encryption of data, which is the transformation of texts or numbers into an unreadable code. This is to ensure that even if data has gotten into the hands of people with malicious intent, the encoded data would still be unable to be read by them.

Privacy Issues

What do you do when your personal information has been given out without your consent due to the malicious intent of other groups? That is what happened when the hacker group Anonymous released half a gigabyte of AT&T internal data, and the usernames and passwords to more than half a million players of the online Battlefield Heroes, and other sensitive data in June 2011.

The privacy issues of e-businesses is therefore a primary concern, as breaches in privacy such as these can result in lowering stockholders’ and customers’ trust.

Legal Issues

As such, since it is very difficult to identify the true identities of the members of hackers such as Anonymous, it is consequently harder to press legal charges against them.

Thus, it is in the best interests of the business to keep up-to-date anti-virus and firewall programs, and ensure that privacy and encryption of data is handled appropriately.

Sep
17

For this week’s blog entry, my lecturer gave various suggestions for us to immerse in social media and how we relate to it.

Heeding his advice, I decided to join a new social network site and write about my initial experience.

What’s the hottest new social networking site in the interweb tubes? Of course it’s Google+ (pronounced “Google Plus”)! Having hit 25 million users in just 4 weeks after its inception in July this year, Google+ is THE fastest growing social networking site out there right now.

So I snitched an invite from a friend, and voila (Disclaimer: Names have been blanked out for privacy issues!):

Google+ Signup page. 2 clicks and I'm ready to join!

Since I had a Gmail account, all I had to do was to fill in a public Google profile, which essentially links all Google related applications (Google Documents, Blogger etc) into a single profile. Such convenience! Notice that all I had to do was to enter my name, and here we go!

Google+ Welcome page! Such simple minimalist design!

As you can see, the general layout is very simple and easy to navigate. A few clicks here and there and I managed to get to the friend that invited me:

Thank you for the invite Dexter. You are hereby known as "The Holy Google Invitationer of Keepingyouposted!"

From a technical standpoint, Google+ has a few things going for it. By simply filling in which educational institute I am currently studying in, Google+ managed to accurately suggest people that I was actually friends with! Oh the joy of adding new people!

Other than that… There was not much to do. No jewels to blitz, no villes to farm. Google+ currently does not support games nor other applications, being limited to the very basics, such as photo-sharing.

On a more technical level, Google+ also automatically synchronized my (long disused) Blogger pictures to my Google+ page.  For avid bloggers, this seamless cross between the two previously separate realms of social networking and blogging is a large step to creating a single hub for a person’s internet needs.

While other Google applications have yet to be integrated, using a single destination for your email, social networking and blogging is a great convenience for Internet junkies. The possibility of other powerful applications such as Google Maps or Documents to be incorporated brings further potential.

Photos from my fledgling Circle!

In conclusion, while not having the extensive features of its chief competitor Facebook, the integration that Google+ shares with its other application gives it great convenience. Anyone who wants an invite, just give me a shout-out in the comments!

Sep
11

Wikipedia defines Social Media as ” the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue”.

Social Media

A display of various technologies that make up the social media phenomenon.

Take a simple example: Wikipedia is “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” Just fifty years ago owning an encyclopedia series would cost a fortune, and the rich could afford it. Fast forward today: Just by signing up for a free account and using an internet-enabled device (you do not even need a computer anymore), you have Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia that has over 19 million articles written by contributors.

Sites such as Kickstarter have harnessed the power of social media, where normal people can pitch any business proposition. If the basic idea is sound, other people can pledge money to the project, and tweet or share the project to their friends on Facebook. Thus a new method of funding is born.

Even fashion stores have incorporated Social Media as part of their business strategy. Some online blogshops (websites that sell apparel on the internet) actively encourage their customers to “review” the products bought, by taking photos and adding their remarks on online forums. This enables an interactive dialogue between the business and the consumers, as the blogshops can see which products are reviewed more favorably and order more similar products, and the consumers are able to give credence and express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the products.

Unfortunately, there is always a dark side to everything. Websites that rely on user-contributed content such as wikis are prone to being abused by several mischievous internet pranksters. For every page that contains accurate information (such as the many different species of birds that belong to the Corvidae family), there are also reports of Wikipedia pages being hijacked by spammers and vandals (as in this report on the World Cup Wikipedia page being defaced).

Goalcrower

What an EXCELLENT SAVE BY the goalkeeper of the Corvus Brachyrhynchos team!

The relative anonymity of the internet can also mean that some people be paid to review a product positively, even if they have never even tried the product themselves.

As long as the end user approaches the internet with a grain of salt, social media can be a very powerful tool for communication indeed. As a communications major, I await with baited breath at what possibilities the future may bring.

Sep
04

The word “internet”: so ubiquitous that my automated word-check allows me to spell it without a capital “I”.

There is a statement my lecturer said that caught my attention during his introductory lecture on the internet: “The internet will be increasingly ‘invisible’ as time goes by”.

Why is this so? Well, take the example of my first statement. Back when the internet was recently introduced, it meant a world of possibilities to me. I was (and still am) a gamer. I played started playing games like Myst and X-Comwhen I was around five years old, which was around nineteen years ago. These games were so complicated and their interfaces so convoluted I spent days figuring out how to get past their initial starting zones. And when I got stuck, I could not simply tab out and search the internet for a guide.

Just try to guess what the meanings of each of the symbols in the lower end of the screen are for. JUST TRY!

XCom Screenshot: Try figuring out what the symbols represent!

Why not? Because the internet wasn’t readily available for regular consumers me to use then. And when my house finally had internet access, I found out the simple joys of finding websites and forums that shared my previously niche interests. Textbooks and websites spelt the “Internet” with a capital “I”, because of the awe and reverence of the convenience and power this new method of communication gave. Suddenly I knew ten other people who played the same game as I did, when previously I knew none! I could find out about new and exciting games as they were being developed, through the developer journal logs that were posted online!

The “Internet” back then also had several drawbacks: I could only be online for limited periods of time, as my 56k internet connection caused my only phone line to be jammed. There were also difficulties separating authentic news from sensationalist or fabricated writings of con-men.

Fast forward today: My blog post is saved automatically to the ‘cloud’ (where data is stored in an online server that is available 24/7) every ten seconds, so that if my computer crashes, I would still be able to recover my data from the ‘cloud’ as well. I check email and tweets from my mobile phone which also happens to be more powerful that the computer I used to play my first computer games with nineteen years ago. There is integrated word-check software within my browser that checks for spelling and grammatical errors which can even be configured to automatically change mistakes that I commonly make. My broadband modem is connected to data lines that are running at up to 2Mbps, which is 35 times faster than a 56k modem, and doesn’t jam phone calls.

While the end-user  is simply typing out a blog post, he is oblivious to all these complicated processes are operating “under the hood”.

This can lead to several dangers. Because ‘cloud’ computing has processes that are invisible to the end-user, if there is any problems that happen in the ‘cloud’ phase, the end-user would be consequently lack the knowledge or ability to fix them. Here’s an example: What if online stock trading was suddenly compromised due to unforeseen circumstances? This can mean the return to the Dark Ages for online stock traders, as they have become wholly independent on the internet as their primary source of information.

Dark Ages

As Lead Stock Trader of his team, Will had to wear this snazzy helmet when riding his horse to work everyday.

Would the internet and other subsequent technologies become increasingly ‘invisible’ as time goes by? In my opinion, I agree it would. Someone has already connected his nervous system to the internet and controlled a robot arm using nothing but his mind and an internet connection. The future is bright with endless possibilities. However, we must be mindful of potential avenues for exploitation and prevent ourselves from being too dependent on technologies that we have no direct power over.

What do you think dear reader? Any ideas or new technologies you want to see in the future?