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Do you eBay?

February 21, 2010

Nowadays, if you know that you want something, you can find it online. And if you don’t know you want it? You can still find it online. In either of these scenarios, you can find the old, the new, the obscure and all at a price that you want to pay. Auction sites make transactions like these possible, and help people from across the world sell items that they don’t want to other people who do want them. And way more efficiently and with a much better profit margin than a neighborhood yardsale over Labor Day weekend.

The recognizable monster in the online auctions is the formidable eBay. What started as AuctionWeb in 1995 (the first item auctioned off was a broken laser pointer, which led to the realization that there is a market for everything) has grown into one of the most profitable websites on the Internet. Other competitors are few and far between, and many attracting niche audiences only, unlike the grab bag that eBay is.

eBay works not only because it sells everything under the sun, but also because of its set-up. It is inherently interactive, making the connections to bring people together. By providing a space for people to put items up for sale that they no longer want or that they want to profit from, eBay allows for interactions to occur all over the world. There are many tools that have been added since the advent of eBay to make the aution process easier: BuyItNow (to avoid the auction process), PayPal (which allows for easy payment), and incremental bidding (which allows bidders to set a high bid and then lets the auction site meter up to that amount). These interactive tools make the process of selling and buying a much easier and enjoyable experience that keeps people coming back.

The other main element of eBay that allows it to function with ease is the organization of it all. By providing access to myriad of different categories, stores, and your favorite sellers, eBay makes it easy to find things that you are looking for and those that you aren’t too.

So, do you eBay? What sorts of things do you buy? And why?

Access. Rights. Privileges.

February 19, 2010
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DISCLAIMER: the following post is for a masters class on contemporary media issues.

Access. Rights. Privilege.

Seventy-four percent of the citizens of the United States have access to the Internet. Sounds great, right? Statistically speaking, it’s a high solid number that suggests that something is working right. But lets look at the flip side: 26% of the country does not have access to the Internet. One out of four people in the most prosperous nation in the world does not have access to what some would argue is one of the most important resources, past food & water. Is the Internet a right? A privilege? Should everyone have access?

Access. Rights. Privilege.

Mergers. Companies love them,but if private citizens were paying closer attention, they would play the role of hater. Each time one of these companies merge with another, we lose choices. We lose competition. We get higher prices, fewer channels, less opportunity. But do we gain anything? Is there a possibility that in combining forces, we get stronger ideas, better ideas in exchange for less? Is this a quality versus quantity issue?  With access to less, do we have the right to expect better, just as you would expect more from a group project than from that of a single individual?

Access. Rights. Privileges.

Do these issues of internet access and mergers of major communications corporations tie into the broader spectrum of rights that we have as a nation, the rights that democracy provide us? Does access to the internet, to information, inhibit our ability to stay informed? Do these mergers and the control that they now have hold power over the regulations that the government attempts to write?

Access. Rights. Privileges.

These are the issues of the day. These are the issues that no one has answers to, whether from studying the emergence of prior technologies or from future projections. Who is responsible for finding the answers to these questions and solving the controversy around these issues? This week, I’ve been given a lot to think about, on the topics of access, rights, and privileges and the answers are still swimming around in my head. Maybe I can do some fishing this weekend.

The Problem with Professionalism.

February 12, 2010
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DISCLAIMER: the following post is for a masters class on contemporary media issues.

There are times when job descriptions come in handy.

For instance, it’s useful to know exactly how to balance the books, should you be in charge of a company account. There’s only one way to do this, and really, if you don’t do it right or try to do it a new way, you’re probably going to mess something up. It might also be helpful to know exactly how to operate the tram should you find yourself working for the DC Metro or when the right time is to collect the data from your scientific experiement, should you find yourself, say, working with fruit flies or some other living organism. These jobs and many, many others are grounded in their professional rigors, in standards and tasks that are set for specific reasons for specific outcomes. Professionalism in adhering and complying with these standards is essential for getting the job done, and getting it done right. There is no room for creativity.

Journalism has been lumped into this “professional” category, in my opinion, to the detriment of the trade. The industry has set standards and rules, ones that guide what the journalists do and what they cover. These guidelines are helpful, no doubt about it. They get the news produced in a consistent and timely manner, each and every day. This professionalism provides the rule book for journalists to live by, but is it limiting their rights and abilities? Are we, as consumers of the news, missing out on essential information because of the so-called professional principles? Are the press the free agents we believe them to be? Or is corporate ownership getting in the way?

Journalists should have to adhere to certain principles, yes. They should be held to high moral standards, to report the truth, the whole truth, and the hidden truths that the average citizen might not see or have access to. They should try to remain unbiased, but the fact of the matter is, by choosing to report one story over another has inherent bias. As a fellow classmate, Steve Earley, argued today, the press are often reporting the controversial issues because they are talking about what has not reached the mainstream current as of yet. It is, essentially, the job the press to bring these underground rumbles up into the light. But is this happening today? Are the media questioning the validity of their sources, are they deeply invested in the public good? If Watergate happened today, would we know about it? What don’t we know, because of the lack of investigation?

The problem with professionalism, then, it that is limiting and constraining.  It does not allow the right questions to be asked, which leads to a lack of reporting. Professionalism, as necessary as it may be, must be applied in combination with creativity and freedom to a explore. Closing a journalist inside of a box is never a good thing.

It Makes Life… Easier.

February 8, 2010
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Or so I think.

I’m talking about my Google Reader. I know, I know, I’ve talked about this extensively before, but in the grand scheme of things, it helps keep my life, my bookmarks, and my head a little bit clearer during the day. I’m going to apologize right now for the recap, for those of you who have been reading since the beginning: I am about to launch into my love affair with my Reader.

Google reader came into my life about a year ago, on a rainy day when I was sad that of each of the 25 or so blogs I checked every morning after arriving at work and procuring my coffee, only 3 had updates. Truly, this was a disappointment, as I always look forward to new posts, but especially so on rainy, dreary days, days when my to do list for work was practically nonexistent but yet I still had to appear to be working. At this point, I had numerous bookmark folders to hold links to all of my blogs, and on that fateful rainy day, I discovered Google Reader.

Google Reader graduated from beta status in September of 2007, so my discovery of it in May of 2008 was perhaps a bit late. But! Still! Better late than never. It’s one of those inventions that I am oh, so glad that someone invented, but I adore it so much that I wish I could put my name to the creation.

Most people that I talk to about my Reader don’t have much of a clue as to what I am talking about, which pleases me secretly. This means that I have the opportunity to potentially change the way someone lives their online life, and make the information overload that others speak dreadfully of a little more manageable. And that is exactly what the Reader does best: simplify. I might even go so far as saying that the Reader provides what most are looking for: time. We all need more time, and yes, while the Reader does encourage consuming a lot of content, it is providing an answer for the demands of the internet culture.

Because aggregators have yet to be adopted by much of the general public, there is opportunity out there make these life-changing applications better and easier to use. Right now, RSS limits the major design elements from blogs being added into the Reader, but in the future, there is the possibility that entire blogs will be brought to you directly in your Reader. With more and more people joining the blogosphere, chances are you’ll have more and more blogs to follow. And if you’re not an avid blog reader yet, with the push for citizen journalism, there is a very real chance you will become one in the future.

Here’s my plea: If you read blogs, try GoogleReader. Please? And then tell me about your experience, or what could be improved upon.

Hey there!

February 8, 2010
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I took a little break, otherwise known as recuperation from the semester last fall.

But, I’m back! So this semester, you can expect more posts that are helpful, hopefully, in some way. Or at least interesting. Or thought provoking. I’ll aim for one of those three 🙂

One change: unless someone begs, I will NOT be tweeting that I posted. You’ll just have to check back often, or add me to my reader. Which you can read more about in a little bit.

Free. Open. Beautiful.

November 13, 2009

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I have a thing for fonts. As in, I really like fonts. Really, really like fonts. I obsesses over the perfect combination of serif cum sans. My design projects always, always start with a perusal of font faces. Always. It might actually be one of my favorite parts of my projects, trying to find the exact right type or two to pin down the exactly character and feel for the project.

I was prompted to write about my love of fonts by my discovery of a really beautifully designed font site this morning. Because if there is one thing I love more than a plethora of font choices, it’s a site that is delicious to look at while providing excellent content. Plus! They have a manifesto! How can you not love that?! The League of Moveable Type was created by a small design firm that’s done some really fantastic work I admire.

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Basically, they are working to provide a free library of open source fonts that are available for designers to use, especially on the web. Check it out! You won’t be disapointed…

The opposite is true too: I’m the kind of person who also passionately despises certain fonts (ahem, Zapfino, Papyrus, Comic Sans… ) to the point where I will exclaim my hatred at the site of them. Or take pictures of them in foreign countries, marveling over how bad design can cross continents. See below… 🙂

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Oh, Zapfino, How I hate thee…

Have a great weekend everyone!

You Need to Know This. Seriously.

November 9, 2009
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A few months ago, Forrester released a study on the future of the social web. If it weren’t for the $499 price tag, I would be downloading this PDF to study it further. In interviewing 24 companies and vendors, the authors have gathered content on the current and future states of social media and extracted 5 Eras of the social web.

Thankfully, Brian Solis wrote about the 5 Eras in more depth on his blog last week.

These are explained more fully in the chart below, and I’ve summed them up, albeit a bit briefly…

RELATIONSHIPS: 1995-2007: AOL was the start of the connections in online communities, where people with similar profiles connected with eachother.

FUNCTIONALITY: 2007-2012: We are in the era currently, and as we all know, the focus is on the activity within social networks, and the content that we share. Through 2010, how we connect to people will continue to evolve.

COLONIZATION: 2009-2011: Again, are in the midst of this era, where communities are beginning to traverse the internet with applications like Facebook Connect and OpenID. In time, people will take their identities with them across platforms.

CONTEXT: 2010-2012: Sites are already being customized (think about your suggestions that appear for sites like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble) and the internet will continue to evolve to deliver personalized experiences, based not only on your actions, but on the actions and recommendations of your friends.

COMMERCE: 2011-2013: Social networks will gain power over brands

As the 5th era is ushered in, Solis believes that CRM will evolve into SRM, with a full focus on people, and that all people are equal. Most importantly, a portable online identity will be crucial.

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