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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Twitter and Flickr for citizen journalists

One of the neat things about blogging is being your own publisher. It is almost like putting out your own magazine. And just as no newspaper or magazine should go without images, your blog posts should not go begging for pictures.

Wikimedia Commons is one excellent place to look for copyright free images. Lot's of folk sharing lots of pictures are to be found there. Another good site is Flickr. Both sites make the copyright restrictions which apply to each image very clear. The restrictions vary from image to image, so stay alert as you search for pictures. Twitpic can also be a source of images but I have questions about using pictures found on Twitpic. More on this later.

Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear!) was so reasonable. Bes... on TwitpicReady to restore sanity!  on TwitpicStephen Colbert is my favourite superhero (at the "Rally... on Twitpic

The above images are from Twitpic. I simply added the embedding code into the HTML of the Blogger page. The code is right there for the taking on the Twitpic page. Clicking on the glorified thumbnail image, above, will bring up the original Twitpic page.

Twitpic Photo: Yaman09
You can take larger images from Twitpic but you must view the full sized image and then right-click to Copy Image or Save Image As... You can also point, click and drag the image onto the desktop.

If you Copy Image, you can paste it directly into a photo enhancement program, like Photoshop, for cropping and tweaking.

If you copy, drag or save the image, this will break the link to the Twitpic's originating page. You must add a link under the picture to restore the connection. This is demanded by Twitpic:
"Remember! Twitpic Community Guidelines specify that if you post a Twitpic photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page."
This all sounds good and sounds safe. No copyright infringement here, right? Since the embedding code was supplied, putting these pictures on one's page must be O.K., right? I don't know.

The first image may have been shot by the person twittering, making them the copyright holder, but I am suspicious of the middle image of Colbert and Stewart and the next one of Colbert alone. Were these images really taken by the person twittering? I have my doubts. A lot of stolen images are to be found in the Twitpic mix.

Flickr Photo: Jeff Gates
Flickr Photo: Bridgette Blair
The two large images above were taken from Flickr. The first big image was removed from Flickr using a download function found on the Flickr site. It is a big file. The second was taken by right clicking the largest posted image available and using the "Copy Image" function. Afterwards, I resized the second image so that it would load faster. This resulted in a little loss of quality. (I can live with the loss; I, and my readers, like the speed.)

Flickr Photo: Joe Newman
Both these images appear to be safe to use on a blog but the Creative Commons licence seems to put them off limits for newspapers and others who would use these image to generate income. Click on the photographer's name in the credit line under the image, the name is linked to the originating Flickr page.

Flickr Photo: Bridgette Blair

The Flickr image, above left, has been cropped to accent the subject of the photo. It has also been brightened using Levels and Curves in Photoshop. I believe this is allowed.

The "Palin" picture and the crowd images were fitted onto the page using Blogger supplied tools with a little tweaking. When the second image, the horizontal one, was placed and sized, it was too large for the space. This forced the horizontal image to appear below the image of "Sarah Palin." By finding the size of the image in the HTML code, this is very easy, and subtracting ten percent from both the height and the width, the image was made to fit. (Use the Preview function in blogger to check your layout before posting. Be warned that your Blogger page may format differently on different computers.)

So, if you are blogging and need images, Flickr seems to offer the safest images for placing on your site. Flickr users are photographers while Twitpic users are posters of pictures --- pictures which may or may not be owned by the poster.

Be aware that Getty Images uses Flickr. You can see these images but you cannot use them without paying Getty. Pay close attention to the info found under the heading License. Make sure that you scroll the Flickr page so that you can see all the license info. Sometimes the Getty copyright warning may not be shown without scrolling. Watch for the black Getty Images symbol; If you see it, don't use the image.

Links: Flickr, Twitpic search

If you are writing a blog on a news event, remember to google the event itself or the event's sponsors.

The Government of Chile posted excellent shots from the recent rescue of the Chilean miners.

See: Government of Chile, Flickr page.

From the Democratic Party Facebook page.

The Democratic Party in the States have a Facebook page where they often post pictures. There were a lot of excellent pictures posted there from Obama's recent four-day tour of the west.

It is not always possible, but when it is, the safest pictures to use to illustrate your blog and other posts are the pictures you shoot yourself.

The American West, popular with tourists the world over, shown in my shot.

Monday, October 25, 2010

She's a trooper!

"Hey grandpa! Would you like to read a book together?"
Miss Baby took a tumble today — a bad one. She struck her head and her forehead quickly grew red from the blow. It left a small bump. She cried some but she really got into a sobbing roll when the doctor in emerg began poking and prodding her.

When the doctor got to his last test, he brought out a small flashlight. Miss Baby's eyes lit up quicker than the doctor's flashlight. She stopped crying; This was getting interesting. As the doctor moves his light to left and then to the right, her eyes would follow. No matter where he moved that light, she didn't take her eyes off that weird brightly lit thing. It was clear she had never seen anything quite like it. It had peaked her curiousity. Her steady, unflinching interest told the doctor she was fine.

From the hospital she went straight to grandma and grandpa's rather than returning home. She may have gotten the all clear from emerg but she was still under mom and dad's and grandma and grandpa's close observation.

The moment I carried her into the kitchen, she spotted a banana on the counter and immediately reached out her hand. She grabbed the banana and laughed as she waved about her yellow prize. We got a bowl, a fork, her spoon and we sat down together at the table. Sitting on my knee, she helped me peel the banana. She took her spoon and helped pulverize the sweet, soft fruit. With only one tooth it is still best to squish food before eating. And then she settled in to eat her half of the banana.

She always shares her prize with me; We each get half. She sits on my knee and smiles and laughs, enjoying the obvious camaraderie of the moment.

We're buddies. And I cannot convey to you how very happy and relieved I am that my little buddy is just fine. Her head is a little bruised but she's not complaining. She's a real trooper!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The iPhone: The latest toy of choice!

Fiona watching the trailer for Despicable Me! on her mom's iPhone.
An article in the New York Times called the iPhone "the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler."

Reportedly, one of the first words uttered by many of our youngest generation is "iPhone!" This may be overstating the case. "Da!" and a waving hand with finger pointing at the popular Apple device may be more accurate.

"Play the video again. Please."
For many children, such as my little granddaughter, the iPhone has become the toy of choice. She would sit and watch video trailers on YouTube, such as Despicable Me, for hours if I allowed it; I don't. The screen tapping and finger sliding actions that control an iPhone all mesh perfectly with Fiona's developing motor skills.

The phones have proven to be amazingly rugged --- standing up well to being dropped by enthusiastic little techno geeks. Of course, when one stands only about two feet tall a phone does not have far to fall.

On reading the following, I said "Been there and done that":

One mother recalls the first time her daughter, barely 2 years old, held her husband's iPhone. "She pressed the button and it lit up. I just remember her eyes. It was like 'Whoa!' "

Our daughter Ashley, Fiona's mom, shot a video on her iPhone of Judy and I departing on our recent extended vacation. While we were gone, Ashley played the iPhone video for Fiona who giggled when we waved to her from the screen. Soon the little girl was waving back. Returning, after almost six weeks away, we were greeted with a waving welcome from our laughing granddaughter. There was no playing strange.

Software developers understand the attraction of the iPhone to the very young and have released apps designed for little children but marketed to parents. These "educational" apps may be as simple as electronic flash cards teaching reading and spelling.

Other apps are as new and different as the iPhone itself. Pocket Zoo streams live video of animals from zoos around the world. iGo Potty, sponsored by Huggies Pull-Ups training pants from Kimberly-Clark, rings parents reminding them when it's "Potty Time." The app comes complete with "Fun Stuff" for children.

All this interest in iPhones by young kids is not without detractors. Many pediatricians see the phones as similar to television and suggest the same guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advised parents not to allow children to watch any TV until after their second birthday.

Many question whether electronic flash cards are a good way to teach language. Rather than handing a child an iPhone, perhaps it would be better to simply spend more time talking directly to the child.

I don't know. I'll bet after Johannes Gutenberg began pumping out children's books, maybe early versions of The Cat in the Hat, parents of young children were probably warned by psychologists of the time that books were not a good way to teach children anything. It would be better to simply spend more time with your kids, I am sure they were told. So, forget those new fangled book things was the word on the street back in 1440.

But maybe it is not an either/or situation. No one is going to argue that children do not need interaction with the people in their young lives. Of course, they do. But electronic devices are going to play a big part in their futures, possibly a little interaction with an iPhone can be a good thing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exciting moment, dull photo

It's estimated 2,000 journalists recorded the rescue of the Chilean miners trapped for many, many weeks underground. 2,000!

Yet, many Internet sites because of copyright laws turned to the official Flickr stream created by the Chilean government for images. My local paper did this. All the B front images were courtesy of the Government of Chile via Reuters.

The Photo Galleries on the paper's Internet site features a number of fine shots taken by Cesar Illiano and Terry Wade of Reuters. Space limitations and time may have been responsible for limiting the play given these pictures to just the paper's Internet site.

Since my local paper had lots of powerful images available, why did they plaster a fuzzy, frame grab, complete with screen scan lines, across their front page? (It is just a guess, but possibly the best images were not available at the time that the front page had to be released to the backshop. This is one of the big weaknesses of the traditional printed daily newspaper.)
A video framegrab fills the front page of The London Free Press, a Sun Media paper.
Credit: Hugo Infante and the Government of Chile

Monday, October 11, 2010

Professionalism, the media and deaf cats

Image by: Marianne Perdomo (Gran Canaria, Spain)
Because this will be read by some of the good folk with whom I once worked, I want to start this post by clearly stating that most reporters and editors are very bright people and excellent at their jobs.

That said, give even the best runner only three minutes to run a mile and you have set the runner up for failure.

Real reporters don't just rewrite press releases. Or do they? Sadly, in today's world the answer is, "Yes, they do!" And sometimes word for word.

A recent press release claimed, "Cats are the only animal besides humans that can be born deaf." When I got that press release, alarm bells went off in my head and it wasn't just my tinnitus. 

When I got in touch with the researcher behind the study in question he told me, "Just about any animal could be born deaf. The press release is a bit of an overstatement." Of course, I already knew that; I had googled the statement and discovered lots of animals may be deaf at birth.

Yet, the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent, reported, ". . . cats – the only animal besides humans that can be born congenitally deaf." Hmmm. Makes you wonder how much they examine and how independent they are.

A lot of papers in Great Britain repeated the error. It looks as if they all simply republished a story supplied by a common source. At no point did a bright, questioning editor check the copy as would have been done in the not-so-distant past.

Science Daily, Science Blog and Science A Gogo all reported "Cats are the only animal besides humans that can be born deaf." Now we know how urban myths take root.

This little error, one easily made by someone charged with writing a lot of press releases, should also have been easily noticed and easily corrected. Instead it has been repeated in the global media without question. 

Global? Yes, global. I found the story on Aaj Ki Khabar and other distant news sites.

All too sad.
Oh, if you're interested in my take on the story, it can be found on the Digital Journal. Maybe you can find my errors. Remember, I am not a professional reporter. Cut me a little slack.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Robotic Cars

Highway 1 is a twisting, two lane, Pacific coast road.
I read about this in the New York Times. It was like a story from a silly tabloid, except it was true. Google's sending robotically driven cars down California's fabled Highway 1. Seven cars, six modified Toyota Priuses and one Audi TT, have driven thousands of miles without the direct control of a driver as part of a little known project led by Google.

I posted the story on Digital Journal.

Taken at the DARPA National Qualification Event, October 24 - 31, 2007. Google vehicles do not carry as much hardware on their roofs as this car.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rick's Gone, Finally

Rick Sanchez always seemed to be a news anchor adrift. He was a light-weight news anchor. He simply should never have had his job on a national (U.S.) cable news network. He was not good enough, not knowledgeable enough.

There are people one meets who have such depth of knowledge that they make you feel that no matter what you ask them, they'll know the answer. Rick Sanchez wasn't one of those people. In fact, Sanchez left you feeling that no matter what you asked him, he'd be stumped.

Do you recall when an earthquake rocked Chile and a Tsunami warning was issued for Hawaii? Sanchez was following the story and used a map to make it all clear. He pointed to a group of islands in the Pacific, below the equator and off Chile, and noted the close proximity of Hawaii to Chile. The islands he pointed to were the Galapagos Islands!

Sanchez made lots of these "oops." And Jon Stewart and Stephen Cobert had fun at the handsome CNN news anchor's expense. Well last Thursday, all the Sanchez pent-up anger burst out during an interview with Pete Dominick on Sirius Radio. "You watch yourself on his show every day," said Sanchez, "and all they ever do is call you stupid."

Sanchez was lashing out:

"I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart's a bigot," he said. "I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I'm so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine."

Stewart was not the only person whom Sanchez found was insulting him, treating him with condescension. He said a lot of elite Northeast establishment liberals . . . "look at a guy like me" and automatically see a guy "who belongs in the second tier and not the top tier." Sanchez is Cuban-American.

Later, Sanchez retracted the word "bigot" and instead described the Comedy Central fake newsman as "prejudicial."

When confronted with the argument that Stewart with his Jewish heritage was a member of an oppressed minority just like Sanchez with his Latino background, the newscaster would have none of it. He argued that Stewart, as a Jew, was a member of powerful group.

He said sarcastically, ". . . I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they --- the people in this country who are Jewish --- are an oppressed minority . . . "

Friday Sanchez was replaced on air by Brooke Baldwin who has substituted for him in the past. The question, "Would Sanchez be back," was soon answered. CNN issued a statement saying:

"Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well."

What Sanchez and so many others don't understand is that being elite is not a quick, easy insult. Once, it was a compliment. The elite at one time referred to the best members of a larger group or body and not necessarily just the wealthiest, most famous, or most powerful.

What will be his next career move, well he could push his new book — entitled, believe it or not, “Conventional Idiocy.” Even Sanchez isn't always wrong.