Sunday, April 29, 2007

Video blogging is wide open

I was fortunate to have two local video bloggers, Ryanne Hodson and Jay Dedman, come to my journalism class last week to talk to my students.

Ryanne has developed some great online tutorials for aspiring video bloggers at She is the co-author (with Michael Verdi) of Secrets of Video Blogging. Jay is the co-author (with Joshua Paul) of Videoblogging.

“There’s definitely a need for quality content,” Ryanne told my students. “It’s great to come from a place like CBS or CNN…and now we’re producing our own content.”

“It’s so exciting now because it’s so wide open,” added Jay, noting that it’s still fairly easy to get attention for your videos because there are so few video blogs out there.

Jay’s advice to my students: Start making videos, do it consistently, focus on the kinds of stories you like (not the kinds you think might be popular), have fun…and do it because you really love it. He says he only wishes video blogging had been around when he was a little younger so “instead of forming a rock band I could have formed a video band.”

Ryanne added, “Your blog becomes a resume.”

Jay & Ryanne’s Video Blogging Resources

(Note: The content of their RyanIsHungry vlog was recently licensed to the PodTech Network for broader online distribution.)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Vlogs, blogs and scholarships

Gawd, what a busy week! It had everything from dental work to scholarship awards to faculty workshops....

I got drilled Tuesday morning, in preparation for getting a crown. That afternoon, I finally set up a video blog (McVlog), and uploaded a little multimedia project I've been playing with for a while.

Wednesday, in addition to teaching two classes, I attended a STEM session on getting started with Flash...and listened to a few songs by one of my favorite indie groups, The Dimes, who were playing on campus (I 'd forgotten they were going to be there, but I heard them playing as I was on my way to my evening class, so I took a short detour).

Thursday, I helped another prof set up a blog, and then helped present scholarships at the JMC Academic Achievement Awards Reception. What a pleasure that was!

I got to hand out scholarships to a couple of my favorite former students (you know who you are!) and one of my current favorite students. I finally got to meet a student I only know through her entertaining and well-done slide show (created for another section of the new media class). I got to meet several proud parents and scholarship donors. And I got acquainted with a wonderful young broadcast student who told me she was inspired in her career choice by people like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters.

I mean, how can you not have a good time at an event like this? The students are happy, the donors are happy, my boss is happy, I'm happy.

I wrapped the week up with a Friday morning faculty workshop on making slideshows and videos in iMovie, co-taught with my frequent partner in crime, Steve Greene. I brought some photos I'd taken at the scholarship awards reception; Steve brought a video camera and ambush-interviewed each of the six participants as they entered the room: "Do you know any students who won scholarships?"

We showed them how to make a quickie slide show in iPhoto, then jumped into doing the same in iMovie. An hour later, each of them had created a short multimedia presentation using still photos, video clips and music. One even added a voice-over. They were pleased. We were pleased. Another day, another bunch of happy people. I like that.

Fortunately, I had some really fine guest speakers in both of my classes this week (Carol Welsh of Cisco in my PR class and video bloggers Ryanne Hodson and Jay Dedman in my new media class). That cut down on some of the usual class prep. And I guess I'm getting used to not getting enough sleep.

There'll be time enough to sleep in mid-May, after the end of the semester.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Put your money where your mouth is

On a day when SJSU students are staging a protest over ever-increasing tuition and fees, let me quote a few paragraphs from "Stepping on the Dream," a recent NYT Select column by Bob Herbert (published March 22, 2007).
Tamara Draut, in her book, “Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead,” tells us:

“Back in the 1970s, before college became essential to securing a middle-class lifestyle, our government did a great job of helping students pay for school. Students from modest economic backgrounds received almost free tuition through Pell grants, and middle-class households could still afford to pay for their kids’ college.”

Since then, tuition at public and private universities has soared while government support for higher education, other than student loan programs, has diminished.

This is a wonderful example of extreme stupidity. America will pony up a trillion or two for a president who goes to war on a whim, but can’t find the money to adequately educate its young. History has shown that these kinds of destructive trade-offs are early clues to a society in decline.

At the state level, per-pupil spending for higher education is at a 25-year low, even as government officials and corporate leaders keep pounding out the message that a college degree is the key to a successful future.

...In a nation as rich as ours, it should be easy to pay for college. For some reason, we find it easier to pay for wars.

I went to college in the '70s, and I remember those days. I was one of those "students from modest economic backgrounds" and I never would have made it through college without tuition grants, work-study programs, and being able to commute from home.

I didn't get funded my senior year and had to drop out and work full-time for a while. Eventually, with the help of work-study and a small loan, I was able to go back, finish up my classes, and graduate.

When I graduated in 1977, I owed a grand total of $700 in student loans (don't laugh...that was a lot of money to me back then. Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to make it though the last month of my final semester if my Mom hadn't given me an extra $50...I was that close to the edge.) At the time, the job market for newly minted reporters was piss-poor. I got a few freelance assignments (a good way to starve), then got a job and worked (very briefly, because I sucked at it) as an advertising copywriter for a local radio station.

Then I got desperate and started taking anything...the graveyard shift at an emergency call center...a factory job building prefab houses (my hammering arm gave out after about four hours of straight pounding nails through cheap masonite siding). Hell, that's how I ended up taking a job as a small-town reporter in the middle of nowhere in Kansas...if you're willing to go someplace sight unseen, on a Greyhound bus with just two bags of luggage to your name, you know you're desperate for a job.

Yes, I remember those days...maybe that's why I support today's student protest.

It's also why I was happy to chair the JMC Scholarship Committee again this year. The awards reception is tomorrow evening. Although there's never as much money as you'd like, it always feels good to give checks to some deserving students.
SJSU Student Protest: 11:30-1:30 today at Plaza de Cesar Chavez on campus; wear red to show your support.
JMC Academic Achievement Awards Reception: 5-7 p.m., Thursday, April 26, University Room, Student Union, SJSU.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The real reason Gonzales won't step down

You have to read to the very last sentence of the NYT story to find the answer, but it's there -- the real reason why U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales won't step down, despite the growing scandal. Here it is:
...If Mr. Gonzales were to step down, officials argued, it would wrongly lead the public to conclude that he had done something wrong.
Essentially, it's same reason why the president will never agree to set a pull-out date for Iraq. To do so would be to admit he'd made a mistake, that he was wrong...and that is clearly one thing this president cannot abide. Much better to close his eyes and repeat ad nauseam,
"This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence.”
If that is the case, his standards are incredibly low. But, of course, we've heard this all before...Bush said the same thing about Brownie, Harriet and Rummy...just before they went down the tubes.

We can only wish for Gonzales a similar fate.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's a bird, it's a's a video game!

I read about this video game in the Multimedia Shooter blog and had to give it a try.

In Superman Returns, you get to play the part of Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet's star photographer, who's trying to get a shot of Superman for the morning edition. How fast are your reflexes?

I got a 48 on my first try...and an admonition that I could "do better." Can you beat me?

Blogger rhernandez points out that games like this are a good way to bring traffic to a newspaper web site...or your website or blog, for that matter...especially if tied to a timely event or story.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Threats 'n fightin' words

I don't know if you've read about the death threats made against blogger Kathy Sierra and the blogosphere's response, including discussions about the need to foster a culture of web civility.

If not, you can catch up with this post and link from Sierra's blog, this joint statement by Sierra and Chris Locke (some of the threatening comments and images were posted on Locke's blog, in addition to on Sierra's blog), and this NYT article, "A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs," that discusses the issue and offers links to some suggested codes of conduct.

This morning, I read "Bloggers, Don Imus and free speech," a column in today's by Joan Walsh, who earlier wrote this thoughtful piece about the Sierra threats, "Men who hate women on the web." It got me thinking about it all again.

I don't know how I'd react to such threats online. However, I do clearly remember getting a nasty, anonymous note in response to a "letter to the editor" I'd written (criticizing some Bush administration policy) that was published in the Mercury News a few years ago. It was unsettling to think that some warped individual was angry enough and motivated enough to look up my home address and send me an obscene, threatening note. It made me feel like I should be looking over my shoulder; it made me wonder if this nutcase was motivated enough to show up on my doorstep someday. It was kind of scary.

Clearly, that note was meant to intimidate shut me up. Unfortunately, I have to say it least for a while. It made me think twice about submitting any more letters to the editor. It didn't totally stop me, but it did give me pause...and if I'm completely honest, it probably deterred me from writing a few times...before I got over it.

And that was just one threatening letter. I really don't know how I'd deal with an onslaught of nastiness and threatening comments on one of my blogs.

None of that has stopped me from blogging. And if you've read my blog, you know I don't shy away from criticizing the Bush administration. But, hey, my blog isn't exactly well-known or popular, so it's not exactly an issue at this point.

What I do know is that I'd have no qualms about deleting blog comments that are offensive, or blocking comments from mean, nasty or threatening individuals...on this blog or any of my class blogs. Maybe it's the teacher in me; maybe it's because they're my blogs.

I've never had to remove a student post, although I have talked to a student about a post that I felt was inappropriate. I explained why, and I asked the student to modify the post. That took care of it.

I hope that's the most I ever have to do.

Kathy Sierra’s blogOh, if you have a moment, please check out Kathy Sierra's blog, Creating Passionate Users. Right now she's put up a "best of" series of posts that's simply fascinating. She's an original thinker, and it would be a loss to the rest of us if we let nasty web trolls knock people like her off the web.

(A version of this post is cross-posted on one of my class blogs.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The return of the dimes

Just found out one of my favorite indie groups, the dimes, will be playing in the Bay Area in a couple of weeks. They'll be playing at SJSU on Wednesday, April 25...the bad news for me is they're scheduled to play at 6 p.m., which is when my evening class starts. Rats!

(Hmm, I wonder if I could interest my students in catching some music for the first hour of class....)

Oh well, if I can't catch them at SJSU, maybe I catch them at SF State, Santa Clara U or Stanford.

If you want to check them out, here's a link to the dimes' web site and their MySpace site, where you can listen to (and download) their four latest songs. My favorite: 'Til I'm Broken.

P.S. The pic shows the dimes playing in the amphitheater at the Student Union at SJSU last fall.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wear your flak jacket in Indiana

After visiting a marketplace in Iraq, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, described it as a safe, busy place..."like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime."

According to a NYT article, Pence and other members of the congressional delegation who visited the market wore bulletproof vests and were escorted by more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees. In addition, U.S. sharpshooters were posted on nearby roofs and attack helicopters circled overhead.

Who knew Indiana had gotten so dangerous?

For more thoughts on marketplaces in Indiana, courtesy of my friend Jan, click here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lessons in video

So what did I learn from playing with a video camera and iMovie over spring break?

* It helps to have the right cable (the camcorder I was using wouldn't work with a Mac via USB cable; I needed camera/video-to-firewire cable)
* The Apple Store can show you everything you need to get started with iMovie in about an hour (especially helpful if you're too lazy to read the online tutorials)
* It would probably help to have some kind of script or storyboard
* If you don't have a tripod handy, you can always improvise (see photo)
* You can see more things on video than in a mirror (yes, I'm getting age spots)
* Playing with video is way more fun than cleaning house, and almost as fun as gardening (which is one reason why I'm heading back to campus this week with a tidy garden and a messy house)
* I can get my video work (and embed on my blog) using Google video, but not using YouTube, where it worked briefly then got labeled "rejected" -- maybe it's not kosher to talk about death? Or maybe YouTube doesn't like .mov files. Any ideas?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Best Worst Moment

I asked the students in one of my classes to create a short video or multimedia slide show and upload it to YouTube or Google Video. I suggested they consider creating something for YouTube's "best moment of my entire life" category. Then I figured I might as well do it too.

It's hard to pick a best moment out of 50+ years of life. (Boy, that sounds old!) It seems that every decade has a highlight or two, like...getting my first horse...earning a ribbon in a combined training event...getting my first newspaper story published...rappelling down a 100-foot cliff, and living to write about it...getting a feature writing award from the same people who'd told me a year earlier that I should find another career...singing with friends and a great summer choir in Kansas City...finding the man I wanted to marry...having my garden on tour in Tennessee...writing a fascinating (well, to me, anyway) thesis, and getting it published...hearing my just-learning-to-talk nephew say, "Auntie likes tea." (Yes, I do.)

I could go on...but what I decided to focus on was something more recent, the day my father died...I think of it as my best worst moment.

From RIAA to Saint Rayban!

It's a headline we'd all like to see: "Major labels to disband RIAA."

Too bad it's only an April Fools joke. Another good one: The upside-down front page of the Lifestyle section of today's Mercury News. (A good reason to get the paper delivered....)

And here's one more, spotted at church this morning: Yes, it's JC in shades.

Although this apparition lasted only one day, it was witnessed by hundreds and caught on camera.

"We are calling this the Miracle of Saint Rayban," said one eyewitness. "We are petitioning the UUA to declare April 1 in perpetuity as the feast day of Saint Rayban."