Monthly Archives: January 2012

Using Ushahidi

Here’s another example of how Ushahidi can be used, this time in monitoring the Egyptian governmental transition.


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Netflix, I Have a Confession to Make…

Dear Netflix,

I have a confession to make.

I have a subscription to your streaming content. I watch History Channel documentaries on my laptop before I go to bed. Occasionally, I watch episodes of The Office on my Kindle Fire in between classes. Once in a while I will check out a “Critically-acclaimed Comedy” or a “Mind-bending Suspenseful Action & Adventure” on my roommate’s Blu-Ray player that is linked to my account.

Here’s the thing.

Browsing Netflix’s selection delivers a good user experience. The large scrolling cover display looks great and is reasonably easy to navigate. Moreover, I have rated 192 items and the “Suggestions for Me” category will consistently turn up interesting selections. Your algorithm pairing taste preferences with genres is definitely doing something right.

However, your streaming selection is limited. You know it and I know it. And while the selection is getting better all the time, I have to go into Netflix to discover things I am satisfied with watching, rather than find something I already want to watch.

For example, the other day I wanted to watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Upon searching, I learned that movie is DVD-only, so I had to settle for Dirty Harry. This happens all the time. I feel like a get my money’s worth in content, but more often than not, I end up scrolling through movies for 30 minutes before I find something that I am willing to settle on that is in Netflix’s limited streaming catalog.

Recently, I discovered a place on Netflix to find selections that almost always turn up Watch Instantly movies and TV shows that I am interested in watching: my Recently Watched list.

So here is my confession: I’m not the only one watching.

Before you get mad, it’s not like I have just been handing out my password. Every once in a while, I will log-in from a different location: my old roommate’s XBox 360, my buddy’s iPad, my girlfriend’s laptop, etc. These aren’t public devices so I am never making a point to clear the browser cache. My password ends up getting saved and they take the liberty of watching a movie here and there after I am long gone. There are about 8 people who regularly log into my account – many times simultaneously – and there has never been any kind of multiple log in error preventing this. Believe me, if I was unable to log in because someone else was already using my account, my password would get changed real quick.

But, since there has never been a problem with service, I am content to let these people keep using my account. Why? A: because they are my friends. If it’s not negatively affecting me, I don’t have an immediate reason to change my password once I find out they are logging in. And, B: I am interested in what they are watching.

They do the browsing for me, and I see what they ended up picking. None of these people rate movies, but I can see how much they watched. If they watch 4 minutes of The Listening Project, I assume that it’s not worth my time. If they watched all 164 minutes of Breaking the Maya Code, I want in. Every week there are new items in my queue, and while I do not have an interest in everything that is in there, a much higher percentage is relevent to me. Additionally, since all the picks are logged in as me, I have to play a fun little game guessing whether it was Caroline or Steven who watched Mrs. Doubtfire last night. All the guilty pleasures are recorded along with the all-time favorites. No actual vs. ideal self discrepancy here. Richard may say on Facebook that Patton is his favorite movie of all time, but I also know that he’s the one who knocked out the entire Wonder Years series in less than a week.

Being the new-media-savvy grad student that I am, I was just thinking about how Netflix needs to start leveraging Facebook’s new Open Graph technology to make watching a social activity, when this little guy popped up in my feed.

This looks like it was simply shared by Brad, but I hope that the rest of his activity is being used to make my picks better. Like I said, the algorithms you are using are good, but this is an opportunity to really dive deep. I’m not saying everyone’s activity should be public, or even available to all his or her Facebook friends, but I would like to see Netflix do what Spotify is doing with playlists. I can do without Spotify popping up in my news feed every 3 seconds, but I do like to go in and see published playlists. There are certain people whose opinion (and behavior) I put a premium on. Netflix should allow users to opt-in or out of sharing their 10 most recently watched items. That is information I [we] want.

(In light of this full confession and my invaluable insights and suggestions, please don’t cancel my account. I just started watching Parks and Recreation.)

Originally posted at Big Data (Really Gets Me)


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In Defense of Amateurs… and Youtube


At first, I was unsure of what my first blog post would be about. Perhaps something about Google’s controversial new privacy settings, or the EU’s venture into solving its own volatile economy, or maybe Taco Bell’s laughable yet well researched breakfast menu experiment.

All good candidates.

However, after listening to the required Gregory Mantell You tube video, I would like to personally thank Andrew Keen for inspiring what is hopefully not “adolescents farting on video and finding that amusing.”

Seriously? Drawing attention to the dredge of You Tube society is how you open a dialogue of amateurs vs. professionals? Hopefully the upper crust knows that You tube is more than a 30 minute Tosh.O segment, but if not, allow me to share some of the ways I use You Tube:

  • For music videos/ concert footage
  • For firsthand civilian accounts during crises, like the earthquake in Haiti and the London riots
  • For instructional videos. Ex: the Yoga I can’t afford, the statistics explanations I wouldn’t passed without, the new Gmail icons I don’t understand, plus everything to do with Photoshop, oh and Spanish pronunciations (you don’t want to know how I’d do in Mexico. Hint: not well)

Now, perhaps the reason You Tube is targeted as an example of the “kids” being in charge is that’s it’s easy to do. You Tube is free and without gatekeepers, so everything that Andrew Keen is saying is true, but I hate to think that this medium is “the convicts running the asylum” (Insert eye roll here). Accepting that extreme metaphor means that you degrade any content that comes from You Tube as being less or not as good for human society simply because it comes from You Tube.

If you want to run with that logic, than you can also say that the Gutenberg Printing Press is another example of the “convicts running the asylum.” The Gutenberg Printing Press revolutionized printing so that it wasn’t as expensive to print and more people could afford books. Some of the publishing “gatekeepers” were eliminated, and as a result, books changed. Books were no longer a privilege just for the rich, and more types of books could be published. Books could be about leisure or politics or any other topic publishers thought people would buy. People could write responses to books, and so books began to start a dialogue more representative of society than they were before.

Think of books today. Anyone can write. I’m writing right now. I have the technology where, if I choose to, I can write a book. I can then take this book to a publisher, or I can post it online, or I make it available for free download for Kindles or other E-readers. Now my book may not be Shakespeare, but I have a way to write down my thoughts and feelings and then make it available for others to read, if they chose to. According to Keen, this is bad because without gatekeepers there is “anarchy.” Now, I’ll admit that without gatekeepers, there are more books for me to wade through. Some of them are trashy, simple, or not to my liking. There are enough cliched mystery novels to fill up a million Law and Order episodes, but they still don’t detract from the awesomeness of Agatha Christie. Want someone newer? How about Steig Larsson, a reporter; Margaret Edson, a kindergarten teacher; Suzanne Collins, a television writer; or JK Rowling, an English teacher? These famous authors may not have gotten their works published if there had been a few more Keen’s “gatekeepers.”

I understand that there is a difference between some gatekeepers and none, but people like Keen must see the positive in what You tube has to bring. All of the aforementioned professional authors were amateurs in their first works, and for the most part, their first works were pretty spectacular. You tube has value in wading through the trash, regardless of who posts it.

And Andrew Keen? Sir, I consider myself media literate, and honestly the weight of the information I consume depresses me to no end. So when I find myself disgusted with the world and everyone in it, I watch something like this:

It’s a crow sledding for fun, and it’s life affirming. If a crow can enjoy life in Russia, surely the world’s OK after all.

Thanks You tube! Obviously Andrew Keen has not seen the crow sledding, otherwise he would find the function in amateurs too.


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Amateurs vs. Professionals

This week our class is thinking about the pros and cons of amateur vs. professional digital content. I found this goofy video on YouTube where about 50% of the dialogue is from Craigslist ads (according to the creator), highlighting some differences in amateur vs. professional thinking about photography. Do you think amateurs in any field are likely to put so much emphasis on equipment? And why does the professional think experience counts for so much?

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JRMC 8160, Spring 2012

This is a group blog for students enrolled in JRMC 8160, Social Media, during spring semester 2012. We are grad students in the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

There are 9 students participating in the group blog. Please see the Links section on the sidebar for links to individual blogs for other students in the class.

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