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Archive for January, 2007

QOTD: Don’t be afraid to take a big step…

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
— David Lloyd George

Fav icon

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

I decided today, after being inspired by all the awesome favorite icons on this post, to create a favorite icon for Meranda Writes.

Because I don’t have a real logo, I knew I’d need an image or just text. I opted to create a sort of pseudo-logo using the first letter of both words. It also happens (not unintentionally) to be the first letters of my first and last name.

As anyone who ever saw the pages I proofed after I had signed off on them can tell you, when I sign my initials it just looks like a squiggly line. The MW run into each other. I created a similar effect on my icon by using similar colors and just offsetting where the M and W met.

Maybe not as cool as some of the icons on that post, but I think it works for this site.

QOTD: The world needs dreamers and doers…

Monday, January 29th, 2007

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”
— Sarah Ban Breathnach

Newspaper RSS (mis)feeds

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I’m just saying, she has a point.

I notice, on a lot of feeds from newspapers, there seems to be no order or thought given to the stories that go out on the feed. (OK, so I only subscribe to a small handful of newspaper feeds, but still, it is annoying.)

I was going to point to my newspaper’s feed, which I’ve noticed this on in the past, but I looked at today’s and it seems a decent mix (mostly my stories, which I guess is what happens when you’re the only reporter on for the day). Though, it does strike me as weird that the story which appears banner on front in the paper is the ninth story listed on the top stories/breaking news feed? (It’s oddly enough the 10th story on the more general “news” feed.) The centerpiece package on front is the lead on both feeds, so I guess that makes sense. But other than that, it’s kind of hit or miss. It’s all local stories, but they’re from all different areas of the paper with no semblance of order.

To get semi-off topic: That lack of order was one of the things Carl brought up in our news design class when we were discussing newspaper Web sites/”The Future” (dun dun dun). There is almost universally no importance hierarchy for daily updates. Your school closing is listed right after your five car pile up is listed right before your gas prices. Most sites time stamp the updates as if to say, this is how often we’re getting you the news, check back often. It makes sense, if you do it enough.

Also, that time stamp, unless there is a really big breaking story, which the editors will move into the top news spot on the page bumping the standing daily content down, is the only order given to such updates.

Gone are the days of editors sorting out the newsworthiness and signaling it by placement on the front page. On the web, it’s often a free for all where timeliness is everything and actual newsworthiness measured by other means is secondary to just getting it posted in a spot where people who stop in multiple times each day can easily find what’s new.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. It is what it is. I’m just saying that it can be confusing, and sometimes the most important updates can get buried beneath the umpteen other updates each day.

But to go back to my original point: I have a much easier time understanding why there is no ranking of importance to those midday updates, which are often sporadic and unexpected, than the RSS feed, which should be able to be manipulated ahead of time.

The Daily Briefing

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

More from the spam e-mail that caught my attention department…

Dear Newspaper Readers,

I enjoy reading the daily newspaper every morning. But some days, I don’t have time to read it. Those are the days that I will spend a few minutes skimming the first paragraphs of the main stories before I leave home. For months I have been looking for a news briefing service so when I am in a rush and don’t have time to read the paper, I have somewhere to turn. I searched for a news briefing service but couldn’t find one – so I decided to develop it myself. The Daily Briefing™ is a FREE News Briefing Service™ that presents a summary of the day’s events in a one-page, easy-to-read format. The Daily Briefing contains world, national, political, and business abstracts from reputable daily newspapers and wire services. Next time you are in a rush and don’t have time to read your daily newspaper, I recommend reading The Daily Briefing. Enjoy.

Hah. This is not something I *want* to use or encourage others to use. (Though, I do subscribe to Slate’s Today’s Papers, which I guess is pretty much the same thing… Though, it’s important to note, this is not my sole source of news, and I still read several other papers/news sources each day.)

I mean, what about those days when he doesn’t have time to read the papers? Does he just make up the briefing? “Well, here’s what the papers probably said, or should have said, or what I heard CNN say on the little ticker thing at the bottom…” Just as a real news organization has to rely on the credibility its built to gain trust; I wouldn’t get my news from just anyone. Plus, why would I willingly give more of my information to someone who has already spammed me? It doesn’t sound like something I want to opt-in to, kthnx.

But it is an interesting piece of spam, albeit, like most spam, misdirected.

College follow-ups?

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

You know when you’re a senior in high school and you get inundated with brochures and information about seemingly every college in North America and then some.

Well, I was just clearing out my old e-mail account since my dad will soon drop the service and I noticed among the hundreds of spam e-mails one from Babson College. For some reason I decided to click on it. Here’s what it said:

When you were researching four-year colleges, you inquired about Babson. Since then, you’ve likely pursued your education elsewhere – perhaps at a liberal arts school or even at another business college. If you chose not to attend a business school, you may be interested to know about our three-week summer program for non-business majors.

Interesting. I guess I expected to never hear from any of the schools recruiting me ever again once I chose one. By and large that’s true. For the first few years I got annual letters from a few, “If you’re looking to transfer…” but from most nothing. They had money to spend recruiting new students not luring others from their first choice schools.

But it is interesting that Babson kept my information for four years between contact and chose to follow up now. It’s likely if I didn’t choose a major that led practically and obviously to a next step, say if I’d chosen philosophy or English and hadn’t quite decided on what to do with my life, that I’d pursue this opportunity just to see if anything came of it.

Although I’m not a fan of spam e-mail, even from places I once did have legitimate contact with (though I didn’t request it so much as take the standardized tests that gave them my info), this was a tactic I can see worth in.

You want me to click through 12 pages?

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I was really into this NYTimes story. He had me with his seven word lede: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Yep. I was going to read the article, though I typically hate diet stories for the exact reason the writer seems to hell-bent NOT to espouse in this.

The same reason I argued with my 10th grade history teacher that teaching us about evolution was stupid. I told him, as straight faced and well-behaved as my sarcastic 14-year-old, know-it-all self could: What’s the point? You know this isn’t the truth. Next month they will inevitably find some new fossils that will completely change the theory, and not only that but we will never be told. We will go through life being purposely misinformed.

It’s like how we’ll all go through life thinking Pluto’s a planet. Some day our kids will bring home an assignment to build a model of the solar system. We’ll offer to help, and when we ask why they only have eight planets, where’s Pluto? They’ll roll their eyes and say, “Don’t be silly, mom. Pluto’s not a planet. Second-graders know that!”

Unfortunately, I still had to memorize the descent of man and watch boring documentaries about our exodus from Africa. And I still consider Pluto a planet.

Also, unfortunately, people are still writing health/diet articles based on “a recent study found eating (insert pretty much anything edible and a few things of questionable edibility) may (increase/decrease) your likelihood of (insert any disease, illness or ailment that may afflict humans).” You can pretty much fill in any of your choices in those blanks and find some study to back it up — and consequently someone who’s written about it.

So, I liked the approach Pollan took. He went for the obvious answer, and then drew me in for the kill. Why, I wondered as he reeled me further, all those studies touting the benefits of everything? Why, I read on, would anyone willingly down fish oil if it wasn’t healthy for you? Why… is this essay going on for 12 pages?!?!

Yeah. He had me right until I happened to skim ahead and notice at the bottom that I was investing my precious time in something that I would never read to the end of.

Which was the entire point of this post. How many other people see 12 pages ahead and say woah. Nevermind, can I get the Cliff Notes version? Is there an index around here so I can skip to what I really care to know?

It is hard to get people to read a good story on the Web. There are widgets and gadgets and e-mail and instant messages and blogs and games and a few billion other things to drag their attention away.

This story managed to capture mine for several minutes. But, sadly, once I realized I was about to fall over heels for a 12-page story, I quickly retreated. I am willing to invest two maybe three pages in the average article. If it’s something I really care about, you might get six or seven pages to make a point. But I can’t think of anything that will bring me to click through 12 pages of an article on the Web.

Afterall, he made his point of in the first seven words.