Saturday, May 31, 2008

Next in The Series

This sign is outside the UMKC on-campus basketball arena.

Pretty much speaks for itself.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Further Reinforcement for Monitoring

You can't violate my free speech -- often the lament of the college athlete caught by a coach or administrator with a problem on their SNW. A state ruling from Connecticut provides another support in the argument as a high school student's comments on were used to disqualify him from the student council election.

The high school had a clause that candidates must show "good citizenship." Apparently, calling a school administrator a "douchebag" or encouraging people to "piss off" the school's central office on your blog violates that policy.

Payoff quote from the Hartford Courant:

The court also emphasized that Doninger's discipline barred her from an extracurricular activity, and that the blog post was inconsistent with the school's policy that student government representatives have a record of good citizenship.

The student apparently is prepping an appeal. Good luck, because when the rules for extracurricular activity are set -- whether they are team rules for an athletic team or qualifications for a leadership or academic group -- you violate them at your peril.

The First Amendment does not cover that.

More at the Chron and the Hartford Courant

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Great Sign Moments for the Road

Since there doesn't look like vacation is in the offing this summer, here's the first in a series of great road signs of the past. I started collecting these on my cell phone several years ago. This is was from the OzzFest at the Verizon Amphitheater in St. Louis. It's pretty self explanatory.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No, I'm Not That Bill Smith

When asked, I never agree to hotel check-in personnel and others that like to joke about the fact that you've got a pretty common name. I counter, it's not common, it's popular.

That said, I noticed today there's another Dr. Bill Smith from the state of Arkansas with a far more popular blog (traffic-wise), and got asked if were were the same. No, he runs a GOP-issue website.

Kind of when I was on the board for the Arkansas Air Museum, and there's a hangar in Springdale with BS on the side. No, not mine either.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No Travel this Memorial Day

Sitting on the back deck, this is the first time in 15 years I'll be home the week of Memorial Day. Fort Walton and Destin are special places for our family, vacationing there since high school for me and since elementary school for Libby. The combination of restructuring and gas prices -- no beach this summer.

I'll miss it, in particular the Donut Hole, which I've mentioned before. I always saw those mugs when we'd visit, and resisted the temptation to buy one until last summer. Who knew it would be our last visit for a while.

So, with my morning coffee in the Donut Hole mug, I'm thinking about the sound of the beach and never taking anything for granted anymore.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Message is the Medium

Here's the first in a series of thoughts looking toward the new media panel at CoSIDA. Feedback to the email address is encouraged.

A generation had its opinion formed by Marshall McLuhan's theories. His post-postmortem website even starts with a link labeled "Enter the Medium". I've been more a Neill Postmann follower (as in Amusing Ourselves to ), and working this past spring in the Sports Media Relations class I've come to a new point of view. This may not be original -- I didn't google the snot out of it to check -- but the realization was strong and personal.

McLuhan was right in what I call the Atomic Era; that post-Second World War time from 1945 until the mid-1990s where we faced new technologies and the realization that for the first time in human history we really did have the capacity to end it all. Television -- the primary medium of which he spoke -- became a message in and of itself. It changed everything.

One could argue this continues today with the internet -- a distribution medium that becomes a message and a purpose into itself. Just look at social networking as a prime example.

But why?

Various mediums do influence and shape the way the message is imparted. McLuhan lived and thought far ahead of his time, but I don't think he could possibly have seen a day in which the means of distribution could become one. Television brought together picture and sound in real time, pretty jarring.

Still, a newspaper by its nature is flatland, to use Edward Tufte's term. What happens when the newspaper -- the written word -- appears on your screen that brings you color photos, moving images, sound and streams of raw data.

McLuhan lived in a world with a rainbow -- a spectrum of specific wavelengths that did specific things, albeit in new and wonderfully subversive ways to the culture at large.

We live in a time where that prism -- the medium -- is removed; all the modes of communication run together into a pure beam of light.

Look, I love newspapers and still subscribe to them. Same for news weeklies. Until someone comes up with a better user interface for the toilet, one that's fully compliant with the first 10,000 feet of commercial flight and independent of power supplies, I'll keep using them. That doesn't mean I don't RSS 40-50 news sources, use aggregators and spiders to harvest news and search and participate in Web 2.0 communities.

I do it all for the same reason we all do -- I'm looking for a message; the medium doesn't matter any more. I'll take my news on trees or flickering LCDs; I'll watch my content on a CRT, a plasma screen or a LCD phone; I'll listen to the voices over analog waves, digital downloads or in my head.

Therefore, those that command the message -- who form it, set its agenda, choose its content -- are the ones who shall rule the medium. Content is king.

More as it develops, but now I want to put my attention on Aurelija Miseviciute, who's playing in the NCAA semis about 100 miles away from my computer. But I can watch by streaming video, essentially warping space to a niche market -- people interested in Arkansas women's tennis -- that McLuhan could not imagine. He might argue the medium made it possible. OK, but that's to the credit of a bunch of engineers -- perhaps Al Gore? I seek the message, and all the medium just allows me to save $3.95 a gallon and the transit time.

Look at You All Grow'd Up

Nothing like a quality hour spent searching and writing code -- ah, for those glorious days of WordPad.

So, the blog now has its own easy to find RSS feed, plus Add This social bookmarking for the individual posts.

After all, the world can't live without the musing of The Road Scholar -- share them.

Web 2.0 Bites Clintons

The unfortunate remarks by Hillary Clinton regarding the 1968 Democratic campaign are a teaching moment for the media and news sources. Today's Washington Wire -- one of the note blogs of the Wall Street Journal -- gives the play-by-play of how her quote from an editorial board meeting in South Dakota became a world wide story.

This is a cautionary tale of technology. Just because you can stream something live does not mean you should. Clinton's meeting was made available to any media to listen in. These settings are often informal and somewhat off the record for exact comments. Often, they function as backgrounder opportunities for a candidate.

Not when the whole wide world is watching. Or not watching in the case of the media caravan with Clinton. They were shuttled off to a nearby location with WiFi to listen. The combination of poor bandwidth and dull content sent many of the journalists to the pasta bar for lunch. That is, until their Blackberrys started going off with references to a New York Post story that was already up on Drudge.

Seems the remote journalists weren't having issues hearing the Senator loud and clear, and she had uttered the assassination reference. This sends the in-country pack rushing up to the Clinton campaign for reaction. Let the clean-up begin.

Here's a payoff from the story:

And while a couple reporters — who had managed to stick with the streaming press conference — mentioned that they found her assassination reference slightly strange, few on the trail thought it would be the lead on any of their stories that day.

The fact that it did become big news is illustrative of journalistic competition in the Internet age. The entire pack of reporters sent to watch Clinton’s every move had somehow gotten beat, and forced into following a New York Post reporter who was nowhere near the campaign, but who, apparently, had a much-better Internet connection.

(A personal aside: There are some days I link the article for reference to those who want more, and certainly to provide a citation to quotes I've copied. Today my colleagues, this article is REQUIRED reading. So much so, here's the link again if you missed it at the top.)

The uber-moral for SIDs? Just because you can stream that post-game press conference live doesn't mean you should. And if you do, make sure your coaches and athletes understand they are live not just to the room of familiar faces that may or may not use their words against them.

The subtle lesson here may be the most important. For the Senator, it was a Post reporter that posted the story that launched a thousand links. It easily could have been one of those Cheetos people. Sure, it would have taken longer for the pajama media to be taken seriously and reposted by regular media -- but one a gaffe like this one they would have. Just ask Dan Rather.

I know the term Web 2.0 gets tossed around a lot at times like this -- it really wasn't the social web that caused this event. However, it was Web 2.0's enabling advanced technology -- streaming media, portable access, immediate messaging and hyperlinked media sources -- that caused it.

Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nice to Get Noticed

This humble space got noticed by Eye on Sports Media with some positive comments and a critique. Fair on most points. As I said in my comments, I'd answer point two over here.

The main reason why I have not enabled comments, other than emailing them to me UARK account, is to protect myself. This is an important project, but as those that blog know, you may go a few days between posts either due to work or lack of intelligent thoughts. Let's be clear -- I don't have tenure -- and the last thing I need is to have someone shellaced the blog with questionable or actionable content that I would be responsible for.

But Chris is right -- I need to fix the key word tagging and the RSS -- that's coming this weekend.

Sorry -- Chippy headlines to continue.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Trying Out a New Theory

Why do sports information directors (and athletic directors and coaches, for that part) have such near universal disdane for bloggers and message boards? Aside from the obvious rumor mongering and anonymous sniping, I have a theory.

They don't know how mad the fans really are.

For the past 19 years, I have had the luxury of sitting in the stands at almost every home Razorback football game. While considering the future in which I will likely be in the press box, I began to associate the behavior of the fans with the behavior of the posters. Aside from lingering prose and far deeper detail, I don't think I read anything on-line terribly different in general sentiment about the previous football coach than I heard in the stands. Maybe that's why it didn't shock me to read things on the boards after sitting among fans -- anonymous to me and most of the people sitting around them -- through these games.

Second guessing plays. Second guessing personnel moves. Rumoring what was going on along the sideline based on body language (and occasionally, oh-too-clear to discern salty language). From the reads, it was obvious fans that shared the feelings and emotions of the ones sitting around me would go home and post (excuse me, vent) those opinions on boards and blogs.

Here goes the theory: no one screams and yells like that in the press box. The athletic officials don't hear the crowd during the game, and those they might hear are not likely to be the average fan -- a skybox owner or a low, 50-yard-line seat holder.

This follows up on my theory of the function of the message board as the perpetual coffee shop. Personally, message boards are filled with the same gossip that swirled around the local college hangouts with one very, very important difference. You had to be at the coffee shop at the same time the rumor was passed, or the athletic department official (or coach) was shooting their mouth off about something. If the rumor was juicy enough, it would circulate, but not far and not for long.

Today, you can walk into the digital coffee shop at any time and from anywhere. By the miracle of the cached file, you can catch up on all the talk -- it never goes away. Thus, if you knew how mad they were in the stands, the kind of things they anonymously said out loud for all to hear, would what they wrote later be so shocking?

Feedback on this please at the email address.

What Good is it to Have it All?

Once upon a time, time and space had more meaning. Drop into the house, on the sat is one of my favorite movies, Stranger than Fiction. Harold Crick knows one song, and he sings it to Ana. It catches my ear. Is that on the soundtrack? Don't remember the name, but iTunes awaits. Nothing quite makes sense, so a quick google of "one song Harold Crick knows" -- yeah, longshot. No, spot on. A Yahoo! Answers query pops right up with Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric.

Consider that not that long ago, I could not just sit down and get the instant gratification of finding a song and just buying it from my home desk. What do you do with that kind of access and power? Seriously. It's no wonder we are a culture obsessed with now. It can happen now. It can be discovered here.

Perhaps it reveals both the attraction and the impatience of the sports fan. When you go to the stadium, you have certain expectations, but it is after all the only true reality program (or Speed Racer, the Grand Prix has been fixed for years). The inability to know or predict is what brings people in. But, when it doesn't work out they way they want -- both result and style -- the fan can have immediate gratification in the form of lashing out with opinion.

Interesting Nielsen Online Numbers

The Newspaper Association is promoting how strong digital circulation is for their members, accounting for just over 40% of the unique visitors in the first quarter. For all those horrible cost numbers we've recounted (and budget cuts), on-line has a 12.3% increase over last year. A very remarkable change. You can read more on the study here.

At the same time, there are some really interesting inside baseball. Notice that Gannett Newspapers is No. 12 -- is that an aggregate of all their papers? I see USATODAY stands at 29th by itself.

Equally relevant -- of the top 30 sites, only nine are print media traditional newspaper. Two of the top ten are text media content creators (and that's stretching it for Daily Kos, as much a political SNW). Three of the top 10 are TV networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC). The big leaders -- Drudge, AOL News, Yahoo! News, Google News, etc. -- are only repurposing content that comes from . . . . oh yeah, those AP and traditional newspaper journalists.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Good (and Bad) News on Community

A random thought while waiting . . .

Community is the big thing on the internet, and people spend a lot of time building profiles and finding community. That's a powerful, and positive force.

I'm afraid what drives it is a growing lack of community in the RealLife. No one keeps a job for the length of a career. Mobility within the culture is the rule; not stability. We seek others of like mind and the internet allows that. Good, but at the same time it allows us to not relate with those we see daily.

Aggressive Tactics in Politics?

Somehow, a candidate that is quick to send his campaign workers out to correct perceived errors in the media is being A) aggressive or B) new. At least, that's the impression at the Washington Post today about John McCain. Some interesting quotes from the pros involved, but the tone of the whole article begs the question -- do you not remember the War Room? Does the name James Carville ring a bell? How about Karl Rove? Really, this isn't rocket science. But, to the hot quotes:

"If stories are wrong, we have an absolute obligation to say so, and to say so as loudly as we can," said Mark Salter, McCain's longtime confidant, who writes the rebuttal letters. "It's not working the refs. It's just correcting things when the refs blow a call."

That's a lovely mix of sports metaphor with politics; except we really don't get to correct the ref, even if he does blow a call. Nevertheless, nice to see someone else recognizing that if there's a factual error, there's no shame in calling (or in the case of a board or blogger -- emailing or posting) the correction out. Tactically, here's one to keep in mind as you build an overall strategy.

The McCain camp also circulates these letters to conservative radio hosts and bloggers, hoping to provide an alternative narrative for the press. "There is no point in calling the reporter," said McCain strategist Steve Schmidt. "There is no point in calling the [story] editor." When confronted with untrue accusations, he said, "we will use that to communicate with our supporters and donors to take advantage of the unfairness."

An interesting take -- one used often by sports media relations on the radio host part, but not particularly exploited to date in the new media realm. More on that concept later.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bad News for PigBoy14

You may be aware of the Lori Drew case. The 49-year-old created a fake MySpace 16-year-old to cyber-bully and terrorize 13-year-old Megan Meier in her Missouri hometown. Meier eventually hung herself. The state could not find a way to charge Drew for her behavior even though most media accounts point to an almost direct impact on the suicide. The feds, however, have a new angle.

By creating a fake name, Drew is being brought up on federal hacking charges. From the AP story:

Prosecutors alleged that by helping create a MySpace account in the name of someone who didn't exist, Lori Drew, 49, violated the News Corp.-owned site's terms of service and thus illegally accessed protected computers.

Legal experts warned Friday that such an interpretation could criminalize routine behavior on the Internet. After all, people regularly create accounts or post information under aliases for many legitimate reasons, including parody, spam avoidance and a desire to maintain their anonymity or privacy online or that of a child.

This new interpretation also gives a business contract the force of a law: Violations of a Web site's user agreement could now lead to criminal sanction, not just civil lawsuits or ejection from a site.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Will

17 years old today, my not-so-little boy. Still, he and his friends stayed up until midnight to open up his main present (RockBand -- but that might be more the friends who knew what it was driving that decision process).

It seems like yesterday he was sitting down on the press row as a precocious second grader, eager to score games and run errands. A part of working the games since that time, I hope that continues with the new administration.

Anyway, hope you got the text message about your birthday, which the newspaper reports tell me you share with Isreal. Knowing your respect and fascination with your GramGram's side of the family, I'm sure that's something you'll be proud of for years to come.

Bill Smith's Day Off

Well, not really. More like three hours between the end of the JumpTV conference and heading to O'Hare. By the way, if one must connect through Atlanta on the way to heaven, O'Hare is the purgatory you may be sentenced to prior to getting to that connecting flight.

Ah Farris. Workday downtown Chicago retains its Bueller-like charm. The stores change -- Ernie Sucheck couldn't name off the waterfront today. But the Billy Goat is still here, and a great power walk takes me past the Weber Grill Resturant -- kind of a high alter of all that is guy with all the cooking being done indoors on, yes that's right, Weber kettles. Harry Carey's. The House of Blues. And without a doubt one of the largest mega McDonald's (I know the one on Broadway is larger, but it's not true to the arches, which are golden yellow and huge in Chi-town).

As if on cue, John Edwards has provided the Clinton-Obama drama I so expected being in the bifurcated home of these two political rivals -- sitting in the airport Edwards has endorsed Obama. A patently obvious counter to Clinton's crushing WVa win (quick, Rich Rod isn't the only connection between WVa and Michigan, the state Hillary needs back in play to keep this thing going now).

Did anyone catch the Monday reference? Bueller? Bueller?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Elmer of eBay

In my favorite hobby -- amateur radio -- there's a term for a wise mentor: Elmer. Ironic the new major domo of the JumpTV group we're meeting with goes by the name of Elmer. From the very feng shui powerpoint to a fierce commitment to community, he cuts an impressive swath through the event. Of course, when you hear someone echoing your own theories, why they must be a genius.

He should know a little about communities, having spent the past five years with eBay. For the immediate future at UA, it is reassuring to hear white is the new black in color scheme (better to let you school color through), that white space (not to be confused with the color) is not waste, that we have turned the corner to where clarity of message is more important than cramming something into every last corner of space. Too often in the past we've seen this with an interior decorating motif best expressed as no wall goes "un-hogged".

Elmer has graciously agreed to share a pair of his PPT slides that hit home on Fan First -- that the rising generations go to the internet and their friends for their opinions and news and the fastest growing segment of domain visit in the past year was social networking. The first is not that surprising, but it's great to get some numbers to support. The second note bears a follow up. Consider that SNW holds 16% of the traffic -- a category of website that did not exist in the surveys three years ago.

Monday, May 12, 2008

If You Have the Means . . .

. . . I highly recommend Chicago. Arriving here today for the first of two days of meetings hosted by the JumpTV folks on the programs and tool-set driving our website. Gino's East remains the king, the Watertower is always this oasis of 19th-century Americana plopped in the middle of the corporate 21st century. Is it no small coincidence it is catty-cornered from Macy's, nee Marshall Fields before the shotgun wedding?

There should be an interesting sideshow -- Hillary's hometown and Barak's home district -- with the West Virginia primary on the horizon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Interesting Twist on What Makes the Internet

Lee Smith's essay in this week's Chronicle -- The Wealthiest Colleges Should Acquire "The New York Times" -- has several pithy and useful insights into journalism today. The gist is Smith believes the elite colleges should take a small percentage of their endowments and create a private for-profit of the NYT to keep the Grey Lady afloat in its current form.

This is a lot of the usual "who will pay for the journalism we need" screed, but at least he admits that what could be worse for the Times -- that people accuse it of being influenced by East Coast Liberal bias? Like they don't now? Good point, Lee Smith. His plan is not to make it a non-profit, but relieve the pressure of stockholders for short term profit, or rates of profit not consistent with "good journalism."

Enough -- here's the key quote:

". . . the Internet is not a source of information; it is a means of distributing information in bewildering bulk -- true, false, significant, trivial, timely, old, brilliant, maniacle -- from an endless array of sources. Some of it is wonderfully rich in detail, reliable, and level-headed; some of it is fantastical and malicious."

That has to be one of the best definitions of the InfoWeb 2.0 I have seen. He continues to point out that most of the "reliable information" on the net comes from reporters paid for by traditional media sources. True, and the crux of the monetizing eyeballs problem of InfoWeb 2.0.

Smith's column in whole is well worth a tumble. I'd like to give you a link, but of course, it is a subscription item (ironic, no?). Those that have a Chron subscription can jump here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Convention is Coming

For those that attend CoSIDA, this is a shameless promotion of my panel New Media & College Sports: Understanding the Impact of Citizen Media and the Blogosphere. We're lucky that Dan Gillmor from the Center for Citizen Media and Arizona State's Cronkite School will present along with the man behind Every Day Should Be Saturday, Spenser Hall.

I'll try to follow those titans with a perspective of how we in the college sports community must reach out and be a part of this new media -- both as a participant from our institution with our own new media platforms and interact with this brave new world.

I'd be a shameless hypocrite if I didn't take advantage of this platform to vet and collect feedback on my part. So, watch this space for topics out of the talk for feedback. You can send that or suggestions direct to me at UA (bismith at uark [dot] edu).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Well, When the Paper Names You POTY

An item from the Palm Beach, Fla., paper was forwarded by a colleague with the exclamation -- why in the world would they care, it's softball. A tough lesson for a young woman headed off to college as the paper dredged up a week-old arrest for DUI. According to the story, it was her second driving violation.

At first glance, well, it did seem a bit excessive even if she is the best softball prepster in the state. On re-read, the payoff is in the second paragraph. "Jane Doe, named the two-time Palm Beach newspaper player of the year, . . ." -- yep, if the paper's invested in your career on the good side, the police blotter reporter probably will remember your name.

One of those unfortunate good times-bad times publicity moments.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More on the E-Mail Frontier

You may recall how student email became a central part of the Mitch Mustain business at Arkansas, and that private commercial email could not be used as a means to circumvent public record university emails in the Pokey Chatman case at LSU. Florida weighs in today with a search of student emails in pursuit of a leak regarding admissions to the university's College of Medicine. Here we see some interesting new twists -- the UF accounts can be searched but the Google or other private email account of a student carries some level of FERPA protection. This will be a case to watch.