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Archives: February 2008

6 Must-have gadgets for journalists

The handheld video camera is the cornerstone of any multimedia journalist’s arsenal and the Sanyo VPC-HD700 is bringing high-definition recording to the party. The small and sleek camera records HD video and doubles as a high-powered still camera. It comes with a remote control, has in-camera editing abilities and saves files to SDHC memory cards. It doesn’t have a dedicated audio recording feature, but with a little ingenuity and conversion, that can be resolved. The HD700 is available for $350 at Amazon.

For high-definition video without the HD cost check out the Aiptek A-HD 720P High-Definition camcorder, which retails at Amazon for $134.99. The viewfinder is small and the zoom is not much help compared to other handhelds, but its great for newsrooms on a budget (which is to say, almost everyone).

The Tony Hawk HelmetCam is a tiny camera that can be strapped on to any helmet and is great for capturing elusive action shots (I wish I had one for a project on downhill skateboarding). The compact camera is great for recording from the viewpoint of a staffer and records 640 x 480 video in a range of formats. The HelmetCam is available from Amazon for $30.

With all the useful and cool gadgets available, it may be easy to run out of room in your proverbial backpack. There is, however, always room for the ZRAD Super Mini SPY Cam. The tiny camcorder is about the size of a pack of gum and record up to two hours worth of video on a single charge and can store up to 33 hours of video. The video output is not broadcast quality and is barely web quality, but is useful for capturing spot news on the fly when a larger camera is impractical. The SPY Cam is available from Spy Gadgets for $129 (please refrain from actual spying).

If size is not an issue and pitch perfect, broadcast quality is what you’re looking for, look no further than the M-Audio MicroTrack II. The battery operated audio recorder has two-channel WAV and MP3 recording and playback and stores to Compact Flash cards. It records up to four to five hours on a single charge and connects with a USB cable for quick uploading to the web. The recorder also has input jacks for professional and consumer microphones and headphones. The MicroTrack II is available for $300-$500, depending on where you get it from.

Recording phone calls with sources can be a pain, but the Teleport 2.0 makes it a little easier. The gadget connects your telephone to your PC’s USB port, and records incoming and outgoing calls. It also keeps a log of calls made and is compatible with any telephone set. The Teleport 2.0 is available for around $70. A friendly reminder from 10,000 Words: remember to check state laws before recording phone calls.

Also on 10,000 Words:

Crazy gadgets that are (possibly) crazy useful
7 Gadgets for the eccentric journalist
Inexpensive gadgets for backpack journalists

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Great online journalism from non-traditional journalists

It’s easy to be inspired by the work of mainstream media powerhouses like The New York Times and CNN, but there is great multimedia to be found outside of the traditional journalism sphere.

The role of individual musicians in an orchestra is illustrated in the following clip from the short film “Das Sein und das Nichts”. As the music plays, the contribution from each musical instrument is visually represented.

Many people are aware of the spread of HIV, but unclear about how the disease attacks the body. The slick-looking video “Targeting HIV replication” is more Star Wars than PSA and interprets the debilitating process in a very easy facile manner.

People in Order, a series of short films that translates statistics in a very visual and emotional way, is one of the greatest video series to emerge this year. The four shorts by filmmakers Lenka Clayton and James Price were filmed over four weeks in February and arranged 471 Brits by age, yearly income, relationship length and pregnancy.

The embedded videos are “New Age, BANG, Old Age,” in which a person of every age, between 1 and 100, bangs a single drum. The second is “New Love Order” in which 48 couples are arranged by length of their relationship. The other two films are “We Make This Much Money” and a video showing women at various stages of pregnancy.

Along the lines of People in Order and a previous post about finding multimedia in the mundane is a series of photos dubbed “Taking pictures of strangers,” courtesy of mental_floss blog. The photos of random people are innately compelling without the need for a news hook or a nut graf.

A series of video and flat graphics illustrate how New York reaches out to the rest of the world. The project tracked international phone calls and ISP connections between NYC and locations around the globe and it is presented in a visually arresting way. The multimedia project is available online and is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Finally, this simple, yet effective animated gif of how a sewing machine works takes what could have been a flat graphic and turned it into a hypnotic, “so that’s how it works” moment.

What is design?

Today’s post comes courtesy of Flickr’s Designer Wallpaper group. Contributors answer the question what is design? through clever and excellently designed graphic images. Here are some of the best (click the titles to view the original images):

Design is the part you don’t notice.

Design is about scoring chicks and getting wasted. Oh wait, that’s rock and roll.

Design is beautiful.

More after the jump

Design is boring text and solid colors.

Design is a nice way to say hello.

Design is the difference.

Design is not ripped paper and chunky fonts.

Design is trendy.

Design is something a programmer should not do.

El diseño es algo más que colores bonitos.
(Design is more than pretty colors.)

Design is LEGO for grownups.

Design is subtle.

Design is putting focus where it matters.

Design is using serif when sans is trendy.

Design makes me happy.

How to take Twitter to the next level

So you’re tweeting. Now what? It’s time to take a look at sites that are making the most out of Twitter’s ability to instantly transmit the news.

Instead of waiting for traffic updates online or via radio, some internet users are turning to Commuter Feed. The site lets Twitter users send updates about local traffic around the country directly to the site, where the feeds are searchable by city or metropolitan area.

Politweets tracks the political discussion happening in the Twitterverse by aggregating tweets about political candidates. The most recent tweets about Democratic candidates are on the left and Republicans are on the right. In the middle is a list of candidates positioned by how much they are being discussed (Barack Obama is currently at the top of the pile).

Because the web is all about citizen journalism, truemors is made up of news submitted by the average Joes and Janes of Twitter. It’s kind of like a micro social news networking site that aggregates the content that people care about from a variety of news sources. Twemes is also a great way of indexing what people are talking about online. The site is useful for searching tagged tweets on any subject, like, for example, John McCain.

Twitterers are already discussing major news events, including Super Tuesday and Sunday’s Academy Awards; it’s just a matter of major news organizations grabbing the opportunity and creating their own news hubs.

Did you know Twitter isn’t just for sending text? TwitPic and Twixtr both allow users to send photos either online or via mobile phone through Twitter. So instead of simply including links to new stories, anyone can add photos to accompany their tweets (and we know photos are a great visual attraction).

Twittervision combines Twitter and Google Maps to create a real-time visual idea of where tweets are coming from. The only requirement to appear on the site is a location and an image defined in your Twitter post. The 3D version is also worth a look, if only for the coolness factor.

Twittermap creates a visual display of geotagged tweets and can also be used to find Twitterers by location. Those familiar with data mashup editor Yahoo! Pipes can use geo twitter to get a geotagged feed of your Twitter posts, which can be displayed on a Yahoo or Google map.

There are a lot of interesting and useful sites based on Twitter and with the Twitter API up for grabs, there is no reason that journalists can’t be a part of the next evolution in news.

Also on 10,000 Words

The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make
Twitter is…
How to analyze your Twitter followers and friends
10 Journalists you should follow on Twitter

Twitter for journalists: What you need to know

Twitter is changing the way news is delivered and read. For the uninitiated, Twitter is an online application that lets users send short messages of 140 characters or less called “tweets” through instant message, cell phone or its website. Many journalists are already using it as a microblogging platform or, alternatively, as a way to keep friends and colleagues updated on their daily lives.

ReadWriteWeb has encapsulated the reasons why Twitter and journalism go hand in hand:

Unlike TV or newspaper, Twitter allows for a conversation. Like its new media brethren, blogs, Twitter encourages discourse and feedback. For reporters that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty, Twitter is a golden opportunity to build a rapport with readers and gauge public opinion. It also makes readers feel more connected to the news when they can participate in a discussion about it as it happens, often times with the people reporting it first hand.

Twitter is built for the new news cycle. “Traditional news operated on a 24-hour cycle. Blogs shortened this to minutes and hours. Twitter shortens it further to seconds,” [Patrick Ruffini of TechPresident] writes. “It’s not right for every piece of information. It’s certainly not well suited for longer analysis. But when it comes to instantly assembling raw data from several sources that then go into fully baked news stories, nothing beats it.”

CNN’s Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn) is a great example of how a mainstream news organization is using Twitter to deliver news. In addition to providing links to CNN’s news content, Rick also engages in conversation with many of his thousands of online followers.

Other traditional news media making use of Twitter are BBC News, CBC News (Canada), Le Monde – World, the New York Times, CNN Breaking News, The Oregonian, Orlando Sentinel, ESPN, and a host of others indexed here. It’s about time your news organization was added to the list, right?

Creating links to news stories on Twitter and redirecting them to your site is a great way to generate additional traffic or to notify Twitter users of breaking news. The site is also useful for liveblogging or tracking reaction to local stories.

Twitter is used more often for personal discourse, but journalists should approach twittering of their personal lives with caution. Tech blogger extraordinaire Tiffany B. Brown explains why she tweets and why having the public following your public life may not be such a good idea. Nevertheless, Twitter has quickly become the essential tool in every newsroom’s and journalist’s arsenal.

Also on 10,000 Words

The top 7 mistakes new Twitter users make
Twitter is…
How to analyze your Twitter followers and friends
10 Journalists you should follow on Twitter