Weekly #7: Wicked Wikipedia

When I first discovered Wikipedia years ago, I thought the online encyclopedia was rather shady. I relied on the site to find quick information about a topic, but never believed the background I obtained was completely trustworthy. In fact, I always went out of my way to ensure I did not cite research from the source.

I don’t feel that way anymore, however. I now have complete faith in Wikipedia and use it religiously to obtain information on the fly. It couldn’t be more convenient, particularly when you contrast it with an old school, heavy encyclopedia. Who has space to store an entire encyclopedia collection these days, anyway? I certainly couldn’t fit a collection in my 340-square-foot apartment. Well, maybe A-F could squeeze into my closet.

Why go to the library when everything you need is one click away? Type a subject or word into a search engine and one of the top results is likely a Wikipedia page dedicated to the topic. In fact, come to think of it, I never need to venture to the Wikipedia homepage to find relevant articles. They always show up in my search results. Why else is Wikipedia better in my opinion? Articles are continually updated with the latest news and information. Traditional encyclopedias can become out of date the second they hit store shelves.

I’m not the only one who has jumped on the bandwagon. Wikipedia is becoming more and more trusted as a valuable resource among influential audiences. Believe it or not, even judges are citing Wikipedia in their decisions. In fact, a 2005 study found Wikipedia to be as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia has a strong social concept of neutrality. The organization does not take a stance on controversial topics. It encourages articles to expose both sides of an argument. This is helpful in eliminating one-sided, biased research.

Eighteen percent of Wikipedia articles receive edits from anonymous users. This means that over 80 percent of article edits are made by trusted contributors. Additionally, users continually monitor page updates and peer review articles in real-time. For example, vandalism issues are resolved quickly.

I never fully understood how Wikipedia worked until I watched its founder Jimmy Wales’ infamous 18-minute TED speech about his creation. I highly encourage you to check it out.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Social Media

Weekly #6: The World of Gaming

Computer and video games were a big part of my childhood. I have fond memories playing games with my friends and family. I especially enjoyed my original Nintendo game console. I spent countless hours rescuing the princess in Super Mario Brothers, killing game in Duck Hunt and running for gold on my Power Pad. When I wasn’t home, I had the ability to continue playing. I brought my Game Boy and Sega Genesis portable with me everywhere.

Computer games were also one of my favorite pastimes. I tracked Carmen Sandiego’s whereabouts and built the infrastructure of new cities across America thanks to Sim City. We seemed to spend endless hours in middle school playing Oregon Trail. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to the game with 2,245 members appropriately titled I Just Tried to Ford the River and My Fricken Oxen Died.

Looking back at those years, my life as a gamer seemed to end abruptly. I began to think of video games as dorky and a total waste of time. Oddly enough, one of my main clients today is a major player in the entertainment software space. Each and every day I spend countless hours writing about technology and how the industry is playing an increasingly important role in our society. Although I spend much of my day thinking about computer and video games, I never get the opportunity to play them and actually experience how far they have come. That briefly changed for an hour or two before the Christmas holiday. My coworker brought in The Beatles: Rock Band. I won’t deny it – I was super excited about the opportunity to jam with my all-time favorite band. I picked up the guitar and selected “I Am the Walrus” and joined John, Paul, George and Ringo on stage. I was lucky enough to meet Paul face-to-face in 2002. This was almost like the real deal.

I’ve heard quite a bit about Second Life and thought I’d give it a whirl and immerse myself in this new world. I flew around a city, ran into some walls and found myself in a lounge sitting on the bench of a white grand piano. I felt as though I had escaped my own life. I was in a magical land far, far away from reality. I also checked out Persuasive Games and was absolutely amazed by the selection of fun, interactive and educational games available. I gave Killer Flu and Debt Ski a shot. Next on the agenda – Fatworld. Computer and video games have certainly come a long way. I look forward to learning more about the mobile and online video game space in tomorrow’s class.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Technology

Weekly #5: The Google Galaxy

Google currently holds a commanding 65 percent market share. This success has only motivated the company to go above and beyond. Google continues to innovate and bring exciting services to the marketplace. There is no doubt in my mind that it has the overarching goal of one day taking over the World Wide Web. I also believe that if it reaches this goal – it won’t stop there. Google currently controls more network fiber than any other organization. As this writer suggests, the company is attempting to take over the fixed networks in our lives, including the telephone and cable television. And that’s just the start of it.

I think all consumers should be afraid of companies that operate as monopolies. Competition should exist in the marketplace. It’s only natural. Without it, companies can walk all over consumers. Google is certainly heading in a monopolistic direction.

Don’t get me wrong though. I love Google and believe I benefit immensely each and every day from its services. My top most visited site is certainly Google.com. I value the ability to consistently find what it is I am looking for. Perhaps Bono still hasn’t discovered this nifty tool?

I also find Gmail incredibly useful in terms of its unlimited storage space, and Gchat comes in handy as a quick and easy way to keep in touch with friends. My Google Reader allows me to stay on top of the latest news and information. Google Maps consistently delivers spot on directions. YouTube provides endless entertainment. Google Groups saves me time and alleviates stress. Google Voice is saving people loads of money on their phone bill. Google has undoubtedly transformed the Internet. It will certainly be interesting to see how more the company can impact our lives in the years ahead.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Media, Technology

Personal #3: Healthy Spring Cleaning

I couldn’t think of a better day than Monday, March 1 to get a head start on some spring cleaning and improve my health. For the last two weeks, I’ve been engaged in an internal body cleanse. It will officially be over when I wake up Monday morning.

I became interested in cleansing last year. I did a lot of research online and listened to an informative podcast that thoroughly explained its benefits. Each and every day we are exposed to environmental toxins and chemicals within the products we use and consume. A cleanse is beneficial in eliminating chemicals from the body, including:

  • Artificial food additives
  • Caffeine, alcohol, medications, cigarette smoke
  • Unnecessary body care ingredients
  • Synthetic chemicals in household cleaners
  • Toxins from building and furnishing materials
  • Compounds leaching from certain plastics
  • Indoor and outdoor pollution

There are a variety of cleansing products on the market today. The Whole Foods 365 Complete Body Cleanse Kit is a good system. The $12 kit includes a cleansing fiber blend, milk thistle liver cleanse and herbal regulatory laxative formula. So what can you eat while cleansing? Raw fruit and vegetables (organic preferred), oatmeal and nuts.

I did my first cleanse last fall. I felt absolutely great when it wrapped up. I had more energy, my skin looked flawless and my pants fit better. I learned to avoid needless calories and toxins in drinking coffee and soda throughout the day. I also got accustomed to eating less sugar and unhealthy fats and incorporating more vegetables and lean protein into my diet.

I have decided to make cleansing a yearly tradition. What could be better than starting off a new year feeling absolutely rejuvenated? Absolutely nothing.

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental, Food

Weekly #4: The Online Music Scene

If you read my last post, you are well aware that I am a big music fan. I am not fully engaged in the online music scene, but believe I would benefit from doing so. My online music time is mostly spent watching videos on YouTube, checking out new bands on MySpace and giving the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to songs on my Pandora station.

I also follow my favorite artists religiously on Twitter. I find this to be a particularly useful tool to get a heads up on upcoming concerts and artist-related news. It is also a very fun way to see what your favorite band is up to in your town the day of the show. I also currently subscribe to VH1, MTV and Rolling Stone’s RSS feeds and monitor them regularly from my Google Reader.

We briefly discussed Last.fm in last week’s class. I had previously heard of the Web site, but never took the time to actually stop and check it out. I am so glad I did. Last.fm is a haven for music junkies. How to describe it? Think Pandora and YouTube meet MySpace. The site is absolutely amazing and offers endless possibilities. For instance, a search for Cat Stevens allows me to:

  • Listen to music
  • Watch videos
  • Obtain a list of top tracks and most popular albums
  • Get a list of tour stops
  • Rave about him in the “shoutbox” comment box
  • Order tracks and albums through Amazon
  • Join groups associated with him
  • See who is also listening to him at that moment
  • Sign up for an e-newsletter

I’ve always been a big fan of Alltop, which is essentially an online magazine rack. Users can click on a word or topic to determine the most popular blogs within that category. A click on “music” produces a list of top music blogs. I can view the five latest posts and link directly to the blog. As you can see, I have a lot to explore. I think I’m off to a good start!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Personal #2: Living for Live Music

I’m a self-admitted music junkie. There is nothing I enjoy more than listening to music and going to concerts. In fact, just today, I bought tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band (one of my all-time favorites) at Nationals Park in July.

I’d have to say 2009 was a great year. I was lucky enough to see U2 kick off their 360° Tour at Solider Field in September and again a few weeks later at FedEx Field. I also saw Coldplay, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Swell Season, Hanson and Tony Bennett.

Here’s a look at my 2010 concert lineup:

  • Ani Difrano (3/2 – 9:30 Club)
  • Ben Folds (3/26 – 9:30 Club)
  • Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds (5/20 – DAR Constitution Hall)
  • U2 (6/26 – TCF Bank Stadium)
  • Dave Matthews Band (7/23 – Nationals Park)

I wish I could say I was going to another show this spring. Phoenix, the Grammy award-winning French alternative rock band most popular for their hit song “Lisztomania,” will be at DAR Constitution Hall this April. Unfortunately, the concert happens to fall on the night of my final Capstone presentation. I’ll eventually get over it. On a lighter note, Tom Petty announced this week that he’ll be making a stop in the nation’s capital this August.

I’m already considering applying for a part-time gig at the 9:30 Club in May when I’m officially a Georgetown alum. If I juggled a full-time job and grad school effectively, I think I can handle a few music-filled nights on the side. Now that would definitely be good work-life balance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Weekly #3: Social Media Bill of Rights

Back in 2007 when social media was increasingly becoming a part of mainstream culture, two industry gurus recognized the fundamentals of an “open web” and subsequently created “A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web.” Written as a blog post, it outlines the basic rights users should demand from social media sites in terms of ownership, control and freedom of personal information. It also lays out four key actions that social media sites should take to effectively support user rights. Specifically, it says social media sites should allow users to:

  • Syndicate their own profile data, friends list and the data that is shared with them via the service, using a persistent URL or API token and open data formats
  • Syndicate their own stream of activity outside the site
  • Link from their profile pages to external identifiers in a public way
  • Discover who else they know is also on their site, using the same external identifiers made available for lookup within the service

This framework is highly valuable from a consumer perspective. It is effective at getting social media users to stop and think about their participation on social media networks and how complex the online world can be. It’s obvious there are many users who don’t think twice about how their participation in the space can have a lasting impact on their lives. The actions of posting a picture, writing on someone’s wall, adding a colleague as a friend or updating a profile can have long-term consequences if not conducted wisely and with caution.

It’s easy to see that different norms and boundaries exist in the real world than online. However, social media sites, including Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn should give social media users the same control they have in their off-line lives to manage the information that is valuable to them.

While this information is eye-opening to social media users, I do not believe we actually need a “bill of rights” that outlines consumer demands. When it all comes down to it, it’s up to the individual site owners to determine how they want to conduct their business.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Media