Thursday, September 22, 2005

You know you've arrived when...

...comment spam starts showing up on your blog.

Oh well, I suppose it had to happen sometime. But until now, I haven't been plagued by Comment Spam, like some bloggers complain about. I've seen plenty of sites get taken down by spam but I guess that only happens if you have some readers.

But, fortunately, I do have a few...and now I'm the victim of comment spam myself. Well...victim might be a strong term. But I have begun receiving some very polite spam messages. How do I know they're spam, you ask?

Well, first, they're anonymous, which is a red flag right there. Most of the comments I get are from people I know, so I'm always interested when I see an Anonymous listing in the mail.

Second, the comment compliments me on the "nice blog" and urges me to "keep it up." Then it immediately refers to a neat site somewhere else on the Internet, with a link embedded in the message to a website.

That's it.

Normally, I just delete them, but I thought perhaps I should find out more about how to stop them...and what do you know? Blogger has something called word verification that you can turn on in your comments. It forces anyone leaving a comment to type in the correct series of letters that you see from an image. Supposedly, these automated scripts that are sending out the comment spam aren't able to do that, so - Presto - No Spam!

Sounds good to me. I've turned it on and now I'll just wait for all of you to add your comments...all right?...go ahead...I'm waiting...sigh...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Watching news happen in real time - and what to watch out for

I don't know about you, but I've been missing the CBC. I hadn't realized how much I'd come to depend on the news from them, both radio and TV, until the lock-out happened and I didn't have the familiar sources any more. (By the way, be sure to read and listen to Todd Maffin's blog if you're interested in getting the lowdown on the CBC strike.)

I read a lot of blogs, of course, and I subscribe to several on-line editions of major papers, so I'm not suffering from any lack of information. But I do find it convenient (and entertaining, I admit) to sprawl on the couch and watch the news with pictures. So I've found myself searching out difference sources for TV news.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, I started watching the coverage on CNN -- and became addicted, sort of. Since then, I've continued to flip to the Atlanta all-news channel whenever I was looking for a quick update on what is happening. And I've got to say that I've been impressed with how well CNN has integrated new media and hi-tech into it's news gathering operation.

Today, in Wired News online, I read an article about CNN's Situation Room, with Wolf Blitzer, which talks a bit about the people behind this "new-look" program. Anyone who's seen it will know what I mean...but until Katrina hit, I wasn't aware of all the stuff that was going on. It's an interesting piece.

I think that CNN, while leading the way in many respects, is just scratching the surface of integrating a lot of different news feeds into programming. There's a lot of stuff going on, and as we become ever-more connected, it's going to be interesting to see how these things evolve.

But one thing is clear. Things like blogging, podcasting, BitTorrent, file-sharing, IPods -- these things are not just flash-in-the-pan items. They are changing the way we perceive the world around us.

The tsunami at Christmas, Katrina last month, 9-11 four years ago, the war in Iraq -- they've all shown us a new face of the news. It's immediate, it has a huge impact and we're forced more than ever to make judgements about what we're seeing. The way the news is presented can make it seem so important that we forget that context is everything.

There is also another more insidious side to this "instant" coverage, however, as this article yesterday from points out. And that is that the media is more likely to blast out rumours, and we need to be vigilant in maintaining our own "filters" while we're watching all this. Not everything we see and hear is necessarily true. Caveat Emptor remains an apt warning, even if the stuff is free.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Check out Nerd TV, if you fit the profile

I've just finished downloading and watching the first episode of Nerd TV. It's a pretty cool program, if you're into the history of the Internet and all the cool things that have been happening on it over the last 10 years or so.

The show was put together by Bob Cringely, whom I've talked about here and here before. The show, which is being put together through the good graces of National Public Radio (NPR) in the states, is a pioneering effort to start bringing a new kind of video to the masses. I'm pretty enthused about the whole thing.

You have to download a copy of BitTorrent to download the video and you need a copy of QuickTime to view the final result. But hey, if you're a Nerd (or even just a Geek), none of this will be a problem. And if you're not, you know just enjoy the rest of your day...

Have fun. I'm sure we'll talk more about the implications of all this down the road. For now, I'll let you all decide on your own. But be sure to add your comments after you've watched the first episode...and keep your eyes open for the RSS feed when it appears. more thing. And this is really funny.

Remember when Janet Jackson had her "wardrobe malfunction"? You know how crazy the TV networks in the States have been since then about any "inappropriate" material getting past their censors?

Well...check out what happened on the TV show Rockstars the other's a hoot! (And be sure to follow the Dick Cheney link for a bit more in the same vein.)

- Thanks to "what tian has learned" for the link -

Friday, September 09, 2005

The fall is coming and the world is changing

I love the fall. It’s always been my favourite season. The only problem is that it never lasts long enough. But it’s a great time of year.

I like the fact that the bugs are gone and while the days might be warmish, the nights are cool. Rainy days usually clear up pretty quick. And I like the longer nights too. Sure, winter is coming, but that’s all right. It’s all part of this four season thing that makes living in this country so great.

But the fall is also a time of change. Kids are going back to school, and work often starts piling up again after a summer lull. Fall sports kick in, literary societies start planning a new series of readings, the fall schedule on CBC begins (OK, not this year, but usually).

Roy McGregor, a columnist with the Globe and Mail thinks that Labour Day should really be the start of the Canadian New Year – not January 1. His idea makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it.

This fall could be significant for me as well. I’ve been freelancing for the last couple of years and I’ve loved it. I like the independence and the chance to work on a variety of jobs without the usual day-to-day stuff that comes with a job you have to commute to every day. But as nice as it’s been, the work has been slow lately. So I’m considering returning to the full-time workforce.

Heading back into Toronto full time might not be a preferred option, but communication jobs outside of the GTA don’t seem too plentiful. But that’s OK. Commuting can be a positive experience, given the opportunity to read and catch up on personal stuff that comes with long train rides…or at least, that’s the attitude I’ll try to take.

I’ll let you know what happens. But in the meantime, if you know someone who’s looking for help with their communications planning or writing, or websites, etc., keep me in mind…meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying watching the leaves change colour.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Article on how Google Maps is helping out flood victims

My sister Janice in Edmonton sent me an interesting article from the BBC on how new satellite mapping technology is helping out after Katrina in New Orleans. Be sure to check out Tim Holtt's before and after images on the right-hand side of the page for some amazing before and after shots of parts of the affected area. Just move your cursor over the picture to watch it change.

Janice is a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analyst with The Forestry Corp and she uses a lot of satellite imagery and analysis in her work. So this is of particular interest to her and her colleagues.

Thanks to Janice for the link.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chilling stories out of New Orleans

I just got a note from They've posted some of the stories coming from the forums hosted by the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. The newspaper is devoting it's full resources to covering the effects of the hurricane and many are using the paper's forums as a way to try to communicate to the outside world.

(Note -- This link may not be working anymore. When I tried to go back to it, I couldn't get through. I suspect that high traffic may be playing havoc with it.)

But the threads are getting scary and they make for chilling reading. I feel so helpless when I read them, thinking about what those people are going through...if you want to help, I suggest you consider donating to the Red Cross, which is now accepting donations on behalf of the American Red Cross.