Episode 111: Facebook doesn’t believe in IRB or telling users before they’re test subjects

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Pat gets ready to have a baby.

We also discuss Facebook experimenting on users without telling them, and we explain the important of IRB (Institutional Review Boards) when conducting research on human subjects.

We discuss why IRB approval is important for conducting research on human subjects, and the terrible experiments that led to it.

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Episode 110: The king of the neckbeards!

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We are really, really late on posting episodes. Why? Because I just had a baby. Maybe baby Cara will make a guest appearance or two on the show.

We have another episode launching very soon too.

We kick off this episode by discussing The Battle of the Wall, which was the most technically-stunning episode of Game of Thrones so far. But was it enough? Was it great?

Should Game of Thrones have more episodes per season? Is 10 hours of Game of Thrones enough Games of Thrones goodness for each year?

On to the tech discussions! We kick off the tech discussion at 14 minutes in about how smartphones will increasingly become the center of people’s homes with the ability to control lights, home security systems, temperature, etc.

We then discuss using smartphones for health and fitness as well. We really think these areas will truly make smartphones personal computers. This is the next big thing with smartphones (that and controlling cars entertainment systems).

And of course, we somehow discuss net neutrality again. Verizon and Netflix are not BFFs right now. Is it ethical to sell users “bandwidth” they are not actually getting? You can pay for 100 mbps on Verizon and still not be able to stream a 5 mbps Netflix stream because of Verizon.

That sounds like a bait and switch to us.

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Episode 109: WWDC 2014

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This episode is all about WWDC 2014.

This was one of the most impressive WWDCs in years. WWDC is Apple’s yearly developer conference.

There are big and exciting changes coming to iOS, OS X and iCloud. What did we like? What didn’t we like? What did we expect?

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Episode 108: Jeremy get your camera

Some of my favorite tools.

Some of my favorite tools.

We discuss Reading Rainbow returning via Kickstarter.

Will we see more classic shows like this come back via crowdfunding? I’ve backed about 15 projects and run two myself. I have a food idea of why Kickstarter works.

We also discuss Jeremy getting a new Macbook Air as his on-the-go computer. He also wants to get a more serious camera. Perhaps a DSLR. I walk him through what to consider. Stay tuned.

Below you’ll find some good photography resources, movies and recommendations.

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Episode 107: Our graduation advice

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We spend this episode giving out our own graduation speeches/advice for new graduates.

Much of our advice is helpful for students who have just entered college or who are about to. It’s also helpful for parents. We want you to get the most out of the college experience.

Enjoy college. Push yourselves. Try things outside your comfort zone. Don’t just party all the time. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

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Episode 106: HBO I-got-my-password-from-my-parents

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We discuss HBO Go by way of Game of Thrones.

We also discuss net neutrality, and why it’s important. Like Netflix? Want HBO Go to not require a cable subscription? Well, you better start supporting net neutrality.

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Episode 105: Subscription software and education

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We discuss the growing trend of software going subscription only.

Does collecting a monthly fee make it more likely or less likely that a company will continue to improve their software. Does not having to focus on creating new versions to sell make it less likely that software makers create new versions just to have something to sell?

How will educational institutions handle the switch to Adobe Creative Suite going subscription only? How about Office 365? Are the days of owning software coming to an end?

We have a detailed discussion on how the Lehigh University journalism department is attempting to handle this situation, and how much extra money it could cost. The department is considering getting away from Adobe Creative Cloud because of the price.

This is a big change for educational institutions, non-profits, students and others that traditionally did not upgrade constantly to the latest and greatest version of Microsoft Office of Adobe Creative Suite.

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Episode 104: Vox.com vs. FiveThirtyEight

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Spoiler: We kick off the show discussing TV watching and spoilers. Is it possible to have an Internet connection and not get a show spoiled if you can’t watch the show live?

Our main topic is our thoughts on Vox.com and FiveThirtyEight, the two new big journalism startups. There is a lot to like. And a lot not to like.

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Episode 103: I’m being poked in virtual reality

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We discuss Facebook buying Oculus, the maker of the virtual reality headset Rift.

The original Oculus Rift was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and intended as a way to make playing video games more immersive. Now, we enter into a virtual world where your friends can poke you whenever they feel like it. We think.

Should those original backers get some money from this $2 billion sale to Facebook? Should a company that is eventually going to seek VC money and to be bought out by a large company ever engage on crowdfunding?

We also discuss criticisms that 538 and Vox.com are too white and male.

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Thoughts on Vox.com, Ezra Klein’s new website

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Ezra Klein’s Project X is here, and now it is called Vox.com.

This is what he and several of journalists left The Washington Post for. It’s early, but I’m impressed. There is still much work to done, however, to really make this new news organization stand out.

Here are my early thoughts:

  • The design is simple — There is nothing about the Web design of Vox.com that is eye popping. The site is clean, simple and easy to use. The design probably took less time to build than a lot of metro newspaper websites. Good design is about saying no, not yes. When you look at most journalism websites, it looks like no was almost never said no, except when it came to trying new things. Vox.com isn’t cluttered with random crap that most people don’t want. That’s the beauty of its design. Also, the design works very well on mobile, which is key to harnessing social media traffic properly. I also imagine Vox.com is aimed at a lot of educated, urban users who will read stories on their way to work on public transportation or at coffee shops on breaks. This website is perfect for those kinds of users.
  • The content is delicious and slightly esoteric — Naturally I’m a fan. Vox.com is a general interest site, except it’s not. It’s a general interest site for people who share Ezra Klein’s taste, just as Daring Fireball is a general interest site for those who share John Gruber’s taste in tech. It’s a site aimed at educated, urban, urbane readers who care about policy. Frankly, it’s a website that  appeals more to your typical white-collar DC-area worker than the Washington Post does.  I think general interest news sites are a tough business when they try to appeal to everyone. That’s what metro newspapers have traditional done, and while it worked in print, it’s a tougher sell online. Vox.com is a general interest website aimed at a niche audience. I think it’s the only way general interest can work on the Web. I also would think that advertisers are pretty excited about this site.
  • I love the Vox Conversations videos — There is nothing fancy technologically about these videos, just a big heaping of taste. The quality is high, and the videos are well thought out and edited. This isn’t smartphone journalism. This is video that would make Charlie Rose and TED proud. Lots of news organizations could do the same thing, but video like this takes time to build. These conversations are the kind of videos, however, that will be relevant for a long time to come, like TED Talks, which allows you to have higher production costs. The idea of producing tons of journalism each day is incongruous with high quality. These videos showcase that.
  • Cards are Wikipedia-esque way to explain large stories — I’d suggest firing this feature up on a mobile device to really get the full effect. Essentially cards are a way to explain by topics, such as the Ukraine Crisis, in more manageable chunks. Think of it as a more approachable Wikipedia that is more tightly edited on current hot-button topics. This is also a way to give context to stories. And Cards are a nice way to present ads to users every few clicks and swipes without detracting from the main content. Cards are kind of a high-brow way to do slideshows on important topics. Every news organization that has covered what is going on in Ukraine should have an explainer feature about what is going on. Just reporting on the day-to-day goings on with Ukraine and Russia doesn’t educate users on the why. News organizations should care more about the why. Cards are all about the why. The true value of cards, however, won’t be realized until they can be linked to additional reporting.
  • The lack of comments and community features is disappointing — News websites feel dead without community. Even though Vox.com features a nice design that works well on all my devices, and has stories that speak to me, the inability to read what people think and share my own opinions leaves me detached from this site. I don’t comment on most journalism sites that I read, but just reading the comments that are left (at least on the sites that build strong communities), enriches the experience and makes me feel a part of something bigger. The comments on nytimes.com, for instance, are fantastic and often extend the story significantly. I hope we see community features added soon, because Vox.com just doesn’t feel complete right now.
  • Excellent use of charts and data — I’m not talking about big data or fancy data-drive projects. I’m talking about putting in easy-to-read charts and graphs when they help tell a story. Does your story involve data of some sort? It should have at least one data visualization. That could be as simple as an Excel chart.
  • I dig the yellow color — Yellow is not a common color for websites. I’m grown weary of seeing so many blue websites or black and white color palettes for news organization. The yellow works well on several levels. Not only does Vox.com feel fresh like spring, but the yellow also reminds a user of highlighting a college textbook. Vox.com is a general interest news website, but it also wants to be educated and wonkish. The yellow color and the way links look like underlines in a textbook really underscore that. They even made links look like a real highlighter went over them by not being symmetrical. It’s a nice touch.
  • Text could be bigger — The text on Vox.com is bigger than most news organizations (some news organizations seem to want to make reading as difficult as possible), but I’d still like to see it bigger. Larger text is easier on the eyes, making reading easier for longer periods of time. For a site that wants to be wonkish and bookish, bigger type would help accomplish that. Bigger type is also easier on older eyes and people with vision issues. Medium does the best job of any website with text. I love the size and font choices they made. I’d like to see Vox.com adopt something similar.
  • Look Mom, no Flash! — The videos are viewable without Flash. Every news website needs to do this. It’s no surprise that a tech-focused company like Vox would use HTML 5 for everything, but it’s still worth mentioning.
  • I’d like to see higher resolution video — This is also a complaint that I have with another Vox property, The Verge. I’d love to be able to see some of their videos in higher resolution. The initial Vox Conversations video is soft and highly compressed. This keeps costs down and helps with loading times, but I’d like to see an option for at least high quality 720p video. Heck, I’d probably chip in $10 a year just for this feature. A lot of people won’t care about this, but it’s a premium feature that some may enjoy.

For those wondering, we’ll be launching a new responsive design this summer for the Interchange Project. This design was hastily hacked together. I’m excited to put all of my previous Web knowledge together with everything I’ve learned in my Human-computer Interaction master’s program.