Episode 110: The king of the neckbeards!

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 12.44.46 PM

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.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

Episode 109: WWDC 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 10.04.55 PM

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?

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

 

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.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

 

Episode 107: Our graduation advice

IMG_2543

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.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

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

georgerrmartin-39722

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.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

Episode 105: Subscription software and education

adobecc

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.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

Episode 104: Vox.com vs. FiveThirtyEight

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 6.39.29 PM

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.

Listen to this week’s episode:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

Episode 103: I’m being poked in virtual reality

OculusRift1

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.

Listen to this week’s episode:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

 

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

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.48.50 PM

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.

Twitter is the reason to watch television live #HIMYMfinale

himymfinaleI’m a binge watcher.

I don’t watch a lot of television live, save for sports. I don’t have cable, and Netflix is how I watch most television shows. But Twitter pulls me back into live television.

There is nothing that cable companies and channels can do to pull me back into live television, but technology and the communal experience can. Twitter is so much better than the day-after water-cooler experience. You discuss and share experiences in real time, as new developments happen over the course of a show.

Twitter is the only reason I watch the Oscars. The show itself is kind of boring and bloated, but all the discussion about the host’s jokes, who won what award (or should have won), etc. makes it enjoyable. Oscar watching parties are still popular, and a good way to go, but with Twitter you don’t need a party to experience a live event with lots of people.

I binge watched How I Met Your Mother with my wife starting about a year ago. We eventually caught up to the final season about halfway through (eight seasons in a year is a hell of a way to watch a sitcom). And I’m glad we did for the finale, even though the show is much more enjoyable to binge watch than in 22-minute chunks.

With the second screen experience and Twitter, watching television becomes a communal experience, where as share our thoughts and theories.

As we were watching the HIMYM finale, I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened up my laptop and went on Twitter. I had to see what people were saying, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The #HIMYMFinale hashtag was the top one in the U.S. I went there and was able to vent and share my feelings. About half way through the finale I began tweeting my own thoughts.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.06.14 PM

As this point, I none of us knew the Mother would die (although I expected her to for several weeks), and that Ted and Robin might be a thing again in the future. And then people began responding to me. Some thought there was no way this could happen.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.08.33 PM

After the final was over, and it was clear what had happened, I sent out one of my final tweets.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.10.13 PM

If I hadn’t caught up to real time with the show, I would never have sent this tweet out, and had all the interaction I had with people all over the world that night and for the next week. People will still be upset by the finale (or continue to love it) for years, but the energy around the finale was when it aired. Imagine the snark that would have happened when Seinfeld’s finale ended if Twitter were around. I almost want a time machine and Twitter to make that happen.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.11.35 PM

Of course, you have to avoid Twitter if you want to avoid spoilers, and there is no way to segregate tweets by region. West Coast HIMYM fans could watch the finale when it aired and still have it spoiled by East Coast viewers and their reactions. That’s a flaw in the current broadcast television model that will only cause more people to go to streaming.

Not showing shows at same time everywhere is the issue — an anachronism from a pre-social media time. The social experience around a television event shouldn’t be limited to people who get to watch the show first.

This is one of the big strengths of Oscars and live sports. These kinds of events are shown everywhere at the same time and work very well for social media. Scripted television will need to adapt.

Binge watching is great. Most of the time it is better than watching a 30-minute show filled with commercials once a week. But binge watching kills the social experience. This will have to be rectified.

But traditional television models are bad at binge watching and the social experience. Viewers don’t really benefit at all from the traditional television model, which is user hostile.

One day when all content goes over IP, this won’t be an issue. Imagine being able to watch a television show when it airs on CBS in your time zone or being able to stream it at the same time everywhere. West Coast viewers could tune in at the same time as East Coast viewers.

But the more I binge watch, the more I realize that the current model really harms the viewing experience and the show themselves. Sitcoms really drag when you are given about 22-minutes of new content a week surrounded by ads. Game of Thrones, with each episode being a weighty 50+ minutes, sans ads, still works in a once-a-week format, because the show is so dense that it’s hard to binge watch more than a few episodes in a week.

I don’t think sitcoms like HIMYM do that well. The show was more enjoyable when I could binge watch it. You can get in about three episodes of HIMYM in about an hour on Netflix. But, again, binge watching can’t be nearly the social experience. All you can talk about with binge watching are the broad strokes of a show.

So, what’s the solution? Perhaps we need more hour-long shows with fewer episodes per season. Or, maybe every episode except for the last few in a season should be available on day one. This way people can binge watch the show over a few weeks and then come together for a big finale together as a community.

House of Cards is a great show, and it’s fun to binge watch, but it lacks a strong social community around it.