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DEAN'S DIGITAL WORLD
By Dean Tudor
Buzzwords and Blogs
A reader (well, actually my wife, who is also a reader of this column) felt that I should cut through the jargon of convergence. I thought convergence was dead, but apparently it is still kicking around. And of course the jargon begins with the definition: delivering high quality content that a media company can repurpose across platforms.
Unfortunately for many companies, convergence seems to be "resolving" and "dissolving". The CanWest properties, with their fiscal backs to the wall, have nothing to lose by consolidating their media outlets or subject areas via employee cutbacks. The BCE properties are being refocused, that is, some are being sold off. So the word "convergence" will be with us for quite some time as the mess gets sorted out. At least, it will be a nice buzzword for the business pages of a converger. The media love talking about each other, mostly as a schadenfreude....Schadenfreude? Didn't he go to my high school, a couple years ahead of me? Play football? That's jargon for you (or is it simply a "foreign phrase"?)...
Buzzwords come and go: these are words that are all the buzz, and mean absolutely nothing. They stand up well at cocktail parties, unlike many of the attendees...In 1967, at my first job, I concocted a buzzword generator for information transfer. I guess I had time on my hands. And over the years I added to it. I taught this to my library science students and, later, to my journalism students. The basic principle is to develop a three word phrase, using an adverb to modify an adjective which modifies a noun. Of course, today, any noun can be used as an adverb and adjective, an adverb can be an adjective, and vice versa. Indeed, there are perl programs which can generate buzzwords. There's one for wine tasters at <www.gmon.com/tech/output.shtml> ; I highly recommend visiting it...
Here's how the generator works: select one word from each column for a three word buzz phrase which can now be interjected into any conversation about the "information transfer chain" (itself a buzzword?) --
1 Automated Adaptive Documentation
There's "multiple-accessed interfaced sidebands", "functional monitored chain", or "offline symbiotic trunkcircuit" or "synchronized adaptive projection"... Of course, you can add your own favourite expressions, and even move on to another subject category, such as baseball or potatoes...This one just deals with information transfer.
One of the continuing stream of convergence ideas has been the "blog", a contraction of "web log", a sortof log or diary put up on a website. Look at <www.blogger.com> It takes more effort to do than a "webcam". And it is more popular, which goes to show that people still prefer reading over viewing. The webcam is, admittedly, more boring -- life goes on at a snail's pace, and there is no interaction. Originally blogs were merely written accounts of the blogger's life, a sort of stream of consciousness detailing boring issues of the day (how much toilet paper to use? do I have enough salt in the soup?).
But then the subject specialists started writing. I developed a "Wine Trade Winds Diary", an account of the many wine events in Toronto <www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor/trade.txt> written in ASCII text, since the end of 1999. Other specialists wrote about what happened to them on a daily basis, passing on comments from readers who responded via email, with corrections, news and opinions. Soon, message boards sprouted, and now there are even software packages that will allow blog creation and maintainence as easy as HTML creation. A search on Google showed 4,120,000 references to "blog", which of course included anybody named Blog. Open Directory, now used by Google to subject-arrange the hierarchy through drilling, shows 64 separate webrings listed webloggers and blogs. All of this in mid-April 2003. The largest category was "Personal" weblogs: 2777. There were 117 sites dealing with tools. to create your own weblog, etc. Some blogs are ad supported (boo!), while some others only have summaries of articles from the mainstream media (yea!) -- some with, and some without, URL links. All are truly a "web" of interconnections among people, not corporations...
The standard blog has the website set up for the blogger's current comments, space for rebuttal (message boards), a room for tips and rumours, archives for everything, and everchanging links to other blogs and hotspots. Indeed, many personal websites are turning into blogs of one kind or another, sort of converging (heh, heh: will CanWest buy them all?)...
The recent conflict in Iraq brought all this into sharper focus. Many reporters "embedded" or just in the field had set up their own blogs, some on the media company's website (e.g., Wolf Blitzer's cnn.com/wolf). Here they file stories and anecdotes, all sanitized of course, but good background nevertheless for those who eat up war news. Also, bloggers put up emailed accounts of what happened inside Iraq, from Iraqis themselves. Take it all with a grain of salt, from both sides (again, do I have enough salt?). But the blogs involved in the conflict had wide-ranging commentary, diaries, and ever- changing links to other sites...
Blogs are "outgoing" in that you have to actively pursue them by clicking or typing an URL. They are web-based interfaces. The other side of the coin is the passive reception of "incoming" alerts via email. These news alerts are from traditional mainstream media and institutions, and some of them verge on press releases. But the important thing is that they arrive in your email box as you want them. News alerts, for example, can be sent to you every hour, twice a day (morning and evening), daily (usually overnight) -- even weekly. Of course, you have to register and give them your email address. Embedded in the email news alert are the relevant URLs needed to access documents and commentaries, audio and video...Just click on them, and most of your research is done....Here's a few, with the URLs for signing up:
Dean Tudor, Wine Writer and Professor Emeritus of Journalism, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada <www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor>