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?) --
Column One Column Two Column Three
1 Automated Adaptive Documentation
2 Multiple-access Reciprocal Chain
3 Integrated Monitored Catalogue
4 Tele-linked Special Clearinghouse
5 Variable Heavy-route Index
6 Geo-stationary Interfaced Transponders
7 Synchronized Real-time Satellites
8 Computerized Logistical Retrieval
9 Parallel Access Subsystems
10 Interactive Spectrum-analyzed Communication
11 Remote-learned Symbiotic Abstract
12 Systematized Frequency-allocated Teleconference
13 Client-oriented Transitional Reference
14 Functional Slowscan Sideband
15 User-reponsive Incremental Trunkcircuit
16 Analogue Datacom Projection
17 Responsive Transfer Videodisplay
18 Video-enhanced Mediated Program
19 Compatible Binary-synchronous Display
20 Up-linked Modular Telecommunication
21 Digitized Microcomputerized Network
22 Online Cordless Bandwidth
23 Balanced Facsimile Interface
24 Information Modulated Service
25 Geo-orbited Converging Device
26 Offline Global Reproduction
27 Geo-positioned Processed Packetswitch
28 Macrosized Web-styled Blog
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:
- You can get Bourque news alerts from Pierre Bourque, usually
some breaking Canadian news. Send a note to <firstname.lastname@example.org>...
- At Yahoo Alerts <alerts.yahoo.com>, you can configure
news alerts to be set up to give you notification of news, weather,
stocks, sports, on an hourly basis, or twice a day, once a day
or weekly. Just tell them the words or phrases that you are looking
for. Sources here include AP and Reuters.
- EditorsWeb <www.editorsweb.org> is a gateway to news releases
posted each day on the web sites of about 800 US federal agencies
and Congress You can register for notification of releases by
- The US General Accounting Office <www.gao.gov> has a "GAO
Daybook" which is a daily update to reports, documents and
testimony. The alert comes in two forms: an announcement by title
and number of pages; and, a few days later, with a URL.
- National Earthquake Information Center <gldss7.cr.usgs.gov/neis/data_services/data_services.html>
has a Bigquake service which sends out a message whenever a large
earthquake occurs, anywhere in the world.
- US Consumer Product Safety Commission <www.cpsc.gov/about/subscribe.html>
has product recall notices. Useful for seeing what's about to
be recalled in Canada.
- US Department of Agriculture alerts <usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/ess_emailinfo.html>
has 70 or so email information services, including information
on imports, exports, prices, chemicals, milk. Useful for tracking
- US Food and Drug Administration <www.fda.gov/> sends out
safety alerts, public health advisories, and other safety notices.
- EconData <econdata.net> has alerts and links to more than
300 sources of US local and regional socioeconomic data, used
for finding regional economic and marketing data on income, employment,
housing starts and other economic statistics.
- EDGAR Online <www.edgar-online.com> has filings by public
companies to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. This includes
Canadian companies doing business in the US. They will send email
alerts when new forms are filed by companies you specify.
- Biztravel <www.biztravel.com>, OneTravel <www.onetravel.com>,
and Travelocity <www.travelocity.com> all have alerts to
airfare deals. Biztravel also has bizMiles, a one-stop tracker
for frequent traveler programs. All three will send updates on
flights and weather to your pager phone.
- Business Information Service <www.bisnis.doc.gov> with
a focus on developing countries, has biweekly email reports with
trade leads, investment leads, conference announcements, and general
information. Also industry and country reports. Although American,
the focus is clearly international.
- EUbusiness News Alert <www.eubusiness.com/subscrib.htm>
is a daily digest of European business news in various industry
- Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) <www.cert.org/nav/alerts.html>
is an authoritative source of information on Internet security
incidents and vulnerabilities.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center <www.epic.org/alert>
deals with issues of privacy and civil liberties with biweekly
- Amazon <www.amazon.com> book alerts are useful to newsrooms
as notification of when books are published on subjects they're
interested in, or by their favorite authors, or even with certain
words in the title. Alerts come well before the books are published.
- Publishers Weekly <www.publishersweekly.com> has a daily
service for booksellers and writers, with up-to-date information
on books that are receiving media and review attention, news stories
about independent and chain booksellers, and changes in publisher
policies that will impact booksellers. Some Canadian content as
- Environmental TipSheet from SEJ <www.sej.org/pub/index.html>
is a biweekly environmental list of story ideas from the Society
of Environmental Journalists, the Radio and Television News Directors
Foundation, and the Environmental Health Center.
- EnviroLink News Service <www.envirolink.org/environews>
sends e-mail alerts of environmental stories from various web
- Environmental News Network <www.enn.com> has a Newswire
which is a daily digest of environmental news.
- The Sierra Club <www.sierraclub.org/takeaction/lists>
has SC-Action with daily political and environmental alerts.
- US Environmental Protection Agency <www.epa.gov/epahome/listserv.htm>
has more than 50 alerts, covering topics from endangered species
to international issues
- National Library of Medicine <www.nlm.nih.gov/news/nlmfiles-email.html>
has a new files alert, for new files added to the NLM web site.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control <www.cdc.gov/subscribe.html>
has 14 mailing lists, on infectious diseases (such as SARS), HIV/AIDS,
morbidity and mortality, minority health, and national health
- Internet Scout Report and Net-happenings <scout.wisc.edu/weblog>
keeps you updated on new web sites.
- ResearchBuzz <www.researchbuzz.com/news/"> is a weekly
newsletter on web research: new sites and dissection of new features
of search tools.
- Yahoo What's New <dir.yahoo.com/new> is a daily list of
new additions to the Yahoo directory.
- CNN <www.cnn.com/EMAIL> and MSNBC <www.msnbc.com/tools/newstools/default.asp>
have email alerts: breaking news, headline news, space news, computer
news, busines news, strange events, politics, sports, storms.
Email or pager or both.
- The New York Times Direct <www.nytimes.com/info/contents/services.html>
will send a daily email with headlines from the sections you prefer:
page one, national, international, arts/living, food, business,
opinion, sports, technology.
- Check PowerReporting <powerreporting.com> for more subject-based
Dean Tudor, Wine Writer and Professor Emeritus of Journalism,
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada <www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor>
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