Category Archives: Media

Favorite Thing of the Day: Definr

Definr is a super fast, super ballin’ dictionary that gives you results the second you hit “enter” without loading a new page or showing you ads. And it’s cute, which is always a plus. The creator says its word source is Princeton’s open WordNet 2.0. This is immediately replacing dictionary.com, which has lately annoyed me with obscene load times and ads.

Similarly, Thsrs, the thesaurus that not only gives you synonyms, but puts emphasis on brevity. Might come in handy for writing headlines. Or tweets, for that matter. Thsrs’ creator says the word source is the Big Huge Thesaurus, “which is based on the Princeton University WordNet Database, and has the distinction of being the only thesaurus I found with an API.”

Props to 10,000 Words for showing me these sweet search engines.

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Going back to school

Well, sort of.

Thanks to the assistance of a Maine Press Association fellowship, for which I am grateful, I’ll be attending a two-day Photoshop course at the Maine College of Art. The course will be taught by Bryan Bruchman, a straight-ballin’ photographer and writer who contributed to the Maine Observer during its short existence. (I’d be remiss not to mention he runs what is arguably the best blog in Portland, Hilly Town).

Photoshop has always daunted me. I count myself as one in a narrowly defined age set that is expected to have a basic understanding of Creative Suite but did not grow up with the program the same way we grew up with mp3 players, the Web and VHS/DVD players.

There is a great piece of writing out there somewhere (I found it!) that talks about the difference between “digital natives” — people, usually young, to whom technology comes naturally because they were able to absorb it naturally — and “digital immigrants,” who as you can expect are just the opposite.

Photoshop has always made me feel like a digital immigrant. The herculean capabilities of the program are proportionate to how much it intimidates me. Adobe has made someone who normally feels right at home swimming along in the paperless, digital world feel like a fish out of water. And I have not appreciated it.

So hopefully this course will help. In all likelihood, it won’t make me a native. Not in 14 short hours. But I hope to leave the workshop with a digital green card, at least.

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You know WikiLeaks is a big deal when …

M.I.A. has taken up the fight on Twitter.

The world’s favorite trashpop Tamil Tiger sympathizer posted this gem this morning. The tweet (lyrics?) sort of made my day.

Sentiments echoed by my friend Eryk, who along with Zach Dionne I quote way too often, who said: “We’re in the middle of an enormous, high-profile Internet War between groups of anonymous civilian hackers, US intelligence agencies and foreign governments. Unless WikiLeaks is a big promotional stunt for the Tron remake, we’re looking at the first time the Internet has been used, publicly, as a battle zone.”

In other news, Julian Assange was arrested this morning. No word yet on whether the arrest, and denial of bail, will trigger his suicide pill of cables on Guantanamo Bay and the BP oil spill.

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No Comment? Not for long

PORTLAND — If anyone tried to sum up the last few days in Maine media-watching, they’d have a hard time doing it better than Kara Matuszewski, who said this morning on Twitter:

“Well if nothing else @PressHerald publisher Richard [Connor] knows how to get attention.”

In case you don’t follow Maine media goings-on, MaineToday Media — owner of the Maine newspapers Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and their websites — shut down online comments sometime Tuesday evening. (Connor is MaineToday Media’s top dog.) The explanation for which, now removed, explained the rationale behind this decisions:

“While it may be an unpopular decision with some, we made it because what once served as a platform for civil civic discourse and reader interaction has increasingly become a forum for vile,crude,insensitive, and vicious postings. No story subject seems safe from hurtful and vulgar comments.”

MaineToday also said they would “consider reopening our commenting section in the future by making contributors accountable in some way for what they say.”

This point seemed to have been largely overlooked by the swift response from a slew of readers who pounced on the Press Herald (which served as a proxy target for praise and criticism alike) for everything from “closing community” to giving in to choosing to kill dialogue rather than finding a solution. MPBN and the Portland Daily Sun both ran stories about the comment shutdown.

The swift response made sense at the time (as I argued yesterday, a newspaper acting this way is news and deserves comment), but seems a little premature today, as the newspaper chain launches a new comments system powered by Intense Debate.  Damien Kiesow pointed out at Poynter sums up the change:

“Intense Debate appears to meet many of the criteria for increased accountability Connor laid out in his original memo. For readers, the system allows a variety of different log-in options, including Facebook and Twitter. For news staffers, the system includes advanced moderation tools, such as filtering, blocking or deleting of comments by keyword, e-mail address or IP address.

“It is not clear if the paper plans to enforce a ‘real name’ policy, as nicknames are still currently being allowed. However, Intense Debate can be configured to allow users with Facebook accounts, but not Twitter, for example, to log-in and comment. That would significantly increase the percentage of users commenting on the site using verified identities.

Intense Debate is also used by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the flagship newspaper in a chain of publications Connor owns in Pennsylvania”

The move to this sort of comment moderation is not without precedent in Maine. This summer, the Bangor Daily News opted to use Disquss, which operates similarly to Intense Debate. Both services offer a feature that moves comments that receive good feedback to the fore, though it’s not clear whether MaineToday has chosen to enable this feature.

I’m sure Tony Ronzio, editor at the Kennebec Journal, wasn’t alone in saying he’d “thought about newspapers, the web and reader involvement more during the past 5 days than in months.” Twirps were a-tweeting during the last few days about the role of reader comments on newspapers’ websites and how best to encourage dialogue without sinking into the muck. Hopefully MaineToday’s new system accomplishes this. I’m sure all the publicity didn’t hurt, either.

(Disclosure: I spend my working life these days editing copy, laying out pages and waxing philosophical with Tony Ronzio at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta. By extension, I also work for the KJ’s sister paper, The Morning Sentinel in Waterville.)

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