SEO and Feedback Analytics

3-dimensional pie chart

We are beginning to crack at the SEO aspects of our new system. The rename of the to sub-domain seems to have knocked our site down in the Google page rank scheme of things. We will need to do some heavy lifting to get it back in place.

Unfortunately, Kampyle no longer offers a free service to any new users. I was hoping to employ a system like Kampyle to glean feedback from users of Purlieu. We’ll have to re-think the feedback process; it might just be easier to write a little application that will aggregate user feedback in a database we can manage.

Live Webcast Streaming

The issue of streaming live events and presentations in the UF COE has come up qiute a few times in recent months. It follows that the contributions of our faculty, staff, and students could serve a much broader audience than those lucky few who are able to participate “in the flesh.” With this in mind, we hope to launch new services for live events.

We are looking into services offered by MediaSite, Kaltura, Matterhorn, and others. Hopefully something will bubble to the top.

Bob Graham Center for Public Service

imageIn a recent holiday-weekend-comp-time fiesta, UF IT pros launched a new site for the Bob Graham Center in Pugh Hall. The Center will offer streaming lectures and other media related to social service and political issues in the state.

Though it still lacks content, the Drupal theme it runs on looks pretty slick. Kudos to the designer responsible for the background image and CSS; it definitely reminds me of another political site with a focus on civil service.

Giddy like a school girl

In case you haven’t heard, there is a new Radiohead album coming out next week. Wait, let me repeat that: THERE IS A NEW RADIOHEAD ALBUM COMING OUT NEXT WEEK!! HOLY MONKEY FARTS!

As you also probably heard, ol’ Thom and Co. have finally accumulated enough hard currency and devout followers to DIY the thing (yes, “DIY” is a verb). They’ve even gone so far as to outsmart those who were just going to steal it from a P2P site anyway. In what could prove to be a new trend in digital rights (mis)management, the googly-eyed scare bears are allowing you, me, and everyone else we know to pick our own price.

Personally, I think the concept is genius. First, consider the number of people who will order the album for download, just because they can pay $2 or $3. Now, consider the percentage of those people who would have ripped “In Rainbows” from his/her P2P site of choice. I would be willing to bet Radiohead make more money selling the album on for $2/head than they could possible make through a $9.99 download at the iTunes store (you know, that place where sad sots like myself go to not-steal music).

In the words of Devendra Banhart, “I feel just like a child”

Jim Lehrer v Margaret Spellings

I caught a pretty interesting segment on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Peep it here. Aside from the satisfaction I glean from actually watching a news program without all the requisite bells and whistles (i.e., text scrolling in three directions, four simultaneous video panes, and a screaming Bill O’Reilly), Lehrer’s correspondents can always find something uplifting that would otherwise fall between the cracks.

This particularly gossamer piece of reporting depicts two schools in San Diego who recently went Charter to remedy their failed attempts at standardized achievement. It took quite a fight for the schools’ teachers, parents, and administrators to make the break from the San Diego school district. But they did. Their collective efforts have shown a remarkable shift in student discipline and test scores.

After years of churning out disenchanted students and turning over new faculty members every year, the schools seem to have found a niche. And, consequently, the district suffers, because parents and students want to attend these seemingly new schools. What a tangled web we weave.

Does your Bible glow in the dark?

I’ll first say I haven’t written a music review/critique in a long time. At one point in time I was convinced I could make a career of borrowing from Lester Bangs. Eventually, however, reality set in and I realized I don’t have anything close to Bangs’s tolerance for amphetamines, bourbon, or poverty. Nonetheless I recently was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and it has shaken me so deeply I am giddily dancing atop a bail of hay on their bandwagon.

A few years ago I was pretty ensconced in the North American post-rock sound. Pretty much everything I bought either came from Canada’s Constellation label or Chicago’s Thrill Jockey. Both labels specialized for a while in grandiose swelling crescendos and a collective gazing-at-shoes due to incessant droning and concentration on abstractly (intertextual, maybe?) inserted field recordings.

I loved and still love the theme and variation model of composition, building intensity with incessant layering of percussive pulses. This style was perfected by bands like Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, and Trans Am. Yet I sadly longed for a band who could add a note of accessibility to this genre.

And then there was Arcade Fire.

I initially shied away from AF’s media buzz due mainly to their consistent association with fellow Montrealers, Broken Social Scene. While I think BSS has an interesting ethos and correspondingly big approach to sound, the romantic in me wanted a crooner to step up to the mic and usher in a new musical paradigm.

After seeing some YouTube videos, I picked up Neon Bible. Now I can’t put it down. I have honestly listened to the whole album (cover to cover) three times a day for the last 2 weeks.

The production is fantastic. Somehow all 7 members seem to get ample say in the mix, while vocalist Win Butler chews the mesh off his microphone out front. Each track swells with intensity, encouraging listeners to stand up and lean into the wind until it abruptly stops and they fall flat on their faces.

The band relies on acoustic instrumentation for the most part, illustrating the potency of their collective fingers and forearms with each track’s pounding bridge. Yet, on the rare occasions when an electric guitar floats to the top, it does so with tingling, morbid effervescence as in the chorus of track 6, Ocean of Noise. This repeated guitar wail, has me repeatedly welling up as the violin helps to hold it up.

As yet, I haven’t quite cracked the egg that is the title track. On an album of repetitive swellings, the irony of a title cut being not so is perfectly fitting. I can’t wait to taste that yolk.

a great black wave in the middle of the sea

So here I am, feeling down and hoping to exorcise some emotional/intellectual demons on my slice of Blogistan.
This week has been one of the ugliest weeks of news I can remember. In one week we have had several horrible events and I just want it to be known that I am paying attention. For those who haven’t had the time, energy, or impetus, here’s the news since Monday:

  1. A disaffected student unleashed his frustration with anonymity on the campus of Virginia Tech University. 33 are dead. Millions are mourning. And, to add insult to martyrdom, the student sent a YouTube-style package to NBC to tell us all why we’re wrong. I know I’m wrong. I didn’t need a pathological individual to prove it to me.
  2. This has been one of the bloodiest weeks in the 4-year “conflict” in Iraq. Close to 200 people died in 24 hours of bombings and, according to The Great Decider, more will die before Iraq embraces Christianity, Democracy, and the pursuit of opulence.
  3. In a 5-4 decision, supreme court justices denounced years of progress toward upholding a woman’s right to choose, thus imparting an religio-ethical decision on human rights. It was a major victory for the current commander in chief. Hopefully those victories will be fewer and farther in between for the last 500 or so days of his iron grip on the world.

This is an utterly selfish post for I have hoped that writing it all down might make me feel better. I’m not sure it has worked. I guess I’ll go back to watching this video showcasing a musical act, Arcade Fire (to whom I credit the title of this post), repeatedly. It seems they are trying to use theater to show us all how to get up and move in the right direction.

the ultimate instructional design project

While perusing the recent C-Net stories I ran across a photo story of the first distribution of $100 laptops to children in Nigeria for the One Laptop Per Child initiative. It hadn’t really occurred to me what the design of such a machine would entail, let alone the interface design for kids who have literally never seen a GUI before.

This was perhaps the most complicated interface design project since the Mosaic browser was designed for point and click access to the web. The interface they came up with totally baffles me, due to its reliance on entirely graphical clickable regions.

It’s really tough to imagine the semiotic domain wherein a computer interface would be a wholly foreign concept. Yet, according to the story, the children immediately “took to” their new (cough, cough) educational toys.

About two years ago I had the opportunity to work on a documentary on the Garifuna culture in northeast Honduras. One of the more interesting aspects of the project was figuring out how to engage the villagers in what we hoped to accomplish. As recompense for gaining access to the village, I had to give the kids in the small school English lessons.

We found the children really took to the camera. So we tried to incorporate basic film theory and production in to the lessons. As constructivist learning theory would suggest, the students were much more engaged when we simply handed over the means of production.

-Rest in Peace, Kurt Vonnegut (1923-2007)

final cuts

Well, after about a 6 weeks of work, I finally was able to get a rough cut together of my little video, ‘Information: the new Ritalin.’ It took quite a bit of post-production wrangling to get it in to a watchable state. But I am happy with the way things eventually turned out.

I’m still amazed how much more work it took to get live video in HD1080i60 in the same sequence as computer screen capture in HD1080p30. Let’s just say there was a lot of math and garbage matte layering involved, and leave it at that.

However, I got some really positive feedback and I am in a good position to tighten up what I have now into a solid final cut. I would like to be able to post a clip, but I don’t really know how I would do that. The video is in 1920X1080 resolution, and a lot of it is in an even wider aspect ratio (something like 2.5:1), making it pretty unfit for streaming on even the fastest connections and/or viewing on anything less than a nice LCD or HD display.

It was also tough getting the dialogic screen capture text readable from more than about 2 feet from a screen. I plan to keep cracking at it, but I’m not really sure I have the technical chops to “make it go.”

All in all, working in video again was a really satisfying experience and I’m glad the audience who has seen it found it mildly thought-provoking. That’s about all I was aspiring toward.


post-production party

A few days ago I finished production on the video I have been working on. I plunged headlong into the post-production phase on Wednesday. It’s definitely bringing back some memories. I’m really excited about digging in with a digital razor.

Thus far I have encountered the requisite issues inherent in using cracked software to accomplish a task I haven’t attempted in almost 2 years. I was admittedly nervous about working in Final Cut Pro for the first time in a goodly while. But once I was able to open and update the app, the controls quickly started feeling comfortable again.

I have about 3 hours of HD video between the live action stuff shot by my friends at HNP and the screen captures I have done over the past few weeks. The goal is to cut it down to around 3 minutes. The more I look at it, the longer I think it will take to fit everything in coherently. I have developed a plan of attack for the early stages of the editing process. But I’m really nervous about pulling off the split screen narrative thing. The narrative will be driven primarily by the “dialog” portrayed in the screen capture portion, and the video will depict me acting as something of a Greek Chorus, gaping at the strange goings-on.

Let’s call it an experiment in my ability to depict a Human Computer Interaction…quite literally.

building knowledge with 1s and 0s