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Panpa Bulletin : August 2006
50 | PANPA bULLETIN august 2006 The world of new media has given us many new words. Some have entered the language while others are still waiting in the wings, looking for respectability. We have accepted blog, an amalgam of web and log, into our lexicon. Then we learned about moblogs (blogs created by mo- bile phones) and vlogs, which are video-based blogs. Earlier this year my friend and colleague on The Guardian, Ben Hammersley, helped establish a series of blogs for the paper in the area known as "comment is free" at http://commentisfree.guard- ian.co.uk. Hammersley coined the word "podcast," which the Oxford Eng- lish Dictionary recognised last year as its word of the year. "Blogs and podcasts are aimed at young people who want easy-to-use technology". he said. Podcasting is a way to distrib- ute multimedia files such as au- dio programs or music videos over the internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats. People play the content on mobile devices and personal computers. As with the word radio, a podcast can mean both the content and the delivery method. Syndication refers to the way content is delivered. RSS stands for "really simple syndication" or "rich site summary". This soft- ware provides summaries of web content together with links to the full versions of the content. Small orange buttons on websites indi- cate whether RSS is available. RSS provides a major boon for journalists. They can have news constantly fed to them instead of searching for it. A program known as a feed reader or aggregator checks a list of feeds the journal- ist chooses and displays any up- dated articles it finds. One of the biggest aggregators is Bloglines (www.bloglines.com), which Mark Fletcher founded in 2003 and sold to Ask.com last year. All journalists should know how to use tools like Bloglines and Feedster (http://www.feedster. com). Feedster describes itself as "the largest and richest archive of indexed feeds on the web". Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to check web- sites for updates. In effect they cre- ate a unique information space or 'personal newspaper'. With an ag- gregator you subscribe to a feed, which checks for new content at user-determined intervals and re- trieves the content. The content is sometimes described as being 'pulled' to the subscriber, as opposed to "pushed" with email or instant messaging (IM). It is much easier to unsubscribe from an aggre- gator, compared with leaving 'pushed' information such as email newsletters. Aggregators are gradually be- ing built into portal sites such as My Yahoo! and Google and web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera. Apple's iTunes serves as a podcast aggrega- tor. Nielsen reported in mid July that the number of American adults who download podcasts outnumber those who publish blogs. About 9.2 million people, or 6.6 per cent of adult web users, downloaded an audio podcast in the previous month. About 6.7 million Americans, or 4.8 per cent of adults, wrote blogs in the same period. Some people use blogs for personal and corporate knowledge management. This has become known as 'klogging'. It also provides a chance for me to plug the re-printed version of my 2001 book Knowledge Management in the Digital Newsroom (Oxford: Focal). Blogs are excellent tools for knowledge collection and sharing. They enable hypertext linking and simple content publishing and syndication. This produces a searchable and distributable knowledge base consisting of content related to personal interests (wine, for example), academic research or the workplace. I have been using blogs for teaching since last year. Blogs also encourage refinement of ideas. A group of peers can add to the knowledge base through a blog's feedback or comment functions. Group blogging, or klogging, has become a useful tool for knowledge management in the workplace. This brings us to a fine service known as the MetaFilter Network (http://www.blogroots.com). It is an Oregon-based company that operates a collection of sites built with this knowledge creating form of user interaction in mind. The company's main site is a com- munity blog known as MetaFilter (http://www.metafilter.com). Linked to it are MetaTalk (http://metatalk.metafilter.com), a discussion board that allows us- ers to post feature requests or talk about blogs in general, and Ask MetaFilter (http://ask.metafilter. com), a discussion area for shar- ing knowledge among members of MetaFilter. Also linked to the site is PVR- blog.com -- a blog that focuses on personal video recorders (PVR) such as TiVo. A PVR is a hard drive connected to your television that allows you to record programs and play them at your leisure. Best of all, they skip advertisements, which has made them very popular with time-poor people. The Australian version of a PVR is IQ on the Foxtel network. They herald the end of the free- to-air business model, but that's another column. PVRblog.com represents an ex- ample of niche or nano-publishing on the web and will be discussed in a future column as a way that entre- preneurs or enterprising journalists can make money from the web. Journalist Matt Haughey, who runs PVRblog.com, is one of the au- thors of We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs, a new book which explains how blogs build and cap- ture knowledge. Go to Amazon. com and search for the book. Ama- zon allows you to read the table of contents and a sample chapter. Haughey noted: "By integrating the blog publishing process into how inter-office communication happens, it becomes possible for blogs to function simultaneously as informal knowledge management systems. "An email exchange between two technical support reps outlining a fix to a common problem can be copied to the department weblog. Now that fix, that knowledge, is stored in a centralized location, and is available to everyone else in the group." Getting blogged down with world of information new media technologies can bring journalists a host of new opportunities for fnding out what’s happening in the world writes Stephen Quinn TECHNOLOGY MATTERS StePhen QuInn blogs are excellent tools for knowledge collection and sharing. They enable hypertext linking and simple content publishing and syndication.