Getting Personal With Snapchat

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After reading a few classmates’ posts about Snapchat on their blogs, I thought about why it has become so popular.  Both Tara and Barrett believe it’s the absence of judgment that makes Snapchat so great.  I agree completely.

Snapchat is the one form of social media I use that doesn’t have the option for recipients to “like” it.  I think a lot of people tend to over-analyze their choices to tweet about something or post a picture to Instagram because they are concerned about how people might react.  They might even decide not to post something simply because they fear it won’t be “liked”, retweeted or whatever else.

Because Snapchat is a judgment-free social media zone, it makes it all the more entertaining.  I can remember several times when I have nearly cried from laughing so hard at a snap from my friends.  People just don’t hold anything back on Snapchat and it’s pretty refreshing to have a platform like that in the world of social media.

Unfortunately, the judgment-free social media zone has a downside too and it’s the same thing that makes it so awesome—people just don’t hold anything back.

I’d like to think I’m pretty sparing with my social media creation.  I don’t tweet constantly, or post pictures to Instagram often, but I can Snapchat my ass off.  Some people get a little carried away with their social media use, and when that happens on Snapchat it can take a turn to obnoxious fast.  When Snapchat added the “my story” feature to the app it sent some of those people over the edge.  Now their everyday lives have become a series of short films starring themselves that they feel compelled to share with the world.

I’ve started to ignore the my story feature completely as my own little Snapchat boycott.  In doing this I realized why I really like Snapchat, it’s personal.  You can send a snap to whomever you want; whether that is your entire Snapchat contact list, or just one person.  Yeah, sometimes it’s a pain to scroll through your contacts and pick each person you want to send your snap too, but you get the exact audience you want.

Usually when I send a snap there is a certain group of people I send it to.  Sometimes I send them only to my friends from home, whereas other times I will send them to my friends from UNC.  But every time, there is a reason for choosing a certain group of people.  It’s not for fear of judgment, because there isn’t any.  I just choose not to bombard people with pictures or videos that have zero relevance to them.  Maybe I’m alone on this one.

-FS

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Kansas’ Tears

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Last Sunday No. 10-seeded Stanford ousted the No. 2-seed Kansas to play another day in the NCAA Tournament.

In the closing minute of the surprising Kansas loss, the focus switched to someone off the court.  It wasn’t the parent of a player or the coaches’ family, but a young Kansas fan who happened to be taking the loss pretty hard.

Stanford had a sizable lead and the game appeared to be over.  CBS cut to a view of the crowd eventually zeroing in on a Kansas fan with tears streaming down his face, knowing his team would not continue to the sweet sixteen.  But here’s the thing, CBS didn’t get a brief shot of this pure emotion from a young fan, they kept the camera there.  For a long time.

Finally they took the camera off of the kid and refocused on the remaining minute of the game.  Kansas started to mount a bit of a comeback and cut the lead to two. Things started to get interesting–quick, flash back to the kid again, now wiping the tears from his eyes.

CBS’ select coverage of the young Kansas fan caused quite the commotion online.  First, Twitter flipped out.

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And then sports writers all over the web commented on it.  The troubling thing to me was very few of them came to the young fan’s defense, and if they did, they danced around it a bit.

Nick Schwartz of USA Sports pointed out “sad kids at games have been a staple of broadcast coverage for years.”  He went on to question whether or not it is okay today due to the rise of social media.  Because of this, “almost everything on TV will be documented somewhere and stored on the internet forever.”  Schwartz entertained the question of deeming this insensitive, but did not answer it himself.

Well, at least he didn’t add to the ridicule.

CBS didn’t hesitate to continue broadcasting the fan’s sorrow all over their website.  The video of the kid crying plays on a reel and under it the CBS Eye on College Basketball staff wrote this:

“I’m sure this kid wasn’t the only one crying toward the end of Kansas’ round of 32 loss to Stanford, but he represents Jayhawk fans everywhere.”

“And he’s going to go viral.”

“It’s good to see a kid that passionate about a college basketball program, though.”

Wow.  As if it wasn’t cruel enough to continually show this kid on live TV, now they have him crying online.  Their commentary shows absolutely zero concern for the young fan’s feelings.  I guess I should have expected that from the source who found him in the crowd in the first place.  I’m sorry to be adding to the virality, Kansas kid.

Mashable may have taken the lightest approach to the fan’s unwarranted spotlight.  Sam Laird wrote, “Stanford scored one of the weekend’s biggest March Madness upsets by taking down mighty Kansas . . . but that may not be what the game is remembered for.”

The upset would be remembered for the “tearful young Kansas fan” CBS zoomed in on in the crowd.  “Then CBS focused in on him some more.  And some more.  And–what the heck?–some more for good measure.”

Laird admitted that it has become commonplace for “sad young fans” to be featured in sports broadcasts.  But the “extra-long fixation on this particular small fan ticked off Twitter in a way that’s far from usual,” and this for good reason.  By the time Laird wrote this article, the hashtag #CryingKansasFan had picked up some serious attention.  On Sunday alone “the phrase was mentioned nearly 5,000 times on Twitter.”

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Laird ended his article by weighing the two sides of the tearful fan’s coverage:

“On the one hand, CBS’ lingering shot was exploitative and the online backlash is well-earned.  On the other hand, raw emotion like this is half the reason we obsess over sports in the first place–and while this shot went on for a rather long time, showing a sad young fan wasn’t otherwise very unusual.”

Most of the articles wrongly characterized the loss through the lens of the young fan. Because of the coverage, his crying face has become the symbol of the Kansas loss.  Not the players hanging their heads, not the coach shaking hands with the other in defeat, but this little kid’s face.

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Although these images perfectly capture the Stanford upset of Kansas, a young fan was victimized by CBS to communicate the agony of the loss.  I can remember times in my life when I have cried over games.  Several of them I played in myself, but I have let plenty of tears flow sitting in the Dean Dome as I watched my team lose.  Lucky for me, I never became a hashtag for people to tweet about and ridicule.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same for this poor Kansas fan.  So, keep your head up buddy, some of us admire your passion.

-FS

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Data-Driven Journalism

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Over the course of the semester we’ve talked a lot about disruption and how it affects media.  Disruption always causes change, for better or for worse.  A friend of mine sent me an article last week about a news site he frequents that is going through a transformation period.  He thought I would find it interesting, being a journalism and mass communication major.

The news organization is Five Thirty Eight.  I had never heard of it before, but have spent the past week checking out their site, which is different from many out there.  Five Thirty Eight is primarily driven by data journalism.  They are probably most known for their prediction in the 2012 presidential election in which they called 50 out of 50 states correctly.

Until a recent shift, Five Thirty Eight was primarily dedicated to politics.  Nate Silver, the founder  and editor in chief of Five Thirty Eight, thought it was time for a change.  The re-launch of Five Thirty Eight will expand their focus to five categories:  Politics, Economics, Science, Life and Sports.  However, all of these topics will still be covered though the process of data journalism which Silver thinks adds value to traditional news stories.  Five Thirty Eight will include written stories alongside statistical analysis data visualization, computer programming and data-literate reporting.  A good site for a news thirsty computer nerd.

Five Thirty Eight will also be collaborating with ESPN films and Grantland to produce original documentary films.  This will likely draw in a more diverse audience than Five Thirty Eight has experienced.

Their staff has expanded with former employees of prestigious, traditional journalism organizations like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Washington Post.  “Conventional news organizations on the whole are lacking in data journalism skills,” Silver says.  So he brought in the pros of their business to his business.

Silver offered an inside look at Five Thirty Eight’s approach through the context of hockey.  Esteemed hockey coach Brian Burke mentioned in an interview that statistics could not measure the perseverance of a hockey player.  He expressed this by wondering if one of his forwards would retain the puck when Zdeno Chara, a rather large (6’9″) defenseman of the Boston Bruins, was coming for him.  Silver sees this concern as a challenge.

“Often, general managers and CEOs and op-ed columnists use the lack of data as an excuse to avoid having to examine their premises,” Silver said. The NHL might install motion-detecting cameras in their arenas to capture the action on the ice.  These cameras will create a “record of each players x- and y- coordinates throughout the game,” allowing Five Thirty Eight to measure a hockey player’s perseverance when going agains tough opponents.  And then, with this data, Silver would consider these questions:

1. Is it smart for a player to keep control of the puck when Chara (or a similarly gifted defensemen) has him in his sights? Might the player yield fewer turnovers if he passed the puck instead?

2. Would measuring a player’s perseverance give us meaningful information beyond what is reflected in “box score” statistics, such as goals, assists and plus-minus?

3. Do players who persevere under threat match those who are regarded as “tough” or as having lot of “heart” by coaches, scouts and commentators? If not, is the metric flawed, or are the coaches biased?

This is a perfect example of what Five Thirty Eight hopes to accomplish in their transition.  They don’t seek to replace traditional journalism, just to offer a more data-driven spin on it.  And traditional journalism organizations should prepare themselves, because Five Thirty Eight won’t be the first to cover a story, but they’ll be the first to get it right.

-FS

Nate Silver on their logo, because it’s cool.

Our logo depicts a fox (we call him Fox No. 92) as an allusion to a phrase originally attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” We take a pluralistic approach and we hope to contribute to your understanding of the news in a variety of ways.

 

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News & Observer Sides with State

Sometimes when I go home my parents will have held on to something for me to see.  Most of the time it’s something my dad wants me to read.  He might cut out a Fortune Magazine article with a sticky note on top of it saying something like, “Read this, do it and buy me a Ferrari.”  Other times it could be a new driving law he wants to make sure I know about, or anything else a concerned parent would want their kid to know.

When I came home from spring break my parents had saved two News & Observer articles for me.  Both articles had huge pictures of the victorious N.C. State basketball team following their defeat of Syracuse on Friday, March 15.  Below the photos covered in red were two smaller pictures of carolina blue displaying drastically different emotions.

My parents didn’t hold on to these to rub it in (I think…).  My good friend, Staats Battle, plays basketball for the wolfpack, and he made sure to get his face on that front page.  That’s him to T.J. Warren’s right.

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I’m glad my parents held onto the article so I could see the picture, put above it the headline read:  “N.C. State victory; UNC agony”.  And below the above picture filled with jubilation and excitement was this…

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Hell of a contrast, right?  This woman looks like she should be wearing a darker shade of blue.

Already disgusted with the N&O’s portrayal of my team’s loss, I decided to see if the article had any redeeming qualities.  Here are the first two sentences of staff writer Luke Decock’s run down:

“While North Carolina all but ensured it will not begin the NCAA tournament just down the road in Raleigh, N.C. State went a long way toward joining the Tar Heels in the field with an upset of Syracuse.  The Wolfpack got the big win it needed to bolster its fragile NCAA case with a 66-63 win over the Orange on Friday, but North Carolina exited the ACC tournament early with an 80-75 loss to Pittsburgh, making it unlikely the Tar Heels will be seeded high enough to stay close to home at PNC Arena next week.”

This sounds like a subtle “this is our state” cry for praise.  I even did a quick search of this Luke Decock to see if he was a N.C. State grad, he wasn’t.

Anyway, I flipped to the sports page hoping it might show more of a balance of the two teams.  I saw these two pictures of T.J. hanging on the rim and Roy doing his thing along with Luke Decock’s headshot next to the article.  I stopped reading.

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*There’s Staats again under T.J.’s foot

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I realize that the N&O is a Raleigh paper, but it’s not N.C. State’s newspaper.  I grew up reading the sports page of the N&O, but this particular edition surprised me.  Sure they’re not going to put a picture in there of Tokoto throwing down a huge dunk when we lost, but no need to pick out the most ridiculous looking Carolina fan in the whole arena.  Obviously I’m biased, but I think the N&O could have done a better job of representing our heels despite the loss.

-FS

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HBO GO Gos Down

It just so happens that the finale of True Detective’s first season fell in the middle of our spring break.  None of the ten friends I was with thought this would be a problem.  We were staying at our friend Sutton’s house in Big Sky, Montana and without thinking much about it, we assumed he had HBO.  He didn’t.  Sutton couldn’t even believe it, and it’s his house.

Missing the finale was not an option.  We knew if we waited to watch until we got home, somehow we would hear what went down, whether that be on twitter or word of mouth.

First, Sutton called up his Dad to attempt to convince him to buy HBO.  Not a chance.

After the failed hail-mary, we quickly opted for the HBO GO avenue and decided to huddle around a computer screen to watch.  We had two MacBooks in the TV room ready to go.  Buffering, buffering . . . nothing.  We reloaded the page at least twenty times hoping to get through, but the worst had happened, HBO GO crashed.

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This is when the viewing crew split.  A few guys went to sleep, exhausted after a full day of skiing.  A few continued to reload the page, refusing to be snubbed of the season finale.  I opted for the hot tub with a view of the valley (not a bad second choice).

I was only in there for a few minutes when I heard some commotion from inside.  My friend Mark got through on his iPhone.  He isolated, put some headphones on and zoned in.

The other guys continued to reload the page on their laptops, further fueled by Mark’s success.  Finally, they got through.  One of the guys in the hot tub scrambled to get out and secure a spot around the screen.  The two other guys in the hot tub hadn’t followed the show, but knew I did.

“Fordo, you not gonna watch?”

“Nah, it’s not going anywhere.”

I stayed in the hot tub and enjoyed the view along with a few beers.  Honestly, I was pretty proud of myself.  I had been anxiously awaiting the finale all week and even re-watched a few episodes.  But I was lucky enough to be in one of the more beautiful parts of the country and decided to take it all in while I was there.  Or, at least until the next day when my friends were talking about it so much I had to watch on my own.

Even when it comes to HBO, live matters.  Every True Detective follower I know wanted to watch the finale live.  The HBO GO crash caused an outrage on Twitter.  Fans wanted to watch, and they wanted to watch it LIVE!

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Whether or not you have the ability to record or watch later, there are some things that will always cause fans to watch live.  True Detective is one of those things.  Sure it’s not the Super Bowl, or the Oscars, but its got quality content and a dedicated following.  Whoever can figure out that equation will bring in the viewers.

-FS

*images obtained from Google images

*Tweets obtained from heavy.com

Ads: The Voice Inside Your Head

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Before the icy weather hit Chapel Hill Monday afternoon, I planned on talking to my classmates about the Minority Report-style advertisements that are being developed.  Unfortunately, class was cancelled and my classmates didn’t get to enjoy the visually pleasing, thought-provokingly brilliant presentation I prepared for them.  But it’s okay; I went to the basketball game instead, the heels won, and my classmates can catch the run-down here when they get bored of soaking up rays and drowning themselves in fruity island drinks over our Spring Break.

Previously in class, we have discussed the idea that science fiction movies are one of the better indicators of what is to come in future technology.  The 2002 Spielberg film, Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise has reinforced this idea.  The sci-fi film includes various future forms of media including virtual newspapers containing holographic images, but most interestingly (to me, at least) are the interactive advertisements that try to lure Cruise’s character, John Anderton, to kick back and enjoy a Guinness.

In the movie, the ads recognize people as they walk past by scanning their eyeballs.  As John Anderton walks through a shopping area, the ads speak out loud to him attempting to draw him in.  Back in 2002, these digital ads may have seemed like a stretch of the imagination, but just twelve years later, here they come.

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Several tech companies are currently developing the technology to make Minority Report-style ads a reality.

Digital advertising screens have been in use for some time now.  You may see them at a bus stop, on the side of a building, or at a subway station like this one in Stockholm.  But IBM and Japanese electronics company NEC are about to kick it up another notch.  An article in The Telegraph a few years back highlighted the companies plans.

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Researchers at IBM began working on digital, tailor-made adverts several years ago.  Their goal was to develop technology that will show consumers ads that reflect their personal interests.  IBM claims that the customized ads will seek to limit consumers from being bombarded with advertisements that have no relevance to them.  Instead, they will only be shown advertisements that may resonate with them personally.  At least that’s the goal.

IBM’s system will work by using wireless technology tags called RFID chips to identify consumers as they walk by.  These chips are increasingly being built into credit cards and cell phones.

The digital ad boards will be able to identify people based on the information encoded in the RFID chips, and advertise towards them according to their personal preferences.

The ad boards are being developed as part of IBM’s Smarter Planet Program that “aims to use technology to make people’s lives easier and more efficient”.

Japanese company NEC already has a similar (but not so sophisticated) technology in place.  NEC’s billboards are able to identify a shopper’s age and gender as they walk past, offering them products that best suit their demographic.  The signs use basic facial recognition software and cameras to pick up on this information.

I happen to think that the ad boards being developed would be really cool.  I don’t think I would like it if they talked to me like the ads in Minority Report, but if they flashed an image up to suit my taste I would have no problem there.

Most advertisers welcome the new technology and think it will limit the amount of poorly targeted advertising.

My only worry, especially with IBM’s product, is that we as consumers will be tracked everywhere we go.  There will undoubtedly be privacy issues to handle and who’s to say that IBM won’t sell our every move to the government?

-FS

 

Double Tap That

Several of my classmates have brought light to the “battle for likes” that Instagram has created amongst users.  It is an unwritten rule of the Instagram game.  Yeah, you’re sharing pictures because you think whatever it is you’re doing is cool, or your friends might think it’s cool; but all you really want is that double tap.

I would like to consider myself a sparing Instagram user.  I have had the smartphone app for around three years now and have 54 total posts.  Everyone has a few friends that just get carried away.  My roommate, for instance, has posted 118 pictures, but even that is low to some.  He is always asking me “which picture should I use?”, or “what should I put as the caption?”, to which I usually respond with a laugh followed by, “dude, I don’t care”.  Point being, he’s going for the likes.

Several times I have gotten into conversations with friends about how many likes they get.  One of my buddies is terrible at instagramming, but he doesn’t care.  He doesn’t get a lot of likes, and he’s not going for them (he says).  It’s a refreshing point of view opposed to the people who are constantly checking their phone after they post a picture, hoping that this one will break their like record.

This fall I went on a hunting trip with my grandfather for my 21st birthday.  My grandfather and I (along with my Dad and a friend) flew out to Colorado for the weekend to go Elk hunting. I know it seems like a ridiculous weekend trip, but as you could imagine we had a great time.  On the way back, I posted a picture on Instagram of my grandfather and I with my elk.  In my mind it was a way to publicly thank my grandfather for truly one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

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I posted the picture before getting on the plane to fly back home.  When we landed, I had somewhere around 80 “likes” on my picture.  I kid you not, one of my friends sent a group text commenting on how I was “racking up the likes”.  Another friend texted asking what my LPM was.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Later I found out he was asking me what my likes per minute was.  See, some people just get carried away.

I’m not going to sit back and act like I am above the battle for likes, but it doesn’t concern me nearly as much as it seems to other people.  Sure it makes you feel kinda good when you get above fifty, and the few times I’ve broken one hundred have surprised me a bit.  But at the end of the day I posted a picture because I thought it was worth sharing.  If you like it, that’s great.

-FS