Archive for March, 2009

Riding The Stock Market — On Your iPhone

Roller coasters are not for the faint-hearted. Neither are stock markets.

But if you are used to navigating the ups and downs of the volatile markets, you may appreciate this iPhone application, which – among other things – lets you take a virtual roller coaster ride of your favorite stock charts.

AirCoaster Online, a 3D high-speed roller coaster simulator developed by Ziconic, allows you to ride auto-generated tracks or create you own using their multi-touch track editor. Spice up your ride by adding sound effects or changing your viewing angle.

Experiencing the stock market on a roller coaster lends an interesting perspective on market volatility.

Definitely innovative.

Here’s what the Dow Jones Industrial Average feels like on a roller coaster. I’m told you may need a brown paper bag for the Apple stock track.

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Calling The Oval Office

A direct line to the Oval Office? Apparently, it’s possible.

Keeping his promise of running an open and more responsive White House, President Obama on Tuesday invited the public to use a new feature on WhiteHouse.gov called ‘Open for Questions’ to ask him economy-related questions and vote on other submitted questions.

“We’re going to take advantage of the Internet to to bring all of you to the White House to talk about the economy,” says President Obama in a video, now available on You Tube. On March 26, in a special “community-moderated online town hall,” the president will answer “some of the most popular questions.” The event will also be streamed live on on WhiteHouse.gov.

It will be interesting to watch the President and his new media team attempt to follow through on their promises of a more wired White House.

Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post says: “Expect a herd of organized (and unorganized) Web users to stampede WhiteHouse.gov and make it a highly trafficked political hub over the next 48 hours.”

At the time of writing this post, 8,664 people had submitted 9,387 questions and cast 322,284 votes. The most popular question so far?

“As a student, who like so many others works full time and attends school full time, only to break even at the end of the month. What is the government doing to make higher education more affordable for lower and middle class families?
— James, Bloomington, Indiana

According to Techcrunch, the White House will use Google Moderator to determine which questions President Obama should answer on Thursday.

While the “experiment” is definitely a welcome move towards transparency and accountability, it does raise concerns about how questions will finally be selected and the possibility that this kind of voting system may allow the weakest questions to  rise to the top.

There’s no doubt, however, if used effectively, this is a great way to engage the online community.  This is an opportunity for us to ask some tough and relevant questions.

Let’s hope we get more than just old boilerplate in return.

Chicago Tribune’s Masthead Experiment

In their one-day only experiment, Chicago Tribune changed the masthead of Thursday’s print edition to list the Twitter IDs of their top executives and editors instead of their names.

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In an interview with CNet, Bill Adee, the paper’s digital editor, says: “To show the many Twitter users among the paper’s audience that the Tribune gets the microblogging service, and to make it easy to get in touch with the top editors and executives, the publication decided to publish, for one day only, the Twitter-friendly masthead.”

What do you think? Is this the future of journalism?

Wikipedia: Trust But Verify?

I admit. Wikipedia is usually my first stop when I’m looking for information. The fact that its entries are often also the first result in a Google search may also have something to do with it. But let me add that it never serves as my main or only source of information. Wikipedia is an incredibly large repository of information and can help as a roadmap for any research.

wikipedia5I use Wikipedia more for background research and basic information than as a source or to verify facts. What I like about Wikipedia is that it sometimes leads me to a wealth of new information — and more reliable and authoritative sources.

There is definitely value in the collective knowledge, power and wisdom of the community. However, the fact that the Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone – and is often misused by vandals and trolls – does warrant some caution. Tools like WikiTrust and Wikidashboard help in increasing transparency and evaluating the trustworthiness of entries on Wikipedia.

While the information on encyclopedias like Britannica – vetted and reviewed by industry experts – may seem more credible, Wikipedia’s strengths include timeliness and a much more comprehensive coverage.

Interestingly, in a move towards increased transparency, openness — and web traffic, Britannica, primarily a paid service, is now tapping the power of the community by letting users contribute and edit content. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is tightening the reins on its user-generated content and may introduce ‘flagged revisions‘ to ensure greater accuracy for its users. It will be interesting to watch how these changes play out in the battle between Wikipedia and Britannica.

While it is not without faults, Wikipedia enjoys immense popularity because it successfully harnesses collective intelligence.

Like James Surowiecki says in the Wisdom of Crowds:

“The idea of the wisdom of the crowds is not that a group will always give you the right answer but that on average it will consistently come up with a better answer than any individual will provide.”

Marketing Arms, Bollywood Style

Israeli arms dealer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems LTD, apparently decided to court the Indian government — Bollywood style — at the recent Aero India 2009 event in Bangalore, India.

The tacky song-and-dance number even won a nomination for Wired magazine’s Iron Eagle film fest — “a celebration of the awesomely bad videos of the military-industrial complex.”

Stephen Trimble of The DEW Line calls it a “catastrophic collision of Bollywood and the arms industry.”

In an interview with Saurabh Joshi of StratPost, Assy Josephy, Director of Exhibitions for Rafael, says: “The video is to help build familiarity between India and Israel and Rafael.”

Apparently, he’s dead serious.

In an “innovative” effort to market its arms, the video has hip-swaying women — together with a swashbuckling, leather-clad man — dance around garlanded missiles singing:

“Together, Forever, We Will Always Be

Dinga Dinga Dee.”

Need I say more?

Sometimes, Simple Says It Best

After reading hundreds of tech-savvy media strategists wax eloquent about social media on their blogs, this came as a refreshing change. Watch Michael Brito‘s little girls take a stab at explaining social media.

Great job, girls!

First Impressions Of A Second Life

I was going to do it. I was ready to take the plunge. Hell, I could use a break from my first life.

So I did.

Meet Desdemona Breen. My virtual counterpart who timidly ventured into the ever-evolving world of Second Life, unsure of what — or who — to expect.

My first feeling in Second Life was that of complete disorientation. After crashing into random billboards, walking through other avatars, (creepy!) and running into pretty much everything that came my way, I decided to, ahem, fly.

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That was fun until I got lost over the ocean. That’s when Princess Zena-lookalike  came to my rescue and offered to ‘teleport’ me. I gleefully accepted her invitation only to find myself in what I can only describe as the seedy alleys of Second Life.

Several panic attacks and three teleportations later, I was relieved to find myself on the mainland again – thanks to a very helpful Olivier (who also threw in a lesson on how to teleport myself!). I decided I was not taking any chances of getting teleported by ‘helpful’ strangers and began looking for my own destinations.

Call me a geek, but I typed in ‘Apple’ in the nifty search bar and teleported myself to the unofficial Apple Store. It was eerily similar to the real thing. I looked around at the rainbow-colored nanos, sat at the genius bar and even browsed through the mac books! It was unreal. I can see why companies might want to invest in building a presence on Second Life. It’s a cool way of letting customers browse through your products just like they might do in the real world.

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Realizing — much like in my first life — that I could not afford any of the Apple products, I began exploring some of the other islands on Second Life. I searched for CNN‘s island.

Just as CNN asks its real-life audience to submit I-Reports, its Second Life counterpart encourages residents to share their own “SL I-Reports about events occurring within the virtual world.”

CNN’s in-world I-Report hub includes a news desk where CNN producers hold weekly editorial discussions, and an amphitheater for larger in-world events, such as training sessions and appearances by CNN anchors and correspondents.

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It was fun to look around, sit at the the news desk, browse the kiosks and fly around the island looking for other SL I-reporters. It was all very fascinating but I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I suddenly missed those annoying online customer reps that pop up to ask if you need help. In Second Life, you’re at the mercy of strangers.

I decided I had enough of navigating the shadowy corners of the virtual world for a day. I graciously excused myself from the island and typed a polite goodbye in my ‘local chat’ window.

I doubt anyone noticed. My first life was beginning to seem a lot more appealing.

While my first experience in Second Life swung from being creepy to boring to completely overwhelming, I won’t write it off just yet.

Perhaps when I’m feeling brave enough, I might venture out again.

This time, can someone please teleport me to freebie land?

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