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Month: April 2011

Photosynth on iPhone: panoramic reporting

photosynth app

I have a new app on my iPhone: Photosynth. Yes, a Microsoft app. Cognitive dissonance ahoy. 😉
But it’s a great tool, on that allows you to quickly and simply build rich panoramas of your environment. Hence, it’s one I expect to see journalists using fairly quickly.

My collegue Stacey has been enthusiastic about Photosynth since she saw it demoed at the second news:rewired, and it crops up on her blog occasionally. You can see why. It’s just such a boon for a property journalist…

However, I think it has far more application for journalists generally, as a way of getting a very vivid view of a scene or event onto the web. I looked at a fairly perfunctory video of a police raid in my neck of the woods the other morning. It would have been far more interesting as a panorama of this sort. 

Having this sort of technology right on the iPhone just makes it an even richer potential reporting tool. I did a quick test run of the app out the front of Quadrant House a few minutes ago:

Imagine that sort of thing for a demo, or a sporting event, or a disaster site.
Or, dare I say it, a royal wedding? 
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Fact Checking: not applicable to geography, apparently

Next time you hear someone saying that what makes journalists unique and different is their fact-checking and professional standards, remember how often things like this happen:

from the Miami HeraldTwo British tourists, reported by British media to have been murdered in Miami early Saturday moring, actually died in Sarasota, the British Embassy confirmed Sunday afternoon.

That’s only a couple of hundred miles away. That counts, right? Random Pixels tracked the exposure of the error.

What makes it really depressing to me is that an error in one paper seems to have been picked up and propagated by multiple outlets without any attempt to do their own fact-checking. Shoddy.

If you’re going to claim professional standards, make an attempt to live up to them.

Evening whisky reading, 13th April 2011

Because sometimes, you just have to get those tabs out of that browser:

After the Flip: We’re all polycamerous now

This morning, a tweeted link on Twitter lead to a conversation that went a little like this:

And the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the true cause of the fall of the Flip.

The current narrative is that the role of the Flip has been eaten away by the rise of the smartphone. And it’s a seductive narrative, because smartphones are the new hotness, and this story reinforces that pre-conceived notion. But I actually think it’s more complex than that.

I did a quick inventory of the devices I have which are capable of recording video:

  • Flip Mino HD
  • Kodak Zi8
  • Canon IXUS 220HS
  • iPhone 3GS
  • MacBook Pro
  • Canon EOS 500D

All bar two of those (the MacBook Pro and the iPhone) are capable of recording in HD. By later this summer, I’ll be down to just one device that can’t record HD, as I plan on replacing my iPhone once the contract is up.

So, in fact, the Flip’s market has been attacked from all directions. Even basic, sub-£100 point and click still cameras are capable of video now, and they usually have better glass and sensors than the Flip. Kodak has expanded the range of options, with external mic sockets, and a waterproof model. And DSLRs are now video devices, too. I shot more video on my Canon EOS over christmas than anything else – in fact, I used it more for video than stills, possibly because it was my nephew’s first Christmas, and babies catch everyone’s attention….

Video is too prevalent, too common, too easy to produce for the Flip to survive at its existing price point. Did the smartphone play a role? Sure. Was it the only killer? No. Most of us are polycamerous now.

And, pleasingly, some of the lessons of the Flip are finding their way into other devices. My new Canon IXUS has a single, big red button for shooting video, aping the Flip and improving vastly on the multiple presses to record found in earlier models:

The Flip is gone, but the core need it served is being amply catered for.

Old people’s e-mails and tweeting brands

When I tidied up, archived and backed-up my late parents’ computer files, I noted that a lot of their retired friends had done something very curious with their e-mail addresses, at least to my eyes. Their e-mail addresses read like this: [email protected]

They had imposed the paradigm of a previous age on something new. Letters were delivered to a house, ergo e-mail was delivered in the same way. so they chose their postal address as their e-mail address.

I wonder if brands as Twitter accounts will come to be seen in the same way. In the past, brands had messages and communicated to people en mass. But social media is largely a person-to-person tool. And having a conversation with a brand feels as peculiar as sending an e-mail to a postal address.

The end of the Flip as we know it?

Office Flip

Both TechCrunch and The Next Web are reporting that Cisco is killing the Flip line of video cameras.

Chat on Twitter seems to blame a combination of the rise of HD video on mobile phones, and the general move away from single purpose devices. Reading the blog posts suggests that it’s more Cisco’s desire to get out of consumer technology – but then, if Flip was a viable business, wouldn’t they be flogging it rather than shutting it down? However you look at it, this will be the end of a (brief) era, and a sad end for a company that manage to totally change the way we conceive of video capture with the web in mind. I’ve always been a fan of quick’n’dirty video for journalism – that the quality of the content and the speed of delivery often trumps the desire for maximum visual quality, and the Flip was a great gateway to that. No chargers, no cable, just point, shoot and import into your laptop. And, bar the cable-less bit, pretty much all of that has been absorbed by the mobile phone.

But here’s something that Flips offer that mobile phones don’t: battery life. Last summer, I went on a camping holiday to the Scilly Isles, with only intermittent access to power to recharge things. My Flip Mino HD survived the whole trip without needing a recharge. Try doing that with a mobile phone…

But, I suppose, journalists and campers are edge cases, and journalists who camp even more so. For the majority, the video you can pull off an iPhone is going to be more than good enough. And it’s not as if the Flip passes into the great graveyard of gorgeous gadgets without leaving behind some successors. I’ve been using a Kodak Zi8 for 18 months now and rather like it, and there are new offerings in the same line.

So long, Flip.

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Property, Social Media and What Works Online


If you thought I was quiet towards the end of last week and over the weekend, there was a good reason why: I was preparing myself to open the RICS Social Media Conference 2011. It was very lovely of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to invite me to introduce the indutry I wrote about for a decade to the ideas that have been central to my working life for the last five years. And I had a blast doing it.

Fellow speaker Kimm Tasso has blogged about the day, and I’ve posted something on What Works Online, a group blog written by RBI staff to help businesses learn, well, what works online…