Archives for category: Adapting

UPDATED WITH MORE MAP LINKS

The Multimedia Journalism students are finding out how useful and straightforward Google Maps Engine is as an online storytelling tool. Each created a map of five places on a subject relevant to the topics of their blogs.

The maps are an interactive version of an old standby of static print infographics: the locator map. Locators have a simple ingredients list: Headline, chatter, base map, place labels, and descriptions accompanying each place label. The difference with Google Maps Engine is that you get the gift of interactivity: Users can see pointer boxes with names and descriptions pop up as they hover the cursor over a list of place names.

The five-place Google Maps assignment is appropriate as an introductory exercise in interactive mapping for beginning multimedia journalists for these reasons:

  • It challenges students to conceive of a piece they find interesting and (hopefully) that their readers will also find intriguing.
  • It requires that they do the kind of research that will be expected of them in the newsrooms that will hire them after graduation.
  • It gives them an opportunity to put to use what they learned in the step-by-step, in-class Google Maps tutorial, the Kansas City barbecue map. Hey, I’m a Kansas City boy, but some things translate well from the Midwest to the South, and barbecue is one of them. So we can almost all relate to the subject.

Here’s what the students cooked up this week:

Google Maps Engine is not hard to use, once you understand what it does and how it works. The technical questions are not difficult; the challenge, as I discovered when I sat in on the international hackathon session at Auburn University’s computer science program last fall, is figuring out a journalistic use for it.

Coders provide the conduit, and it is powerful work that they do. Journalists provide the ideas for content to flow through the conduit. Technical thinkers and journalistic thinkers complement each other. Especially now, we need each other.

I’m proud of how much my Multimedia Journalism students have built their technical skillsets while flexing their storytelling muscles these last 16 weeks. May they evangelize new media thinking in the newsrooms they join in the near future. They’re smart, they love storytelling, and they’ve demonstrated a capacity for problem solving and tenacity. Editors , directors and station managers, you need these young people. Hire them!

The students in Multimedia Journalism voted on one another’s audio slideshows after we did a screening and critique in class last week. Winners got their choice of two versions of Auburn University College of Liberal Arts T-shirts as a reward. Around here, that means either orange on blue or blue on orange. Either’s a great option.

Hands down, the students’ favorite was Reese Counts’ piece on a Triumph Motorcycles shop not far from campus on Opelika Road, a place called Skinner’s. As you’ll see, Counts had free range of the place, and access means a world of possibilities when shooting still photos.

Kate Seckinger’s piece on Chick-Fil-A took second prize. You can see the rest of the audio slideshows by clicking the links below. Please enjoy!

They were produced by creating audio stories in Audacity, shooting, culling and editing photos using Lightroom and Photoshop, and blending the two media forms in Soundslides’ Demo version.

Unfortunately, WordPress.com blogs do not work and play well with complex projects that combine folders and files, so we used Google Drive as a host server. It’s not an elegant solution, and most of the students noted that following the upload steps in precisely the right order and some of the subtler aspects of Google Drive made the upload the most challenging part of the assignment.

But that’s the way journalism works in the online world in a time when many newspapers are shedding their dependence on paper and ink in favor of browsers and bandwidth: Everybody needs to know a little technology, regardless of whether we believe (or even want to believe) that we’re technology people.

Multimedia journalism uses technology in the service of telling a story.

As with so much in life, learning to do this using Google Drive had a learning curve. When you first do a thing, it can be frustrating. When processes break down, you have to figure out how to troubleshoot it. That’s what everybody in this course did together (and that includes me) for this assignment.

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem ...

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem …

A Google Drive problem has vexed a student and me for the last 24 hours.

After preparing a really nicely done Soundslides presentation, my student emailed to say she was having trouble uploading the files to Google Drive. She followed all the steps in journotech.co.uk’s fantastic Using Google Drive as a Web Host post. Yet it would not allow her to upload folders inside the publish_to_web folder; whether with drag-and-drop or hitting the upload files button inside Drive, it just wasn’t letting it work.

She brought her laptop in and we looked at her files; they looked in order. We noticed that in Drive, the icon for her folders looked different than the one for my folders. When she clicked on the 400_300 and 600_450 files, they would not open. Mine, however, did in my Drive.

After beating our heads against the problem for about an hour (and after she showed her beautifully done audio slideshow to me on her computer), I conceded defeat with apologies for not being able to figure out the problem.

And it just kept nagging at me. I wrapped up some grading and returned to the problem, replicating the steps with a test upload on my Drive. And when I hit the upload button, the same thing happened to me: It would not let me load folders, only files.

I backed up a couple of steps. And that’s where I think I found the problem.

When you hit the little upload button, it asks if you want to upload a folder or files. I think if you click on it without noticing that option, Drive assumes you want to upload files. This time, I selected folder, then uploaded the contents of the publish_to_web folder. Then I clicked index.html, then hit preview.

The thing worked. Here it is (and it’s just a quick-and-dirty to demonstrate how to upload these things to Drive). To test whether that explains the incomplete preview of the Soundslide presentation, I tried uploading to Google Drive by just clicking the upload file indiscriminately; when I did so, Drive assumed I just wanted to upload files. Drive will upload either a folder that contains a bunch of stuff (it could have a mix of folders and files inside) if you use the “Upload>Folder” option. If you use “Upload>Files” and you point it inside a folder (like the publish_to_web folder) and try to select all the folders and files inside it, it will only upload the files. The result will be something that looks like this shell of a Soundslides project that I uploaded to test this theory.

I really hope this is the solution for my student. After this testing, I am certain it is.

Incidentally, these are the directions I gave in class before spring break for how to upload the projects:

INSTRUCTIONS FOR POSTING AUDIO SLIDESHOW TO YOUR BLOG

  1. In Soundslides, complete your slideshow and export it by using the EXPORT button. This creates a folder called publish_to_web that contains everything necessary for an online viewer to look at/hear your audio slideshow.
  2. Upload the contents of the entire publish_to_web to Google Drive. For directions, click through the galleries at the post “Using Google Drive as a Web Host” at this link: http://www.journotech.co.uk/using-google-drive-as-a-web-host/#more-587
  3. Write a blog post that explains the content of your story, including the title (this is the headline you gave it in Soundslides) and link to the publish_to_web folder you uploaded in Step 2 above. The link in Step 2 will explain what that link is.
  4. Email the link to the blog post containing the link to the audio slideshow to me at mjf0009@auburn.edu.

One of the greatest things about blogging on WordPress.com is that it costs nothing unless you want to buy a preminum theme or extra storage space in the cloud. One pitfall is that its architecture is set up to really, really like using single jpegs, tiffs, docs and the like but it doesn’t work with folders full of files. That’s problematic for SoundSlides creators. Solution: Post about your SoundSlide and link to Google Drive.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

Of course, if you’re a student or university employee, you have space available on your drive. But I’ve never played with that space and I’m much more of a storytelling and journalism guy than a tech guy, so even with a lot of coaching I was about to tear my hair out. But I know that the folks at Google make it ridiculously simple to do things that would have required all-nighters and copious quantities of caffeine to produce back when I was an undergrad. And as it happens, Fortunately, I ran across this great post over at the Journo Tech blog called “Using Google Drive as a Web Host.”

Really, this is a brilliant solution. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and I get to keep all my hair now. As a sample, I’ve posted a quick-and-dirty slideshow I created using SoundSlides to merge photos of magazine covers from a research project about a magazine I’ve come to think of as the antebellum South’s version of The Economist: De Bow’s Review. It’s nothing fancy: just 11 photos of covers of the magazine from just before the Civil War. I shot the photos at the Special Collections and Archives section at Ralph B. Draughon Library at Auburn University last summer for an article that’s just been published this week by American Journalism. As for the music, a scratchy turn-of-the-twentieth-century recording of the Neapolitan Trio performing Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” that one’s used under Creative Commons License. I obtained it at Free Music Archive, which is an outstanding resource for historical music that is so old it has passed out of copyright and into the public domain. Word to my students: You can get into big legal trouble if you violate copyright. There are so many who have pirated downloaded music that it’s hard for the recording industry to keep up with all of them, so its default position often seems to be to simply give up. But as a content creator online, you are MUCH more visible to them. As in, when you link to their stuff, it’s like Frodo putting on the One Ring and attracting the gaze of Sauron. So be careful what you use, because you might get a cease-and-desist letter (at best) or a hefty bill (at worst).

If you’re interested in Old South journalism history, you might want to give it a look here. It’s titled “Brave Old Spaniards and Indolent Mexicans: J. Ross Browne, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, and the Social Construction of Off-Whiteness in the 1860s.

Just a side note to my brothers and sisters in the world of journalism and mass communication history: Soundslides is not that complicated to master. You could easily record your own narration about your research project to accompany the slides, or you can tuck the information that would go into your narration down into the captions and let the music serve to create a feel for the time period. Yeah, I know. If you’re like me, you have a stack of papers to grade and a research agenda to pursue. But multimedia has power to make what we do accessible to people who might otherwise not pay much attention.

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