Busy making things: github, links, photos, @mc.

Python in Your Pocket: Python for S60

Posted: February 24th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Web Services | 3 Comments »

I’m down in Dallas at PyCon 2006 recovering from a late night slide completing session for the talk I gave today: Python in Your Pocket: Python for S60. I used docutils to transform ReST in to a purdy S5 presentation (ReST source is here).

I’ll be here through Sunday night so if you’d like to hear more, feel free to find me. I’m also going to whip together a Django lightning talk for tomorrow. While I recover a bit and take some notes, keep an eye on the pycon2006 flickr tag which I’ve been juicing with Meaning metadata.


Clickable Bylines

Posted: February 18th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Django, Journalism, Python | 49 Comments »

Clickable bylines are the new black in online journalism according to this post and related comments at Poynter. I have to admit that I thought that this was the norm rather than the exception, since this had been the case at the Journal-World long before I arrived in Lawrence.

A few days ago Dan asked me how long it would take to whip up per-writer RSS feeds. Thanks to django’s syndication framework the answer was no time at all. Over the next couple of days and with the direction of Dan and David, we tweaked the feeds to include both per-writer and per-photographer feeds. David made it easy to set up search alerts for every time a staff member posted a story. We also updated the staff bio pages to make all of this information easier to get to.

Here is an example from a recent story by Joel Mathis:

in-story byline

If you click on Joel’s name, you’ll be taken to his bio page. If you click on Contact, you’ll be taken directly to his contact form. There’s nothing new there (for us anyway). The new stuff happens on the bio page:

Joel's bio page

The very top of every bio page contains more metainformation than you can shake a stick at. First and foremost is Joel’s number and contact form. After that we have an RSS feed of his latest stories. Following that is the search alert form that allows you to be notified every time Joel posts a story. Since Joel is such a converged guy and takes pictures too, you can check out the latest photos he has taken or subscribe to an RSS feed of those photos. You can also subscribe to that feed as a photocast in the latest iPhoto.

Joel’s bio page also also contains a short biography that makes me want to head up the street to Rudy’s every time I read it. Below the bio and mugshot is a list of recent stories by Joel and a form that lets you quickly search his stories.

I think these tools go well beyond what other news organizations are just beginning to do. At the same time there is always room for improvement, so don’t be suprised if more information is added to these pages.


Mobile Olympics

Posted: February 11th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 35 Comments »

I’m a little dissapointed that NBC isn’t featuring their mobile Olympic coverage very well, but once you get there, it’s pretty good. After watching parts of the opening ceremony last night, I hopped on the official NBC Olympics site looking for the mobile coverage that had been hinted at during the broadcast.

The only mention of mobile on the homepage points you in the direction of the NBC Sports Mobile Store:

NBC Mobile store blurb

You have to dodge cheezy ringtones, wallpaper, and j2me games to get to the clearance rack in the back that I call “content.” It turns out that in order to get the secret password that lets you in to the mobile NBC Olympics site, you have to text NBCTV (that’s 62288) the message TORINO. What was that? Oh, the sound of fifty cents being drained from my wallet. I guess that’s not too bad, because they send a carrier-specific link for Sprint and Cingular, and there appears to be a generic default too. I may be a freak, but I would have preferred to type a URL in to my phone than deal with a SMS roundtrip. Oh well.

Once I made it to the mobile site, I was presented with a simple but useful menu. On the left is the Cingular menu using the built-in browser on my 6682, on the right is the Sprint version using Opera Mini on my 6682:

NBC Olympics Cingular NBC Olympics Sprint

It’s interesting to note that the only real difference is the links to the carrier homepage (minor usability bonus points) and the online store link on Cingular. From the front page you can get a list of stories, check the tv schedule, and check up on the medal count. Here are some examples of the interior pages (designed for Sprint) using Opera Mini and the medal count page (designed for Cingular) using the built-in browser on my 6682:

Sprint Mobile Story List Olympics Story Detail mobile medal count

While the information presented on the mobile site is pretty useful, it’s a tiny fraction of the information that is on the NBC Olympics desktop site, and almost feels like a thinly veiled excuse to hock ringtones and wallpaper. I really wish that NBC were able to cram some of the in-depth event coverage on to mobile devices. For example, would it be absolutely impossible to slap a mobile template on the live luge coverage?

NBC Luge Coverage

To be fair, NBC has set up an email and SMS alert system that lets you receive updates about broad categories all the way down to specific events. They also have an extensive list of RSS feeds, though the few I’ve looked at are not valid and contain partial itunes information as well as thumbnails that my aggregator would pass over because it’s in an ibsys:associatedImage tag.

I definitely have mixed feelings about the mobile coverage that NBC is doing of the Olympics. On the one hand, mobile design and development isn’t easy, and they do have some content online. On the other hand, they make it pretty hard to get to and it feels like they’re just trying to sell me some vaguely related ringtones while I’m there. I do have to give them some geek props though for using Jakarta Tapestry and its mobile markup capabilities on Gentoo running on AMD64 hardware (see stacktrace).

If you’d like to check out the mobile NBC Olympics site on your phone (and would rather not shell out for a couple of SMSes), here’s where to go:

While I wasn’t impressed with the mobile coverage, I was absolutely blown away by the video coverage on Sprint’s Power Vision. If you have a Power Vision phone, check out Sprint TV -> Sprint TV Live -> NBC Mobile Olympics. I checked it out just after NBC finished airing the opening ceremonies in Kansas and they were already covering alpine skiing practice and qualifiers. I can’t put in words how much this blew me away. More on that later.