Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Phase Two

The first phase of our project is complete and our senior project is over, but the project isn't over (as Will mentioned recently)- we aren't done experimenting with mobile tools and we love sharing what we have learned.

Now, the a new group of capstone students will be experimenting with mobile tools. Their goal is to explore further with Android applications, and hopefully tablets. Drew, Amanda and myself wanted to try out these tools, but weren't able to due to time constraints. The new group will also use these tools for reporting for the various newsrooms of Columbia - our original intention.

What is in store for us, you might ask? Drew has graduated and is interning/working at the Journalism Study Abroad office and working before he moves to New Zealand in the summer. Amanda and I will be working as consultants for the Missourian and Vox, the newspaper and magazine affiliated with Mizzou. In addition to assisting the Missourian, we will be giving a lecture for the new multimedia reporting class, J2150, on how to effectively use these tools. We are also working with Mike McKean to recommend purchasing some of this equipment for the various sequences and newsrooms for a more permanent basis.

Check back for details on our consulting experience..
Click here to download the 2010 Mobile Tools Guide (Google Doc).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The mobile journalism tools guide continues!

For those of you wondering, the Mobile Journalism Tools guide is going to continue with a new group of students and focusing more on Android and tablet tools (as well as adding updates to the current reviews).

You can follow along on the Mobile Journalism Tools Guide and the RJI Mobile Blog.

Also, if you see tools you'd like reviewed but don't have the resources to acquire (or if you want to know if they're worth it before the purchase) please shoot me a note at will @ and we'll do what we can to make it happen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Final Presentation

On Wednesday, December 8th, at 12 noon the mobile journalism team showed off our research in an hour long presentation to the students and faculty of the University of Missouri. We discussed our objectives, best practices and the research our group conducted. We also discussed our recommendations for how to best continue on our research in the capstone group that follows and how the university can best incorporate our research into some of the reporting classes next semester. On Monday we will meet with some key players at all of the newsrooms affiliated with the university and give them our recommendations and work with them on a plan for the semesters to come (including our team coming in as journalism consultants next semester!).

Our final paper is nearly completed in which we will detail our entire process and our findings. Here's an excerpt from our RJI Fellow Will Sullivan's foreword to our final paper.
"Welcome to the revolution. It will be mobilized.

The cultural shift that will take place over the next 5 years is going to rattle and recreate the media and Internet as we know it. It'll come in fits and shifts and multiple, quick iterations. It will challenge our perceptions of privacy, speed, collaboration and community.

While the rush to the future is exciting and often overwhelming, most media organizations don’t have the resources or knowledge to test all the different leading-edge mobile hardware, app software and web tools out there, so we were hoping to expedite the mobile evolution and shed some guidance and best practices on what works and what doesn’t."
We were planning on live-streaming our event on UStream, but due to technical difficulties it didn't happen. We did, however, tape the event and I will be figuring out a way to put up some clips on here.

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Testing the best practices guide on reporters

This week we visited the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Mo., KOMU, to test out our best mobile journalism practices guide. The plan was to see if MU broadcast students could return from their stories with an extra interview, photos or video collected on an iPhone 4, 3G or Droid 2. We had four students take the equipment on a test drive, each with prior knowledge of editing on a desk or laptop. We gave them a little spiel about how to use the built in camera to take videos and photos and told them basically how to use our recommended application, 1stVideo, and sent them on their way.

Granted, they had a story to gather and edit before the news aired later that evening, so we couldn't expect them to devote too much time to testing our gear. They returned with a couple photos, a short video and an edited video between three of them. Not too shabby for our first test group. Unfortunately, the edited video ended up on one of the iPhone 4s, and it has since stopped working. Apparently this happens sometimes, and AT&T can replace it, but we haven't gotten a chance to watch the video.

The reporters told us the reason they didn't play around was mostly because of their time constraints. They all said they didn't read our guide, which was apparent when one video was taken vertically. I feel like this is just a product of our generation though. No one wants to read guides, we'd rather just figure it out. They all said the process was time consuming, but that if they knew more about the technology it wouldn't have been difficult to get extras to at least put on the website.

We don't pretend to think mobile tools should be used if a more professional camera and editing programs are available. Breaking news and small addons to stories are your best bets, but if nothing else is available mobile devices are a good option. Print reporters could add more multimedia elements without dragging around heavy equipment most wouldn't know how to use anyway. Teaching a reporter mobile devices isn't difficult, the few we taught seemed to understand the concept and the one that edited said it was easy enough. Our general guidelines gaurd against common mistakes and give helpful tips it might take a while to discover, and simply playing around helps you get the feel of the applications. If we get to perform this again, we'll need to send reporters out with only the task of collecting small reports with solely their smart phone. Then we can really see what they think without distractions.

Anyway, students at the University of Missouri are now required to have either an iPhone or an iPod Touch, so we might as well try to teach them ways to incorporate them into their reporting.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Mission, Part 2

...and now that the Mobile Journalism Tools section is up on Reynolds Journalism Institute's website, we are moving on to step two in our two-part mission statement. We are going to teach our peers and some of our journalism professors how to use these tools through our reviews and a help guide that we are in the middle of producing. It should be up by Wednesday, so check back for it then. Then, we are going to convince the journalism school faculty that mobile journalism should be incorporated into the curriculum.

To start off the week, we went to Jen Lee Reeves' broadcast capstone class and gave a brief presentation about the work we have done and offered them a chance to try the gear and applications we have experimented with all semester. On Wednesday, we are going to KOMU (the local NBC affiliate) and turning over our gear to the broadcast students on assignment that day. We will provide them the handout I mentioned earlier, a phone, a tripod, a microphone adapter and any other tools they might require. We will allow these students to test out the tools strictly from our guide, and we will shadow them to see their work (as well as be available to answer any questions). We have contacted Janet Saidi at KBIA (the local NPR affiliate) and are looking to do the same thing with her student reporters.

Next week, we have our final presentation in the form of a brown bag (faculty and students can bring their lunch and listen to our hour-long presentation). It is a little bigger than our last presentation (in terms of audience), but I am very excited to present our findings to a broad audience here at the j-school!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Juice Bar Solar Charger

The Juice Bar Solar Charger holds a ton of power, holds it for a long time, and gives it out quickly. However, for all the good that it does, there are some negatives that go along with this particular charger that make me wary to suggest it to anyone.

Like several other external batteries we’ve tested, the Juice Bar charges via USB cord. It’s not a quick charge, but it’s not entirely too slow. Just don’t expect to have a full battery in an hour or two. You’ll need probably 4 hours of solid charging to get every bit out of this thing, which can be a long time to drain your computer, if that’s what you’re connecting to for charging purposes. It also has a solar panel on the top of the device. Like every other solar charger, it’s slow. However, it’s another way to charge, and it does make the power you put into your mobile device last longer, if you’re using your phone in sunlight.

Once it’s fully charged, however, the battery will keep filling up your phone for well over two hours of use. When I used it, my phone sat idle for only a few minutes, and it still took my iPhone from 20% battery to full.

Now we get into the drawbacks. Like many other devices we’ve tested, this is an external battery that has to be toted along with the mobile device. It’s attached via cable, giving you a little more leeway, but your phone is still tethered to the Juice Bar. Luckily, it’s slim and lightweight, otherwise this would be a serious issue. However, this isn’t my biggest problem with the Juice Bar. This battery, when it’s being used, gets hot. I’m not talking like, put it in your gloves in the winter to keep your hands warm hot, I’m talking painful to keep your skin on it hot. Which means you’ve got to be careful where you put it while using it. You can’t leave it on something vulnerable to heat, and you definitely don’t want to have it in your pocket where you might accidentally put your hand only to get a little bit of a shock. Trust me on that one.

In all, this battery isn’t bad. If you can figure out a way to insulate the battery so you don’t burn yourself and also a way to charge while still being able to effectively use your phone (because of the connection), then this battery is great. Having a solar panel to accentuate your charging capabilities and expand the category of areas where you can use this device is also a bonus. But I feel like there are better choices for you to purchase.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Casemate Extender

The Casemate Extender is right about in the middle of the pack as far as our recommendations go. The version we have was made for the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, so I can’t speak to whether the Extender for the iPhone 4 works better. I’m not saying that it was a waste of money, but it could have performed better.

The Casemate Extender charges via USB cord and USB cord only, which makes me automatically knock it down a few pegs. I prefer to have multiple ways to charge. That being said, it only takes about an hour to and hour and a half to fully charge this battery. Once that’s done, fitting it to your iPhone is fairly simple. It’s a snug fit, though, so make sure you line up all the grooves correctly.

After it’s on, it doesn’t begin immediately charging, which is a positive in my book. In fact, you can have your phone already in it while it charges up without it wasting battery keeping your phone alive. Because it’s a pretty sturdy case, this means that you ca use it as a protective device for your phone when your phone doesn’t need charging.

However, once that battery goes into the red, just press the button on the back of the Extender until it begins to charge the iPhone. From there, it will keep charging (even if you are actively using your phone) for about two hours, at which point it will die. However, it does give you roughly 70% battery power back before it does that, so the tradeoff is pretty good.

As far as usability goes, two hours isn’t great. The Mophie Juice Pack Air will give you more time and is also a case. However, if you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive way to keep your phone protected and charged, you won’t go wrong with the Casemate. It’s also pretty light and slim, which helps keep your phone comfortable.