Tag: News

News Junkie

Within the past hour, I have confessed to a friend that I’m a news junkie.  I read and try to understand as much as I can.  Consequently, I’m constantly looking for the best way to read what I want to read.  On my iPad, I have Zite, Flipboard, Pulse News Reader and the LCARS RSS Reader.  (all of which have had previous reviews on this blog!)  On my computer, I’ve experimented with a number of RSS readers and seem to have settled in on Google Reader and Newsquares.  On top of that, I do have the Newseum and a couple of other newspapers all queued up!

I read a number of blogs and some of my favourites, you’ll find on my own blogroll.


There’s lots of good reading to be had at all of the above sources.  Still, I search for more efficient ways to stay on top of things.

Normally, anything that I write about on this blog is part of my regular routine and I’ve tried them long enough to have an opinion.  But, given the conversation with @doremigirl tonight, I thought that I’d share a service that I literally signed up for this morning while reading something somewhere else!  It’s called Planetaki.  Their description of their service is:

A planet is a place where you can read all the websites you like in a single page. You decide whether your planet is public or private.

My first reaction was that this service would be a good way to assign reading assignments that involve multiple sources to students.  Just create a “planet” with all of the resources cued up for the students to read.  It probably would serve well in that function.  But then, I started thinking — could I use this to make me a more productive reader for the things that I read every day.

Essentially, when you create a “planet”, you put together websites that you want to read.  Planetaki then assembles the websites into a single reading document.  I would just scroll down the computer reading what I want to read.  It sounds intriguing.  Where to start?

I just happened to be looking at my Blogroll at the time.  Why not start there?  So, I created a “planet”.  I wasn’t alone.  Here are some of the recently created planets…


I figured that I better focus on mine.  I already was looking up and down the list eager to check out the other “planets”.  Now, these “planets” can be public or private but it seems to me that the best route would be to go public.  So, you can read my blogroll at http://www.planetaki.com/dougpete.  You can read the list – when I read it, the newest items are highlighted as new since the last reading.

As I’m creating this entry, two of the most recent posts where from Peter Skillen and David Warlick.  Planetaki gives a decent amount of a preview for the post with a link to the original post.  Not bad for a preview.  If an item is newsworthy, then I can click on the keep button where the story is preserved.  Viewing the complete post pulls in all of the artifacts from the original blog so that you can do things like add a comment, digg it, tweet about it, or whatever the author has configured.


As I kept checking the resource today, I realized why I have these resources on my blogroll.  They write great content and there were updates during the day.  As I mentioned earlier as well, there are some people with blogrolls that haven’t had a post in three years.    But, I guess it’s important to do some name dropping.

I took a look at it and really like it.  It definitely is sequential but when you bring up the “planet” on the iPad where scrolling is so important, it really performed nicely.  Ditto for the iPod Touch.  It does reaffirm to me that this would be the perfect tool for assigned student reading.  The only real problem that I’ve run into is adding Alfred Thompson’s blog http://blogs.msdn.com/b/alfredth/.  I get him plus a whole bunch of other Microsoft blogs.  They’re actually pretty good reading but not what I had in mind.

For me, I’m going to give it a shot.  I’ve made it a bookmark on my Tizmos page which is my default.  I’m going to give it a shakedown and see if it can’t change my reading lifestyle for the better and make me more productive.


RSS is Boring

Well, maybe I can change your mind about this.  As I was playing around with Google Chrome and trying to work solely in the browser, I started to think about RSS feeds.  It’s yet another way to gather all the news that’s fit to read.  I’ve actually moved away from my computer based RSS Readers in favour of picking up current reads from announcements from Twitter or by reading through Flipboard of Pulse on the iPad.

As I poked around inside Chrome though, I stumbled across a find that’s worthy of keeping and sharing with you.  The application is called NewsSquares.  Like many of the apps that I talked about yesterday, it’s available through the Chrome Store and installable with a click.

In order to use NewsSquares, you need to be logged in to your Google account.  On first launch, if you have items in Google Reader, NewsSquares uses that as a starting point.  Starting point for what?

It’s a little difficult to describe so here’s a visual.

Each of the items appear in your screen as a news square.  In the top right corner, you’ll see a count for unread messages.  In the bottom right corner, an arrow lets you browse through the stories.  The individual stories clips appear in boxes along the bottom of the screen.  You’ll scroll across the bottom with your mouse or trackpad until you find a story of interest.

Each story comes with a time stamp so that you’re not reading ancient history.  Find one that’s of interest to read to access it.

As you would expect with stories, it’s important to share the news and so there are buttons available to share on your favourite services.  Need more than just a clip?  Then, ask NewsSquares to take you to the original so that you can read it all.

On their FAQ, they do respond to the unfair question about being compared to Flipboard or Pulse.  I like the response that this is a project in HTML5 which distinguishes this from the other products.  If you like the Chrome version, you’ll also want to snag the Android version of this product.

If you need more than just what your RSS provides, you can search for and/or add your own content to feed the reader.  Configuration items include colours and frequency of updates.  I think that this is a real find and well worth the time to click once and get if you’re a fan of RSS.

A Tale of Two Newspapers

A few months ago, paper.li hit the internet by storm.  Paper.li is a free service that creates an online newspaper packed with content that is provided by your followers or a list that you created, all based on your unique Twitter account.  The resulting unique “newpaper” features some of the interesting posts that people have sent to their part of the Twitter stream.  What it does for the end user is highlight stories and also provides a summary of what’s happening when, for some reason, you’re not connected to these accounts 24/7.

The concept intrigued me and I created my own paper.li based upon the users that I follow.  Nicely divided into sections that the service determines, it provides a nicely rounded summary of those I follow.  I only follow people that have some interest to me and the resulting newspaper is of great interest.  While my primary interest in using Twitter is connecting with other educators, I do have what I consider to be a nice bit of entrepreneurs, news and sports sources, a few celebrities, and just plain folks that I find interesting.

The “Doug Peterson Community News” is just an interesting collection of the thoughts of the over 2500 interesting sources from my online community that I read.

It’s automatically published early in the morning and I pour over the contents with a coffee much like I would with its paper cousin.  Like a traditional newspaper, its content is wide ranging.  The title page supposedly posts the best of the best and then the generated sections lets me dig deeper into the content.

I also have a second newspaper that’s created and published about 3 hours later.

From the Twitter list that I’ve created and called “Ontario Educators”, a summary of what Ontario educators are posting appears in this edition.  What I’m constantly amazed by is the rich content that educators from the province are writing and reading and sharing.

I think that, in the back of my mind, I had expected the content from both of these to be quite similar.  While there are some overlapping articles, the entirety of each is completely different.  I skim the headlines in both papers and regularly do followup to the linked articles because of the content that’s shared.

The downside?  If you recall, there was a furor because some people were offended since paper.li does a shout out of 2 or three of the sources when it makes your paper.  While some people get a hoot from being recognized, others considered the acknowledgement as a form of Twitter spam.  To the developer’s credit, they wrote some code that would allow those folks to opt out of being acknowledged for their sharing.  I still struggle with the concept but such is life.

The editions are archived so that you can return to previous issues if you need to for some reason.  I’ve tried it a couple of times and it works nicely but I don’t use it often.  I think that’s testament to the fact that Twitter is all about now and the present and less about what happened in the past.

I really enjoy both of these publications and I’d like to thank those who create the content for me just by sharing whatever it is that they’re reading.  It’s a powerful wealth of resources.  I can think of all kinds of ways to create customized newspapers for reading in virtually any kind of classroom environment.  A Computer Science daily.  A Digital Storytelling daily.  A Science daily….

The only downfall?  Well, it’s embarrassing when I spend all the time to create a blog post expressing my thoughts of the day and the editors at paper.li elect not to run with my story.  How sad is that?

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Consuming the News

I don’t just read the news; I consume the news.  There is just so much to read, to learn, to be aware of, and to understand.  In the beginning, it was just paper newspapers which now seem such a relic to the process.  But, if you just want one source and one opinion, they still have their place.

Then it was time to expand the scope and connectivity was there to help.  Big time.

For the longest of times, I would get my various news and information sources by having a reading list that I would access online.  Designers and writers do a great job of putting things together.  Yet, it was time consuming and if I happened to miss a source, it just left an empty feeling of a job undone.  Thankfully, an RSS reader approach was helpful and does a great job of aggregating the sources.  Then, I had a relapse when I started to go portable.  Individual news sources started to create their own unique mobile application.  Starving for colourful inspiration, I grabbed some of my favourites.  I still use that as a way of quick reference and specific updates.  You can’t beat the TSN application for updates for sports, for example.  When the iPad came along, I thought that I’d reached the ultimate with Flipboard.

Flipping through sources and news is terrific with this application.  I’m amazed with the design and the user interface for interacting with the information provided.  Recently, the developers have announced a whole set of built-in resources.  You’ve got to love it.  The only catch is that it’s limited to the iPad.

Within the past week, I’ve been playing around with another alternative.

Pulse News enters the playing ground with yet another approach to reading.  The interface is strangely attractive and engaging.  Sources that you subscribe to appear as bands across your screen.  With a flick, you’re skimming the articles which typically include a great image.  Find an image or a stub of information that interests you and with a tap, a window slides into place where you can read the entire story.

Like all good readers, there are hooks into Twitter, Facebook, and direct links to the actual resource on the web.  It makes skimming the news from your selected resources so easy and a tap takes you directly to the story.

What is so intriguing is that this application is not limited to just the iPad.  There is an iPhone/iPod and an Android version as well.  So, in addition to accessing the news on your bigger device, it becomes even more portable with your smaller device.  And, if your primary portable device is one of these smaller units, you can now take your news with you with this application as well.

It comes with a tonne of excellent news and entertainment sources ready to go with a simple tap but anything goes with access to any RSS feed.

A great source of information is the Pulse Blog.  It’s well worth the read and following to stay on top of things with this excellent application.

If you’re into trying out applications to see if they fit and you like to stay on top of the news, I recommend that you download and play around with this one immediately.  I think you’ll like it.

For me, it’s another stop on my morning read of the news!

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A Mashup of Note

Like more and more people, I get my news online anymore.  I’ve tried a number of different techniques to try and get the latest.  They tend, however, to be linear.

Either they’re posted to a news site chronologically or they are arranged by the importance assigned to the story by the news editor.  Both are awesome ways of handling the news.  Pick up your typical newspaper and the big headlines will give you the big news of the day with huge fonts screaming from the top of the paper.  Lesser articles appear on the page and they are typically continued on page …  There’s also generally a story a little off the record to entice you to buy the paper and find the rest.

It’s the stuff that media literacy is built upon and the London Public Library has put together a great resource to help understand Media Literacy.  Links abound to other resources and there really is a wealth of materials to dig into.

The one thread that weaves its way through this sort of presentation is that it is linear and there are editors who are paid nicely to be able to display the stories.  They have two bosses – the consumer who wants quick access to the materials and the employer who wants to sell the media and even perhaps change the world.

I’d like to suggest that there’s another way of looking at the top current headlines of the day.

At Reuters, there is a traditional approach to the news.  Top news stories and a sidebar on the left gives you the old familiar approach to determining what’s going on world wide.

But, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find Reuters’ News Maps.  Here, the news of the day meets Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.  News stories are fed to the page, presumably by RSS, and they appear on Virtual Earth.  Move your cursor over the dots and see the news titles of the day as tags.  Very quickly, you can see what’s happening worldwide.  Find a teaser that really intrigues you and a link will take you to the complete story.  What an efficient way to see what’s happening globally!  And, of course, like most mapping programs, you easily zoom in and out to navigate to places of interest.

It serves to remind us that in today’s internet communication age, we are all closer to each other than ever.  This will not replace the traditional approach to reading the news but, if you want to find out what’s happening world-wide, it can’t be beat and should be part of your routine to stay on top of happenings world-wide that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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When Everyone Has A Voice

I’m watching the CW11 Morning News this morning and just saw two stories back to back.

In the first one, a mother pleaded for the return of her child.

In the second one, a man threatened to place poison in 5000 jars of baby food.

There were two things in common with these stories.  First, they were, as I noted above, on the morning news in back to back segments.

Secondly, these were not news stories professionally shot by video journalists.  They were shot by amateurs and posted on YouTube.  It’s a sign of the times that in these days of citizen journalism that anyone can create their own news.  Then, a television show can use it as news footage.  If you’re interesting or sensational enough, you too could be producing such content.

Of all of the things posted on blogs or video sharing or picture sharing sites, how do you know what to believe and what not to believe?  How do you assign a credibility factor to these things?  Does the fact that a “legitimate” news source like a television station broadcast it give it truth?  How do the producers of these shows know?

Reportedly, one of these stories is true and the other a hoax.  I’ve elected to not perpetuate hoaxes by including the video or links to them in this post.

But, if you have answers to any or all of the above, it would be good to know.  If you don’t, should you?

If we don’t have the answers, how can we expect our students to know?  Does filtering websites at schools solve the problem?  Does this not just push the onus on students and possibly parents to learn at home?  How do they know?

What impact does this have on a whole generation of people that are living this as you read this post?

What does it mean when everyone has a voice?

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