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The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Posts Tagged ‘Twitter

The best apps and uses for my smartphone after one year

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I’ve now been at the Redford Observer almost two months, and have not gotten around to an update. Before I do that, however, I’ve wanted to write a post around the beginning of July all about my cellphone.

I heard for years how helpful a smartphone is to journalists. I watched as fellow students and co-workers use their phones for their reporting. Being able to look up information in a pinch, taking photos on the fly and publishing on the web from a small device appealed to me greatly. In July 2011, right before Verizon killed off the unlimited data plan, I snuck in and purchased an Android-powered Droid Incredible 2.

Save for a few weeks when I was using a Samsung Stratosphere, I’ve used the Incredible 2, running Gingerbread, for an entire year. It’s come in handy several times, and some apps have meant more to me than others.

Here are the most useful apps I’ve found while using my phone:

Twitter: The app I find myself opening the most on my device. The official app from Twitter, it’s been updated from the design I originally got used to. I’ve made it a point to follow many different accounts, from Michigan news accounts such as the Detroit Free Press and MLive to other journalists and journalism-related publications, such as the Nieman Lab and Society of Professional Journalists.

It’s a useful tool when in the field, such when the tornadoes hit Dexter earlier this year. I was able to follow area agencies and news outlets to stay on top of things we may have missed in our reporting. It’s also a way to push out news, sharing photos from accident scenes and tweeting out information as it comes in when I’m not near a computer. It’s a must-have for me.

Facebook: Another big one, although not as big as Twitter for me. I used it more at my old job, posting updates to our weekly newspaper pages, and responding to readers’ comments. Photo-sharing from events was simple too, a quick photo of an event such as Manchester’s Easter Egg hunt, and it was pushed to our readers.

While Facebook has returned to a more personal use for me at the Observer and Eccentric, it still comes in handy. A lot of organizations in Redford use Facebook, and I’m able to stay up-to-date on everything the organizations in Redford are posting.

Evernote: A great note-taking tool I use exclusively for my current job. The ability to sync between my computer and phone is a plus, so everywhere I go, I have my notes with me. I type out my notes on a computer when I do interviews, and I’m able to clip articles if I find something that’s relevant to Redford.

I take personal notes in it too, such as directions or instructions. Each note can be placed in a specific folder, or notebook, and I can easily retrieve it with a quick search on my phone.

It captures other forms of media as well, including photos, audio and documents. I use the quick snapshot feature if I see something that’s story-worthy, such as a flyer on a billboard. I’ll use it to take images for reference, if I have to remember how something looked while writing.

There is a premium version of Evernote, but I’ve found that the free version does the best for me. I’ve thought about upgrading, but haven’t had the reason too. With 60 MB of storage per month, Evernote is a great tool for keeping organized at work.

Disqus: This is one I didn’t expect to be so helpful, but it’s great for those online moderators out there on the go.

We launched Disqus as our commenting platform at my previous job at Heritage Media near Ann Arbor in April. Looking, I stumbled across this app which, for some strange reason, could only be found on Android. For the month or so I was still moderating comments for Heritage.com, I would use this app to preview, screen, approve and delete comments that needed moderation for the website.

It came especially handy on weekends, when I was away from my computer. A notification would appear in my notification center, I’d open it, read the comment and approve or delete. Piece of cake.

Tape-a-Talk: There are plenty of recording apps out there, but I’ve taken a liking to this one. The quality is good, and you can record in two settings: wave/pcm or 3gp.

The recording is crisp on the Incredible 2, which has a microphone on the top of the device. I use it frequently enough that it’s replaced my $50 recording device from 2008.

It saves files in a separate folder on your device, and you can access it when you mount the phone as a hard drive. Simple and easy to use.

Google Drive: This is becoming my standard cloud storage unit since I have a folder on my desktop. I use it to write stories in, and label my folders according to month so I know right where a story is.

Recently, with the switch from Docs to Drive, I’ve been using it for photos for work. I take a few photos for work using my phone, and I use Drive to transfer them to the cloud.

Other cloud services are important, too. I find myself uploading large folders of photos to Box, where I have 50 GB of storage. I’ve tried using Dropbox, but I find I’m filling it up too fast. I may go back and use Dropbox, but for now, I’m going to with Google.

Flipboard: A new addition to my phone, it came to Android last month. And I love it.

Reading stories on Flipboard is a clean experience, much cleaner than on the web browser that comes on the Incredible 2. I can pull my Twitter and Facebook feed into it, and get a clean, crisp reading surface that “flips” as I read.

It also gives me top recommendations for subjects such as news, technology and sports. It’s great for lunchtime when I want to catch up on news that I haven’t had a chance to look at yet.

I’ve tried using different readers, such as Google Currents, the Flipboard copy, but nothing compares to the easy reading on Flipboard. It makes reading on my phone easy and enjoyable.

Is there an app I should add to this list? I’m always looking for a new addition to my phone.

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Written by David Veselenak

July 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Rockmelt: A look at a social browser used by a social journalist and not necessarily a programmer

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A quick disclaimer: I do not claim to be a technical genius or a Web-savvy programmer who understands programming language, or even HTML (although I am looking to learn more on that in due time). That’s why my lack of technical knowledge makes me a great candidate to review a browser designed for people who aren’t as techy as can be.

Which brings me to Rockmelt, the new Web browser currently in beta from the same people who created Netscape in the 1990s (a browser I will admit I used very little). The browser is designed to maximize social media and sharing, which makes it a target of usage by journalists alike. Because I’m always trying to find a good browser and learn more doing so, and because I’m always wanting to figure out how to share things easier online (without a smartphone, mind you), Rockmelt seemed like a great package of it all. I’ve not written much in reviews in my life, but I thought I’d give it the ol’ intern try:

Acquisition: Because it’s still in beta, invites are still needed to download Rockmelt. All one must do is sign up via Facebook Connect on the browser’s website and an invite will pop up in a short time period; mine was a few days. You can also get an invited from a Rockmelt user; each comes with three that others can download immediately.

Use: Rockmelt is built on Google’s Chromium, which means if your a user of Google Chrome (which I have been loyally since Day 1), you’ll be right at home with Rockmelt’s basic functions. No drop menus, and the tabs are similiar, as well as Google integration in the URL bar, so all you need to do is type a search term. Added bonus to this: in addition to search terms, if you begin searching for someone on Facebook, it searches through your friends as well. The bookmark bar remains similiar, although if you want bookmarks displayed, you’ll have to pull them out of the folder, which is slightly painstaking.

New features: But unlike Chrome, Rockmelt integrates a search bar (something I’m not sure you need) and the best addition, a “Share” button. This button is great for sharing pages on both Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social sites, although I don’t use any other frequently enough to add them. It shortens URLS using its own shortener, me.lt, so no bit.ly for those who like to track clicks. Still, the button is a plus for people wanting quick access to share to several networks.

The “Edge”: The real meat of the server lies around the window. Called the “edge,” it consists of chat contacts currently on Facebook on the left, and an RSS feed on the right.

First, the Facebook chat edge: For me, it’s not a huge deal, seeing how I don’t use Facebook chat all that often, except for certain people. Although when using the edge’s chat function, the window pops up and is reminiscent of iChat. A nice function to use chat without having to be in Facebook.

On the other side of the browser is the tiled RSS buttons, as well use Twitter and Facebook buttons for updates. The RSS function is one I’ve jumped on, because I’ve been looking for a most effective RSS reader, and using a separate tab for, say, Google Reader, can be tedious for me. Each tile updates with the number of new updates, so you don’t have to click the tile to see if there’s new material. The other buttons, for Facebook and Twitter, are so-so. Facebook’s tile is decent, with the ability to comment on others’ statuses built in. The Twitter button is a disappoint to me; I’m used to using Chromed Bird, and wish Rockmelt would have designed a button more like the Chrome extension, which I’ve used religiously for months.

A major downside I’ve noticed with the browser is it freezes frequently, a frustrating faction I attribute to its beta status. Overall though, I’m enjoying using the browser, although would use it more for less urgent needs, such as surfing and sharing at home, rather than serious database research. But for the social journalist in me, the browser is a nice blend of social media, simplicity and surfing.

Written by David Veselenak

November 19, 2010 at 12:55 am

Posted in Technology

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Tweeting gold, silver and bronze: My unique experience with Twitter the last two weeks

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As noted in an earlier post, I am in love with the Winter Olympiad.

I’ve loved the Winter Games since they were held in Nagano, Japan in 1998 when I was 10. I remember watching the flag from the World Trade Centers be carried in during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. And I still own the official U.S. men’s cap from the 2006 Torino Games.  I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with the world coming together and competing in events no one had even heard of until the Games come. It is great to watch some of the world’s best athletes come together to compete in sports people don’t care about most of the time. Whether it be Apolo Anton Ohno setting a U.S. record for Winter Olympic medals, or hockey goalie Ryan Miller winning MVP for his performance during the Olympic tournament, I take it all in and love every second of it.

During the Winter Games in Vancouver the last two weeks, I made an interesting and bias decision I hadn’t made in a long time when it comes to social media: I turned my Twitter account into an everything-Winter Olympics 2010 account.

This was a move I did not take lightly, as I’ve been taught to keep a keen eye on my social networking sites because potential employers can look at them and determine what they wish from them. Whether or not they see things the way I do is up to them. But none the less, I decided that for two weeks, I would tweet nothing but Olympics updates, links, scores, and general encouragement for the Games to help promote them and get people interested and updated on them (except for the rare shameless plug to a story or video I produced at CM Life). And I don’t think I ever tweeted anything horribly inappropriate, I just turned my account into an information page for people to know what’s going in Vancouver.

The transition was quite strange. Almost immediately, I found myself with some new followers, ones that saw my frequent use of the #Vancouver2010 hashtag (a way to sort out tweets, to those of you that do not use the site). I found my tweets being retweeted on some accounts, including those strictly created for these Games. It was strange suddenly becoming a part of a movement I had long told myself I would not join: the bias, non-neutral movement.

It was amazing to see how a similar interest linked myself with people from around the globe, particularly Canadians. It was even interesting to see how people I knew reacted to the sudden change and volume of tweets sent out from me. In the two weeks during the Games, I must have tweeted at least 200 times using the “#Vancouver2010” hashtag. To some on my follower list, I may have been a bit annoying, but some replied at me and sparked a discussion that may have not happened had my followers not known about my undertaking with my account.

Moving from a non-biased journalist account to a more supporting view of the Olympic Winter Games was an experience that I hope to continue – if Twitter is still a site myself and others use – when the Games take place in 2012 in London, England. Although I am a bigger Winter Games fan, the Summer Games can prove just as exciting, as Michael Phelps showed us two years ago. It was refreshing to bring that more human touch to my communicating, something that does not happen as much as it can because of the nature of my writing. But to jump in and join a movement is something I recommend every serious journalist do.

Written by David Veselenak

March 2, 2010 at 7:02 am