Archives » June, 2005

June 3, 2005

Carson City Live, Part II

Some interesting things have been going on on Carson City Live, the local paper’s blog, this week. First off, a reporter used the blog to scoop himself, putting up a blog post on a story before the article itself was published. Of course, that just highlights this artificail lag time they’ve built into the paper’s website. They never publish articles on the website until the middle of the night, probably the same time the paper itself is printed. And so their website is only updated once a day, unless there is big breaking news like a wildfire or a bank robbery. That means most news is old and stale by the time it appears on the site at 3am. If they really wanted to get into blogging in a big way, they would publish each story as it came in, turning the whole front page into a blog. That would make the morning paper into a fishwrap version of their website, instead of the way it is now, where the website is an electronic version of the paper. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. I think we’ll see many newspapers making this shift as time goes on. Fewer and fewer people want to wait until the morning to find out what happened yesterday.

The other news is that they’re looking at getting into video, with this blog post leaking out their plans and asking citizens to submit video if they see news happening. This is a good move, since with video cameras getting so relatively cheap, you don’t have to be a big TV station to put together video clips anymore. Carson City always gets ignored in the Reno newscasts, anyway, so it will be good to get some local stuff. And having citizens film and submit the video is a smart way to do it, although I think the costs are low enough now that there’s no reason for every reporter not to keep a video camera in his or her car along with a still camera.

And the final thing is this post, where it is obvious that Internet Editor Kirk Caraway was reading Jeff Jarvis earlier in the week. On Tuesday, Jeff wrote this:

I’ll take it down a few levels and suggest that every town board and school board should be podcast. I’ve long wanted to see local services enable citizens to video these meetings…[but] who needs to watch them? They just sit and drone. Listening would work well — especially when podcasts can be searched and indexed.

We should all storm our town halls and demand podcasts (and then politely explain what podcasts and iPods and the internet are).

And then, later the same day, this showed up on Carson City Live:

I saw an interesting article this morning about the possibility of “podcasting” the audio recordings of local meetings.

While this is one of these “wow” things, I wonder if anyone out there would really want to listen to a meeting of the Carson City Supervisors.

I’d argue, and I think Jeff would too, that it’s the city who should be doing this. They already provide transcripts, as well as show videos on cable access, so why not audio recordings? The extra effort should be trivial. But if the city won’t, somebody should. You never know when one of these meetings is going to produce some kind of important nugget, or when someone in the future might want to listen to them. Transcripts don’t give you a feel for the emotions in the room, and for the videos you have to be a slave to the TV schedule. If you even get that channel at all, which nobody in Douglas County does. The Appeal probably sends a reporter to cover all the meetings anyway, so it wouldn’t take much effort to set up a recording.

Anyway, I want to keep an eye on Carson City Live. Kirk Caraway might just be rebuilding the paper from the inside out. It needs better exposure, though. Its link on the homepage looks like an ad, not a really important and subversive part of the site.

June 2, 2005

And The Winner Is…

The word is out from the Nevada State Treasurer’s office (PDF link to the press release): Nevada’s State Quarter has been chosen.

We The People chose wild horses running free in a design named “Morning in Nevada”. Originally those mountains were supposed to be the Sierra Nevada, but it didn’t take the citizens long to realize that the Sierra are at the western edge of the state, and hence the only people that see the sun rise over the Sierra are Californians. So they quickly changed the description to “snowcapped mountains”.

This design received 32 percent of the total vote, and apparently a quarter of those votes came from elementary school children. I know my niece loved the horse most of all, especially since the other finalists consisted of grossly oversized sheep, axes, straw ducks, and scary miners with axes. Of course the horses are going to win. Duh.

The quarter is going to be released in 2006, and the way things are going it’s questionable if there will be any wild horses left in the state by then. But at least we’ll always have the quarter to remember them.

Also, 75% of the votes were cast on the website, with the other 25% mailed in. Maybe Nevada is ready for this internet thing after all.

June 1, 2005

Virtual Magic Kingdom

The last couple of days I’ve been looking around Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. This is a new online “game” where you build a character and get to set him loose, wandering around Disneyland. I put “game” in air quotes there because there’s not much to do beyond wandering around. It’s a multi-player game, so everywhere you go you see other characters that are being controlled by other people. And you can chat with any of them, or chat with the whole room, or invite someone to be your friend. You can also get money to buy new clothes and new furniture to decorate your own personal room. But mostly the game is all about walking from room to room, looking at all the richly detailed backgrounds, and listening to the atmospheric background music.

Just hanging out at the hub.

There are a couple of mini-games to keep you occupied. Inside the Pirates of the Carribean building there is an ocean warfare game, where you shoot cannonballs at your opponents and try to sink them, while avoiding being sunk yourself. And you can ride the Jungle Cruise, trying to take pictures of as many animals as possible before you run out of gas. They’re fun little games on their own, but they can get repetitive after a while, even if you do get a little bit of money every time you win.

Sink those pirates!!

There are other little side quests to go on too. In one, you have to buy a camera (figuring out how to do that is the hardest part) and then scour the online world looking for Hidden Mickeys in the backgrounds. They’re pretty well hidden, usually just appearing as a slight discoloration in the rocks or something like that. When you find one you can take a picture of it, and then the game keeps a running total of how many you’ve found. Can you find the Hidden Mickey in the first picture? It’s on the left turret of the castle.


Starting in a couple of months, you’ll be able to print out a quest from the computer, travel to the real Disneyland, and follow the instructions you printed out to find a secret code that you then go back to the game and enter in to get free stuff. Pretty complicated, and a cool way to tie the real world in with the virtual one.

Better hurry…the monorail’s going to leave without you!

This online experience is mostly aimed at kids, hence the social aspects and the fact that all the characters look like they’re 12 years old. The website even says it’s built for “10 to 14 year olds.” But Disney freaks come in all ages, and there’s enough here to keep anyone occupied for an hour or two. But I do think its ability to hold your attention is inversely proportional to your age. And the game obviously isn’t finished yet. Not only does the website announce that it’s still in beta, but Tomorrowland and Frontierland are basically nothing more than big “Coming Soon” billboards.

Blackheart the punny pirate.

And there are a lot of places where it feels like the game should be interactive, but it isn’t. Look at the monorail car below. There are a couple of turntables at the bottom, and some arcade games along the wall, and a big TV in the nose. But all of those are decorative items. You can’t actually use them for anything, so a ride in the Monorail (which can only be gotten to through the hidden stations) turns out to be less exciting than you think it will be. I would have liked to see more little gags built in, where you could actually fire the cannons in the pirate treehouse, for example, or make the coffee boil over in the Monorail station. But, I guess that’s asking too much, and discounting all the work the designers have already done to make this as fun as it is.

Travelling in style on the monorail.

So go check it out. It’s free, and all you need is your e-mail address and a password. And a bunch of free time!