New Look Collegian

I have been on a kind of blog hiatus since I finished up my summer internship and I am going to try to start up again. First up though, a post I wrote for my Collegian web log about the biggest development in my life this fall: the Collegian home page. I plan to repost relevent stuff from that blog in the future.

Our Brand Spanking New Home Page

All the News that's Fit to PrintYou probably noticed last week we launched a redesign of the home page of the Collegian Web site. You may have also noticed that we changed the Web site’s name from The Digital Collegian to The Daily Collegian Online. These are two of the more obvious changes to the Web site this year, but they will not be the last.

I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to highlight some of the new features on our Web site and give you an idea of where we are going in the future. I would also like to give you an idea of what is going on behind the scenes, so you can give us a break when things don’t look 100 percent.

The home page redesign is just the first part of a year-long project to revamp the Web site. I designed the new look, taking the best parts of an earlier mock-up from my Web project partner, Chris Bajgier. Our design goals included making pages wider, creating a consistent set of navigation links across the site, and making better use of space in general.

The new home page has more room for top stories, features, and section headlines. It also shows the weather more prominently and includes a preview of the day’s front page. This is a feature our design staff has been begging for and we’re glad we can highlight their work on the Web site. Behind the scenes, the page uses something called Cascading Style Sheets, which create a set of design rules and keep file size down. The expanded Collegian home page takes roughly the same amount of time to load as the original.

So far almost all the response has been pretty positive from both our staff and our readers. The biggest question/complaint we have gotten is why we aren’t using this design on all of our pages. The answer is a bit complicated. The Collegian uses some custom software to generate the article and section pages. We tried porting the templates over when we updated the home page, but ran into difficulties. At the last minute we decided to hold off on the other pages. We’re working on resolving these technical issues and hope to push the other design changes in the near future.

I won’t say much more for now, but I’ll be back later in the week with more details about our Web plans. In the meantime, you can read Editor-in-chief Erin James’ column about the web and Web editor Allison Busacca’s column about our blogs. Thanks for reading.

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Writing on the Wall

While cleaning out my office today, I jotted these down from our whiteboard/quotes wall:

  • I’m in lunches all day – V
  • I can’t spell IMLP – Y
  • Let the rhythm flow through my body – V
  • Most things people say are words – J
  • Did you get an e-mail from me?… Because you’re not supposed to” – Y
  • We take balance for granted – V
  • “Therefore, I am one foot lighter than you” – Y
  • Actually I came in an MSG barrell – T
  • What time do we have to be here for an 8am meeting? – Y
  • Are you going to bulid a village and teach them English – Me

Good times. Good people. Goodbyes.

10 Weeks Later

This week I wrap up my internship and Saturday I’ll be leaving Erie, PA. You may have noticed that I haven’t written much about my life in the last month or so. That happened because I have been busy lately. I have also tried to avoid talking about work in my blog, so that squashed some of the better stories. Since things are coming to an end now, I figure it would be a good time to reflect on my summer here.

Like most of the other interns here, I had reservations about coming to Erie. It took a while for me to get used to my new life here. I didn’t know many people here and I didn’t have a car, so I felt pretty landlocked for the first few weeks. Thus I projected a lot of my own feelings onto Erie. I decided it was a dreary and lonely place with nothing to do. I haven’t completely shaken that feeling yet either, but I feel better about it now than I did 10 weeks ago.

Waiting for FireworksAround the 4th of July weekend things changed though. I started to develop relationships with some of my fellow interns and did things with them. And when I didn’t have things to do, I found things to do. Finding a bus to the mall went a long way to improving my weekends (and draining my bank account). There were also a lot of things I wished I did here that I didn’t. In any case, I started feeling like I was living in Erie, rather than stuck there. And it made all the difference.

So would I come back here to live and work? I am definitely warmer to the idea now than I was back at the start. It seems, however, what people really like about Erie is not its location, its geography, or its nightlife. It is the people who live there. Nearly everyone I work with who likes Erie has families, wives, girlfriends, or drinking buddies who make Erie a home for them. These type of people make a place special. And it that sense the only thing that was wrong with Erie was that it didn’t have the people I cared about in it.

Well I think I’m over my Dorothy-There’s-No-Place-Like-Home thing now. I feel like my time in Erie and my experiences here have been worthwhile, both professionally and personally. That said, it will be good to be home.

Congress Wants to Regulate Facebook, MySpace

The Internet is an excellent medium for communication and collaboration. Possibly too excellent for Pennsylvania congressman Michael Fitzpatrick. This week he introduced his Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA, with the emphasis on dope) in the House, a bill aimed at blocking access to MySpace and Facebook in schools and libraries. The objective of this bill is to protect children from stalkers and predators on these sites, but this is a rather foolish and dangerous approach.

For starters, most of these sites are probably already blocked in schools and it doesn’t stop kids from accessing these sites at home. The only people who will be affected are poorer folks who cannot afford internet access at home. Of course, these sites are probably more dangerous for them too. Social networking is a powerful tool that has legitimate uses and should not be treated like porn.

Also problematic is the law’s wording, which describes a social networking site as a web site that “allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.” By that standard, sites like Blogger and AIM could be blocked as well. That would make the internet about as static as a book – something libraries do not need anymore of.

What really concerns me right now is what this means for colleges and universities (since I am a college student). Reports suggest that the law is directed at schools and libraries that get Internet access through a federal E-rate program. The E-rate program is supposedly limited to K-12 schools, so it seems that the Facebook may be safe – for now.

Technorati, the next Digg?

I got a chance to take a look at the new Technorati during lunch today and I was pretty surprised. It seems like these guys are constantly reinventing themselves, still struggling to define the currency of the blogosphere. Is it the blog, the keyword, the tag, or the post itself? The post seems to get the vote in this latest redesign, which has top blog posts broken down by category in a manner very similar to the latest Digg. These days, Digg must be feeling very flattered.

Truth be told though, Technorati may be the more ideal social bookmarking platform than Digg. Digg is a supposedly an open platform, but you have to be a member to submit or “digg” content and these days you may even have to sign in to view it. This and the fact that “digg”-ing a story takes extra effort is the reason why only a subset of Digg’s readers actually contribute. Technorati, on the other hand, uses links as its article sorting method. It profits off the links people are already putting in their blog posts. So it in theory is a more accurate reflection of what is hot on the Internet.

But does the wisdom of the masses produce a better set of articles? I would argue no. The front page of Digg still seems much more compelling content-wise than the front page of Technorati. It’s the same reason I like the most-emailed stories more than the most-read or most-linked on the New York Times. Making the “cost” higher means that people focus on more interesting stories, rather than ones that are already popular. So while the new Technorati is interesting, its Digg-likeness is only skin deep.

Now I Need a CD Holder

With most of the other Penn State interns in State College for ArtsFest, I didn’t have a whole lot to do this weekend. So I took a trip out to the mall and a trip to Walmart. In the process I expanded my music collection.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve caught up with all the new music I need, so have been going back and picking up some of the classics. I also feel the need to buy more music on CD these days, in order to get better sound quality and no DRM. My rule of thumb has also been to “upgrade” a previously “acquired” album for every new one I purchase.

I never understood why people shop at overpriced mall music stores, but now I realize now the selection is much better. I have been struggling to find any of these classic albums in a Walmart, or even a Best Buy, but this store had a bunch. I picked up The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Parsely, Sage, Rosemarry, and Thyne. Both are fantastic, but I have been really into The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan right now. In general, the themes of 60s and 70s music seem just as relevant today.

Then in Walmart on Sunday I saw they had a couple Led Zeppelin on sale. Since I had some money burning in my pocket (and there was hardly anything else worthwhile there) I bought Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin IV. I bought Led Zeppelin II sight unseen (actually unheard) and I really like it. Now I have a bunch of other albums I want to buy, but I think I’ll have to wait a little bit until I drop more money into the hands of the RIAA.

Facebook-ed Birthday

So today is my 2nd birthday on the Facebook and its amazing the difference a year makes. The Facebook, a social networking site for college kids and beyond, has a feature where they show you if any friends’ birthdays are coming up. It’s a clever feature and last year it landed me a random birthday greeting from one of my “friends”. This year, I have recieved 10 birthday greetings so far. So how did I suddenly get more popular? I didn’t. I believe the difference is that more and more people have made the Facebook part of their daily routine (even on Sunday morning). I knew that I log on about once a day and I figured others did as well, but this is pretty overwhelming proof. Social networking, creepiness aside, is a pretty big deal. I’m 21 today, by the way, though I haven’t had anything to drink – yet.