The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Sunday, July 14, 2002

Take Me Out To The Holodeck....

FoxSports.com Game Converges with Real Life

"Roger Clemens stands confidently on the mound as his stats pop up in a FOX graphic. Alex Rodriguez steps up to the plate, a "Best Damn Sports Show" billboard clearly visible in the distance.

But it's not a live TV broadcast. It's FOXSports.com's 'Hit the Pros,' a brand new online game unveiled this week, just in time for the All-Star game.

Like many baseball video games, the animation and 3D graphics are simply stunning. But don't be fooled, 'Hit the Pros' is more than just a pretty face, thanks to a high-tech link between fantasy and real-life.

Using a network of strategically-placed cameras and tracking software, FOX Sports and its partner, WildTangent capture telemetry data from actual pitches at Major League Baseball games. Within minutes after a game's conclusion, the statistics are uploaded to the web.

Fans who may have just watched the game can then punch up 'Hit the Pros' and face the exact same pitches from the same players. The game even integrates a batter's current real-life stats, reflecting the player's streaks and slumps in the online game....

As each pitch is thrown, online players use the mouse to position and time their swing. Then they compare their performance against the actual result. They can even challenge other online gamers to a duel.

FOXSports.com may indeed have a hit, especially on the business side. The free demo is addictive, and players are bombarded with offers to upgrade to the full version. Instead of charging a flat fee, 'Hit the Pros' requires a $19.99 subscription fee, good until next season." [The Lost Remote]

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Newspaper Sites Gaining Traction Online

Study: Newspapers' Web Traffic Exploding

"Major local newspaper Web sites are growing fast -- in many cases, faster than the rest of the Web, according to new findings by comScore Media Metrix....

During May, for instance, unique visitors to the New York Daily News's site grew 23 percent, while NYPost.com and Newsday.com each saw 12 percent growth. At the same time, however, the number of New Yorkers going online grew only 3 percent.

Similarly, unique visitors to Chicago's SunTimes.com increased a staggering 38 percent, while the market's online audience grew only 3 percent as well. Only in Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas-Ft. Worth did local newspapers not experience the same growth trends....

Media Metrix attributed the shifts to growing importance in online classifieds, and to parallel changes in media consumption that sees interactive media playing a role in supplementing traditional TV and newspapers. That's much the same trend touted by groups like the Online Publishers Association, which are encouraging advertisers to buy ads on news and information sites to reach a lucrative at-work audience.

'It's clear that online newspaper sites are rapidly gaining readers -- generally at the expense of print readership,' said Peter Daboll, president of comScore's Media Metrix division. 'Many of these newspaper sites offer a rare opportunity for advertisers to efficiently reach local market audiences that are growing rapidly and spending money more freely.' " [internetnews.com, via The Lost Remote]

Count me in as returning newspaper reader, and I'm definitely one of the folks that make up the above statistic for the Chicago Sun-Times. However in my case, they have NewsIsFree and Radio's news aggregator to thank for my eyeballs. Because the Sun-Times is in my aggregator and the Chicago Tribune isn't, I've effectively switched papers. We still get the Sunday Tribune, but the only parts of it I still occasionally read are the Arts section, Travel section, comics, and ads. For articles, I'm really only reading the Sun-Times these days.

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Blogging Collides With The Printed World

Bill Turner:  "Okay, do we really need all these books about weblogs? Is it really that complex a thing that we need instruction?... Personally, I don't think there's anything that a book can teach you on the subject, much less four books. It isn't rocket science." [via jenett.radio]

Perseus Publishing was kind enough to send me copies of The Weblog Handbook and We've Got Blog, which I received this weekend, so I've found my vacation reading (major thanks to John and Rebecca!). I'm going to read both with an open mind, despite Dave's negative reviews. I understand Dave's points (especially if there are factual errors), but the people criticizing books about blogs are too close to the phenomenon. The other 99% of the world (almost everyone in my family, my neighborhood, my office, etc.) hasn't the slightest clue or care about them. They don't read the web daily, let alone track dozens of sites, so a book is still a necessary format for conveying this type of information. In fact, for them it lends credence to the movement, so the more books on the topic, the merrier.

I had something similar happen to me when I was the Technology Coordinator at the Grande Prairie Public Library District. In 1996, I implemented the first public internet access at a public library in Chicago's south suburbs (on a dial-up 28k modem, no less). We signed residents up for free Prairienet email accounts, and I started to build a virtual reference desk. My colleagues, however, were buying books about the internet, even though I kept telling them that everything they - and the patrons - needed to know was online. They bought the NetGuide series, the Yellow Pages directories of web sites, and scads of other titles that were out-of-date the minute they were printed.

Why? Because the patrons didn't have time to sit on our one computer with internet access and learn about the internet as they experienced it. We allowed a patron one hour a day on that dial-up account, which didn't leave much time for actual learning. And those were the people brave enough to try it out for themselves. The others could do nothing but read the books to try and get a handle on this new-fangled internet thing.

Now I find myself in the same situation with blogs. I plan to implement them for every service area at SLS and on a personal level for staff internally and yet, I'd be surprised if even 10% of our staff understand what they are. I covered blogs at our SLS Tech Summit in March, but it was still too confusing and irrelevant for most of the librarians that attended that session. Next time, I'll be able to hold up these books, and they'll take me more seriously. Sorry, but that's how most of the world still works. They'll purchase them for their libraries, too, which means the concept of blogs will officially be cataloged and indexed in our collective memory (not just the memory of those of us who live online).

And as a librarian, I feel it's important to get some historical perspective and preservation of the early years. Dave, you should fill in what you feel are Rebecca's gaps - preserve your moments in time. I know it would feel weird to record them on paper rather than online, but static snapshots are also valuable, especially ones unedited by hindsight. Ironically, the wave of books about blogging may be a tipping point, one that will help the format (and therefore the software) enter the collective mainstream consciousness.

So Bill, it may not be rocket science, but it's a new type of software, even a new type of language. We don't learn only rocket science from books. If you're not blogging yourself, then the books can teach you quite a bit. Think about how many programming languages you've learned using a book, rather than learning everything online (HTML, Perl, whatever). Why are printed O'Reilly and 24-Hour guides still so popular? Because books continue to teach. Let's not lose sight of that fact just because the content refers to online content and tools.

There's a reason ideas like The Cluetrain Manifesto also end up as books, and blogging is a concept/format/software/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that deserves the same type of recognition. If The Onion deserves the testimony of print, don't you think blogging does, too? (Of course, what would be truly disappointing is if these books are not also available as ebooks or Audible titles!)

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