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  • Eric Ulken 7:18 pm on August 17, 2008
    Tags: ,   

    A visit to the pressroom 

    After four and a half years at the Los Angeles Times, I finally made the trek to the other side of downtown Friday to tour the paper’s Olympic printing facility. As part of the effort to merge the web and print staffs, the Times has been giving some of the websters a “Newspaper 101” crash course. I tagged along for the tour, but my low-res BlackBerry photos just don’t do justice to the size and scope of the place.

    Anecdote: The machines that were bought to insert preprints (like the ones flying off the presses in the photo) ended up being too error-prone, so the distributors still have to stuff them into the paper by hand. Let’s see:

    Umpteen preprints x 1.1 million Sunday papers = a lot of hands

    I’m reminded of why newspapers are still largely a manufacturing and distribution business. And why this business model is falling apart.

    (For robotics geeks: Here’s Dakotta’s video of one of the robots moving a roll of paper. They follow electromagnetic guides embedded in the floor.)

  • Eric Ulken 5:53 pm on August 2, 2008
    Tags: , ,   

    New at latimes.com: L.A.’s Top Dogs 

    Last week we launched a fun new database at work: L.A.’s Top Dogs, which shows the most common dog names and breeds by ZIP code, based on dog registration data from L.A. County animal control agencies. My colleague, Ben Welsh, assembled the data and built the app in Django. I did the UI.

    Warning: It’s pretty addictive. For example, if you ever wanted to know how many dogs are named after your favorite superheroes, dictators and hip-hop stars, we can tell you.

    It’s already drawn some notice in the linkosphere:

    It’s taken some criticism from folks who seem to think it’s not serious journalism. To those people I say: You’re right. Lighten up. We do a lot of other serious journalism.

  • Eric Ulken 4:46 pm on June 6, 2008
    Tags: , ,   

    New at latimes.com: Electoral vote map 

    Now that the primary season is over and the general election campaign is heating up, it’s time to introduce a fun little electoral vote map built by my colleague, Sean Connelley. What’s unique about this one is that you can create your own scenario here and then grab some code to embed it in your website, like so:

  • Eric Ulken 7:59 am on May 13, 2008
    Tags: , Jason Kottke   

    The audacity of meme 


    Whether or not you believe Barack Obama is Mr. Wonderful, this percolating politics meme is kind of a hoot: Jason Kottke is aggregating tweets that start with “When Obama wins“…

  • Eric Ulken 11:34 pm on April 1, 2008  

    What anger looks like 

    I’m not an angry journalist, but it’s hard not to be drawn to the alternately sad/funny/heartless/clueless screeds at AngryJournalist.com. Seeking some aggregate wisdom from the 2,794 comments posted to date, I captured all the venom and slammed it through TagCrowd (omitting various forms of the words “angry” and “journalist”). The result (click a tag to see where it appears in comments):

    created at TagCrowd.com

    Glad to know the web doesn’t figure as large in people’s anger as I might have guessed, but I’m not encouraged by the relative sizes of love and hate.

    Update (2008.04.02): There aren’t enough posts at HappyJournalist.com to turn out a good cloud. C’mon, people!

  • Eric Ulken 8:53 pm on February 11, 2008
    Tags: Georgia Tech   

    Where I’ll be later this month 

    I’m looking forward to attending the Journalism 3G symposium on computation and journalism at Georgia Tech Feb. 22-23. If you’re a news geek, I can’t imagine a better place to be. If you’re going, ping me.

  • Eric Ulken 1:47 am on February 4, 2008
    Tags: New England Patriots, The Boston Globe   

    The Globe jumps the gun 


    For sale on Amazon.com: 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots, by The Boston Globe.

    Guessing the Giants might quibble with that title.

    (via E&P)
  • Eric Ulken 11:21 pm on January 20, 2008  

    Technical skills in journalism jobs 

    The students in my online media class at USC are looking for the technical skills that will help land them jobs in journalism, and I want to help them identify what those skills might be. I have a pretty good idea, of course, but I thought I’d be more quantitative in my assessment. So I took all the online job descriptions on JournalismJobs.com from this year, omitted the non-technical words (like “editor”, “seeks” and “self-starter”) and built a tagcloud out of the rest. Here’s what it looks like:

    created at TagCrowd.com

    Update (2008.02.04): This post drew a lot more notice than I would have guessed. My favorite response comes from fellow Mizzou alum Chris Heisel, now at the AJC, who built his own tech skills tagcloud. I have a feeling Chris’ wish list comes a lot closer to nailing the critical skills than most of the postings on JournalismJobs do.

    Update (2008.04.02): The tagcloud is hopefully more useful now that the tags link back to keyword searches in JournalismJobs.com’s online job listings. I was linking keywords for my post on AngryJournalists.com and I thought I might as well do it here too.

  • Eric Ulken 12:03 pm on January 6, 2008
    Tags: Pinkberry   

    Why does Pinkberry prohibit photography? 


    Seriously, guys. WTF? Yet another reason to boycott Pinkberry and patronize yummy Cefiore in Little Tokyo instead. Who’s with me?

  • Eric Ulken 6:42 pm on December 22, 2007  

    My early Christmas present 

    OK. So, I know these are supposed to be for underprivileged children and all, but I just had to get my hands on the OLPC XO laptop, quite possibly the coolest tech gadget of the year. Sure, my BlackBerry probably has more processing power, but an afternoon spent playing with the pint-sized XO leaves me with the feeling that this little wonder could really change the world.

    I am sure the machine’s intended users will find it even more compelling than I do. Still, I managed waste about two hours playing SimCity (the original version I remember from my childhood!)

    I took the photo above with the XO’s built-in camera. Not great, but certainly adequate. I am also writing this entry in the device’s web browser.

    The keyboard and trackpad are way too small for my fingers, but again, I’m not the target audience. Plus my Mac keyboard and mouse worked just fine when plugged into one of the device’s three USB ports (that’s one more than my PowerBook has).

    On the whole, I have to say, I’m really impressed. Good thing I got two of these, so I can give one to a deserving kid in my family and keep one for my less deserving self.

    P.S.: If you now have gadget envy, you should know that OLPC’s Give One, Get One program has been extended until Dec. 31.

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