Monday, September 28, 2009

Emergency Texting, again...

Speaking of the emergency communications technology the University of Pitt used over the weekend, a similar mishap occured even closer to home: at Messiah College.

At 1 a.m. last Saturday, September 19th, a student was walking along Messiah's many wooded trail areas and was accosted by a man wearing a ski mask. Fortunately, the student was able to scream and struggle to get away successfully.

For the rest of the weekend, students kept walking the trails around campus, having no idea that this had happened or that the perpetrator was at large. On Tuesday, the college sent an email regarding the situation. This has students perturbed. Why not sooner? Messiah has a emergency texting system, so why wasn't a text sent out to students?

Apparently, Upper Allen Police did not want to "compromise their investigation," while they proceeded to compromise every student's safety.

This is an example where the technology is there. Students do not necessarily check e-mail, but have their phone on them almost 24/7 these days. A text to registered cell phones is extremely necessary, and would not threaten an investigation, but would keep students safe.

LVC has a similar "e-text" alert system in place. The college here will actually perform a test of the emergency alerts next Monday, October 5th. Students have to sign up for text alerts, but the college has every student's e-mail in case of emergency.

LVC's Emergency Plan is outline at this Website:

Students: sign up for the e-text alert! When you are out on the weekends, without a computer, LVC can alert you to an emergency situation. We all know that texting is the quickest and most "guaranteed" form of communication today.

Be sure to sign up here:

(This story was found on at:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mobile Journalism from Pittsburgh

Last night, a girl who went to high school with me, now attending Pitt, posted a Facebook status update which unknowingly began a small research project on my part. She was simply saying that she received an emergency text message from her university stating, “Conditions may be deteriorating in Oakland. Students are advised to remain near their residences.”

This Facebook post, sent from her phone, was the most recent update I could find online anywhere. The fact that the University sent this message about “conditions deteriorating,” I figured it wasn’t good. Online journalists hadn’t written as of yet about the crowd situation at night. The text peaked my interest, and I stayed by my computer to see who would be next to report.

Of course, I’m sure the newscasters in Pittsburgh were reporting, but I was not in Pittsburgh.

I was not in a classroom at Virginia Tech hearing gunshots.

I was not on the streets of Iran watching an innocent woman die.

As professor Bob Vucic is known to say, “If you have a Blackberry, you are a journalist”. The girl in Pittsburgh was probably saying it to complain that she couldn’t go out on a Friday night, but she was a journalist. She communicated the first information I could find about what was going on in Pittsburgh last night. It came from a student who was warned by her University to stay out of the streets.

That is real time. That is real life, able to be communicated instantly to millions with a simple factual text message.

Soon, I was able to see a YouTube video which was made by simply videotaping the Channel 11 news in Pittsburgh. This video (linked below) showed Pittsburgh at night: protestors on bikes being herded away by police with riot gear. A girl throws her bicycle at a policeman and is taken down to the ground by four policemen. I want to thank the person who thought to film their evening news, to share with the world, and me.

Who knew that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania would be the choice for the G-20 summit, and that many of the people I know would be able to watch the same type of aftermath that London, England witnessed due to the G-20 summit.

This is a 'thank-you' once again to mobile technology. We are only beginning to see its effects on society as we know it.

Video source:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The baby boomer generation and Facebook

The ever popular Facebook social networking site has grown tremendously this year for a new group of people: the “baby boomers”. A study from, published in July of this year, showed how different generations are using Facebook. Sixty-two percent of baby boomer users have Facebook to keep in touch with friends, and 47% of them “to keep in touch with family”. (This chart can be found:

While Myspace is still the first choice for musicians who want to broadcast their music, Facebook is the ultimate social network, for all ages. I believe it has become so popular because of the use of real first and last names, instead of an anonymous Myspace username, allowing for accurate friend searches. In the beginning, one had to have an e-mail address from a college or university to join. I remember getting ready to go to college and the excitement of getting my e-mail address so that I could follow my best friend’s advice: “You need to get a Facebook, Kristin.” At first it was an annoyance to get one since I already had Myspace, but it helped me meet people freshman year and went on to completely revolutionize everyone’s college experience.

Now, anyone can have a Facebook and belong to any school, city, or company network. Recently, my mom, who belongs to the baby boomer generation, had me set up a Facebook account for her. Not to be my friend, but to find old friends from high school and college. While setting it up, she was able to see a list of people she “may know” from high school and college, which excited her to no end. People she hadn’t talked to in years showed up in a picture icon, and it thrilled her. “Oh, I went to a Grand Funk Railroad concert with him! He looks so different!” she exclaimed. It was truly an experience just to watch her find people who she would otherwise never have spoken to again.

Now, this older generation can forget as we have about the days where phone calls, letters, and even e-mails connected families and friends through pictures and messages. It is a small world, after all, especially now. It takes seconds to log on and get updates, sometimes without even directly messaging or communicating with one another. To call this revolutionary is truly an understatement. I am glad to keep in touch over Facebook with people I graduated high school with, even as a senior in college. So, I can only imagine how my parents’ generation of users must feel.

My mom now has about ten friends and checks her account once a week, but it amazes her every time. Getting a wall post makes her day, like a child at Christmas. I add photos for her and her friends comment. It is a great new aspect of this generation’s lives. We can’t even imagine not having Facebook to get us through college, to see people we know graduate and move on from college via pictures and posts. But the new generation on Facebook must catch up, and they are, quite quickly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How did we ever watch the VMAs without tweeting?

Before Twitter’s 140-character update tools, we had to watch the VMAs and comment and converse with the people sitting next to us, or the people we were “friends” with on Facebook—people who we actually knew.

Last night was different, of course. As mentioned by MTV News during their post-VMA report, over one million people with anonymous Twitter accounts “tweeted” about the VMAs: the drama, the performances, the winners. That is a lot of people, but, “so”?

Twitter is talked about in the news more than ever these days, and it is mainly due to the famous people who are using it. Anyone can follow celebrities on Twitter. You don’t even need a Twitter account to see what they’re “tweeting”. This is better than any tabloid, this is an instant connection to the stars. It is also deemed by the public to be truly published material, with Twitter-verified celebrity accounts and tweets such as “I’m about to go on stage”.

Yes, sometimes Twitter is used to talk about a tour or an album release, but these actors, singers, athletes, and reality stars are people, too. They can tweet without being professional about it. So, when the millions of anonymous Twitter users started flooding Twitter with their instant opinion about the surprise encounter on stage between Kanye and Taylor Swift, I waited to watch for the opinions of those in the industry, those who are fortunate to be on the stage, or in the immediate audience, just as I did during the MTV Music Awards in January—which was the same day that I discovered Twitter.

This is not post-published rumors complete with bad photos and speculation. This is live TV paired up with instant, true, opinionated posts from the people themselves.

I was drawn to Twitter by this aspect, actually. I was curious to see what celebrities, in their chaotic and famous lives, had to tweet about, perhaps hoping to see even more into their everyday lives. What people often fail to miss is that these celebrity Twitter pages are being followed by millions of people. I am not their “friend”, only a “follower”. Herein lies the difference between Twitter and Facebook. Anonymity has always been a great aspect of the Internet, but most people prefer actually knowing their “followers”. That is why Facebook has done so well.

However, Twitter for celebrities is “brilliant” as Lily Allen would put it. Lily Allen would know. She tweets more than she could ever sing, and she stirs things up by fighting off nay-sayers daily. In the same boat is Katy Perry who tweeted, “F*** U, Kanye. It’s like u stepped on a kitten” as a direct response to the way Kanye stole Taylor’s award moment at the VMAs. I’m not surprised, as most of Allen’s and Perry’s tweets that I read are yelling at or about another person.

Celebrities never liked tabloids, so now they have a direct connection to fans and can say whatever they want. Is it better? I’d think agents would put some sort of censorship on it, as many of these tweets could become terrible P.R. moves, in my opinion. Defending yourself and entitlement to your opinion is one thing, but when a few tweets stain your entire public image, that is another.

Following the famous is fun but the instant “drama” gets somewhat exasperating. What was our life like before famous people could tweet? Are we just now realizing that they are not more than human, with fingers to type and tweet, and shame themselves?

Most people use Facebook and, according to Tuesday’s USA Today, Twitter is very annoying to a good size of the population. It must not be a coincidence that the word “twit” became a popular British slang word in the 1950’s and 60’s, meaning “foolish, stupid, and ineffectual person.”

I can see where Twitter got its strange name. It is appropriate. I can also see why “normal” people with Twitters may feel inferior to the celebs with a million followers, but it doesn’t stop them from tweeting about the most mundane events such as “loving [a] chocolate mocha”. I hardly use my Twitter. If I do, it is to read the tweets of my friends and, when curious, the celebrities. I usually have more to say than 140 words allow, anyway.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome to the Internet

So, here we have it, and you see it. La Vie is finally online and available to the world.
( for those of you not coming from that site.

Now there are videos, newscasts, blogs, pictures, comments, links, Twitter, and Facebook pages and updates available to students, as well as everyone else. Lebanon Valley College is embracing an online medium for their newspaper, La Vie Collegienne, and the staff is very excited, as they should be.

Colleges across the U.S. have had online newspapers for years now, and La Vie is proud to join the ranks. Bryan Murley recently wrote a blog article on PBS’s “MediaShift” site based on the fact that many colleges still do not have a Web presence, and how backward he finds it to be. He does, however, realize that these print-only school papers have their reasons. He lists some issues college papers find with online environments:

· Technology difficulties

· College students publishing any mistakes, or distributing any “bad news” about the campus to be found by anyone online

· College donors being upset in any way by the type of advertisements or content online

The newspaper staff had struggled a bit concerning the correct content management system to use in this endeavor, and who would make it possible. La Vie has been truly fortunate to Justin Weaver, a computer science major at LVC, for taking on the project of finding the best management system and applying it to La Vie’s goals. By taking time out of his summer, Justin has graced us with a system using Google’s free Blogspot format (a very popular system among smaller colleges) allowing content uploading to be quite easy for the staff. As the staff is mostly English majors, having a person with different expertise to step in and help requires many thanks.

As for printing mistakes to the world, this can happen in the print edition and may continue into the online articles to some degree. However, as Murley recognizes, College is still a place for learning and that includes making mistakes. LVC must protect its image as an educational institution, but also continue to recognize the students’ right to free speech. La Vie will continue to strive for excellence in this online environment, just as it has in the print edition.

For donors to continue to donate to a respectable institution, going online is a way to keep La Vie and the student voices of LVC from withering. In this environment, the institution can receive more feedback and reach out to alumni on a much larger scale. The bottom line, as Murley reiterates, is that staying offline is a disservice to student journalists would not have any experience with online tools now prevalent in the industry. “A student who can't put material online can't really understand the impact of social networks like Twitter or Facebook to spread news. They can't really understand what it is to create a personal brand. And they can't really understand the challenges of multimedia production,” Murley states. As students have learned, the print industry is losing jobs and interest, while the online environment is opening up as it never has before.

La Vie Online has already proven to us that this medium brings together many different majors and students at this college who have different areas of expertise, such as Digital Communications, Art, Video production, and our widespread musical talent at this institution. By adding .mp3s and .mp4s, as well as text, we are including more of the college, the community, and our alumni.

Welcome to La Vie Online!

*You may find the article here: