Downloading Torrents 101

(If you don’t want to read about my personal take on torrents you can skip to below the first line break on this post.)

People tend to receive new technical terms from the internet with as much enthusiasm as a cat does a cold bath. Torrents are no different.

I was the same, but once a friend sat me down and showed me the ropes that changed. At the very least, it changed my relationship with music, t.v. shows and movies for the better.

On a simple level, torrents are files which are shared over the internet. Anybody with an internet connection and a computer can take advantage of this internet underground culture.

I say ‘underground’ because downloading torrents is not strictly legal. They are pirated copies and breach copyright laws.

However, if you are not in a financial position to pay for the content, believe that copyright laws are too restrictive and you can live with the guilt of depriving record companies, film studios etc. of a few quid, then torrents may just be for you.

You should also know, torrents users (both the uploaders of material and the downloaders) have escaped incrimination, prosecution or enforcement of these copyright laws in this country, so far.

Small personal users are not top of governments lists when it comes to piracy. So as things stand, there is no reason to fret about imprisonment or fines. I have been downloading torrents for four years now with no hiccups along the way.

Nonetheless, it is an important point and a personal choice.

__________________________________________________________

A couple of personal caveats, before I start.

Firstly, I believe in supporting creative industry, especially at a grassroots and local level, where ever possible.

If you find a band or film you like, promote it by word of mouth. If you can afford it, pay for a legit and legal copy, go to the next gig the band play etc. In short, I believe you should support creativity and good material in whatever way you can.

Secondly, if you do start using torrents, download only what you need and really want. Excessive downloading will only heighten your exposure and torrents as a whole.

What seems to be the worst case scenario, anecdotally anyway, is that you will be provided with three warnings by your internet provider, via the post, before they cut off your internet.

Common sense and keeping your ear to the ground for any rumbling from the powers that be are your best defense.

All that being said, here is how you do it.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Introduction

Don’t try read through the whole post at once
, otherwise it will be too daunting, whereas its simple if you take it step by step. Once you download the programs you need and download a couple of torrents, everything will become second nature!

There are two things you need to download to your computer before I get on to downloading the actual torrents.
_________________________________________________________

Programs you need:____________________________________

  • Step 1– Torrent facilitator.

    The torrent facilitator is a program that enables the downloading of the films, tv shows and music files, aka as torrents. It is crucial in downloading torrents.

    Essentially, it acts as a middle ground between the internet and your computer. I will explain how to use the program and what it does exactly properly later on.

    My personal choice of facilitator is ‘Bitcomet’ as it seems faster than the rest. I have also used Utorrent and Bittorrent in the past without any trouble.

    P.C. users need to go to: http://download.cnet.com/BitComet/3000-2196_4-10296306.html and simply click on download now.

    If you have a Mac, this website should do the same thing. It is for Bittorrent, as I know for sure that it is compatible with macs. http://www.bittorrent.com/downloads/mac
    If you would like to try out bitcomet yourself this page looks good. http://www.brothersoft.com/bitcomet-download-43138.html
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Step 2– Second program for download, A Versatile media player

    Then you need to download a media player called VLC media player. This will play all the movies/tv shows you download, as opposed to other players which are picky about files having the right ‘codecs’ and other technical stuff, that you don’t really need to know about.

    This is the website. http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
    P.C. users can simply click on download.

    If you have a Mac, under download click on other systems and download the mac version.

    Do that and I’ll bring you on to the next step.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Downloading the actual Torrents ____________________________________


    Step 3–

    Like the facilitator programs, there are numerous websites where you can find and search for torrents. They all have similar layouts and terminologies. They include: kickasstorrents.com, isohunt.com, piratebay.com* amongst others.

    *Eircom users are restricted from using Piratebay.

    I use ‘www.kickasstorrents.com’ most regularly so I will use that as my example. As stated already, other torrent websites work more or less in the same way.

    Go to http://www.kickasstorrents.com, then simply search for whatever film, t.v. or album you want. The search bar is right up at the top of the page on the right handside.

    Once you’ve searched, you should be given a list of different torrents.

    Click on the the one that best suits. You will be able to decide this by a few things which are listed below.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The criteria you should be looking for before download are:


    Other users ratings–

    First of all make sure the torrent has good comments on it, some are fake. Most popular torrents will have people rating it, its audio and video quality (where applicable), read through them.

    You do that by hovering over the speech bubble beside the main title or by clicking on the main title, after you’ve searched for whatever you want and scrolling down to the comments.

    Important technical stuff:________________________________________

    There are a couple of other things you need to keep in mind, once again this might sound complicated but you will see what I mean once you get used to it.

    Torrent size________________________
    ___________________________

    Torrent size can be tailored to personal needs. Some files are unnecessarily big, others are too small and of poor quality.

    For example, if you are trying to download a movie, want it relatively quickly and don’t have loads of memory to spare, a dvd rip or an equivalent should suffice. Not blu-ray which are commonly the first torrent listed (they are too large and take too long to download) or any crap quality torrents like those recorded in a cinema on a camcorder etc.

    The comments also should steer you away from bad quality or slow downloads.

    Seeds & Leeches______________
    ____________________________

    One other thing to look for on the torrent sight is seeds and leeches. These are listed directly to the right of the title of the torrent. They are pretty important.

    The higher the seeds (people you download off) should be as high as possible, this will speed up the download. Leeches are people who are downloading it as well, as long as this is lower than seeds it should be fine.

    A torrent with higher leeches than seeds also work but they will take longer.

    Be wary of torrents with loads of seeds and no comments, this usually means its fake.

    _______________________________________________________
    _________________________________________________

    Finally: 

    For kickasstorrents.com: click on ‘download torrent‘, the brown box nearest the top of the page. Not the larger ‘download’ option a little further down.

    The downloading process varies slightly depending on the browser (Google chrome, Internet explorer, Safari etc.) you are using. Anyway make sure you open the torrent in the way do with other downloads.

    This should bring you to bitcomet (or other facilitator) program and a box with details of what you are downloading.

    Again, you can tailor your download to your own needs, by ticking or unticking songs, albums, episodes, files etc. that you actually want.

    Always leave the specifically titled ‘torrent’ files alone in this box and any other files you think may be crucial for the file to work, such as a ‘readme’ file etc.

    Once you have finished selecting what you want in the box, you simply click okay and it should start downloading.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    You can easily see and check its progress in the facilitator program.

    Progress is given in a percentage bar; download rate given in kilobytes per second (kb/s), the higher this is the better, it can be over 1000kb/s but can vary depending on seeds online, internet connection and other variables; time remaining gives an estimated time before its finished downloading.

    ____________________________

    When the file is finished downloading, right click on the file in Bitcomet then select ‘open directory’ then right click on the relevant file there and ‘open with’ and select VLC media player or whatever you use to play your music.

    You should also be able to find the relevant files in your downloads.

    That’s all. There are a handful of things you need to know and this may seem like an overly long post for something that is so ‘simple’.

    Just try it and keep following this thread and it should work. After you do it a couple of times it will become second nature!

    If you have any questions or problems leave them in the comments section or p.m. on Facebook.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘A Measure of Faith, Figures for the Future’

A group of 212 young Irish people are surveyed
on their views of the Catholic Church. 

‘Another survey of Irish Catholics, what is the point?’, you ask. ‘We’ve heard it all before’, you say. The point is we haven’t, not like this anyway.

According to the national census figures, released earlier this year, 84% of the people in this country are Catholics. That was the headline statistic released but it is somewhat misleading. There are numerous factors that make it so.

Not least, the other survey, commissioned by The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which was released in the last few weeks. A survey which showed that the vast majority of Catholics disagree with all of the major stances on morality and lifestyle that the church teaches.

This includes figures on such subjects as homosexuality; where 61% disagreed with the church’s stance that it was a sin. Being gay in Ireland is no longer true taboo territory. Times really are changing.

75% considered the church’s teaching on sexuality, in general, as irrelevant to both them and their families. It revealed that the vast majority believed that priests should be allowed marry (87%).

They showed that Irish Catholics, of all shapes and sizes, also believe that women should be allowed to become priests (77%) and that married men should, too (72%).


These results show that a large portion of this country are closer to being protestant, in terms of beliefs, than we are to being Catholics. You wouldn’t have got away with saying that a generation or two ago, either.

The results of survey done, specifically for this article, consolidate those findings. The survey was aimed at young Irish people with a Catholic heritage, between the ages of 16 and 35. The sample size is of 212 people, who fit those two criteria.

The figures do not just show that the zeitgeist is one of rebellion, they show that it is one of disregard and hostility towards the church. The disregard is not absolute, but it is close. There is confusion, disillusion balanced out with a sprinkling of good will.

The ten questions asked aimed to fill in the blanks left by the national census and the ACP survey. Although, it is only ten questions long, it is not merely a ‘tick box’ and raw statistics survey.

Large essay boxes were left on relevant questions for participants to comment on, if they wished. And boy, did they comment.

Young Catholics’ views are often dismissed, by those of a more senior demographic, as cynical and as somewhat irrelevant. If they don’t deem them irrelevant, then they are effectively simply ignored.

They may be cynical, but that does not mean they do not have valid points to make. Most of the young people who did this survey are in, or have received, third level education. 90.1%, to be precise.

Over one in four (26.1%) are post-graduates of some description or another; in other words they are doing or have done a higher diploma, a masters or a doctorate. So the responses are not coming from a place of ignorance or stupidity.

As for the irrelevant bit. Nothing could be further from the truth. These young people are the future of both this country and the Catholic faith in it.

They are the ones who will be, and in some cases are, raising children. These young, highly educated people will be the ones guiding both this country and the next generation of potential Catholics, in a decade or thereabouts.

In turn, those children will pass on what they have learned to their own children. In short, these figures are very, very relevant.

On that score, only 26.3% of those asked said they would willingly bring their children up in the Catholic Church, as things stand. 44% said that under no circumstances would they do so. The rest is made up of those who attached terms and conditions to any involvement in the church for their children.

23% said they might bow to extenuating circumstances, such as pressure from a spouse or to attain access to education. 6.7% said they might depending on changes within Catholicism.

Why the resistance, though. What are their views on the Catholic Church and its influence throughout the world. For the full picture, you should look at the figures on your left.*

The respondents were given seven different facets of the world that the Catholic Church has played a role in, and a scale ranging from very positive to very negative, along with ‘no effect’ and ‘don’t know’. For the most part, the two latter options had very a limited amounts of ‘ticks’.

The general trend of negativity continued on this question. Worryingly, for those inside the church, none of the categories, or facets of life, were considered to better off due to church’s involvement.

Asked about the overall effect on Irish society, only 17% consider the church as having any sort of positive effect. A large majority (66.8%) ticked somewhere in the negative field.


There was a more even split in opinion about the church’s overall effect in the both morality, family life and the developing world.

37.9% said the church had an overall positive effect on morality, and 38.6% considered its effect negative. There was a respective split of 34.8% (positive) versus 44.3% (negative) for family life.

Even their endeavours in, and effect on, the ‘Developing World’- long considered a feather in their hat- were considered negative. While 35.3% saw the effect as positive, a larger amount, 46.6%, regard them as a negative force. The largest number by some distance, 25.2%, ticking the ‘very negative’ field.

The response for those who ticked somewhere within the negative field for ‘the Developing world’ category did not stop there. A large amount of the essay answers, for this ‘Overall effect’ question, pointed to the church’s responsibility in the AIDS epidemic sweeping across Africa.

That and the church’s hypocrisy and inconsistencies when it came to wealth. To paraphrase one person ‘they claim to help the poor, while they sit in palaces and mansions’.

The split is widened again on the overall effect on global society (19.4% positive versus 56.9% negative); and the history of civilisation (18.7% positive vs. 60.4% negative).

A topic which is very current, at the time of writing, is education. Asked what they thought about the Catholic Church’s effect on the education; 50.9% considered it negative and only 33.4% considered it positive.

The majority of participants seem thoughtful about this question in particular, they did not choose lightly. As one respondent put it “I think some may see my choices and think this is someone completely anti-religious, just clicking very negative on everything but I honestly thought about them all and see it this way. It simply comes down to the anti-gay rights, child abuse, anti-condoms and, literally, one-hundred and one other reasons.”

“[The church] is definitely bad for the history of civilisation. For example, The Crusades and all other atrocities carried out by the church, just look at a history book to see. Their grip on education in Ireland is a disgrace. The one thing that stopped me from wanting to become a teacher, is all the Catholic bullish*t I would have to teach and comply to.”

The simple statistics do not show a complete picture. Several essay responses listed good along with the bad, and others listed mainly good effects, with some caveats. There are frequent displays, in those essay-answers, of an acknowledgement of grey areas. However, the arrow-gauge is tending strongly to the negative side.

One young woman says, “I have spent some time in Africa and there is definitely a huge impact of the Catholic Church there, particularly in terms of schooling and healthcare, which I would consider to be positive. However, in those societies where there is a mix of religions, and the Catholic school provides education for Catholic children only. Such ‘positivities’ become blurred.”

Some answers just how mixed they considered the good and the bad “
Catholicism has provided education, aid, charity, relief and medical help to millions of people over its time. It has also excluded many groups and still does.”

“It has done horrible things – Inquisitions, Magdalene laundries, forced adoption in places like Australia, etc. – over its time. Some of these were orders from the top, some were covered up by higher ranks in the church, and some were rouge actions of bad people who shouldn’t be painted with the same brush as good, honest priests, nuns and religious workers.

However, there are a litany of answers, percentages and detailed essay-style responses like that in this survey; not many of which point to an illustrious or promising future for the Catholic Church. The least that is desired is change.

If there is one positive, it is that a number of this generation are potentially salvageable; but the church need to get to know its intended audience. It also will need to learn this generation’s own definitions of ‘confession’, ‘repentance’, ‘sin’, ‘cleanse’ and ‘humility’, amongst others in order to reclaim any of the territory lost .

Only 14.2% of those asked consider themselves practicing Catholics. That number is decimated further on a following question, to 1.4%, to those who say they are strict, practicing Catholics. That is three young people out of two-hundred and twelve.

The highest figure belongs to atheists, 29.9%, followed by non-practicing Catholics at 18.5%. Overall, the non-religious categories sweep up 48.4% of respondents. Lapsed Catholics (7.1%) and agnostics (14.7%) make up most of the rest.

That following question- which points to only 1.4% of strict, practicing Catholics- is a further attempt to breakdown respondents actual beliefs. There are eleven options here with the ability to pick more than one where applicable.

For example, it differentiates between those ‘call themselves Catholic and don’t believe most of it’ (22.7%); those who ‘agree with most of what the Catholic Church teaches and practice accordingly’ (7.1%) and those who ‘pick and choose what parts [they] agree with, practice those parts and still consider [themselves] a Catholic’(19%).

There are signs in this question that there is not quite as much cynicism as some people would like you to believe, not towards the concept of ‘something more than this life’ anyway. 20.9% people consider themselves spiritual and 12.8% believe in ‘a supreme being but not the Catholic God’. One person who did the survey had found a religion that suited them better, i.e. the Church of Ireland.

In light of such a varied spread of faith, accrued from this small survey, it surely points to a mark of ‘incomplete’, at the very best, for the national census. The lack of questions on religion, there was only one, its lack of detail and their structure need reconsideration for any worthwhile information to be garnered from the census.

A survey with such a large reach could give us the whole picture, with just a little imagination. The status quo of asking somebody what religion they are, is quite vague. The term ‘Catholic’ means different things to different people, as you can see above.

There are other factors to be considered, as well. Anecdotally, there are reports from young Irish people who complain that their parents completed their section of the survey for them; that they put them down as Catholics, when they no longer consider themselves so.

In any case, there is clear anger, disillusion and confusion at the poor leadership shown by Catholic Church amongst the youth of Ireland today. If you do not believe it based on this survey, base it on the atmosphere. You can sense the change.

This younger generation is not scared to question and point the finger at religious authority. They are a smart and irreverent bunch. They demand both consistency and elasticity. They abhor opacity and hypocrisy.

A full and unrestrained apology for the child abuse scandals, that have swept this country and the world, is top of the list. A radical change in their views on women, contraception, homosexuality and a number of other ‘created’ sins is the only thing that will make them truly relevant to this generation.

If you don’t believe that, just read all the responses from the survey on today’s website.*

If they don’t get their apology and reforms, a large percentage will walk away for good. If you don’t believe it, just wait and see.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Time We Travel- Next Stop: Bangkok Hilton

Bangkok? Smiles and laughter now, but how did we survive? Illegal immigrants with no money. Worse than that, we had no means of getting money for four whole days.

Worse still, handing ourselves over to the infamous Bangkok police force became our only option.  The even more infamous Bangkok Hilton jail was suddenly a real possibility in our paranoid, unsure minds.

Three beautiful islands, a mountainside- and plenty of far more pleasant experiences- after jet-lagged Kuala Lumpur, we had arrived to the city of  strong smells and daily down-pours. It started off badly and got worse. Far worse.

Two hours outside Bangkok we had stopped at a crowded night market. The kind intended for just such an occasion: sleepy, hungry, cramped tourists would wander around a minefield after 14 hours on one of those buses!

I left with some water and a packet of crisps. Strangely, I left with no change from 1,000 baht (my daily budget of 20 quid) and no debit card. Pick-pocketed. Half-asleep I didn’t realise until we arrived in our hostel on Khao San Road a few hours later. Bastards.

Reassured by Dan (my travelling buddy) that he’d spot me while I got my finances sorted out, we proceeded to check out the city. Tomorrow would be the beginning of Thai new year. A four day water and clay celebration festival. Think Paddy’s Day, but add in massive water guns and bowls of clay; the contents of which everyone hurls at one another.

Deadly craic!

That is, until Dan, in the heat of (water) battle left his own debit card in an ATM. It was gone by the time he went back to retrieve it. Uh-oh.

All our cash laid out on my bed, we had 23 quid between us. 23 quid, that was enough to get us both through to tomorrow!

Western Union? Closed for the next few days due to the celebrations. Banks? Same. Post? Same. So we had to wait until our parents could send us new cards before we could leave this (fun) shit-hole of a city? Yep!

Four days of scraping by on a (highly recommended) diet of bread and noodles, our Western Union lifeline came through. Hallelujah for Mammy and Daddy!

We retrieved our passports off our hostel, part of the agreed deal for delayed payment. Killing time by checking out the sights and night-life as we waited for our cards to arrive by courier.

Six days later Dan’s card arrived. Mine was still ‘in transit’. Three days, and an angry phone call to DHL, later we gave up waiting.

It was time to leave… Or so we thought!

To tell the next part of the story I should rewind a little bit. Dan and I crossed our first ever border by foot in north-western Malaysia- after leaving the idyllic Perhentian Islands- to enter Thailand.

Our attempts to keep off the beaten track bit us even more harshly than the 63 mosquito bites I had acquired on my sunburned shins the week before.

Carrying a 25kg backpack on sunburned shoulders- that had kept me laid up in bed for three days previous- meant my mind was not completely on the job at hand. No signs in English..? Grand, sure all we have to do is get our stamp and get to Phuket… No worries.

So yes, sunburn, the 16 hour journey ahead and the apparent violence in the area we were entering were.. Well, all excuses for the reason we just got on taxi-scooters and drove to the nearest bus-stop as soon as possible.

We arrived in Phuket the next day and stayed in the hostel ‘The Beach’ was filmed in; an original idea I’d imagine. A warning shot went off. “Where is your stamp?” Little lights popped in front of my eyes, as they so often do, when braincells are dying from brief moments of extreme stress.

“Em… There…” pointing at the circular blue stamp on my tattered passport. “Yes, sir, that is your stamp for leaving Malaysia…” Concerned pause, confused looks exchanged… “Okay, okay… Sign here…”.

Showed to our room; a firm mattress, a fan AND air-con for five quid a night, we quickly put the awkwardness to the back of our minds. That, and the discovery of the deliciously potent Chang beer. “Ah jesus, these lads sponsor Everton… Can I get two please?”

750ml of 8% percent beer (legend has it that it can be up to 12%) meant two bottles were more than enough for my first encounter with the stuff.

Problem was, we had the exact same awkward moment in both Ko Phi Phi and Ko Phag Nan. Paradise islands with few rules and fewer questions asked.

Soon no amount of toxins and good times helped us forget.. “What is going on, Dan?” afraid to ask anybody but ourselves. “We’ll just ask somebody in Bangkok.”

We did, it did not go well.

“This is very, very serious young sirs.. If you try cross the border to Laos you will be arrested and put in jail…” came the answer from the middle-aged, smiley man in the tourist office. “What…?”

“You have stamp for leaving Malaysia, no stamp for entering Thailand… You crossed in to Muslim area… Looks strange… You are illegal here”, frantic phone calls made in our name, while Dan and myself exchange terrified stares. “Holy shit, holy fucking shit James…”

“Yes, yes sirs, you must hand yourselves in to the immigration police…” calmly patting sweat off his forehead with a white handkerchief “If your passports are checked before you do it will look worse…”. Speechless, “Will they punish us?” eventually came from my quicksand mouth.. “Not sure, they could make you leave the country.. or.. jail.. I don’t know..”.

My usual ‘it’ll be alright’ refrain evaporated for the next 48 nerve-jangling hours. Every cop we saw made us hold our breath. Every conversation ended with us discussing the pros and cons of our next step.

The morning had arrived. Would this be my last morning in Thailand? There’s no way they can put us in jail for a silly mistake, is there??

Dan and myself exchanged few words for the two hours while we waited to be seen. The stone halls echoing each one we did; some worried and frantic, very few assuring.

Finally, we were beckoned in to an office. A small, round lady with a holstered gun told us to sit down.

We did as were told. I sweated profusely while I stated our case. The office would not have looked out of place in Ireland, little worker bees buzzing around modern computers and chatting; that is except for the guns.

The little, grumpy pig-woman took notes and filled in a sheet in Thai. Asking us questions now and again, giving no indication of what she thought other than the fact that she thought we were idiots.

“Why were you in India?” inspecting my passport with contempt. “Why have you been to Abu Dhabi?” to Dan. I tried to tell her we were not terrorists. Everyone in the office looked around at that word. I sank back in my chair.

We were probably only in there for an hour but it felt way longer. A life time plus VAT. I imagined what jail would feel like for most of it.

Sporadically, grumpier looking men with bigger guns would come in and sit beside her. Staring at us. Grumpy, but with a look of sadistic glee in their eye. Bastards.

Still with no indication of how it was going, she handed us a form to sign. “This is in Thai, what does it mean” I gulped. “Just sign” the abrupt reply. Reluctantly, we signed.

She motioned towards the door, like a t.v. show host would towards the night’s main prize. Except with far less aplomb. “Where? Can we leave?” Pig-woman simply repeated the motion. We scampered back to our hostel, pig-woman scuttled back to her paperwork.

A firm believer in learning from your mistakes, I still gladly would have chosen to avoid the ones I made in this Asian city of sin.

New years celebrations, and meeting friends from earlier in the trip aside, Bangkok holds memories of anxiety, frustration and some hunger for me. If I ever go back it will only be to see that awesome ping-pong show again… 😉

To make up for the city of sin we headed to Chang Mai in northern Thailand, to live in the mountains with Buddhist monks for three days. Inner turmoil to inner peace in a few days, that pretty much sums up Thailand for me. Thankfully, it was mostly inner peace.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interactivity- The Positives and Negatives

Interactivity is a topic which is debated and discussed on a regular basis by all involved in online journalism but which has not achieved a satisfactory conclusion. Almost all facets of online journalism have interactivity at their core.

The mass appeal of blogs, social networking etc- the majority of which are free- has left journalists and their employers lagging behind in trying to increase loyalty and revenue for their online business model.

Interactivity is one of the main tools in combating this, how it is utilised and its challenges are of paramount importance. All involved in journalism now realise that the user and how they interact with content is the most important aspect.

Jim Hall, who wrote a book called ‘Online Journalism’ made the case for interactivity to be added to the core values of impartiality, objectivity and truth[1]. This sort of language is only an example of the growing stature in which interactivity is held.

The Positives

“The web is the ultimate customer-empowering environment. He or she who clicks the mouse gets to decide everything. It is easy to elsewhere; all the competitors in the world are but a mouse click away.” Jakob Nielsen, ‘Designing Web Usability’[2]

Customer empowerment is where interactivity truly comes in to its own in the context of online journalism. Up until the invention of the internet the mass media was almost all one way traffic, in other words the journalists and editors told the stories they wanted to tell and the stories they thought we, the customer, wanted to hear based on weak foundations of cost and their own bias. This rang true in all of the older mediums; be that radio, television or print.

The avenues for feedback were limited to letters or phone calls to the ‘powers-that-be’ in each organisation. Even then they got to decide, for the most part anyway, whether these letters/opinions were shown to the wider public.

The nature of the internet age means the public no longer need to tolerate this, if one site decides to ignore or even delay a person’s voice being heard, it is the user’s prerogative to find another one which won’t. As Fritz Van Exeter, editor of the Dutch newspaper ‘Trouw’ suggested if you want to take you time to think about what direction you want go in as regards comments, or your online presence, you will be “perceived to be as slow as the postman”. The instant access of broadband means demand for instant gratification has never been higher.

The Negatives

“The zeitgeist of the net is centred in interaction and interconnectedness, not ‘I-will-publish, you-will-accept’. The Net is not a megaphone. The Net is a conversation.” the social media commentator, J.D. Lasica[3].

This quote draws attention to the need for boundaries and lines to be drawn between roles of users and roles of the professionals. Interactivity, after all, can do harm as well as good. The user must perceive as though they are having an interactive experience all the while never letting them be in complete control of output.

It does not come down to censorship but quality control of the interactivity. Message boards, feedback, videos et al are in need of monitoring. If there are no editorial decisions being made on contributions made by the public, then the credibility and quality of any site can be sent in to a downward spiral.

All the most successful online journalism websites have different ways of letting the user interact with the output of the site while still holding the reigns of the content.  Sites from the popular Irish website ‘www.politics.ie’ to the Fox news website allow users to partake in the output of content on their sites; although neither has quite achieved the perfect balance of interactivity and effective control as of yet.

It could be argued that the creators of online websites already have a lot of influence on the sort of interaction there is. After all they can choose what key words and websites to hyperlink; act as gatekeepers for message boards; decide what sorts of flash media and RSS feeds to make available for the user; and in the case of many news websites decide what the topic of the daily opinion is.

The two aforementioned sites, ‘politics.ie’ and the Fox news site give us good material for this point. On one side there is http://www.politics.ie which gives users a very high level of interactivity but also takes away the faceless aspect which can lead to so much unhelpful contributions. Ratings are given to each user depending on what comments they leave etc, so ego and consequences are involved as they would be in real life. 

Then there is Fox, their ‘uReport’ citizen journalism feature on ‘Myspace’[4], which allows users to submit videos, is a popular interactive medium, but a lot of the videos featured are of poor quality and can be quite frustrating and futile in terms of functional journalism.

Where the line is drawn between editing and controlling interactivity is a matter of much debate and is ultimately down to each site. The suggestion of gatekeepers is regularly made, where professional journalists would be hired to make editorial decisions, but this would be extremely time-consuming and financially unviable for most news sites which struggle as it is.

Conclusion

The internet, almost certainly, is the medium of the future and journalism must adapt if it is to survive. The internet has all the power of television except people can choose their viewing times. It has all the information of newspapers except it has free, endless sources of it. It has videos, pictures, audio and written word in abundance, none of the other mediums have its strength, power and versatility.

As more money is redirected from television and print media towards attending the habits of the internet savvy generation, the more journalists must bow to certain pressures.

This is likely to grow exponentially as younger generations come through, where mobile phones become mobile laptops and the internet is almost an extension of the psyche. Dial-up connections will be to our children what dinosaurs were to us!

Those who resist this tide of change, towards online information seeking and entertainment, will get left behind. Those who do not realise how important and influential this dynamic medium will be laughed at. The journalists who do not realise the potential power, and challenges, of interactivity will soon be out of a job.

Bibliography

 

Journals:

Interactive Options in Online Journalism: A Content Analysis of 100 US newspapers by Tanjev Schultz, University of Bremen

A Case Study of the Interactive Nature of Nigeria’s Online Guardian by O. Foloyan

`Interactive’ Online Journalism at English-Language Web Newspapers in Asia by Brian Massey

 

Google books:

http://books.google.ie/books?id=zeP1UdZKYfIC&pg=PA76&dq=interactivity+on+websites&cd=4#v=onepage&q=interactivity%20on%20websites&f=false

http://books.google.ie/books?id=XAEqAQAAIAAJ&q=interactivity+on+websites&dq=interactivity+on+websites&cd=3

http://books.google.ie/books?id=choQ91rk0i4C&pg=PA581&dq=interactivity+on+websites&cd=2#v=onepage&q=interactivity%20on%20websites&f=false

Other websites:
http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/61/6/523

http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2008/04/15/basic-principles-of-online-journalism-i-is-for-interactivity/

http://mindymcadams.com/tojou/category/interactive/

http://studentworks.onlinedemocracy.ca/car/jess/online_journalism/onlinejournalism.html

 

http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/2007/03/red-herring-reports-that-both-cbs-and.html


[1]http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2008/04/15/basic-principles-of-online-journalism-i-is-for-interactivity/ 

[2]http://books.google.ie/books?id=choQ91rk0i4C&pg=PA581&dq=interactivity+on+websites&cd=2#v=onepage&q=interactivity%20on%20websites&f=false

[3] Interactive Options in Online Journalism: A Content Analysis of 100 US newspapers by Tanjev Schultz, University of Bremen

[4] http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/2007/03/red-herring-reports-that-both-cbs-and.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Power of propaganda on the internet

The internet is no longer just an informational source for the public; it has developed in to a 24-hour a day machine, with each corporate cog independently vying for the attention of consumers (the public) and investors (corporate advertisers).

Such power can not be left alone for much longer. There are laws of libel and privacy in place to stop the media from doing damage to individuals but where are the laws protecting the masses?

The news has transformed in to a product and must be treated as such. Products like food, alcohol, clothes etc. are all legally obliged to provide information about how they came to exist, where they came from, what they are made up of in order to inform consumers, enabling them to make choices based and more informed opinions.

A question I would like to moot is why can’t the media have some sort of regulation to make it harder to sensationalise situations to the public? While keeping in mind the ideals of free speech means that it would be almost impossible to regulate headlines, or quotes and figures used for a story it doesn’t mean backing them up sufficiently would be impossible.

Why with the infinite space of the internet do journalists not have to provide proper sources of figures, with other figures which would contextualise them, full interviews amongst other relevant information? Simply inserting a webpage address at the end of a story if people decide they want to know more is not outside the realms of possibility.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Noam Chomsky

although not primarily a journalist, he is a very important investigator and his popularity has risen dramatically thanks to the avenues provided by the internet. The more I read and hear about this man, the more I am an avid follower of his research, writings and general opinions. He does not avoid constantly questioning the status quo. Why, where, when, how etc. are all questions he endlessly researches in to events and decisions which have defined our generation.

His main specialties are those two powerhouses, politics and media. In his book Manufacturing Consent he describes some infuriating abuses of power and the subsequent ineptitude of the media to report these abuses.

He appears to me to have very well-rounded opinions on everything. The greatest chapter in this book is where he describes the spin provided during the Vietnam War. Chomsky tells the readers how the American government provided information on the war, statistics and logistics, which were completely false.

Richard Nixon, the infamous president of the time, completely lied when giving the number available estimate of casualties and the frequency of bombing aimed at neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. The media at the time reported these as fact to the public; with little or no room for investigation.

Noam Chomsky gives an example of the philosophy behind political spin in ‘Manufacturing Consent’: “Walter Lippmann described what he called “the manufacture of consent” as “a revolution” in “the practice of democracy” And he said this was useful and necessary because “the common interests” – the general concerns of all people – “elude” the public. The public just isn’t up to dealing with them. And they have to be the domain of what he called a “specialized class”… But because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith. And this naive faith requires necessary illusion, and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Citizen journalism

Citizen journalism is becoming more prevalent and would appear to be going from strength to strength. The quality and abundance of camera phones is a huge contributor to this, now everyone has instant access to recording an event. Mark Little during his speech in DCU actually commented that phones now have the resolution of the 1990’s RTE television cameras.

An example of this is the riots in Iran after the controversial elections, the government banned foreign media due to the controversy and how it would hamper their international reputation. This was bypassed by plenty of protestors and broadcast over the internet for the world to see how Iran and its military treated people with the idea of democracy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment