Mirror Magazine

Techno media democracy

Traditional news relies on savvy editorial staff to prioritise and publish content ‘hierarchically.’ There is editorial judgement imposed, and a small group of people decide what the masses will read on the front page. Blogs with their hype and flare, revolutionised this culture, and put the loudspeaker in the hands of the common man and woman, but the internet has only just begun its invasion into mass media.

Social bookmarking sites have been around at least since 1996 on itList.com, where shared lists of user-created internet bookmarks are displayed. Within the next three years, online bookmark services became competitive, with venture-backed companies like Blink, Hotlinks, Backflip and others entering the market. Lacking viable models for making money, most of this early generation of social bookmarking companies failed as the dot-com bubble burst. Today, with sites such as Digg.com, users decide what they want on the front page every day. The top-level headlines are the result of thousands of daily votes. Sure, there is a lag time of several days as people take the time to sift through many proposed news articles. But the results are a much better representation of the readers' interests and needs.

Members of these bookmarking sites go through a simple cycle of news sifting. Firstly, users submit what they think to be valuable news articles that they find on the internet. These submissions then go into a queue, where other diggers skim and read these submissions. Diggers then vote on what is valuable to them, along with optional comments they can add to the news article. Within a few days, if the news article received several dozen positive votes, it is then promoted to the front pages.

User-voted news serves a different purpose than traditional news. Instead of a small circle of experts deciding what is important, the mass of readers makes that decision. Like any democratic system, the model is flawed and can bog down in debate and drawn-out discussion. But like any democratic system, the long-term results are so much more representative of what the masses want. These social bookmarking sites offer a glimpse of the true interests of the masses, and who would benefit more from such insights than commercial media!

Write in with your views to technopage@gmail.com



Kids online

“Age matters” in how well kids understand the internet, writes Zheng Yan, EdD. Yan is an Assistant Professor at the University of Albany's School of Education. In a survey that included 322 elementary and middle-school kids, the students were quizzed about the internet's technical and social complexity. In terms of understanding the internet, kids' age was more important than gender, history of internet use, frequency of internet use and participation in informal classes. Michigan State University's Linda Jackson, PhD, and colleagues studied 140 children from low-income families, who had never had home internet access. The kids received home computers and free internet access for nearly a year and a half. The researchers checked the kids' grades and test scores before and after the study. The kids with the greatest home internet use had higher grade-point averages and reading test scores at six months, one year, and 16 months of home access. The opposite wasn't true. That is, the kids with the highest grades and reading scores before the study didn't use the internet more than other children.

Back from the dead
Scantily clad archaeologist Lara Croft is back for more danger and hidden treasure in Tomb Raider: Legend. This game revives a long-suffering franchise. The decline began with two dismal movies starring Angelina Jolie: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life in 2003. Also in 2003 came Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness, with its tedious controls and glitchy graphics. It seemed as if Croft's glory days from a decade ago were over. But with Legend, Eidos Interactive has liberated this brainy super heroine by letting Croft do what she does best: raid tombs for treasure, solving puzzles along the way. The controls are more crisp and precise than they've ever been: Croft jumps, slides and dangles off cliffs and swinging vines like a circus acrobat (though swimming is still a bit clunky). As the name implies, Legend explores some of Croft's roots, beginning with a plane crash with her mother in the Himalayas, when she was just nine. Then there's some odd story involving sword fragments, but really this isn't a game you'll buy for a deep plot.


Web watch


This website is a brilliant concept and unlike many sites of its kind, it doesn't rely on interviews and literal descriptions to get its message across. Instead inspireme.tv asks artistes and designers to create their own short films filled with the images and places that get their creative juices flowing. The movies are quite abstract, as you'd expect. Interpretations are left wide open, presumably in the hope that you'll find your own inspiration in their content. Click ‘about’ to read a bit more about the intentions of the site's creator.


Ten useful downloads

1. VLC media player


Much better than Real Player or Windows Media Player, and will play a greater breadth of file types.

2.Picasa digital photo organiser


Outstanding usefulness for any digital camera owner.

3.Thunderbird Email Client


A fine alternative to Outlook email.



A shareware product, WinRar outpaces WinZip, because of its ability to open more file formats.

5. Audacity audio editor


For recording radio songs, creating voicemail messages, ringtones, and more....

6. Fox It .pdf reader


Faster and more reliable than Adobe.

7. Firefox web browser


Simply put, this is better than IE for daily web browsing.

8.Skype communication software


Add a headset and you make free or very cheap long distance calls from your computer.

9. Google Earth


The power of satellite photography, GPS tracking, and the Internet, all in one screen!

10. Open Office


Spreadsheet, word processing, and presentations software that is two-thirds as good as Microsoft Office 2003, and absolutely free


Internet telephony

Internet telephony is a category of hardware and software that enables people to use the internet, as the transmission medium for telephone calls. For users who have free or fixed-price internet access, internet telephony software essentially provides free telephone calls anywhere in the world. To date, however, internet telephony does not offer the same quality of telephone service as direct telephone connections. There are many internet telephony applications available. Some, like CoolTalk and NetMeeting, come bundled with popular web browsers. Others are stand-alone products such as Skype and Net2Phone. Internet telephony products are sometimes called IP telephony, Voice Over the Internet (VOI) or Voice Over IP (VOIP) products.


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