Small Print Project Wins Award at USC Webfest

I was both honored and surprised to learn that The Small Print Project, a Web site I created as a class project, took second place in the Academic category at the University of Southern California’s annual Webfest.

They gave me a certificate at an awards banquet at which Mimi Ito gave a short presentation, and, I’ll even be receiving a cash award, believe it or not.

The project lives on although submissions are only trickling in at this point….

Thanks to Cory for his support on the project (which I did for the class he taught).

Google Maps Over-Easy

There have been other, better, web apps for making maps out there, notably Platial, Mapbuilder, and more recently Atlas.

But they all rely on geotagging databases and map interfaces acquired via Google and Yahoo APIs, so — why not go straight to the source? My Maps is so easy, Google insists, that even a caveman could do it. I love the fact that Google is marketing itself as the Web app creator for the Internet caveman, and I’m sure their stockholders do too.

This is pretty cool — now when I post video — I can really place it. On the map below I pinpoint exactly where Barack Obama stood when he spoke at a rally in February in Los Angeles. Click on the placemark and you can watch the video I shot, in which many attendees spoke up. And it even allowed me to embed the Revver script Actually, on second look, it appears to be blocking the Revver video, even though it originally worked, as evidenced by the screenshot below. I will place a second placemark with the video via (much lower quality) YouTube next to the first.

Google Earth was never a very user-friendly app until now — now that anyone can incorporate their own data, mark up their own maps, photos, etc and fly around it in Earth. Dan Gillmor says the maps are about to go “super-mainstream,” to which I’ll emphatically add — bring it on. The use of maps in mashup web sites and applications like flickr and upcoming are growing in popularity and functionality… but Google’s move with My Maps opens the door to more community based content and mashups — like Yahoo has with upcoming and flickr — and hopefully this will lead to more collaboration and the opening of APIs — enabling greater depth to visual storytelling and data, with increased drag ‘n’ drop simplicity.

For now, Google thrusts ahead with one key feature — all publicly shared MyMaps are geo-indexed via the associated KML file for Google’s local search engine and for use on GEarth. And it goes both ways — now all KML files created in Earth can be searched on GMaps. As Brady Forrest points out, no other mapping app does this.

Here’s the user guide. Or go play by visiting maps.google.com and clicking MyMaps. But, while you can export your map directly into Google Earth and save the KML — essentially reverse engineering the geodata to addresses — there doesn’t seem to be a simple module for uploading batch data, such as census data, or a list of addresses and even geocodes of the nearest grocery stores. Would that be too infringing on Google’s so called metadata and search product?

Mathew Ingram fears that this indeed may be a lock-in tactic by the great GOOG. Andy Beal also cautions that this may be another example of Google reigning in their API and kicking the others in the gut.

As Jason Calacanis posted this morning, Google is almost threatening in their language banning metasearching, in spite of the fact that it has rarely gone to court. Google deserves all the credit they get, but as they are kings of search, I mean, do you have to get picked up by Google Labs to legitimately experiment with the data? Ah, but I digress…

Jailed Blogger Josh Wolf Uploads Video, is Free

After 226 days in federal prison, and nearly two weeks after his father began a “non-stopvigil, Josh Wolf is free.

Wolf was jailed for longer than any journalist in U.S. history for protecting source material requested by the feds. Wolf refused to turn over video he shot of a chaotic 2005 San Francisco street protest during the G-8 summit. The courts issued him a subpoena after parts of the video (originally posted at IndyBay) were picked up by the mainstream media.

After posting the full, unedited video on his Web site (also embedded below), the prosecution announced that Wolf had complied with the terms of the grand jury subpoena, and the judge approved his release.

“Journalists absolutely have to remain independent of law enforcement,’ he said as he left the prison. “Otherwise, people will never trust journalists.’

In his post accompanying the video (which he uploaded to Blip.tv), Wolf wrote:

During the course of this saga I have repeatedly offered to allow a judge to be the arbiter over whether or not my video material has any evidentiary value. Today, you the public have the opportunity to be the judge and I am confident you will see, as I do, that there is nothing of value in this unpublished footage.

Blogging and Sports

I was kind of struck by this article in the NY Times yesterday. Most of the controversy in international sport seems to stem from corruption at the highest levels of the organizations be it FIFA or the IOC. But, according to this article, athletes at the Pan Am Games in Brazil this summer will be banned from blogging. I find this kind of appalling as it entirely counters the history of sport as a form of entertainment. For no reason that I can deduce, this practice of banning blogging, which has spread to Rugby and the Olympics as well, only shortchanges the sports world (it’s few stars and billions of fans) in this digital age of increased interactivity and transparency.

Or, as a sports ethics researcher says in the article, “The danger is that no real discussion about events on and off the sports field can take place, reducing us to millions of passive sports-consuming robots.”

Some obvious examples point out the idiocy of this policy. Politicians now engage with their constituents online, as do musicians and other celebrities… Washington Post columnists are expected to participate in live online chat’s with readers.

In fact, today’s athletes and global icons should be encouraged to blog. They deserve the opportunity to add dimensions to their personalities why are already so public. Eventually this could influence society into thinking that American Idol isn’t the pinnacle, but in fact is about as irrelevant a form of expression as an assist in soccer or Donald Trump’s egotastical media contribution, The Apprentice.

Researchers like Jane McGonigal believe the future of games, particularly of games in education, government or industry, might well lie in players’ ability to work together to solve problems. This extends to both ubiquitous, online games and virtual worlds and in real-life gaming and sport.

Ah, but I ramble. Some interesting sport-celeb blogs include the NBA’s Gilbert Arenas’ Agent Zero Blog. Nate(dogg) Robinson’s The gr8 Life blog is excellent. The Bulls’ Ben Gordon blogs on his MySpace page, UFC fighter Evan Tanner is also on MySpace. There are NFL player blogs, (also a good read — the archived entries of former NFL player Ricky Williams.