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Three Inspiring Website Designs

I’ve decided to create a personal portfolio site to showcase all my works, along with my arts, illustrations, advertisement designs and multimedia projects.

 

I really enjoy clicking through the website of Chris Woods. I love the fluidity and the minimalism. They show the photos as they are, and do not provide any text explaining the stories behind. The homepage is only made up of twelve zoomed-in black and white photographs, and when you hover your mouse over the photo, it darkens and zoomed out. Another fascinating part about the website is how you navigate through it: instead of going back to a side bar, you click on the edge of the website to navigate around it. I’d like to achieve similar simplicity in my portfolio site.

 

Another website I admire is corvusart.com. It is a website for web design company. Compared to Chris Wood’s site, Corvusart has a more standardized layout. In the homepage, the company has a bar with all the links on the top, a slideshow, some sample works and a design quote form at the bottom of the page. I like how they stylizes the standard layout with beautiful visuals in the background in earthy tones. I think I’d adopt similar color tones and layout in my portfolio site.

 

The insidepiet.com is one of the most intriguing website I’ve ever seen. The interactivity and the animations are dazzling. It’s a piece of art on its own. However, the layout is too confusing for a portfolio site, I had trouble finding the menu button with all that distracting graphics and interactions. Therefore, in my website, I would make sure that it is user-friendly and the backgrounds are distracting.

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Twitter and Facebook: Our New Form of Newspaper

In the past, people rely on the newspaper delivered every morning to have their daily dose of news. As technology advanced, more and more people get their news delivered by social media such as Facebook and Twitters.

I decided to follow CNN and Fox News on both Facebook and Twitter for a week to observe how social media affects the quality of news delivered.

Instead of displaying every story’s title and content for people to screen through, Facebook and Twitter provide a brief summary of the stories, followed by links to more detailed info.

Twitter, due to its briefness, can deliver the latest update rapidly.

For instance, on March 28, Obama addressed the situation in Libya. CNN and Fox News each had twenty-two and fifteen tweets on Mar 28, whereas their Facebook pages only had three and two updates.

However, I prefer Facebook’s layout over Twitter’s. Not only it provides a clear title and more detailed summary of the story, the photo captures the readers’ attention and motivate them to click for more information.

Before using Twitter and Facebook to access news, I always searched the news on Google or visit the New York Times website.

Though the websites provide more detailed information, they simply don’t supply the same level of convenience.

I notice how Fox News attempted to spice up its Facebook page with entertaining news such as (e.g. “Just for Fun: Susan Lucci shows Brian Kilmeade how to perform the perfect on-screen kiss” on Fox News Facebook), which I think is a waste of space.

If I can change the company, I would make this well-respected News organization more particular in their choice of news on social media, and focused only the most prominent stories, such as Japan nuclear crisis and Libyan war.

I believe Twitter is a  great tool for readers and journalists who demands the latest and fastest news updates, who are not afraid of information overload. Facebook, on the other hand, is for leisure readers who cares more about the new’s quality than the speed.

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Saint Louis’ Decline: The result of ill-planned policies

Sixty years ago, St. Louis was a thriving city with a population of 856,796, but the population has been declining ever since. The 2010 Census shows that the population has dropped to 319,294.

“I have never seen a downtown so deserted, with some parts almost look like a wasteland,” said Eileen Baker, a St. Louis resident and a frequent traveler.

She regards the St. Louis downtown as an eyesore of the otherwise serene and beautiful Greater St. Louis. Block after block of boarded buildings scatter across the abandoned lands and deteriorating streets.

St. Louis has not always been like this.

For more than a hundred years, St. Louis was the heart of commerce and manufacturing of America, according to a historical research on the city’s official website. Locating next to the Mississippi River, many goods are transported from Gulf of Mexico, and delivered across United States

This is Laclede Ave, St. Louis, in the 1950s, a period of economic transformation. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis University)

Thriving business attracted people and big companies from all over the country, and made St. Louis the fourth largest U.S. city in 1870, 1900 and 1910.

The Economic Decline and more?

After the 1950s, however, many industrial cities experienced a huge economic and population decline. St. Louis was the most affected one, about 61% residents left the Saint Louis city, a number more than Pittsburgh, Detroit and Cleveland, according to Wendell Cox, a three term member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) .

The number hinted that there are more underlying problems, such as public policies and local government structure that contributed to the downfall of downtown St. Louis:

Housing Policies:

  • Discriminatory Housing Policies

Between 1916 to 1948, there were multiple realtors agreements and deed covenants  made to prohibit homeowners from selling, leasing or renting by African Americans, wrote Colin Gordon, a history professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in his book Mapping Decline.

With the deed restrictions, the African Americans were forced to concentrate in a small north-side neighborhood not covered by the restrictions, straining the neighborhood. Subsequently, many middle-class Caucasian Americans moved into suburban countries in the 1940s to 1950s.

The middle class’s outward migration created a significant demographic change in the city by concentrating all the lower class in St. Louis city, said Dr. Daniel Monti, a professor of Public Policy Studies in Saint Louis University, specialized in Urban Community, Culture and Redevelopment.

  • The Home Mortgage Deduction:

The National Housing Act of 1934, which created the Federal Housing Administration, made housing and home mortgage more affordable after the Great Depression.

Many St. Louis residents moved to the suburbs to acquire houses that are more spacious and affordable, said Dr Scott Cumming, the professor of Public Policy Studies and the director of Midwest Center for Policy Research and Evaluation.

  • Housing Act of 1949:

The Housing Act of 1949 provided federal financing for slum clearance programs across the country. Its first title “authorizes the Housing and Home Finance Administrator to make loans and grants to localities to assist locally initiated, locally planned, and locally managed slum-clearance and urban redevelopment understakings.”

Consequentially, the St. Louis government cleared many neighborhoods and redeveloped between 1953 and 1986, said Dr Robert Cropf, the chair of the Department of Public Policy Studies in Saint Louis University.

Dr Robert Cropf, the Department Chair of Public Policy studies, explains the decline of downtown St. Louis. (Photo by Peony Lee)

The Busch Stadium, for instance, was built after a Chinese community was cleared, wrote Steve Patterson in Urban Review STL.

“Though the intention was to create a better environment, the policy destroyed the social fabric, broke the thriving communities apart, and drove people away,” Cropf added.

  • Ill-planned Housing Projects

After destroying the slums, St. Louis government relocated the residents in public housing projects, including the Pruitt-Igoe.

The condensed poverty turned Pruitt-Igoe project into crime-infested neighborhood, harboring gang violence, domestic abuse, and all the other problems that came with poverty, according to Dr Scott Cumming.

Flawed Government Structure

  • The Fragmented Government

The St. Louis is known for having a fragmented government structure. There are 91 municipalities, not counting St. Louis. The duplicated services and divided government made St. Louis failed to plan their future economy as a collective region, according to Monti.

This not only made coordinating services delivery very difficult, it is also wasting valuable tax dollars that could otherwise be spent for redevelopments, Cummings added.

  • The Split of the City and the County

In 1876, St. Louis City became independent from St. Louis County because the voters did not want to spend its tax dollars on infrastructures on the sparsely populated county, according to Aimee Levitt from Riverfront Times.

Monti pointed out that the short-sighted decision had a lasting effect on the city of Saint Louis by separating it from the resources in the suburbs.

Since the middle-class outward migrations in 1940s to 1950s, the city has a larger share of the area’s poor, while the county retains all the tax revenue.

“The demands on the city in terms of fighting crime, maintaining infrastructure and schools and providing public housing steadily increased, but its ability to earn money through property taxes collapsed.” Gordon commented in an interview.

Despite the decline in economy and population, the St. Louis government continues to redevelop the downtown, one step at a time. The construction workers are paving the roads on Olive Street, St. Louis. (Photo by Peony Lee)

“The government has backed away from dealing with all these urban issues because of the deficit.” Monti said.

The downfall of downtown St. Louis is not only the result of a nation-wide economic shift, but a series of ill-planned public policies and a decentralized government.

“There is too much to fix all at once, but there is not enough money to fix,” said Cummings.

 

The Pruitt-Igoe project is shown in the upper left corner of this e bird’s-eye view of downtown St. Louis in 1950s. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis University)

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Jason Voorhees Rocked Hard in St. Louis Metal Fest

Ten local and national bands performed at the Pop’s 2 Stage Metal Fest on Saturday, February 12, 2011. Ari Lehman, who portrayed young Jason Voorhees in the classic horror Friday the 13th, was rocking hard with his band First Jason. The video features a local black metal band, Hail to the Fallen, playing at the show.

 

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Who is reading your blog?

Thanks for the communal nature of Internet and the diversity of blog themes, blog readers can range from children to old professors, from mothers to professionals. Nonetheless, the content of the blogs determines who is going to read the blogs. For instance, those follow the rules of search engine optimization are more likely to have guest readers stumbled upon their blogs. Those with high quality content attract the niche readers.

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Predicting the Future of Journalism

#1 One day, all printed media will be digitalized

Nick Bogaty, executive director of the International Digital Publisher Forum, had said that in order for ebooks to thrive, they must meet the following four conditions: 1. a device that makes reading pleasurable, 2. Content at the right price, 3. Great selection of content, 4. User-friendly. Thanks to more and more great ebook readers, including Kindle, Sony Digital Book and Ipad, flooding into the market,  they are definitely getting closer to these goals.

In fact, Amazon.com has announced that its ebook sales surpass its hardcopy sales in 2010. The cofounder of Journalism Online, Steven Brill predicts that in 2011 printed media like magazines can become digitalized, and sell in a form of mini-ebook.  It is not hard to understand the foreseeable success of ebooks: one can access a huge library of information in a light and small product, and don’t have to risk marking the pages. Maybe in 20-30 years, I believe, all the printed media will be replaced by its more efficient, digitalized version.

#2 We are paying for quality contents, again

In the midst of media convergence, one-time media giants like UBS Universe and The New York Times must rethink their strategies in monetizing their web-based forms. Or else, they would end up filing bankruptcies like Tribune Co., the owner of LA. Times. In fact, The New York Times is ready to launch its paywall, where they can stop relying on selling page views and ad revenue, and simply charge people for online access to its articles.

Interesting enough, that’s the way the media deliver information before Internet, where people pay for their hard copies of news. Nowadays, we are so spoiled by the Internet that paying for news seem to be a innovation. A survey from BusinessInsider shows that up to 78% people are unwilling to pay for the $9.99 for 1 month of unlimited internet access for NYTimes.

The trend of paying for internet content does not end with news.  Last year, Hulu.com had decided to charge people for a greater range of videos. However, a survey by lifehacker.com reveals that most people would rather go back to BitTorrent to download TV series than to pay for it.  And Steven Brill ever predicts that in 2011, people will commission and sell magazine articles from top writers.

But we might as well get use to paying for quality materials, again. I believe when organizations become more skilled in monetizing the webs again, everything will back to the way it used to be.

#3 Future of Journalism relies on Social Media

We have all experienced first-hand how how social and mobile have  redefined our news reading/watching experience. Twitter and Facebook become platforms for newsgathering where there are unfiltered eyewitness accounts in real-time. For example, when Haiti was devastated by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, many locals usedtwitters to show their situation to the world. Many news organizations have also been using these social platforms for distribution and engagement. The CNN Breaking News twitter, for instance, give us a glimpse of the latest news, and encourage viewers to comment, facilitate the interaction between the news crews and viewers.

The social media has become so influential that we cannot underestimate the power of social referral, where people click into a link their friends have posted. I absolutely agree with the prediction of Ken Doctor, an analyst of Newsonomics, that social media–dominated by Facebook and Twitter–will become the fastest growing source of news traffic. And it is highly possible that news publishers can “count 5-15 percent of their traffic” from them, making search/Google referrals less important.” Facebook obviously understand this power, and created a new feature “Sponsored Stories” that will turn your profile into a commercial ad.

There is no doubt that the social platforms will play a big part in the future of journalism.

 

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Blog#2 The Media Evolution

Today the news is transforming in warp speed, with information so available and accessible, the research of The States of the News Media shows us that readers no longer goes to news organization for news, we hunt the news through multiple outlets.

As Maxwell McCombs has pointed out in The Future of News: An Agenda of Perspectives, medium is merely a distribution system, it does not matter whether it is through TV, newspaper or internet, it is the content, usefulness and convenience people value most. Therefore, the birth of new technologies (e.g. Iphone), which allow readers to access the latest news or upload first-handed materials ubiquitously, quickly replace the printed medias as our main sources of news and entertainment.

It also signifies the era of user-generated materials, where bloggers, youtubers and citizen journalists thrives in creating new contents. To survive in of these explosions of contents, Steve Rosenbaum suggested that media must adopt a new model of communication; instead of aiming at a mass audience, they shall aim at niche audiences by creating quality contents that has depth and breadth.

Like the evolution in nature, only the medias that can adapt to changes and improve themselves will survive. But worry not, the future of media will simply be better. It will provide more diverse, detailed and objective information.

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