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The LJS is Feeling Cynical Today

December 5, 2006 at 3:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Mr. T took at look at JournalStar.com just a few minutes ago and ran across this odd headline in the sports section. Just a little cynical, don’t you think?

An odd sports headline

Bruning Says: Lock Up Yer Kids!

December 5, 2006 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Have you heard the obnoxious, over-the-top, everybody-freak-out radio ad from Jon Bruning’s office on the topic of child predators? It’s awful. The ad breathlessly declares that your children are threatened by child-raping sickos thousands (sic) of times every day. It’s so over the top that until Bruning himself started speaking, I was convinced it was some sort of morning show prank.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing amusing about sexual predators, and parents and kids do need to be aware of the dangers. But whipping out your best Chicken Little impression definitely isn’t the best way to spread the word. Besides, the threat from random strangers on the web is dramatically overstated. Most sex crimes are committed by family members or acquaintances of the victim. The biggest threat to children isn’t some faceless freak living in his mom’s basement. But then, it’s easier to think that way than to consider the possibility that an uncle, a babysitter, or *gulp* a parent could be the culprit.

I couldn’t find the radio ad on the AG’s website—dear Lord that is an awful website!—but I did find these two videos. The videos aren’t as panic-laden as the radio ad, but they both fall into the “stereotypical freaky dude in his mom’s basement” trap.

Did You Recognize This Man?

December 5, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I opened the paper this morning, and I thought, “Hey, I know that guy!”

Bertram Goodhue

Don’t let it be said that my games aren’t educational!

The Digital Billboard Compromise

December 5, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I can live with the new digital billboard rules, which allow slightly brighter signs than previously proposed, but no animation. The rules are more restrictive than I would have allowed, but not so restrictive as to completely defeat the billboards’ purpose.

On a related note, the City Council legitimized Anderson Ford’s six year-old illegal sign. That’s a fair outcome, since the city screwed up by giving Anderson a permit for the sign in the first place.

JournalStar.com’s New Clothes

December 4, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

If you haven’t already noticed, JournalStar.com is sportin’ a new look today. The new design is much more like what one expects a news portal to be. It doesn’t break any new ground from a website design perspective, but that’s a good thing. A site like JournalStar.com needs to cater to its audience’s expectations about how a news site should work.

I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peak at JournalStar.com over the weekend, thanks to Online Editor Steve Smith. I gave Steve a variety of feedback on the new site. Here are some of the things I said.

General items—The interface is clean and simple. The columnar/modular approach makes the site feel more like a news site than the old design. The simple color scheme is consistently applied, with plenty of white space. Overall, it’s a nice, conservative look. Unfortunately, parts of the site “break” when viewed without advertisements. (I browse primarily with Firefox and the AdBlock extension.)

RSS—Many of you want to know the story on this, so I may as well break it to you now: JournalStar.com is staying away from RSS for now. I won’t quote Steve Smith on the matter (because I didn’t ask his permission to quote his e-mail), but I can say that RSS is on the radar. It didn’t make the site (for now) because of the fear that it will take away from page views. In other words: ad revenue is affected. I know, I know, you don’t care. You just want your RSS. So do I. Let’s do something about it: go on over to this thread in the forum and help me write a letter to the editor. When it is finished, I will send it to the Journal Star.

Navigation—The main menu at the top of each page is mostly well organized, but many of the items in the submenu under “Home” don’t make sense. (Who would look under “Home” for Celebrate Nebraska?) There is an annoying lag between the time you mouseover a menu item and when its respective submenu displays, although it’s probably there to prevent the menu from changing unexpectedly on accidental mouseovers.

Homepage—Having the weather and search at the top is nice. The homepage is a little busy, but there a lot of content needs to be squeezed into a small amount of space. It took me a while to figure out what the B* images are supposed to represent. (They represent connections to various LJS blogs.)

Section pages—Section pages are the main section (Sports, News) collector pages. They are laid out similarly to the homepage, which is nice for consistency’s sake. I’m not a fan of the blue header image at the top of the section pages, nor am I crazy about the “central” in “News Central”.

Subsection pages—These are pages like Local under News. They are mostly just lists of articles, with links to related information. They are simple and bland, which is probably the best way to do them.

Article pages—The article pages are structured so that the line length doesn’t get too long. That’s good for readability. The text size widget is kind of cool, but it would be more useful if it remembered your setting from page to page. Comments on the old site were ordered newest to oldest; I hope they change that for this version.

Subsites—JournalStar.com is filled with subsites, like Ground Zero Online and The 402. Unfortunately, most (all?) of those subsites currently have their own drastically different looks. I would really like to see those subsites brought under the site’s new design. Their look should be customized, of course, but within the confines of the new design.

Broken—Portions of the site are broken or missing right now. Watch your step as you navigate the site.

The Ugly—I hate it when websites open pop-ups or new windows, especially when I’m not told that that’s what is going to happen. JournalStar.com is guilty of the crime in several places throughout the site. It’s especially irksome because the annoying behavior doesn’t serve any useful purpose. Also, several parts of the site don’t work at all if the user doesn’t have JavaScript turned on. That doesn’t apply to most users, but it does apply to one very important group: individuals using assistive technologies like screen readers for the visually impaired. That is not acceptable. I’m not saying that because I’m on some sort of political correctness crusade; I’m saying it because the courts have said it isn’t acceptable. The courts are gradually expanding the group of websites that must accommodate persons with disabilities, and in my opinion JournalStar.com is either within or very nearly within that group. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.) Cover your butts, LJS.

Overall—Overall I think the new site works. It has a nicer look, it is better organized, and best of all, the Journal Star didn’t go with the Omaha Weird Herald’s stupid subscription format. It has a couple hiccups, but hopefully those will be fixed with time. Congratulations Steve Smith and company, you did well.

Friday Five

December 1, 2006 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Today’s Friday Five features five other things John Camp could have won had he decided to go for it:

  1. John Camp could have won the Tour de France, but he decided to allow his good friend Lance Armstrong give it a shot, since Lance’s post-cancer comeback made a nice story for the media.
  2. Camp could have won the National Spelling Bee, but he decided it was “a kids’ activity”.
  3. Camp was up for the Heisman, but he bowed out after some kid whined that he would “go back to Omaha and tell on you to my mom!”
  4. Camp could have had Tom Cruise as a mate, but the Scientology weirded him out. Camp suggested Tom go with his second best option, Katie Holmes, instead.
  5. John Camp could kick Chuck Norris‘s ass any day of the week, but Camp allows Norris to stay around because “it’s funny watching people fawn over such a nancy boy”.

Countdown

December 1, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Look for countdown crosswalk signals to be installed at every crosswalk downtown this week. In my experience the countdown signals help pedestrians make better choices about which flashing Don’t Walk signals to heed and which to ignore. The new signals cost $200,000.

Can You Hear Me Now?

December 1, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Yeah, yeah, the headline is tired. But what better way to (probably) welcome Verizon to town than with the company’s catchy-but-worn-out advertising phrase. According to the Journal Star’s “sources familiar with the project”, Verizon plans to build a call center in the tech park in northwest Lincoln. The call center would host some 800 jobs with starting salaries in the mid- to upper-20 thousand range. It’s not Intel, but it’s a good load of decent jobs. Welcome to town, folks!

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