Category Archives: an idea a day

Twitter As A Public Service

So I first thought of this idea when my AC Transit bus stop was moved to a different location for a night to accommodate one of President Barack Obama’s recent campaign fund raising events in Oakland. Being Oakland and all, someone had tore up the signs meant to direct transit riders to the correct spot to wait for the bus.

I was slightly confused, but navigated to the AC Transit website and sorted things out. But imagine if I could have gone to Twitter to find a post on the top of my stream from AC Transit warning me about all the temporary changes. Saves typing, which studies smartphone users hate doing.

The same issue has come up the last two evening rush-hour periods when BART trains had to be taken out of service, causing a systemwide delay heading eastbound. The platforms in downtown ended up getting very crowded.

Google Now is aiming to fix situations like this by using its brain to be your personal assistant, but that’s not going to sit well with everyone just yet.

Instead, transit agencies and pretty much all other public agencies should be taking advantage of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets product during special events. Twitter should guarantee public agencies positioning above and over private companies during these special events. The well-known problem with Twitter is that it moves so fast, stuff gets easily lost downstream. Promoted Tweets protect against that inherent service problem.

The thorny question is whether or not Twitter to promote itself as a public service should allow public agencies to take advantage of the Promoted Tweets offering for free. While it would stand to lose some regular revenues, it could gain goodwill with the public and potentially some users who would now see a practical application for Twitter.


Electrical Outlets On Public Transit

I am surprised there’s not more demand for regular 110V or USB-based charging stations on everyday municipal trains and buses. Sure, average transit times are about 30 minutes so the need for charging isn’t that great. Maybe, everyone who commutes is really smart and makes sure to charge their phones before jumping on the bus. But non-commuters and visitors would appreciate having one to two outlets per 25 seats.

Nearly all, if not all, of the major intercity bus operators in the states claim on their websites to have electrical outlets on buses in their fleet. Time for local public transit agencies to think bigger when ordering new buses and trains.

AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship Application Example

I sought some inspiration while applying for this award a few months ago but didn’t find much out there. Since I’m not eligible to apply again next year, I hope this helps someone out there in the future.

My project idea stemmed from a story I did for my broadcast journalism class, which was subsequently posted to Neon Tommy. I compared two schools — one in a rich area and one in a poor area. I wanted to do a follow-up about the school in the poor area to see how they were making use of dozens of federally funded netbooks. Seeing how tech-savvy these high schoolers in a low-income, minority-dominant area were, I wanted to figure out a way to get them to engage with the news through the technology they used. What followed was this proposal.

I wish:

  • I had gotten started on it sooner.
  • Been able to do some market research…aka interview some of the kids about my idea. Include the thoughts of the teacher I am working with at the high school.
  • Had some design outlines for what my product might look like.

As they say, preparation is the key in anything. The lightbulb went off late in the process, and my preparation was lacking.

But I really liked the distribution innovations I brought to the table, and the judges seemed too as well because I earned a phone interview in early March. After overcoming some technical glitches trying to connect to New York City from Auckland, I chatted via online phone with the Online News Association’s Irving Washington and the AP’s Shazna Nessa for about 30 minutes. Though generally pleased with the interview, I think I fumbled one question about my technical expertise in putting a mobile app together. There was silence on the other end of the line for a couple of moments. In hindsight, I would have liked to return to that question after the next one by saying something like, “I perceived my response to the previous question as being different from what you were expecting. Could you perhaps elaborate on what I may have failed to include my response?”

At the end of March, I received an email saying I wasn’t selected. This past week, the winners were officially revealed online.

I’m excited to see all the proposals come to life and learn from the final creations. It’s cool that the winners are very diverse range of personalities. I really like the idea about the Emmys. I thougtĀ  that was very out-of-the-box as opposed to the politically focused ideas. I wish the ONA posted the full entries online so we could all learn from them. Maybe some of the other finalists will blog about their experiences? Anyway, congrats to the big winners!

Things I Want To Do On Facebook That I Don’t Think Can

1. Favorite or bookmark posts. Why? To note them for later reading, so I don’t have to open up a browser tab immediately. Just save things for memory sakes or for showing someone later in the day or for easy finding when switching between devices.

2. Search through your likes with a sorting tool. Why? So I can see every article I have liked on, sorted by date. Or find every article on ehow that I like or every picture that includes friend X that I have liked.

Advertising On L.A.’s Hiking Trails

Maybe you’re just supposed to know the route or communicate with those already on the trails. Even so, it would be nice if some of the trails in the Griffith Park/Mt. Lee area had some signs of where different forks lead to. Even the streets in the communities below could have some signs pointing confused drivers in the right direction.

The city’s low on cash, so who could fund all of these signs? Why not an outdoors sporting goods company such as REI?

REI enjoyed its best year on record in 2010. Even some smaller companies could jump on board like Bobble, which manufactures water bottles with tiny filters integrated into them. Throw on a couple QR codes and you have yourself a cool private sponsorship. It wouldn’t be too different from putting ads all over trash cans and lifeguard towers and vehicles at the beach.