Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Google Sites

My reactions to Google Sites is not bad at all.

I can see why the more sophisticated website designer or whatever might be hesitant or dissatisfied with the website building software. It is basic.

But, I can see why. It's meant to be un-intimidating to the non-designer. I feel that it can create a fine looking website. It seems like the creator won't have much room for creativity but still, a good option for someone looking to create a legitimate website without much knowledge of say, Dreamweaver or HTML coding.

If this is the site we will be using to re-create our crappy website, then I don't think it will be a problem. The site is so bad as it is I'm sure anything we do will be an improvement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Good Website and A Bad Website

I'll start with the bad website, and unfortunately, it's the official website of my favorite band, The Eagles of Death Metal (that's me with the lead singer in the avatar) .


This website needs a lot of work. It's so basic! There is about as little info on this website as possible for it to be considered a website. It acts more like a fan forum, which is fine, but numerous bands have tons of fan-centric websites that have message boards, fan photo uploads and the like. This is the band's official page! I need a band history, I need official lyrics, I need more legitimate information from this band, period.

Here's a website that's so good it's scary: The Internet Movie Database


I've noticed that this site has changed it's aesthetics over the past year or so and added a lot more features. However, I don't think this has deterred from the website (i.e., over-cluttering) but instead has just broadened its usability. Basically, it has a lot of info in easily digestible pieces, the formatting is clean and simple, the navigation is clean and logical but not "too" connected. It's also OFFICIAL, which is a huge plus. I has forums and message boards, but that's secondary to the real facts.

Palmquist Chapter 17 Reactions

As an avid and long-time user of websites, I found much of the information in the reading understood already. I have dabbled in web design and I work extensively in the Web format, for fun and professionally.

What stood out to me was the intricate diagrams of website organizational structure. I found that I had experienced this in designing DVD menus. Simple DVD menus use a linear format (like if I were to create a DVD for a short film I had made with few links) whereas more complicated ones (like the ones on professional consumer DVDs) use a hierarchal organization. Having seen the actual formatting of such a concept before, it really intrigued me when I thought of how it applied to something massive, like a website. It would be quite a task to design the linked navigation of a site's pages, if they have a "breadcrumb trail", if they use a navigational bar at the top of each page, or if one must click the homepage link to get back to where they started.

Other than that, I must say that most of this chapter was mostly common sense to me. I fully understand the importance of simplicity, not only for the sake of the user but for the sake of one's computer drivers working extra hard to load complex page designs. I'm a big fan of the informational flags and I wish every website used them. Consistency, clarity, and logic are the key values of creating a well-functioning website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wikitravel: The Bad

When first faced with this project, I must admit I was apprehensive. We were asked to list three places about which we felt knowledgeable. So naturally I thought of my hometown and the only place I've ever really lived, Warwick, Rhode Island. The problem was that Warwick is epically boring. I know that compared to probably thousands of cities and towns, Warwick is worthy of writing, but I checked out the Wikitravel page on Warwick and found it to be completely accurate. And boring. Needless to say, I wasn't going to go there.

Fortunately, I knew that Providence was the second-most comfortable place for me. As I stated in the previous post, the page for Providence is enormous but luckily I found plenty to write about.

I was very glad I didn't have to create a new page, that I'm not from a small, unknown town, because starting from scratch would have created a lot more work for me and who knows if I would have had anything to say?

I did run into one very unusual and somewhat bizarre problem with this project. Here's what happened: Like I said in the previous post, the "History" section for Providence was blank, so I knew that I would be taking on writing something for that spot. Naturally, I first looked to Wikipedia.org to get an idea for my entry. I took some notes based on what was written, like the chronological order of the information (starting from the city's inception, through time until current day) and major points of interest (dates, industries of notability, Buddy Ciani, etc.)

I then began to draft my own, condensed version of Providence's history. When I felt like I had enough info, not too long and not too short, I posted it into Wikitravel. I did this with the "Climate" section as well, using Wikipedia.org for important points and re-writing it to fit Wikitravel's audience.

Well, within about 2 minutes of posting in Wikitravel, I noticed a glowing red dot next to the "talk" link at the top of the Wikitravel page. Basically, some user named Peter something or other had flagged my posts as plagiarism of Wikipedia.org. I was shocked and really personally offended. My posts which I had spent a good amount of time writing were instantly taken down.

I responded to Peterwhatever and said, "While I did reference Wikipedia.org for the basic information on my postings, I in no way plagiarized the webpage." Peter guy responded saying that the paragraphical format and certain words I used were too similar to the Wikipedia page of Providence's history. He said that it's a violation to do what I did, but probably tried to sweeten the scold by saying "We do want you to take a crack at writing your own history section because there isn't one!" I was very, very pissed. I had written my own. Accusations of plagiarism are not minor, not to me.

So I re-read my post draft and made as many modifications as I could, including shortening it considerably. I figured Wikitravelers really wouldn't care about a detailed history of Providence anyway. Ditto for climate. I re-posted, and with great paranoia stared at the top of the page for the glowing red dot to appear again. Thankfully, it did not.

Wikitravel: The Good

This Wikitravel project turned out well, in my opinion.

I chose to modify that page of Providence, Rhode Island. I enjoyed reading what the page had to offer and found instantly that there was room for improvement. For instance, pages of large cities and state capitols tend to have lots of information, of course. Providence, being both of those things as well as a city of early historical importance, needed a "History" section. The page as it was had nothing there! It was a great opportunity for me to take it upon myself to write up a brief history of Providence to include on the Wikitravel page. The "Climate" section was the same situation.

As I read, I noticed how much was missing from Providence through my perspective. I spend a lot of time on the East Side and in the arts/alternative scene and found only a bit of information in those areas. Mostly, the page included lots of stuff about the business districts and Federal Hill. I knew for a fact that at least 2 festivals and a handful of restaurants and bars were missing that young travelers like myself would like to know about. So, in this case, I was happy to include my own info with ease.

I also was excited when I saw that the page didn't include my favorite, little-known museum in Providence, the Natural History Museum and Cormack Planetarium at the Roger Williams Park. Not only is it fun, but it's EXTREMELY family oriented and would be a very valuable knowledge for families traveling with small children. It's small, under-appreciated places that need recognition on these Wikitravel places, so I was happy to contribute what I knew.

The page was so massive and full of info that it seemed almost overwhelming to add to. I also know for a fact that could have added at least 10 more entries, but I didn't have the time and didn't really need to make more work for myself. In total, I contributed:
A history section
A climate section
A museum and planetarium
2 Festivals
2 Restaurants
2 Bars

and like I said, I could have added so much more!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Post Drafts

1. Providence's History

Providence was settled by Roger Williams in June of 1636, making it one of the thirteen original colonies of the United States. The land was previously occupied by the Narragansett natives. Providence was created as a refuge for those persecuted for their religion, as Williams had been exiled from Massachusetts for abhorring Puritanism.

The British government impeded Providence’s growth in the mid-1770s with levied taxation upon the pivotal maritime, fishing and agricultural industries. An example is the Sugar Act, in which a tax was levied against Providence's distilleries that negatively affected slave and rum trade. Such taxes were the cause of Providence’s joining the allegiance against the British Crown. This led to the famous Gaspee Affair of 1772, in with the residents of Providence led the first violent attack of the American Revolution. Brown University’s University Hall was famously used as a barracks and military hospital during this time.

After the war, Providence’s economical industries changed from maritime enterprises to manufacturing, especially machinery, tools, jewelry and textiles. Once touting some of the largest manufacturing plants in the US, Providence was the country’s ninth-largest city. Such industries drew many immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, England, Italy, Portugal, Cape Verde and French Canada, all of which greatly contribute to the demographical populations of the state today.

The jewelry industry boomed in the 1920s, employing new immigrants coming from Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian backgrounds. The Great Depression hit hard economically, leading to population decreases and a decline of nationwide trends. The 1950s through the 1980s saw a tremendous rise in organized crime, of which Providence was notorious. Mafia boss Raymond L. S. Patriarca ruled the Providence mob scene. 

The “Renaissance City” got its nickname in the 1970s, starting with the investment of millions of local and national funds throughout the city, which helped stabilize falling populations. In the 1990s, Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Ciani Jr. pushed for an emphasis on the city’s strength in the arts and revitalized the city’s natural landscape. He uncovered Providences' rivers, relocated a large section of the railroad underground, created the now famous Waterplace Park and river walks, and sanctioned the construction of the Bank of America Skating Rink and the sprawling Providence Place Mall. 

2. Climate

Providence’s climate is between humid continental climate and humid subtropical climate. This means warm summers, cold winters and year-round high humidity. Providence, along with the rest of Rhode Island, is warmer than many other inland areas in New England due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.  On average, travelers can count on January to be the coldest month and July to be the warmest. The record high temperature in the city was 104 degrees F in 1975. The record low temperature in the city was -17 degrees F in 1934.

Providence receives abundant precipitation year round, as do all populations along the seaboard.  Summers are rainy, but winter months are known for the powerful Nor’easter storms that bring copious snowfall and blizzard conditions, albeit lesser than the northern New England states. Providence’s location at the head of the Narragansett Bay creates vulnerability to hurricanes, but such events are rare. 


The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium at Roger Williams Park:



Founded in 1896, the Museum of Natural History is Rhode Island’s only natural history museum and houses the state’s sole public planetarium.  The museum is modest in size, yet houses an impressive array of local selections:  birds, marine animals, insects, floral and faunal species, minerals, fossils and much more. Exhibits specializing in the tools and textiles of New England’s Native American populations can bee seen here.  It’s quaint colonial style of architecture is history lesson in itself. See the museum for a quiet and intimate learning experience. This museum is highly recommended for children, as it hosts tons of fun, interactive activities and workshops.

The Planetarium is free to visit at any time for browsing. The shows, at a cheap cost, are well worth it: the Planetarium offers multiple programs such as Cosmic Collisions, Field Trip to the Moon, Our Place In Space, Sky Views, and much more. Shows rotate often and are offered to both general and family audiences.  The planetarium now features a state of the art Zeiss star projector and an enlarged domed ceiling, which is able to show the starry sky and the motions of the planets at unprecedented detail. 

3 Wikitravel Tips

After reading through the Manual of Style, I think three tips for a new Wikitravel writing are:

1. If reading all of the explanations and directions is giving you a headache, just "plunge forward" and starting writing. You can always go back and re-format or tweak your articles. 

2. Structurally, there are more than one way to create a Wikitravel page, which you an check out on the website.  

3. They included parts about where to add Queer information on WIkitravel, and why it doesn't have its own header or category. Basically it just says to add "queer" in the appropriate headings, (queer friendly restaurants under Eat,   GLBT parades under Do.).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

3 Ideas for Wikitravel

Honestly, I don't feel very comfortable with this assignment. I have a great knowledge of Warwick, RI, my hometown, and there's nothing special about this place and everything there is to be said about it already exists on the Wiki page. I am more interested in Providence, and know a considerable amount of info about the city, and there are many things in the Wiki article that I could elaborate upon or add. 

1. Providence, RI
2. Warwick, RI  
3 ----

I can't think of another place that I know enough about. Like I said, there's nothing much to add in the Warwick page, and there's much to add to the Providence page. I know of restaurants, stores, attractions, events and nightlife that currently isn't included on the Wiki page. 

Monday, October 5, 2009


My first reactions to Wikitravel was that this seems like a very cool concept and something that could be extremely useful to me. I don't travel a ton, but as I'm getting older I'm more interested in traveling with my friends and something like Wikitravel could really maximize the potential of a trip. I think that an open-source website that's created entirely of real people's real experiences is a fantastic tool in planning a trip. I found the tone to be light and playful within the text, overall a very friendly environment. Looks good!