1 comments Thursday, March 27, 2008

You could sense the excitement yesterday morning when an email went out from our fearless leader, Chip, informing us that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator himself, would be visiting The Tribune for a meeting with our editorial board.

The email went out around an hour and a half before Arnie was scheduled to arrive. No time to run home to get my copy of T2 – Judgment Day to have him sign it, and certainly not enough time to “set up live streaming video” as my boss, Sergio suggested. And it’s just as well I didn’t set it up – read on.

We decided that a good compromise to streaming video would be to have Larissa use our “shiny new camcorder” to videotape the meeting and edit it down to some highlights before posting it to the Website. Before that though, Larissa took some video of the protesters outside the building, and managed to get some shots of Arnie arriving at the Tribune office.

Not being on the editorial board, because I am a low-level peon, I didn’t get to meet him. I did, however, see him enter the building wearing a beige suit which was disappointingly less intimidating than the biker leathers and sunglasses, or partially uncovered endoskeleton in which I am accustomed to seeing him attired. He strode purposefully and directly from the main entrance to the conference room, waving and smiling. He muttered something indecipherable amid some half-hearted applause, entered the conference room and was then gone from sight.

Soon after that, Larissa left the conference room having been forcibly ejected by Arnie and his goons. OK, so maybe “forcibly ejected” isn’t the right phrase, but it sounds more interesting than “asked politely to leave”, doesn’t it? And perhaps “goons” might get me into trouble, so we’ll call them “security”, you know what I mean though. So, apparently when a movie star becomes a politician, they no longer want to have cameras pointed at them. Sadly then, we didn’t get to use the “shiny new camcorder” to videotape the meeting.

I will, however, work on figuring out a way to have live streaming video on the Website, just so we’re ready for the next time the T-800 visits us. I suppose in the meantime, I can set it up so that you guys can just watch me write code all day long. That’d be exciting, right?

1 comments Monday, March 24, 2008

For a while now, our reporting staff have been producing videos to accompany stories when appropriate, but until last week, they’ve always had to do so with either woefully substandard or mind-bogglingly technical equipment. That’s all changed now, because Sally managed to get them a shiny new digital camcorder.

After a couple of false starts, in which Larissa’s computer kept crashing, we managed to produce the first video using this camera, and so far it seems to be successful. If things work out the way we hope they will, then our reporters should be able to produce videos to accompany their stories more often.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written an incredibly witty and entertaining blog post about Larissa and my trip to the Pismo Police Department, it’s because we haven’t gone yet. I’m beginning to suspect that maybe Larissa has something to hide, because all I’ve heard from her is that the chief is “out this week”. I think that’s a thinly veiled way of saying “we can’t go because I am wanted in connection with several unsolved murders/bank robberies/jay walking incidents”. Time will tell.

All last week, I was working on a new and (hopefully) much improved winery listing, which should allow us to provide more details about the wineries as well as information on events to be held there. I think I’m getting close to being done, so we should be releasing that in the next week or so.

A couple of weeks ago, a reader left a comment on the community site complaining about the Flash content on sanluisobispo.com taking too long to load. I’ve spent some time looking at this and we may have a solution. It’ll take a bit of testing to make sure it works correctly, but we should be able to make the Flash content load after the rest of the page, making the actual content load much faster.

We’ve just put a new Grudge Match on the community site in which we’re pitting the awesome Hannibal Lecter against the not-quite-as-awesome John Doe from Seven. This might be a closer match than the last one in which Poison took a pounding from Def Leppard.

Finally, congratulations to my sister (although she probably won’t read this because she doesn’t find my banal, sarcastic commentary entertaining), who gave birth to my nephew, Archie, on Easter Sunday. We’re all proud of you.

0 comments Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You may find the news about Eliot Spitzer intriguing, but not after the seventh time you've been told about it. Or even the second. I’d never even heard of him until yesterday, but that may be due to my own personal lack of interest in current events. Alternatively, it could be because I am foreign, so politics in this country frighten and confuse me.

Unfortunately, a problem with our publishing system caused our breaking-news alert about Spitzer’s resignation to be sent out 6 more times than was intended. It may even have been more times than that — I lost count. It was definitely more than the one time that it should have been sent.

We’re sorry. We’re tracking down the cause of the problem and will get it fixed as soon as possible. The alerts have stopped for now though.

This week we have been working on setting up a test version of the community site which should allow me to make code changes without potentially breaking the live version. I know, that’s not terribly exciting, but this blog is supposed to be a look at what’s going on behind the scenes here, and that’s pretty much it.

This week’s Grudge Match on MySLOCounty.com is a hard-fought battle between Han Solo and Indiana Jones. As I write this, Indy is ahead by a single vote despite my argument for Han including a pretty chart. Go vote for Han.

Next week, Larissa and I intend to visit the Pismo police department to see what we can do about having them provide data we can use to create a Pismo crime map. I hope we’ll be able to figure something out — I know quite a few readers are anxious to see more crime maps posted. Stay tuned for more information on that next week.

0 comments Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I returned from my “baby vacation” yesterday to find a suspicious yellow envelope on my desk. I say “suspicious” because typically, no one sends me mail that’s not of the "e" variety, so I consider any envelope left on my desk, yellow or otherwise, to be suspicious. Upon inspection, the envelope appeared to have been sent by the International Webmasters Association, which helped to abate my suspicions somewhat as I am familiar with that organization. The Tribune has in fact recently signed me up as a member to gain access to some training courses.

I opened the envelope to see what goodies lay awaiting me inside, and found a green cardboard folder containing this:

It’s a certificate declaring me “duly qualified and accepted” into the IWA, which is great, especially considering that my only qualification as far as the IWA is concerned is that the cheque for the membership fee cleared. I intend to frame the certificate and hang it on the wall of my cubicle next to my printouts of funny headlines from the newspaper – that’s how proud I am of this honour.

Imagine my delight to then find tucked behind the certificate a letter bearing this:

That’s right, not only am I “duly qualified,” I am a card carrying member of the IWA. If that’s not $50 well spent, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, on to business.

In my absence, it seems things went relatively smoothly. Sally, Larissa and Kim made some updates to the Web sites while Joe and Chrissy engaged in a stirring debate over whether or not Muppets suck. Sally did manage to break the caption contest, but only briefly. Uncharacteristically, I’m not giving her too hard a time over it. It meant that I got to claw back a few hours of vacation time, since I had to work from home to fix it, and I’ll take all the time I can get.

So far this week, I’ve made a few small changes to the community site. Photographs uploaded will no longer automatically be promoted to the front page, since they already appear right at the top of the page. Pat and I have started an all new Grudge Match on whether Paul or John was the better Beatle (hint: John). Also, I’ve made a Grudge Match block on the right hand rail as a form of shameless self-promotion.

The rest of the week is likely to be spent digging around in database infrastructures, which is about as fun and interesting as it sounds, so I won't be boring you with any details.