Friday, December 07, 2007

Web locomotion

You have to learn how to walk before you can run. Getting this order of learning mixed up can often lead to a very painful lesson in gravity, as perhaps the geniuses at the Journal Register Company are surely learning –or at least experiencing –this morning.

The company launched its new Web site for the Saratogian early Friday, officially making their already diluted content even more difficult to navigate. In a prelude to this morning’s launch, the paper included a short missive to their online readers to alert them of the abrupt changes. Of course, this missive ended up buried beneath a difficult-to-navigate mash of this week’s news, several community notes and the rest of the cyber-disaster now occupying the online addition.

“Please bear with us as we implement all the changes we’re putting in place,” states the missive. “It will take some time before all the bugs are worked out.”

Take some time? Well, how goddamn long? The Saratogian is still trying to work out “the bugs” from their first Web launch at the turn of the millennium and then the others when they “updated” the site in 2006. In fact, the online edition has actually regressed from its first incarnation in 1999, which included photos, letters to the editor and much of the content included in the actual paper. Only recently have the spritely Saratogian Webmasters recalled how they once included still images on their site. Now they want to include video and blogs? Let’s just say the optimists are skeptical.

Update: Within one day of launching their new Website, The Saratogian has already stopped updates. None of the articles appearing in print Saturday have made their way to the Web. Good work, guys. Way to give confidence to your dwindling advertising pool.

True, there are some nooks and crannies readers can spelunk through while traversing the new cavernous online edition. But these nooks and crannies –namely video from shot by Troy Record reporters –quickly become tiresome. But at least there’s something to surf through while waiting for news content to boot up. See, the “new” site is remarkably slow.

In fact, the term “dial-up” comes to mind while pulling up one of the paper’s normally lacking stories. Click on any link and you’re in for a 5- to 10-second wait before any text appears. Even better is the fact that most of the links take you to peculiar areas of the site or simply go nowhere. It’s kind of like getting on the end of a ridiculously long line at DMV when the office is about to close; you’re probably going to wait around for a long time to get nothing.

Update: The Saratogian is doing daily Web updates. The first update was to take the aforementioned missive and move it to a more prominent area of the Website...into...the updates. But some credit is due: the dial-up speed has gotten a bit faster.

Previously, the excuse proffered by the Lake Avenue editors was that the JRC overlords managed the Saratogian’s site, meaning everything needed to be shipped to corporate HQ in order to be posted online. And given the crawling pace of the new site, there’s a good chance this sort of flawed business model is continuing, even though all the Saratogian’s regional competitors have switched to extremely lithe formats that can post news within minutes of it happening.

Update: This site just keeps getting better. The message was left by the JRC tool boxes instead of news Wednesday morning, five days after the so-called launch. “Dear user, Thank you for using our Web site. We are currently experiencing technical problems with the site you are trying to view. We expect to have these issues resolved shortly. Please check back in a few minutes to access the site. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes.” And the follies continue.

Even the lumbering Schenectady Daily Gazette has vaulted itself into the hurtling traffic stream of the information superhighway. Smartly, the Gazette editors didn’t vomit out their new Website into cyberspace and instead launched a limited trial site, where they could tweak problems out of the public eye, so to speak. To date, the Gazette still hasn’t launched their official site.

No such luck with JRC. They seem to think the underpaid, outmanned and overworked Saratogian news crews will somehow manage to get spot news online despite the paper already having problems nailing down last week’s stories. Well, here’s a hint for the business pros at JRC and their Spa City protégés: it’s probably better idea to master the locomotion of walking before taking the first lunges of running. Let’s leave the marathons up to the pros for the time being.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Harpur College alumnus that can barely manage the news in this City's paper admits to having been hooked on journalism her first day in class, during the Watergate Era. That was a benchmark time for Journalism and some English majors who saw news reporting as the exiting new "it" frontier.

The emerging power of investigative reporting and critical journalism that was on the front page of every home delivery and newsstand copy back then, exited many young people towards pursuing careers in a seemingly new and potentially vital profession.

Yet thirty years later, our surviving example of that once fertile period in news reporting, provides us today with her article in the Life Section of the paper news promoting her web site which still hasn’t featured yesterday’s front page news! CITY WINS WATER SUIT is nowhere to be found. Instead, we read about a March 4th Council decision. Nothing new here, because the managing editor has consistently managed what news is featured, whose letters are included and which candidates get a fair shake.

Her son who is a budding journalist, should take his experience and travel far away from the stain, ignore the help from the entrenched promoters of mediocre news papers and write the news – all of it. He could potentially take with him the seeds of Watergate to higher level – and at his passionate optimistic age that is entirely possible. History taught us that Follow the Money was not about making it, but about asking the questions and getting the story – all of it.

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In today's print paper, a letter by a resident complaining about the questionable enforcement of sidewalk safety is published twice, side by side maybe for emphasis, but I'm sure the copy staff just took their title too seriously, seriously.

Point is, maintenance of sidewalks within the public's right of way IS the responsibility of the property owner. It is City Code and here it is:

§ 203-26. Snow and ice removal.

The owner, occupant or person in charge of an improved or unimproved lot adjoining a city street shall remove the snow from the sidewalks in front of such lot within 12 hours after each snowstorm and shall keep the sidewalks clear of snow and ice and, when slippery, keep the same safe by sanding. The portion of the sidewalk required to be kept free from snow and ice is the portion thereof which is paved, if any, AND IF NO PORTION THEREOF IS PAVED, A SPACE AT LEAST FOUR FEET IN WIDTH SHALL BE KEPT FREE AND CLEAR AS ABOVE STATED. A storm ceasing after 7:00 p.m. shall be considered as ceasing at 7:00 a.m. the following morning.

The emphasized portion should bring people out with more than shovels. Perhaps chain saws and brush hogs to clear the ROW’s in some neighborhoods? That said, periodic ice storms like the one we're expecting tonight will always make a mess for even the most conscientious owner. Buy some crampons.

4:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sunday December 9 2007. The web masters at the Saratogian have done another perfect job at the paper. Nothing on their Web site, nice job Barbara. Another snafu [situation normal all fucked up].

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that new Saratogian site IS slow. As for the shifting amount of content, that's a corporate thing -- JRC can't make up its mind between "make a site with content worth looking at" and "don't put anything online, 'cause they should have to pay for it in print," so the corporate edict on what to post online changes every few months.

Meanwhile, FYI, the Gazette site's official launch is set for Tuesday, the 11th.

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time is relative, mediocrity isn't. Worrying whether people should buy the print paper or not will rest on how the news is presented. The feel and smell of a fresh print paper over the morning coffee is only going to disappear when the reporting turns the cream sour. The online service can be quick and thorough, but will never have all of the features of print. Mediocrity in either medium will have readers going elsewhere.

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is no joke from todays Saratogian web siteCommunity Calendar
Around the town for the week of April 19 – 25 1999 Full Story

The news from 1999.Fucking joke paper

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as if the new site is lacking in one important area that all of the old incarnations had ... archives. I couldn't find any back stories. That's not very progressive.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

In a fit of madness and sleep deprivation, I decided to extend a few words of advice for the Saratogian's wayward foray into the New Media world. What a futile pursuit...


I guess my first issue would be that it's hard to keep up with the Saratogian's brand of news when the Web site doesn't boot up half the time. It's also hard to compel oneself back to such a site when it takes half a century to load up, thanks to the bells and whistles –such as useless AP videos folks could get anywhere on the net –clogging up cyberspace.

Also, as somewhat of a blogger myself, I might also add this advice: You must "blog" to have a blog. It doesn’t matter what you blog about, as long as you write something for the masses to digest. No blog semi-daily blog entry equals no blog visitors, which in turn means no blog (See: the failure in blogging otherwise known as Ted Reinhart's "city beat." On a side note, you can’t blame the poor guy given what JRC pays him, i.e. a wage unlivable in most third-world countries).

But the real drawback to the changes –and the new site by extension –is that the news itself still contains glaring errors of fact(see: Campaign finance story, Tuesday; now compare with Times Union story. Specifically, look at Keehn’s spending figures). Jesus, Barb. Teach these kids how to report before you give them technological paraphernalia and tell them to shoot, blog, video, document, narrate or whatever else the “new media” might predicate.

As an ardent critic of both you and your publication –and a fellow hack in the most professional sense of the term –I realize this advice is probably unwanted. Perhaps you’re even chortling at the fact that I bothered to waste my words posting here. However, the notion of change is a positive one for the atrophic Saratogian and one I fully support. Yet, it pains me immensely to see sweeping changes that only lead to further regression; this community deserves more.

Overall, I’ll give you an "E" for effort. But in most institutes of higher learning, an "E" doesn't get you any credit. Feel free to write back with comments or concerns on any of these issues I raise. I eagerly await your response. After all, this is the “new media” way of doing things.

Regards, Horatio

PS. Could you tell me how much JRC is offering to sell the paper for? I might just have a coalition of investors ready to buy.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was Saturday's edition that had an article that listed something about a "33,000 (thousand) sqare foot condo". That's an awfully big condo, and unless it covered a football field I do believe it should have been listed as a "3,300" sq foot condo. That would be excusable if it wasn't typical of both their stupidity and sloppiness.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please don't use the stupid brush to paint the entire staff at the Saratogian. not only would it be inaccurate and unwarranted, but it's also a sign of ignorance on your part, anonymous.

frankly, i'd say the same thing about "sloppiness", but you get my point. alot of us do our jobs and do them well. however, as you may have heard somewhere, when it comes to a team you're only as strong as your weakest link(s).

please don't misunderstand. i'm not making excuses for the paper. i think it's rediculous for these incessant mistakes to keep appearing and ultimately be caught by thousands of "loyal" readers every day. it's embarrassing.

it's embarrassing and alot of us are getting quite sick of the goings-on. i've saddled my horse and will be joining the mass exodus as soon as i find a paper that won't hold the JRC stigma against me. until then, i'm a saratogian employee, proud and true.

so please... since i'm neither stupid nor sloppy, try to refrain from calling me such.

6:50 AM  

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