Over the past few months we've seen a major change in the way we view the web. RSS has given everybody the ability to instantly reproduce live content from a myriad of sources. Google News has aggregated the remaining sites that don't offer such services yet or offer it in such limited capacity that it is practically unusable. User-driven sites such as digg are a welcome change from the strictly moderated forum known as Slashdot. I'm not proposing that Slashdot should disappear completely as there is still a place for a site that can guarantee a certain level of quality in the articles whereas digg suffers from the possibility that an abusive user would raise the rating of an article to suit their motives.
Podcasts are also causing a stir in the online news reporting world. Marrying the concepts of talk radio and file sharing, podcasts are moving users away from the web browser and into alternative mediums for delivery of what is essentially the same content the difference being that the number of podcasts is still relatively low compared to news sites and therefore are subject to a bit more opinion and control by the authors which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
That of course leads me into the largest change in journalism as of late: blogging. Blogging gives everybody a voice, no matter how different your ideals, ethics, values, culture, country, government, friends, family, co-workers, religion, and other affiliations. Everybody has a voice. It is ironic that the internet is finally being used for what it was designed for in the first place: the transfer of facts, opinions, and supporting data between different people. Comments give everybody a chance to voice and opinion on somebody else's opinion. Even if you don't have a blog, you still have a voice. I believe that this is the mentality that will drive new social and communications networks in the coming years, allowing everybody to say anything they want without fear of censorship or reprisal (unless you live in China, in that case you have my condolences).
For those that have been living under a rock without an internet connection (those rocks don't pay for services they don't need, they're solid people) you may have noticed that Kevin Rose, everybody's favorite script kiddie has quit his job at G4 to become a freeloader independent creative force. He released the first episode of his new show Systm after a few denial of service attacks and a flood against the IRC server (script kiddie jealousy I assume). A comment on Slashdot said "The system is down" taking a cue from our beloved StrongBad and The Cheat. Overall, the show was pretty damn good for an internet show, though still a little immature as to the content. In a nutshell, they built a box that uses the reciever from an X10 wireless camera and continuously modulates the "channel" switch between the four settings. Not an amazing feat but I have a feeling that Kevin is headed in a better direction with this one as opposed to his seemingly abandoned internet show, the broken.
I love the idea of internet TV shows. There's just a sense of purity to these things that are untouched by corporate politics and the constant advertising that encapsulates our lives. Unfortunately, I don't think that things will stay this way for long. At some point, people like Kevin Rose have to get paid and in my experience, money doesn't just show up in your bank account no matter how much good you're doing for society (or CS students on summer break). Eventually, a company like G4 will come along and ask if they can air his shows on their channel. From there, it leads to G4 saying "We'll give you an extra 20k if you mention Pepsi." Pretty soon, we're right back where we started with a weekly sponsored show under the iron fist of Soviet Russia G4.
Aside from my little essay on the future of social content on the internet, I haven't been thinking about much. I took another trip up to RIT last week to meet with some professors and get a bit more detailed perspective of what they have to offer. I talked to a professor in the Computer Engineering department that really knew what he was talking about which is exactly what I expected from the former head of the department. Looking at the labs and different projects they were working on helped me to decide that I would rather spend my time working on the software side of things. I enjoy the hardware work and it fascinates me to see how everything is put together at that level but I just have trouble seeing the depth of the system by looking at logic gates and instruction sets. In my mind, languages like C are dominant. I can visualize just about anything in C from the interface on down. Granted this may be because I haven't taken any of the Computer Engineering classes yet, but I prefer to work in an instant gratification environment. When I'm programming, I can run my code at any point in time and know if it works or not, the same is not true of hardware. There is no magic "stub" code you can stick on a board and see the results of the piece you're working on. So, after a rather short conference with a counselor in the Computer Science department, I decided that I will be going for a CS major.
At first glance, RIT's Computer Science curriculum is super easy and simple. On paper, it looks like a factory program. Once the structure of the requirements was explained to me, I found that there are enough elective credits available that this program really covers just about everything. It's only written with structure to appease the bureaucratic types but it really encompasses any specialty that you would want to play with up to the point where it's even possible to get a minor in another CS related field without having to take any more classes than the next guy. This type of flexibility is what is drawing me toward RIT's CS program.
On one final note, I'd like to request that anybody reading this please leave a comment on what you'd like to see here. Would you like something changed? Or added? Do you want a new feature for end users? Do you want me to get off my ass and fix the RSS feed? Let me know.