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Left In Lowell » Technology

Left In Lowell

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April 26, 2014

Sun Stealin’

by at 2:46 pm.

In an unbelievably stupid and clumsy move, the Lowell Sun has been caught, yet again, stealing photos from people and calling them Sun file photos. This time, it’s from blogger Marianne, from Art is the Handmaid of Human Good. It was first posted on her write up about the new Father Morissette Boulevard bike lanes, dated from August 28, 2013.

The Cub Reporter responded to Marianne on Twitter, but you shouldn’t hold your breath on them fixing it (and it’s already in the print edition, anyone want to wager if they’ll post an apology?). It’s still there as of this posting, anyway.

Here is the photo in use on the website, and Marianne also posted a pic of it in use in print edition as well:

photo Marianne stolen pic.png

You can see in the writing underneath the photo, that they claim it as a Sun file photo, and even that they’re selling it if you want to buy it:

 photo Marianne stolen pic close up of caption.png

Excuse my French but…what a bunch of fucking amateurs.

March 11, 2014

Learn to Code for Websites!

by at 10:26 am.

The 3-session class I teach at LTC, Intensive Web Design, is starting this Thursday, March 13, with sessions on subsequent Thursdays on the 20th and 27th. The class goes from 6:30-9:30 PM (the website says 6-9 but we always do 6:30 til 9:30 when LTC closes). We could use some more students for this session! Learn web coding from scratch, no previous web experience needed! Must have basic Mac skills.

We run through a lot of material - a class of this intensity would take up most of a semester at a university or community college. We can get through material faster because the class size is small. Fee for LTC members is $50 with $25 book fee, or $75 with $25 book fee for nonmembers. It is WELL worth the cost!

Here’s the class description:


This 3-session class is an intense, comprehensive HTML/CSS class for those who are really serious about web design. It is taught using DreamWeaver, but you will be able to create your website in other programs. (4 student minimum)

Date & Time: Thursday, March 13, 20, 27 - 6:00-9:00 PM [note - I typically start at 6:30 and end at 9:30pm]
Fee: $50 (non-member $75) plus $25 materials fee for textbook.
To sign up using PayPal, please visit http://ltc.org/content/current-class-schedule and pay the “Intermediate/Advanced workshop fee”
If you’d prefer to pay by cash or check, please email gpolites@ltc.org to reserve a spot.

January 13, 2014

Nipping the Memes in the Butt

by at 2:12 pm.

(Yeah, I know the phrase ends with “bud.” I like mine better!)

I love social media. Especially Facebook. It has the power of instant communication, which brings out largely unfiltered thoughts, and is a great place for floating trial balloons. You can bounce ideas and concepts off of other people, in private, in a group, or in open forum, and it’s a wonderful place for gathering together the general zeitgeist of a present situation.

While I do a lot of personal posting on Facebook, so much so that I limit my friends list to only those people that I’m comfortable with seeing my photos of my dogs and nieces, amigurumi projects (my present obsession) and other things of a personal nature, interaction on friends’ statuses and in groups that include people outside my friends circle gives me a glimpse I might not otherwise get into the minds of people who don’t much agree with me on a particular issue.

So it’s no surprise that I’m seeing some memes come together around the resignation of the City Manager. They center around trying to undermine the term “professional” as applied to outgoing City Manager Bernie Lynch.

Now in some ways, this whole thing is moot. Bernie, gawd love ya, but you’re history. Old news. Yesterday’s diapers. Er, you get the drift. Rehashing age-old debates about your tenure, which is soon to end, is about as useful as closing the barn door when the horse already hightailed it. But two things I find fascinating about this: one, you can see very clearly how these memes develop and get a life of their own, right in plain pixelated view (as opposed to festering in the Lowell Rumor Mill™). Two, this conversation does have a relevance to the future, in that the effort to undermine the concept of professional city government is an ongoing one that will affect the outcome of our hiring practices (or keeping Plan E at all). A la previous blog post, etc.


November 12, 2013

Going Solar: A Massachusetts Journey

by at 9:11 am.

(What follows is a very long, comprehensive post filled to the brim with everything I’ve learned about going solar. Our installation is now feeding green energy into the grid, I obsess about cloudy days, and I’m looking forward to our new investment paying us back in both money, and in knowing we’re contributing a great deal towards a green future.)

The flurry of activity in and around my homestead during two days in the week of October 7th was very disturbing to my poor dogs, but exciting for us. After a journey of more than five years in researching and planning (more on that in a bit) the contractors we hired, NuWatt Energy Inc, were on our roof installing our 4.16kWh solar electric system. A system that, it is estimated, will be providing around 80% of our current electricity usage.

Why did it take us so long, and how did we finally decide on the path we did? The answer to that, I’m hoping, will give other people a shortcut to the knowledge we got the hard way, and give you several paths to solar for your own home or business if you think you’ve got the roof for it. (more…)

October 27, 2013

Learning Lowell

by at 11:16 am.

When one door closes, another one opens. To the embarrassment of riches that is the Lowell blogosphere (it’s turning into a thing here!) we welcome to our blogroll newcomers at Learning Lowell.

With several posts already examining the local election - musings from grow-ins trying to learn the ropes (amazing, to see brand new residents get so deep into local politics so quickly!) - it promises to be a great new addition to the conversation. (And yes, we’re sorry, we’re probably guilty of “assum[ing they] already know the decades of history these people have.” And yes, “for a town with such a history of new groups moving in, sometimes it isn’t the most accessible.” I agree - though, of course, putting all the long history of context in every politics post is really difficult. I’m always available by email, comment, or coffee to answer any question you guys might have on any post we do here! :)

So, put them on your list of blogs on your regular reading list!

October 12, 2013

Call Him What He Is…

by at 12:30 pm.

Dick’s been on a roll lately, his latest is to take on the “email controversy.” The one being literally drummed up out of nothingness by Rodney Elliot.

Go read Dick’s very detailed and thorough post. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m not only writing this blog post to point out this piece you want to read, but also, because I’m going to call Rodney Elliot what he is:

The term is: unhinged.

Get out the vote, people. Seriously.

September 12, 2013

New Website…No Improvement (Update for WORSE!)

by at 9:47 am.

I hate to say this, I really do, but I am pretty underwhelmed utterly disgusted with the city’s new website. On several levels, unfortunately.

Let’s begin with the aesthetics. The site looks 10 years out of date, design-wise. I know that a municipal website doesn’t have to be all Web 3.0 with tons of bells and whistles and hipster giant fonts and illustrated icons, but at least keep up with the times visually. The Pollard Memorial Library comes to mind, their new site looks excellent. In addition, I’ve checked the new city website on my smartphone and it has zero elements of responsive design. Responsive web design is when your site changes its look and layout and interface, at least a little bit, to accommodate different screen sizes and devices. This can be achieved at a pretty primitive level with the use of relative widths rather than fixed (a percentage of the screen instead of specific pixels) and the way you lay out your columns in a page, etc. There are also far more advanced ways to effect responsive design (up to and including eliminating unnecessary content or simplifying the navigation). (more…)

August 30, 2013

Adult Temper Tantrums

by at 11:22 am.

I missed this a few days ago.

When do you know a politico has the maturity of a five year old and zero sense of humor about themselves? When they go on social media tempter tantrums of course!

Former Senator and professional political office shopper Scott Brown went on what Jessica Van Sack over at the Herald described as a Twitter blocking bender, again raising some serious doubts about his temperament. Hashtag #blockedbyscotto was born.

It all started once again with Brown posting something odd on Twitter.

— Scott P. Brown (@ScottBrownMA) August 26, 2013

Which prompted Ben Jacobs a reporter for the Daily Beast to reply:

I just met you and this is crazy. Here’s my number. So call me “@ScottBrownMA: Maybe”
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) August 26, 2013

Brown then blocked Jacobs from his public campaign account.

But Brown didn’t stop there, he then started a blocking spree that included Adam Reilly and David Bernstein amongst many others. Seems that anyone who responded to Brown’s Maybe tweet got blocked.

The people getting blocked are mostly reporters in Massachusetts. You can check out the #blockedbyscotto fun yourself (including my late-to-the-game comment about the flap). When you’re blocked, you can’t even “follow” that person on Twitter any more.

So you can either assume he’s done running for anything, or at least anything in MA, and doesn’t care about burning his bridges and acting like a child, or else, some child really did get a hold of his Twitter account. Either way, a real class move. *shakes head*

By the way, this is the guy Councilor Rita Mercier thought was a better choice for Senator. Let’s not forget that!

August 21, 2013

Oh Mr. Magoo…

by at 8:36 am.

You’ve done it again…testing new web designs seems to be something the parent company of the Lowell Sun can’t seem to get right.

Go to the Lowell Sun right now, and you get this weird ad for the lead-in (God do I HATE preloaded “click to skip” ads):

skip this ad screenshot

Then you get…the Denver Post! Well, not really, just the title. The title links to denverpost.com and the weather link is for Denver as well.

Lowell Sun, Denver Post title

Again, as a web designer, who has had to go live on web redesigns for clients all the time, this is just, well, sad. How much money did they spend on this? It’s seriously amateur. Can things go wrong in a website redesign release? Sure. But the sheer number of goofups with this media group is more than just a simple hiccup, it’s like they don’t give a crap. They still haven’t touched the blogs.lowellsun.com home page, which in Firefox (a very common browser) is so messed up you can’t even read it.

Unacceptable. But par for the course. If Denver cares so little for their web collateral that they fail to do the most basic cross browser, pre-live testing, it stands to reason this is also why they seem to care so little for good content (at least from certain of its reporters and editors…there are a few good eggs left over there, poor things).

PS - and then there’s their horrid title writing…so biased. “Tewksbury Town Meeting snubs slots-parlor plan” - obviously a negative spin on the vote, the use of the word “snubs,” as if the slots had just graciously deigned to visit and Tewksbury turned its nose up at it and sent it packing, despite the slots’ beautiful clothes and respectful manner. Kad Barma had also noted this tendency here on another Sun piece, but I’ve been writing about their awful titles since the beginning of this blog. No joke. It just never gets better…

August 5, 2013

Copyright Followup Facepalm (Updated)

by at 10:16 am.

I can’t begin to stress just how disturbed I am right now.

Look, I’m a blogger, and a graphic designer. I’m no lawyer, and I’m certainly no better informed than most journalism majors finishing up their junior year as an undergrad. So when Christopher Scott, Enterprise Editor of the Lowell Sun, responds on Facebook to the copyright scandal with the following:

Good morning Jenn. Just want to set the record straight on this one. I’m 99.9 percent sure no one lifted the picture you’re referencing from your FB page. Rather, someone, might have been me, Googled a picture of the mayor and that one was selected.

So let me get this straight. Lifting the photo from Google sans permission is better than lifting this photo from Facebook sans permission? I don’t care where the photo was found via Google images (in this case, Jen says an article from Latitude News “regarding the connection the Mayor has created with the Cambodian community” used the photo with her permission). And then you go and list it in print as a Sun File Photo?

Are you kidding me? Does Scott not have a clue as to how copyright works as applied to the internet?

Bet you dollars to donuts, if I started lifting actual Sun File Photos from their website and putting them on my blog, they’d be after me faster than a canal minnow on tossed bread (and that’s fast, I’ve fed them, those suckers EAT).

Bad form, Lowell Sun, you got caught and called out, and your lame ass excuse just digs you deeper. Just admit it, you know crap all about what you’re doing over there, kids. The Museum truly is a museum - they can’t even catch up to two decades of the internet, for heaven’s sake.

Someone please clean house over there before they hurt themselves.

Update I: Apparently, this is not the first time the Lowell Sun has blatantly stolen photos from others. In fact, it appears to be pretty common. In regards to a recent post on the Lowell Sun Column blog, another commenter on Jen’s status caught them again:

Perhaps the “column” photo was “borrowed” from LHS Photography student Monita Khuth/ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/52773728

These students have produced some outstanding work. And if you keep an eye on them you’ll see their progress year after year.
[And later:]
Check the link…that photo of LHS has a copyright.

Photo details:
Uploaded on May 16, 2011
© All Rights Reserved
by LHS Photo

You can see where the Sun Column blog stole that photo, with apparently zero permission, zero attribution, here.

And from Dan Murphy, the Mayor’s brother:

Not the first time this has happened. The Sun stole a picture of Patrick and his wife off the “Google” when they found out he was getting married.

I’m sure there’s more, anyone wishing to jump in and find more violations feel free.

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