Wayne MacPhail

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Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years. He was the managing editor of Hamilton Magazine and was a reporter and editor at The Hamilton Spectator until he founded Southam InfoLab, a national future information products facility for Southam Inc. in 1991. He went on to develop online content for most major players in Canada including Sympatico-Lycos, where he was the director of content. He is also a book author (Spin Doctors) and is a published and performed playwright (Abandon Hope Mabel Dorothy). He has taught online writing at several Ontario colleges and universities and is the co-owner of w8nc inc, a marketing and communications firm aimed at non- profit and educational organizations.
Columnists

The inevitable autonomous auto

Photo: smoothgroover22/flickr

Humans are dreadful drivers. We kill each other with motorized vehicles at an alarming rate -- 1.2 million men, women and children a year, worldwide. We drive drunk. We drive too fast. We drive with cellphones in our hands. In some ways, it's not our fault. We have limited, narrow vision, slow reaction times and make poor, emotional choices. Our knowledge of traffic extends only as far as our sense. Honestly, we stink behind the wheel.

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Why the World Wide Web is like an ice shelf

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr

These days the World Wide Web looks a lot like Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf -- a large, open mass disintegrating at the edges because of human interference.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the Internet and the World Wide Web are the same thing. That's understandable. The World Wide Web made a public splash in the early '90s when it became possible to create and display text, tiny pictures and even tinier video clips via a web browser on a computer screen. It was an overnight success, 20 years in the making.

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Microsoft's pie in the cloudy sky

Photo: Michael Kappel/flickr

What are we supposed to make of Microsoft? Has it finally found its groove, or is it a desperate wannabe consumer brand? 

At the company's recent BUILD conference, the Redmond-based software giant showed off Windows 10 and a new browser. It attempted to woo iOS and Android developers and did a second demo of its HoloLens augmented reality headgear. And, its cloud-based Azure platform is a chart-buster. At first blush, it looked like it was firing on all cylinders. 

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Conrad Black's advice to newspapers is fish wrap

Photo: Thomas Levinson/flickr

Man, there was a lot to write about in technology this week: Elon Musk's Power Wall, Microsoft's sad attempt for relevancy in the consumer space and the stumbling retail launch of the Apple Watch. I was going to write about each of them, until that gaseous felon Conrad Black penned an op-ed in the National Post titled "Newspapers Must Fight Back."

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Facebook and the news publishers who flirt with heartbreak

Image: Chris Lister/flickr

News without trust is rumour, bullshit and gossip. So, we've come to a pretty pass when publishers like the New York Times and the Washington Post are thinking about getting hitched to that lyin', cheatin', two-timing heart, Facebook.

But that is just what's happening.

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Newsrooms have glance journalism up their sleeves

Photo: Margherita J. L. Lisoni/flickr

For years I've been impressing on my journalism students the importance of microcontent. But, until smartwatches came along, I just didn't realize how micro things would get.

Microcontent is the headlines, subheads, grabber quotes and other elements in larger-type sizes of an article's layout. Online they should serve to let the reader know what the story is about and reveal salient details about the content. Why? Because readers make choices about stories quickly, within seconds. And, those same readers are on a mission. They are hunters and gatherers looking for information that matters. If your microcontent doesn't let them decide whether your story is a nutritious news snack they need now, they will move on.

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Why is good interface so hard?

Photo: Mia Kos/flickr

Why is designing a good user interface so hard? Why do so many pieces of software on our mobile devices, desktops and gaming machines leave us lost, frustrated and railing at their arcane and ugly buttons, choices and placements?

There are four reasons, I think.

Constraints are good

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Bearing witness: A brief history of livestreaming

Photo: Anthony Quintano/flickr

Ironically, when I think about livestreaming video, a handful of events replay in my head.

The first happened on March 26. A fire raged on New York's East Village. Almost immediately food blogger Andrew Steinthal used the just-released Periscope app to livestream the blaze. Periscope turns iPhones into remote TV cameras; a single click, and you're broadcasting and spreading the news socially.

The week previous, another livestreaming app, Meerkat, had taken the technorati party SXSW by storm. But, on March 26, Periscope had its "Airbus in the Hudson" live news moment. And, backed by Twitter, Periscope eclipsed Meerkat, an app that had made livestreaming video cool again.

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Virtual or augmented: Pick your reality

Photo: Microsoft Sweden/flickr

How would you like your reality: virtual or augmented? You'll be choosing sides soon.

Microsoft's upcoming HoloLens headset will project 3-D models, Minecraft game spaces and computer screens into the real world around you, as real, they tease, as if they were there.

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Columnists

Tapping on the window of invisible touch

Photo: Hernán Piñera/flickr

A wink is a single binary bit of information. The eye is either open or closed. But, across a dinner table, or a crowded room, a wink can communicate so much: "I'm in on the joke." "I saw what you did." "I'm on your side, kiddo." The tiny gesture pulls meaning from circumstance, context and relationship, directs its beam and then condenses it into a fleeting twitch of an eyelid.

Social gestures like that put pay to the notion that rich meaning requires high bandwidth. The gentle or painful squeeze of a hand on a forearm is loaded with opposite meaning and, even if delivered by the same person in the same circumstance, the simple variant of pressure speaks volumes.

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