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I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Windows 7, Snow Leopard do more with less

I told you last week I was geeking out. The crowning achievement of Geekfest 2009 was the day I installed Windows 7 and Snow Leopard at the same time. Heck, I even have both on the same computer, but if you’re going to get technical, I didn’t install Windows 7 on that one. Doug Pettit, our tech guy in the J School, did. After playing with both operating systems for the past week and setting aside my Mac preference, I have to say they both impressed me. In fact, both operating systems demonstrate that sometimes it’s better to do more with less. Interactive Web designers could learn a lesson from the OS on which their Web sites operate.

So far, Windows 7 does what it says it would. It starts up faster, it doesn’t crash and it runs more efficiently too. It might even allow me to squeeze another year or two of high-tech gaming from my three-year-old Dell, thanks to its capacity to run 4 Gbs of RAM. The best part is it has allowed me to take advantage of a few features I never thought I could. Yes, your eyes aren’t decieving you. I’m using two LCD monitors. I was able to score a nice 22″ HP HD-monitor when I signed up for two years of high speed Internet service, and I just couldn’t put my old 17″ ViewSonic in storage. I looked at my video card, noticed two ports and thought, “Gee, I wonder what will happen if I hook them both up.” For once, it worked better than I could have imagined. I thought I’d post a picture of me being super productive with two monitors, but in the end, I felt it disingenious not to show why I really wanted them. I can play Champions Online on the big one while looking up hints at the Champions Online Wiki on the other.

I haven’t tried dual monitors in Snow Leopard yet. I’m not sure how I’d do it because my MacBook has just one mini-DVI port. I’m still pretty impresed by the OS. I like the subtle refinements, such as the transparent menus on the dock. I love what Snow Leopard did with Spaces, which really makes dual monitors unnecessary. And I can see myself creating tons of Final Cut Express tutorials with the new screen record feature in QuickTime.

Astoundingly both OSes (Is that even a word?) ┬átake up less hard drive space and use fewer resources than their predecessors. I’m surprised it took computer designers that long to realize Linux had the right idea. Based on a paper I review today for the 2010 International Communication Association conference in Singapore, Web designers need to follow the OS lead. The paper expertly argued that adding more interactive features to a Web site does not always increase the interactivity users perceive. It’s an argument I’ve heard and championed before, and I think it’s one I need to make to the news industry again. Usually I decry the industry for not doing enough, but after watching the video I posted about how Sports Illustrated (I’ve also embedded it below thanks to TechCrunch) will look on Apple’s new tablet, I have to wonder if designers are trying to do too much. Supermaucat summed it up perfectly:

This is like a niche of a niche… people who like sports and are SI subscribers and have tablet computers.

Honestly, I like the SI demo a lot. I could see myself playing with that for a while. I think Entertainment Weekly on a tablet would be even more fun. But I’m a geek. I might actually buy a tablet computer. The largest chunk of your audience SI, or more importantly Time Inc., won’t. Instead of focusing on an Apple or Microsoft tablet that is not even announced yet, provide solid content on your Web site. Ultimately, it’s the content that will inspire your audience, not the number of cool bells and whistles.

Even as a stare at my two monitors, I know what I just wrote is true. I’m not using Windows 7 because I can geek out on video games. Heck, I don’t even have that much time to play now, with a new job and a fourth child on the way. I like Windows 7 because it works, and that’s what I want to see in the next generation of news.

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