Monday, September 08, 2003

Wireless Arms Race in Local Academia

The formal dedication ceremony for John Carroll's new Dolan Center for Science and Technology unfolded on Friday, and it began with the usual blather from muckety-mucks like the new chairman of the board, plus hundreds of people turning out for the free buffet (nearly 4,000 styrofoam plates were used, I'm told). And of course, following the unwritten rules of these kinds of events, it also had to include the usual meaningless p.r. stunts done in service of the same old bloodlessly unimaginative grip-and-grin photos--like the appearance of the giant, three-foot-long scissors with which the president snips the ceremonial ribbon. But at least there was one thing worth having come out to learn: the university will soon have a campus-wide free wireless network, courtesy of Nextel and its president and CEO Tim Donahue, a JCU grad (and an English lit major, no less). That of course follows the recent news about the Case network cobbled together by One Cleveland. News of the wireless network caused some buzz among the several dozen neighbors whose houses abut the campus. Might they also be able to take their laptops out to their backyard and benefit from the network? We'll soon find out...Meanwhile, another technical (this one wired) arms race seems to be developing between web developers (begun by recent JCU grads) vying to be the contractors of choice. Thus far, our friends at Thundertech are far ahead. But at the Dolan opening, I also ran into the managing editor of the student paper, The Carroll News, who mentioned that the paper will soon be online, thanks to work by a company founded by a couple of 2002 JCU grads, who have also developed a site for the campus food contractors, Parkhurst. Here's a test: do you notice any graphic similarties between Thundertech and Insivia? It seems they share an attraction to sunflowers...

Was that the Super Bowl or the Browns Home Opener? Anyone who stuck around for the commercials between portions of yesterday's Browns game could be forgiven for thinking this was the NFL's last game--January's Super Bowl--rather than opening day. There were a number of the kind of high-concept, high-cost spots ordinarily reserved for the season-ending extravaganza. But the most surprising one of all was IBM's spot for Linux, the free, just-as-good-as-Microsoft open-source platform which it has been supporting in hopes of breaking Bill Gates' near monopoly on operating software. The spot gets your attention with brief cameo appearances by the likes of Muhammed Ali and former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood. The ad's placement suggests that IBM is now going to be making the kind of giant push on behalf of Linux that goes well beyond the IT department and straight to the board room...

Joseph Beth Takes the Direct Approach The Cleveland-born and -bred owner of Joseph Beth Bookstore, Neil Van Uum, was hearing from his staff at the Shaker Square location that lots of patrons were simply assuming that the location would close soon. You can't really blame them: they're merely drawing reasonable conclusions from a combination of three factors: the fact that the independent chain will be opening a new east side location next month, the continuing difficulties of retailers at the Square, and the fact that the bookstore has slowly grown smaller at this location since its opening. It all added up to customers constantly asking employees: "so when are you closing?" So Neil took a refreshing direct approach to squelching the rumor, placing a six-foot-high poster behind the register, bearing his likeness. The message reads: "Shaker Square has gone through some ups and downs in its continued rebirth, but continues to forge on. I found myself living outside of the Cleveland area after growing up here, and both my dreams and ambitions outweighed the realities of size when building the perfect bookstore: we started too big! Since our recent moving of furniture our store is now positioned to allow us to push through adolescence as Shaker Square continues on towards maturity. Rest assured that our commitment to the Cleveland market and to Shaker Square is unwavering. We remain committed to providing the greatest care in the selection of books, and the highest level of service in the Cleveland marketplace." Good for him. It seems that Neil has learned plenty from his experience as a graduate of St. Ignatius, which has had its own experience with staying and helping to anchor an urban neighborhood poised at a key crossroads.

Harpers Mag Cautiously Ventures Online Harpers Magazine, which like The Nation and The Atlantic has been around for about a century and a half, has proudly published some of the biggest names in American literary history. In recent years, protected in part from market forces (which don't treat literary magazines very kindly) by its nonprofit form of ownership, it has continued its high quality. But it has never shown even a bit of interest in putting any of its material online (unlike The Nation, which has a wonderfully comprehensive and constantly updated site and The Atlantic, which had one of the first and still best companion sites of any print mag in the world). But it's recently begun to slowly venture its toes into those waters. No doubt as an inducement to hard-copy subscriptions, it publishes a brief "Weekly Review," which it sends by email. Far more interesting, though, is the small selection of stories it places in an online archive here. Here's hoping that editor Lewis Lapham continues to experiment. One online strategy that's especially promising for magazines with such long, rich histories is to occasionally cull from its archives stories, or packages of related stories, that are somehow tied to events of current interest, as The Atlantic does brilliantly. Closer to home, Cleveland Magazine does the same thing, nicely showing off the fruits of its 30-year history with this nice archival feature used to promote its 30th anniversary or this package of profiles of Dennis Kucinich, which debuted when he decided to run for president.


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