From the archive — Eyes on iPhone: North state dials up new device in droves

The first incarnation of the Apple iPhone was formally released 10 years ago on June 29, 2007. Here’s what I wrote for the Enterprise-Record, published the following day.

Elizabeth and Larry Bartschi (foreground left), and Tiffany Clements watch as AT&T store employee Tony Ahn demonstrates the camera feature on the new iPhone during its Chico launch Friday at the AT&T store on East 20th Street. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)
Elizabeth and Larry Bartschi (foreground left), and Tiffany Clements watch as AT&T store employee Tony Ahn demonstrates the camera feature on the new iPhone during its Chico launch Friday at the AT&T store on East 20th Street. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

After months of waiting through countless Internet discussions and tempting commercials, scores of north state residents were able to get their hands on the highly anticipated — and hyped — iPhone early Friday night.

Silas Radcliffe, a teacher in Woodland, was eager to start using the iPhone after waiting in line outside the AT&T company-owned store off East 20th Street in Chico for more than eight hours.

“I’m shaking right now,” he said. “I just want to go home and open it.”

The iPhone combines Apple Inc.’s popular iPod music player with an AT&T cell phone and a Web browser into a slim, black device. Unlike nearly all other cell phones, the petite iPhone features just one button with most functions — including text entry — being controlled through a touch-sensitive screen.

Many, including Radcliffe, were eager to use the iPhone’s Web browser — which displays full Web pages, unlike browsers on many other phones.

Although some are leery to buy first-generation electronics, Radcliffe was confident Apple had thoroughly tested the product.

“They had six months to perfect this extensively before it came out,” he said.

Many of the people waiting appeared to be Apple enthusiasts, either publicly working on Apple’s notebook computers or saying they’ve used Macintosh computers for years.

Christopher Price was the first person in line when he arrived at 10 p.m. Thursday. He was covering the launch and the iPhone as editor-in-chief of, a Davis-based Web site that covers the wireless industry. The iPhone has drawn a great deal of visitors to his site.

“The response to the iPhone has just been amazing,” Price said.

Price noted the iPhone has a lot of things in its favor — it builds on the success of the iPod, brand loyalty to Apple and making sophisticated technology easy to use. He said he pictures using the iPhone on a daily basis over the myriad other devices he uses and tests as a part of his job.

Price is also excited about Apple’s ability to easily deliver updates and new features to iPhone customers through new software. It’s a feature that Apple’s phone competitors don’t offer.

“The one thing that stands out with the iPhone is the software,” Price said.

An unidentified AT&T store employee demonstrates the Web browser on the iPhone, pinching two right-hand fingers together to zoom in on text. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)
An unidentified AT&T store employee demonstrates the Web browser on the iPhone, pinching two right-hand fingers together to zoom in on text. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

Shortly before the iPhone’s bow at 6 p.m., 57 people had gathered outside the Chico store. It was the only place between Yuba City and Redding where people could immediately buy the device — $599 for a model with eight gigabytes of data storage and $499 for one with four gigabytes. After selling out within 75 minutes, employees told customers they could order the devices — for delivery in two to four weeks. The store will get new shipments, but it was uncertain when.

Friday’s launch was a momentous event for both Apple Inc. and AT&T, formerly Cingular. Fred Devereux, an AT&T vice president and general manager, said the launch was a “historic night” for the industry. He noted the growing crowds ahead of the iPhone’s 6 p.m. launch.

“Almost every store by lunchtime had a dozen people waiting outside our 100 stores in Northern California,” said Devereux, who oversees wireless operations in Northern California and Nevada.

He said the iPhone is going to “revolutionize” the industry by bringing a media player, telephony and Web access into one package, which is also tied into Apple’s iTunes music library software. Devereux said the device is geared for a wide variety of customers — including business professionals, students and homemakers.

As a 17-year veteran of the industry, he’s witnessed the industry grow from a few providers on an analog network to the introduction of digital services. He said the iPhone launch is unprecedented.

“None of that compares to this — to the excitement, to what we’re going to be able to do for customers,” Devereux said.

AT&T is also hoping customers from competing cell phone providers switch to their service as the exclusive provider for the iPhone.

There was at least one “switcher” in line Friday. Jay Coughlin was waiting to buy an iPhone over his service from Verizon Wireless. He used other devices, but is eager to try the iPhone’s Web browser.

“I’m a sucker for the cool things,” he said.

Even before people could get their hands on the device, there were concerns about the speed of accessing the Internet via AT&T’s EDGE data network.

Devereux was positive EDGE would be up to the task after AT&T enhanced the network in preparation for the iPhone. He noted EDGE is also “fortified” by wireless Internet connections. In addition to AT&T’s cellular network, customers can use iPhones on their home and work Wi-Fi networks to surf the Web.

Although there have been initial reports of some sluggishness, EDGE appeared relatively speedy outside the Chico store when Adam Vesely watched a video via YouTube.

After buying the phone, Vesely went straight to his car to activate the device from his laptop computer. Customers buy the phone at stores which are activated through the iTunes software on their personal computers.

With just minutes of iPhone usage under his belt, Vesely said it was a worthwhile purchase.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said.

BACKGROUND: In January, Apple Inc. announced the iPhone after years of speculation whether the hardware maker would introduce a mobile phone. The iPhone combines Apple’s popular iPod media player with a cell phone (from AT&T) and a Web browser — for between $500 and $600.

WHAT’S NEW: On Friday, the iPhone went on sale at Apple Stores and AT&T company-owned stores. Locally, the AT&T store off East 20th Street sold out its initial stock within 75 minutes.

WHAT’S NEXT: People can purchase the device online or wait for a new shipment. Time will tell if the iPhone is a success.

Hitting 11 million image views on Google Maps

My profile on Google Maps.
My profile on Google Maps.

Just a year ago, I passed 2 million views on Google Maps. Imagine my surprise when my images surged past 10 million views just a couple of months ago. The 190 images I’ve published on Google Maps has been viewed 11.1 million times as of this writing.

I wish I could claim total responsibility for this accomplishment, but it seems like it’s more a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Since I started uploading photospheres to Google Street View, none of them had exceeded 1 million views (although one was close at 970,000 views). Following the Oroville Dam crisis in February, I had two photospheres reach past the one million mark, with one reaching past two million.

In my experience, the most successful spheres are those that are featured in Google’s search results. I don’t have definitive proof that this is the case, but I’ve found the images that featured in the search results seem to perform best. The example that came to mind was my photosphere for Bear Hole in Bidwell Park. I was surprised when I saw it suddenly surge beyond 100,000 views. I wasn’t sure why it was performing so well.

The most plausible explanation was that it was featured on the search results on Google Map. When I searched for Chico, CA in Google Maps, the search engine returns a map of the city, but there’s also a card showing useful information — and photos of the city. Often times, these are popular pics of major landmarks or the like. Google also includes photospheres. This is often from its own Street View service, but it increasingly appears to include photospheres taken by its users.

A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.
A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.

I think this is behind my most “popular” photospheres, including ones taken at regional parks, train stations or other landmarks likely to be searched by people.

Adding credence to my theory was another photosphere of Bear Hole taken by another user. I saw that it too was featured at times in the Google Maps search results and it had a view count similar to mine,

That brings me to the incident that brought my views surging to new heights. In early February, there was a natural disaster that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people in Northern California. Although the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam didn’t breach, I imagine there were a lot of people interested in learning the location of Oroville Dam and the surrounding area.

Indeed, the most popular photospheres featured the now-destroyed main spillway at the dam. It’s interesting that my most popular image is something that no longer exists.

The second most popular image for me was a photosphere of sculptures at Centennial Park in Oroville. It’s not associated with the park because there’s no entry for the park on Google Maps, but it is the first thing that comes up on Google Maps when someone searches for Oroville.

Several other images from Oroville have jumped following the Oroville Dam crisis, but those are by far the most popular.

I don’t know if a view is counted merely because someone sees it on a search result or if someone actually clicked through to see the full image. I would like to think it’s the later, but information on Google support forums indicates that merely seeing an image in a search result counts as a view.

Ultimately, I would like to think that people are viewing my images — it’s nice to think that millions of people are seeing my work. If it’s true, these images are the most popular thing that I’ve ever done.


Provo smokestacks before and after

Click to embiggen

It was certainly interesting to watch the demolition of the Provo smokestacks Sunday. Although I’m new to the area, I can certainly understand at least a small portion of what it’s like to lose landmarks like the duo that towered over the skyline for more than 67 years (77 years for the older stack to the north).

In the end, the stacks were practically in their birthday suits after having asbestos-laden paint stripped off of their structures a few weeks ago. While children waved glow sticks that looked like the towers of old with the branding of “Provo City Power,” the actual towers were bare, aside from a column of numbers stretching up the side.

I was excited to cover the event. It was great that the Daily Herald was able to have a reporter, photographer and online staff on the site. We were able to focus on our particular strengths — I reported while Issac Hale shot pics and Phillip Morgan captured live video of the moment. I’m bummed that I forgot that the Provo Mayor’s Office already suggested the #provosmokestacks hashtag and initially went with the shorter #provostacks tag. Hizzoner’s recommendation carried the day on Twitter and the posts using the tag were fun to browse through.

I also got to be a bit of dork and talk about the smokestacks before the event and later during a live, online interview with Assistant Power Director Scott Bunker (who was a pleasure to speak with). Although I’ve done radio broadcasting for years, I definitely saw room for improvement in my presentation.

We were able to cover the event from multiple angles and I was happy to shoot slow-motion video of the destruction. If you watch the top of the northern stack on the left, you can glimpse a small cloud emerge as it falls to the ground. Although the stacks were last used for power generation in 2000, it seems oddly fitting that they funneled either smoke or dust in their dying moments.

Before I left the Provo Recreation Center to write up the story, I snapped a final photo of the view without the towers framed to match a shot I took earlier in the morning. Using the Juxtapose.JS tool, I created the graphic you see at the top of this entry. It’s interesting to see just how much of an impact the old smokestacks had on the Provo skyline. One can only wonder what views we will see in the years to come.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 2.17.44 PM

Vital discussion on media consolidation not aided by false quip

Yes, Comcast is a huge conglomerate, but it and 5 other companies really own 90 percent of _all_ media?
Yes, Comcast is a huge conglomerate, but does it and 5 other companies really own over 90 percent of _all_ media?

It is ironic that a letter to the editor about media literacy would contain a wild, unsubstantiated claim about the media. Both the Enterprise-Record and the Chico News & Review ran a letter from Richard Sterling Ogden promoting a community radio program focusing on media literacy. Unfortunately, both copies of the letter ran the claim that “Six corporations own over 90 percent of media…” This claim has been floating around for years and, as far as I can tell, it’s a bit of easily repeated hokum that doesn’t have a scintilla of proof.

It’s frustrating when these unfounded and demonstrably false claims are repeated without any verification because it can diminish otherwise valid concerns about media consolidation. Because I loathe to see inaccurate, feel-good noise drowning out valid, useful information on the Internet, I often respond whenever I see this unproven claim repeated and taken as gospel (Here’s an example from Business Insider). What follows is generally what I post.

The simplicity of the statement “six corporations own over 90 percent of media” is its undoing because “media” could mean everything, including print, radio, broadcasting, recorded music, cinema, pay-TV, online media, etc., in every country across the world. Six corporations may have their fingers in many of those categories, but not all, and not in all countries.

Even if you generously narrow the definition of “media” to just the United States, one can quickly deduce that there’s no apparent merit to the claim.

For example, of the 1,774 full-power TV stations in the United States, about 20 percent of them are public television stations. Public television stations are licensed by various schools, colleges, non-profit entities — not, as far as I can tell, the nefarious six corporations.

The remaining 80 percent is less than 90, even if the rest of them were owned by these corporations (which they’re not). Yes, most TV stations air programming from broadcasters like Disney-owned ABC, CBS Corp. or Comcast-owned NBC, but the actual stations are owned by different companies. There are only about 79 stations owned and operated by the sinister six — that’s just 4.5 percent of the total number of stations. Again, 4.5 percent is not 90 percent.

The linked table itself acknowledges that the six companies control 70 percent of cable networks. I don’t have the time to verify that claim, but it’s not necessary because 70 percent isn’t 90 percent.

I could do the same thing for radio stations, newspapers and news websites. When you add them all up, I don’t think you’re going to get to 90 percent.

Ultimately, people who decry the potential for mass manipulation shouldn’t engage in it themselves.

Limiting Oakland night protests unlikely to solve vandalism problem

An older BART neighborhood map of downtown Oakland shows City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza (then known as Green Water Plaza).
An older BART neighborhood map of downtown Oakland shows City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza (then known as Green Water Plaza).

Two of the San Francisco Chronicle’s columnists, Chip Johnson and Debra Saunders, recently called for the city of Oakland to restrict evening protests in light of several recent events devolving into vandalism and other acts. In response, an SF Weekly writer stated the proposals would throw out the Bill of Rights.

I am not a legal expert, but it is theoretically possible to limit evening protests. However, this so-called solution may be difficult to enact and doesn’t seem to address the actual problem of vandalism and similar violence. Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of problems that people of all walks of life protest, but I’m focusing on this situation for the purposes of discussion.

Regarding limiting protests: Courts have found it can be constitutional for governments to set reasonable date, place and time restrictions on the use of traditional public forums (although any such regulations would need to be content neutral and meet strict scrutiny because it is limiting individuals’ rights).

Regarding strict scrutiny and reasonable date, place and manner restrictions, any proposed regulations have to meet four conditions:

  • That there’s a compelling governmental interest.
  • That the proposed regulation isn’t too broad.
  • That it’s the least restrictive means to achieve that interest.
  • And that there are ample alternatives to communicate.

The compelling governmental interest seems to be the easiest condition to meet. An argument can be  made about limiting evening protests when similar events demonstrably devolved into violence.

It would be up to the city to clearly specify what the other communication alternatives would be (and whether they would be valid alternatives to those wishing to protest). Ultimately, the second and third conditions may be significantly more difficult to meet and I’m not sure Oakland can meet those.

Restricting evening protests may be overly broad as it restricts many of the hours available for protest and assembly (especially when the sun sets early in the winter). A large segment of the working population is simply unable to participate in protests during the day. Also, many governmental bodies meet in the evening and people have a constitutional right to petition their government.

It could be difficult to prove barring night protests is the least restrictive means because the proposal doesn’t appear to directly address the illegal activity and vandalism that is the heart of this specific matter. Even couched as civil disobedience, breaking windows, destroying cars, and shutting down BART and highways has been and remains illegal. There isn’t much in the proposals to address that. Sure, it may be easier to detect illegal activity if legal protesters went home at a certain time, but it seems to unduly burden those peacefully expressing themselves.

The other factors mentioned by the columnists don’t seem practical for informal protests and assemblies that are formed quickly. I understand the desire for governments to recoup their costs for things such as street patrols and traffic controls and to require that groups stick to a specific route. They all seem reasonable (albeit potentially costly), but it just doesn’t seem workable for more spontaneous protests which would be likely to take place regardless of any potential reasonable regulations.

I don’t think I’m in a position to suggest the best solutions for a city and residents 160 miles away. While possible, imposing new restrictions doesn’t seem to be a move in the right direction.

Behind the scenes of The Buzz’s new look

Today marks the launch of The Buzz with a fresh facelift. The new design is geared to offer a cleaner, more dynamic look at the area’s lively arts. While the look is streamlined, all of The Buzz’s regular features are there. We also have updated ways to browse upcoming movies and events.

Please take a look — either in print or with the samples below. As the designer who oversaw the process, I’m excited by the end result and I hope you will be as well.

The June 17 Buzz
The June 24 Buzz cover
Old design (click to embiggen) New design (click to embiggen)

Opening pages up: Since we launched the old design years ago, we had changed how tall Buzz pages were and the design was starting to feel cramped. It was time for a flexible design that looked great.

Last December, I sat down on a Saturday and took the previous edition of The Buzz. Using a concept page that I have previously designed, I spent several hours redesigning the section. I moved elements around, updating fonts and styles and seeing how everything fit. After some tweaking and input from others, it became the blueprint for the new design and launched with the arrival of our new Buzz editor Jammie Salagubang.

Here are the music pages from the old and new designs. The new design opens up the entire width of the page for photos and articles (it was very difficult to have side-by-side articles in the old design). Some of the new pages explode with color.


Music page from the June 17 Buzz
Music page from the June 24 Buzz
Old design (click to embiggen) New design (click to embiggen)

New elements:
In the old design, the calendar and movie capsules had interesting information for people looking for stuff to do on weekends, but the presentation was mostly a sea of grey text.

The new movies section features a “What’s Playing” guide. At a glance, readers can see all the movies playing at every theater. There are also ratings, review scores and more.

June 17 movie guide
June 24 movie guide
Old design (click to embiggen) New design (click to embiggen)

The new calendar makes it easier to spot key events in the week ahead.
There’s a lot more color and interesting elements that will hopefully
encourage people to hold onto the guide for the entire week.

June 17 Calendar
June 24 Calendar
Old design (click to embiggen) New design (click to embiggen)

Ultimately, I view the new design as an evolution of The Buzz. In the weeks to come, we’ll have some new ways to showcase local events in the area that I hope you’ll enjoy.

Feedback: Please let us know what you think by leaving a comment on this blog. I’m sure Jammie would also appreciate your feedback at buzz -at- chicoer dotcom.

Fresh off the presses, it's the new look for The Buzz—our entertainment guide. Please let us know what you think.
Fresh off the presses, it's the new look for The Buzz—our entertainment guide. Please let us know what you think.

New position, new frontiers

Back when I was a senior in college, I went to a job fair in Orange County seeking a lead on my first job in the newsroom.

As I was going through the rounds, it becomes obvious there are some things that I just didn’t have — an internship at a daily newspaper, fresh clips, etc.

After some so-so interviews, I come to a table where the editor reads over my resume and some clips. He noticed my Internet experience — interim online editor at the Guardian, working for SMART Marketing Technologies, etc. He pointed to it and said, “You should really emphasize this” noting that newsrooms will need more and more people with that type of experience.

Since then, I was more focused on other aspects of the newsroom — reporting, copy editing and pagination. The Internet was still on my plate at The Daily Mining Gazette when I helped produce the Web edition and provided assistance to the other reporters in the newsroom.

That brings me to 2006 and the realization that the editor was correct. Since starting at the Enterprise-Record in Chico, it became pretty apparent that there was a lot of work that could be done to improve the Web site and the paper’s online efforts.

After helping with some parts of the Web site, including launching occasional blogs to cover news events, I was promoted in September to the newly created position of online content editor.

With just over a month under my belt, the new position is presenting new opportunities and challenges to the newsroom and myself. Moving ahead, I hope to help further bridge the gap between newsprint and the Internet.

Considering that the commercial Internet over 10 years old, the window to make a strong impression has never seemed more tantalized and urgent. In any given market, newspapers have the deepest staff to go forth and seek the news. Newspapers are often in the best position to be a dominant player in the online market in certain categories, like providing local news to readers.

We’ve already revamped our photo galleries, launched podcasts and increased the amount of breaking news on the site. This week, we launched the newspaper’s most comprehensive election coverage ever — with candidate video clips and full audio interviews with candidates.

These are exciting times. I hope to help move the Enterprise-Record forward so we can keep the public informed.

The latest from E-R Labs

Things are crazy busy here in Chico. Here’s the latest video I produced:

It’s about the deluge of Pleasant Valley High School students rushing off campus every day for lunch. It’s an interesting sight to behold.

There’s a lot more stuff going on in the newsroom. I hope to share more with you all later.

Interesting convergence

It was interesting to see two stories about the dangers of journalism cross by this week. First was the news that the Iraq war is now the deadliest conflict for journalists in 100 years. On the heels of that news came a package of stories from the Arizona Republic marking the 30th anniversary of the brutal car bombing of investigative journalist Don Bolles.

According to a May 29 article on the Editor & Publisher magazine Web site, The Freedom Forum reported 71 journalists have been killed in the Iraq theater since 2003. This tops the 69 journalists killed during World War II.

The article also cites a Committee to Protect Journalists statistic that 26 support staff have died. Reporters Without Borders noted at least 42 journalists have been kidnapped.

The following day, E&P posted a link to The Arizona Republic’s special report on the slaying of Don Bolles on June 2, 1976. Reading the articles, Bolles was lured to a hotel on a false tip. A remote-controlled bomb attached to his undercarriage exploded as he was driving away.

Thankfully they found and convicted the people who committed the crimes — apparently in retaliation for Bolles’ stories. An article discusses the controversy around one suspect.

As I read through these articles, I pondered what these reporters’ sacrifices meant. I still haven’t reached any solid conclusions. I certainly salute their bravery and their dedication to reporting.

I certainly appreciate the reports on these reporters, especially Bolles. It was shocking to realize that such a horrific and brutal hit could happen in the United States. Reading about Bolles’ life and dedication to uncovering corruption at all levels was inspiring. I was in awestruck to read that he apparently tried to write a humor column every few weeks despite the constant rejection.

I wonder if I would be able to step up and face a gauntlet of incredibly harsh conditions. I also dwell on the fact these reporters were all likely killed in violation of international law and the codes of war. Ideally, reporters should be noncombatants dedicated to make some sense of a conflict’s chaotic nature.

Reading stories like Bolles’ certainly make me want to keep pushing as a reporter.

Fall cleaning

I’ve noticed the professional side of my site isn’t as current as it should be. There have been no updates since I started at the Enterprise-Record. With some looking to the site for inspiration, the content is getting long in the tooth (not that I don’t mind going through my old work).

That’s going to change shortly. I’ve got a couple of posts roaring to go on this blog. While I haven’t written the next great expose over the past eight months, I’ve got some stories that I would be proud to post up here. I also want to detail some of my work helping to develop additional news content for paper’s Web site — including the “live” event blogs for Labor Day and Halloween.

More soon.