I’m writing a textbook

I haven’t posted a blog post recently, so I thought I would post a short update about what I’ve been doing. West Chester University has awarded me a sabbatical leave to work on a new textbook on broadcast performance. The working title is On Air: Effective Announcing, and is scheduled to be published by Cognella Publishing in 2018.

Because I’m spending most of my time working on this book, I probably won’t be posting to my blog a lot this year. My goal is to have a working draft of this textbook later this year to use in my broadcast performance class.

The Promise, Perils and Progress of Educational Technology

Below is a draft of my prepared remarks for the EduFan panel at D2L Fusion 2016. I actually didn’t read these remarks; rather, I extemporized my remarks in order to respond to the prompts of the moderator. But I was able to bring most of the points I raised in my prepared remarks (as well as quite a few more) during the panel. My comments seemed to be well-received by those in attendance.

First let me say thanks for the chance to speak on this panel. I’d like to thank D2L in particular for recognizing me as an EduFan. It is a distinct honor, and I look forward to seeing how the EduFan idea evolves.

And I’d like to thank the moderator for giving a mostly positive spin to the title of this panel: “The Promise, Perils and Progress of Educational Technology.”  While there may be some perils, I think most of us here at Fusion are likely to focus on the promise and progress of educational technology. And that includes me. For over 30 years, I’ve been a college professor who has embraced technology in my teaching and scholarship, evangelized the broader use of technology by my faculty colleagues, and encouraged my administrative colleagues to more fully consider the academic benefits from investments in technology. Drawing from that experience, I’d like to share with you today one simple principle and two practical suggestions.

The one simple principle is this: educational technology is primarily an academic resource, rather than a physical resource. Embracing this simple principle sounds easy enough, but in practice, the physical essence of the hardware and software behind educational technology can make it difficult to see beyond its nature as a physical resource.

Not that there’s anything wrong with physical resources. Every institution of learning has physical resources, like chairs and desks, file cabinets and lighting fixtures, doors and windows. But the windows in my office are quite different from the Windows running on my laptop. Actually, I’m more of an Apple fan myself, but that’s another story.

The point is while we need physical resources in education, we also need academic resources, like books and journals. To be sure, books are also physical resources. You can count them and hold them and store them. But books are primarily academic resources. They have value well beyond the value of the physical paper and ink. Indeed, books don’t have much value at all until they are opened, and read and engaged with as part of the learning process.

And so it is with educational technology. Yes, at one level it’s a physical resource. You can measure it in gigahertz and terabytes, calculate return on investment, analyze costs and benefits. You can treat it as a physical resource, but in my opinion, that’s mistreating it. In an educational environment, technology should be seen primarily as an academic resource. And the investment, management and deployment of that resource should be guided by that one simple principle.

Which leads me to my two practical suggestions. First, I believe the chief information officer of a university should ideally be an academic officer. In practical terms, that means moving toward the norm where the CIO of a university will hold the title of vice-provost rather than vice-president. If we accept the principle that educational technology is primarily an academic resource, then I think the top leadership structure needs to reflect that, in name as well as in practice.

Fortunately, I think we’re making good progress on this front. I’m encouraged by the growing number of university CIOs who not only have academic backgrounds and credentials, but hold academic posts, like the vice provost at West Virginia University, the associate provost at St. Bonaventure and the senior associate dean at George Washington University. And these are just a few examples of universities that clearly see the important role of academic leadership in technology. But even where CIOs aren’t formally recognized as academic officers, there tends to be a growing expectation that the technology leadership of a university unequivocally embrace its academic mission and priorities.

And in part, I think we can thank libraries for that. After all, we have long recognized library resources as academic resources, and library directors have traditionally been seen as an important part of the academic leadership of a university. Which leads me to my second practical suggestion: tenured faculty positions in educational technology. Just as it’s fairly common to have tenured non-classroom faculty in libraries, I hope it will someday be the norm that we’ll see tenured non-classroom faculty lines specifically in educational technology.

Now I realize this second suggestion may be a tougher sell, but it makes more sense if ed tech divisions are headed by academic officers. This will allow the development and implementation of tenure and promotion policies for academics whose primarily responsibilities lie outside of the traditional classroom. It may seem a bit far-fetched, but again, think of the library faculty who already achieve tenure and promotion, often without teaching a single class. Surely, if having tenured faculty in libraries is seen as an important part of the management of their academic resources, why wouldn’t we also see having tenured faculty in educational technology as an important part of the management of that kind of academic resource? Think of some of our brightest instructional designers, many of whom have advanced degrees and classroom experience. What if they could achieve tenure? What if they could serve alongside other faculty in policy deliberations and curricular committees? Consider the possibilities of educational technology divisions that see faculty as colleagues and partners, rather than as clients and consumers.

In conclusion, I believe the simple principle and two practical suggestions I offered today could lead to a paradigm shift in education, one that could help us more fully realize the promise and progress of educational technology.

On Defining Communication Research

One of my colleagues, Dr. Gina Castle Bell, has asked her students in our undergraduate introductory course in communication research to go on a “scavenger hunt” asking professors in our department for the answers to some basic questions about communication research.  Some of these questions are similar to those included in an activity that another one of my colleagues, Dr. J. Kanan Sawyer, has been using for years in one of the courses she regularly teaches.  Just as I found it useful to respond to Dr. Kanan’s students in a blog post, I thought it would be useful to do the same for Dr. Castle Bell’s students.  So below are the questions students are asking, and my responses.

•What is the difference between Communication & Communications?

For the average person, these two terms may seem  interchangeable.  Indeed, many of my students will say they are communication majors and in the next breath say they major in communications.  But for many who are serious about studying communication, there is a significant difference.

When scholars of communication use these terms, they generally use the singular term to refer to the process of communication, and the plural term to refer to the products of communication.  Communication is the process of creating and sharing meaning.  Communications are the tangible “things” produced as a result of that process, and in particular, the things produced by industries that make money by selling those things (like newspapers and magazines and movies) and/or sell advertising in those things.

Let me quote from my earlier blog post

The term “communications” typically is used to describe the products of communication: things like newspapers, radio programs, TV shows, films, etc. Within the discipline of communication, there are those who take offense when an “s” is added to the end of the term. This is especially true among those who don’t study media, since the term “communications” implies a focus on media and media products. In common use, when people refer to communications as a discipline, they typically mean some kind of applied media study, such as that offered by journalism schools and radio-TV-film programs. As you might imagine, I’m not too bothered by students who say they are “communications” majors, but some of my colleagues cringe when they hear that.

This last point, about colleagues who take offense at the term “communications,” reflects a fundamental belief by some scholars that studying the process of communication is a “purer” area of study then is the study of media products.  As someone who studies media, I find this bias toward process rather narrow-minded.  It reminds me of the heated but often pointless turf wars in the English discipline between those who teach writing and those who teach literature.  Quite often, composition teachers don’t get the same level of respect in English departments that literature professors enjoy.  I find it ironic that in the English discipline, the study of products (literary criticism) is often considered “purer” than is the study of process (how to write).

But in all honesty, this distinction between communication and communications is rarely made by the average person, or even the average undergraduate student.  And I can’t say I blame them.  Academics often take themselves too seriously.

•What is communication research? How would you define it?

Let my start by defining research.  Research can be defined as a systematic investigative process, where a scholar seeks to use broadly accepted methods for uncovering new information which can contribute to the effort of expanding public knowledge.  Research can refer to both the process of doing scholarly inquiry (i.e., to “do research”) and the results of that inquiry (typically, but not always, as published in scholarly literature, including books, journals and presentations at academic conferences).  I like to think of the “re” in “research” as suggesting a repeated form of searching for truth: scholars search for the truth, but more importantly, they “re-search” for the truth, searching again, and again, over and over, re-looking and re-examining their subject of interest, looking for any new bits of information that can increase understanding.

Defining communication is something I at least tangentially addressed in my earlier blog post.  And I’ve defined it above as “the process of creating and sharing meaning.”  Actually, I often give my students an even simpler definition of communication — the process of creating meaning — since I like to focus on the creative act of communication, and I believe that all meaning is shared (at least all expressed meaning is shared) so it’s a bit redundant to include “sharing” in the definition.  But it certainly doesn’t hurt to include the concept of sharing in a definition of communication.  After all, the Latin root of the word, communis, means “to share” (or literally, to make common) and is the root of other “sharing” words, like community, commonality, commune and communicable.

Stated simply, then, communication research is scholarly inquiry into the process of creating meaning.  But that’s still too broad to be of much practical value.  In practice, communication researchers tend to study different contexts for communication, such as interpersonal communication, group communication, organizational communication and mass communication.  Communication researchers also tend to vary in the methods used (more on that in the last question asked, below).  And communication researchers also vary in their devotion to expanding public knowledge; there are many applied communication researchers, especially in the communication media industries, who devote most of their work at expanding the private knowledge of their clients.

•What types of communication research do you study?

First, I’m going to assume that the real question here is not what types of communication research I study; but rather what kinds of communication research I have done.  After all, most communication researchers study communication, not communication research (although there are a few methodologists who primarily study research methods — who study how to study).

I suppose this would be a good place to reference my vita.  Professors often list all the academic work they do in such a document; it’s like an academic resume.  Of particular relevance for this question is the section entitled “Scholarly Publications, Papers and Presentations,” starting on page 6.  Here I list all of the journal articles, book chapters, research papers, and conference papers I have authored (or co-authored) during my academic career.

If you browse through this section, you’ll see that my research agenda has evolved quite a bit over the years.  When I was just getting started in academic work back in the 1980s, most of my research efforts focussed on broadcasting.  My very first formal research publication was the thesis I wrote for my Master’s degree back in 1983.  It was entitled, “Future Radio: Video Music and Its Effects on Radio Listening.” This study examined how the then-new medium of music videos impacted listening to music on radio.  MTV was just getting started back then, and a lot of people in radio were concerned that once people got used to watching their favorite music performed on television, they would listen to music on the radio less.  It sounds a bit silly now, but there really were people afraid that MTV would put pop/rock radio stations out of business.  My study concluded that in fact, just the opposite was happening: the more people watched music videos on MTV, the more time they spent listening to music on radio.  And indeed, MTV had a significant influence on the evolution of pop music radio during the 1980s and early 1990s.

The 1990s was one of my most productive decades in terms of what I would call traditional scholarship.  My vita lists nearly 40 different publications and papers during this decade.  Many of these studies looked at various research questions related to broadcast media, including one of my most quoted articles, “Enhancing the Electronic Sandbox” which examined student-operated college radio.  Other broadcast-related topics I researched during this period included shortwave radio news, local television news, and public broadcasting.

It was during this decade that I began to focus more on digital communication technologies, and the emergence of what back then was called “new media.”  This included a number of journal articles, book chapters and papers on the topic of “flaming.”  Most people aren’t even familiar with this word anymore, but the “flame wars” that characterized much of the online communication of the 1990s was fascinating to me, and this phenomenon occupied a lot of my research time back then.  I wanted to understand why people could be so rude to each other in online communication, and what specific factors contributed to such aggressive communicative behaviors.  My research led to a “social influence model” to help explain flaming, which was the basis for the chapter I wrote for the 1997 book “Communication and Cyberspace: Social Interaction in an Electronic Environment.”

During the first decade of this century, my research efforts became more focused on issues related to public broadcasting, and in particular, the efforts of noncommercial broadcasters in expanding their mission of public service to online communication.  I wrote a rather extensive history on noncommercial radio (for the book “The Radio Industry”) that some of my colleagues have kindly referred to as the most authoritative work on the subject.  I also did a lot of research into college radio, reflecting the years when I was chair of the Student Media Advisors division of the Broadcast Education Association.

My most recent scholarship has focused on the use of technology in teaching.  I’ve examined the use of clickers in large lecture classes, the educational value of online discussion, the use of social networks in education, and the use of music and recorded audio in lectures (something I’ve been doing for years in my introductory mass communication course).  And a lot of my work has looked at the trend of “hybrid” learning, which combines classroom instruction with online learning.

That may be a longer answer than most students want, but in reality, I’ve only touched upon a few of the highlights of my scholarly journey.  My research over the years has covered a lot of different areas.

•How would you explain the difference between quantitative and qualitative research?

The distinctions between quantitative and qualitative research are mainly at the methodological level.  That is, just about any research question can be approached from either quantitative or qualitative methods.  And often the best research efforts combine both quantitative and qualitative considerations.  I think our understanding of communication benefits from seeing things in terms of both quantities and qualities.

Quantitative research methods are fundamentally based on the counting of empirical data.  A quantitative research effort typically begins with a precise definition of what counts as a “unit” of data in the realm of interest.  Careful and deliberate observational methods are used to count those units, yielding various measures that can be documented and analyzed.  Rather than count every single possible unit of data, most social scientific researchers use statistical methods to make inferences from a sample from the data population, and the strength of those statistical inferences depends on random selection when drawing the sample.

A fairly straightforward example of quantitative research is audience measurement.  If you are a manager of a radio station, you want to know how many people are listening to your station, because you want to charge your advertisers a fair price for reaching those listeners.  The more people listen, the more you can charge for an ad.  Now unless you live in a very small town, you can’t ask every person who could be a potential listener whether they actually listened.  Instead, you randomly select people to measure their radio listening.  You establish precise rules for what “counts” as listening; for example, radio listening is typically measured in quarter-hours, and you count someone as a listener as long as they listen for at least 5 minutes out of a quarter-hour.  And you employ statistical methods for making inferences from your randomly selected sample of people to the entire population of the radio market you’re studying.

Qualitative research, on the other hand, focuses on identifying and understanding  observable qualities.  Rather than assuming that we can best understand something by breaking it down into countable units, qualitative researchers try to deeply understand as much as they can about the whole, in order to provide satisfying answers to “why” and “how” questions (as opposed to the more quantitative questions of “how much” or “how many”).  Qualitative research methods vary widely, but some of the most widely used in communication studies include ethnography, participant observation, case studies, and interviews.  Qualitative research methods are often employed in critical scholarship and cultural studies.

To continue with the example of the radio station owner, suppose he or she wanted to not only know how many people listened to the radio station, but also wanted a deeper understanding of the reasons they listen, and the environment in which they listen, and the functions radio listening serves for them.  In other words, to not just answer questions related to the quantity of listeners, but to answer questions about the qualities of listeners and “listenership.”  While these kinds of questions could be approached quantitatively, it’s likely that qualitative research methods would provide more satisfying answers.  A qualitative researcher might spend days or weeks just observing radio listeners in their “natural environment,” making careful notes of what they do, trying to capture every observable detail.  Building from this, they could compose a rich narrative of a “day in the life” of a radio listener.  Or perhaps interviews of radio listeners could be used to create a detailed inventory of their reasons for listening.

Now I have to say that I’ve greatly simplified the distinctions between quantitative and qualitative research methods here in order to provide a more vivid contrast.   In practice, quantitative researchers often count qualities, and qualitative researchers often seek to draw inferences from their specific observations to a broader population.

•Do you identify as asking more quantitative or qualitative questions?

I would say neither.  I have used both quantitative and qualitative research methods during my career, and I don’t identify myself in one methodological camp or the other.  I suppose if I was forced to make a choice, I would probably lean a bit toward quantitative.  That’s not because I value quantitative more than qualitative methods, but rather, because applied media research has tended to employ quantitative methods.   But in reality, I let the questions I want to answer drive the choice of method.

I suppose at a very basic level, people who are comfortable with math and statistics are more likely to use quantitative research methods, while those who hate math and prefer a good story prefer qualitative methods.  I’ve never been particularly uncomfortable with math; indeed, I rather enjoyed the math classes I had in college.  But at the same time, I recognize that a quantitative perspective can only take one so far in understanding the process of communication.  I think it’s a good idea for anyone studying communication to acknowledge the value of both quantitative and qualitative research methods, and to be willing to use both to advance understanding.

Why iWant iPad

Apple has officially announced the iPad. And iWant one.

The iPad hasn’t even been officially released, and it’s already being panned by critics who just don’t get it. Moments after the iPad announcement, Fake Steve Jobs (Dan Lyons) called it “underwhelming.” Many see it as just a big iPod Touch or an “iPhone on steroids.” Others compare it to Tablet PCs, which have been largely unsuccessful. Some wonder if the iPad will be just a newer Newton, one of Apple’s biggest flops. There are those who are disappointed by the lack of a camera. Or the apparent inability to support Flash content. Or the big bezel around the 4:3 ratio display. Or the onscreen keyboard. Or a host of other nitpicking criticisms that, in my mind, miss the whole point of iPad.

And that point is best summed up by Jonathan Ive in the opening lines of the promotional video: “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sorta becomes magical. And that’s exactly what the iPad is.”

Yes, the whole point of the iPad is to be magical. Sure, one can already do much of what the iPad can do on a laptop or an iPhone or an iPod Touch. And many of the initial criticisms of the iPad have come from comparisons to other things that can do what the iPad can do.

But I don’t want an iPad because of what it can do. I want an iPad because of how it will do it. And from what I’ve seen, it does indeed look like magic. Understated elegance. Intuitive interface. Brilliant display. Screaming fast. Amazing price. Serious magic.

And iWant that magic.

I don’t want the iPad to replace my MacBook. Nor do I want it to replace my iPhone or iPod. And I don’t expect it to. Yes, I will probably use the iPad to read my email, keep my calendar, show off my photos, listen to my tunes, watch some videos, and surf the web. But I don’t want an iPad just to do those things. I want an iPad because I want to do those things (and more) in a new way, a fun way, even a magical way.

And iWant what could be the iPad’s killer app: iBooks and the iBooks Store. I’ve been holding off on getting a Kindle. I was really tempted to buy a Nook. But I’ll put down my money for an iPad, so I can read books in full color, on a bright, backlit screen. I know there are those who say it will be hard on the eyes, that monochrome e-ink displays are better. I don’t think so. I’ve spent some time with a friend’s Kindle, and I didn’t find it particularly easy on the eyes. If anything, I found it harder to adjust to an e-ink display after spending most of the day looking at a computer screen. Maybe my eyes are different. Or maybe I just don’t buy the argument that a black-and-white display is somehow better than one in full, glorious color. Go figure.

And even if my eyes do tire after an hour or two of reading iBooks on an iPad, at least I can do something else with it besides read books. A whole lot more than I could do with a Kindle, or a Nook. And for not a lot more money.

It would be nice if Apple gave an educational discount on the iPad. Apple typically does give a small price break to educators and students. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t give one on the iPad, at least not at first. But I would be very surprised if Apple didn’t eventually have some kind of promotion to make the iPad even more affordable for the education market. Perhaps in their next “back to school” promotion, in time to get iPads in the hands of college students everywhere. Who knows? Maybe the iPad will even make reading textbooks fun again. OK, maybe reading textbooks was never fun. But I’ll take anything I can get that would help my students get more out of reading them.

So let the naysayers and critics write all the negative reviews they want. I’ve heard this kind of reaction to Apple products before. Some people have been calling the Mac a “toy” since the day it came out in 1984. Some people predicted the iPod would never catch on, and that the iTunes store would never be successful. Some people even thought the iPhone would be a flop. And some people today think the iPad will be a failure.

Some people never learn. If there’s one thing Apple can do, and do well, it’s create products that people want. And I firmly believe that people are going to want the iPad. Lots of people.

I know iWant one.

The Haiti Earthquake and Journalistic Choices

Yesterday, a tremendous earthquake struck Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about this tragedy in the last 24 hours, praying for the victims and survivors, and hoping that the relief effort will be swift, compassionate and comprehensive. As I write this, the extent of death and destruction is not yet clear. But from what I’ve heard from news reports, the Haiti Earthquake of January 2010 appears to be one of the worst natural disasters of this century, possibly even more devastating than the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004.

I’ve also been observing how journalists, and especially broadcast journalists, have been covering this story. I first heard of the news on CNN. Wolf Blitzer broke the story during his “Situation Room” broadcast a few minutes after 5 p.m. My wife was watching CNN when the first announcement was made, and soon both of us were scanning the various news channels for updates. We checked out the Fox News Channel and MSNBC, but we kept coming back to CNN, since, for at least the first few hours after the earthquake, CNN had the most comprehensive and detailed reports.

Indeed, I was a bit shocked by how little attention this story received on Fox News Channel and MSNBC during the first few hours after the earthquake hit. CNN was covering the story nonstop from when the news broke shortly after 5 p.m. Fox had a brief “Fox News Alert” around 5:30 during the Glenn Beck show, but didn’t provide any extensive coverage of the story. MSNBC broke the story a bit later than Fox with an update during “Hardball.” But again, MSNBC, like FNC, didn’t give much more than a brief mention about the tragedy unfolding a few hundred miles southeast of Florida.

CNN did what a news channel should do when a big story like this hits: interrupt regular programming, stick with the story and provide as much information as you can to viewers. Both Fox News Channel and MSNBC instead relied mostly on their pre-recorded talk programs. On Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly interviewed Sarah Palin, who recently became a regular contributor to Fox News. The only mention of the Haiti Earthquake I noticed on FNC during the O’Reilly show was in the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen. Similarly, I didn’t hear Keith Olbermann mention the tragedy at all during his show on MSNBC. To her credit, Rachel Maddow did spend a significant part of her show covering the Haiti earthquake, but by then CNN had been covering it nonstop for nearly 4 hours.

I’m rather disappointed that the only cable news channel that stayed with this story from the beginning was CNN. I can understand why MSNBC might have a hard time covering breaking news, as they have the most limited news resources among the three major news channels. But one would think Fox News Channel could have broke away from their routine prime-time lineup to cover a story of this magnitude. While FNC might not have quite the same number of reporters in the field as does CNN, I think they could have pulled out the stops if they had wanted to do so. They certainly could afford to do so. Fox News Channel is watched by more people than CNN, and those higher ratings have helped swelled the bank accounts of Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation, which owns Fox (as well as the Wall Street Journal and many other media properties).

So why didn’t Fox News Channel, the broadcast news flagship of a company called the “News” Corporation, break away from their pre-recorded prime-time lineup of commentary shows to provide breaking news coverage of the earthquake in Haiti? One can only assume this reflects contrasting “gatekeeping” philosophies, about what is newsworthy and what isn’t. Last night on Fox News Channel, Sarah Palin’s debut as an FNC contributor was news. Last night on CNN, the earthquake in Haiti was news. With all due respect to Ms. Palin, I think CNN made the better journalistic choice.

Adding Flowplayer to Podcast Producer 2

Today I had another breakthrough in my implementation of Podcast Producer 2, a core part of Snow Leopard Server. As noted in my previous posts, PP2 is “still a work in progress,” but it is also a vast improvement in many ways over my previous video transcoding system based on ffmpeg and Drupal. I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of the videos produced by PP2, although the file sizes are a bit larger than what I squeezed out of ffmpeg. But one thing that hasn’t impressed me is the “plain vanilla” look and minimal functionality of videos presented using the Quicktime plugin.

I realize there might be valid reasons for Apple sticking with the Quicktime plugin rather than using a more modern-looking javascript player. But for the life of me, I can’t think of any reasons that would excuse Apple from not providing its Snow Leopard Server customers with the option to make videos look as good as on Apple’s site. Almost everywhere you look on Apple’s website, you see snazzy-looking Quicktime presented in cross-platform stable players, typically built in javascript. Even the new Quicktime player that is included with Snow Leopard client gives you a javascript option when exporting a video for the web. So why didn’t Apple provide a javascript player option with Podcast Producer 2? At the very least, Apple could have provided some configuration hooks to make it easier to do something other than present videos using the Quicktime plugin.

But where there’s a will…there’s got to be a way. And my “breakthrough” today was in finally finding that way. It isn’t using one of the various javascript players you can find on Apple’s site. Those aren’t at all well-documented, and trying to piece together something workable from the clues found in page sources is not my idea of a fun afternoon. No, the player I’m using to present the Quicktime videos produced by Podcast Producer 2 is Flowplayer, a really great little Flash-based player.

With my previous ffmpeg/Drupal system, I had been using a Flash-based player to present the videos: the venerable JW Player (now a product of Long Tail Video). But for a variety of reasons, I couldn’t get this player to work right with the m4v Quicktime files produced by the PP2 system. And the look of JW Player is getting a bit dated, although not nearly as dated as the look of the Quicktime plugin. Flowplayer, on the other hand, is modern-looking, clean and well-documented. The key to getting Flowplayer to work with PP2/Wiki server was finding just where to put the code…something that I mentioned at the end of my last post.

So today, after editing some code in the wiki.js and compressed_wiki.js files (both located in usr->share->collaboration->javascript), I now have Flowplayer injected instead of the Quicktime plugin whenever a user clicks on a thumbnail. The main edit was to the objectHTML variable (quoted in my previous post). In essence, instead of referencing the Quicktime plugin, I referenced the SWF player file included in Flowplayer, and passed to it the same parameters that had been going to the plugin. To keep things in line with the way the Quicktime plugin had been injected, I used the OBJECT method of inserting Flowplayer. To keep Firefox happy, I echoed this change using the EMBED method found in the embed.innerHTML variable in the code right below the objectHTML variable. I also tweaked the height adjustment, adding 24 pixels to video files and 8 pixels to audio files (using extendHeight?24:8) to accommodate the slightly higher control bar of Flowplayer. And to get the Flowplayer javascript file loaded, I added a call to this file in the head of the default.xsl file in the Wiki theme folder (and in the enclosed compressed folder). And that’s pretty much it.

Now videos on my site look so much better, with a decent looking control bar that I can customize to my heart’s content. Time indicators? Check. Slick color instead of boring monochrome? Check. Volume slider you actually notice? Check. Seek bar with time points? Check. Big bold play and replay buttons? Check. Options galore for tweaking things just right? Check.

It did take some effort to get my head around the code I needed to adjust in Apple’s javascript files. And yes, my changes will most likely be overwritten by a software update, so I’m being careful to backup my edits. But now that I understand where to make the changes, and how, I think I will continue to use Flowplayer instead of relying on the stock Quicktime plugin to present PP2-produced videos.

At least until Apple does the right thing and finally brings to their Server product a decent javascript player…like the ones that have been used for a long time on Apple’s own web sites.