The online home of Jess Barron

Web content and community expert, writer, editor, blogger, and internet video producer.
Bio | Resume/CV

You can also find me on:
LinkedIn | twitter | flickr | yoostar | vimeo

In 2004, a guy who I don't know named Jeremy Abbate saw my website and wrote a song called "I Wanna Be As Cool As Jessica Barron." It still amuses me. Here's the mp3 and here are the lyrics.

Archives (slowly being reconstructed):
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
June 2009
June 2008
December 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2003
October 2001
September 2001
June 2000
May 2000
March 2000
October 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999

See how this site looked in 1998
Poprocks.com screenshot from early 1998
and how the place looked in 2000.
Poprocks.com from June 2000
Yahoo counted me as a "cool person" from 1997-2001. How far have I fallen?!
Yahoo counted me among the "Cool People" in 1997-1998.
The internets have come a long way, baby...

November 3, 2009 Yoostar Video Backgrounds... for Blogging and More
Yoostar allows you not only to insert yourself into scenes from popular movies and TV shows, but also to put yourself into just about any type of scene you can imagine with Yoostar Video Backgrounds.

With over 100 different backgrounds -- from urban cityscapes such as Times Square New York and Hong Kong at night to well-known wonders of the world like the Taj Mahal and the pyramids, you can put yourself almost anywhere without leaving your living room.

What kinds of clips would you make with video backgrounds? Here are 5 different ideas that Debbie and I had:

1. Video backgrounds are perfect for video bloggers or vloggers. It's quick and easy to record a video, and incredibly easy to embed the video into your personal blog. For example, I recently put myself into an underwater background to create this video blog about three of the best digital underwater cameras of 2009. I was standing in my kitchen the whole time, but was able to transport myself to a location that better suited the topic I was talking about.

2. Send a quick personalized message to someone. Debbie posted this video showing her lounging in a tropical beach setting, assuring her boss that she's working during her vacation. (For some reason, I'm not 100% sure I believe her, by the way...) If you want to send a personalized message telling someone you miss them or Happy New Year, video backgrounds are a cool way to add some style and creativity to your communication. The Yoostar widget makes it easy for you to embed your video messages into Facebook or send them in an email.

3. Perform a poem or sing a song. During a recent stop in Austin, Texas on the Yoostar Casting Tour, there were a number of people who used Yoostar's Video Backgrounds to showcase their original poetry and music. Texas State University student and Austin slam poetry champion Faylita Hicks gave a performance of one of her original poems in front of the Times Square at night background.

4. You can use Yoostar's video backgrounds to tell a story -- real or made up. I tried out the video background called "Letters Rain Down" to share a "Matrix"-inspired tale about a recent evening out at a club. I called my video "Don't take the red pill," and you can decide for yourself whether it's fact or fiction.

5. Give us a report. Yoostar's Video Backgrounds are great for independent journalists posting video updates. There are great backgrounds specifically for financial reports and even legal reporting from the steps of the Supreme Court. I created this quick report on the housing market as an example. (NOTE: I'm no economics expert, but I have been known to play one on Yoostar.)

Those are just five examples of ways to use video backgrounds. We can't wait to see more of what people do with them.

Check out the complete library of Yoostar video backgrounds, and leave a comment below to let us know if there is a particular background you want to see. We're adding new ones every week.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 2:43 AM
May 22, 2009 Get Back to Where You Once Belonged
I'm back in LA, after spending last week in NYC for some Yoostar press demos and meetings. Yoostar was written up in Forbes, Good Housekeeping, NY Daily News, and several other places. Follow our Yoostar twitter feed to stay up-to-date.

We've updated Yoostar.com with a new intro video and, and we updated the Roles page to show some of the movie clips you can act in with the Yoostar system.

Also, you may have noticed that this blog looks pretty different (and also that I'm posting to it after over two years of absence). While I was in NYC, my friend Lee pointed out that poprocks.com looked "so 1999." He was basically telling me that my online presence was wearing mom jeans. Ouch. I suppose, it's good to have friends who will be bluntly honest. It's like the time Andy told me that I needed an RSS feed for my blog, or the time JP told me I should not ever -- under any circumstances -- leave the house without wearing a bra. Funny, though, no one ever said there was anything wrong those times when I dyed my hair blue or apricot. I've seen the photos, and I'm surprised I didn't receive more critical feedback.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 12:57 PM
July 21, 2006 I Feel the Need, the Need for Speeeeeeed!
When I'm not blogging here on poprocks.com -- you can rest assured that I'm busy blogging somewhere else, probably for work reasons. This blogging machine never stops.

Other places to find me, when you need your fix:

Along with the ever-lovely Ms. Heather Moylan, I'm writing the AT&T Yahoo! Broadband Editors' Blog, asking the users what they think about such topics as skinny celebs, male infidelity, and the Middle East conflict. We also ask the users to shoot and submit their own cell phone videos of nicky hayden's a blur themselves speaking on these topics. Then on Fridays we read the web comments and show the video clips on-air on Seen and Heard, a new interactive video show show on ABC News NOW (ABC's 24/7 online news channel). We're collaborating with the ABC folks on the show, and we get to talk about what Yahoo! users are saying and what they're searching for each week. It's a really interesting interactive media experiment, and I encourage you to check it out. We also use the AT&T Yahoo blog to highlight the users' best Flickr photos. It's been a cool project. It's exciting to me that the technology finally allows us to pull off interactive user content like this much more easily. The fact that all the users are on a fast broadband connection doesn't hurt either!

Something else I'm blogging about that goes very fast: motorcycles! Those who have read my site for a long time know that I'm always curious about new things. In that vein, along with the fabulous Chris Strimbu, I'm writing the MotoGP blog from Laguna Seca in Monterey. MotoGP is motorcycle Grand Prix and it's something that's been really huge in Europe for years, but is only in its second year in the U.S. -- so most Americans aren't hugely familiar with it. The motorcylists ride on a curvy track at speeds of more than 200 miles-per-hour. It's pretty incredible. And loud! Right now, we're in the media tent working on the blog. Later today, we'll upload some awesome photos and interview the riders.

Since I'm on the topic of fast stuff, I ask you, dear readers, to tell me about the fastest you've ever gone?

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posted by Jess Barron @ 11:47 AM
September 16, 2005 3 Days Inside the Houston Astrodome
Here's one more rah rah Yahoo! post I've been meaning to make... Through the donation links on the Yahoo! network, we helped raise $53 million toward the Katrina relief effort.

Also, there were a bunch of Yahoo! peeps who flew down to Houston to help set up a computer search network and assist people in finding their relatives.

This is Hillary Mickell's excellent account of her 3 days spent in the Houston Astrodome.

Also, graphic designer Kathleen Watkins spent a lot of time talking to survivors in the Astrodome and recounted the experience in this blog post.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 11:59 AM
June 30, 2005 "Something I've been Meaning to Tell You..."
A few months back, my friend Andy took me aside one night when we were hanging out with friends. I could tell he was gathering up the courage to say something important.

"Jess, there's something I've been meaning to tell you." he said.

I was immediately nervous. Ever since JP took me aside that morning in 2000 and gave me a frank talk about the necessity of wearing a bra, I get a bit anxious out when my friends have something the've been meaning to tell me. My mind was scanning through possible manners faux pas, misbehaviors or misdeeds I might have committed. Was I being mean to someone? Was I dressing slutty? Did I have really bad B.O.?

"Don't take this the wrong way..." he continued and then paused.

You probably already know this but "Don't take this the wrong way" is a good indicator that you really don't want to hear what's going to be said next.

Andy looked at me -- I swear almost pityingly. "Some of your other friends and I were talking and we all agree that..." he trailed off again, trying to make sure through careful wording, perhaps, that what he was about to reveal would not excessively hurt my feelings.

I tried to appear as calmly curious possible, so that I could entice him to come out with it and end my painful suspense. "Yes? What is it? You can tell me. Don't worry." I felt like I was encouraging him to stab me or something.

"Well, it's just that..." he almost paused again, but thankfully continued after a moment. "You really, really need to get an RSS feed for your blog." I could tell he was embarassed for me. It was true that my personal website had remained stuck in 1997 or 1998 -- I still handcoded the HTML, I didn't have a way for readers to add comments, and I didn't have an RSS feed. Yes, I felt a little bit sad when Andy hit me with the harsh reality of the sad, outdated state of my long neglected but much-loved website. But I was sure glad I didn't have really bad B.O. that all my friends were talking about.

Andy, this RSS feed is dedicated to you and our brave, frank chat a few months back.

You can now easily add my blog to your My Yahoo! page (or your favorite RSS reader).

Anyone else -- if there's some flaw with my real-life person or my website that you need to bring to my attention, there's always email. And now, comments. You can thank Andy (and Allyson and others) for bringing that to my attention too.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 12:25 PM
May 26, 2005 "These are some giant pants..."
One of the most interesting things about being on TV for a few minutes during a morning news program is that a blogger gal named Carrie (who I haven't met) saw me and recognized me. She wrote:
    This morning, while watching good morning america, I swore I saw Jess from poprocks.com.

Seriously, my own mother almost missed my momentary morning-television appearance, but bloggers nationwide were recognizing me.

If you're curious, you can go and watch the video of this segment.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 5:33 PM
April 6, 2005 "Mr. Brokaw, what do you think about bloggers?"
laura and me and Tom Brokaw
Yesterday Tom Brokaw spoke at Yahoo! Campus as the latest guest in "the Influentials Yahoo! Speaker Series."

At the end of his speech, we were given the opportunity to ask him questions. I went up to the mic and asked, sp  "Mr. Brokaw, as someone who was raised by my maternal grandparents (who were first-generation immigrants), I appreciate your comments on 'The Greatest Generation,'" I said. "Secondly, I appreciated your comments about the role of the citizen and the obligation to take personal responsibility. My question is, what do you think the role of the citizen journalist is, and specifically what do you think about bloggers?"

He answered that he thinks it is great that the internet has provided the opportunity for various voices to be heard. He also answered that he's an avid reader of Yahoo! News. He did point out that he is wary of the political polarization to far-left and far-right that has been occurring in the blogosphere (no, he did not actually use the term "blogosphere" -- that is just me paraphrasing).

I recorded his entire speech and the Q & A via my iPod and iTalk adapter, and I'll be posting the MP3 online to share later tonight as soon as I get home. He basically said that blogging is good in his opinion.

These are some very weird times for broadcast journalism. First, Dan Rather announced his retirement. Then Tom Brokaw announced he would be stepping down late this year. Last week Ted Koppel announced he would be leaving "Nightline" after 25 years. Today Peter Jennings announced he has lung cancer, though he will continue to work while undergoing treatment. What is happening with all the great white men of broadcast journalism? It's making me feel old.

I think we all (and citizen journalists/bloggers, in particular) have a lot to learn from the successes and failures of Jennings, Brokaw, Rather and their colleagues. It's a mistake for online news people to discount TV news as a dead medium as we move onto this new way ot tell stories.

And TV news is not a dead medium.

TV news *does* seem to suit and satisfy a segment of the U.S. population very well, particularly in the older side of the demographics. Many folks in my grandparents' (and parents') generations feel comfortable and perfectly fulfilled by getting their news items selected and read to them each evening by someone who they respect and trust. Unlike younger people in our generation, many of these avid TV news viewers do not want to have to sift through the information themselves on the Internet or maybe they don't think they have time to do it, or don't feel comfortable doing it.

My dad, for example, is a huge TV news fan, and every single night he watches the evening news, and I don't think he will change this habit. Believe me, after 10 years of me working on the Internet and singing its praises, he's still not interested in getting his news via the Web as a primary source. At least not yet.

When I decided to attend Vassar, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. This may seem a bit strange to anyone familiar with the college, because Vassar does not offer a Journalism or Media Studies major. It's a liberal arts college, and they take that really seriously. Still I wanted to attend the school.  I talked to several journalists, students, teacher, and professors about this "problem" of Vassar's lack of a journalism major -- and came to the conclusion as a high school senior that I could be an even better journalist if I had a rich and varied liberal arts education.

But I didn't stop there. I  took every single media-related course that was offered. I wrote for the college newspaper ("The Miscellany News") and by my senior year I became Editor-in-Chief. While taking classes, I also interned at the local city paper ("The Poughkeepsie Journal," or "Po-Jo" as it was called), and in New York City first at ABC News' Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer and second at David Lauren's now-dead "Swing" magazine. One of my favorite things about interning at ABC was to watch "Nightline" with Peter Jennings from up on the catwalk in the live studio.

Peter Jennings is my favorite of all these guys. Peter Jennings is a whirlwind. He does not just accept the text written for him -- he makes furious notes in the margins and adds his own thoughts/questions off-the-cuff. He's impressive to watch from behind-the-scenes.

For a while around this time, I was convinced I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. My dad's mother would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would say "A journalist." And she would kind of frown for a second considering the lack of glamor and money a newspaper writing career would provide, and then she'd think for a moment and start to smile, saying hopefully, "A broadcast journalist? Those women are so smart." (No doubt she was thinking of Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer.) Hence, I was veered a bit in this direction.

But my internship at ABC -- though fulfilling and interesting -- ultimately convinced me that broadcast journalism was not 100% right for me. I realized that the topics highlighted in our weekly newsmagazine show were really limited by which topics appealed to the most mainstream of people. 

Like almost all newsmagazinw programs, the "investigative reporting" leaned toward hidden cameras catching babysitters and nannies hitting children in their care and exposing local hotel chains that didn't properly clean the rooms.  These may be actually be important topics that people do care about, but they weren't the types of issues I personally to which I wanted to devote my career and my life. (Here is the tongue-in-cheek account I wrote about my internship with Diane Sawyer at ABC that was published in the campus newpaper when I was a senior at Vassar.

I became obsessed with the Internet around this same time. While I was Editor-in-Chief of Vassar's school paper ("The Miscellany News"), we brought the publication online. In 1994, I also had the good fortune of taking a class called "Hypertext Rhetoric and Poetics" with Michael Joyce, author of one of the first "hypertext novels" called "Afternoon." Hypertext as a freestanding form of organizing words and information, and later as the building blocks for the Internet excited me -- its power to enable writers to tell stories in new ways really inspired me. In 1993 I wrote a (somewhat-clumsy-sounding-to-2005-ears) article for Vassar's newspaper about how hypertext was empowering female writers in new ways. 

I truly believe in the power of blogging and online journalism to improve our abilities to share stories accurately and compellingly. I think some of this is already being done. The topic-oriented pages created by the Yahoo! Full Coverage team are a great example. They provide a rich context to help readers get a 360-degree understanding of major events from a variety of different perspectives and sources. Blogging -- though it is lately criticized for often being politically polarizing -- also gives individuals and citizen journalist the power to report events and share them with thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. It's incredibly empowering.

Still, I have tremendous respect and awe for these men of broadcast journalism and their ability to report the stories of the world for the past 20-30 years.

If you're interested in this topic, be sure to read this LA Weekly interview with Nightline executive producer Leroy Sievers about "the death of serious news." My friend Josho sent me that one, and it supplies some interesting details on the state TV network news from an insider.

As a final aside -- the photo at the top of this post is of my co-worker Laura who works on the Yahoo! Full Coverage team and me with Tom Brokaw. The photo was taken by Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang with my Sony Mavica camera. Laura and I said, "Jerry, can you please take our photo with Tom?" And Jerry said, "OK, but you have to promise you won't sell it on eBay."

"That's a promise!," I said. I just wanted it for my blog, of course. And for the memories.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 1:08 PM
April 4, 2005 Will Our Next Pope Be a Blogger?
This ABC News piece describes how Pope John Paul II used his media-savvy to become a global superstar. (He released a music video, featuring him singing and reciting psalms and the Gospels. He also recorded the rosary.) It's also interesting to note that he became pope in 1978, the same year that instant global television became available.

An AP news article published on Yahoo! News today explains the difficult process of determining the next pope, there's an aside mentioning the Internet and how it may affect the selection of the new pope:

...And there's another source of information that wasn't around in 1978 -- the Internet. A cardinal's every utterance is now stored there, if his fellow churchmen are curious. That could also make or break some of the "papabile," as potential candidates are known in Italian.

I wonder if it would be possible to have an Internet-savvy pope. Do the cardinals ever go online? Could we ever have a pope who had his own blog?

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posted by Jess Barron @ 11:35 AM
March 3, 2005 Are Blogs to Blame?
Tom Regan, who I met last month at Poynter, posted to his Christian Science Monitor blog called My American Experience a piece positing that Americans' news and information consumption is today largely made up of opinion pieces rather than actual reporting and that this has a very dangerous impact on public opinion. He points to a Harris Interactive Poll showing that 64% of Americans *still* think that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al-Qaida. While I agree that Americans are consuming more opinion-influenced "news," and I do agree that blogs contribute to this somewhat -- I think that more of the blame in this case needs to be given to FOX News and conservative radio commentators. I just don't believe that any bloggers (right-wing or left-wing) have this huge of an influence on the opinion of the average American yet. For instance, is there any one blogger with readership over 1 million yet? (All the most influential newspapers in the U.S. have online readerships over 2 million). I would bet that the average American still does not read blogs regularly to get their news. Anyone agree/disagree? Add your comments at the end of Tom's post.

Last week I did also see an Op/Ed piece that editorial cartoonist Ted Rall wrote on "Bloggers and the New McCarthyism". Rall also focused on the danger of these right-wing blogs. It was interesting to me that Rall pretty much ignored that there are any non-right-wing blogs out there. Am I underestimating the "threat" of right-wing blogs?

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posted by Jess Barron @ 11:44 AM
January 30, 2005 What Are We Defining as Journalism?
This morning my dad showed me around North Port and the neighboring towns of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, Florida, both of which I watch being ravaged during hurricane Charley last August on ABC News NOW while handling Yahoo!'s video coverage. I was surprised to still see so much hurricane damage -- some houses were still torn open.

When I arrived at Poynter for the welcome reception and dinner, I met fellow redhead Theresa Moore, Executive Producer of Web Content for WTSP-TV Tampa Bay's 10. Fresno Bee reporter Matt Thompson came over and welcomed me saying, "Hey, you're one of the bloggers here!" I found out that Matt and another conference participant Robin Sloan have kept a blog called SnarkMarket since late 2003. Robin currently works as a producer at INdTV in San Francisco. (Oddly enough, former VP Al Gore is a founder of the network which aims to serve the twentysomething and thirtysomething audience with "real life video." This Washington Post piece tells a bit about what kinds of programming to expect, including a show called "That's F*&#ed Up". I told him about Pirate Cat Radio and Pirate Cat TV.

So far, I see the print newspaper folks making comments that are somewhat disdainful of bloggers, while knowing that bloggers are themselves pretty darn disdainful of "real" media folks.

Longtime family friend and my brother's first girlfriend Kristy Fox drove down from Orlando to visit me, and we walked around St. Petersburg late at night and found a restaurant to serve us chocolate cake and tiramisu. She brought a photo of us taken in 1988, which I may post here.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 9:26 PM