My Twitter favorites from 01/19 – 01/20

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

New year, new media goals

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

A new year gives me the opportunity at work to create new resolutions goals that are tied to my duties as online manager (MBO). There are the obvious ones

Don't Make Me Think

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

like finally launching a mobile version of Union-Bulletin.com without spending much money and without hiring a mobile developer. I’ve got some ideas on how to do that using WordPress but I’ll leave that to another post.

Another obvious one is a slight redesign of our website and registration/log in forms. Which leads me to my not so obvious goals. I’ve decided to read some tech books and/or take a number of NewsU online courses/webinars. As part of my goals I will then write a short proposal on how to integrate what I learn into our online products.

First up, I’ve enrolled for Friday’s NewsU webinar Programming for Non-Geeks: Easy Interactivity which hopes to teach:

  • How to get started: which software you need and where to get it
  • Some basic techniques to enhance your content, even as a non-programmer
  • What plugins are and which one plugins to consider when creating news-oriented content
  • About tools to make your jQuery development easier
  • About top resources to know and bookmark

And I’ve got a small library of books I plan to read, including:

I’ve started reading all of them and I am most excited about Don’t Make Me Think since it will a great resource for our planned redesign of our forms. I will blog over the next several months about my “takeaways” and implementation plans based on what I learn.

Oh, and I also plan on blogging regularly again. That may be the most daunting goal!

We know social media and we must embrace it

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Working for a news organization in a small rural town, we have been at the forefront of social media in our small city. We were on Twitter back when there were a total of about 5 results when you did a Twitter search for Walla Walla . And while were weren’t the first company in Walla Walla to jump onto Facebook we were the first to use it as a promotional platform for local businesses and partners.  How many community news organizations can say they have a social media coordinator on staff? And still we find ourselves on the outside looking in when social media workshops are hosted locally.

What to do? Host our own workshop is what to do. In collaboration with the local chamber of commerce we will be hosting an lunch-time workshop presented to local business leaders. I’ll be making the opening presentation and Jeremy Gonzalez will be covering how we are using Facebook, video and Twitter to help connect local audiences with local businesses. I’ll post a follow up after the workshop. What’s that saying? If you can’t join them, beat them? Or at least host a workshop to demonstrate your social media expertise.

Social media opportunities in local online business directories

February 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

Recently had a look at the Ellington CMS which is built on the open-source framework Django. A very slick CMS with many of the features that our news org is looking for. However it is a bit out of our price-range. Granted our price-range is pretty close to single digit. As in $0. Not really but you get the idea.

Also got a chance to see their business directory product called Marketplace. Again a very slick product. Looks to be very user friendly on the customer side and very easy on the business/vendor side. When a local business buys a listing they get a user-name and password that allows them to add as much or as little information about their business as they want. And they can update the information as often or as infrequent as they want. They can also upload photos/videos of their products or services. They can post coupons and information about ongoing sales. How about adding a customer service component?

It got me thinking about Twitter. Recently it doesn’t take much to get me to think about Twitter but this particular thought about how to integrate Twitter as social media/customer service platform into an online business directory. How about if Twitter or CoverIt Live was integrated into the business listing. Or how about a live video stream using Mogulus or Ustream. It would add a human face to the business. Maybe the business can set up a schedule when someone would be available to answer questions – “Customer service avalable Mon, Wed., Fri. 2-3 p.m. Sure individual business owners could set up their own Twitter/Mogulus accounts separate from their business directory listing. But many small businesses have a hard enough time updating an online directory listing or a website much less have the time or inclination to create yet another account on some web service they know very little about. This way it is already built in.

Would that be attractive to local businesses? Would it be added value to their basic listing? Perhaps someone is already doing this?

News org wikis or contextual archives?

January 31, 2009 § 10 Comments

This idea is not new. But it has been bubbling in my head for a few months: how to incorporate a wiki or wikis into our online content. We’ve tried a couple of wikis in the past couple years as part of our in-depth series but we struggled with how to allow contributions. We ended up only allowing comments/threads. Not what most people would consider a wiki.

About 2 years ago Amy Grahan wrote a column over at Poynter about the idea of news org wikis. She wrote:

Most notably, wikis can transcend the short attention span and fragmented view of issues and events inherent in traditional story-format reporting. With a wiki, no topic ever really “scrolls off the home page.” Wiki pages are forever active — even if they lie fallow for long stretches of time. And interested people can continue to watch and edit these pages indefinitely.”

In her post Amy asks for examples of wikis implemented by news orgs. As far as I can tell there were no examples given of implementation as I envision it.

Also in 2007, Paul Bradshaw of the Online Journalism Blog also wrote a piece on new org use of wikis. He mentioned a couple of attempts by mainstream media:

A number of experiments with wikis have already shown its potential to both reach out to a readership – and to fall flat on its face. An example of the latter was the LA Times ‘wikitorial’ – an editorial piece on the Iraq war which the newspaper allowed readers to edit. After only a day the newspaper had to pull the feature due to readers flooding the site with inappropriate material.

On the positive side, however, was Wired’s experiment with the form late last year, when they allowed readers to whip an unedited article about (yes) wiki technology into shape. Over 300 users made edits, with one interviewing a Harvard expert, and another suggesting a contact – and when one user complained about some quotes from an interviewee, the original journalist, Ryan Singel, posted his interview notes so that users could pick a better one.

Paul also posted a more in-depth examination of possible uses of wikis in news orgs. In that post he wrote:

Internally, wikis also allow news operations to coordinate and manage a complex story which involves a number of contributors. News organisations interested in transparency might also publish the wiki ‘live’ as it develops, so readers can view as it develops, and look at previous versions, while the discussion space which accompanies each entry also has the potential to create a productive dialogue with users.

This refers to the idea of using a wiki to develop a story online.

Typically a story is posted on a news org website which occasionally generates a list of related stories. Perhaps a photo or two are posted as well. If there is a video, that might be embedded into the story. And usually that is the end of context.

My wiki/archive idea would work like this:
A story posted on a new org website would also have a link to its wiki/archive page. The wiki/archive page would display all related content in a chronological thread (maybe utilizing some nifty AJAX coding so that you don’t have an endlessly scrolling experience.)

You’d get:

  • related stories including any comments posted by the public
  • video(s)
  • multimedia including slideshows, etc.
  • maps
  • related tags
  • a timeline
  • annotations by editors and reporters

Some concerns:

The trouble is Wikipedia, as ‘the public face of wikis’ is frequently derided for inaccuracies and vandalism. Will the mainstream media be able to surmount those problems?

…will the wiki dream be killed off through the fear of cyber vandals treating our news websites as virgin walls for virtual graffiti?

  • The NY Times recently reported on Wikipedia incorporating a new system to keep those types of edits off. We could have a stringent registration process but I’m not sure that it would be a wiki at that point.
  • Too much transparency. In my opinion this isn’t a reasonable concern. Strike-throughs and footnotes should be included in stories on news org websistes to alert the reader to errors or edits. Many news orgs are already doing this.
  • Information overload. This feature may not be useful for many stories or even for many news org customers. But with a well designed interface it would be a great resource for community members to follow stories that have developed over months or years.
  • Not many users know what wikis are. Paul Bradshaw sites some statistics:

Finally, one of the biggest disadvantages may be readers’ lack of awareness of what a wiki even is: only 2% of Internet users even know what a wiki is, although similar statistics were once applicable to blogs.

So maybe calling it a wiki is the wrong thing to do. Maybe it would be more precise to call it a contextual archive of news stories. Although I think incorporation wiki conventions such as public input via comments and edits (after a reasonable registration to preclude trolls) should be a big part of this feature.

What do you think are the pros and cons of something like this; for journalists and consumers of information? Are there news orgs already doing this?

What new media skills should I learn?

January 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’ll answer that. I think I should gain some web programming skills. But what?

Flash/Action-script? That would come in handy to produce some slick multilmedia packages like this one.

Drupal/Django/Joomla/Ruby on Rails? This would help in developing a custom CMS or a slick community calendar app. But it looks like that is time and programming intensive. Maybe a bit over my head. Definitely intimidating.

PHP? That would help us customize and tweak WordPress plus if I add some XML in there we could do some database driven stuff.

I hate being in the position where I see a great web app and not being able to duplicate it or tweak it or customize it. For instance all the great APIs out there made available by Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. As a news organization we do not have the personnel to do much of any of this. And we mostly likely will never have the staff to do it. So I feel like it’s up to me and in addition I develop a bigger skill set that will make me a more valuable employee/freelancer/entrepreneur.

Or should I just stick to content creation via video. Maybe I need to just expand my FCP skills. I admit my FCP skills are pretty limited – color correction is a big weakness. What to do? What to learn. My time is so very limited between work and family. I need to be prudent with what I pursue. What would you suggest?

I mean, what skills do I need to build something like this video player that lets you navigate to a part of a video by picking a spot on a transcript?

2009 – New year brings new goals

January 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

New years’ resolutions. We all make them. I’ve made my fair share of them and I’m pretty sure my success rate is in the single digits percentage-wise. But that is not going to stop me this year. This year I’ve got 3 sets of resolutions – family, personal, work. My family resolutions mean the most to me and are the most personal (yeah even more personal than my “personal” resolutions) so I’ll keep those private. But I’ll share the others.

Personal resolutions for 2009

  • Work out and lose 10 lbs. In actuality, I should lose about 15-20 lbs but 2009 isn’t about torturing myself.
  • Blog/Podcast at least 3 times per week. That includes this blog and a couple others I’ve floating around.
  • Complete one creative project per month. That would include: screenprinting, music, video and writing.
  • Read 2 books per month. At the very least, read one per month. We’ve got a bookcase full of Maria‘s books that I should dive into.
  • Join at least one adult sports league. I’m looking at you basketball. 

Work resolutions for 2009

  • Grow our Walla Walla social network to 1,000 members by the end of the year. We are currently at 35. So ….
  • From the social network spin off a Walla Walla Wiki page.
  • Drive more traffic (a lot more) to our online sports content. It drives me mad how little traffic it currently generates. That means expanding our coverage to include “live” score updates from games.
  • Help move the newsroom to more mobile reporting. That means laptops, text messaging, Twittering, live video. Which means using services such as Twitter, Seesmic, CoveritLive, Flickr, Ustream, Twitpic and others.
  • Increase traffic to ubvideo.tv by 25-30% by year end. More quality, engaging, informative, and yes, entertaining videos with better promotion.

So there they are. There they are indeed. The difference this year with my resolutions is that I am broadcasting it to the world. In the past I could eventually “lose” my list and therefore not feel obliged to complete any of them.