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Teacher Testimonial: How Rap Genius Fixed My English Class: If you haven’t been following my interest in emerging annotation platform Rap Genius, you’re missing out. I like it. I like the annotation tools, complete with a simple Redditish flavor of Markdown, I like the casual copyright infringement (so sorry I uploaded your image to Imgur instead of hotlinking to it, but hey, that’s a courtesy, too). Anyway, they’re expanding. Poetry Genius. Rock music. And, inevitably, News Genius, although they don’t quite have the formula quite right there yet, mostly annotating speeches and public records, whereas I’d like to apply these tools to articles. Anyway. In this link, the Rap Genius platform is used by an English teacher to get his students to annotate Siddhartha.
The Guardian launched a UGC photo platform. This is relevant to my work. Read the comment thread on this and other related posts from around the launch to get an idea of some of the issues people enjoy debating on this topic.
Twitter is hiring someone to lead their News team, which is, more accurately, a News Partnerships team. Even more accurately, it’s a team heavily populated by brilliant and talented people I respect. This is not a job application. But somebody has to manage them, apparently. Much of the conversation around this job listing completely missed the point of the team and their role in driving adoption and increase of use of a product called Twitter at news organizations. It was silly.
How the Syrian Electronic Army hacked The Onion: Love, love, love this new genre of show-your-work DevOps explainer where we explain how vandals snatched our keys. (Spoiler: Phishing. It’s always phishing. No actual hackery involved, really.)
Casual onlookers will have spotted some casual language in the public communication about Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr. I didn’t make the connection at first, but of course, “Fuck Yeah” is part of Tumblr’s history.
It’s been a good week for guest speakers here at the office. Gary Vaynerchuk was here on Tuesday, and Clayton Christensen spoke yesterday. Pretty much a coincidence, I think, as their talks were part of two different programs here, but I think Christensen would happily cite @garyvee as an example of his theories in action.
So Gary was fun, but I was looking forward to Christensen. There’s a not-too-thin logical chain where I have a job in this industry because of his research getting into the hands of certain early online news adopters.
When Gary spoke, I think I promised Sean Blanda I would give Christensen the #sholinonrap treatment.
@seanblanda oh Sean I’m really not feeling #sholinonrap today. Maybe tomorrow when Clayton Christensen is here.
For the uninitiated, “#sholinonrap” is how Sean responds on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, whenever I make some sort of hip-hop reference. Last time Sean was here at the office for some sort of panel, I gave him the treatment, tweeting about the panel in the form of rap lyrics.
And not only was it fun, but it was also a disciplined approach to note-taking that forced me to do three things:
Boil down complex topics into simple, 140-character-or-less approximations of lines of verse, complete with rhymes and flow where possible. (I am not an expert at this, kids.)
Show my work by tweeting it.
In other words, an efficient and entertaining (for me, anyway) bit of exercise for my brain.
So yesterday during Christensen’s talk, I found a nondescript spot in the audience between a VP of News and a Social Media Editor and did my thing. It went okay.
I had a couple interesting conversations later in the day about why Christensen might not have been too excited about answering direct questions about how this applies to the news business.
One reason might be that the American Press Institute (hi y’all!) spent a few years of research on how Christensen’s theories about disruptive innovation fit into the news business. Newspaper Next. You might have heard of it. Maybe not. Here are a few useful links. (Some of these are remarkably useful.)
The air quotes are because I haven’t really used these tools for anything other than reducing the amount of guilt I have over not reading the entire Internet.
Really, who reads everything they save to “read later?” Nobody. It just sits there, festering. I used to share first, read later, but in modern times, it often feels silly to re-share something everyone has already shared, so I’ll just “like” or “favorite” and let that be a passive form of sharing, rather than crafting a shiny new headline and point of view around some interesting article, where “interesting” equals “this caught my eye and it seems important.”
So, instead, I present this unscheduled, imperiodic link dump of a bunch of stuff I’ve saved. Maybe I’ve read it, maybe not. Maybe it’s useful, maybe not.
You be the judge. An ordered list in no particular order follows, although it might end up in chronological order, we’ll see.
On Sunday, after bearing the brunt of an excited explanation of Italy’s glorious victory over England via penalties, including a stunning Panenka from Pirlo, my own wife turned around and asked me why I was rooting for the Azzurri.
This was weird, because it’s her fault.
(Hey, this is a blog post about soccer. If you’re not interested, feel free to stop reading here.)
It’s been three years since I last made the trek to Cambridge for what we once called KNCMIT, and although the cast of characters has changed (with little-to-no representation of 2007-8-9 Knight News Challenge winners, different faces at the MIT Media Lab, and a rebooted Knight Foundation posse) the outcome was similar.
All unhappy airport terminals are alike, so the sense of deja vu carries over from the hotel to the cab to the fluorescent carpeted discomfort of Logan, and the foreboding sense of dread that comes with a United flight. (Prove me wrong, airline. Prove me wrong.)
On to the obligatory, but hopefully not exclusively duplicative and obvious notes:
Homicide Watch is excellent, and repeatable. Whether or not you use the code powering the DC site, the model of reporting on every homicide in a city — and not just reporting it, but reporting on it, while maintaining pages for every victim and suspect — this is something that doesn’t depend exclusively on technology, although the platform is perfectly tailored to the job. But it does depend on being obsessed with telling the stories that we often hide behind numbers, or a map. (Previously.) Also, it helps to be as driven and passionate about it as Laura, and to care about people.
Sometimes, there’s just no story in the data. Jonathan Stray hoisted this banner of editorial force, and Daniel X. O’Neill waved it high, the sort of basic news value that journalism school drills into us if we listen: Check the facts, check the data, then double-check it and account for the fragile chain of human actions that produced the data. Because a spreadsheet packed with invalid data and intervening variables is not a story. It’s a mess, and a risk, and it might be the start of the reporting process, not the end of it. (Session video here, worth watching.)