Items that recently have caught my attention

Reading

The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009
Published at Foreign Policy on December 14, 2009.
Global warming, international relations, Iraq, Chechnya, and more — but not the headlines you were expecting. An important year-end list from Foreign Policy magazine, spotted via kottke.org.
From a naval alliance that could shift the military balance of power on two continents to a troubling security gap in the U.S. passport system to a brand-new way to circle the globe, these are the stories that never got the attention they deserved in 2009 but could dominate the conversation in 2010.

Augmenting our Reality: two or three big bangs per page
Published at garciamedia on December 3, 2009.
A fun roundup of what magazines are doing with AR at this point. A bit gimmicky, but an interesting start.

Explore a whole new way to window shop, with Google and your mobile phone
Published at The Official Google Blog on December 7, 2009.
QR codes + Google business listings = Yelp killer? Maybe. But aren’t QR codes so 2007? I thought Augmented Reality was the 2009 solution to this problem.
To scan the codes, you’ll need a phone with a camera and an app that can read QR codes. For Android-powered devices, including the Droid by Motorola, we recommend using the free Barcode Scanner app. For iPhone, we have found the $1.99 QuickMark app to work best, and starting today, we’re partnering with QuickMark to offer the app for free for the first 40,000 downloads.

Sports Illustrated – Tablet Demo 1.5
Published at YouTube on December 2, 2009.
I’m a sucker for any and every slick video about a tablet or e-paper product. This one is the slickest I’ve seen yet.

Writing

Write Better Blog Posts Today
Published at Chris Brogan on December 13, 2009.
Chris Brogan runs down some of the textbook tactics of the best professional bloggers. Hint: He’s one of them.
Before you write, consider what you’re seeking. Do you want the post to drive a sale? Do you want it to engage your audience? Do you want the post to handle some mechanical goal, such as receiving more links, more bookmarks, and thus improve the rank of your site? Maybe your posts only serve to point out that you’re the thought leader. Know your goals before you post.

Monday Morning Breslin: A Death in Emergency Room One
Published at Gangrey on December 7, 2009.
A classic Breslin piece from the New York Herald Tribune on the death of John F. Kennedy. Be sure to read the whole thing, then check out the links in the comment thread below to bits of history, rebuttal, clarification.
These things he was doing took only small minutes, and other doctors and nurses were in the room and talking and moving, but Perry does not remember them. He saw only the throat and chest, shining under the huge lamp, and when he would look up or move his eyes between motions, he would see this plum dress and the terribly disciplined face standing over against the gray tile wall.

Peter Gammons: My 20 years at ESPN
Published at ESPN The Magazine on December 12, 2009.
Not a huge Gammons fan, but as a huge baseball fan who came of age while he was reporting for ESPN, I love the litany of anecdotes here, from Jack Morris to Mariano Rivera.
And I watched Fidel Castro stand for and sing along with the U.S. national anthem, because it was baseball, and it didn’t surprise me because Gene Mauch had told me that when he played there in the 1950s, he had befriended Castro and that first and foremost, in Mauch’s words, “Fidel loved baseball the way you and I love baseball.”

The Content Strategist as Digital Curator
Published at A List Apart on December 8, 2009.
This article from A List Apart is mostly geared toward the producer who works with *internal* content — think of the archives of a newspaper.com — but the principles all apply to anyone curating the best of the Web for a given audience.
In galleries and museums, curators use judgment and a refined sense of style to select and arrange art to create a narrative, evoke a response, and communicate a message. As the digital landscape becomes increasingly complex, and as businesses become ever more comfortable using the web to bring their product and audience closer, the techniques and principles of museum curatorship can inform how we create online experiences—particularly when we approach content.

Arithmetic

How to Make an Interactive Area Graph
Published at FlowingData on December 9, 2009.
Nathan at FlowingData provides this Actionscript/Flash tutorial on how to build a graph that looks a bit like those baby name explorers and unemployment charts you’ve seen lately.
This tutorial is for people with at least a little bit of programming experience.

Man Promotes Band In The Middle Of Nowhere On Google Street View
Published at TechCrunch on December 4, 2009.
I’m personally fascinated by the physical hacking of the world to insert messaging into virtual representations of the world. In this case, the plot involves tracking a Google Street View car and getting ahead of it to set up, essentially, an advertisement.
After making a sign and keeping it in the trunk of my car for about a month I finally chanced across the google street view car. Then I had to follow it until I figured out its pattern, then get ahead of it with time to set up.

baratunde: “I can reach more people on my Twitter account than the Star Ledger reaches with its Monday edition.” – @CoryBooker http://bit.ly/6rpe38
Published at Twitter on December 7, 2009.

Crucial reading on the evolution of news, as it stands today

I feel like this summer has been sort of a rolling watershed moment in the Present of News, if not necessarily the Future of it.

(Yes, yes, the lowercase present is always becoming the lowercase future, but I’m talking about the supposed collective vision for the Future of News that, well, usually gets held up as a straw man as if every proponent of online news tools for communication believes the same thing.)

There are a lot of ongoing battles right now, if I can call them that, over things like paywalls and copyright. These are more than kerfuffles here, folks; we’re talking about the future business model paths for some pretty large chunks of the mainstream media at this point, for better or worse.

So, in an effort to pull together some of what I think would be the most important footnotes in the Summer 2009 chapter of the book someone surely must be writing at this point, here are some recent favorites:

Microformats, hNews, the AP and the Animals: Steve Yelvington sanely and succinctly dissects the AP/microformats weirdness and explains what could be great about the deal (Semantic Web!) and what doesn’t make any sense about the way they’re going about it (Function-free DRM!).

Chris Anderson on the Economics of ‘Free’: ‘Maybe Media Will Be a Hobby Rather than a Job’: Everything Chris Anderson says in this Spiegel interview is quotable and crucial to anyone interested in the future of news. Like this, for example: “If something has happened in the world that’s important, I’ll hear about it. I heard about the protests in Iran before it was in the papers because the people who I subscribe to on Twitter care about those things.”

The Nichepaper Manifesto: If you haven’t taken a look at Umair Haque’s piece yet, I think you’ll want to. Niches, topics, different models that are working online to bring *some* news to *some* people. Worth keeping around as a reference.

The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real: Anil Dash’s crucial primer on the blossoming technology behind the Real-Time Web. This is the most important thing I’ve read in the last week.

What Would Fair Use Look Like in an Online Era?: C.W. Anderson starts exploring what an updated Fair Use test should look like in 2009. “1. The presence and quality of the link…”

A lesson from Patchwork Nation: Frameworks for Reporting: Chris Amico explains: “When I get a new set of data, I spend a good deal of time deciding what’s important, and where a story is. I might run it through a visualization tool, like ManyEyes. Starting with data but no story tends to be a slow process. Ending up with a story but no data makes me feel like I haven’t done my job.”

And you? What’s on your crucial reading list?

This post was ridiculously easy to write and compile thanks to Publish2’s WordPress plugin and its Link Assist feature. (Yes, I work at Publish2.)


Further notes on objectivity, transparency, and links

When I met David Weinberger in person last month at his Harvard talk with Doc Searls and Jonathan Zittrain about Cluetrain, I told him something along the lines of “I’ve been enjoying your blog for as long as I’ve been reading blogs.”  And that’s true. I’ve been reading Weinberger, and — probably more interesting to me — listening to any conference talks of his that I find in audio form when I can.  Weinberger is one of those first bloggers I started following when I got into all this just a few short years ago.

Anyway, the point is, I pay attention when he gets all philosophical.

So I grinned and raised my eyebrows during this year’s Personal Democracy Forum as I watched commentary and bits flow through my Twitter stream as Weinberger said “Transparency is the new objectivity.”

There’s a lot of Dan Gillmor in that, I thought, and I’d love to hear more about what he means.

Today I read Weinberger’s post that extends his “X is the new Y” cliché into something much more meaningful.

My favorite bit, after summarizing many of the assumptions about the power and purpose of objectivity:

“We thought that that was how knowledge works, but it turns out that it’s really just how paper works. Transparency prospers in a linked medium, for you can literally see the connections between the final draft’s claims and the ideas that informed it. Paper, on the other hand, sucks at links.”

In other words, Show Your Work.

If transparency is the new objectivity, it has to go deeper than disclosing conflicts of interest.  Transparency on the Web is all about disclosing how and where you found the information you’re passing on to the next person, or readers, or audience, or community.  It’s at the heart of the blogosphere’s “via” links.  It’s at the heart of sourcing the facts of your story.

Related: Matt Thompson steps over the corpse of objectivity and writes a eulogy for “the news voice” itself.

What was the news voice?

“As best as I can tell, institutional voice ascended in popularity with the same trajectory and for similar reasons as the concept of “the brand” did. During the advancement of the industrial age, local suppliers of goods lost significant ground to much larger regional and national suppliers. “Brand reputation” became a substitute for personal reputation. (”I love that cheese made by Farmer McGinty down the road!” became “I love Kraft cheese!”)”

In other words, newspapers lost a great deal of their humanity in favor of gaining institutional credibility.  Which they needed, if they were going to sell a bundle of paper with a name at the top of the front page for a set price every single day of the week, every single day of the year.  (Pretty impressive industrial trick when you think about it, eh?)

And finally: A link to more links. Kevin Sablan links to Weinberger’s piece on transparency/objectivity and adds a list of four more links to the canon.  Click, then click again.  Read them all.  Save them for yourself, share them with others, or follow the trail backward to see where the ideas got their start.

Notes, links, and recent entanglements

A bulleted list of things that have caught my eye over the past few days, or things I’ve been involved in, or things I’d like to be involved in…

OK, that’s five things. I’ll try to do this often-ish for those of you that don’t see me going on and on sharing links to this sort of thing every day on Twitter, Publish2, FriendFeed, or Google Reader.

Why We Link: Your answers to why news organizations should tie the Web together

Last week, I asked for some on tips on why news organizations should link to external sources.

I wanted your best reasons, and you happily provided them.  Six of you answered via the Publish Tip Form I embedded in that blog post, and seven of you replied on Twitter.

You can find my favorite answers in this guest post published yesterday at BeatBlogging.org.

Here’s an excerpt:

4. Because we absolutely do not know everything, but we know where to find out most of what we don’t know.

The days of your news organization existing as a monopolistic source of local information are over, and your readers know it. They browse local, national, international, and topical news and commentary in more places than you call “news.” And if they don’t, they hear it from their friends on any one of a dozen social networks. They know that you don’t know it all. And so do you.

But you’re the journalist.

You’re the filter. You’re the person in town who knows everyone who knows everyone. You’ve got the sources, whether they’re people you talk to at the community center, the city council meeting, the police station, or their Live Journal page. Bring what they know to your readers as directly as possible: Link to them.

Lots more where that came from

…and check out the conversation on Twitter about the post.  It’s mostly RTs, but in that mix you’ll find some great journalists to follow.

Awesome Bonus Link: Wilmington StarNews Editor Robyn Tomlin steps up to answer her colleagues who might think of linking to your rivals as some sort of “journalistic blasphemy.”

How I share: A tour of my personal linking behavior

Things you may have noticed about me in recent days, weeks, months, or years:

  1. I don’t write blog posts as often as I used to.
  2. I share links all over the place, and I have for a long time now.
  3. I have a new job that involves a lot of thinking about best practices for journalists who link to content they don’t produce themselves.

With those three things as givens, what follows is an exploration of how I share links.  If I ramble off on some tangent, feel free to jump in and stop me. [Sidenote: You can’t jump in.  Is there a WordPress plugin for paragraph-by-paragraph commenting yet?]

Let’s start with a list of links to all the places I share lists of links, and a brief explanation of what sort of links I share there:

Google Reader (shared items)

reader

I subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds and scan, peruse, pore over, or otherwise read and digest blog posts, search results, news, video, photos, and sundry other hunks of content using Google Reader.  I do this using a Web browser (Firefox, most of the time) or an iPhone.  If I’m using my phone, I’ll often hit the “Share” link, but rarely “Share with note,” which means when I’m on the move, I’m not able to add much value to the links I share.  Sometimes, I add commentary to the shared link later, using FriendFeed.  Those of you who subscribe to my Shared Items feed or who are my friends in Google Reader itself aren’t seeing that commentary, but it shows up on FriendFeed, which in turn shows up in the sidebar of my blog.

Anything I read most of in Google Reader, or that I click through to read the comments on, or comment on, or think is worth sharing, not knowing if everyone else is reading the same things I am, I share.

Twitter

twitter

As of this writing, more than 2200 people follow me on Twitter.  That’s a lot more than read my blog’s RSS feed, far more than follow me on FriendFeed, and way more than the few people that see my Google Reader shared links in their own reader.  But it’s very temporary.  A link on Twitter has a short half-life.  It’s not a way to permanently save anything, but it is a way to get news out quickly.  If I think something is useful enough right now at this second, or if I think it’s good enough to pass along to 2200+ people without more than 100 characters of commentary, off it goes, URL shortened by bit.ly or (in a recent experiment to compare data presentation) tr.im.

I also retweet links from people I follow, especially if I think their base of followers and mine are especially divergent, if it’s an urgent call to action, if their commentary was particular funny, or if I really want to share the link, but I’m mobile, and hitting the RT button in Twitterfon is the easiest way to get the job done.

Delicious

delicious

When I started using Delicious, the first thing I did was post my own content there, tagging it in the hopes that someone would be subscribed to the tag, and would click through on my post.  I didn’t really get it.  Then, for a long time, I used Delicious as a linkblog, saving whatever I found interesting from around the Web, tagging it, and not really worrying about whether the content was temporary, immediately useful, or something to save for reference.

Now, my Delicious stream is pretty sparse, populated pretty exclusively by pages that I want to save for reference on a certain topic.  When it’s time to screw around with Django, I bang on my Django links in Delicious.

Publish2

p2lj

Of course, my new job at Publish2 is one of the reasons I’m spending time thinking about my admittedly edge-case-ish linking behavior.  Right now, I’m using Publish2 to get a feel for the UI of the bookmarklet, to capture my own feedback as a user, and to pass along links to other places while sharing them in the collaborative space in the newswire at the Publish2 site and the feeds it builds for every tag.  You can find my Publish2 links in the sidebar of my blog, and on FriendFeed.  What you might not know is that I’ve been routing some to Twitter, too, using one of the cooler features of the bookmarklet.  (Of course, if you’re interested in how your newsroom can use Publish2 to do the same, just ask me.)

In fully functioning blog posts, every now and then.

Like what you’re reading.  I’ve been writing pretty sparingly on my own blog lately, but over the last four years it’s been a handy place to post thoughts both short and long when I see something elsewhere that inspires, offends, or otherwise jerks me into action.

FriendFeed

ff

FriendFeed serves a variety of purposes for my linking habit.

First, it’s a catchall for everything I share online.  Twitter, Google Reader, Delicious, Publish2, my blog, my posts on IdeaLab, my Flickr photos, my favorite YouTube videos, Disqus comments, my Netflix queue — all of this shows up in my stream at FriendFeed and gets routed to the sidebar of my blog.  So everything I share online flows through my blog’s pages, providing complementary content, links, and proof of my existence in the long temporal gaps between posts.

The second thing I use FriendFeed for is to directly share links.  I end up using FriendFeed to share links that I find through Twitter, or links to full posts from partial text feeds (boo!) in Google Reader, or links to things I click on while reading posts in Google Reader, and it turns out the linked item is more interesting than the post that brought me there, and if you’re lucky I’ll remember how I got there and throw a “via” in. 

Wild card: If something I’m reading, anywhere, has an interesting image I want to share, I’ll use FriendFeed for that link so I can plant the picture in my blog’s sidebar.

There’s a third, social, function to FriendFeed, and that happens directly on the site or on my iPhone.  It’s me, mashing the “like” button on a regular basis.  That’s not exactly a way to share links, and neither is adding comments on other people’s links, but it’s something I do there.

So what?

So, nothing.  Just thought I’d share.  This is the part where I say, “How do you share?”

Onward: My new job at Publish2

I am extremely excited to let you know that I’m starting a new job on Monday, as Director of News Innovation at Publish2.  I’ll be working for Scott Karp, who I’ve been following since I started blogging back in 2005, and with a team of top-notch online news thinkers, evangelists, and developers.

What does a Director of News Innovation do?

I’m expecting to work with newsrooms and journalists across the media world to get them the tools they need to bring the best of the Web to their readers, and maybe even to bring the best of their readers to the wider Web.  Sound good?

Well, help me out. Let me know what you think of Publish2, how you’ve used it, and what you’d like to see in the P2 toolkit that isn’t there yet.

Here’s my favorite recent Publish2 story, about how a group of disparate news organizations in Washington state used the service as a tool for collaborative curation during floods this winter.

I can’t wait to get started.  Matter of fact, if you’re at BCNI Philly this weekend, feel free to throw your ideas about Publish2 at me in person.

+++

To answer an obvious question, yes, I’ve left my job at GateHouse Media, effective today.

I had a great 19-month run with GateHouse, doing my best to give journalists at more than 125 newspapers the tools and training they needed to serve their communities.

Any and every success that I had there belongs to the incredible team of developers, the awesome revenue team, and the online news innovators I worked with, including Howard Owens — who hired me and has since left GateHouse to put his money where his mouth is at The Batavian — and Bill Blevins, the VP who Howard reported to, whose door was always wide open to new ideas and possibilities.  Thank you.

+++

Onward. I’ll be spending a great deal of my time over the coming days and week wrapping my head around how Publish2 has been used so far and where it’s going.  Let me know what you think of it, here, on Twitter, or wherever you see me.  I’m easy to find.

Sometimes, robots just aren’t enough

TechMeme adds a human editor to make adjustments when the algorithm fails:

“Any competent developer who tries to automate the selection of news headlines will inevitably discover that this approach always comes up a bit short. Automation does indeed bring a lot to the table — humans can’t possibly discover and organize news as fast as computers can. But too often the lack of real intelligence leads to really unintelligent results. Only an algorithm would feature news about Anna Nicole Smith’s hospitalization after she’s already been declared dead, as our automated celeb news site WeSmirch did last year

Would Google News add humans to the mix to craft a more up-to-date, relevant news site?  I doubt it.

But I’d be interested to see further variations of the algorithms that run Google News, TechMeme, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Digg or Reddit, to see what else is possible when it comes to translating the logic of linking behavior into actual prioritization of “importance,” if that’s still a relevant metric.

via @jayrosen_nyu

Sunday morning links: Data, DocumentCloud, and the Obama Bounce for news

A few things I haven’t had time yet to dig deeper on, but maybe you will:

“4. Go off the reservation: No matter how good your IT department is, their priorities are unlikely to be in sync with yours. They’re thinking big-picture product roadmaps with lots of moving pieces. Good luck fitting your database of dog names (oh yes, we did one of those) into their pipeline. Early on, database producer Ben Welsh set up a Django box at projects.latimes.com, where many of the Times’ interactive projects live. There are other great solutions besides Django, including Ruby on Rails (the framework that powers the Times’ articles and topics pages and many of the great data projects produced by The New York Times) and PHP (an inline scripting language so simple even I managed to learn it). Some people (including the L.A. Times, occasionally) are using Caspio to create and host data apps, sans programming. I am not a fan, for reasons Derek Willis sums up much better than I could, but if you have no other options, it’s better than sitting on your hands.”

“To get a sense of DocumentCloud’s potential, take a look at the database of Guantánamo Bay detainees that the Times made public on Nov. 3, when it was accompanied by a 1,500-word story. Each record is linked to relevant government documents that have been made public since ‘enemy combatants’ were first held there in 2002. Pilhofer said the database isn’t using a full-featured version of DocViewer, but it certainly demonstrates the benefit of browsing documents grouped by subject rather than, say, the order in which the Defense Department happened to release them. What’s remarkable about the Gitmo collection, aside from its massive scope, is that the Times has offered up this information at all. As Pilhofer said, ‘It’s not usually in a newsroom’s DNA to release something like that to the public — and not just the public, the competition, too.'”