Three threads tied together

I’ve been doing a bit of lightweight reporting and writing for a few other spots on the Web over the last two weeks, and the stories all pull together very nicely, like so:

First, over at the official Publish2 Blog, I posted a few notes on Evolving Platforms for Collaboration. You’ll find five examples there of collaborative (or transparent) projects fueled by emerging technology. Spot.Us, Mark Luckie’s book, Rex Sorgatz’s anti-agency, and more. Here’s why I thought Mark Luckie’s story of 10,000 Words was important:

Mark’s radical transparency about his career path — a form of collaboration with his readers and the online journalism community — has left a breadcrumb trail for talented journalists motivated to make work for themselves as bloggers, consultants, and authors. As more independent operators take off on their own, new models for collaboration across networks of freelancers and consultants are popping up left and right.

Second, I picked up that line of reasoning in an IM interview with Mark for the PBS IdeaLab blog. We talked about Mark’s career path, how he pulled together and published the book, and how he writes for an audience of novice online journalists.

I rarely ever feature software on the blog, not only because there is a lot of sketchy software out there that can do damage to your computer, but also because it’s hard to convince people to download, install, and try full-fledged programs. I love web-based applications because it’s an opportunity to try a new tool without investing too much time and effort into it. If you like it, you can keep using it and if not, you can just kinda move on. Also, if you really like a web-based tool you can always upgrade and grab professional software that offers more features.

Third, at Wired Journalists, I talked with Rex Sorgatz (you might know him best as Fimoculous) about building and running a networked and distributed development, design, strategy, and marketing anti-agency.

I despise digital/creative agencies! They’re slow, ineffectual little monsters. And they bill you like lawyers. But I like to create companies around the fringes of what I hate. So I came up with this twist on the idea: a very horizontal organization that consists of a loose collection of talented but disparate people (designers, developers, marketers, content specialists, product managers) to crowd-source projects. We borrow a trope from cloud computing: finding the resources for the task at hand. Some projects are huge and involve hiring dozens of people, whereas others are just me helping someone figure out a solution to a problem.

In all three of these posts, I’m thinking heavily about the mindset, skillset, and technology platforms that power collaboration — in the media world and elsewhere.

I hope you’re thinking about that, too.

Publish2 acquires Wired Journalists

In January 2008, Howard Owens, Zac Echola, and I launched a social network with self-motivated, eager-to-learn reporters, editors, executives, students and faculty in mind.

Wired Journalists was born with the mission of connecting the knowledgeable, expert innovators in online news with journalists of all stripes hoping to learn something new about their evolving craft.

Today we’re proud to announce that Publish2 has acquired Wired Journalists.

At Publish2, the mission of connecting journalists based on common goals and interests will continue and — we hope — grow exponentially as the Wired Journalists network becomes a space for collaboration on real-world reporting as well as conversations about craft.

Publish2 builds online tools for news organizations looking to bring the best of the Web to their readers — and to each other.  Those of you who know me personally are likely aware that I joined Publish2 earlier this year as Director of News Innovation.  In one of my early conversations with Publish2 CEO Scott Karp, we started sketching out what Wired Journalists might look like if it had the funding, attention, and staff that we’d always wanted.

Out of those conversations came a rock-solid proposal to give Wired Journalists a new home under the Publish2 banner, where I could personally devote time to it as a part of my role at Publish2.

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Wired Journalists has been a labor of love — and love only — for Howard, Zac, and I, with some help from Pat Thornton of BeatBlogging more recently, but we always saw the potential of the 3,000-plus-strong membership, if only we had the time to manage the community and help to make a few connections and guide a few conversations.

With Publish2, we’re going to get that opportunity, and a lot more.  I’m looking forward to jumping into conversations on Wired Journalists as part of my day job, and I’m psyched to get Greg Linch involved as soon as he hits the ground at Publish2.

In short, it’s been great, and it’s going to be excellent.

A personal thank you to everyone who showed up in early 2008 when Howard, Zac, and I told you about the vision for Wired Journalists, and thank you to those of you that I’ve learned more about over the last year and a half through the network.

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Here are a few key links from the beginning of Wired Journalists:

2008 objectives for today’s non-wired journalist
howardowens.com | December 27, 2007
At the end of 2007, when I had been working for Howard Owens for about three months, he posted this checklist of goals for journalists new to online tools and media platforms. It sparked enough interest, and inquiries from journalists within GateHouse and other organizations, including Forum Communications, where Zac Echola fielded requests from reporters asking how they could get involved. So this is the blog post that started Wired Journalists.

Introducing WiredJournalists.com, a place people looking for new knowledge to get help
howardowens.com | January 22, 2008
Here’s the January 2008 announcement post from Howard Owens, calling Wired Journalists a place “…for journalists just starting down the path of transforming their careers and doing the hard work of saving journalism…”

Zac Echola’s original message about Wired Journalists
blog-o-blog.com | January 22, 2008
This page has been standing on Zac’s blog since the launch of Wired Journalists in January 2008. It starts off with a call to action: “Now is the time to be that catalyst for change in your news organization. No more talking about it. We’re doing it. And we want you to do it too.”

Introducing WiredJournalists.com
Invisible Inkling | January 22, 2008
Here’s my first post introducing Wired Journalists in January 2008: “So please, come join this new community, but more than that, pass the link along to the guy in the next cubicle who doesn’t read blogs. Pass it along to the photographer who hasn’t built a slideshow. Pass it along to your editors, your teachers, and your students.”

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.

Five Keys to Authenticity

A few days ago at the annual APSE convention, I led two sessions on Networked Journalism.  On the way down to Pittsburgh from Rochester in the car, I tried to work out an idea I’ve been playing with for a while.

Authenticity.

Not authority, or reliability, or popularity, but a more difficult to quantify metric that I think is crucial for news organizations trying to engage their community in the social media world.

Here’s a few links I referenced in the discussion as I flipped back and forth between Keynote and Firefox. I’d post my slides, but as usual, my use of slideware rarely tells the whole story.

Later in this post, I’ll include the mp3 I recorded of me talking through the presentation in the car (if you can deal with my hoarse/coughing voice and a couple tollbooths on the Thruway, you might find it interesting, albeit rambling).  That certainly tells the whole story, and a few others as I change lanes and wander off on tangents.

So that’s the backstory.

Five Keys to Authenticity

  1. Be Human
  2. Be Honest
  3. Be Aware
  4. Be Everywhere
  5. Show Your Work

Simple, right?  OK, more details…

1. Be Human

Look, if you’re going to jump into Twitter and Facebook and whatever comes next, in an effort to report or to engage with the community on your beat, or just to have a conversation, you need a name.  And a voice.  Preferably your own.  @nytimes isn’t human, but @pogue certainly is.  @chicagotribune isn’t human, but @coloneltribune absolutely is, which is a bit of a twist since he’s a somewhat fictional character with more than one Tribune employee behind his avatar.  @ricksanchezcnn might be the most human journalist on Twitter.  Using your own name, image, and voice is step one to engaging with the online community on your beat or in your town.  Because if you’re not human, you’re just another robot.

2. Be Honest

It’s easy to treat social media channels like a comment thread or a letter to the editor or an e-mail inbox if you’re not careful.  And if you’re not careful, you might find yourself as defensive and unwilling to admit to a mistake, or a conflict of interest, or an oversight as you might in those other spaces.  Try that on Twitter and you’ll be eaten alive.  Own up to your errors, correct them in public, and disclose whatever needs disclosing without a whole lot of preamble.

3. Be Aware

If you’re the last one to know that your community is profoundly interested in a particular issue, you’ll look like a latecomer when you ask them what they think.  “Be Aware” means this: Listen.  Listen to what’s happening in your online community.  Do it using tools like Google Reader and Tweetdeck, or set up an online nerve center for your department or news organization.  Try using iGoogle, Netvibes, or even FriendFeed to build a one-stop bookmark where everyone in your newsroom can take a quick look at what’s hot in the local blogosphere and social media channels once or twice a day.  If you want to be an active node in your local network, it’s critical that you know what’s important — right now — in the community.

4. Be Everywhere

Once you’re listening for mentions of issues, beats, towns, and people you cover, it becomes infinitely easier to jump into those conversations.  Every time your name, a story you wrote, or your beat comes up in conversation online, you should have the option to drop in and answer questions, ask new ones, follow up, or high-five a member of your community.  Being ubiquitous is a huge part of succeeding in social media.  When every reader is themselves a producer of content and a manager of their own network of friends, followers, and fans, you need to show up like Beetlejuice when they say your name three times.

5. Show Your Work

In print, it’s your job to attribute quotes and information to your sources and provide readers with resources to find out more about the story.

On the Web, and especially in the short-form statusphere, links are the essential means and currency of sourcing your reporting, adding context, and providing your community with a curated stream of complementary content.

If your newsroom’s content management system allows you to add links directly into the text of your own story, you’re in luck.  Go for it.  If not, or if you want to integrate your stream of links into section pages, topic pages, blog sidebars, your Google Reader, Twitter, and Delicious accounts to bring your readers the best of the Web on any social media platform where you engage with them, the collaborative journalism tools at Publish2 have you covered.  [Full disclosure: I work for Publish2.]

Thanks to everyone who came to the sessions at APSE, asked great questions, and shared their successes and failures with the rest of the room.

As promised, here’s the audio of me talking to myself in the car fleshing out the presentation:

[display_podcast]

Further reading

Some of the items in this list might look familiar if you spotted my social media guidelines post a few weeks back.  It’s short and sweet, if you’re interested.

If you still need background for newsroom conversations about why you should link to your sources and resources, here’s something I wrote as a guest post at BeatBlogging.org recently on that topic.

Most of what you’ll find on the Web re: authenticity in social media comes from a marketing/PR point of view, but even so, there’s a lot of solid thought on social media for businesses that applies to your news organization.  Try Jeremiah Oywang’s February 2008 post on what it means to be authentic, transparent, and human, for starters.

What’s next?

Get started.  Sign up for Twitter, use Twitter Search and Google Reader, among other tools, to find and follow the online community on your beat.

Participate, listen, and engage with the community every chance you get.  You’ll get as much out of it as you put into it, so find the workflow that works for you, and get started today.

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.”

Upcoming proof of my physical existence: Boston and Pittsburgh

I’ll be showing up in person in at least two different places outside the lush springtime confines of Western New York over the next few weeks, believe it or not.

The rough details

Next week, I’ll be in Cambridge, Ma. at MIT for the Future of News and Civic Media Conference, including the announcements of the 2009 Knight News Challenge winners.

What I’m psyched for: Hanging out in Barcamp-esque sessions with the brilliant squadron of past and present Knight grantees, with the added salt of supergenius MIT grad students and their professors.  Oh, and I’m planning to pressure at least a couple people into designing mockups or developing prototypes — on the spot, in the hall, or back at the hotel — for some cool idea that starts out as a conversation in a session.  So, beware, if you speak the words “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

Later in June, I’ll be unleashed on the APSE conference in Pittsburgh for an afternoon, where I’ll lead two sessions on networked journalism.  I still like that term, because it gets straight to the point: Use (social) networks as a reporting tool.  I’ll talk about Twitter, share my recommended social media guidelines for reporters, and touch on some tools for collaboration, like Ning, and beatblogging.

What I’m psyched for: Hanging out with sports writers, finding ways to take cheap shots at the Red Sox, showing off how simple it is to get started with lightweight tools to engage your community in conversation.

Meanwhile…

My new gig at Publish2 has kept me extremely busy, and it’s likely that many of you reading this have heard from me about it lately, usually trying to get your newsroom involved in one way or another with the set of tools Publish2 has to offer.  But, I still do get a lot of questions about what we do.  So here’s my entry-level explanation:

  1. We build tools to help journalists bring the best of the Web to their community.
  2. We build tools to help journalists and their readers collaborate on reporting the news.
  3. We build tools to help journalists collaborate with each other, inside their newsroom, across news organizations, even across media companies.

Double meanwhile…

Those of you who have been keeping score (hi Dad!) know that my Knight News Challenge grant for ReportingOn hits the one-year mark — and its end — at the end of June.  The Lion Burger crew has been building all sorts of tasty goodness into what I still like to call Phase 2, and I’m planning to flip the switch on a few things as the clock strikes July 1.

What you can expect: A brand new focus on questions and answers, a new design, some cool UI features, a lot of transparency about the process of building this iteration of the network, and the full KNC-funded codebase as a ripe Django project, open-sourced for anyone and everyone to try out for themselves.

How to find me

Yes, there’s a lot going on, not to mention the awesome stuff the two-year-old does these days, but I’m still pretty easy to find.

  • I’m @ryansholin on Twitter.
  • I’m always on IM as ryansholin on Google, AIM, and sometimes even Skype if you’re lucky.
  • Questions about Publish2? Hit me at ryan@publish2.com and I’ve got answers.

At IdeaLab: Paul Bradshaw on crowdsourcing investigative journalism

Over at IdeaLab, I’ve been way past deadline for a post, after (again) making all sorts of promises about helping out more over there.  Until now.

After playing the modern equivalent of phone tag (Twitter DMs and e-mail across two operating systems and one ocean) for a week or so, Paul Bradshaw and I landed on Skype at the same time for 15 minutes for a quick chat about his freshly funded project, Help Me Investigate.

Here’s the post at IdeaLab, where you’ll find the full video interview.

If you want to head directly to the background on this, read Paul’s post about the funding and the next steps for the project.

Here’s why I’m so interested in this project, and in my Knight News Challenge project ReportingOn, and David Cohn’s efforts with Spot.Us, and in the Collaborative Reporting tools we launched at Publish2 recently:

I really, REALLY, REALLY want there to be easy ways to gather structured data from readers, users, journalists, and editors, and I want that data to be attached to their identity whenever possible.  I want that data to be portable and exportable, so it can be displayed in any and all useful formats. I want profiles for everyone so I can track their participation, reliability, and levels of knowledge about different topics, beats, locations, and stories.

I’m becoming more and more passionate about this, with my level of surprise that no one has built the right tools for this job yet growing by the day.  But we’re getting closer.  Platforms are emerging.  Standards will follow.  Collaboration is key.

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.

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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.

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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.