Family road trip, Summer 2018

Determined to leave the house, the neighborhood, and the state, we planned a short road trip last week. North or South? West? (There isn’t much East of here.) We considered a “waterfalls of West Virginia” trip. We abandoned a camping plan earlier in the summer. We stepped back from other long-drive plans.

We decided to go North. To Amish Country, Watkins Glen, and the Corning Museum of Glass. Oh, and to stay in a tiny house.


We left the dog and the house and the garden behind, told them all to be good, and took off up Route 15, across the Potomac, retracing our usual path past Cunningham Falls, into the territory in Central Pennsylvania we first drove through on our pre-move trips from Rochester to check out Loudoun County, nine years ago this summer.

Google things like “Amish tour Lancaster” and you end up finding some relatively commercial (I mean, commercial for the Amish is not that much) villages, and some nice farm tour options. The Old Windmill Farm site had pictures of people feeding cows and there were pigs that looked like fun, so that’s where we headed.

The farm tour was so much fun. Yes, we fed the calves from bottles. Yes, the pigs went down a slide. Yes, we held baby chicks, and then their mother gathered them under her wings, just like the song we used to sing the kids when they were babies themselves. Yes, we pet Tim the giant mule. Yes, we fed goats and chickens from our hands. Yes, we held baby bunnies, and yes, the barn cat came when we called and soaked up all the scratches.

Q: “How long did it take to train them to do that?”
A: “About an hour.”

The farmer talked about how they had wound down their dairy operation from a 50-cow spot in a co-op to just what they needed for their family and a little casual raw milk sale here and there. He talked about how his grandfather used to grow tobacco, and now they grow corn and soy, mostly for feed. We learned about how and why they ferment some hay and alfalfa, too.

Q: “How do you stop the chickens from sitting on their eggs?”
A: “Oh, these are bad mothers.”

And then through the craft shack (allllllmost a gift shop, tbqh) and the garden, where the kids helped harvest some potatoes, and we talked about the dry weather and the bugs and all the challenges of Growing Vegetables. 

And then we shared a whoopie pie. When in Rome. Er, Pennsylvania.

We passed through downtown Strasburg, not to be confused with Stroudsburg, which I did! (Ask me about the time I was stranded in the latter for a few hours after working on a student film all night.)

We spent the night in a tiny house.

Tiny House. Prius for reference.

Literally! Like, you’ve heard of Tiny Houses™? We took this from Pinterest to real life, staying at a place that looks like it transitioned from trailer park to Tiny Estates not too long ago. (Thanks to Certifikid!) The kids had fun going up and down the precarious “stairs” to the loft bed, and we enjoyed a few rounds of cornhole and ladder toss and giant jenga in the common area. (It was really nice.)


Expecting rain in the morning, we decided to head for Corning and spend the afternoon at the glass museum. We crossed the Susquehanna a dozen or so times, ate our tiny-house-toasted sandwiches in a fast food parking lot, and the sun came out for the final miles into Corning. Which is… nicer than I remember?

Maybe it doesn’t help my memory that my previous time in Corning was in the absolute dead of Central New York winter, and it wasn’t my all-time favorite newsroom visit. Because, reasons.

But. But! Not only did Corning look lovely in the summer sun, the Corning Museum of Glass was a complete revelation.

Huge, bright, airy, and the first place they send you is a contemporary art wing which was more relatable and timely and evocative and aesthetically comprehensible than anything I’ve seen at the MOCA in Chicago or (uh, a long time ago) at the Whitney in New York.

Also, glass breaking demonstrations. And glass blowing. And fire. So much fire! And glass. So much glass.

This was a highlight. Dude’s name is Jared, and he was pretty casual. I have a pic of him actually blowing glass, but this was way cooler.

After a few hours, the kids were glassed out, so we mounted up the Prius and headed north to Watkins Glen. After discovering our upstairs-from-a-deli Airbnb was almost as goth as that one chandelier with the crows, we decided a walk and some fresh air was in order. TO THE LAKE!

Also, there was some much needed ice cream, and a country-adjacent live band in a park. Hello, small town America, alive and well in Watkins Glen. (Later, we would look up the 2016 election results for Schuyler County.)

I knew a few songs. We kept our distance, let the kids run around, and I danced a little with my ice cream.


A short prelude to our day in Watkins Glen State Park: In July 2008 (not a typo), while living in Rochester, New York, we brought our toddler down to Watkins Glen to hike the gorge and camp for the night. Here’s how it went: We all got wet on the hike, then it rained at dinnertime and I cooked our boil-in-bag rice and Indian food on our single burner camp stove in the rain, then I did laps around the campground loop getting the toddler to sleep, then she coughed once and woke up crying, and we packed up the tent and drove the two hours home with our sick kid to sleep in our own bed.

But the pictures from the gorge hike in 2008 are still fun. So we decided to recreate one of our favorites along the path.

July 2008, Gorgeous in the Gorges, birth of several variants of the nickname “Gorges McGorgeous”
2018, grown.

If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip. I hesitate to even call it a “hike” because it’s pretty easy.

dat gorge light doe
it’s hard to get this capture wrong, tbqh

The hike was so easy, in fact, that we were pretty much done by the middle of the day, and needed something else to do, lest we get sucked into the orbit of the goth Airbnb. (In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad, and the crooked floors became sort of charming after a few hours of sleep.) 

After a break to pick up some sfogliatelle and cannoli at a neighborhood Italian bakery, we decided to check one more town off our list and took a quick ride over the hill to Ithaca, where we had spotted a science-themed mini golf option at a hands-on museum.

This hole was about centripetal force, I guess?

It was just about perfect. Back to Watkins Glen, one more walk to the lake, and we called it a night.


The day you drive all the way home isn’t supposed to be too adventurous, but we had seen enough of some parts of Route 15, and had eaten enough soggy sandwiches in fast food parking lots, so we decided to take a quick side trip about an hour our of our way to Hershey. Yes, that Hershey. 

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand what I mean when I say one of the highlights was the moment we executed a perfect tag team puke cleanup / potty run in the parking lot of the Chipotle across Chocolate Avenue (not a metaphor) from Hershey Park (also not a metaphor). [SHUDDER]

So we ate Chipotle instead of sandwiches, took a different route, and realized we were down the street from Tröegs brewery, so I made a quick run into the shop there. (Um, this place is huge? And nice? The only brewery I’ve been at this scale is Surly in Minneapolis.

Tröegs shop, the least impressive part of it, but we didn’t have time for a brewery tour and we had already eaten and the kids couldn’t really believe I was stopping for beer after everything that happened in the Chipotle parking lot.

And then we drove home, picked up the dog, and…


Just kidding, there’s no fifth day of the road trip, except that we took the kids to Arcade Fire, their first real rock concert. Did I mention we took them to Hamilton at the Kennedy Center a few days before this road trip? Hello, we are exhausted.

What to do when the World Cup is over, 2018 edition

DAB ON THE HATERS, PAUL POGBA, WORLD CUP WINNER (Photo RIA Novosti, probably Vladimir Pesnya, but I stole it from Twitter.)

In 2010, the first World Cup where I really paid attention to my own country’s team and cheered them on in a more-than-casual way, I was crushed after they lost to Ghana in the Round of 16, and I wrote this post about what to do next to keep paying attention to soccer, while being an American.

In 2014, apparently I was so out of touch with this blog that I wrote nothing the entire calendar year. I guess I was tweeting? Anyway, I certainly was crushed after the #USMNT’s loss to Belgium in the Round of 16, and I kept up with soccer, and both the American men and women’s teams in a big way, but didn’t leave any instructions here.

So we come to 2018.

The men’s World Cup is over. The United States failed to qualify, our family’s second team, Italy, also failed to qualify — bit of a rarity, there — and yet I’ve just spent four weeks with soccer on in the background of most of the parts of my daily life, at least two or three games a day, and of course on that one glorious first weekend of the tournament, the magical four-game day!

Why was it so much fun? Honestly, it felt like anyone could win every single game, maybe with the exception of England-Panama. Parity is real, and even though we didn’t get a new World Cup winner out of this tournament, I would take this French team (a.k.a Diaspora FC) over just about anyone else who came to play, maybe excepting Peru.

What now?

There are some easy answers. Here are five.

  1. Keep watching soccer. MLS and the NWSL are in full swing. Your local teams are probably easy to find, and there are games on FOX, ESPN, NBC Sports, and there are streaming options, too. Is the quality as high as Brazil-Belgium? Every now and then, sure! For a few minutes. Either way, it’s professional soccer, with stars like Zlatan and Marta and Alex Morgan and (sigh) Wayne Rooney and lots of fun. Honestly, if you live somewhere like Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Orlando (!), Kansas City, or Columbus, you might be shocked to find amazing groups of supporters standing and singing for 90 minutes, complete with tifo and drums and all that comes with it.
  2. Keep watching soccer. The English Premier League starts in a few weeks. If you don’t have a favorite team, now is the time to pick one. In 2010, I picked Everton. Now, yes, I know, true Evertonians born in Merseyside will chuckle and say real Evertonians are born, they don’t just pick a favorite team, and I get that, but really, you’ll be fine. Pick an English team. It’s easy to find their games on television every Saturday morning between mid-August and mid-May. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is especially fun. Here’s a slightly outdated guide to… picking a guide… to picking an EPL team to support.
  3. Play soccer. My year or so playing in a co-ed indoor league on Wednesday nights was the most sports glory I have ever achieved (we won the league championship two sessions in a row, little thanks to me, the big slow guy in the back). For real, you can do it. If you’re my age, just make sure you have good health insurance and know when to say when. I played in an all-ages league where I was routinely smoked by kids half my age, but rumor has it the old man leagues are substantially more physical. Your mileage may vary.
  4. Play fantasy soccer. MLS and EPL both have really fun fantasy league systems. If you’ve ever played fantasy football or baseball or whatever, you know how this works. It’s a great way to suddenly care deeply about the performance of those two inexpensive midfielders from Watford or that one overachieving forward from Bournemouth.
  5. SUPPORT THE WORLD CUP WINNING UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM. It’s always challenging to give this enough emphasis, but the United States is a three-time World Cup winner. Three times. Three!!! Our women’s team has — without exaggeration — driven the spread of soccer around the world at both the highest and lowest levels since their first win in 1999. The 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada (we were lucky enough to see the US-Germany semifinal in Montreal!) was a turning point for parity in women’s soccer. England, Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, Canada — these teams are all powerhouses.

There’s always more you can do. Coach your kids’ soccer teams! Volunteer and get involved, don’t leave it to someone else. Join the American Outlaws. Find your local soccer bars and go to watch the games even when you can’t get there in person! Just as good: Find some other country’s soccer bars in your neighborhood and go get some culture! 

Go get some soccer.

Three books that changed my mind in the past three months

I’ve been trying to read more.


Not just staring at my phone.

Unless there’s a book on it!

I read a decent percentage of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle that way.

A few years ago.

I didn’t finish the last book.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend a ton of time staring into a block of glass that’s permanently fused to your hand, as long as there’s a book on the screen.

But yeah, I’m trying to get back to books.

Six years ago I asked for book recommendations on Twitter, and revisited those more recently to provide a progress report.

These days I have a tall backlog of books in my To Read pile on Goodreads.

They come from the year-end lists, at places like NPR, sure, but also in email newsletters that I don’t remember signing up for.

If you read Robin Sloan’s books, or John Darnielle’s, maybe you signed up for a newsletter from Farrar, Straus and Giroux? I guess I did. Their list of “Favorite Books” of 2017 isn’t just a best-of-the-year list, it includes books they came back to last year, or read for the first time, or just wanted to share again.

It’s a good list. And thorough.

In 2017, according to the stuff I logged on Goodreads, I only finished around 20 books. And a few of those were Daredevil comic anthologies. And one of them was a Star Wars novel. (Canon, though. Or Legends, or whatever it’s called now.)

That’s not enough.

I set a higher goal for 2018, and immediately started the year by reading a cookbook.

That doesn’t sound too intellectual, right? But no, really, the Momofuku cookbook is something else. Yes, recipes. Yes, food from David Chang’s restaurants, but for someone who usually scrolls straight through all the preamble when I’m just looking for a different gluten-free waffles recipe on a tight Saturday morning deadline, I was completely drawn in by all the prose around the recipes, not just explaining the methods and techniques, but also the story of his restaurants (as of a bunch of years ago when this was published, so it’s only the first two or three) and moreso, of his cooking.

You should read it.

Even the section on hams.

So it’s a cookbook, and I’ve been making stuff from it, but the big thing it’s inspiring me to do?

Oh goodness for lack of a better term, to “take it and turn it.”

To improvise more. To change the recipe, or the project plan, or the life goal, by some increment that makes it exponentially more a reflection of me than some objective idea.

Ugh, I already mentioned Robin.

OK, so all his stuff is good, and you should subscribe to his newsletter, too, and you should throw your 89 cents, or whatever, at anything he offers you for 89 cents.

I read Sourdough last fall, mostly in airports on a short trip to Chicago.

It’s… about… bread.

Sort of.

You should read it if you like magic realism. And bread. And San Francisco — well, liking it is optional, but some familiarity with it will help. (I don’t think I like San Francisco anymore.)

Like a sourdough starter, Robin’s book will reflect your own ambitions.

Yes, sourdough starter can do that. Apparently.

Is it cheating to recommend a book wherein you know the author since Kindergarten? No. No, it is not. Roben’s prose in Hotel Scarface is a delight, as it was when we took Dr. Lavin’s AP English class together, senior year of high school.

So it’s a fast, fun, titillating read. About the cocaine business. Extra points if you grew up in or around Miami, as we did. Double extra points if it makes you wonder how much cocaine-related revenue funded Dade County Public Schools.

But the most impressive thing to me? He spent 20 years on this. I won’t spoil the backstory, but Roben has been reporting this out for-flipping-ever.

What’s your 20-year project?

No pressure.

An update on the reading list you assigned me in March 2012

Storify is over. I’m old enough to remember working for a startup that built tools to curate social media posts into news articles before Storify did a much, much better job of it. 😉

I remember hearing about the idea for Storify from Burt Herman at ONA in San Francisco in 2009, which of course seems like a thousand years ago now. I had the chance to congratulate him on the acquisition by Livefyre a few years later, and raised my eyebrows from afar when Adobe picked them up and rolled pieces of it into their own suite of marketing products.

So today, I had to check. Do I have any Storifys (Storifies?) worth saving?

I found one of the most important Twitter threads of my recent life, from 2012, where I asked for some fiction reading recommendations, preserved in a nice clean Storify.

Y’all came through!

I’m going to recreate the Storify here, using the modern technology now available to us all in 2017 which will surely never become outdated.

Embedded tweets. And my comments below each tweet.

I enjoyed this one, then switched to Neuromancer and read the first two of those. I’ll come back to these, maybe at the beach sometime.

I ended up reading the first 2.05 books of the Baroque Cycle. It took a minute. Still haven’t picked up Cryptonomicon, but I will. Snow Crash looks light, though!

I read it once.

This ended up being the most important book to me on this list. It was wildly ahead of its time on AR/VR, the future of interfaces, fake news (!), self-driving cars, gaming, guilds, and maybe a dozen other things. I. Think. About. It. All. The. Time. Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End.

I tried Kavalier and Clay. Didn’t work for me.

I have library-stalked Universal Baseball Association continuously but never stepped up and ordered a copy for myself. I really need to read this one, because dice baseball.

Max Barry ended up being one of my favorite beach-read authors. Jennifer Government, Lexicon (oooooooh Lexicon), and Machine Man so far.

I have no idea who that is, so I assumed I assumed Hartnett was trolling me with some 16th century poet or something. [NARRATOR: He wasn’t.]

No thank you.

And I’m putting this one on my to-read list now.

Oh, man. I loved this book. And I hated it. I loved the parts I hated. I felt guilty about the parts that I loved. It’s amazing and you should read it.

My wife gave this one five stars on Goodreads, so I should probably read it.

I feel like The Underground Railroad might have made this one a moot point.

Assuming for a minute that Joel wasn’t trolling me with a book that starts with a suicide attempt after I said “nothing too depressing” twice, this could be fun.

Sounds dark. Maybe I can handle it now.

I’m not reading about circus elephants unless they’re stomping everyone and running free, Danya.

Now I have.








For the people

I’m starting a new job today as an Enterprise Growth Engineer on the WordPress VIP team at Automattic.

I’m a little bit excited.

If you know me at all, you know that no matter the title, my job in news has always been to evangelize for new technology to serve journalism. As a reporter, an editor, a product manager, a team leader — I’ve tried to give journalists the tools and training they need to successfully reach (and move! and impact!) their readers, while growing their audience and building sustainable models for the future.

WordPress has often been a part of that equation for me. I suppose my first of many CMS migrations was the move of my own blog to WordPress from Blogspot, even if it was only a few weeks after I started writing here. Later came a WordPress theme for the blogs at what was then Inside Bay Area (in the 19th iteration since, it’s  currently the East Bay Times but has somehow maintained the stories I wrote as an intern in 2006), then a move of all the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s blogs from pMachine (an early Expression Engine product IIRC) to WordPress, plus a couple Joomla (and Mambo?) verticals, too. I used WordPress as a platform for podcasting, for daily video newscasts, for blogs, naturally, and even once drafted plans for a university journalism department website, among other non-news odds and ends.


When I left corporate media for the nonprofit news world in 2015, it felt like I was starting a tour of duty. I had heard the same phrase used by people taking government tech work at places like 18F, and it fit the way I felt at the time. Would I stay in the nonprofit world for good? What would I learn, and how would I use it in the future? Would I look for another nonprofit role when the first one ran its course?

In the end, this move is personal. I decided to look for a role at an organization that was remote-first. I wanted to try something new, outside my usual routine of journalism product management (although you should totally keep doing that, please), and I wanted to be in a position where I could focus on The Work for a while, rather than The Work About The Work, although it will always interest me, too.

So. If you hate your CMS, hit me up. And. AND! If you lovvvvvve your CMS, I want to hear all about that, too.

Oh, and, of course, Automattic is hiring.




Why remote works

I’ve been at Chalkbeat for more than 15 months now, working remotely on a permanent basis for the first time, after two six-month stretches at the beginning of my gigs with GateHouse and Publish2 way back in late aughts.

In those early, somewhat forced “work from home for six months and then move to our office please” situations, I had no idea what I was doing.

In Santa Cruz, employed by Rochester-based GateHouse, I worked at East Coast schedule in a West Coast time zone, working from around 6am to 3pm, and then showering and taking our infant daughter off my wife’s hands for a few hours so she could make some progress on her Ph.D. thesis in progress.

Ancient, pre-Slack tools like GChat and AIM were my tools for staying in close contact with our team, but in truth I spent most of my time on phone calls with staff at our community newspapers in the Central and Mountain time zones, so it sort of worked. It was kinda exhausting.

Also, I recommend showering before starting your workday.

Then, in Rochester, working for Virginia-based-but-mostly-distributed Publish2, it’s kind of a blur. I remember spending a lot of time in coffee shops, which can get expensive. I had a desk in the spare bedroom that must have doubled as our office. There was a lot of Skype, both text from group chat and long group calls where we worked out product requirements and outreach plans. It was pretty intense.

Cut to the last year or so, and I’ve been fortunate to stand on the shoulders of remote giants — well, maybe “build out my home office in the basement of remote office dwellers” might be more accurate.

Of all the advice I fielded about remote work over the years, having a an office with a door that closes was one of the keys, personally. And I have one. In the basement of our exurban townhome, at the far end of a hallway, out of the way, through the laundry room. Before this, we had been using it for storage / a spare bedroom that hadn’t hosted too many visitors lately. And before that, when we moved in? It had been set up as a home office. Of course.

When I took the job, I painted the wall I would be staring at all day in a grid pattern with blue paint samples salvaged from a drawn-out dining room accent wall color selection project. And I built my own standing desk (after much googling) with a relatively inexpensive hunk of butcher block countertop and some giant shelving supports. There are also some cute little lantern light strings and some borderline kitschy geek art, Mars travel posters, Star Wars stuff, a World War I poster urging action, a bunch of artwork by my kids, rotating new stuff in over time, and, just because it’s giant and framed and I had never hung it before, my NYU diploma.

The dog works with me all day.

Those are just the basics. Like, how to set up your own work environment so you don’t go insane alone in a windowless basement room all day.

Working with a mostly remote team? That’s a whole different barrel of wax. How to build remote culture, how to maintain lines of communication (oxygen!), how to make sure your distributed team has all the tools and time and support they need to feel connected?

Start here:

Kavya Sukumar writes from Seattle about working with the East Coast Vox team. Among her awesome advice? Find a way to whiteboard together without, well, pointing a webcam at a whiteboard:

“Sketching can be a valuable tool for collaboration, but it does not always have to happen on a whiteboard or on the same paper. On the Studio, we have everyone draw on individual pieces of paper that are later scanned and added to a project’s documentation. Not only is this more participatory, it also improves documentation.”

Laura Bosco at Range (a design firm we work with at Chalkbeat) gets at a truly critical piece of remote work that I happen to think gets overlooked: If you’re running a diverse, distributed team communicating primarily over text, signals are easily crossed. Here’s one way to deal with that:

“Listen to your teammates and encourage them to share information on their backgrounds, their previous team experiences and how they prefer to communicate most days. Does a teammate’s culture influence how they approach conflict? What about how they make decisions? Identifying these subtleties, and knowing how to manage them, can be very beneficial during conflict.”

Over at the Trello blog, Stella Garber is, of course, recommending Trello among a suite of tools to use to track work across distributed teams, but putting that aside for the moment (Trello is great, so is Asana, so is JIRA, so is Basecamp, so are Google Docs, so is a big wall of post-its, your mileage may vary based on the size of your team and your needs), think about planning how you use these tools. Standardize your approach to reduce confusion!

“Design a plan together about how you want to use each tool, and then write down these guidelines in a document that the team can access anytime. The bonus is that it also creates a training resource for new people joining the team.”

From the oldie-but-goodie file, Stack Overflow’s 2013 post about remote work is canonical, especially the bits about making sure the in-office pieces of your team act like they’re remote, too:

“There’s no halfsies in a distributed team. If even one person on the team is remote, every single person has to start communicating online. The locus of control and decision making must be outside of the office: no more dropping in to someone’s office to chat, no more rounding people up to make a decision. All of that has to be done online even if the remote person isn’t around. Otherwise you’ll slowly choke off the remote person from any real input on decisions.”

And in 2014, Sara Rosso at Automattic wrote about having a daily routine that imposes a steady rhythm of work/life balance:

“Finally I got into a routine which always helps me get into work mode no matter where I find myself: I get up every morning, get dressed & presentable (brush teeth & hair!) and leave where I’m staying to get a coffee, ideally an espresso. My ‘commute’ is self-enforced and is as far as the nearest coffee shop. When I step back inside, I’m ready to work.”

Last, watch out for some of the remote work anti-patterns pointed out by Mak Arnautovic:

“Darth Overwork means well deep down. He knows there’s work to do, and he uses his once-Jedi powers to trick your brain into forgetting how to measure time and effort so you can do more work faster. Some may consider that a desirable skill. But the reason Darth Overwork is so scary, is because you usually can’t see him. You don’t know when your brain is being manipulated by him and when it’s not.”

Don’t be Darth Overwork. Be like Gillian, who works hard sitting in this chair all day, but also knows when it’s time to get up, go for a walk, and clear her head.

Gillian working hard in the home office.

P E R S O N A L   N E W S

Seriously, when did we start calling new job news “personal news” and why? It’s professional news. It’s just me, getting a new job. Personal news is “we adopted a dog” (we did!) or “we’re having another kid” (we’re not!) or maybe “we’re moving to New York” (also not happening!).

But other things *are* happening.

Personal News
I am excited to tell you that I have a new job starting next week.

I’m joining Chalkbeat to lead product and growth. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization that’s reimagining local news with a focus on issues of inequity in education. I’m grateful to be stepping into an amazing team in four cities, and I’m eager to help them grow and continue to build a sustainable model for nonprofit education news.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.24.28

In years past, I’ve said young people don’t care about local news until they buy a house and send their kids to public schools. Guess what? I care about local news these days! And I’m a two-issue local news consumer: 1) Full-day kindergarten, and 2) are we ever going to build the stadium for that NASL team we were promised? The first issue is more important. And it’s tied to issues of managing housing development in Loudoun County a little more consistently. This might be a first world educational issue in my corner of the county, for now, but I’m an engaged local news consumer.

When the opportunity came up to get involved with an organization dedicated to covering high-poverty schools across the country, I jumped at it.


I’m grateful to everyone at Gannett for the opportunities I’ve had there over the past five years. It’s been a privilege to work with local journalists and technologists on the biggest challenges facing the news business. My mission in journalism has always been to make a difference at scale, and Gannett was the perfect place to do so.

But now it’s time to move on, and I can’t wait for everything that comes next.

Any questions? I’ll start.

Q: Chartbeat? Cool, real-time analytics are totally addictive!
A: They sure are. Love that stuff. Not working for them, though. It’s Chalkbeat, like the chalkboard beat, like education news. If there’s one thing I know about education, it’s that repetition can be important. Chalkbeat. Education news. In context. Chalkbeat. Dot-Org.

Q: It looks like Chalkbeat is in New York. Are you moving to New York?
A: Chalkbeat’s leadership team is in New York, but there are also teams covering the Denver area, Indianapolis, and Memphis, too. It’s a distributed organization, like many nonprofits and startup news orgs these days, and I’m not moving anywhere. Ask me about my new home office, and the standing desk I’ve been building. And the walls I’ve been painting. And the bed and dresser I have up for sale on Craigslist. Please, ask me about the furniture. Bring a truck to ask me about it.

Q: So… [whispers] …are you hiring?
A: SO GLAD YOU ASKED! As a matter of fact, Chalkbeat is hiring a Full-Stack Engineer. This person will work directly with me on product development. WordPress is the core of the proverbial technology stack right now, but there’s amazing work to be done on measuring impact (read about Chalkbeat’s MORI here), as well as other big ideas around audience analytics. We’re going to be supercharging Chalkbeat’s already strong remote culture with inspiration from Vox Product, 18F, Fusion, and others, so although New York or DC-based candidates would be cool, remote would work for the right candidate, too. You should ask me more about this role. You’re probably right for it. Yes, you.

Q: What can I say, I’m inspired! How can I help?
A: First of all, if you have kids or family who teach in New York, Denver, Indianapolis, or Memphis, head directly to your local Chalkbeat and start reading today. Subscribe to an email newsletter. Follow Chalkbeat on Twitter. Like Chalkbeat on Facebook. You can do all of these things.

But also, you can make a donation today to support one of the few nonprofit news organizations in this space doing local reporting on some of the most critical issues facing schools in America’s poorest communities. Want to help tell this story? Help fund the important work they’re doing today.

Q: We know you’ve been listening to Hamilton a lot lately. Does this have anything to do with Hamilton?
A: I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, you forget yourself.

Q: Is there one more thing?
A: You know there is. It’s about finding a new job you love. You don’t find a job by obsessively refreshing LinkedIn, or Glassdoor, or searching Idealist and Media Bistro and Journalism Jobs multiple times a day. Nope. Doesn’t work. Good luck!

You find your new job on Twitter. Seriously. I should know better than to use any other method, but I first heard about this job listing in a tweet during ONA. I wasn’t even at ONA. I guess I was following the hashtag in Tweetdeck and happened to look up at the screen? Maybe? Or someone retweeted this. This:

Screenshot 2015-12-01 13.20.10Thanks, Twitter. Thanks, Sarah!

Elsewhere, recently, blogging

Remember when I remembered blogging? Hard to believe that was almost four months ago, but there it is. Meanwhile…

Here’s what I did after I posted that real live actual blog post on my blog here at

  1. I wrote a Medium post from my phone. It was about Sleater-Kinney and writing and content management systems. And about writing on phones. (Not too long after, Medium updated lots of features, including their mobile writing/editing screens, so some of this was happily and quickly made totally invalid.)
  2. I wrote a Kinja post from my phone. It was about tacos and emoji and terrible garbage data. And writing on phones.
  3. I wrote a Tumblr post from my phone. It was about beach vacations and long books and reading habits. And writing on phones.
  4. That aforementioned Medium update happened, and in the process of trying it out, I wrote a “brief” guide to things like Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP and the stuff Medium was launching and it was “fun,” but also actual publishing labor. I can’t remember if I drafted any part of this on my phone, but maybe.
  5. Writing in Medium was remarkably pleasant, and they’re proving to be a really powerful platform for driving engagement with push notifications, at least until everyone gets annoyed and turns them off, and also we’ve been listening to the Hamilton cast album non-stop (get it?), so I wrote a thing about what Product Managers can learn from Hamilton the Musical. And that really was fun, no scare quotes.


Anyway, that’s what I’ve been writing about. More to come. Medium has been fun.

One new development related to all these thoughts about content management systems for actual writing: WordPress is doing something lots of people are doing, moving to fancy modern node.js frameworks for publishing tools, not just for what I would usually call reader-facing UX.

As a matter of fact, even though I don’t quite understand how this works, I’m typing this very blog post in what I have to assume is the new node.js powered framework on, which hopefully is going to publish as intended on, which still runs using the standard latest dot-org build.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.01.46 AM.png


Remember blogging?

Screenshot 2015-08-04 13.50.14

Cracks me up. Every time. Not sure how it started, but my top skill of “Top Skills” on LinkedIn is Blogging.

Remember blogging?

Every now and then someone tells that joke. The one that goes “Remember blogs?” Ha. Ha ha.

It’s funny, because the blogs won, and most of the websites/apps/screenthings we use on a daily basis either *are* blogs or they look like blogs.

But we don’t write personal blogs these days, do we?

(Look, I know this is well-trod territory, but every time I look at this particular personal blog and see the last post was May 2013, I feel silly, so allow me this indulgence.)

The best personal blogs I read these days are email newsletters. And they’re not necessarily published every day, and they’re not necessarily personal. And they’re not blogs, either.

But we blog all day, on Twitter and Facebook (Remember microblogging? Remember linkblogs?) and for a certain demographic, maybe Tumblr or Instagram or S N A P C H A T wait the whole messaging thing turns the idea of “blogs” inside-out and backwards, but still. But. Still.

I kinda miss blogging?

Also, this is the first time I’ve opened up the WordPress “Write” screen (not what it’s called anymore) in ages, and even with almost no fancy plugins left turned on here, it feels a little Enterprisey for me. Too many buttons, too many decisions, all the custom fields and categories and tags and format options and checkboxes — and really, this is pretty stripped down compared to fully outfitted WordPress-as-Content-Management-System systems.

I want a system that intuitively sees me pasting in a big block of text with quotes around it and says “Yo, that’s clearly a blockquote, I’ve got this,” before I can find the right button on a toolbar. I want a system that knows the only thing I’ve dropped into the body is a YouTube link and says “Dude, looks like a video post, no problem.”

You get the idea.

Tagging, of course, should be mostly automated, cleverness economy investments excluded, naturally, while we’re at it, suggest some links when I highlight some text and hmm I bet these are all plugins that someone has built and I’m going to hear from WordPress developer friends that everything I’m describing can be bolted onto my install in no time and…

…yeah, I guess I need something to blog about.

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