The blog post about that time I spent the week in the hospital and they took out part of my intestines

If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve likely already pieced most of this together. If not…

Last Friday night, I was slammed with stomach problems like I’d never experienced before, and by the time the #snowtober storm started on Saturday morning, I was on my way to the emergency room. First ever ambulance ride.

A day later, a colonoscopy turned up, well, some weird stuff in my large intestine, and a day after that I was in surgery.

I’m happy to say that the report on the chunk of intestines they cut out of me (and hey, go ahead and take my appendix while you’re there) showed no sign of cancer, or Crohn’s disease, or another easily identifiable chronic illness.

So they’re sending my guts up to Johns Hopkins to get a second opinion from a specialist, and we’ll see if I just had a fluke infection of some sort, or if I’ve gone off and reinvigorated research on some rare disease.

Either way, I’ll be healed up from the surgery and back in action shortly.

As far as how you can help, there’s no clear “gastrointestinal mysteries foundation” to throw money at, but if you’d think about donating blood sometime soon, I’d appreciate it, since I’m three units deep into IOUs at the moment.

Oh, and bros? Get that colonoscopy.

Everything that comes next

Bit of an announcement to make, although if you follow me on Twitter, the first shoe of the pair dropped last night.

I’m joining Gannett Digital today, as Product Manager, Local Sites.

That means I’ll be working with more than 100 newspapers and broadcast news outlets, thousands of journalists, and helping them deliver information to a rather engaged audience of millions.

I like the sound of that.

For me, it’s a return to building and improving news sites on a large scale, but it’s also the same job I’ve always had in this business: Find, track, and develop the best ideas about the future of news, then hand them off to journalists packaged with the tools and training they need to put those ideas into action. And then keep bugging them about it until they do so.

For a variety of reasons, I left my position at Publish2 a few weeks ago. Thanks to all my friends there, plus everyone who made the job easy, especially the brilliant journalists in newsrooms across the country (and yes, around the world) who “got it” from the start, and were excited to try out everything I threw at them.

And now, onward, to everything that comes next.

Five

When I started this blog, in my first week as a Mass Communications graduate student at San Jose State, it was called “Big Silver Robot,” it was hosted at Blogspot, and it was anonymous. That lasted for about a month.

Pretty quickly, I signed up for a free WordPress instance at Blogsome, where I enjoyed a bit more freedom to learn html and css by fiddling with the files in the WP admin. It was ryansholin.blogsome.com, and I’m pretty sure that was the point where I started calling it “Ryan Sholin’s J-School Blog.”

Straightforward enough, right?

Of the early posts I’ve preserved, the earliest in my archives, dated February 1, 2005, was about Steve Sloan’s visit to an undergrad-level journalism class I was taking, which I believe was called something along the lines of Internet Information Gathering. Steve talked about podcasting, and smiled when I mentioned I was subscribed to a few RSS feeds as Firefox live bookmarks. Wonkette was probably on my list, and PressThink, maybe Scripting News, and possibly Romenesko.

Nine days later I got Scobleized, and that pretty much changed everything.

By the end of the semester I was taking notes at online journalism panels and blogging them as fast as I could, and Chuck Olsen said that blogs were people (Soylent Green, style, though) and I got it.

That summer, my Web-savvy mom gave me ryansholin.com as a present, and I switched over to a hosted WordPress installation of my own, beginning a cycle of design, redesign, and play.

But mostly, there was a lot of blogging. A lot of ideas. A few kneejerk reactions. Some commentary on technology. Some hopes for the future.

When I was in journalism school, I blogged a lot about what I thought journalism schools should do.

When I worked for a newspaper, I blogged a lot about what I thought newspapers should do.

When I worked for a media company, dealing with hundreds of newspapers, I realized every single one of them was different, and trying to tell any of them what they should do was a Sisyphean task of very heavy-duty proportions, and moreso, a bit silly.

I learned to take everything I had picked up about the business of news and apply it in each given situation, instead of writing manifestos about What Newspapers Should Do.

But to rewind a bit, in the middle of 2007 when I worked at a newspaper, I wrote a blog post, slowly, over the course of a few weeks, and posted it at just the right moment on just the right day, and thousands of people read it.

10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head is still the most popular thing on this blog. It’s certainly possible (and probably, given the numbers in play) that one of the Sunday centerpieces I wrote for the Oakland Tribune and its sister papers in the Bay Area in the summer of 2006 was read by more people (the first few grafs, anyway). Likely, in fact. But it was extremely satisfying to see 10,000 page views on my blog post in a day.

Pointing out the obvious to an audience that might not have spotted it yet and then repeating myself over and over again has become, shall we say, my thing.

Occasionally this thought makes me flash back to a conversation with a political science professor who explained why he used so much repetition in his lectures. He said he kept bringing the important concepts up again and again, iterating his presentation of them, using different examples, drawing different diagrams, all in an effort to make sure everyone in the room who was going to understand it, understood it. He gauged reactions with eye contact and good questions, and if he saw too many blank stares, he’d push through the idea in yet another way, or come back to it next week, approaching it from a different angle.

For those of you keeping score, this blog has been instrumental in getting every full-time job I’ve had in the news business. You don’t get to act like someone who has ideas unless there’s some evidence of your ideas out there in the wild.

So as this blog turns five years old and starts asking for bigger and better toys when we go to the store, I must admit I have a few urges.

One is to take my old “Ryan Sholin on the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education” tagline and chop off the prepositional section so it’s just me talking about the future. Of anything. And everything. I’ll do it soon, but you know I’ll keep talking about news and newspapers and publishing and reporting.

The second is to redesign again. It’s been awhile, believe it or not. I’ll get around to it.

But mostly, I’m just going to keep pushing myself to write a bit more here, as per my New Year’s resolution.

Thanks for reading.

Blog posts I have written and not written this year

Hey, would ya look at that, the year’s almost over. And while I’m not the biggest fan of arbitrary divisions of time, I sure do like making lists.

Year-end lists are little nuggets of candy that fall from the sky like sweet, sweet hail, and every now and then, it’s the end of a decade, and people really go nuts with all the listing, and — naturally — the lists of lists.

As for me, I’m going to keep this post squarely focused on just two lists.

Posts I haven’t written yet, but promise to get to soon, really, honest

  • That thing about the coming link economy. Wait, did I write that? Not really. Let’s just say this: If you spend time as a journalist digging up information online, finding valuable links to pass along to your readers and followers, adding context and reference to what we think of as the conventional “news,” then I think there’s some money in it for you. Not just PageRank. Not just whuffie.
  • “Why I enjoy casually copy editing Wikipedia.” I do. And that’s an actual title from an abandoned draft post sitting in my WordPress install. I think it says a lot about the future of annotations and corrections that I can correct things like spelling and punctuation in Wikipedia without thinking about it too much, or jumping through any hoops at all related to my identity. It plays right into my desire to copy edit the world as I move through it. If I can’t carry around a black marker and play apostrophe police, at least I can fix Wikipedia.
  • Hyperlocal is made of people. Seems obvious, but a lot of people seem to think it’s about software, or a business model, or user-generated content. Any version of those three items can and will work, but if you don’t have wildly passionate journalists, developers, salespeople, all three, or one person who does all three jobs, you’re not going to get very far. It used to be enough just to have a great idea for a news project. Then, you had to answer the inevitable question, “Sure, sounds great, but what’s the business model?” Now, even if you can answer that, people will ask you “But will it scale?” As if your success isn’t valid unless everyone else can succeed by following exactly the same path as you. See why I haven’t written this one yet? I’ve been on all sides of this argument in the last few years, and I plan to stay there.

The most popular posts here at Invisible Inkling this year

  1. The difference between Facebook friends and Twitter friends: Something pithy that StumbleUpon users seem to really love, a lot.
  2. 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head: Still my most popular blog post ever. Pretty sure most of it still makes sense.
  3. 10 little white lies you hear about the future of newspapers: Wrote this in the middle of the Great Paywall Debate of early 2009. And it shows.
  4. New York Times on e-paper: This is from 2006. Search engines love it.
  5. Five Keys to Authenticity: Probably the post I put the most thought into this year, even if some of it was while I was hacking up phlegm en route to a talk in Pittsburgh on the topic. Following those five pieces of advice really are key to sounding like the human being you are, when you’re engaging with readers (or customers, for that matter) in what I’ll agnostically call “social media channels.”
  6. My advice to journalism students: This list goes to 6 because this post is right behind ‘Five Keys’ in pageviews. I’ve been giving unsolicited advice to journalism schools, faculty, and students since I started blogging, moments after starting a graduate program at San Jose State’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

Thank you

Whether you’re reading this because you’re an avid subscriber of this blog via RSS, or you just keep it open in IE6 and hit refresh once a month, or because you follow me on Twitter, or because you see this posted automagically as a Facebook note, or because someone retweeted it after I tweeted a self-referencing tweet linking to it, or because your journalism professor made you subscribe to this blog months ago, I want to say thank you.

It’s been a fun year. (New job, new town, bigger kid, fun travels, awards, a diploma, new friends, etc.)

So, thanks.