Today is the 152nd day of the year 2021

Seems like a good day for a blog post!

One Song Everyday

Building (healthy) habits is not something that comes easily to me, so I always find “do this one thing every day of the year” projects appealing. A few years ago I made a “one second everyday” #1se video and surprised my family with it on the following New Year’s Day. (That was really nice.)

In 2018, after starting a new job, I blogged every day for the first month of the year as a bit of a dogfood exercise.

(And really, I “blog” using internal tools at work most every weekday.)

This year, I am recording a song every day.

Why and What and How

They’re all covers, and they’re all on video. There’s a bit of an About page that I wrote on the first day about why I’m doing this and what I’m trying to learn. It comes down to being OK with not being great at playing and singing, being especially poor at completing songs — playing them all the way through — over the years, and seeing this as a way to make myself accountable (to myself, obvs) for playing whole songs and trying to learn more.

And it’s working. I’m improving, learning about recording, toying around with GarageBand and considering other software, getting out old guitar accessories,

There’s an Index that lists all the songs I’ve done so far from a few different angles, too.

I’ve been meaning to go through and tag some “favorites” but that’s a lot of self-reflection, and I might not be the best judge of this sort of thing, and they’re all good or bad or mediocre or terrible for their own reasons, no favorite children, etc.

Tools and Choices

  • Breedlove acoustic guitar
  • Squire J Mascis Jazzmaster electric guitar
  • Fuzz Factory pedal
  • GarageBand, lots of things
  • Nektar MIDI keyboard
  • Samson C01UPRO microphone
  • black cowboy hat
  • lack of shame

Maybe notable: I’m not posting these on traditional “social” media much at all. I’m just not in the mood this year to give all this content to Google or Facebook or Twitter, or to automate anything like that, though I reserve the right to drop a little snippet in my Insta story from time to time. I’m using for everything, including the video hosting. Some of this isn’t free for customers — it turns out a four-minute song video with multiple tracks is hundreds of MBs? — but I work for Automattic, so I’m using our stuff for free.


Oh, and yes, as an added benefit, I walk around every day knowing how many days have passed this year. Today is the 152nd day of the year.

Any requests?

Days twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one: Reflections on trying to blog every day for a month

I didn’t blog every day for a month. I didn’t miss by much, but it’s definitely easier to be disciplined about it at home than it is on the road.

I thought it would be a good experiment, writing slightly longer, compared to a tweet, and it often felt satisfying to mash the publish button. The daily pressure was noticed, though, and reminded me of the year I did one of those one-second-per-day videos. Sometimes you just need to point the camera at the sky; sometimes you just need to jot down some thoughts about jotting down thoughts.

I’m writing this on my laptop on a plane — not on my phone, where I wrote all (I think?) the other posts this month.

Maybe writing those posts didn’t help me separate myself from my phone, but it did give me an outlet for the spare energy of rattling-around thoughts, pithy ideas, and rambling about platforms and projects and photos and it was fun to pull some old file art off my phone.

About Not Tweeting Or Posting On Facebook

Um, many people have spit many hot takes on this topic, and there’s not much I can add. It felt like I was measurably reducing my daily anxiety by not spending much time on Twitter this month. When I did check in from time to time on my laptop during the week (or, admittedly, stealing down to the basement once or twice a day on weekends to get my fix), it was nice to see a joke or two, or someone’s Personal News, and there was that day I unfollowed more than a thousand people, that felt pretty good.

I was still checking news sites multiple times a day on my phone, to feed the “has anything blown up overnight?” monster in my brain, but if you feel overwhelmed and like maybe you need a break from the unrelenting wash of news, then yes, indeed, I would recommend cutting down on Twitter.

And Facebook, sure, although checking in there less was a good reminder that I’ve done a decent job of curating my friends and my feed there, so more often than not, looking at Facebook on my laptop a couple times a day made me feel good.

I kept Instagram on my phone, and although the babies and kids and dogs and meals there have a lot of overlap with my FB feed, I’ve been enjoying Stories.

What now?

Am I going to keep aiming to write a blog post every day? Uhhhhhhmmmmmm hmmmm errrrr… How about I just try to blog whenever I feel like it, whenever I have a thought longer than tweet-length, whenever there’s one of those empty cans making a lot of noise in my head, whenever I want to, more or less, without the long-gone pressure of worrying about my brand or how my work responsibilities and personal opinions (usually about future-of-news stuff) might not always be in alignment.

Am I going to start tweeting again?

Ehhhhhhhhh probably. But I’m going to keep curating pretty hard. I definitely have the thought of making my account private, and/or deleting my old tweets.

It’s tempting to just leave it behind.

Fish tacos, El Pescadito, Mexico City, 2019
Fish tacos, El Pescadito, Mexico City, 2019

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.

Subscribe to my Tinyletter to help me decide.

This is a linkdump

At the risk of doing what I’m best at — overstating the obvious — you might have noticed that I don’t use this blog much anymore.

Actually, I do use it, maybe once a year or so, to communicate the fact that I don’t write many blog posts these days, and you should just follow me on Twitter or somewhere else if you’re interested.

But that’s barely true. I don’t “talk” about “media” stuff much on Twitter, although I sort of do, depending on how you feel about reading between the lines, but sometimes a GIF is just a GIF.

That’s the end of the preamble.

This is a linkdump.

I’ve been using Pinboard (again) for a couple months now to “save” links to “read” later. (Is there an Emoji for air quotes? Wait, I’m going to tweet that, brb.)

The air quotes are because I haven’t really used these tools for anything other than reducing the amount of guilt I have over not reading the entire Internet.

Really, who reads everything they save to “read later?” Nobody. It just sits there, festering. I used to share first, read later, but in modern times, it often feels silly to re-share something everyone has already shared, so I’ll just “like” or “favorite” and let that be a passive form of sharing, rather than crafting a shiny new headline and point of view around some interesting article, where “interesting” equals “this caught my eye and it seems important.”

So, instead, I present this unscheduled, imperiodic link dump of a bunch of stuff I’ve saved. Maybe I’ve read it, maybe not. Maybe it’s useful, maybe not.

You be the judge. An ordered list in no particular order follows, although it might end up in chronological order, we’ll see.

  1. Matt Waite for Source on the hey-wasn’t-this-hotly-debated ethics of a mugshot news app.
  2. 10 years of NFL play-by-play data, in CSV form.
  3. A List Apart article on small-screen (iPhone, for example) navigation patterns.
  4. Software to help humans figure out if that pic was ‘shopped, marketed to insurance companies.
  5. “Don’t learn how to code; learn to make things.”
  6. A painfully basic lesson for product managers and entrepreneurs: Solve Existing Problems
  7. If you’re going to have meetings, Always Be Capturing, so you don’t have to have more meetings to review what you decided in the previous meeting.
  8. On the perils of including edge case legacy functionality in your application to satisfy power users: Checkboxes That Kill Your Product
  9. Hey guys, remember when Netflix was a useful social network?
  10. Solid notes on *how* to measure audience engagement in news apps, although I would argue that *what* to measure is critical.
  11. For the completely uninitiated, a perfect explanation of the (current) state of open graph tags and making content shareable.
  12. Lorem Ipsum for avatars.
  13. The accidental limerick detector.
  14. The year-old Zeldman-approved recommended replacement for the ol’ -9999px trick.
  15. “Could you make a list of cute animals that gets 5 million views?”



The snark of working in public

The art of working in public: In which Robin Sloan writes a great blog post about other people writing great blog posts.

“I have two exemplary pieces of 21st-century writing that I want to share with you. Neither is hot off the CMSes; they’ve both aged just a little in their tabbed casks. They have something deeply in common—though it might not be obvious at first.”

From my point of view, “writing great blog posts” feels like a thing of the past, except for a faithful few inspiring souls who still strive to build connections and point to common threads on the Web, not just curating the work of others, but adding something much more valuable than a pithy comment in the process.

It’s certainly a stock/flow issue these days, but I think so much of what I see passed around these days qualifies as flow: Short snippets, curated clips, a video, an animated gif, the trafficking of cleverness in the form of tweets or stars or likes or plusses or some other sharing system that helps us superglue badges to our vests like so many Indian Guides.

Finding time for stock is tricky. Often I feel like the writing I do here that gets the most attention (as measured by aforementioned counts and scores and RTs and stars and comments, etc.) is quick, throwaway, blast writing (not entirely unlike what you’re reading at the moment, eh?), spun up without a great deal of deep research or forethought.

But I do so admire the Dashes and Sloans and Carmodys et al, who do find the time, and provide us with more than fodder for the sharing circuit.

A brief history of January

With all the blogging I’ve been doing so far this month, a few of you have given me strange looks or short notes to the effect of “Hey, didn’t know you were still writing on that thing, ha ha.”

Right. Well. Don’t get too excited.

Just before I completely corrupted the data by importing more than 2,500 Delicious links as blog posts, I took a quick count, by month, of all the posts on this blog since I started it way back in February 2005 as a freshly minted graduate student in Mass Communications at San Jose State University.

And lately, January is big deal. Clearly, I have a New Year’s resolution problem.

Onward to the data, visualized as the most boring Excel bar chart in the history of boring bar charts.

Aside from the obvious fact that 2009 and 2010 were pretty dark years around this URL, a few amusing data points:

  • January has been my most prolific month, historically, and the top month for 2010 and 2009. In 2010, this was definitely a resolution issue.
  • As for the other spikes: In May 2005, the last month of my first semester in graduate school, and first semester as a blogger, I just plain wrote a lot. This was definitely a phase where I would link to someone else’s post and express my own opinion as it related to the topic at hand. Pretty basic blogging stuff. But In February 2006, I was importing Delicious links automatically, grouped together in a single post per day if I had saved anything new. Some people still do this, but I don’t really care for it. So that month’s numbers are a bit padded.
  • In June 2007, the all-time page view champion on this here website, I only published 11 posts, making it a mid-range month, ranked 36 of 73.
  • The 15 months with the fewest posts were all in 2009 and 2010.
  • Other than January 2005, which I included here with a zero because I think that’s when I wrote my first post or two on the original Blogspot blog where this all originated, there are no zeroes on this list. That’s right, even in the throes of whatever overarching busy-ness was keeping me away from regular blogging, I managed to get one in every month. That was a surprise to me.

The real trick, of course, is keeping up the pace when January’s over.

We’ll see.

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.

The avatar problem

I’ll be at ONA09 for the next few days, where I’ll meet, probably, a few hundred people I know from the Internet.

But they don’t know me.

I mean, they know what I say and write and produce online, but most of them know my avatar better.


That’s the one.  I’m sitting outside at a Cambridge, Massachusetts metro stop in December 2006 on a cold day during a break in an epic walk around Boston with my wife, wearing a (beloved, but now lost) hat she knit for me.

That’s the story of the avatar, but frankly, I’m considerably larger than a 73px by 73px image.

An example of the reactions the avatar problem leads to, from a much later date in Cambridge:

Picture 1

Of course, meeting in person largely solves the avatar problem.

Look for me at ONA. I’ll be the guy wearing the name tag that says “Ryan Sholin” on it.

October Carnival of Journalism: How to move the needle in your newsroom today

Journerdist-In-Chief Will Sullivan hosts this month’s resurgent Carnival of Journalism, asking the following:

“What are small, incremental steps one can make to fuel change in their media organization?”

I’ve mentioned some incremental steps you take to grow a little revenue at a time recently, and there’s a list of free or cheap tools for online news sitting around here somewhere, but here are a few general recommendations and specific ideas for things you can do on Monday morning to get the ball rolling and needle moving into the future in your newsroom.

In General:

  • Engage your readers. Don’t be a faraway mugshot at the top of a column once a week; use blogs, comment threads on stories, microblogging tools, and every other tool at your disposal to foster a relationship with the actual human beings at the other end of your delivery routes and Intertubes.

To Be Specific:

  • Start a blog, or a story with a comment thread, or a Twitter account on Monday morning, depending on the technology you have on hand.

The purpose of this blog/thread/Twitter account is to ask readers questions, and answer the questions they ask.  One staff member (probably you if you’re reading this) takes the questions from readers and routes them to the logical reporter, editor, photographer, graphic designer, etc.  You don’t need 30 staffers to sign into the account and type into the CMS, you just need to send them an e-mail and get their answer and post it yourself.  Do encourage them to read the comments and follow up by participating in the thread.

In General:

  • Shoot more video. This isn’t as complicated as you think it is.  Get cameras in the hands of your reporters; don’t wait for your squadron of photographers to get the equipment they requested or for your editors to decide on which approach to newspaper video makes the most sense.  Skip the step where you try to produce video that looks like local TV news, and go straight to the step where you end up with a YouTube-like page with tons of video for your online readers to browse through.

To Be Specific:

Importantly, this is *primarily* a video camera, which means it’s not going to be monopolized by well-meaning reporters who “need” it to shoot stills for print.  Start a rotation, one reporter per camera per week.  Shoot three videos a week, maximum two minutes each, and edit as little as possible.  That’s how you get started shooting more video, regardless of what other long-term high-budget plans you might have in place.

In General:

  • Spend less time in conference rooms. If you feel like you’re spending too much time in meetings, you probably are.  Give yourself and your staff more time to get their jobs done and keep moving that needle in the right direction by not wasting their time.

To Be Specific:

  • Use online productivity and project management tools as an always-on meeting place that anyone can drop in and out of as their day allows.  Google Docs, Basecamp, Prologue, Yammer, — choose a flavor and try it out.

Have more meetings, asynchronously, online, and spend less time locked in a conference room trying to figure out why you didn’t know that story or package or project was on the schedule for this weekend.  Use these tools for scheduling, budgeting, staffing, tracking long projects over time, story counts, accountability — as much or as little as you want.  Refer back to these documents instead of having meetings to talk about what sort of form you should print out to refer back to later.

Overstating the Obvious:

None of this will work if you’re not interested in making progress, passionate about taking giant leaps forward, and curious about the range of tools out there in the wild.  Try any of these, and if it doesn’t work, fail fast and move on to the next idea.  Unless you have time to waste, in which case, I wish you the best of luck.