Old friends! Ripoffs! Hateful comments! — A media blitz roundup

Invisible airwaves, crackle with life…

I don’t write about it much here, but I love the radio. NPR is my primary daily news source. So, I was totally geeked when Here and Now asked me to be on their program. And through the magic of editing, I think I managed to sound pretty alright!

(You know how, when someone gets under your skin, but you’re so worked up all you can say is “Oh yeah? Well, your momma!”? And then later, when the moment is gone forever, your brain catches up and comes up with all sorts of erudite, polysyllabic arguments? Radio is like that.)

Best part about the radio bit? All the old friends who emailed me after they heard the program, including one of my favorite high school English teachers. Dunno if/when the web will have that kind of reach. Love.

“…part of a hegemonic institutional perspective that is glaringly…”

Back online, my Hackers wanted! bit on O’Reilly Radar got a lot of attention, mostly hating on journalism and grumbling about needing a bachelors degree before pursuing a masters degree. But I’m hopeful that the message got through to a few programmers who want to make the world a better place.

In retrospect, I should have probably explained the importance of journalism in a democratic society, and ceded that yes, journalism is mostly broken right now, but this is our opportunity to fix it. Hindsight. Le sigh. If you’re into it, check the comment threads on the original post, and the nerdy aggregators that picked it up:

S’pose if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re doing it wrong. Right?

Rich Gordon, the fella who decided it was a good idea to bring coders to J-school, wrote a response on Idea Lab including an interview with my new boss, Digital Editor at the Chicago Tribune, Bill Adee.

I even got ripped off completely by Tech Crunch, where fellow Medill alum Leena Rao summarized my post and completely failed to mention where she got the brilliant idea — eliciting 85 comments. Thanks for not linking!! Love!

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News Mixer roundup: links and thoughts on what comes next

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about News Mixer, and since then the intertubes seem to have taken a liking to our little project. I’m delighted that our code might live on in other projects.

Steal this code!

Like I explained in my interview with Kristen Taylor at Knight Pulse, the code is free.

So take it, and make cool stuff. Please!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2730442&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Using News Mixer right now

I was delighted to learn that the Populous Project decided to adopt News Mixer. Anthony Pesce’s post at Media Shift Idea Lab,Populous Is Adopting News Mixer (And More), covers the details.

Initially we were planning on building similar features into Populous, but our original vision was to create a whole separate network on our own site to handle it. That plan had a few problems, but two in particular were too large to ignore: Facebook is ubiquitous on college campuses and it does social networking better than we ever could, and new readers would have to join a whole new network which is an unacceptable impediment.

We realized that using Facebook Connect as a way of authentication for the site, and as a way of giving our readers a robust social networking experience, would almost work better than making the whole thing on our own from scratch. Facebook, we think, will also help drive additional traffic to our site because people who aren’t already on our network will still be exposed to content when their friends interact with it.

Patrick Beeson wrote a very thoughtful post about News Mixer in December (and I’m dying to know what he’s got up his sleeve…): Medill’s News Mixer remixes story comments

Although News Mixer [doesn’t] change the traditional story format — stories are still stories that don’t work as well online as they do in print — I think their radical take on user participation is a great step forward for news sites.

And because News Mixer is built in Django, I plan on using their open-sourced code for my own project very soon, in fact.

And be sure to check out Rich Gordon’s comprehensive post about how news organizations might use News Mixer: News Mixer Options: Launch a Site, Use the Code or Be Inspired

This past week, e-Me Ventures (a Chicago-based technology firm affiliated with Gazette Communications, which sponsored the class that developed News Mixer) announced it had deployed a portion of the News Mixer code as an add-in to a test site, powered by WordPress.

“The News Mixer idea was huge. I was really blown away by the work that [the students] did,” said Abe Abreu, CEO of e-Me. “We wanted to be the first to do something with it.”

With these new developments, it seems like a good time to lay out some of the ways News Mixer — and/or its functionality — might be implemented on a production Web site.

News Mixer in the news

Finally, if you’re interested in reading more about the press we’ve received, check out Rich’s excellent roundup, keep an eye on my newsmixer tag on delicious, and follow along on Twitter.

Creating community connections in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids, Iowa was hit with one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history this June, when the Cedar River rose past it’s 500-year flood plain to 31.2 feet, flooded 1,300 city blocks, and put most of the downtown area under water.

When we visited the Gazette, Cedar Rapid’s daily paper a few weeks ago, the city was still soggy.  The streets were lined with discarded appliances and stacks of rotten home remains — though we were reassured that things looked *far* better than a few months ago.

A&W on Ellis Blvd. by justj0000lie
A&W on Ellis Blvd. by justj0000lie

It is in this setting that my final project at Medill began.  Our team of six budding new media journalists, under the guidance of instructors Rich Gordon and Jeremy Gilbert, has teamed up with the Gazette to create something for their community.

Our mission?  To build and strengthen connections among 20 to 35 year olds in Cedar Rapids.

Rich’s take:

The decision to target young adults was sensible, given their heavy use of digital media. Still, I think it also increased the “degree of difficulty”…. Local media companies have had some success creating online products geared to this audience, but they have usually revolved around entertainment….

This week comes the hard part: settling on the core idea for the students’ innovation. What kind of site or service will they try to build? How will this site or service connect young adults in eastern Iowa? What role will news or journalism play?

I’ve got a feeling that the next ten weeks are gonna be frantic and fascinating.  If you’re interested in following along, we’re recording our experience over at the Team Crunchberry blog.

Crunchberry?

In honor of the berry-riffic scent that wafts from the Quaker Oats plant through downtown Cedar Rapids, we named our team after a certain breakfast cereal that’s close to all our hearts.  If we can continue making champion decisions such as this one, we’re destined for success.

Help! What’s a great news problem to solve?

Rich Gordon’s got programmers but no project:

Between now and when the [next Medill innovation project] starts (Sept. 23), we have to decide what the focus of the project will be. In my experience with previous projects, the key is to come up with an interesting challenge or question for the students to explore.

Right now there are two competing ideas, neither of them yet specific enough to organize the class around:

  • Civic engagement through online conversations
  • Mobile content and services

This project will be my primary focus for the next three months. We’ve got a great team, but we’re still hunting for a killer idea. What’s a great news problem to solve?

As for the platform, I’m leaning towards Android. (Admittedly, I’m putting the cart waaay in front of the horse here. The platform should always follow the idea, buuut…) The new gear from Google’s phone project is coming soon, and I agree with John Biggs at TechCrunch:

An open, powerful platform backed by a major, web-focused corporation is better than a useless accretion of outdated functions owned by a Borg-like conglomerate [Microsoft] or an OS created by a gnomic, arbitrarily pissy design company [Apple] in my book.

What do you think six budding new media journalists, two of whom code, should do for a quarter? Ryan and I could hack something pretty substantial in three months!

Any ideas?