March 06, 2009

More Free Training...

The news this week has been grim. Again.The Rocky Mountain News is no more, and I suspect that won't be the last paper to fold in the coming months.

Here's what I know you don't want to hear: Many of you probably won't land back on your feet as a working journalist at an American newspaper.

So we're going to reprise our free training, that we offered to laid-off Gannett folks in December and January, and open it up to all the journalists who lost their jobs in Colorado, in Seattle and elsewhere. About half of what my company (MyDigiMediaGroup) does is training. We train reporters, editors, producers, developers, teachers...hell, we even train lots of trainers...on how to adapt technology for journalism. (The other half is strategic planning and innovation. Like, which content management system should you use and how can you best implement it to accommodate mobile, the geospatial web, etc?)

So, to the recently laid-off journalists, here's something to help: We're going to offer an updated version of our free training session on what to do next. It will focus on emerging technology and post-mainstream journalism careers. We'll show you some new tech trends, explain how you can combine them with what you already know, and then show you how to apply your skillset to either land a new gig or even start your own site. As before, this won't be an hour of learning code - it'll be instruction on how to think and understand differently.

Again, these sessions are free. You'll also get access to tipsheets and other information. Criteria are below:

WHO: We'd prefer that you're a newspaper refugee, but we won't turn away working journalists or anyone working in communications. Sorry - this time, we will not take technologists, consultants, academics or students. We're going to check, so don't try to pull a fast one on us.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 25th at 3pm Eastern Time. The training session will last 75 minutes.

HOW/ WHERE: We'll give registrants a call-in number and passcode ahead of the session. You'll need a computer (one that's online, of course) and a phone line to call into. After the session, we'll give you access to tipsheets and other information to help you continue learning on your own.

HOW TO REGISTER: Send an email message with your full name, your email address and where you're currently (or were recently) employed. Also tell us what kind of job you had (multimedia producer, city hall reporter for the paper, etc). For those of you who have previously participated in one of our training sessions, you'll already know that we never do the same thing twice and that all of our sessions are completely personalized. To the extent we can, we're going to try and do the same thing this time around - so share whatever information you'd like. The more we get, the more meaningful we can make the information for you. DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS MARCH 20th. NO EXCEPTIONS.

I'd like to cap the session at 200 people total, so this will be first-come, first-served. While I'd prefer that you didn't participate in one of the previous sessions, this one will be different, so it's okay for you to register again.

There are no strings attached, folks. We're just trying to help out. Please help spread the word!

February 24, 2009

Free Spanish and Russian Resources...

We're in the process of translating our entire knowledge base - and we're making some of our resources available to you for free!

Get our 8-page glossary of tech terms translated into Spanish here. On that page, you'll also find a tipsheet all about Twitter (translated into Spanish).

And for a limited time, you can also download our glossary translated into Russian here.

More to come! Meantime, we're hard at work on a stealthy project launching this April... stay tuned!

January 22, 2009

Layoffs and a Laugh...

With Microsoft's announcement of fresh layoffs this morning and stories of financial markets tumblimng even further, I thought I'd offer a laugh and some help:


(Can't find where these originated, and I'd like to include a link to the artists.)

We're making the self-assessment worksheet and other materials from our "Now What?!" webinars available for everyone to use. Click here to see a list and download.




January 16, 2009

Socialitics 101

It’s not enough these days to simply count the number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. Most people who use a social network have at some point connected with someone else once, and then never visited their Facebook page or paid attention to their Twitter posts again. Lots of people may hundreds, if not thousands, of connections on a social network. But does quantity trump quality?

The answer is no. There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence showing that true social mavens are not those with massive networks, but are instead the folks who actively produce great content that is forwarded and reposted via their connections (and their connections) across other networks. S/he may not have thousands of followers, but it doesn’t matter. A person in this position is eventually seen as a digital sage. Posts and updates will spread virally throughout global social networks even if 10,000 people aren’t connected to him/her.

At MyDigiMediaGroup, we define socialitics as the the act of analyzing a person’s or message’s scope throughout social networks, in an attempt to discover its true reach and impact. To be sure, many people use the term “engagement” to describe in general how engaged your site’s visitors are with your content. (Are they clicking on your links? Are they staying on your site to read?). Socialitics is instead a measurement of what’s happening throughout the vast number of social networks on the web.

What is your company website/ mobile tool’s socialitics?
It’s important to monitor traffic, to determine how and where visitors are finding your content, how much time they spend with it, and what they’re clicking on. You advertisers (or funders/ investors) will want this data - and you’ll need to know about how you fare within your own competitive landscape.

But standard analytic tools, such as Omniture SiteCatalyst, Tacoda and Google Analytics, aren’t able to capture data on the discussion about your site (or you, personally), references to content that’s been posted or even instances of your content that has been reposted elsewhere.

What’s your personal social network’s socialitic score?
Let’s say that you now have 27,000 Twitter followers and that you typically post 20 tweets on an average day. Doing simple math, that means your message is heard 540,000 times every single day - and that would just be within your own personal network.

The problem is that the numbers don’t really add up quite so nicely. While there is no concrete, official data released from any of the social networks, those who study them agree that only 20-40% of uses participate - that means post and read posts - with any regularity.

A recent study by Bernardo Huberman, Daniel Romero and Fang Wu, researchers at Hewlett-Packard’s Social Computing Lab, looked at 309,740 Twitter users who had an average of 255 posts (in total), 85 followers and followed 80 other users. Of the 309,740 users, 32% posted only one time and then didn’t use the service again.

Rather than counting friends or followers, a more accurate representation of reach is to follow reposts, retweets and mentions of your content across other social networks.

Your socialitic score, therefore, measures how effective you are at contributing to conversations and compelled others to share your wisdom/ questions/ content.

We have just createad a new tipsheet to help you determine how powerful you/ your message/ your company is online. We offer a checklist and lots of websites to get you started. Download the tipsheet here.

December 17, 2008

Our Newly Favorite Twitter Apps...

For those of you who have attended one of MyDigiMediaGroup's training sessions, you'll have already received a version of what's below. We just finished testing some newer tools, and we've reorganized our Twitter hit-list below. You can obviously use this as a reference, but also feel free to download a copy for yourself or for your organization. It's available at our Research Center. As always, we've noted how these tools can be used for journalism.

TwitterFeed - Got a blog? This will automatically updated your posts to your Twitter account. If you're not sure how to effectively Twitter at your news organization, create a basic Twitter account - like BaltimoreNews. Then, you can automatically send out announcements of your new blog entries to everyone who's following you.

Autopostr - You can use Autopostr to post Flickr photos to Twitter and also send a tweet to your followers.

Mobypicture - Shares photos via Twitter, enables you to post directly to Flickr and your blog.

Twadget - If you're a (blech) Vista user, this is a gadget that will track and send all new tweets from your account.

Twitzer - Want more than 140 characters? Twitzer works with Firefox and will allow you to type in longer posts. Be warned, though. Twittering is meant to be is micro-sized, and some of your followers may not want long, rambling posts from you.

TwitterGram - Tired of just sending out 140 characters? Use TwitterGram to send mp3s tweets. Use it for journalism: This could be a fantastic way to share breaking news audio reports. You might also consider using it to send out quick advertisements every X# tweets.

Twhirl - This is a nice desktop application that allows you to update and read your Twitter account. This application really functions more like an instant message client. Still, it can help reporters stay on top of breaking news.

Snitter - This is a popular desktop client, but it requires Adobe Air to run.

Twitteroo - Desktop client, works best on PC.

Twitterrific - Desktop client for mobile or desktop.

Twitbar - For our Linux friends, a Twitter client for Gnome users to post from the Deskbar.

Trends and Analysis
Twitt(url)y - A popular service to track the most buzzed-about URLs people are sharing. This could be a useful tool for reporters during breaking news events.

SocialToo - Includes a host of Twitter applications, including SocialSurveys, which enables users to easily create polls. You can also auto-follow, blacklist and DM followers after setting up an automated system.

TweetPad - Enables you to visualize Twitter stats.

Favrd - Aggregates the most favorited tweets, which can help journalists to identify upcoming news stories and events or even search by topic on previously popular stories.

TweetDeck - A must for tracking Twitter trends and conversations, though you’ll need to install and run Adobe Air to make it work.

Peoplebrowsr - A comparative Twitter search tool, aggregator, connector and messaging system. It’s incredibly helpful, though the amount of information it produces can at time be overwhelming.

Monitter - The interface looks suspiciously like PeopleBrowsr, but that doesn’t make it work any less efficiently. You can search keywords at once and compare results.

Twellow - This is a search engine that you can use to browse people and other topics, uses Twitter and other social networking tools.

Twitter Answers - Ask Twitter a question, find an answer.

Summize - Twitter’s own search engine.

TwitterTroll - Yet another search engine, TwitterTroll also shows the most popular searches at any given time. Can be useful to search the zeitgeist.

Tweet Scan - This is another search engine for tweets. Again, you're not quoting directly from folks - just looking for leads and additional context to aid in the reporting process.

Mobile/ Geolocation
PocketTweets - This tool enables you to post and read tweets via your iPhone.

TwitterLocal - Filter out tweets from just a certain area. Reporters can use this as source material to find out what's happening within a certain range of miles, postal code, state, city, etc.

BrightKite enables you to share your location and find people based on where you are.

Loopt helps you to find friends and track them using Twitter and your mobile phone’s data connection. (Also available on the iPhone without using Twitter.)

TwitterLit - This application will send out the first line of a book and a link to Amazon. It's part trivia - can you guess the author and title? - but mostly a marketing ploy to get Twitter users to buy more stuff on Amazon. But it's effective - and lots of people are using it. Mimic this application for use in your own newsroom. Tease new stories. Use quick-hit trivia to drive traffic to your site. What about promotions? Selling photos or archived video?

Twitter Tube Tracker - Track the status of London's Tube trains and get delays sent to Twitter.

Twittervision - We wrote about this last year... Twittervision displays random updates from people around the world. It's a bit like watching an aquarium, and it's addictive. Want to get included? Add TwitterWhere, which will automatically post your tweet location.

Tweetbeep - Google News Alerts for Twitter.

People/ Relationship Management
Twubble - Want to follow more people but not sure where to start? Twubble will make recommendations based on who you currently follow and your geographic location. This is a good way for jurnos to get started using Twitter, especially if they're not sure who to start following just yet. Note: In order for Twubble to make suggestions, you need to be following a handful (10 or more) of Twitter accounts.

FriendOrFollow - May make you feel worse about yourself, so be warned. This service will show you who you’re following that isn’t following you back.

Follow Cost - Will forecast the amount of time you’ll need to spend following a given person or account on Twitter.

TwitterSnooze - Gives you the ability to temporarily stop receiving a specified person’s tweets - without letting them know or without having to unsubscribe entirely.

Basic Communications
GroupTweet - Will enable you to use Twitter within groups, which you cannot do with the current platform on its own.

TwitThis - Allows you to tweet anything you see online, directly from the page you’re visiting. If it launches for iPhone, this would solve the headache caused for folks wanting to retweet but can’t because of the missing cut and paste function.

Twitter Ad Networks

<Some Twitter Basics>

# Use a hashtag in front of a keyword to make it more easily searchable. People decide on a keyword and then tweet conferences, breaking news events and more. For past examples, search #griots, #web20summit and #mumbai.

@ Use the @ symbol in front of a Twitter user’s name to reference them in your post or to respond to them publicly.

Sending a direct, private message varies depending on the Twitter client or site you use. It may be the letter “d” in front of the username, or you may need to select “direct message” from a drop-down window. Be careful when sending content that you intend to be private - one click could make your message available to all of your followers.

September 18, 2008

10 Tech Trends... Links from ONA

First, for those of you who powered through my session - some of you even had the unfortunate luck of having to stare at my rear end for all of my talk - THANK YOU! I expect to see those T-shirts on your backs!

I'm not making my presentation available, but we can certainly talk about creating one specifically for your company/ newsroom. Give my office a call and we can talk more about working together.

All of the links and handouts are available for mass consumption, though. All of the links go in chronological order and are separated by topic here. Click here for most of our free tipsheets and explainers. The one about 2D barcodes and about our favorite Twitter apps is on the second link.

Meantime, Yahoo! As in today Yahoo! announced a revamped home page with new personalization. It was only a matter of time. If you want to grab people and keep them on your site, offer your own aggregator tool. Make certain content you own mandatory, offer your own ads, and then allow people to personalize their own version of your site. MyTimes launched something like this, which I thought worked very well.

Why let Yahoo! have all the fun? I'd like to see newspapers - especially newspapers - offer personalized versions of their websites. You'd capture someone like me, who prefers to read full RSS feeds in a reader that fits my tech (read: mobile) needs.


February 19, 2008

Who Owns What Feed + Widget Available

We finished the RSS feed and widget, so if you want to track who's buying/ selling what in the new media landscape, have a look here. (You can also click on that big button up and to the left of the page).

Some questions I've been getting:

  • Where's eBay? We're purposefully not tracking eBay because it's not distributing news content. On the other hand, eBay somewhat recently acquired StumbleUpon. And I'm guessing that part of the motivation behind that buy has to do with the amount of relational data that's being collected by StumbleUpon. To wit: Do you like politics, hamburgers, Apple products and Baltimore? You and 40% of general users with these same preferences seemed to also like the new ad on McDonald's site for new hamburger widgets...
  • How come I'm not getting new items on the feed daily? Good question. We're filtering the information based on certain keywords, so you'll only see news items about the buying/ selling of properties by the six companies listed on the Who Owns What chart.
  • Can I reprint and use all this stuff for my journalism class/ newsroom training/ blog? Of course! All of this research is meant to spark discussion in the journalism community. Just please link back to MyDigimedia.

October 11, 2007

How to Build a Multimedia Go Bag

Often when I'm leading seminars on multimedia reporting in the field, one of the first things I do is offer up my bag to participants and urge them to rifle through it. This helps to relax participants, especially during hands-on sessions when folks may feel a bit nervous about learning a new tool. (Go through a woman's purse? I can still remember my mother asking me to bring her the purse with her wallet inside rather than reaching in myself if I needed lunch money for school.)

More importantly, I like to show everyone how easy it is to carry all the necessary tools of a digi-reporter. (You can download a copy of my multimedia gear buying guide here.) After I finally found a bag to my liking (it took serious research and lots of misses), I stocked it with the following:

  • laptop (I have a MacBook Pro)
  • additional protective cover for the laptop (I use the Axio hardsleeve)
  • power supply
  • extension cord for power supply
  • iPod + case
  • USB cable for iPod
  • additional power supply (wall unit) for iPod
  • two sets of cheap earphones
  • Shure noise canceling earphones
  • five additional USB cables (varying sizes)
  • BlackBerry Pearl + case
  • BlackBerry car/ wall power adapter
  • Canon Powershot SD1000
  • 3' crossover ethernet cable
  • Targus retractable ethernet/ USB/ phone cord with converters
  • Garmin nuvi 750 (car/ bike/ pedestrian navigation unit)
  • Canary Wireless Sniffer (no longer manufactured)
  • three Mac video adapters (for projectors)
  • extra 6' projector/ video extension cord
  • S-Video cable
  • mini plug splitter
  • bluetooth headset (I use Jabra BT 250v)
  • Olympus WS320 audio recorder
  • Lavalier mic (generic - brand unknown)
  • Four AAA batteries
  • Four AA batteries
  • Sony Handicam (DCR-HC21)
  • Two blank mini-DV tapes
  • mini stapler
  • mini staples
  • wallet
  • house keys
  • business cards
  • vitamins (I take Flintstones - more powerful doses make me sick)
  • eyeglass cleaning kit
  • sunglasses
  • small notebook
  • three multicolor pens (I use the Pilot FEED GP3, but you can only get them in Japan)
  • two Sharpie permanent markers
  • Listerine mint strips
  • Tums

The bag weighs about 16 pounds fully loaded. Want more ideas? Lifehacker today has a photo gallery with dozens of "go-bags" from lots of different people. Have a look through...and stop making excuses about why you can't carry gear!

August 17, 2007

Dig Up Digital Dirt: People Searching

There've been a number of new search tools released in the past few months. Here's a roundup to help you search for sources while working on your next story.

You can also download a PDF version to keep on your desktop here.

 *Creative People Searches (General)

Spock (
Spock is now in public beta and delivers thorough results on people.  It pulls content from other websites and allows users to enter their own information, wiki-style.

Pipl (
Pipl searches the deep web to find information hidden within databases and other areas that standard web crawlers can’t or won’t search. 

Wink (
Wink is a smart search tool that pulls information only from social network sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo and Facebook.

ZoomInfo (
ZoomInfo offers two search strategies, free and paid.  The site is geared to recruiters, but it offers plenty of leads for reporters, too.  You can search by person, by a person within a company, or just by a company.

*Search Across Networks

Infopirate (
Infopirate allows users to share their bookmarks, which reporters can then use to look up individuals or companies.

Sputtr (
Sputtr offers single search window with many different options:  Type in “Second Life” and search through YouTube, Flickr, Digg, etc. by selecting your button of choice.

Whonu (
At Whonu, search through images, videos, news, maps, blogs, books, calendars, notebooks and more.  After, you can share or bookmark your search results.

*RSS/ Blog/ Podcast Searches

Blogdigger (
Blogdigger is a powerful search tool that digs only through blogs to retrieve information.

Everyzing (
At Everyzing, search only for audio or video files for information.

* Search The Zeiggeist

Omgili (
Search through what people are saying in forums and discussion boards.

Pixy (
Mega-search for images and videos on dozens of journalism/ news sources, now divided by category.

For Fun

Gahooyoogle (
Search through Google and Yahoo on one combined split screen.

Gizoogle (
Return Snoop Dog-flavored search results.


August 10, 2007

Convert Text to MP3

The past few months, I've had several questions from folks about converting text-based documents into audio - and vice versa. I haven't found a fantastic voice to text solution just yet, but I did stumble upon this script to convert virtually any text into an mp3. (And it's easy!)

I know that I never get through everything I'd like to read during the day - this script will turn articles, blogs, documents, etc. into an audio file that you can take with you to the gym or on your commute. It works beautifully - if you want proof, I converted the script instructions below for you. Download here. This is for Mac users only and comes via Liana Lehua at Apple Phone Show. She also has instructions for Windows, though neither of us has tested to see if it works...

First, convert the file to .txt (plain text) . If you're on a web page, for example, you can simply copy and paste the story into Text Edit (this application comes standard on all Macs).

1. Make sure the document you want to use is converted to plain text and that your document is saved with the .txt extension.
1. Open Automator.
2. Add an action by searching for and dragging “Get Contents of TextEdit Document” from the menu on the left to the blank box on the right.
3. Add action: “Text To Audio File” and complete the fields: System Voice, Save As, and Where.
4. Add action: “Rename Finder Items (Make Finder Item Names Sequential)”. In the first drop down box, select “Make Sequential”. Select “Add number to existing name”. Place number “after name”, and separated by “dash”
5. Add action: “Import Audio File”. Select “AAC Encoder” and check the “Delete source files after encoding.”
6. Save the Automator workflow as “Text to Speech”. Go to File - Save as plug-in, and select Script Menu to save.

Now you are finished with Automator and only have a few more steps to complete. Continuing with the process:

7. Open the document in TextEdit.
8. If needed, make any modifications to the text at this time.
9. Select the Scripts menu located in your menu bar. It looks like a scroll or curly “S” and choose the “Text to Speech” workflow.

July 12, 2007

Ultimate Cheat Sheet of Cheat Sheets

New to a gig and not quite sure what CPM means? Have no idea how a blog works? Need to remember random ASCII codes to impress a hot date?

Worry no more! I've just stumbled upon this fantastic interactive cheat sheet. There are tutorials, tipsheets, how-to guides and more all available on one site. They're all free, organized exceptionally well and have been vetted to ensure accuracy. Bookmark it!

Listen to this article

June 22, 2007

Multimedia Quiz for Journalists

Have a look at the new MyDigimedia Quizzes + Tutorials page. We're going to start hosting short, informative sessions to help you learn more about the Web and to beef up your multimedia skills.

Here's our first attempt... You can play the quiz here.

We're planning to put some more of these together during the next few weeks that are either very specific (audio or video-only quiz) or are tutorials. Want something in particular covered? Did we make a mistake on one of the questions? Give me a shout.

March 26, 2007

Launched: The MyDigimedia Toolbar

I've cobbled together a digital journalism toolbar that you can install right into your browser (Firefox recommended, though IE 6 or above should also work).

The toolbar will give you access to digital journalism resources, such as professional organizations, how to's, downloadable tipsheets and RSS (blog and podcast) feeds about/ for digital journalism. Just for kicks, you'll also get your local weather. You can customize it to some extent as well...

Once you've installed it, all of the links will be automatically refreshed when you launch your browser. I'll be adding more resources in the coming weeks. Speaking of new resources, give me a shout if you think something should be added!

Seed Newsvine

March 23, 2007

MyDigiCheatSheet: Keep track of your computer accounts

The Apple site has had a Cheat Sheet buried on it for some time, and it asks users to fill in the information required for an Apple Care customer service rep to take a call. My sister's computer recently crashed, and while she had some of that information at her fingertips, we later found that she had dozens of bookmarks and sites saved with her usernames and passwords attached. "How can I get on to my Flickr account if I can't remember anything about it because it was saved to my computer?"

Say what you will about the folks who lose or forget their account information...but I'm guessing that most of us have been in that very same situation at least once.

A while back, I retooled Apple's form to keep track of everything that I'd need to know for the various computers I use. Now, you can too...

Here's a PDF version of the MyDigiCheatSheet for Macs and PCs. (Hell, the Linux amongus can use it too.)

An obvious caveat: I wouldn't actually save this thing on your desktop. Fill it out, stash it wherever you've secured your Social Security card and other important documents. (Unless you're one of the many fools carrying that card in your wallet, of course.)

If you think I've left anything out and want an alterable copy in Word, shoot me an email and I'll send it straight away.

Seed Newsvine

February 05, 2007

Hyperaggregate This!

About two years ago, I was meeting with a group of journalists and bloggers at an unconference in Philadelphia. The group, norgs, got together to try and envision ways to engineer an ideal newsgathering organization of the future.

At the conference, I talked about the role aggregators will play in how and when we get content. Some of that is playing out and has been for some time. Bloglines, for example, is a popular RSS aggregator that delivers me cherry picked headlines throughout the day - and unless I'm moved to click, I rarely visit that feed's website.

Since then, the amount of new content on the web has grown exponentially. It's not enough for me to type a search into Google, even if I do know some nifty tricks to circumvent all the information that I don't want.

What's the Web 2.0 solution? Hyperaggregators -- aggregators that aggregate the aggregators.

Meet SideKlick, an aggregator that combs YouTube and Google for video you specifically request. Popurls crawls through, digg, flickr, newsvine, ifilm (remember ifilm?),,, fark, odeo, furl and a whole bunch of other aggregators to deliver what you want. Other hyperaggregators to watch include Original Signal and Spokeo (slick landing page w/ cute Firefox-esque mascot).

How might this apply to traditional media? Reporters, start using hyperaggregators to cover your beats. Covering city hall? Configure Popurls to search aggregators for you. And to publishers, I say this: find a way to make your content easily tagged, easily crawled and easily viewed either on or off your site.


January 09, 2007

Helpful OSX Applications

Hung out with some software developer friends last night, and they introduced me to some helpful free OSX applications:

iBackup ... I've used Carbon Copy Cloner in the past, but this looks like a better system to backup and doesn't require imaging the entire disc. You can set preferences to back up as much or as little as you want.

Chicken of the VNC ... A lovely app like PC Anywhere but for OSX.

Journler ... A nifty program that synchs with all the Coco OSX apps and allows you to keep a journal of what you're doing every day. I'm toying with using this to keep track of my consulting work.

DevonThink ... As far as I can tell, this is relational mapping software that will create a database for all things on your hard drive related to a single subject. I'm still not 100% sure how to use it, but I'm experimenting today.

SmartReporter ... Gives you warnings via top toolbar (or it'll generate an email and send to you) if your hard drive is starting to fail.

MacTracker ... List of every version of Macs ever made with complete specs and is constantly updated. I totally don't need this program, but I love having the info at my fingertips.

Transmission ... Torrent client, works nicely. I don't advise downloading music, applications or other copyrighted material without proper permissions.

October 09, 2006

"National Tribune" ... Consolidating the Trib Co.

A very compelling essay from Michael Kinsley.

"These days, on the one hand, thanks to the Internet, any newspaper can be a national newspaper. On the other hand, near universal availability of the New York Times print edition makes the traditional role of a regional paper like the Los Angeles Times superfluous.

But now imagine the Tribune chain as a single newspaper with separate editions in each of its cities. Call it the National Tribune. Or the papers could keep their separate identities, but carry a "Tribune" insert or wraparound with national and international news. This paper would start out with towering dominance in two of the nation's top three markets (Los Angeles and Chicago) and a solid position, via Newsday, in the largest (New York). It would even have a toehold in Washington (thanks to the Baltimore Sun). All this, and Orlando too..."

October 03, 2006

Deep searching...


Web 1.0 Searching: Looking for standard information in databases and in search engines

A good, general site on all things related to web searching:


Looking for difficult file types on Google:
filetype:doc "fill in your query here"  -- documents
filetype:pptpower points
filetype:pdfPDF files
…also mdb (Access), xls (Excel), jpeg, swf (Flash)

Searching pdf's:


Looking for databases:
intitle: "searchable database" site:gov [or edu, org, jp, ca]

Title Searching: when looking for reports or publications
In Google use the command  intitle:

URL Search:  when looking within a web address
Google uses  inurl:

Domain Searching:  when looking for information within a certain kind of site
Usually it's site:gov
Common domains:  gov (government), mil (military), edu (accredited colleges and universities), org (no meaning), (Japan), (UK), etc.

To look up the owner of a domain, go to the WHOIS feature on

Link Searching
A few search engines let you see all the Web pages that link to a particular Web page. This way, you may be able to do more research more quickly. 
In Google:  link:(URL … no http://)
You can also try related:URL in Google

Finding missing websites/ pages:

Web 2.0 Searching:  Looking for information in blogs, discussion boards, podcasts, etc.
Google, Google, Google. It seems like every time there's buzz about search, the story has to do with Google. 

There's a lot more out there, and while yes, Google is playing with serious math porn back in its top-secret development labs, there are some newer, more interesting ways to search through all that cyber sludge.

How does this help you, the traditional journalist? For one thing, Lexis ain't coding Podcasts to drop into its databases. If you're working on a story about the Japanese shrimp economy -- and at one point a few years back, I was -- I can guarantee that some shlub is geeky about those tiny crustaceans and devotes his lonely nights to researching and recording a Podcast. Would I quote him as a source? Not a chance. But I'd take that information as a lead and start tracing his steps to find my analysts and my experts.

Same problem with online content that's coded in Flash. The presentation may have fantastic, useful information, but if it's embedded in ActionScript, you're going to have a difficult time locating it using a standard search engine.

You can glean a tremendous amount of insight from multimedia files. The problem is that because of the way traditional search engines work, it's hard to find information hidden within, say, Flash content.

Below, you'll find a handful of search alternatives. Try them out and see what you get -- and if you have additional ideas, add them in the comments section below.

Find specific audio and video streaming files (auf Deutsch, but it works):
Search blogs:
Search for specific feeds:
Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one:
Search for images:
Search Google and Yahoo at the same time:
Look through what other people have already found – it’s a human-ranked search engine:
Not really a true search, but Bloglines offers a fantastic way to pull RSS content on very specific subjects.

© MyDigiMedia/ Sept. 2004 – updated Sept. 2006

August 18, 2006

My Digital Diet: A month without print or broadcast media

In June, I embarked upon a Great Experiment: I went on a strict digital diet, spending 30 days without any form of traditional media. I wanted to know which was more important _ the medium (television, newspaper, magazine, radio) or the information itself. I kept a daily journal of my successes, irritations and failures. The story ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, April 20th.

The Rules:

  • No reading magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • No listening to the radio or watching television. Listening to a broadcast online is OK, as is downloading previously aired television shows.
  • No looking at newspaper stands or boxes.
  • Also, no looking at flyers or copies of print stories.
  • No books, unless they can be read or listened to online.

My story is featred in this Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Below, I've listed some of the tools that I used, websites that I visited and a handful of pictures... NOTE: Please read my disclaimer about my use of Apple products.

The Equipment:

  • Fifteen-inch PowerBook G4 (Mac).
  • G5 with 20-inch cinema display (Mac).
  • BlackBerry 7105t.
  • iPod Photo (30 gigabytes of memory).
  • Canary Wi-Fi Digital Hotspotter (to find open wireless networks).
  • DSL connection at home.
  • T-1 connection at the office.


I read most of my news using an RSS aggregator called Bloglines. It delivers headlines and summaries throughout the day from the 27 feeds I subscribe to. I'm also able to access all of my feeds on my BlackBerry, which means that I'm able to stay on top of the news 24 hours a day... or as long as my batteries are powered. Here's what my "digital newspaper" looks like:

Even before the experiment, I typically work on multiple projects at once so I toggle between Bloglines, various websites and Word documents I'm using for work:

Because I was relying primarily on digital sources for information, I was always on the watch for useful sites. Here are some that I continue to use today...

Web 2.0 Search Engines:

Search blogs:
Search for specific feeds:
Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one:
Search Google and Yahoo at the same time:

Fantastic News Sites:


How I Watched TV...

First, a word of caution: There are laws against distributing copyrighted material. I'm not advocating that you start burning copies of your favorite television shows to share them with all of your friends on the Internet.

That said, there are plenty of ways to download or stream broadcast content -- some legal, some questionable.

Legal TV: I downloaded copies of The Office from the iTunes store.

Questionable TV: YouTube is an easy site to search for video files. Sites offering downloadable torrents are also good resources for video files. I've used BitTorrent as my client.

A note to Mac users: I would suggest downloading a copy of VLC, a cross-platform media player that will allow you to view files intended for PC-only applications.




June 21, 2006

Notes for norgs

An asterisk (*) denotes sites/ areas where we’ve spent the most time and done the most research. DISCLOSURE:  I do not have any financial interest in any of the sites or companies listed below.  Dragonfire currently uses the Ingeniux cms.

Before you begin:
I strongly recommend making a laundry list of items that you absolutely want your content management system to accomplish as well as a list of things that you’ll want to do on your site.  Do you want to be able to use Flash in a variety of ways? Do you want to include blogs?  Do you want to have user input automatically display?

Reviews, ways to review cms options, ratings:

  • -- and -- *
  •  *

After doing extensive testing and research, it is my opinion that any newspaper looking for a cms solution invests in a few good programmers and creates their own, in-house system.  I have not found any cms that is designed to meet the publishing demands of a newspaper.

Open Source cms:
If you can create a list of essential tools and functions that you need out of a cms - -and this list needs to be thorough, you can then work with a developer to customize one of the many open source cms options available.  Developers would likely work on a freelance basis, but a better option would be to hire someone outright to have in the newsroom who would both customize and document the open source cms you decide to use.

There are several systems available, and it’s easy enough to work with an existing system, modify it and implement it.  Most of these open source cms require PHP, SQL and XML at a minimum.  However, I have seen cms that are coded in PERL or Python.

Free, Structured Systems
Mambo: *
A lot of people really like Mambo (it’s now called Joomla).  It’s free, more structured than most of the open source systems and there are thousands of pre-made templates.  There’s a WYSIWYG editor, support for CSS and HTML, inclusion of Flash files, popups and more. Assuming that you have a hosting package that can handle (and that you know) PHP and SQL.

We downloaded and played with Mambo, however we ultimately decided that we weren’t going to be able to modify it to meet our needs.

Drupal is a popular cms with lots of great features.  It’s emphasis is on Web 2.0 functions – lots of interactivity and community input.  On the other hand, it isn’t really designed for a robust news organization with lots of content.  Learning curve is steep.  One neat feature:  Drupal allows you to turn dynamic pages back into a static one, and it the cache process is automatic.

There is, of course, Cofax, which was designed and implemented by KR and the PNI.  I don’t have experience specifically with this system…

Pay, Licensed Systems
Expression Engine:
I would not recommend this for a newspaper.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Symphony.  It uses xslt stylesheets and templates.  It allows you to pull content from Flickr, etc. On the other hand, you have to know how to code xslt stylesheets – not impossible, but cumbersome.

Ingeniux: *
Dragonfire uses Ingeniux.  In many ways it’s a great system – all inputs are in WYSIWYG, allowing any of our editors or writers to easily create static or multimedia pages from a variety of our preset templates.

There are serious limitations, however.  In order to change parts of the site, we must edit our xslt stylesheets.  It’s very difficult to implement blogs, chats, shopping carts and newsletters.  Ingeniux offers these at very high prices, and developer training isn’t included. 

Documentum: *
Formerly Documentum, a new beta with a new name is set to be release by EMC any day now.  Documentum was widely condemned throughout the multimedia and IT communities because it was extremely cumbersome to use.  It was a very difficult system with many bugs.

PHP Cow:
This was released about a year ago.  They offer a free trial, and compared to other systems, it’s not all that expensive.  Obviously, the system is coded in PHP.  We don’t have experience using it at Dragonfire, however it was supposedly designed specifically for newsrooms.

We looked at this platform but didn’t test it.  One of the features is bringing a Word document right into the cms without weird MS formatting issues, but I never saw that in practice.

May 22, 2006

How To Report For the Web

You'll notice that I talk about 360-degree reporting fairly often. This is what we do at Dragonfire, and as more publications place emphasis on reporting for the web, the more you'll have to start doing the same.

The first real change you'll need to make is attitudinal. Don't think of yourself as a newspaperwoman or a magazine features writer. All journalists should start thinking of themselves as what I'll call "Information Brokers." Your job is no different than it has always been: You're in charge of talking to people, reading through sources, filtering information, judging for accuracy, and then ultimately presenting that information in a way that the public can understand and use it.

Information Brokers use lots of different techniques to report a single story. For example, lets say you're a city hall reporter, and you're off to a council meeting. Within the course of that session, you should be able to gather sound for a Podcast or audio archive, shoot a few digital pictures (if you're not there with a photog) and record some video clips for use on the website. If you're on your toes, you'll have lots of leftover color that won't make it into the paltry 10" you've been given to write - and that's information that could easily go into a city hall blog. While you're there, get whatever records you can in electronic format - budgets, agendas, whatever.

Yes, those council meetings can be horribly boring. But a creative Information Broker can come back with a handful of viable projects. And what editor is going to refuse a reporter who can write a story and have enough stuff left over to file an online story, start a Digital City Hall project and add audio clips/ transcripts to the newsroom's intranet for other reporters to use later??

All fantastic ideas, Amy. But all this requires equipment, training and deals with the reporters' union.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

What's required is an open mind and a few extra bucks.

To start, here's an equipment list. I'm recommending products that you should have in your possession at all times. This is what I use - keep in mind I'm not getting paid by any of these companies to endorse anything below.

minidisc recorder (I prefer Sony products)
digital XLR cable
spare minidiscs

Sony handycam

These days, most digicams are pretty decent. If your newsroom is intent on great photographs, they'll send a professional. Otherwise, my recommendation is to visit an electronics store and spend about an hour playing with the different models. See which one you like, and make sure to go through all the functions. I've used Nikon CoolPix cameras since the late 90s, but I recently bought my sister a Canon and I actually like the interface better.

Editing Software
I recommend ProTools to edit audio - it's really easy to use and fairly cheap. I've been editing video using iMovie on my PowerBook, but there are a host of applications available for PC.

Ideas for multimedia projects:
The mention of a blog will send some reporters into a tizzy, but I think they can be very effective tools. (If you report a story and don't have information left over, you're not doing a good enough job.) Why not take that extra reporting - especially the color - and flex your writing muscles in a blog? Your editor can put a refer at the end of your print or broadcast story, and the rest can go online. If your media organization doesn't have a website (GASP!) or allow for blogs, you can easily create one of your own, FOR FREE, on blogger. If I were you, I'd check it out with your editors first. archive...
How cool would it be for you to type in Hillary Clinton and a subject, such as election, and be able to pull up a 5-10 second quote? It'd be great to have a newsroom intranet audio database for use in future stories, wouldn't it? And from a news consumer's perspective, this would be a great addition to any media organization's website. archive...
See above. Insert "video" where you see "audio." media template...
How's about combining citizen journalism with a little reporting and a snazzy rich media template? Have a look at one of our previous Dragonfire projects for an example. This wasn't hard to do - took us about an hour to put together the graphics - and I'd be happy to talk to you about how you can create one of your own. Rich media templates should work within most content management systems.

...web-only audio content...
This will take a little training and more equipment, but you could start a series of Podcasts for your beat. They could be sections of interviews plus some narration, or just outtakes from your story. Podcasting is fairly easy to start doing on your own, as long as you have a recording device, some editing software and a lot of patience.

May 19, 2006

Search 2.0

Google, Google, Google. It seems like every time there's buzz about search, the story has to do with Google.

There's a lot more out there, and while yes, Google is playing with serious math porn back in its top-secret development labs, there are some newer, more interesting ways to search through all that cyber sludge.

How does this help you, the traditional journalist? For one thing, Lexis ain't coding Podcasts to drop into its databases. If you're working on a story about the Japanese shrimp economy -- and at one point a few years back, I was -- I can guarantee that some shlub is geeky about those tiny crusteacans and devotes his lonely nights to researching and recording a Podcast. Would I quote him as a source? Not a chance. But I'd take that information as a lead and start tracing his steps to find my analysts and my experts.

Same problem with online content that's coded in Flash. The presentation may have fantastic, useful information, but if it's embedded in ActionScript, you're going to have a difficult time locating it using a standard search engine.

You can glean a tremendous amount of insight from multimedia files. The problem is that because of the way traditional search engines work, it's hard to find information hidden within, say, Flash content.

Below, you'll find a handful of search alternatives. Try them out and see what you get -- and if you have additional ideas, add them in the comments section.

  • Find specific audio and video streaming files (auf Deutsch, but it works):
  • Search blogs:
  • Search for specific feeds:
  • Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one:
  • Search for images:
  • Search Google and Yahoo at the same time:
  • Look through what other people have already found:
  • Not really a true search, but Bloglines offers a fantastic way to pull RSS content on very specific subjects.

    And last but not least, the ultimate in vanity searches...

  • Find out where a search on your name ranks: