January 16, 2008

GahooYoogle...Now PolyCola

We're not sure what happened, beyond what appears to be a cease-and-desist letter sent by Yahoo to Arbel Hakopian and crew, but GahooYoogle is now down permanently. If you're a reporter and are trying to access the URL, it's down and doesn't redirect.

Never fear - access their other site, PolyCola instead.


January 07, 2008

Microsoft Unveils iCal, Evite, MySpace, Google and More!

I was more than disappointed with last night's keynote, Bill Gates talking about what's ahead for the world's largest software provider. We were treated to an all-star tribute video montage of what his last day as CEO might look like in June, when he officially steps down. Gates and hip hop mogul Jay Z rapped for us, Matthew McConaughey Bill to the gym and counted reps for him. And the ubiquitous celeb BFF Bono told Bill once again that moving up levels in Guitar Hero does not a real rock star make.

All entertaining, but I was less than thrilled with what Microsoft was showing us. There will be new adds to WindowsLive and Vista that will offer a calendar service that looks a hell of a lot like Apple's iCal, a web-based events sharing service that came straight off of Evite and an updated music search/ share site that mimics iTunes but works mainly with the Zune, Microsoft's mp3 device competitor.

Gates did, however, announce a new partnership between NBC and Silverlight for the 2008 Olympics. Silverlight will be the official web provider for NBC's Olympics coverage. More on Silverlight here. Here's the press release. Highlights of the deal include:

  • 2,200 hours of live event video coverage, with more than 20
    simultaneous live video streams at peak times
  • More than 3,000 hours of on-demand video content including full-event
    replays, highlights, features, interviews and encore packages
  • An "enhanced playback mode" powered by Silverlight that gives users the
    choice of a high-quality full screen viewing experience that is as good
    or better than anything on the Internet today
  • Unique metadata overlays powered by Silverlight that enable fans to
    have access not only to high quality video, but also to the wealth of
    related content including results, statistics, comprehensive bios,
    rules and expert analysis from NBC's Olympic digital media team in
  • Live video alerts so fans can stay connected to the events and teams
    they care most about
  • Social networking features that enable fans to share aspects of their
    Olympic experience with friends

But what about, the joint video streaming service from NBCU and News Corp? Why two totally independent sites with different infrastructures and user interfaces? This doesn't immediately make sense to me... But there's no question that the success of the Silverlight/ NBCU project will impact how we broadcast breaking news coverage online.

September 19, 2007

Where were you in 1982?

When the emoticon was hatched? Today marks 25 years of :-)

September 10, 2007

How to Cover Breaking News...Without a Computer

Let's say that tragedy strikes. That you're en route to your office or on your way home and a bridge collapses. Or a hurricane strikes. Or worse.

I've long thought that the best way for newspapers and broadcast stations to use blogs is for breaking news - some organizations are doing this very well. See's fire coverage for a good example.

Now let's say that it's difficult to find a WiFi signal or that the power is out on your computer. Maybe you want to phone in your reporting, but your newsroom isn't quite as big as the Times - and all available reporters and editors are slammed with getting stories written for the paper.

Enter Jott. It's a phone-to-digitext service that transcribes voicemail and posts directly to your blog, to Twitter, a Yahoo Group, email or even to a group of cell phone numbers (via SMS). I've been playing with Jott the past few days and I'm impressed. I've found that most folks are using it to enhance their social networks...but why not adapt this technology for journalism?

I'll create my next post using the service...should include audio, too. There's a lot of benefit in skipping an intermediary - much faster posting, much faster response time. And the transcription is pretty darn accurate.

Other ideas: Earlier, I published an entry with audio and photos using only my Blackberry and the data service I currently subscribe to. Also hacked my Blackberry a long time ago, and we used it (connected to a Jordanian network) plus my laptop to send pics and an email from Petra, Jordan (I'd just gotten engaged).

I'm interested to know if you've been experimenting with alternative publishing methods...anyone hacked anything lately? Found other creative ways of pushing content without relying 100% on your computer? Leave your comments here...If you have pictures of your work, email them to me and I'll post.


August 15, 2007

What Is Web 3.0?

What Is Web 3.0?

Defined by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Seoul Digital Forum.

Read what Nova Spivak has to say about Web 3.0 here. Nova is an entrepreneur and the mastermind behind Radar Networks, which is supposed to launch this fall...and I, for one, can't wait to see it!

From the article:

[Web 3.0] is expected to debut in 2007, will be more connected, open, and intelligent, with semantic Web technologies, distributed databases, natural language processing, machine learning, machine reasoning, and autonomous agents.

August 11, 2007

Data Visualization: Prez. Bush's favorite words

Here's a great tool - especially for political reporters - that will enable you to upload a creative digi-feature to your news organization's website. It's called Many Eyes, a project by IBM, that enables extremely interesting data visualization. Not unlike Data360 and Swivel, Many Eyes will translate numbers into a pretty chart... it'll then be made public for commenting and sharing.

Many Eyes also has a feature that allows you to upload speech (transcripts, interviews, articles) and will create a tag cloud visualizing the number of times a particular word is said and showing the references. This could potentially be a great reporting tool (upload your transcript, learn more about the subtext by analyzing which words were said more often). Below, I compared the transcript of Bush's 2003 State of the Union to his 2007 iteration. Interesting to see which words changed...

[State of the Union 2003]

[State of the Union 2007]

And dig this - the damn thing works in foreign languages (well, at least the ones I speak). I pasted in the transcript of a recent speech made by Japanese Prime Minister Abe and it worked...kinda sorta worked. It visualized sentences and phrases rather than words - impressive, nonetheless!

One drawback: Right now, you have to upload data in order to create visualization charts, which means that your data (or interview, or transcript) is made available for public consumption.

I wonder why social data has become so popular suddenly... Many Eyes is a fantastic program, yes. But so is Data360 (if you haven't yet tried it, Tom Paper and crew were one of the very first to develop an online data visualization/ sharing tool). Swivel is cool as well...and there are lots more. Thoughts on why we're excited about socializing data?

Thanks to data guru Aron Pilhofer who introduced me to Many Eyes...


July 05, 2007

More Reason To Love Swivel

I first wrote about Swivel back in February. At the time, they were still in "preview" mode and hadn't yet released a public beta. The idea was that users could create charts and graphs online using data and then share their charts with others. They could also collaborate on data projects with colleagues.

Last month, they introduced Swivel G, which offers data-driven maps. Have a look at their mockup of world Muslim population:

One problem facing Swivel from the beginning has been data and sourcing. The Muslim data comes via Wikipedia, which is an obvious problem. While I wouldn't necessarily use this as a reporting tool, I would absolutely use this on my website to feature reporting that I've done.

This is a fantastic idea for smaller news organizations who either don't have ArcView experts on staff or can't afford to buy software or hire code monkeys. Seriously - have a go at Swivel G. And by all means, share what you create - just click on the link.

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June 21, 2007

Convert JPGs to ASCII Art!

From my cousin Esti...a ridiculously fun tool to turn jpgs into ASCII art. (Recognize this pic? It's the one of me, on the right of the screen.)


Landmark Text: Publisher to offer SMS in newspaper markets

Landmark Communications, which owns my sister's hometown newspaper (The Greensboro News & Record) as well as The Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times, will begin offering text messaging services for readers who choose to subscribe. In all, the three papers servie close to 600,000 readers.

They'll be using SMS short codes, or keywords, to send text messages with breaking news, traffic and to engage in marketing efforts. Richmond,VA-based OTAir, a national mobile marketing and media company, is the platform and service provider. They also power Reuters, Fox, The Weather Channel, and inexplicably, Jessica Simpson.

Here are a handful of codes for Landmark newspaper properties:

USA Today and a handful of other newspapers began experimenting with SMS last year. One problem has been striking a deal to purchase SMS short codes. Regardless, the mobile phone is rapidly becoming a primary vehicle for content distribution and digestion.

Now how's this: six years ago I was living in Japan and had something called an iMode (smart phone). I was able to get train and traffic updates via text, and I could even make all the air, bullet train, movie ticket and restaurant reservations I wanted using the phone. I even remember going to an event where, the following year, the new iMode phones would enable me to make purchases by scanning it at during checkout or at a vending machine.

I think it's fantastic that Landmark, a midsize publisher, is moving ahead with technology even before other major media players.

On the other can America possibly be this far behind?

For more on SMS Texting: TextMarks.

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June 14, 2007

NAHJ: Digital Revolution

I'm at the opening Plenary session: The Digital Revolution. Speaking are George Lewis (NBC), Meredith Artley (VP and Exec. Editor,, Josh Cohen (biz product manager for Google), Shermaze Ingram (spokesperson for the NAB DTV Transition Team), Liz Lufkin (Yahoo), Susan Gonzolas (Comcast) and Randy Stearns (East Coast deputy editor for MSNBC).

George Lewis started by showing us a piece he did 15 years ago about the then-new San Jose Mercury project to put archived and new newspaper content online. Showed a US News screen dowloading...took several minutes. We all got a chuckle - the change has been dramatic these past years. I've forgotten what it was like before. (Hoping that I'll find a copy of the clip or that George will make it available on the web - it's a must watch for everyone.)

MA: Everyone is still producing online news as if they're writing for a paper. Reporters should start to gather news as if they were producing for the web first. Stories shouldn't just be updated, instead, why not blog?

This is so refreshing...first, I'm more than excited to see an exec position within a major media .com staff go to a woman (Artley is newly hired). Second, it absolutely makes sense to blog breaking news events rather than writing a traditional news story. Why aren't more msm outlets doing this?

See the breaking news blog (fire entries)...

GL: If the new media puts the old media out of work, where will Google get its content?

JC: Simply putting up print on to the web isn't a smart digital strategy. Same goes for video. It's no the best format to stream a half hour of a newscast. Figuring out what works best for print, for images, for video needs to be part of a editorial digital strategy.

I think that George makes a very strong point - as much as I think the new tools and content production opportunities are important, aggregators don't work without content. And until bots can gather and create that for us, we're going to need good, human reporters and editors...

SG: Everyone should tell people about DTV, let minority communities know about gov't-issued vouchers for the converter boxes for their analog TV sets. The people who need vouchers won't be on Google and Yahoo to learn that analog TVs will go dark in 2009.

The last two speakers are talking about the switch from analog to digital television...kind of disjointed, given the previous speakers. I didn't know there was a voucher system.

We're back to journalism now...

RS: It comes down to content. People are hungry for the information, they just want it in different formats...

GS: Are we going to be eating junk food journalism, since people can now pick and choose?

JC: Newspapers were the core of the local community before. Classified ads, everything that comes with the community were a part of that. What's behind Google news is that peole want to be exposed to news from different sources. Yes, they'll search for Paris Hilton, but there are people who are digging much deeper into a variety of sources that may not have been able to with jus ta newspaper. At Google, we're presenting a variety of sources. We're not trying to force feed people. Users should be part of the process.

I really wish that Josh could be telling us about some of what Google's working on...wish that he would also address Street View and how that may or may not impact journalism. Same goes for video and how some newspapers are throwing their video up on YouTube.

RS now says that we (journalists) need to pay attention to data:

RS: If you take away hard news, people get upset. The big drivers at MSNBC are breaking news stories. People get tired of overplaying certain stories (re: Anna Nicole Smith). People continue to care about news because they can go so much deeper to get information.

SG: Content is driven by demand. Comcast has a portal online as well as cable because the public demands content. There's an opportunity for growth...with so many different sources, one story has the opportunity to get your name out there as a journalist.

MA just said that the has been meeting with consultants and wireless providers and that they'll be rolling out mobile content and other mobile services in the very short future. She says that mobile right now is the web of 1993. Amen!

I'm uploading an mp3 of the panel right now ... speed is a little slow. As soon as it finishes I'll post if for download/ streaming.

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Sputtr It!

I've discovered Sputtr. Obviously it's an innovative Web 2.0 tool - it's missing a vowel!

Sarcasm aside, I like this search tool. It's a simple way to search a variety of unique places at once: Stumble, Google Groups, Furl, Digg, Newsvine, LastFM, etc. etc. Definitely give it a try - I've been playing with it all morning.

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May 03, 2007

Obsessed With Google Web History!

I've discovered Google Web History, a new tracking service that keeps tabs on every single page of every single site you visit online. It's a sort of reverse stat counter - metrics for yourself.

I visit hundreds of web pages every day - and now I find myself coming back to Web History to see where I've been.

The service raises obvious concerns. It's a bit like engaging a stalker to deliver reports of what he's seen you doing all day long... On the other hand, smart web publishers are keeping tabs on you already.

Google has just enabled you to stalk yourself.

More f rom: Google, Search Engine Watch

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

March 22, 2007

How To: Make a dynamic calculator for your news site (using AJAX!)

Have a look at this AJAX tutorial, posted last Sunday by Harry Maugans on his blog. He offers directions, step by step, how to create a simple, dynamic calculator -- and in the process, gives a good explanation on how (and when) to use AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript And XML).

If you have the ability to upload new multimedia files or code to your newsroom website, I'd recommend using this tutorial as a way to get started. You could potentially use this tool to create property tax calculators, income calculators, real estate calculators...useful interactive journalism for your news company's site.


Seed Newsvine

March 05, 2007

Data360: Makes me want to mine 24/7

This weekend, I spent some time speaking with Tom Paper, who is the Founder of Data360 and is a finance consultant based in San Francisco.

Data360 is one-part Swivel, which I talked about last week, one part and one part global operating report. It's a software tool, available online, that enables users to cull data from public records and databases, arranges that data in a readable format, and updates the data on the fly. According to Tom, it's "Your data dashboard for a democratic society."

Tom started Data360 three years ago as a way to create and share charts about population, interest rates, economic issues, pollution and the like to his network of about 1,500 people. The charts, which he distributed as Excel spreadsheets quarterly, could help everyone gain a better understanding about the interconnectedness of things. As a former CFO, Tom always wanted key metrics for his business, but as a citizen he wanted metrics for what was happening in the world.

Tom says: I have been asked, “Why even try to put together objective information?” My response is that while a person can argue that “objective” does not exist, I continue to believe that responsible citizens must strive for objectivity when thinking about issues. (See his lengthy manifesto outlining the details of Data360.)

Right now, Data360 is being populated and vetted by Tom and a small team in California. In about four weeks, they plan to release an updated version allowing for easier data uploads by users, and they'll have strict rules on sourcing and accuracy.

But that's just the start. He's looking to eventually launch multiple channels, like, and more. He wants to get local - to report on city halls, property foreclosures, performance in schools. Issues they cover so far range from public opinion (belief in evolution) to holidays (Christmas trees in the U.S.) to global economies (perceived most/least corrupt countries).

Tom's hoping to collaborate with journalists, academics, businesses and others to build civilization reports that can be shared and discussed with anyone who's online. (Course, that'll mean incorporating Web 2.0 article tools to enable visitors to share, blog, tag, email and rank the information...but I'm sure site enhancements are also in the works.)

I love, love, love this geek-meets-granola approach to data.

Data360 is only seeing about 1,000 visitors a day right now, but I have to think that will change during the coming months. We all seem to have a voracious appetite for data when it's in print -- otherwise, why would U.S. News, Time, Wired, the Washington Post and others bother with lengthy computer assisted reporting projects?

How cool will it be to contribute, browse and access datasets online? The Asbury Park Press launched Data Universe, and the Center for Public Integrity has been at it for years. Also fun to play with:,

Seed Newsvine

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

March 02, 2007

I (heart) Data: My afternoon snuggling up to instacalc

More Data!

I'm in a numbers mood and have been playing with this calculator, which might be a model for a widget. I could see a newspaper site developing something like this, monetizing it with a GoogleAd and inviting users to create new hyper-local calculators and saving them to a shared section.

Meet instacalc: a sharable calculator tool that enables users to enter data and get fast answers. Data can be shared and charted, to boot. As an example, you can use instacalc to figure out your site's bandwidth:

Ideas for hyper-local calculators for use on newspaper websites:

  • Property taxes
  • Tax rates + city services
  • High school sports stats
  • Public employee salaries vs. your salary
  • Body mass index
    • BONUS! Keep track of zip codes, aggregate with a Google map and tally the BMI of your reader area
  • Holiday sales vs. interest rates
  • Diet/ calorie counter
  • Grade keeper (how well you'll have to do on upcoming tests to score a certain percentage)

I like it, I like it!

Seed Newsvine

Apple iTunes

February 15, 2007

How to use YahooPipes...

Franticindustries just posted five intriguing ways to use YahooPipes. (HT: Lifehacker)

For example, number three:

News in English

What is it and how it’s done? Reddit, Netscape, and Digg are not enough for you? Aching to read what the Europeans are voting on, but you just don’t have the language skills? No worries. In this pipe, I’ve taken the top 10 items from Spanish site, as well as German and French versions of Wikio, and created a single feed in English.

How useful is it? Well, it’s not bad. I’ve taken a silly example, but being able to take feeds in many different languages and turn them into one feed in a language of your choice will surely be very useful for many users.


I'd love to see newspapers harness a technology like this so that their online readers can have access to rich context surrounding a single subject. Here's one user-generated pipe aggregating blogs relating to 2008 presidential candidates. (You'll have to login with a Yahoo password to get access to YahooPipes.)

One problem would be that newspapers would have to allow multiple inbound strings of information outside of their own brand, wire service or media partnership...

...course, I don't see that as an impediment.

(Also see related Yahoo story in MyDigimedia)

February 14, 2007

100 oldest domains...but where was journalism?

Just found this list of the first 100 domains registered. Have a gander. What do you see missing?

Create date  

Domain name































See the complete list here...

February 13, 2007

Will Sing For Search! Try this Web 2.0 voice-based search app

Ok, I know this isn't exactly journalism. I recently found Midomi, a very Web 2.0 audio search engine.

And by audio, I mean you can literally hum a few bars of a song into it and it'll return likely results.

Why is this important? In another life I was a musician, classically trained in piano. I don't play anymore. I do have a great appreciation for music, but I have a horrible time remembering the names of songs. I used to hear something playing in the background or at a party and then would have to call my sister, a professional opera singer, hum a few bars and then beg for info as she berated me, American Idol-style.

So far, Midomi has found Alcohol (Barenaked Ladies) and Let Go (Frou Frou). I tried singing in some Japanese songs I know well but they didn't pop up.

Anyhow, as amused as I am by this gem I'm more excited about all of the voice-based search possibilities this implies:

Reporters might play back part of a press conference tape to get the material they missed...
Copy editors could use voice-based search as a means to check stories before they're published...

Imagine this:

A reporter could be doing a phoner interview with a source about a very complicated medical subject. While she's sitting at her desk, she's running a voice-based search app in the background on her desktop. As she mentions breast cancer, the voice-based search engine pulls up a picture of cancer cell mitosis from the National Institutes of Health as well as some recent data on the cancer rates in America... all without her having to type a thing.

So very, very exciting! Even if it only means in the interim that my sister won't make fun of me anymore...


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.


February 01, 2007

Hack Your BlackBerry = Wireless Modem

Got a BlackBerry or BlackBerry Pearl? Use it to connect to the Internet from anywhere you get a wireless signal - even overseas. This should enable reporters on the road to blog or file copy to editors while they're on location. And it's the primary way that I'm online when traveling.

1. Download the script here. Right click (control click on a Mc) and Choose ‘Save As’.
2. Copy the script into /Library/Modem Scripts.
3. If you’ve already paired your Pearl with your Mac, open Bluetooth Preferences. Select your Pearl from the list of devices and press ‘Configure…’. (If you haven’t, choose ‘Set up Bluetooth Device’ - the following dialogs will be shown after you’ve paired your phone with your Mac.)
4. Make sure ‘Access the Internet with your phone’s data connection’ is checked. Also, make sure ‘Use a direct, higher speed connection’ is selected. Click Continue.
5. In the Modem Script pulldown on the following screen, Select ‘BlackBerry 8100’. Use the following settings for the other fields, then click Continue:
* Username, Password: leave blank
* GPRS CID: *99***1#
6. Open the Internet Connect application. Select the Bluetooth icon at the top. Under Phone Number, put your APN (for T-Mobile and the BlackBerry Unlimited plan, I use, for Cingular it’s “wap.cingular”). Type a username and password (I use guest/guest, for Cingular you’ll use “WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM” as the username and “CINGULAR1” as the password) in the appropriate fields.

Special thanks to Ross Barkman, Tim Hatch and then Grant Goodale for the hacks!!!

January 30, 2007

BuzzTracker vs. Newsmap

Innovation online...BuzzTracker vs. Newsmap.

Both web applications are aggregating headlines into a graphic interface that shows which stories are most popular.



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.

September 07, 2006

Google's Mobile AdWords

Google has found yet another profit center, this time deploying its AdWords program to mobile phones. Ads will be served as users search Google using its mobile search service.

September 06, 2006

Music Re-revolution

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 16, 2006

Car = Office

Here's an interesting story from with ideas on how to turn your car into a mobile office.

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.