Bookmarks for April 27th through April 28th

In order to share what I’ve found to be useful/interesting/etc. while browsing around below are my links for April 27th through April 28th. You can find my full set of bookmarks at my Delicious account.

  • Why Doesn’t The Stimulus Include Money For Painting Roofs And Roads White? – Painting 100 sq feet of roof space white offsets one ton of CO2 emissions. Seems as though that's an easy and feasible action that could be taken to curb global warming. It's also an argument that Bjorn Lomborg makes in "Cool It" for what that's worth.
  • End the University as We Know It – NYTimes.com – Great article about the need to end the fracturing of university education. The idea of thematic education is quite appealing and something that I think could truly create some innovation in modern education. The idea about professors collaborating is also a good one and one that I can't see a downside to. (via @danielbachhuber)
  • Honda Insight – Let It Shine on Vimeo – A brilliant ad from Honda for the new insight. Makes me wish for two things 1) that more companies produced ads like this and 2) that newspapers could inspire companies to run ads like this. If it's actually enjoyable to watch an ad then somethings going right.

The ideal WordPress CMS

A little less than a week ago some of us sat down together to talk about what features we’d like to see incorporated into WordPress to make it a more powerful CMS for news organizations. The resulting conversation was posted on the Inside CoPress blog and Daniel’s written up a nice summary there too.

After talking with Mo, Daniel, Max, Eric, and Drew I drew up my own list of what I would like to see. Some of these are discussed in the conference call, but I thought I’d give my own reasoning behind them as well.

The Ability to pull more Author metadata:

As part of designing News Evolved I wanted to create Author pages that functioned as personal resumes; however, I came up against a limitation of what types of information WordPress allows to be pulled from the user account.

If you want to display the name, website, email, AIM, description of an author then that’s easy enough, but there’s currently now way (that I’ve found at least) to create customized fields for each author and pull those into The Loop.

This would be great because it would allow for info like an Author’s Publish2 links, their Google Reader shared items, an online chat widget, Twitter stream, and more to be pulled into an archive page.

Furthermore, I think that creating author pages that looked like personal resumes of online activity might inspire more college journalists to start using tools like Twitter and Publish2.

A lot of reporters at the Whitman Pioneer like to point their friends, parents, relatives, etc. to the site so that they can see what their son/daughter/etc is writing. By including personalized information on an Author’s archive page these same people would be able to see more of what that student is producing online.

More roles for users and the ability to only post to a specific category:

Some of this came up during the discussion last Wednesday so I won’t bother to reiterate those ideas.

The one thing that I think would really help WordPress to function as a truly efficient CMS is the ability to limit certain authors to posting in specific categories.

At the Whitman Pioneer we use categories as a way to create topic-specific blogs. They’re all listed as child-categories under a main category of “Blogs.” We’ve recently opened these up to non-staff members to encompass a wider range of topics and opinions; however, there’s one significant downside to all this and that is the amount of time that is needed to maintain it all.

Every time a blog is added I have send out a new email with instructions for how to post and how to categorize things properly. Inevitably people, even people on the staff, post something in the wrong category and suddenly it doesn’t show up under their blog.

By limiting an author to a specific category then this whole problem of making sure bloggers are posting in the proper categories would be resolved in a clean, automated manner.

Anyway, those are my thoughts any ideas? What would make WordPress more useful to your news organization?

Note: There’s a couple forum topics over on the CoPress site that deal with these issues too if you’re interested.

Introducing News Evolved

This post originally was posted on the News Evolved Blog. Check it out!

The story behind it

News Evolved is my first attempt at a WordPress theme. It stemmed from working for the Whitman Pioneer as Web Manager during the Spring of 2009. During this time I realized that there wasn’t really a theme for WordPress that incorporated a lot of the new thoughts concerning the online presence of newspapers.

So, I decided to set out to build one of my own. Inspired by the model created during the Revenue Two Point Zero conference in Washington D.C. I wanted to create a theme that took advantage of the new forms of media and technology that have become almost common place.

What are my goals?

While I’m not a journalist and have never worked as a writer for a paper I do have a passion as a consumer and designer of news.

I don’t know what the future of journalism will look like for reporters (there’s people far smarter than me who are working on ideas though) but I want to do all that I can to try and help news adapt to the web.

I wanted to create a theme that put the focus of a newspaper website back where it should have been all along: on the content.

The main layout for article pages
The main layout for article pages

For too long newspapers have had sites that take the view of “how can we make money from this?” News Evolved aims to be different. While designing I was thinking how can I make news appear in a more enjoyable and consumable manner? How can it draw readers in and once they’re in, what’s the best method for advertising?

I think it’s about time that newspapers started thinking of how they create the best environment and experience for the readers instead of how they can make the most money of readers.

To this extent News Evolved is aligned to a clean (in my eyes at least) grid and the ads remain where they will be most relevant: alongside the actual content.

What are the features and where’s the download?

News Evolved features a lot already and will be added to and expanded in the coming months. It’s available to download for free and all I ask is that you keep the spirit that I created it in alive. It’s meant to be something that evolves and changes with a news organization. So, share what worked for you, what plugins you found to be useful, etc.

The homepage of News Evolved
The homepage of News Evolved

Features:

The above features are just a small part of what I aim to include and accomplish with this theme. If you interested in seeing what will be coming in the following weeks and months head over to the development roadmap.

Thank you for your interest in News Evolved. I would love to hear what you think about it in the comments below and if you’re interested in getting involved on the development side of it get in touch.

In the coming days I will be posting more details about some of the features that I’ve worked into News Evolved and my rationale behind them so stay tuned.

Time for some web design collaboration

Earlier this week I talked with Daniel Bachhuber of CoPress about forming a group this summer for the college news organizations that will be redesigning their online presences. Daniel wrote up a quick summary and posted the audio from the call over on the Inside CoPress blog.

Since talking with Daniel I’ve done some more thinking about this and come up with a rough outline of what I would like to see happen.

Weekly or bi-weekly conference sessions

These would be designed to be roundtable critiques of each school’s design. Depending on how often people are working on them, it is the summer after all, they could be every week or just once a month.

Ideally those involved would spend time before the call poking around through one another’s designs and drawing up a list of what’s working and what isn’t.

This would allow for the calls to stay a manageable length. Hopefully they would be able to remain under an hour (assuming about ten minutes for a handful of participants).

A couple staff members at the Whitman Pioneer attended the ACP Conference in San Diego this year where Bryan Murley hosted such a roundtable website critique and they said that it was one of the most helpful things for them in thinking of how others viewed our site.

I think that sometimes it becomes to easy to just assume that a design decision works because you’re familiar with it without finding out whether it works for people unfamiliar with your site. These virtual roundtables would be designed to combat that problem.

Collaborative design

There is no way that I can emphasize how important I think collaboration is in regard to web design: it’s why I will be releasing News Evolved early and before it’s complete. I think that the best way for college news organizations, many of which have small web departments, to advance their websites is to take advantage of the crowd. The more people involved means that more ideas will be thrown around and implemented.

Everybody’s got their strengths and their weaknesses and that’s something that’s particularly true of designing something as massive as a news organization’s website.

The ideal situation in my eyes would be one in which the weekly roundtables were not just discussions but were opportunities for everyone to get involved in different projects. There’s no reason why the college news community cannot come together and take advantage of everyone’s strengths to push their designs further.

Those are the two biggest aspects of what I would like to accomplish with this during the summer. What do you think? Know anyone that would be interested?

I know, another new theme

If you’ve visited the blog at any point today you’ve probably noticed that there’s yet another new look. Trust that it will all be apparent by Monday and that it’s all a part of some significant work that I’ve been doing lately. Stay tuned!

Bookmarks for April 24th

In order to share what I’ve found to be useful/interesting/etc. while browsing around below are my links for April 24th. You can find my full set of bookmarks at my Delicious account.

  • In defense of Twitter – kottke.org – A great post concerning how there is nothing inherent to the banality of Twitter updates; this banality exists in "real" conversations as well. It's a good point and one that I've been trying to make recently with friends who "just don't get Twitter."
  • An interview with Tweetie creator Loren Brichter | Software | Macworld – Interesting interview with the creator of Tweetie (my new Mac Twitter client of choice). One of the best points is about how he set out to build a Twitter app that he could use to manage his Twitter accounts. I've found the best apps to be those that developers built to solve their own needs.
  • A Crash-Course in WordPress Plugin Development – Nettuts+ – What appears to be a good Nettuts tutorial on creating a basic WordPress plugin. Should be helpful this summer when I attempt to write some of my own. Should be fun!

Expanding the notion of link journalism

One of the things that I’m extremely interested in expanding at The Whitman Pioneer is the use of tools like Publish2 among the newsroom. I think that the potential for link journalism is tremendous and I definitely think that Publish2 is the best among what’s out there right now. However, I have a significant problem with it in terms of how applicable it is to the future of news.

Expand Editorial Standards

Publish2’s website states that: “Free Publish2 accounts are available to journalists who maintain our editorial standards.” Furthermore, those standards read:

At a time when digital technology is rapidly transforming and expanding the practice of journalism, and allowing anyone to wield “the power of the press,” editorial standards are more important than ever. These standards are what separate journalism from marketing, PR, paid advocacy, or personal expression, which on the web are increasingly difficult to differentiate.

While I certainly agree that “digital technology is rapidly transforming and expanding the practice of journalism” I’ve come to steadily disagree with the idea that the solution is reassert editorial standards within the journalism community.

We’ve come to live in a time when almost anyone can break a news story with Twitter or their blog and where others can provide HD video coverage of an event with something that fits in their pocket. Due to this, I think that the extension of the editorial standards into civil society is more important than ever.

How does this factor into the future?

I have a hard time foreseeing a future for newspapers if they do not rely heavily upon their communities for contributions. While letters to the editor, guest columnists, and other means of involvement are great I think that the greatest potential is building a newspaper site that incorporates stories from the entire community.

Personal blogs, independent papers, art magazines, etc. all make up the coverage of a community and all carry the potential to add to the worth of a local paper. Sure, a journalist could link to this content with Publish2 and get it onto the paper’s site that way, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the community.

How much more interested in a local paper would a community be if it knew that it could submit links that would be included on the site? Sure, this could be accomplished with Delicious but it would be easier with a link-sharing tool that focusing on news stories.

Does it defeat the purpose of Publish2?

While I recognize the role that limiting membership in Publish2 to journalists plays I don’t think that expanding membership opportunities would detract from their purpose.

If the concern is that the quality of stories linked to would deteriorate then that shows an alarmingly low respect for the general news-reading community. The great thing that Publish2 has that Delicious and other tools don’t is the quality of stories. I sincerely doubt that by opening up Publish2 the quality would degrade.

Ultimately I have a hard time conceiving of the rationale behind limiting Publish2 to journalists. It certainly creates a nice little community of journalists, but so did the institutions of the old model of journalism that is collapsing by the week.

By expanding the possibilities of Publish2 the diversity of stories linked would rise and the utility of the service to news orgs would be drastically increased.

Postnote: Don’t get me wrong, I really love Publish2 and the service it offers. My hope is that the above didn’t come off too harsh and that it’s simply taken as advice for how to move the service forward. To see some of the great examples of how newsrooms are already making use of Publish2 you can see their examples page.

Bookmarks for April 22nd through April 23rd

In order to share what I’ve found to be useful/interesting/etc. while browsing around below are my links for April 22nd through April 23rd. You can find my full set of bookmarks at my Delicious account.

  • Eric Hobsbawm: Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next? – Interesting piece about how the future will be something different in terms of the economy. I'm not so sure about people who claim that capitalism has utterly failed; I think it has, but I'm not sure that means it won't regenerate.
  • To Tweet or Not to Tweet – NYTimes.com – An atrocious interview between Maureen Dowd and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Throughout the whole thing Dowd comes off as antagonistic and vindictive. The closing of the interview is great though:

    Dowd: I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is there anything you can say to change my mind?

    Biz Stone: Well, when you do find yourself in that position, you’re gonna want Twitter. You might want to type out the message “Help.”

  • Welcome to the New Media Campaign Tools of 2012 | Mother Jones – Interesting read about the use of technology in the Obama campaign. The link between my.barackobama.com and actual physical volunteering and organizing is particularly interesting.

Tips from the Wall Street Journal on charging for news

This is from all the way back on April 8th, but the Nieman Lab has a video of Alan Murray, the executive editor of the Wall Street Journal discussing the mindset that the journal adopts in terms of charging users for content. He outlines 5 fundamental aspects to their business strategy that are quite good. Perhaps the best point made is that:

2. You can’t charge for exclusives that will just be repeated elsewhere. This was my favorite lesson from Murray, who explained, “If it’s a big news story, if we report a takeover and — we could hold that behind the pay wall, but if we do, BusinessWeek or someone else will simply write a story saying ‘The Wall Street Journal is reporting x,’ and they’ll get all the traffic. Why would we do that?” So they drop the pay wall, “and take the traffic ourselves, thank you very much,” Murray said.

I think out of all the discussion concerning the creation of a business model for online news this point is one of the most important. The reality is that information is no longer a rare commodity and very few people will be willing to pay for general news stories.

There’s also a series of other short videos with Murray on Nieman’s Vimeo account. Below Murray discusses how the Journal has changed since its takeover by Murdoch.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4047626&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

Bookmarks for April 20th through April 21st

In order to share what I’ve found to be useful/interesting/etc. while browsing around below are my links for April 20th through April 21st. You can find my full set of bookmarks at my Delicious account.

  • Design Considerations for Touch UI ~ Authentic Boredom – An interesting post with a video and a link to an article about what must change design-wise when we start seeing touch-based devices truly coming to dominate the realm of computers. The whole notion of having a computer based off of touch-based gestures is fascinating and I think that at some point it will become reality. I think that the adoption of the iPhone and other devices has shown that people are willing to put down their physical keyboards and mice.
  • Create Vimeo-like top navigation – A tutorial for creating a navigation menu ala Vimeo. Interesting in the way that it could conserve space. Might now work that well for a large news site, but it may be useful for blog pages or for article pages.
  • Coming Home to Rwanda – An interesting article from Michael Abramowitz at the Atlantic about the recent efforts between Rwanda and The Congo to work together to bring refugees from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda home.