Blogging doesn’t have to be extra work

Recently I was conversing with some journalism colleagues about getting started with blogging. One of the most basic questions inevitably arose: How can you make time for blogging, on top of the stories you’re already writing or other work you’re doing or just having a life?

In my experience, blogging can be an easy way to get more mileage out of things you’re already doing. It’s a matter of shifting your process, not just adding new tasks. If something you think, encounter, or learn is interesting or entertaining and there’s nothing to lose by sharing it, then blog it.

For instance…
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links for 2009-08-20

  • Are venture capital-backed mobile app companies developing their apps on a single mobile OS or are they developing them to work on multiple operating systems?  A look at 2009’s venture capital funding activity in the mobile startup space shows that despite the $100 million plus already invested by venture capitalists in iPhone predicated startups, venture backed mobile startups are generally developing apps which work on multiple mobile operating systems vs those which are platform specific.  By multi-platform, we mean their offerings work on two or more of the prominent mobile operating systems, e.g., the big six mobile OSs – Android, iPhone, Palm, RIM, Symbian and Windows.  Because we were focused on US venture backed mobile startups, the Linux mobile OS which has 5.1% market share but which is heavily China and Japan oriented didn’t figure into the OSs we examined.
  • Great How-to:

    "Rather than ignore that traffic, we need to develop content and navigation that keeps those visitors on the site a while longer and offers them a way to engage with us further, an opportunity to create a conversion. Whether it’s subscribing to the blog, downloading an eBook, subscribing to a newsletter, reading to a related article or blog posting, to sharing something with a colleague."

  • Mobile device as a window on the world. Way cool. Ambient context.
  • I think there are several different areas of emergence that will need to be studied, ir they can. Firstly, there is the area of information flow, connected to PC and server activity too. It might be possible for example to use the net to generate information waves that could crash telecom networks by setting up physical resonances and correlated traffic peaks. These could be a more dangerous part of cyber-warfare than the viruses and worms of today.

    Secondly, we need to think about the human emergence. Occasionally, wonderful new ideas happen as a result of human interactions, and the web creates a superb platform on which to initiate and carry these interactions. But harmful ideas can also emerge. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we need to look hard at the potential of the net to act as a platform for machine-initiated threats, such as machine consciousness."

  • . . . So why did Google decide to settle instead of to fight? Inspired perhaps by Rahm Emanuel, who has observed "you never want a serious crisis go to waste," Google recognized that AAP and the Guild would be willing to settle their lawsuits by vastly expanding the plaintiff class to all persons with a U.S. copyright interest in one or more books. The settlement could then give Google a license to commercialize all books owned by the class.

    Why would AAP and the Guild be willing to do this? It is largely because the agreement designates the Authors Guild as the representative of the author subclass and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) as the representative of the publisher subclass. This designation ensures that they will have vastly expanded responsibilities and powers to control the market for digital books . . . . (8/10 announcement)

  • The settlement, negotiated with the assistance of the Swiss government, comes as U.S. tax authorities conduct a criminal investigation into Americans who used Swiss bank accounts of UBS (UBS 15.89, -0.01, -0.06%) (CH:UBSN 16.90, +0.42, +2.55%) to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

    The settlement follows demands from the U.S. authorities that the bank hand over details on thousands of customers. U.S. tax authorities will gain access to 5,000 accounts of U.S. individuals who have accounts with UBS, according to the settlement.

links for 2009-08-19

links for 2009-08-18

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Reader Discussion Guide Excerpts

I just finished reading a killer classic fiction mashup (literally), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a parody of the Jane Austen novel (which I tried to read in college and found unbearably tedious).

I must admit, though: The addition of a Night of the Living Dead-style zombie plague made all the endless fretting and plotting over how to present  oneself as appropriately marriageable in polite society surprisingly entertaining and understandable.

Because the thing is: The strictures of British aristocratic society — particularly how women were held in chattel status, and the ceaseless power plays of verbal indirection — were indeed nightmarish, soul-destroying, and cannibalistic.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider this book a seminal feminist treatise. (God knows we need more entertaining seminal works of feminism!)

If you read this book (and I recommend it) don’t miss the reader’s discussion guide at the end. It contains 10 questions. Here are a couple of my favorites…

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links for 2009-08-17

  • "So if journalism isn't the business of a newspaper, what is? Pull back the lens. At their peak, local newspapers did two things: They created community. And they provided the local marketplace for goods and services. These services were so profitable, that they subsidized the civic good of journalism.

    "The reason newspapers are in trouble today is because they have lost their dominant position on both of these fronts. When it came to community, the sum of news and information in a newspaper created a shared base of knowledge, set the conversations about civic life, and provided a bond that created a sense of place. Today, as newspapers have shrunk, and as the audience has splintered, the newspaper no longer serves as community hub. Having lost all of these things, all that is left is the journalism. And on its own, we're discovering this is not something people will pay for."

  • "The disastrous error that newspapers made early in our digital lives was treating online advertising as a throw-in or upsell for their print advertisers. Helping businesses connect with customers was always our business. We were facing new technology and new opportunities and we did next to nothing to explore how we might use this new technology to help businesses connect with customers.

    "We just offered businesses the same old solutions that we offered in print, but pop-up ads and web banners somehow didn’t work as well as display ads. Which was just as well, because we told our business customers the ads weren’t worth much by the way we treated them."

  • "Studies like this one by Pear Analytics drive me batty. They concluded that 40.55% of the tweets they coded are pointless babble; 37.55% are conversational; 8.7% have "pass along value"; 5.85% are self-promotional; 3.75% are spam; and ::gasp:: only 3.6% are news.

    "I challenge each and every one of you to record every utterance that comes out of your mouth (and that of everyone you interact with) for an entire day. And then record every facial expression and gesture. You will most likely find what communications scholars found long ago – people are social creatures and a whole lot of what they express is phatic communication. (Phatic expressions do social work rather than conveying information… think "Hi" or "Thank you".)

    "Now, turn all of your utterances over to an analytics firm so that they can code everything that you've said. I think that you'll be lucky if only 40% of what you say constitutes "pointless babble" to a third party ear."

links for 2009-08-16

  • Washington Post ombudsman: "Anonymous sources are critical to newsgathering — and to informing readers. Without a guarantee of confidentiality, many sources wouldn't share sensitive information on corruption or misconduct. But anonymity can be overused and abused. Sources can make false or misleading assertions with impunity. Journalists can inflate a source's reliability or even fabricate his or her existence. That's why The Post has such stringent rules. But they're not always followed."
  • "If proven this could be the first case of piracy in Europe in the modern era. There is speculation as to the reason for the ship's hijacking, as its cargo of wood, valued at 1.3 million euros, is not especially valuable. Suggestions include possible contraband, and the possibility of a commercial dispute between the crew or some other party and the ship's owners."
  • "[Rampant] copying [of wire service stories] causes much harm. The AP takes the unique value provided by the original site and dilutes it by making the product free for thousands of other outlets to repost, instead of sending all the traffic back to the site that created the valuable thing in the first place. The AP is the "parasitic aggregator" that it and others so often label other blogs and news sites.

    "So the AP's two reasons for existence don't hold up online. The AP senses this, and its leadership is going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief (moving from Denial to Anger now, Bargaining will be next when more members start to cancel). We don't need an AP online (which is why it's laughable that AP thinks we all will be willing to license their content and pay for it)."

  • "How AP could deliver real value for members is to lead the way in developing tools and platforms for member newspapers to provide local e-commerce services as I described in the C3 Blueprint. It could lead the way in development of mobile applications that members could use to deliver content and generate revenue (AP has developed a popular iPhone app and dealt with the fine-tuning issues involved)."
  • "Historically, the value of those casual browsers was captured by the newspaper because the readers would have to buy a copy. Now all the value gets captured by the aggregator that scrapes the copy and creates a front page that a set of readers choose to scan. And because creating content costs much more scraping it, there is little rational economic reason to create content."
  • Mobypicture is using hashtags as a routing tool for publication: "Whenever you add #at5 to the title, description or tags of your posting, we also distribute the posting to the AT5 editorial team. They can then decide if your posting is relevant to the news/activities in the city and publish this, of course using your Name and link to your Mobypicture user page as official source. They also might contact you to get your eyewitness report or more context."
  • Aug 16-19 2009 #focas09

    "The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program presents FOCAS 2009 August 16-19 on the theme Of the Press: Models for Preserving American Journalism."

    Hmmm…. sounds like a workshop in pickling techniques. Or mummification. Really: "preserving?"

  • "Many users are aware that Facebook has numerous privacy controls, for example, but even the most experienced Facebook users often don't know just how much they can control who sees what. For instance, did you know that you can specify exactly who can see your status updates, down to different groups of friends (not just "friends" versus "everyone")? What about controlling which groups of people can even find you in a Facebook search to begin with?

    "If you don't want to be socially available at all, then the solution is right in front of you and you can stop reading! However, if you have been wondering how you can be socially available on Facebook while still keeping your privacy under control, this guide is for you."

  • "Cuban makes this all sound a bit like an infomercial. Buy the brush, get the broom, and we’ll throw in the ultra-super-sweeping instructional video. It’s not about news, in other words, it’s about marketing. In fact, he agrees with me: Nobody is going to pay for news. Not unless there’s a sweetener—some sugary entertainment add-on.

    "…This is the cable TV model. You pay a flat fee for a lot of stuff you wouldn’t pick, if you could pick. Of course, everywhere consumers, regulators, and legislators are after cable companies to “unbundle” their packages. Bundling—that classic LP music model so savaged in its digital form by young pirates who want their music not just free but self-selected—is about as future-oriented as, well, an LP."

  • AMEN!!! "1. Smaller is better. Newspapers can’t survive on online ads not because it’s an impossible model for publishing — I do it at Zen Habits and many other blogs and smaller news sites do it. They can’t survive on online ads because they’re too huge."

links for 2009-08-15

  • "When I read the Associated Press “Protect, Point, Pay” plan, I think of the Hummer.

    "General Motors thought it was moving forward when it trotted out the massive sport-utility version of a military vehicle. The Hummer represented a lot of smart work by a lot of engineers and GM sold a lot of Hummers. It carried on a GM tradition of massive vehicles under the Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile brands. But how did the Hummer work out in the long run? How’s GM doing today? In a world threatened by climate change and in a nation dependent on oil from unstable regions, the Hummer was simply the wrong move.

    "I think “Protect, Point, Pay” may get some traction with desperate newspaper owners who want more protection and pay. It has some good features with smart engineering. But it’s simply the wrong move."

  • After exploring several smartphone options in a great series of podcasts, Jon Gordon chooses the T-Mobile myTouch Android phone. I recommend listening to the series, it's great to see how he weighed his options.

links for 2009-08-14

links for 2009-08-13

  • Zach Seward starts a new Nieman Labs series about what's in a new secret AP strategy document:

    "In a break with tradition, The Associated Press plans to prevent members and customers from publishing some AP content on their websites. Instead, those news organizations would link to the content on a central AP website — a move that could upend the consortium’s traditional notions of syndication…."

  • "Following Columbia j-school dean Nicholas Lemann's speech, we heard from CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien. O'Brien started off by telling us, "If you've been reading the headlines you know it's a difficult time to be in news… same story when I entered the business in 1988." Besides making the point that the media has had similar struggles in the past, O'Brien also offered advice about starting a career in journalism. Her main tip for us was to "live without debt" and "live within your means." This provoked an audible response among the crowd of aspiring journalists since many of us (including myself) are taking on substantial debt to attend j-school and living within our means isn't really an option.

    "After her speech, O'Brien opened up the floor to questions. I raised my hand to ask her if, in light of her view that we should live without debt, she thought it was a mistake to take out loans for journalism school." (Columbia j-school costs $47K

  • "As the power grid becomes more automated and its control systems are networked on a large scale, the security of the system has become a critical issue, especially with the development of a new interactive smart grid and with recent reports that the current grid has been compromised by hackers. Current industry security standards require “the identification of and documentation of the critical cyber assets associated with the critical assets that support the reliable operation of the bulk electric system,” using a risk-based assessment. Violators can be fined as much as $1 million a day. Audits for compliance with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Standards began last month"
  • "This is a topic that I've spent a great deal of time thinking about, because we happen to run a site chock full of user generated questions and answers. The last thing I want to do is exploit Stack Overflow users for corporate gain, even accidentally. That's horrible.

    "So if you spend a lot of time creating content for Stack Overflow or anywhere else on the internet — I think you should be asking yourself some tough questions:

    * What do you get out of the time and effort you've invested in this website? Personally? Professionally? Tangibly? Intangibly?
    * Is your content attributed to you, or is it part of a communal pool?
    * What rights do you have for the content you've contributed?
    * Can your contributions be revoked, deleted, or permanently taken offline without your consent?
    * Can you download or archive your contributions?
    * Are you comfortable with the business model and goals of the website you're contributing to, and thus directly furthering?

  • "To date, most of the research on recruitment and incentives comes from far simpler domains such as frequent-flier programs and cell-phone subscription campaigns, where goals and incentives are usually aligned. But the volunteer economy has many more variables. What are the signs that a participant will be enthusiastic and well-informed? How do leadership qualities manifest? Do recruits bring in networks of potentially productive friends? Researchers comb through petabytes of network behavior searching for telltale patterns. One of the current studies rates the probability that a person who's gifted in one domain is likely to perform well in another."
  • A new service for paid content. Problem 1: Their link for new info leads to a pdf file. Huh? I find it very hard to take seriously any media-related business that doesn't just post its info on a regular web page.
  • Mark Cuban exhorts news sites to start blocking access to links to their content coming from aggregators. Oh man, the sad thing is a lot of news orgs will listen to him…..

    A commenter notes: "The day after the news providers start blocking aggregators is the day a browser plugin is published to hide or spoof the referring site. I would bet that the next major release of Firefox and Chrome would then incorporate it by default, with IE avoiding it until the loss of market forced them to relent."

  • "He is right in one regard: People who go to aggregator sites don’t really click through to the original story. But he misses the profound and game-changing aspect of that fact: They don’t want to read the original story. Habits have changed on the Internet, where information comes faster and from many more sources. Hence, news needs to be short and it needs to be aggregated, which is precisely what brand-specific news sites lack: News from diverse outlets that can be consumed quickly. Here’s the rub: People don’t want news (there’s too much of that), they want aggregation (ie, efficiency and ease), which there isn’t enough of. Oh, yes, and free."
  • AHA! This might be a way to get around how too many redirects could "break the web"

    "In our conversation, Garrick Van Buren noted that many content management systems already assign a numerical shortkey to each post that could be used for a short URL. “The really, really big benefit in that case is that it’s no longer a redirect,” he said. “It’s just one more URL that points to same place.”