Over the last month I’ve fallen behind on noting here what I’ve been writing at the News for Digital Journalists blog on the web site of the Knight Digital Media Center. Here’s a quick roundup of what I’ve covered there since late February…
Today at the Knight Digital Media Center site, I explainedÂ How Al Jazeera is putting audio updates from Egypt online fast.
They’re using ScribbleLive, a modular-oriented content management tool that “plays nice” with content from a variety of sources — social media, MMSed-in photos, blog posts, and — as shown — phoned-in audio updates from Egypt.
See Al Jazeera English, Live Messages from Egypt.
UPDATE AUG 12: Tr.im reports that they’re not dead yet. Hey, congrats to them for working something out, at least for now. But still: As Aron Pilhofer notes in the comments below, relying on any third-party for a core functionality represents a significant risk, so I still stand by my advice in this post.
Yesterday the popular URL shortening service Tr.im abruptly bit the dust — begging the question of whether existing Tr.im shortlinks would suddenly break. (Tr.im says its existing links will continue to function at least through Dec. 31, 2009.)
This doesn’t affect me much, since I rarely used Tr.im — but others relied heavily on Tr.im and its statistics for how its shortlinks were used. Bit.ly, which also tracks shortlink statistics, is now Twitter’s default link shortener. PaidContent recently covered how difficult link shortener service business is. Which means that other link shorteners could fall down and go boom at any time.
So if you really must rely on shortlinks for any reason, it probably makes more sense than ever to create or control your own link shortener…
People contribute more when contributing is easy. That’s true for posting to sites or forums as well as donating money.
That said, many sites make it surprisingly hard to post. Not excruciatingly difficult — but just laborious enough to be a barrier to some would-be contributors.
This week I’m experimenting with using different tools to post to Contentious.com. Here’s the first one:
I’m doing this because some of my clients use fairly complex content management systems, where each post requires a surprising number of steps.
Most commonly, here’s what site contributors must do…
|Berbercarpet, via Flickr (CC license)|
|Journalism sudents need the right tools — and skills — for the kinds of careers and opportunities they’re really going to be making for themselves.|
Picking up on my post yesterday, Univ. of Florida journalism professor Mindy McAdams challenged me (and her other readers) to translate my quick list of what j-schools should be teaching into a something more testable and measurable that could be translated into a curriculum.
Here’s my first shot at that:
- Content management systems (including blogging tools): First, I’d have the students run a group blog on a topic of their choosing for a year to get comfortable with the content and commenting apects of blogging. (A group blog is likely to get more activity and discussion than individual blogs.) This blog should be based on an expandable, customizable tool like WordPress. Then the students should be taught the basics of information architecture, and from that figure out how to expand or customize their blogs to deliver or integrate new kinds of content or services. This could be as simple as finding and installing WordPress plugins to add features, or integrating content from other places (such as Flickr or del.icio.us). The goal would be to get them to not just understand, but demonstrate that on their own they can envision, research, evaluate, and act upon options to do more with their content online. There’s a lot you can do without getting too geeky. They need to gain the confidence that many options are within their personal grasp — they don’t always need to get permission or beg someone else to do things for them.
There’s a lot more on my list, of course…
|A bloggier home page definitely doesn’t have to be ugly.|
Right now, several of my clients are working on site redesigns and also are looking for ways to increase site traffic. One of the most basic strategies for attracting more traffic to your site is making your site more appealing to search engines. That’s why I’m suggesting that these clients might consider adding a “blog” to their home page, because search engines love blogs.
…OK, I realize now I need to learn to say that differently when talking to clients. All of these clients are from major, respectable media organizations — consequently, they have a generally negative immediate reaction to the word “blog.” Even though these people are savvy about online media, they still tend to immediately associate “blog” with a negative and largely inaccurate stereotype: poorly designed rant-fests that attract trolls and flamers like cockroaches.
No, that’s NOT what I’m advising for their home pages.
Rather, I’m saying it can be useful to manage the newsiest parts of your site with a blog-like back-end — a content management system interface that makes it easy to post discrete items, categorize and assign a permalink to each, and present them online in reverse-chronological order. Then you generate a feed (RSS) from that content, so you can syndicate the most recent items to a space on your home page layout.
Here’s how you can benefit from that strategy…