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December 19 2011

15:20

What I Want for Christmas: A Frictionless Blogging Platform

For those who don't know -- the Carnival of Journalism is something I restarted in January (coming up on a year!) where a bunch of journalism-bloggers get together and write about the same topic once a month. The question is posed by the host -- who rotates.

santas.jpg

This month's host is the Guardian's developer blog, and they ask:

If you are a journalist, what would be the best present from programmers and developers that Santa Claus could leave under your Christmas tree? And, correspondingly, if you are a programmer or developer, what would be the best present from journalism that Father Christmas could deliver down your chimney?

If I had to answer the question succinctly: I want a frictionless blogging platform. Not Tumblr or Posterous (although they've done an awesome job). I think there is a way to make something even simpler -- a platform where I can save something to Delicious and create the formatting once so that from henceforth all Delicious links will be posted on my blog the way I want. (ITTF does an OK job, but it's not perfect).

I go through various phases with my personal blog. When I first started in 2005, it was called "Adventures in Freelancing," and it was about just that -- the various stories I was working on or published or other stories I was reading and found interesting.

Since Spot.Us started, my blogging has laxed (at best). I use it for occasional big thoughts or announcements. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google+, etc., take up a much larger space of my "online productivity" and to be honest -- I wish there were ways to streamline my efforts.

Of course, there is IFTT.com -- which is what I'm using to repost this Google+ update to my personal blog. And from my blog, it will then automatically be tweeted. So that's a start.

But there are things lost in the translation from Google+ to my personal blog and back out to Twitter.

In a strange way, I still think what I'm looking for is FriendFeed. What a brilliant site that was. Too bad they were bought (talent-scouted) by Facebook.

So I want a platform where I can post something on Google+, and format it once and forever, and my Google+ public posts will appear on my blog the way I want.

That's my holiday gift ask.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Steve Rhodes.

A version of this post first appeared here.

07:37

Magazine editing: managing information overload

In the second of three extracts from the 3rd edition of Magazine Editing, published by Routledge, I talk about dealing with the large amount of information that magazine editors receive. 

Managing information overload

A magazine editor now has little problem finding information on a range of topics. It is likely that you will have subscribed to email newsletters, RSS feeds, Facebook groups and pages, YouTube channels and various other sources of news and information both in your field and on journalistic or management topics.

There tend to be two fears driving journalists’ information consumption: the fear that you will miss out on something because you’re not following the right sources; and the fear that you’ll miss out on something because you’re following too many sources. This leads to two broad approaches: people who follow everything of any interest (‘follow, then filter’); and people who are very strict about the number of sources of information they follow (‘filter, then follow’).

A good analogy to use here is of streams versus ponds. A pond is manageable, but predictable. A stream is different every time you step in it, but you can miss things.

As an editor you are in the business of variety: you need to be exposed to a range of different pieces of information, and cannot afford to be caught out. A good strategy for managing your information feeds then, is to follow a wide variety of sources, but to add filters to ensure you don’t miss all the best stuff.

If you are using an RSS reader one way to do this is to have specific folders for your ‘must-read’ feeds. Andrew Dubber, a music industries academic and author of the New Music Strategies blog, recommends choosing 10 subjects in your area, and choosing five ‘must-read’ feeds for each, for example.

For email newsletters and other email updates you can adopt a similar strategy: must-reads go into your Inbox; others are filtered into subfolders to be read if you have time.

To create a folder in Google Reader, add a new feed (or select an existing one) and under the heading click on Feed Settings… – then scroll to the bottom and click on New Folder… – this will also add the feed to that folder.

If you are following hundreds or thousands of people on Twitter, use Twitter lists to split them into manageable channels: ‘People I know’; ‘journalism’; ‘industry’; and so on. To add someone to a list on Twitter, visit their profile page and click on the list button, which will be around the same area as the ‘Follow’ button.

You can also use websites such as Paper.li to send you a daily email ‘newspaper’ of the most popular links shared by a particular list of friends every day, so you don’t miss out on the most interesting stories.

Social bookmarking: creating an archive and publishing at the same time

Social bookmarking tools like Delicious, Digg and Diigo can also be useful in managing web-based resources that you don’t have time to read or think might come in useful later. Bookmarking them essentially ‘files’ each webpage so you can access them quickly when you need them (you do this by giving each page a series of relevant tags, e.g. ‘dieting’, ‘research’, ‘UK’, ‘Jane Jones’).

They also include a raft of other useful features, such as RSS feeds (allowing you to automatically publish selected items to a website, blog, or Twitter or Facebook account), and the ability to see who else has bookmarked the same pages (and what else they have bookmarked, which is likely to be relevant to your interests).

Check the site’s Help or FAQ pages to find out how to use them effectively. Typically this will involve adding a button to your browser’s Links bar (under the web address box) by dragging a link (called ‘Bookmark on Delicious’ or similar) from the relevant page of the site (look for ‘bookmarklets’).

Then, whenever you come across a page you want to bookmark, click on that button. A new window will appear with the name and address of the webpage, and space for you to add comments (a typical tactic is to paste a key quote from the page here), and tags.

Useful things to add as tags include anything that will help you find this later, such as any organisations, locations or people that are mentioned, the author or publisher, and what sort of information is included, such as ‘report’, ‘statistics’, ‘research’, ‘casestudy’ and so on.

If installing a button on your browser is too complicated or impractical many of these services also allow you to bookmark a page by sending the URL to a specific email address. Alternatively, you can just copy the URL and log on to the bookmarking site to bookmark it.

Some bookmarking services double up as blogging sites: Tumblr and Stumbleupon are just two. The process is the same as described above, but these services are more intuitively connected with other services such as Twitter and Facebook, so that bookmarked pages are also automatically published on those services too. With one click your research not only forms a useful archive but also becomes an act of publishing and distribution.

Every so often you might want to have a clear out: try diverting mailings and feeds to a folder for a week without looking at them. After seven days, ask which ones, if any, you have missed. You might benefit from unsubscribing and cutting down some information clutter. In general, it may be useful to have background information, but it all occupies your time. Treat such things as you would anything sent to you on paper. If you need it, and it is likely to be difficult to find again, file it or bookmark it. If not, bin it. After a while, you’ll find it gets easier.

Do you have any other techniques for dealing with information overload?

 

September 26 2011

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

July 20 2011

14:42

How to collaborate (or crowdsource) by combining Delicious and Google Docs

RSS girl by Heather Weaver

RSS girl by HeatherWeaver on Flickr

During some training in open data I was doing recently, I ended up explaining (it’s a long story) how to pull a feed from Delicious into a Google Docs spreadsheet. I promised I would put it down online, so: here it is.

In a Google Docs spreadsheet the formula =importfeed will pull information from an RSS feed and put it into that spreadsheet. Titles, links, datestamps and other parts of the feed will each be separated into their own columns.

When combined with Delicious, this can be a useful way to collect together pages that have been bookmarked by a group of people, or any other feed that you want to analyse.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Decide on your tag, network or user

The spreadsheet will pull data from an RSS feed. Delicious provides so many of these that you are spoilt for choice. Here are the main three:

A tag

Used by various people.

Advantages: quick startup – all you need to do is tell people the tag (make sure this is unique, such as ‘unguessable2012′).

Disadvantages: others can hijack the tag – although this can be cleaned from the resulting data.

A network

Consisting of the group of people who are bookmarking:

Advantages: group cannot be infiltrated.

Disadvantages: setup time – may need to create a new account to build the network around.

A user

Created for this purpose:

Advantages: if users are not confident in using Delicious, this can be a useful workaround.

Disadvantages: longer set up time – you’ll need to create a new account, and work out an easy way for it to automatically capture bookmarks from the group. One way is to pull an RSS feed of any mentions on Twitter and use Twitterfeed to auto-tweet them with a hashtag, and then Packrati.us to auto-bookmark all tweeted links (a similar process is detailed here).

The RSS feed for each will be found at the bottom of pages, and is consistently formatted like so:

Delicious.com/tag/unguessable2012

Delicious.com/network/unguessable2012

Delicious.com/unguessable2012

2. Create your spreadsheet

In Google Docs, create a new spreadsheet and in the first cell type the following formula:

=importfeed(“

…adding your RSS feed after the quotation mark, and then this at the end:

“)

So it looks something like this:

=importfeed(“http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/rss/tag/unguessable2012?count=15″)

Now press enter and after a moment the spreadsheet should populate with data from that feed.

You’ll note, however, that at most you will have only 15 rows of data here. That’s because the RSS feed you’ve copied includes that limitation.

If you look at the RSS feed you’ll see an easy clue on how to change this…

So, try editing it so that the count=15 part of that URL reads count=20 instead. You can put a higher number – but Google Docs will limit results to 20 at a time.

3. Collecting contributions

Technically, you’re now all set up. The bigger challenge is, of course, in getting people to contribute. It helps if they can see the results – so think about publishing your spreadsheet.

You’ll also need to make sure that you check it regularly and copy into a backup spreadsheet so you don’t miss results after that top 20.

But if you find it doesn’t work it may be worth thinking of other ways of doing this – for example, with a Google Form, or using =importfeed with the RSS feed for a search on results for a Twitter hashtag containing links (Twitter’s advanced search allows you to limit results accordingly – and all search results come with an RSS feed link like this one)

Of course there are far more powerful ways of doing this which are worth exploring once you’ve understood the basic possibilities.

Doing more with =importfeed

The =importfeed formula has some other elements that we haven’t used.

Another way to do this, for example, is to paste your RSS feed URL into cell A1 and type the following anywhere else:

=importfeed(A1, ”Items Title”, FALSE, 20)

This has 4 parts in the parentheses:

  1. A1 – this points at the URL you just pasted in cell A1, and means that you only have to change what’s in A1 to change the feed being grabbed, rather than having to edit the formula itself
  2. “Items Title” – this is the part of the feed that is being grabbed. If you look in the feed you will see a part that says <item> and within that, an element called <title> – that’s it. You could change this to “Items URL” to get the <URL> part of <title> instead, for example. Or you could just put “Items” and get all 5 parts of each item (title, author, URL, date created, and summary). You can also use “feed” to get information about the feed itself, or “feed URL” or “feed title” or “feed description” to get that single piece of information.
  3. FALSE – this just says whether you want a header row or not. Setting to TRUE will add an extra row saying ‘Title’, for example.
  4. 20 – the number of results you want.

You can see an example spreadsheet with 3 sheets demonstrating different uses of this formula here.

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April 13 2011

12:33

Which blog platform should I use? A blog audit

When people start out blogging they often ask what blogging platform they should use – WordPress or Blogger? Tumblr or Posterous? It’s impossible to give an answer, because the first questions should be: who is going to use it, how, and what and who for?

To illustrate how the answers to those questions can help in choosing the best platform, I decided to go through the 35 or so blogs I have created, and why I chose the platforms that they use. As more and more publishing platforms have launched, and new features added, some blogs have changed platforms, while new ones have made different choices to older ones.

Bookmark blogs (Klogging) – Blogger and WordPress to Delicious and Tumblr

When I first began blogging it was essentially what’s called ‘klogging’ (knowledge blogging) – a way to keep a record of useful information. I started doing this with three blogs on Blogger, each of which was for a different class I taught: O-Journalism recorded reports in the field for online journalism students, Interactive Promotion and PR was created to inform students on a module of the same name (later exported to WordPress) and students on the Web and New Media module could follow useful material on that blog.

The blogs developed with the teaching, from being a place where I published supporting material, to a group blog where students themselves could publish their work in progress.

As a result, Web and New Media was moved to WordPress where it became a group blog maintained by students (now taught by someone else). The blog I created for the MA in Television and Interactive Content was first written by myself, then quickly handed over to that year’s students to maintain. When I started requiring students to publish their own blogs the original blogs were retired.

One-click klogging

By this time my ‘klogging’ had moved to Delicious. Webpages mentioned in a specific class were given a class-specific tag such as MMJ02 or CityOJ09. And students who wanted to dig further into a particular subject could use subject-specific tags such as ‘onlinevideo‘ or ‘datajournalism‘.

For the MA in Television and Interactive Content, then, I simply invented a new tag – ‘TVI’ – and set up a blog using Tumblr to pull anything I bookmarked on Delicious with that tag. (This was done in five minutes by clicking on ‘Customise‘ on the main Tumblr page, then clicking on Services and scrolling down to ‘Automatically import my…‘ and selecting RSS feed as Links. Then in the Feed URL box paste the RSS feed at the bottom of delicious.com/paulb/tvi).

(You can do something similar with WordPress – which I did here for all my bookmarks – but it requires more technical knowhow).

For klogging quotes for research purposes I also use Tumblr for Paul’s Literature Review. I’ve not used this as regularly or effectively as I could or should, but if I was embarking on a particularly large piece of research it would be particularly useful in keeping track of key passages in what I’m reading. Used in conjunction with a Kindle, it could be particularly powerful.

Back to the TVI bookmarks: another five minutes on Feedburner allowed me to set up a daily email newsletter of those bookmarks that students could subscribe to as well, and a further five minutes on Twitterfeed sent those bookmarks to a dedicated Twitter feed too (I could also have simply used Tumblr’s option to publish to a Twitter feed). ‘Blogging’ had moved beyond the blog.

Resource blogs – Tumblr and Posterous

For my Online Journalism module at City University London I use Tumblr to publish a curated, multimedia blog in addition to the Delicious bookmarks: Online Journalism Classes collects a limited number of videos, infographics, quotes and other resources for students. Tumblr was used because I knew most content would be instructional videos and I wanted a separate place to collect these.

The more general Paul Bradshaw’s Tumblelog (http://paulbradshaw.tumblr.com/) is where I maintain a collection of images, video, quotes and infographics that I look to whenever I need to liven up a presentation.

For resources based on notes or documents, however, Posterous is a better choice.

Python Notes and Notes on Spreadsheet Formulae and CAR, for example, both use Posterous as a simple way for me to blog my own notes on both (Python is a programming language) via a quick email (often drafted while on the move without internet access).

Posterous was chosen because it is very easy to publish and tag content, and I wanted to be able to access my notes based on tag (e.g. VLOOKUP) when I needed to remember how I’d used a particular formula or function.

Similarly, Edgbaston Election Campaign Exprenses and Hall Green Election Campaign Exprenses use Posterous as a quick way to publish and tag PDFs of election expense receipts from both constituencies (how this was done is explained here), allowing others to find expense details based on candidate, constituency, party or other details, and providing a space to post comments on findings or things to follow up.

Niche blogs – WordPress and Posterous

Although Online Journalism Blog began as ‘klogging’ it soon became something more, adding analysis, research, and contributions from other authors, and the number of users increased considerably. Blogger is not the most professional-looking of platforms, however (unless you’re prepared to do a lot of customisation), so I moved it to WordPress.com. And when I needed to install plugins for extra functionality I moved it again to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Finally, when the site was the victim of repeated hacking attempts I moved it to a WordPress MU (multi user) site hosted by Philip John’s Journal Local service, which provided technical support and a specialised suite of plugins.

If you want a powerful and professional-looking blogging platform it’s hard to beat WordPress.com, and if you want real control over how it works – such as installing plugins or customising themes – then a self-hosted WordPress site is, for me, your best option. I’d also recommend Journal Local if you want that combination of functionality and support.

If, however, you want to launch a niche blog quickly and functionality is not an issue then Posterous is an even better option, especially if there will be multiple contributors without technical skills. Council Coverage in Newspapers, for example, used Posterous to allow a group of people to publish the results of an investigation on my crowdsourced investigative journalism platform Help Me InvestigateThe Hospital Parking Charges Blog did the same for another investigation, but as it was only me publishing, I used WordPress.

Group blogs – Posterous and Tumblr

Posterous suits groups particularly well because members only need to send their post to a specific email address that you give them (such as post@yourblog.posterous.com) to be published on the blog.

It also handles multimedia and documents particularly well – when I was helping Podnosh‘s Nick Booth train a group of people with Flip cameras we used Posterous as an easy way for members of a group to instantly publish the video interviews they were doing by simply sending it to the relevant email address (Posterous will also cross-publish to YouTube and Twitter, simplifying those processes).

A few months ago Posterous launched a special ‘Groups’ service that publishes content in a slightly different way to make it easier for members to collaborate. I used this for another Help Me Investigate investigation - Recording Council Meetings – where each part of the investigation is a post/thread that users can contribute to.

Again, Posterous provides an easy way to do this – all people need to know is the email address to send their contribution to, or the web address where they can add comments to other posts.

If your contributors are more blog-literate and want to retain more control over their content, another option for group blogs is Tumblr. Brumblr, for example, is one group blog I belong to for Birmingham bloggers, set up by Jon Bounds. ‘We Love Michael Grimes‘ is another, set up by Pete Ashton, that uses Tumblr for people to post images of Birmingham’s nicest blogger.

Blogs for events – Tumblr, Posterous, CoverItLive

When I organised a Citizen Journalism conference in 2007, I used a WordPress blog to build up to it, write about related stories, and then link to reports on the event itself. Likewise, when later that year the NUJ asked me to manage a team of student members as they blogged that year’s ADM, I used WordPress for a group blog.

As the attendees of further events began to produce their own coverage, the platforms I chose evolved. For JEEcamp.com (no longer online), I used a self-hosted WordPress blog with an aggregation plugin that pulled in anything tagged ‘JEEcamp’ on blogs or Twitter. CoverItLive was also used to liveblog – and was then adopted successfully by attendees when they returned to their own news operations around the country (and also, interestingly, by Downing Street after they saw the tool being used for the event).

For the final JEEcamp I used Tumblr as an aggregator, importing the RSS feed from blog search engine Icerocket for any mention of ‘JEEcamp’.

In future I may experiment with the Posterous iPhone app’s new Events feature, which aggregates posts in the same location as you.

Aggregators – Tumblr

Sometimes you just want a blog to keep a record of instances of a particular trend or theme. For example, I got so sick of people asking “Is blogging journalism?” that I set up Is Ice Cream Strawberry?, a Tumblr blog that aggregates any articles that mention the phrases “Is blogging journalism”, “Are bloggers journalists” and “Is Twitter journalism” on Google News.

This was set up in the same way as detailed above, with the Feed URL box completed using the RSS feed from the relevant search on Google News or Google Blog Search (repeat for each feed).

Likewise, Online Journalism Jobs aggregates – you’ve got it – jobs in online journalism or that use online journalism skills. It pulls from the RSS feed for anything I bookmark on Delicious with the tag ‘ojjobs’ – but it can also be done manually with the Tumblr bookmark or email address, which is useful when you want to archive an entire job description that is longer than Delicious’s character limit.

Easy hyperlocal blogging – WordPress, Posterous and Tumblr

For a devoted individual hyperlocal blog WordPress seems the best option due to its power, flexibility and professionalism. For a hyperlocal blog where you’re inviting contributions from community members via email, Posterous may be better.

But if you want to publish a hyperlocal blog and have never had the time to do it justice, Tumblr provides a good way to make a start without committing yourself to regular, wordy updates. Boldmere High Street is my own token gesture – essentially a photoblog that I update from my mobile phone when I see something of interest – and take a photo – as I walk down the high street.

Personal blogs

As personal blogs tend to contain off-the-cuff observations, copies of correspondence or media, Posterous suits it well. Paul Bradshaw O/T (Off Topic) is mine: a place to publish things that don’t fit on any of the other blogs I publish. I use Posterous as it tends to be email-based, sometimes just keeping web-based copies of emails I’ve sent elsewhere.

It’s difficult to prescribe a platform for personal blogs as they are so… personal. If you talk best about your life through snatches of images and quotes, Tumblr will work well. I have a family Tumblr, for example, that pulls images and video from a family Flickr account, tweets from a family Twitter feed, video from a family YouTube account, and also allows me to publish snatches of audio or quotes.

You could use this to, for instance, create an approved-members-only Facebook page for the family so other family members can ‘follow’ their grandchildren, and publish updates from the Tumblr blog via RSS Graffiti. Facebook is, ultimately, the most popular personal blogging platform.

If it is hard to separate your personal life from your professional life, or your personal hobby involves playing with technology, WordPress may be a better choice.

And Blogger may be an easy way to bring together material from Google properties such as Picasa and Orkut.

Company blogs

Likewise, although Help Me Investigate’s blog started as two separate blogs on WordPress (one for company updates, the other for investigation tips), it now uses Posterous for both as it’s an easier way for multiple people to contribute.

This is because ease of publishing is more important than power – but for many companies WordPress is going to be the most professional and flexible option.

For some, Tumblr will best communicate their highly visual and creative nature. And for others, Posterous may provide a good place to easily publish documents and video.

Blogs – flexible enough for anything

What emerges from all the above is that blogs are just a publishing platform. There was a time when you had to customise WordPress, Typepad or Blogger to do what you wanted – from linkblogging and photoblogging to group blogs and aggregation. But those problems have since been solved by an increasing range of bespoke platforms.

Social bookmarking platforms and Twitter made it easier to linkblog; Tumblr made it easier to photoblog or aggregate RSS feeds. Posterous lowered the barrier to make group blogging as easy as sending an email. CoverItLive piggybacked on Twitter to aggregate live event coverage. And Facebook made bloggers of everyone without them realising.

A blog can now syndicate itself across multiple networks: Tumblr and Posterous make it easy to automatically cross-publish links and media to Twitter, YouTube and any other media-specific platform. RSS feeds can be pulled from Flickr, Delicious, YouTube or any of dozens of other services into a Facebook page or a WordPress widget.

What is important is not to be distracted by the technology, but focus on the people who will have to use it, and what they want to use it for.

To give a concrete example: I was once advising an organisation who wanted to publish their work online and help young people get their work out there. The young people used mobile phones (Blackberrys) and were on Facebook, but the organisation also wanted the content created by those young people to be seen by potential funders, in a professional context.

I advised them to:

  • Set up a moderated Posterous so that it would cross-publish to individuals’ Facebook pages (so there would be instant feedback for those users rather than it be published in an isolated space online that their friends had to go off and find);
  • Give the Posterous blog email address to the young people so they could use it to send in their work (making it easy to use on a device they were comfortable with);
  • Then to set up a separate ‘official’ WordPress site that pulled in the Posterous feed into a side-widget alongside the more professional, centrally placed, content (meeting the objectives of the organisation).

This sounds more technically complex than it is in practice, and the key thing is that it makes publishing as easy as possible: for the young users of the service, they only had to send images and comments to an email address. For members of the organisation they only had to write blog posts. Everything else, once set up, was automated. And free.

Many people hesitate before blogging, thinking that their effort has to be right first time. It doesn’t. Going through these blogs I counted around 35 that I’ve either created or been involved in. Many of those were retired when they ceased to be useful; some were transferred to new platforms. Some changed their names, some were deleted. Increasingly, they are intended from the start to have a limited shelf life. But every one has taught me something.

And those are just my experiences – how have you used blogs in different ways? And how has it changed?

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March 02 2011

11:00

January 28 2011

07:24

While you’re waiting for Yahoo! to make its mind up about Delicious, sign up to Trunk.ly

Despite the incredible work done on the spreadsheet comparing social bookmarking services I am yet to find one that does everything that I use Delicious for (background here). One service I have been using, however, is Trunk.ly.

Once you’ve imported your existing bookmarks from Delicious Trunk.ly stores any new ones you bookmark on Delicious, keeping the backup up to date. In addition it can store any links you’ve shared on Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and any RSS feed.

It is essentially a search engine for links you may have shared at some point – but its technical limitations stop it from being much more. For example, there do not appear to be any RSS feeds for tags, and there is no facility to combine tags to find items that are, for example, tagged with ‘privacy’ and ‘tools’. (It would also be nice if it tagged links shared on Twitter with any hashtags in the tweet)

That said if, like me, you want to continue using Delicious but with an ongoing backup in case, Trunk.ly appears a sound choice.

January 20 2011

12:00

Organising your journalism: Springpad

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with a new web service and mobile app called Springpad. LifeHacker describes it as a “super advanced personal assistant”. And I can see particular applications for journalists and editors. Here’s how it works:

Investigating on the move, and online

In Springpad you create a ‘notebook’ for each of your projects. You can then place Tasks, Notes, bookmarks and other objects in those notebooks.

For a journalist, the notebook format lends itself well to projects or investigations that you’re working on, especially as ideas occur to you on the move. As new tasks occur to you (‘I must interview that guy’, or ‘follow up that lead’) you add them to the relevant notebook (i.e. project or investigation) from the mobile app – or the website.

If you’re browsing the web and find a useful resource, you can use the Springpad bookmarklet to bookmark it, tag it, and add it to the relevant notebook(s).

And any emails or documents you receive that relate to the project you can forward to your Springpad account.

What’s particularly useful is the way you can choose to make public entire notebooks or individual items within them. So if you want others to be able to access your work, you can do so easily.

There are also a range of other features – such as events, contacts, barcode recognition, search, and a Chrome bookmarklet – some of which are covered in this video:

How I use it

Springpad seems to me a particularly individually-oriented tool rather than something that could be used for coordinating large groups (where Basecamp, for example, is better). None of its constituent elements – tagging, to-do lists, notes, etc. – are unusual, but it’s the combination, and the mobile application, that works particularly well.

If you have a number of projects on the go at any one time you tend to have to a) constantly remember what needs to be done on each of them; b) when; c) with whom; and d) keep track of documents relating to it. The management of these is often spread across To Do lists, a calendar, contacts book, and filing or bookmarks.

What Springpad effectively does is bring those together to one place on your mobile: the app (although at the moment there’s no real reason to use it for contacts). This means you can make notes when they occur to you, and in one place. The fact that this is both synced with the website and available on the app when offline gives it certain advantages over other approaches.

That said, I’ve adopted a few strategies that make it more useful:

  • Assign a date to every Task – even if it’s in 3 months’ time. This turns it into a calendar, and you can see how many things you need to get done on any given day, and shuffle accordingly.
  • Tasks should be disaggregated – i.e. producing an investigation will involve interviews, research, follow ups, and so on. Each of these is a separate task.
  • Start the day by looking at your tasks for that day – complete a couple of small ones and then focus on a bigger one.
  • If new ideas related to a Task occur to you, add them to that task as a note (these are different to standalone Notes). This is particularly useful for tasks that are weeks in the future: by the time they come around you can have a number of useful notes attached to it.
  • Use tags to differentiate between sub-projects within a notebook.
  • Install the bookmarklet on your phone’s browser so you can bookmark project-related webpages on the go.
  • Add the email address to your contacts so you can email key documents and correspondence to your account (sadly at the moment you still need to then open the app or website to tag and file them, but I’m told they are working on you being able to email-and-file at once).

Not a replacement for Delicious

You can import all of your Delicious bookmarks into Springpad, but I’ve chosen not to, partly because the site lacks much of the functionality that I’m looking for in a Delicious replacement, but also because I see it as performing a different task: I use Delicious as a catch-all, public filing system for anything that is or might be relevant to what I do and have done. Springpad is about managing what I’m doing right now, which means being more selective about the bookmarks that I save in it. Flooding it with almost 10,000 bookmarks would probably reduce its usefulness.

For the same reason I don’t see it as particularly comparable to Evernote. Dan Gold has an extensive guide explaining why he switched from Evernote to Springpad, and simplicity again plays a large role. It’s also worth reading to see how Dan uses the tool.

Perhaps the best description of the tool is as a powerful To Do list – allowing you to split projects apart while also keeping those parts linked to other items through notes, tags and categories.

Early days – room for improvement

The tool is a bit rough around the edges at the moment. Navigation of the app could be a lot quicker: to get from a list of all Tasks to those within one notebook takes 3 clicks at the moment – that’s too many.

Privacy could be more granular, allowing password-protection for instance. And the options to add contacts and events seem to be hidden away under ‘Add by type’ (in fact, the only way to add an event at the moment appears to be to sync with your Google account and then use a calendar app to add a new event through your Google calendar, or to go to an existing event in your app and create a new one from there).

The bookmarklet is slow to work, and alerts only come via RSS feed (you could use Feedburner to turn these into email alerts by the way).

That said, this is the first project management that I’ve actually found effective in getting stuff out of my head and onto virtual paper. Long may that continue.

December 17 2010

23:39

4 Minute Roundup: Yahoo Prefers Delicious Sale to 'Sunset'

news21 small.jpg

Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

In this week's 4MR podcast, I look at the controversy surrounding Yahoo possibly closing down social bookmarking site Delicious, which it bought five years ago. An internal slide was leaked showing Delicious was on the "sunset" list (to be closed), but after an outcry on Twitter and other social networks, Yahoo said it would look for an outside home for Delicious, meaning it could open the way for a sale. I talked with ReadWriteWeb co-editor Marshall Kirkpatrick about the future of Delicious, and even photo-sharing site Flickr in the wake of chaos at Yahoo.

Check it out!

4mrbareaudio121710.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick:

marshalldelicious final.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

marshallwithhatbig.jpg

Here are some links to related sites and stories for the podcast:

Yahoo Trying To Unload Del.icio.us, Not Shut It Down at TechCrunch

Yahoo Has Hit Rock Bottom And Is In Absolute Disarray at TechCrunch

What's Next for Delicious? at Delicious blog

R.I.P. Delicious - You Were So Beautiful to Me at ReadWriteWeb

Now Yahoo! Says Delicious Will Live On...Somewhere Else at ReadWriteWeb

Painful or not, Yahoo is doing what it needs to do at GigaOm

Yahoo! hopes purchase of 'social media' company Del.icio.us is del.ight.ful weapon vs. Google from Business 2.0 in 2005

Delicious entry on Wikipedia

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about the future of Delicious:




What should happen to social bookmark service Delicious?customer surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

news21 small.jpg

Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

December 16 2010

22:21

Leaving Delicious – which replacement service will you use? (Comment call)

Leaving Delicious - other services already being bookmarked on my network

Delicious, it appears, is going to be closed down. I am hugely sad about this – Delicious is possibly the most useful tool I use as a journalist, academic and writer. Not just because of the way it makes it possible for me to share, store and retrieve information very easily – but because of the network of other users doing just the same whose overlapping fields of information I can share.

I follow over 100 people in my Delicious network, and my biggest requirement of any service that I might switch to is that as many of those people move there too.

So I’d like to ask: if Delicious does shut down, where will you move to? Publish2? Pinboard.in? Diigo? Google Reader (sorry, not functional enough for me)?  Or something else? (Here are some ideas) Please post your comments.

October 14 2010

19:48

October 13 2010

18:00

Behind-the-scenes innovation: How NPR’s Project Argo is making life more efficient for its bloggers

Remember the days before the roundup post existed? Neither do I. [Laura's making me feel old. —Ed.] The roundup is a longstanding staple of the blogosphere, an expected post for loyal readers who want a rundown of the best new stuff around the web on a given topic. But can a staple still have room for innovation? Over at Argo Network, the new blog network at NPR, the leadership team is giving it a shot on the back end. They’ve designed a workflow that makes it easier for their bloggers to cull through links and produce a roundup post. The result: a simpler process for the blogger, and added benefit for the reader. It’s no technological revolution, but an example of the kind of small improvement that can make it easier to share work with the audience.

“We realized the workflow inefficiency of how a blogger would create a link roundup — copying and pasting URLs from places,” Matt Thompson, Argo editorial project manager, told me. “We were thinking about workflow and how can we make this as easy as possible. How do we take an action the blogger is making regularly and make it more efficient?”

Thompson puts workflow innovation in the broader context of the Argo Project, which NPR see as an experiment in form. The Argo team sees blogging — or online serial storytelling, as Thompson put it — as a medium still in its infancy. There’s still time, they say, to think about how it can be improved, including how to do it more efficiently. And they plan to release the new tools that come out of their experimentation to the general public. The team’s developer, Marc Lavallee, said they’re trying to create tools that fit the workflow of the lone blogger. “Most of what we build will be the type of thing a person running a solo site would find useful,” Lavallee said. “When you’re thinking about a product, it’s so much easier to say: ‘One person is behind this blog. Would I do that every day? No? Then let’s not build that.’”

The roundup tool is a good example of the Argo team’s thinking. As bloggers go through their links each day, scrolling through stories and posts looking for the most interesting stuff on their beat, they tag the links using Delicious. Their Delicious accounts are synced up with the Argo’s backend (WordPress modified using Django) to match up the tags. The backend pulls in the links, letting bloggers quickly put together a nice-looking post without all the copy/pasting and formatting. Thompson made a screen-capture video of the whole process, which you can check out below. Here’s a sample of what the roundup would look like published.

Using Delicious as a link-post builder isn’t new, of course, but Argo’s version integrates specifically into their sidebar, a special WordPress post type, and Lavallee’s code.

The tagging tool also feeds into the sites’ topic pages. Those of us who spend all day on the Internet encounter great links all the time that aren’t right for a full post, or maybe even for a spot in a roundup post — but for people interested in a particular topic, it could still be valuable. The Argo process lets bloggers make use of those links with the same tagging function, making the site’s content pages a bit better than a purely automated feed. Check out the ocean acidification page over at the Argo blog Climatide (covering issues related to climate change and the ocean on Cape Cod) — in the sidebar, “Latest Ocean Acidification Links” contains (at this writing, at least) links pulled in through the Delicious tagging process. Others are drawn from Daylife or handmade Twitter lists around certain topics.

Thompson is passionate about contextual news, so I asked him if his topic pages might serve, perhaps, a more noble function than driving search traffic, which is arguably why most news organizations have topic pages at all. Thompson was quick to point out that the Argo topic pages are still new; he’s working with bloggers on their “tagging hygiene,” he says. And he admits that others at Argo is a bit “skeptical of topics pages,” which “is probably a good thing.” But the pages have potential, when built out, to let readers drill down into narrow-but-important topics in line with the goal of the blog. “These pages aren’t just sort of random machine driven pages,” Thompson said. The humanized topic pages help Argo bloggers get their sites, as Thompson puts it, to be “an extension of their mind and their thinking.”

Photo by Benny Mazur used under a Creative Commons license.

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