Entries from December 2008 ↓

Nerd + Parent = Twisney

As part of my family’s holiday break, we went to Disney World. It’s such a fun place and in my continuing quest to be the nerdiest possible parent, I wanted to try some different ways to document our trip. I decided to try out the citizen journalism-eque Twisney.com site. It’s Twitter for Disney fans… and actually you can use Twitter to post to Twisney.

I decided to give it a try by sending tweets (by adding @twisney to my tweets on Twitter) and emailing photos to the site (twisney@twisney.com). For some reason I was the only person at Disney World using Twisney so it turned into a big Reeves Family adventure on the front page of the website. You can visit our posts from here or if you go to the main site for now, our last 30 Twisney posts show up on the front of Twisney.com. I think there are some very creative ways we could use this kind of technology for something more news-worthy. When photos show up on the Twisney map, they also go to Twisney’s Flickr page. It was easy and quick to use and could be a handy concept during breaking news or a big news event (like a massive rally or sporting event). I realize my family thinks I’m a huge nerd for using Twisney, but it was fun to give it a try!

By the way, Twisney was put together by a Disney fan named Scott Mitchell who is from Naples, Florida (at least that’s where he lived when he registered the domain). The site got a bunch of buzz back in the Spring and Summer… and clearly the thrill is wearing off. Fewer people are using it. But it’s a fantastic project. It got some props back in May if you’re interested in reading a bit about it from the Wall Street Journal.

On a quest

In my ongoing quest to help find ways to assist local newsrooms in saving money and continuing good journalism, I’m trying to take full advantage of my time as a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. So far I was able to complete a major collaborative effort between four newsrooms on election night and three newsrooms leading up to the election. I was able to help put together a massive webcast and community party to help bring a closer connection between the institute and Columbia, MO. I’ve spent a bunch of time trying to expand and enhance the connection between RJI and the Missouri School of Journalism faculty and students. I’ve also worked on trying to build new connections between the two university entities and businesses that can really help our industry. I have students who are wrapping up a project with CBS Mobile and CBS interactive (which is currently going through a merger with CNET). I’m always looking for new ways to connect with Adobe and Apple. I’m playing with a number of open source CMS to find a solution for my journalistic needs.

But that isn’t enough. I learned a lot in our previous Smart Decision 08 project. I don’t want to lose momentum… So I’m working on creating a way to bubble up great journalism in the thick of the failing economy. I’d like to launch a collaborative effort based on the economy and try to become a central hub of information and collaboration in a time of uncertainty and need. Here are my initial thoughts that have come through many meetings and late noodling before I fall asleep at night:

1) This site needs to launch soon – I’m thinking about building a blog system (possibly WordPress?) at first and then consider building something more extensive in Drupal as our needs grow.
2) I’d like to launch it by asking as many people in the mid-Missouri area to tell us (the journalists) what is important to them. I want them to lead us towards the stories we need to tell.
3) This could be a great opportunity to team up with some of the journalism students who are in the earlier classes. They could help gather simple evergreen information that can help make the site really helpful for our community
4) I need to play with my own server space until the university is willing to open up a server space outside of our firewall that allows us to play with open source platforms. I’ve said this for at least two years. I haven’t won this battle yet.

While I try to noodle on these ideas, I’m packing for a big family trip to Florida so I can see my parents and enjoy the beach. I realize I never brain dump enough on this blog and it will be my resolution next year to share my thoughts more often and openly as I try to make the most out of my fellowship time.

At the same time, I hope I can use my university knowledge to help guide my fellow fellows Jane Stevens and Matt Thompson’s projects into the future beyond their fellowship. It would be wonderful to take advantage of their hard work and help find ways to institutionalize their ideas into the workflow of our newsrooms. It’s going to be an amazing four months. At the same time I hope to continue to work with my other fellow fellows (Bill Densmore and Mike Fancher) and faculty fellow (Margaret Duffy) to take full advantage of all of our amazing projects!

Now I can’t stop

I’ve talked about social media here and in many different presentations at the Missouri School of Journalism, conferences and training seminars. I feel like all of my ramblings are a little more legitimate as more and more journalists debate on whether these trends are good or bad. Obviously I plant myself into the camp that this is good.

Feel free to view my PowerPoint slideshow.

A slide from my presentation

A slide from my presentation

Twitter isnt the end-all be-all for journalism, but I do see it as a growing news tool. The trick, you need to be in there to understand how it works. For the first time, I recommended to all of my students that they should join a few social networks and learn how they work. I started out in Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, YouTube, Motionbox, Vimeo (I could go on) for my personal needs online and I’ve transitioned that use into ways I can use them professionally. You cannot jump in and think you know how it works. That’s how you end up finding reports like this one. It is so easy to fall into a culture of fear. Journalists shouldn’t allow themselves to do that. I think we should act like journalists, investigate these tools and see how they can be helpful. People are using them. Let’s see how we can use them to our advantage to deliver better news to our markets.

Now I’ll try to stop ranting.