Entries from March 2012 ↓

Jumping into the new

I love new technology. I can’t stop myself from signing up and giving a new application or website a try. It’s a part of my curiosity¬†as we continue to look for new ways to help journalism grow into its future. I’m often really excited about the new because I often see the great potential a new tool can offer.

Google+ had me super excited when I watched its engagement at its launch last year. Since then, my newsroom has harnessed its vast power through video hangouts. We’re talking to people in our market and beyond about topics of the day live each day Monday through Friday. I love it. This week I signed up to check out On The Air – a tool that claims to be a bigger, more reaching concept for broadcasting webcam chats. I look forward to seeing how it works when it launches. Another site I’m checking out: Twylah. It takes your trending topics on Twitter and makes it into a personal brand page. I signed up for my page and plan to add my newsroom’s soon.

Today I’m talking to members of the New York Press Association. First, about my ongoing collection of free (and almost free) online tools for journalism. I try to update the list at least two or three times a year. (And I’m always happy to add more links if you see something you think should be included.) Second, I’m talking about why I think it’s worth your time to jump into new technology and explore. My tech curiosity made me the tech geek I am today. I love this stuff! I hope to encourage more journalist to learn to play and have fun when it comes to growing our skills as journalists!

Why I avoid tribes at SXSW

This year was my fourth time attending the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. Four times isn’t that long but it is long enough to assess some of the changes that have come with the experience.

For years I have bragged about the festival’s awesomeness. To me it’s like the Online News Association conference but with people who have similar interest across dozens and dozens and possibly hundreds of different career directions. The core interest in technology and innovation is similar across the board. I love that so much. Tools like Group Me made it easier to stay in touch with friends inside your already existing tribes: career path, friend history… heck I had a Group Me of people I only see during SXSW. Tools like these make it easier to stick within your comfort zone.

One tool that emerged during the festival that tries to make it easier to discovery serendipitous meetings through technology was Highlight. It shows you people you randomly passed by during the day and gives you a look at their background. I happened to be in rooms with fascinating people. It ranged from scientists and space engineers to reporters and authors. Highlight will tell you if you have similar interests based on your Facebook profile and connections. It was cool to discover people I’ve never met who are friends with my Facebook friends. I talked to a couple of people through the tool to say hi and introduce myself. (A passive introduction is by “highlighting” someone you might want to meet.) The challenge of actually talking face to face with people you’ve highlighted is the fact that by the time you have a moment to look at the app and see who are the interesting people in the area, they’ve already left and you have to go above and beyond effort to find a chance to meet this person face to face again. (Oh, and I continued my #PowerFriends power strip friend-maker. I love meeting people by sharing hashtag-based electricity.)

That’s why I kind of miss pre-app SXSW. (Yeah, Twitter existed… but Foursquare was just getting started three years ago! My how times have changed.) My best moments were and remain the random eye contact conversations in the hallway, while you charge your phone or wait to order a beverage at the bar. My favorite meetings have always happened this way and it happened again this year. I met brilliant librarians, filmmakers and leaders of popular social media tools that I love to use.

This tribal SXSW is probably going to continue. But I will focus on breaking through it and I highly recommend working outside of your comfort zone when attending a massive conference like this one. I tried very hard to balance the combination of sessions, serendipitous meetings and reunions. The more years I put under my belt and the larger this event gets, the harder it will be to keep my focus on new experiences. But for now, SXSW remains worth it to me.