Entries Tagged 'Brain dump' ↓

Checking in to locations… media… and ideas

Check in services first came to my attention when I attended the SXSW Interactive festival in 2009. Foursquare announced a cellphone-based tool that let you “check-in” to your location and let people know where you visited. The more you visited, the more credibility you would gain inside the game. If you check in enough to one spot, you become the Mayor. If you check in enough times based on Foursquare-prescribed settings, you earn “badges.” I have collected 44 so far since I first officially checked into Foursquare in October 2009. (I didn’t join during SXSW because it didn’t allow check ins in my town… In October of that year I started to pretend Chicago was Columbia because I just wanted to play with the technology. Foursquare opened up to all locations in January 2010.)

I like checking in. I love the badges. I love being a mayor. (I fluctuate mayorships between 23 and 26 locations.) I am really busy with work in my newsroom, campus and taking my kids all over the place for activities. I rack up the points, the badges and the mayorships. I love it. I also love the simplicity of sharing my location on Twitter or Facebook if I think there’s a reason behind it (to talk about a sale, concert, activity or something else my friends or followers would like). I’ve met people through Foursquare by checking in and finding other people at that location. I’ve met up with people I know by discovering they were in the same spot as I was just by checking in. It’s all a bit self-centered, but I enjoy the fun behind it. I’m obviously competitive and this is a simple competition to play throughout the day. During SXSW 2010, I discovered the joys of Gowalla and blogged my thoughts about it after the conference. I clearly love this stuff.

But I hit a snag last summer when I had knee surgery. I was stuck in a chair with ice on my leg. I couldn’t check in. But that’s when I discovered the point behind tools liks Miso and Get Glue. You have a chance to check into the media you consume (and with Get Glue, you can also check into the wine you drink) and earn badges. I’m a big Get Glue fan and I’ve earned many “stickers.” You can show them off on Twitter and Facebook just like the location-based tools, but Get Glue also encourages you to play with the site and you can earn real stickers. (Although I’ve requested my stickers a couple of times and they’ve never shown up at my house. I do know other Get Glue users who did get their stickers.) I loved the chance to continue with my checking in obsession but with different material. I instantly envisioned opportunities for broadcast news outlets to encourage people to watch the show live by offering stickers.

But rewind a few months earlier and the Huffington Post started offering badges of honor for people who interacted with the site at a certain level. The Type-A Parent site started doing the same thing recently where members can earn “achievements.”

I’m listing all of these earning opportunities because I think I might have an idea to help engage my local audience as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign season. I’ve written before about how I have learned from failure of my Smart Decision ’08 project where I combined newsrooms to deliver an incredibly deep amount of information leading up to the 2008 election. The biggest problem was I never found a way to engage with news consumer and I could not get people who were interested in educating themselves through out site to participate and share. But what if I worked with a community of engaged citizens and used their help to encourage other people in our market to join in with the help of social awards. These would be badges of honor that would prove a person is educating himself or herself leading up to the election. Those badges could be posted on Twitter, Facebook or even their personal websites. I think it could be a really fun way to share, collect and encourage news consumers to participate in an election project. I’m just throwing this idea out there… but I want to find someone who wants to play! This could grow into a really fun project.

I need to walk the walk

This is the time of the semester when I meet with my students one-on-one to assess their career goals and help them best develop their online portfolio to get them the job they want. I range from helping them build a website on a free tool to teaching them how to set up and manage a server – usually building a WordPress site but I have at least one student who wants to hand build a site using Dreamweaver. Each time I speak to a student, I remind them to document the work they are doing in our newsroom. The more they verbalize their work, the more interested a hiring manager will be when he or she sees this potential employee’s knowledge.

It’s a great idea, right? So why don’t I do that more often.

Obviously it’s because life is busy. But I should walk the walk if I’m going to talk the talk to my students.

Right now I’m helping launch a new content management system (CMS) for my newsroom. At the same time, we had one of the greatest engagement experiences with our audience during a major near-blizzard in our area. I blogged about the snow storm engagement on PBS’s MediaShift blog and I plan to write even more later in the week about that experience. But while I build the CMS, I’m thinking about where to go with our Facebook engagement. It’s really grown in the last month and I want to keep it going.

Now I’m pondering my next steps. There are two questions swimming in my head. Do we want to extend our brand into individual fan pages for our on air personalities? Do we want to start holding contests and other opportunities where our Facebook fans can win something if they click the “like” button?

Contests on Facebook
I talked to one of my favorite Facebook groups about my personal challenge when it comes to Facebook and offering winnings to people who like the page. I’ve seen newsrooms offer the chance for a free iPad and jump 14,000 fans. But I question how many of those fans will actually engage with the page. I realize a huge jump of 14,000 additional people would find at least a couple hundred of those fans engaging. But for some reason I love the organically grown community. You know, the kind that forms naturally because of similar interests and cares. The kind where you build a relationship that is founded on information and communication. I kind of see these prize drawings as a bribery. I’m saying bribery is bad, I just question that it’s the best option for a community’s foundation. In the last year, my newsroom’s Facebook page has grown from less than 500 to more than 5,600 fans. It’s a wonderful natural growth that really bloomed thanks to our snow storm coverage.

Personalities on Facebook
We have a couple of on air personalities who are already finding great interaction with our newsroom’s main Facebook page and their personal pages. I don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but I wonder if I’m missing anything at this point. We have a strong Facebook news page, but we also have one anchor who is getting even better engagement from viewers who are her Facebook friends. These are people who she friended as viewers instead of viewers who clicked “like” on a fan page. We’re working on security permissions so she feels comfortable asking questions en masse but also posting pictures of her family. I might continue my “organic” feel with this situation. Our hub of Facebook delivery will remain our current fan page while our on air personalities will be asked to use their personal pages with security or create a fan page if they don’t want to use their personal profile. I think as Facebook continues to change, I’ll continue to change how we reach out and connect with our viewers.

I also reached out on Facebook to ask many people who are working in newsrooms… It’s incredible to see the many different ways Facebook is managed (or not managed.) I’ll try to walk my walk and document our successes and failures more often.

Big things for 2011

I’ve had a chance to wrap up 2010 with a great group of students followed by an awesome winter break with the family. We celebrated the holidays with both sides of our family (we held a mini-Christmas with my husband’s side of the family followed by the full thing with my side). We also got to take the kids to Disney World for four days. It was awesome… and when cell phone connections were working properly, I had a chance to pick up a few Gowalla stamps of the parks and some of the rides. (I was bummed I couldn’t connect inside the Magic Kingdom where they had a holiday-only Cinderella’s Castle stamp.) I did snag a stamp for all four parks… and one of my favorite rides, Toy Story Mania.

I also tried to play with the many items you can collect and trade in the game. All in all, most spots had dozens of Mickey hats. Once you collected a hat, it was tough to find many others. In the end, I collected a Mickey hat, a hitchhiking ghost, a tour bus and a partner statue. I had hoped to find some extra surprises with the park’s Gowalla experience, but maybe because I had a hard time with my AT&T service, I didn’t find it.

Now that I got to enjoy my fun and games, it’s time to get back to work. I’m co-teaching a class on campus that is known as the journalism for non-journalism majors class. My partner in crime, Jake Sherlock, and I plan to bring as many perspectives and views of the industry as possible. I have a great group of students signed up for my capstone class and I’m fleshing out some great projects for the students. My newsroom is also working on launching a new content management system. This is a really exciting change for us!

I’m also planning on attending at least three conferences this year: SXSWi, BlogHer bet and BlogHer ’11. I’m trying to take some of my journalism focus and look at the many new ways I can expand it. I have so many students who are learning their core skills can be used in many non-traditional ways. I hope I can arm myself with more knowledge to help guide them beyond the newsroom experience. So while I’m working on teaching and helping run the KOMU news, I’m hoping to continue to expand my views. It’s challenging to see everything out there if I’m just in the newsroom working with in a more traditional setting. Luckily I work in an environment that allows me to try to innovate.

So, grab your thinking hat and join me while I try to figure out how we can take all this vast knowledge of the changing world and spread the word. My first step towards that goal is helping launch a Social Media Club in our town. I’m looking forward to helping share knowledge in my community and helping grow a more converged alliance of people in my area who understand the growing power of how communication and sharing is changing!

ONA “aha” moment

I’m attending the Online News Association conference this week… and I have an hour to decompress before the next meetup. I thought I’d brain dump a few things about the experience and lessons I learned today.

In the last session I attended, I sat near a woman who said she felt this was the first conference she attended where journalists are positive about the industry. One of my friends mentioned “journalism is NOT dead!” when he checked into the conference on Foursquare.

We’re feeling kind of good here.

To add to it, I feel really lucky I get to touch two worlds inside journalism – higher education and professional practice. I get to attend presentations and meet with really smart people while thinking along both of these worlds. What can I share with my students? What can I use in my newsroom? I leaves my brain spinning and with very little room to remember the names of people I’ve met. (Sorry.)

But I wanted to share an “aha” moment that I know a lot of other online journalists have already had… But it took me to attend a Google search presentation and then another panel on analytics to convince me to make a change in how I run my news website and how I teach. I need to teach trends.

Trends. Why am I behind on this? Oh, I knew it existed, but hadn’t spent time to think about its potential. I know I can’t use the excuse that I’m busy. All of our newsrooms are busy. I need to think about trends because there are search engines and tools out there that could HAND me access to more engagement with my audience. These are tools that could give my students the tools to get that next job and better engage with their audience when they move to a new community.

It’s a little “aha” moment where I had to wake myself out of the “analytics can tell me what I need to know” attitude.

I walked up to Will Sullivan (aka Journerdism) who is running for the ONA 2011 Board of Directors and is a 2010-11 Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. He was at the St. Louis Post Dispatch before the fellowship and I casually asked if his paper was watching search trends. And of course he said yes. I’m so thankful I attended this event to remind me about tools that are out there that can help! Of course search statistics don’t mean everything. But it is something I should be doing for my newsroom to help move us forward and do our very best in covering our market.

It was a good “aha” moment.

(For those of you who are curious, I plan to spend more time with Google Trends. Also, check out the Google Insights page. That’s how I created the trends grid above. It shows the ebb and flow of search about the Online News Association since 2004 in the United States. It’s not the only tool out there, but it’s pretty fun to play with.)

Exploring the New Facebook Groups

I was thinking about going to sleep tonight… when something changed. A former student of mine invited me to a rolling conversation on Facebook. Rolling you ask? Well, Facebook changed in the last 24 hours.

Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team announced a number of new changes that include being able to download the content you’ve posted to your profile and the development of groups. I asked my new Facebook group on Social Journalism about a link that summarizes the changes, and Craig Kanalley from The Huffington Post shared his explanation. Groups have existed before on Facebook. But this time, it’s alive.

I’m not kidding.

I was going to go to sleep. Instead I jumped in and found a lively, flowing conversation underway. It’s hard to explain, so I took a screen capture. (I asked permission first.)

Let me explain what you’re looking at. This isn’t your normal wall post. When you post, you just hit enter and it pops up. Seconds later, another person’s post pops up. It’s live. And you don’t have to be friends with that person to have the conversation. I’ve always said Facebook is a space where I can communicate with people I know and I’ve met face-to-face while Twitter is a place for me to have great conversations with people I don’t know. Well. This changes it all. For the last hour or so, I’ve had a conversation with people I know on Twitter but the conversation is on Facebook. This conversation is hosted through a tool I played around with during SXSW earlier this year called Hot Potato (I an assuming the live chat function is what makes this new group experience possible). The Hot Potato concept was creating specific online “rooms” where people could have Twitter-like conversations but only people who are interested in the topic would read it. That’s what’s happening with the Facebook group concept. I had envisioned Hot Potato as a great thing for conversations during conferences so my Twitter feed wouldn’t be so loud. Mark Zuckerberg saw it in a wider perspective.

So one person on this new Facebook group asked me if I know what kind of implications this brings to journalism. My initial reaction is this is an enhancement to the current Facebook fan/like pages. It’s an opportunity to talk about topics in real time with people who have similar interests… or a similar newsroom. I immediately created a new group for my newsroom. I run a mommy blog Facebook page and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the pros and cons of adding a group to the page as well.

There are different types of groups. The one I played in tonight is closed – that means I was invited in and you need an invite to participate. There are also open groups and secret groups. The open and closed groups are searchable. The secret groups are only known by those people who are invited. I created an open group for my newsroom and one I might use for current and former students of my #jenclass. The amount of oversight for these groups may be impossible. I’m not saying that is good or bad at this point. I am curious to see what could happen when my “traditional” newsroom hooks up with the general public with the new Facebook group experience. I am hoping we could create a new even more personal interactive experience.

*One quick warning – if you get invited to a new group, you’re immediately in the group. You can remove yourself or change the permissions of the group. I immediately turned off email notifications. That helped save an incredible mess inside my inbox as the conversations got really rolling online tonight.*

Time and knowledge

I hold two jobs (professor and newsroom manager), I have two kids, two dogs, a husband and the drive to try and stay healthy. Each of those focuses require time and energy. On most days I’m juggling all of those responsibilities at the same time. I am lucky to have access to technology that helps me keep track of a lot of things at the same time. I’m constantly trying to modify my workflow to get better al all of these focuses. Often someone comes up to me and asks how I do everything that I do… I often just say, “I don’t know.” But there are some things I can explain… especially with the technology I use to back me up.

First, I own an iPhone ,an iPad and a Mac Powerbook. I subscribe to MobileMe so all of my calendar items match up no matter what tool I’m using to enter an event or responsibility. I do everything I can to not double book meetings. Using a $100 subscription to MobileMe seems a bit expensive, but it has saved me many, many times from overbooking or double booking my world. My calendar is organized by work, work outs, personal events, my children and specific roles I hold (events based on the classes I teach and my web responsibilities are examples). I haven’t merged my husband’s schedule into my calendar, but I’ve considered doing that as well. I recently added a category where I can put assignment desk story ideas into my own calendar because I’ve noticed my newsroom tends to lose news releases and scheduled events when I’m not tightly babysitting the paper version of our assignment files. The calendar system isn’t perfect, but I can easily see my busy schedule and try to keep up with it. (Of course everything I schedule can change at the drop of a hat if breaking news happens in our newsroom.)

My phone allows me to keep up with email as best I can. I also use Google Voice to get transcribed voicemails sent to me as a text message and as an email. This helps me respond to voicemails since I’m famously terrible at responding to them. This change in my life workflow has made me a better communicator with people who are phone communicators.

I tend to be more of a text-based communicator. I get swamped with email, so I don’t always respond fast enough for email senders’ liking. Quick conversations are better accomplished as text messages or Twitter direct messages. That’s because I am running around a lot during the day. I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and focus on an inbox. I usually have time in the morning to really respond to email and time after my kids are in bed at night. That means there’s a big chunk in the middle of the day when I’m not glued to my inbox. I’m glued to my phone, just not my inbox.

I’ve tried to fix my email problem by creating a specific semester-based email account for my students (I’ve created one for the fall, spring and summer semesters). That way I can notice email alerts from them and respond quicker. Since I look at my email on my phone the most, I have all of my inboxes open at the same time so it’s easily to see when there’s a new email in my class inbox. I’m not responding quickly to every person who sends me mail, but I want my students to get priority, and I don’t really want to create folders during each semester… I guess I’m lazy like that.

While I’m juggling all of the information coming in via email, text and social media (I mainly follow chatter on Twitter and Facebook), I try to keep up with industry discussions so I can stay up to date and help my students follow the many developments in this changing media world. I have “liked” newsrooms, blogs and other organizations across the country so I can see the updates in my Facebook news feed. I also keep track of the latest posts on Twitter along with specific topics I can follow thanks to Twitter lists. I’m working on a quick post on how I share all of those links I read and peruse with my students. I promise to share a link here when that happens.

As for keeping up with a list of to do’s… I’m still working on making that work. I have tried Things, Remember the Milk, Google Tasks, iCal To Do lists… But so far, I haven’t found the right way to really encorporate a list into my current life workflow. I’m hoping I find that perfect solution soon!

Do I keep up with everything? No. Are my eyes and ears open to a lot of conversations and activities at the same time? Yes! And I know the constant juggle of life and work that I can do with the help of technology helps make that possible.

Watching from afar

I didn’t get to attend… The many jobs I hold and a low travel budget kept me from attending the Block by Block Community News Summit. It was a chance for many small community news start-ups to meet together, get to know each other and talk about the future of journalism. I may not have attended in person, but technology allowed me to keep an eye on the event from afar. My favorite mode of watching was the #bxb2010 hashtag. I loved it so much I archived it with TweetBackup so I can look back and find the many teachable moments shared during the meeting in Chicago. I also kept track of it from a live feed and live blog through the Reynolds Journalism Institute (where I had a fellowship in 2008-09). The leader of the event, 2009-10 RJI fellow Michele McClellan, also kept a Block by Block blog.

I enjoyed the discussion during the event, but I think I’m even more interested in the aftermath. Many of the attendees and journalism organizations are still talking about the meaningful weekend. Small journalism organizations don’t often have a chance to see so many people who understand each other. Small journalism organizations don’t often have a chance to discuss the challenges of funding and the future of funding whatever we consider the future of journalism.

Here is a list of some of the great blog posts and discussions I’ve followed today:
Howard Owens: For -profit, non-profit and ???
Susan Mernit: Block by Block 2010: Time for the next steps
Nonprofit Communicator Blog: Online news experts descend on Chicago
Megan Garber (Nieman Journalism Lab): Block by Block: Once you’ve launched, what’s Phase 2 of a community startup?
Anne Galloway: Bit by bit, “Block by Block,” small online news publishers find their way

I realize there are many more posts and talks in the days to come, I’ll try to continue to add links here.

Talking about blogs

I often speak to classes about ways to build your personal brand… and I consider blogs as the core of that brand building process. A blog is a space to share your brain, your interests or at least examples of your professional work. The more you post and share and collaborate, the easier it is for search engines to find our who you are and what you’re all about.

Today I spoke to a group that is assigned to post weekly blogs. It’s a task I enouraged a few years ago. Students early in the Missouri School of Journalism should try to think about web-based writing early on in their journalism career. I’m glad it was added. About a year from now, the students in today’s class who start blogging will end up taking my class. That means I end up reading what these young bloggers write. After a few semesters of reading these old blog posts, I realized I need to better explain blog tone. That’s what I tried to do in class today.

What is blog tone?
What I mean is I think there’s a difference between a “dear diary” tone and a conversational tone. I’ve found many new bloggers who are given an assignment to use a blog tool start off sounding a bit giggly and nervous. Often the blog posts talk about fun with friends, student life and comments that sound similar to “Oh my gosh! I just reported my first shift in the newsroom.” I challenged the students today to try to think about their tone as a professional from the start. They can be conversational: “My newsroom shift included the challenge of traveling two hours into our viewing area to shoot a package, get back and turn it within an hour and a half. It was exhausting but I’m proud of the final result.”

The only way to learn about the difference between diary and conversational is tricky. So I told the class that this is a great time to jump into blogging. For most students in the classroom, there’s at least a year before they head into the “real world.” They can learn a conversational tone with enough time to practice, get input and then jump in feet first into the less officialy, but just as important ways of delivering news, information, thoughts and experiences.

By the way, if you’re curious about how I’m trying to tackle student fear of failure, feel free to visit my new blog post on PBS’s MediaShift blog.

[Photo courtesy of Adikos via Flickr.]

Focus, focus, focus

I lost focus.

It’s summer break. I taught during the first half of the summer session and took a FANTASTIC vacation with the family. I followed that up with a not-so-fantastic knee surgery to reconstruct my left ACL and meniscus. (Not fun.)

So I’m finally emerging from the fog of vacation and knee pain medication.

I need to focus.

I returned to my newsroom with a lot of focus on. Our newsroom attempted to launch an updated CMS and it didn’t go as planned. Many CMS launches happen that way. I’m trying to be patient and not freak out – since I’m not able to control the situation. But I have to retrain hundreds of students. The hardest part is the rules are changing on a regular basis until we get a handle on what works best for the system. Luckily our entire newsroom how-to guides are built into a wiki-structure so any of my employees can help me update the many changes. While I try to keep up with these challenges, I still have daily assignment desk duties where I need to help manage our general assignment reporters, make sure they tweet, answer questions and get stories from callers and try to keep up with conversations on Twitter and Facebook.

I need to focus.

My job requires me to focus on so many tasks at the same time, I’m losing focus. I started using CoTweet to keep up with all of our reporters and anchors to keep a constantly updated Twitter feed. I’m now looking at tools like Seesmic and Hootsuite so I can do the same oversight with our Facebook page at the same time. So far, none of the tools I’ve found meet all of my needs. And it needs to help me stay focused.

I’d love to hear from others who are finding tools that help coordinate and focus the many things we have to do at the same time these days.

UPDATE: I got a great tip from Nathan Byrne on how he’s using more management collaborations in Google Wave. I’ve done many things in Basecamp and Google Groups, but not in Wave. Thanks for the idea! Keep them coming!

A true Facebook experience

I brought my newsroom into Facebook long before “fan” pages were created. I knew it would be a space to share and interact with our audience. During breaking news, bad weather and interesting stories everyone wants to talk about, it’s a great place to interact. I have seen a growing participation in our small market in the middle of Missouri.

In the past year, I was able to build interaction with our page and take the number of “fans” (now they people who clicked “like”) up from 250 to 1330. It is not very large, but a nice start. I expected younger, more digital news consumers to participate. But in the end, I’ve found people 30 and older are more likely to comment. They are also more likely to share photos and stories with our Ning network. But on slower news days, the interaction stops. Also, very sunny and nice days slow down the conversations as well. It makes sense.

But I didn’t really understand Facebook interaction and its potential until I took my mom blog about my daughter to Facebook. I invited people I knew to “like” it. Then I started adding little stories that would never make it to the blog. I shared and met and created better online relationships with people I know and don’t know. In two weeks, it has boosted the blog’s site traffic by 100 percent. Readership time increased by more than a minute per visit. I think it’s fascinating.

On our news page, when we link to our site, it boosts traffic. But I have found building a relationship with our news readers are not as easy as it has been on Twitter. Our news users visit and maybe comment but there is little community I seem to be able to build there. It may be my fault. It may be our market. Maybe I just haven’t found the right way to take full advantage of the Facebook experience. But when I work with my mom blog page, there is consistent interaction. There are people who have liked the page who have never met me or my daughter. There are people who made new connections with us and the website that would have never happened without the Facebook experience.

With these positive experiences, I’m trying to find ways to take my new knowledge of Facebook page success and move it to our newsroom’s page. I added my name to our news page’s info box to try and add transparency to the “wizard behind the screen” feeling a Facebook page can give. I try to not over post, but worry about days when we under post. I have not given many people access to our Facebook page. I don’t have a tool that helps me manage access like CoTweet which I use to manage our many, many KOMU Twitter reporters. I’d love to hear other ideas out there.