Archive for November, 2008

Keeping Up With Social Media Trends

I had lunch with a former student today, Matt Smelser at I and O Communications.  He’s doing some really cool things at his company.  During our lunch, Matt asked me about some ways that I keep up with social media trends, so I put the following together for him, thought I’d share it here.

Pros I follow on Twitter:
@robquig reports on Newspapers that Twitter. Follow any of them in your interest or geographic area.

Some of the RSS feeds I follow:
NY Times Technology
Old Media New Tricks
PBS Media Shift
Wired (of course)
Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
SocialMedia Today
Connection Cafe (Convio’s Blog)

I also check in regularly with Poynter. It’s good to keep up with Pew Internet studies, too.

I know there are lots more. Any other suggestions out there?

I also have a delicous site . Any time I have an article for class, I tag it there as Daily, then I move it to a category.  It’s open, feel free to visit it to see what I’m talking about.

It is difficult to keep up with the swift pace of new media trends. It really is a commitment. But, it’s fun and can really be valuable to you in any number of ways.

Update:  I just added another couple of important links. Online Journalism Review is back in business at the Knight Digital Media Center (since mid Sept. Why didn’t I know this?, congrats Robert Niles). They are on Twitter, too (@ojr).  And, from that site, there is a great post by @eulken about Building the Data Desk . Erik Ulken’s blog is

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Forces Driving Women From Computer Science

In tomorrow’s NY Times, the Digital Domain article talks about the dearth of women in the computer science profession.  I have been thinking and writing about this topic for years, first in an OJR post and then more recently in an declined Knight Grant application, as well as just talking about it to anyone that will listen.  To me, the reasons women aren’t interested in computer science is that the way it is traditionally taught is irrelevant to them.  However, when technology is made meaningful and increasingly social, women flock to it.  I think that technology should be taught in disciplines in which it can be applied, like Communications.  And, I’m not just talking about design.  There are many opportunities for developers to tell stories via data-driven interactives.  But, our field seems to be looking toward the computer science departments for these future storytellers. That’s a huge mistake.  I think we need to bring technology to “where the girls are.”  Basically, we need to integrate meaningful technology like Web application frameworks into communication and liberal arts curricula, disciplines in which women are already highly represented.  I have taught Web design and development for many years, and I have seen firsthand the way that young women respond to technology, when it is taught to them in a meaningful and relevant manner.  Many of my students have gone on to careers that have stretched their technology skills, and many of these careers have been in communication fields that rely on technology and social media more and more.

So, we need to get with it in the Communication discipline and take technology seriously, make it a central part of our curriculum, not a sideline or nice extra. Technology is communication and communication is technology.  We need to accept that and make it happen.

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More Development Resources

So, I didn’t get invited to the second round of the Knight News Challenge. That doesn’t mean I am not going forward with my vision of an interactive media center at Texas State.  I think there is a lot of opportunity to create a niche for ourselves in this area.  Here are some more resources to augment my first post, things I’ll be reading over the next few weeks.

Sometimes the best place to start is Wikipedia. There are a lot of tech people in that community. Here is the article on Web Application Frameworks. From there, you can follow links to articles for Ruby on Rails, Django, and others. Also links to List of Application Frameworks and Comparison of Web Application Frameworks. Going through these articles gives you a good sense of the difference between the frameworks and the programming languages and how they relate to CMS.

Django Web Application Framework – presentation by Simon Willison

YouTube video – Journalists Talking About Django

Adrian Holovaty interviewed in Chicago Tribune

42 Topics Blog Interview with Adrian Holovaty

Chatting with Adrian Holovaty on Reddit

Journalism 3G: The Future of Technology in the Field – Symposium at GVU Center at Georgia Tech

DigiDave Blog Post on Computational Journalism

Adrian Holovaty and the Post’s Data Explosion – the Bivings Report

Django for Journalists – Web Programming Training at IRE – I hope to take this in May.

Apple’s Leopard Hails Ruby on Rails from

Django: Python on a Plane –

Refresh Austin – Introduction to Django presentation and notes

Institute for Analytic Journalism

Adrian Holovaty Talk and Django Jam in Vancouver

Java Passion online course Ruby on Rails

Update: Aron Pilhofer from NY Times just sent me this link,’s Rails Myths.

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Is Social Media Killing PR?

Have been following this discussion in which different tech bloggers have been attacking the traditional practice of PR, saying it’s being replaced in many ways by social media. What do you think?

It started back in August with this post from Scobleizer stating “Build PR by building a great service and turn your users into your PR agents.” Then Michael Arrington on Tech Crunch says that PR is broken. “They’re trying to apply the same rules they used when the number of journalists covering their companies was a manageable, chummy lot. Today there’s a whole spectrum of people writing about startups in big media publications, large and small blogs, Twitter, Friendfeed and everything in between.” He was commenting on Steve Rubel’s (Edelman, a PR firm) post in which he poses the question of PR becoming obsolete. He emphasized the need to adapt. Brian Solis defends PR and says it has been in the process of reinvention for over 10 years now.

The blog PRsquared sums things up “Scoble, Rubel and Arrington basically made the point that PR firms are unnecessary if you have a great product and are willing to spend a lot of time engaging in the blogosphere.” And, Scoble himself did a bit of a wrap up on the issue.

OK, so all this was back in August. Why am I talking about it today?  BoomTown made a post about appearing on a panel entitled “Is Social Media Killing PR?“.

What’s my take? I definitely think that social media is changing PR, and those who cannot change will be dead in terms of their career.  If they view social media as a sideline of PR, a nice extra, then they are missing the boat. They need to engage the features of social media, community, transparency, etc., and let go of this antiquated notion of a tightly controlled and carefully placed message. People are going to be defensive when you tell them their industry is dying or that the ways that they have been successful in the past are no longer relevant. But, the ones who embrace innovation will be defining new standards of success.

Yes, the basics are still necessary, good relationships, excellent writing skills, creativity. But those can be exponentially enhanced by social media. Don’t ignore it.

Jeremiah Owyang, who was on the panel last night, summarizes with some proactive stances the “evolved PR agency” can take.

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A Vision of Students Today

Another great video by Michael Wesch from Kansas State, brings up some great points about students’ challenges and attitudes today.

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Mass Comm Week Analytics presentation

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Some recent social media posts

I’m prepping for a talk with PR students, and these articles came to my attention. Thought I’d share them here.

10 Ways to Make Press Releases More SEO Friendly – Mashable –
10 of the Best Social Media Tools for PR Professionals – Mashable –
The 5 Rules of Advertising on Twitter – Old Media New Tricks –
Twitter 101- –  this is actually from a four-part series on Twitter by Augie Ray on Experience: The Blog.  You can find all the links on this Social Media Today post.

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Election Dashboards and Interactives

While we wait for results to come in, I thought I’d find some good political interactives.  First stop, of course is NY Times.  Check out their cool Dashboard for monitoring returns as they come in. And, if you go to their Multimedia page, you can see all kinds of great presentations that have to do with the 2008 campaigns. They have a nice chart that shows how different presidents over time have dealt with the problems of the economy (Can a President Tame the Business Cycle?) Oh, NY Times, why don’t you have the Multimedia link on your top nav bar? It’s the best part of your Web site.  On their home page, they do have links to cool things about the election, like this graphic visualization of words that come to mind associated with this election.  “Hopeful” is a big one.  Looks like Obama’s PR was successful. But, people are also excited and anxious. And, they have compiled a lot of their election resources into an Election Guide. They have really done an amazing job engaging technology during this campaign.

MSNBC has an election widget that you can use to watch results. Here’s their Dashboard. They’ve got maps, videos, quizzes, and coverage as it comes in.

It’s a big day in Washington, so you’d expect the Post to have some good tools. Here’s their Election Guide.  They’ve even got some mobile tools, can post race calls on Twitter and news alerts via email and sms.

And, NPR has a nice Election Guide as well, with Interactive Map and lots of articles.

Yahoo News has an Election page, but I have to say the traditional media sites seem to be the ones to watch this election. They seem to have organized their resources and experience and engaged the new technologies in very interesting ways. Like everyone else, though, Yahoo seems to have their own Dashboard for results. Which sites did you use? Find the most helpful.

If you are following on Twitter, there’s an Election 2008 section that they are filtering, basically what everyone is thinking/doing/seeing this election day.  You can also follow @austinvotes and @streetteam08 (that’s MTV’s Choose or Lose team, go @mairalg!) .  @austinvotes put up a good pic of the results of 1 million kids 6-12, how they would have voted.

Things are pretty quiet on the candidates’ sites. Barack Obama has a map of polling locations.  McCain has this very cheesy music video on his social network site (winner of worst effects in a music video, even for the Web; look for video of unofficial campaign song).

And, here’s something fun. Jorge Sanheuza-Lyon is streaming live during election day for the Statesman via

Never have there been so many ways for you to participate in the process. But, make sure you participate in the most important way. VOTE!

Share your favorite Web sites for Election Day.

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Some data resources

As many of you know, I have been thinking about this idea of programmer/journalist or journalist/developer or techno-journalist for quite some time.  I’m even applying for a Knight News Challenge Grant to move things forward at TX State in this area. Regardless of whether we get this grant or not, this is the direction I want to push us in. I think there is a great opportunity to carve a strong niche in this field.

I’ve been gathering up some resources around the Web:

Mindy McAdams, Knight Chair at Univ. of Florida, has some good posts on her blog:

Some of the Media Shift articles written by Rich Gordon about their experience at Medill with having programmers in the Journalism Master’s program.

Rich’s most recent post deals with Agile development and journalism – some very astute observations here.

Amy Gahran has some good observations in response as well. But, I feel that there is a subset of journalists that get turned on by the geeky stuff. We need to engage them.

The Medill team’s blog, known as Crunchberry. They’ve done a fantastic job documenting their processes for creating data-driven news presentations.

Like many out there, I’m torn as to which framework I should teach. I am reviewing Ruby on Rails vs. Django.  I took a Ruby class at ONA this past September, so I am leaning in that direction, but I am in the process of trying both.  Here are some resources for this topic:

Adrian Holovaty, Django developer, on Rails podcast

Some Rails vs. Django resources

Charles O’Keefe’s blog posts comparing Ruby and Django – 5 parts

Agile Web Development With Rails book – free book by Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss (Investigative Reporters and Editors) – has some great seminars

Presentation on Database-driven Journalism – Lawrence Journal World

Holovaty and Saila – presentation at Web Directions, Old Media, New Technology

And, I plan to spend quite a bit of my Christmas vacation on  This is really fun stuff, and a very fruitful area for both practice and research. I know from experience that if journalism students have the proper instruction, they get energized by this type of work. Technology is about communication and communication is about technology. That’s what it’s all about these days.

More discussion and resources to come on this.

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