Curation

6 Apr

Curation has become a hot buzzword in the internet circles of bloggers and journalists as of late. The reception of the new term (well new to this context) has been mostly positive; however, a few people have kindly pointed out that the term might be more buzz than substance when it comes to journalism. There is discussion of whether a curator is really just an editor in the news process – I see it as a little more abstract than that.

My personal feeling is that curation will hold a very significant role in the future of content on the internet but I don’t see it as journalistic role. I think the that the concept of time and timeliness which is a major aspect of journalism does not exist in the same context in curation. Instead, I see the content curators as a separate group which may be used by many journalists but aren’t really journalists themselves.

At its core the role of a curator is to aggregate and organize a collection. In the context of content this could be called a librarian, which would make libraries and media databases the home for content collections. Historically paper newspapers have been collected by libraries and stored on microfiche for later reference by anyone who is interested. The act of managing that data sounds much like the role of a content curator.

The other thing I find interesting is the idea of curators adding analysis and editorial to their collections – in some ways this seems counter to the role. If curators are drawing conclusions then where do people go for facts? Obviously to be able to organize and catalog content and other data its is very helpful to have an extensive understanding of the subject but if curator both controls the content and produces analysis about the content then we’ve missed the role of academics and could easily risk losing out on the importance of primary resources for individuals.

If curators don’t do analysis the question becomes whether their role is really needed in this ever more tech savvy world. A new app called MemoLane curates and archives the online life of an individual. This same approach could easily be taken with regards to a subject or set of subjects. Access to information is the key to the success of the “information age” the only questions left is how we will get there and who will control it?

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Time Management for Bloggers

5 Apr

Blogging is one of those funny little things that falls between the cracks of technical and creative mediums. On the one hand the basis for most blogs is to convey useful information to readers, but at the same time doing so in an entertaining and inspired way takes a fair amount of creativity. Last week I explored the creative side of this a little bit when examining writer’s block. The big obstacle on the more technical side of blogging is time management. It takes more than a few minutes to create and maintain a decent blog and for many people, even when you really want to blog, finding this time can prove to be a struggle.

A big portion of my day job is that of project management. Thankfully I love the topic and enjoy working with others so its a good fit. I find it to be a personal challenge to get projects done on time and in budget and have both the team and client happy along the way – this can be quite a challenge at time. But what has proved most challenging is applying these same techniques to myself as a blogger. After much trial and error these are the principles I promote when managing time as a blogger:

Be Realistic about goals

Positive reinforcement is an important part of motivating yourself as a blogger. If you set goals that are beyond what you can realistically accomplish then you’re building in a sense of failure into your blogging process. This isn’t good for you or the blog. If you aren’t currently meeting your blogging goals then try re-evaluating them. Maybe you’re spending too much time on the drafting process, or researching your potential topics. Try alternative approaches to your blogging process and reign in your goals until they feel like a good fit.

Obey the writing process

A very important thing which can save time and improve your blogs is to obey that simple writing process we all learned in 4th grade. Brainstorm your idea, do a little research if needed, write an outline, then expand it into a full story and lastly edit it before you publish. This is a 5 step process which means that ideally you have 5 working sessions for each blog before it needs to be published. If you need to combine some of these items then so be it but try hard to at least separate into outline, writing, editing/publishing.

Manage risk

As a project manager I trust that the people I work with know how to do their jobs a whole lot better than I can do their jobs. I don’t spend time trying to manage them and the tasks they do; instead, I spend my time managing risk. If someone gets the flu how will I make sure a project still gets done on time? If new information comes in at the 11th hour that would change some part of a project how will we make sure the team can handle it? The same principles apply to blogging. Make sure you allow enough time to expect the unexpected.

Find accountability

Nothing is quite so motivating as accountability. When I work with teams we most often use the agile method of project management and implement my favorite accountability tool, the scrum. It makes everyone accountable to one another and boosts a sense of team spirit. When you’re working alone accountability can be much harder to find and stick to. You might publish a roadmap to your readers of your upcoming blog posts – reader can get pretty vocal when you don’t publish on time when you said you would. Another option is to join a blogging group or challenge, this is a group of other bloggers that all support one another in regularly posting to their blogs.

While all of the above advice may make time management for blogging seem simple its always more difficult in reality. The most important thing to remember is to take it a step at a time and start at the beginning. Set small and realistic goals for yourself and celebrate when you accomplish your blogging challenges.

Can the Internet Produce Better Relationships?

1 Apr

As internet communication becomes a greater part of everyday living for more and more people the question is presented, “Are Online Relationships Better than Real Life Relationships?” While it may be very difficult if not impossible to measure the value of a relationship many hints can be found to help us. The biggest measure has to do with the way people feel about their relationships. After all, it is all about perception isn’t it?

There are two main premises for the idea that the internet may be creating better relationships among people than real life socializing alone has done in the past. One theory has to do with introversion, the other with relate-ability and population size. The reality is that both factors probably play a big part in the perception that relationships online are becoming more meaningful than those in real life to many people.

The idea of introverted and extroverted personalities has been made its way from psychology texts to mainstream vocabulary over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that while introversion may be a great tool for genius creatives or studious academics, extroverted personalities are generally more valued in our business centered society. From the first list-serves to the boom of twitter internet communications have allowed introverts the ability to interact in a more comfortable environment. Relationships can be filtered to find potential friends with common interests, communications can be thought out and drafted in advance and judgement are made son the quality of content rather than external factors of any sort.

The vastness of the internet provides an almost endless number of people to connect with. For individuals that have a trait which separates them from everyone around them this vastness provides the opportunity to meet similar people. NPR recently ran a story about the role that internet communities are playing in the lives of people seeking social support for medical issues. I personally found sites like babycenter.com very helpful for feeling secure about the many many questions that come along with pregnancy.

While a very good case can be made for the quality and value of online relationships, other’s of course would argue that the internet and social media communications are decreasing the value of real life relationships. Its a wonderful thing to have ease of communication (via facebook, etc…) with family that is far away but does it damage the closeness of a relationship when you send pics online to local family rather than stopping by for a 15minute visit?

Notes on Writers Block

30 Mar

Most would agree that one of the keys to success with social media is creating content consistently. This was actually the basis of my first post to this blog. Ofcourse at some point almost everyone will come across a tiny bit of writers block. If your lucky it will move on in a day or two but sometimes you have to be proactive and assist writer’s block out the door. Thankfully there are more than a few ways to get the creative (or at least productive juices flowing again) here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Handy Dandy Notebook – sure it may be low tech compared to alternatives, like the smart phone, but there is something wonderful about carrying around an actual paper and pencil all day. Most of the time just having the small reminder that my goal is to come up with ideas will be enough to fill up a page with various blog topics or a series of tweets.
  2. Reviews – if your out of ideas yourself then piggy back off of someone else’s creativity. Review a series of similar items… for an extra boost you can even post a title like “Top 5 ___!”
  3. Play Games – it may seem a little odd but interactivity and engagement can be a very viable substitute for actual content. There are a multitude of games that can be played between you and those that are following you on twitter and the same goes for you blog, facebook or other social media outlet. If you can’t come up with meaningful content at least you can have fun.
  4. Switch Mediums – sometimes its good to mix things up, this is true both as the writer as well as the reader. If you normally post long and detailed blogs consider posting a collection of photos instead. You may find that your readers appreciated the change of pace as well.
  5. Ask For Help – every once in a while writer’s block is just bad enough that its best to just ask for some help. See if you can cash in on some guest posts from friends who had always offered or ask a coach for some prompts.

Susan Mernit on Social Media

25 Mar

Recently I had the chance to talk with Susan Mernit about the role of social media in journalism. Susan is a long time blogger and reporter who started the site OaklandLocal. In her words OaklandLocal is:

[A news site] centered on issues including environmental justice, food distribution,transportation, development & housing, and gender & identity, OaklandLocal aggregates information and news  from local non-profits and community organizations working on these topics within a range of Oakland neighborhoods. We are committed to diverse voices, reader engagement, deep issue coverage and local commentary.

Any reader that spends time on OaklandLocal will get a good taste of the diversity in stories that make up Oakland. The site does a great job of covering news from various neighborhoods and across a number of topics. When asked about the role that social media has had in finding stories, Susan explained that social networking like twitter and facebook have made it much easier to locate the stories that don’t get covered in the mainstream and national media. This approach to story finding means that OaklandLocal  provides a truly fresh and new perspective to the news, rather than just repeating the same stories as other news sources.

Another aspect discussed in detail with Susan was the separation of the personal and public aspects of social media. An avid user of twitter, facebook and scribe, Susan shared that she only uses a single account for both professional and personal interactions on each service. Susan mentioned that there are downsides to this approach and that frequently she has to be overly aware of her wording when reading an interesting article or posting about it because its easy for a simple post to appear as an endorsement from her and subsequently an endorsement from the site – when in actuality it was just an interesting article. The extra hassle isn’t a deterrent however; Susan, continues to post as herself and be honest about her opinions on a frequent basis via social media.

When asked about how much of an asset social media is to the reporting process, especially for a web based news site, I was surprised by her answer. Susan explained that she had been writing online since the early days of blogging and in the beginning there wasn’t the convenience of social media to find stories or develop community around them. She explained that in those early days her goals were still the same, find often over-looked stories and share them with the community, but she did so by talking to people and networking in real life. I followed up on this idea by asking if the types of input she received had changed since moving to more social media and online networking. Susan’s impression was that while there are more people available at any given point with social media, the total number of opinions and viewpoints seemed to be pretty similar as to when all of her information gathering happened outside the internet.

Honesty was really the backbone of the message Susan had to share. The principles and idea that journalists are people first and as people they can’t help but have opinions. She shared that in her own writing she doesn’t strive to be without any personal stance on an issue but rather to just present all possible sides to every story – allowing news to be more about openness, transparency and dialog rather than simply marketing itself as unbiased. This approach is what makes OaklandLocal a unique asset to the hyperlocal news community. The ability to come to seek out stories, share them with the community and then allow for open discussion to commence from there.

Business interview

25 Mar
We recently met up with Lise Delong of Cognitive Connections and talked about the role that journalism, marketing and the internet have played in the success of her small business. Lise has owned and operated small businesses for over 20 years in both Indiana and California.
BreannaDrew: What was your first use of promotional materials for your business?
LiseDeLong: CREATING A BROCHURE AND TAKING THEM AROUND TO OTHER BUISNESSES / DAYCARES/ AND DIRECT HOMES

BD: Do you think it was easier to promote a business then or now?
LD: MORE DIFFICULT THEN, I DIDNT KNOW AS MUCH AS I DO NOW AS A SEASONED BUISNESS OWNER, AND A DIFFERENT MARKET, IN A DIFFCULT AREA TO SUPPORT A PRIVATE SCHOOL.
BD: Has the internet been a benefit or detriment in promotion?
LD: ABSOULTELY A BENEFIT…

BD: What has your use of news been in your business growth? Press releases, interviews, articles, etc… has it been mostly positive and helpful or had mixed results?
LD:I FORTUNATELY NEVER HAD BAD PRESS IN A LOUD MARKET WITH THE SCHOOL, A FEW DISGRUNTLED PARENTS MIGHT TALK TO OTHER PARENTS BUT NEVER IN A FORMAL FORMAT.  THE FORMAL FORMATS WERE ALWAYS POSITIVE AND GOOD TO ME.
BD: Do you actively seek out a relationship with the press as a means of promoting your business?
LD: I DID THEN. IN THIS NEW BUSINESS I HAVE NOT.  MY MAIN REFERRAL SOURCES NOW TEND TO BE MEDICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL REFERRALS NOW
BD: How has facebook impacted the way you do business? Do you use facebook for personal and business use? How do you separate the two if you do?
LD: IN THE CURRENT BUSINESS I USE FACEBOOK.  I HAVE DELIBERATLY NOT SEPARATED PERSONAL AND BUSINESS BECAUSE IT MAKES ME LOOK MORE HUMAN TO PEOPLE (MIGHT BE GOOD MIGHT NOT BE) WE’LL SEE…

Compare Your Answers

24 Mar

As time moves on and the basis for our society and economy continue to make the shift away from the industrial revolution towards information technologies the need for questions and answers is inevitably going to increase. Thankfully there is one thing the internet does really well… contain answers. Furthermore there are a number of sites dedicated to helping people ask and answer questions.

The following is a comparison of 5 top answer site. The same question was searched for and then asked from each site – both the process and results were compared.

My Question: How should a journalist evaluate a possible story and sources?

Yahoo Answers

http://answers.yahoo.com/

Yahoo answers has been a major player in the answers field for many years now. The idea is simple you ask questions and you answer questions, this getting a little more complicated by the use of a points system that rewards you for answering questions and having the “best” answer to a question and reduces points when you ask new questions.

The Pros:

  • Asking questions is easy
  • Searching is easy
  • Recommends categories

The Cons:

  • Recommends similar questions but only after you’ve posted – which is less helpful.
  • You have to have a yahoo account to post questions.

My question?

Wasn’t there originally but I did get a response and it was very well thought out and useful.

Quora

http://www.quora.com/

A relatively new kid on the answer block, quora takes the concept of questions and answers and mixes them together in a social media platform. The site is simple to use and easy to get started.

The Pros:

  • Allows you to “follow” topics/people of interest
  • Searching for a question and adding a question is the same action – makes things easy.

The Cons:

  • Requires you have a Quora account
  • User Interface could be slightly more intuitive

My Question:

Similar questions had been asked which had very nice answers. My question is is being followed by others but no answers still.

LinkedIn Answers

http://www.linkedin.com/answers

My previous experiences with LinkedIn Answers have been largely positive and I think there is a great deal to be said for having a captive audience of users that are actually in the field related to your question.

The Pros:

  • Greater probability of answers from professionals in the field
  • Incentives to answer questions and do so well

The Cons:

  • The Search function is not as open (doesn’t find only keywords or make suggestions)
  • Categories are less intuitive and not suggested (couldnt’ find a news or journalism category)

My Question?

Wasn’t available when searching. Now, what surprised me a bit was the only answer I received for my question was really snippy and kind of demeaning. Previous experience with LinkedIn Answers would suggest this isn’t the case normally but it was enough to make me consider other outlets for my next question.

Ask.Com

http://www.ask.com/

Ask has been around for a while and is a hybrid between answer site and search engine. This dynamic combinations makes finding information very easy – if not a little overwhelming at times.

The Pros:

  • Finds answers from across the web – not just the immediate community
  • Interfaces with linkedin for login makes it easy to join
  • Asking the community is very easy, no categories to worry about and the question is transfered from your search to the question form.

The Cons:

  • Having answers to your queries come from across the web can be a little bit of information overload and is really no more useful that a good google search.

My Question?

The exact question wasn’t in the search results but lots and lots and lots of pages with helpful information were. After asking my question… its just sat there unanswered.

Wiki Answers

http://wiki.answers.com/

Occaisionally when researching a topic wiki.answers.com will show up in the search results – unfortunately the questions were rarely answered and most often irrelevant to the search if they were. Having now used Wiki Answers to ask a question I’m fairly certain that the entire site exists solely increase search rankings and gain advertising dollars.

The Pros:

  • A search provided multiple questions that were very close to mine.
  • Easy to ask question, prefilled form, suggests categories.
  • No login necessary forasking but is for getting responses sent to you.

The Cons:

  • Answers to similar questions really really sucked (bad grammer, incomplete answers, etc..).

My Question?

Has yet to be answered and all related questions were answered but had one sentence answers that were little more than the question phrased as a statement.