Is your news organization a fire hose or a block party?

News organizations should recognize themselves to be either a fire hose or a neighborhood block party and, if particularly robust, they should have both and discern the different strategies for each.

After joining an Aspen Institute Roundtable in D.C. back in June, I met up with NPR Project Argo’s Matt Thompson, who I teamed up with around CAT Signal a few months earlier. As we tend to do, we got lost in a long and rambling conversation that came to a philosophical point from Thompson: not enough news sites recognize what they are, simply a fire hose, spreading their audience to what is interesting and important.

First, two quick definitions in this context: (a) a fire hose site has relatively large traffic with more drive-by readers and (b) a block party site has relatively less traffic with highly focused and more loyal readers. In our conversation, Thompson introduced the ideas of fire hoses. I started thinking about block parties.

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iPhone: my first personal smartphone and the first 15 predictable free apps I downloaded

My first smartphone arrived at my door yesterday.

Considering it’s late 2011 and I report for a technology news site, you can be sure that I got a lot of crap for it being only my first. Of course, as I explained, in 2009 I was a struggling freelance writer so I had trouble enough affording my prepaid burner phone. Late that year, I joined a family plan with my sister to cut costs even more and took the basic level phone: a sturdy Samsung texting phone.

Only now, two years later, was my contract ready for an update. Considering I had already made my jump into the Apple world, I bought into the hype, and spent more than $300 on the iPhone 4s. Of course, because I cover technology, I already had a clear idea of what I would be doing with the device and had played with them for years — though that made my awe no less substantial as I played with mine.

Still, I quickly added a slew of free apps that seem to me to be the staples. Below, a list of the free apps I first added to my phone, and expectations for getting more crap:

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How foundation funding could be protecting a journalism pay bubble

A journalist salary bubble may still be lurking somewhere beyond the newspaper right-sizing of the past decade.

We at Technically Philly are in the process of hiring our first reporter — to begin as an independent contractor expected to make something like $30,000 in a 12-month period. That’s a respectable, entry-level salary for a young, hungry reporter in a big market.

Unless you think otherwise. A freelancer friend of mine gave me a little grief, said she had a $30,000 salary when she started in 2004, expecting the total to have gone up in the ensuing years. I tried to remind her that in the years since she started, the momentum on subscription declines and advertising reductions have accelerated, not to mention a recession that stalled, if not shrunk, salary growth.

In short, her argument seemed to redouble my confidence that our small startup, for-profit technology news site was doing alright to budget $30,000 for a young reporter who would focus on reporting, social media and outreach. Her argument did something else though. It made me think there may still be shocks left in this generation-long restructuring in news from higher-yield print monopoly to lower-yield, online competition.

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OpenDataRace: talking on WHYY NewsWorks Tonight about the OpenDataPhilly.org contest

Near the close of the OpenDataRace, a popularity contest for data sets that affect nonprofit missions, I was asked onto NewsWorks Tonight, the daily, local drive-time news radio show from NPR affiliate WHYY. We recorded the segment last week and it aired Monday.

Read more about the contest here, see the data sets and register to vote here and listen to the NewsWorks segment below.

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I was on the program back in June to talk about the open data movement and other initiatives here. I got some fun comments from friends, like this one.

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Jealousy can motivate you to achieve success: Story Shuffle 9 (Jealousy)

How jealousy and other bad qualities can be shaped to help motivate you to reach your goals was the focus of the story I told at Story Shuffle 9, with a jealousy theme.

Listen to my story below or find it here, along with the other stories.

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21 things membership-driven design resource Fab.com learned in its first year

My colleague Brian James Kirk shared these slides from a presentation from the CEO of Fab.com, a membership-based design resource that is less than a year ago. The slides and the takeaways are valuable.

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Boardwalk Empire: five lessons to learn from season one of the hit HBO drama

The celebrated HBO historical drama Boardwalk Empire, set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, is making its way through its second season, and I’m catching up, having recently finished watching the first season.

The well-funded period piece, with backing from Scorsese, Wahlberg and others, tracks the life and times of a character based on a real political boss of the time. It’s a compelling story, tinged with real happenings, heavily researched authenticity and complex characters. In short, it’s a great watch.

Having finished the first season, there are a few takeaways I found myself internalizing:

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Philly Tech Week April 22-28, 2012: seeking anchor organizers and sponsors for second annual festival

The second annual Philly Tech Week will take place April 22-28, 2011, as we announced on Technically Philly recently.

We unveiled our media kit, made impressively by my colleague Brian James Kirk, which you can see here.

The open calendar of events was first held this past April, attracting more than 4,000 people attended at least one of 65 events held throughout the city and surrounding counties during the inaugural celebration. See my roundup of the event series impact here.

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Philly Daily News List of ‘Rising Power Players’ under 40; I’m on it

The Philadelphia Daily News today ran a cover story celebrating 10 of the city’s ‘rising power players,’ in celebrating the close of this year’s State of Young Philly, and I am proud to say I’ve been included.

Find the story online here, and my section here. Go buy a copy.

I was included for being one of three co-founders of local technology news site Technically Philly and being involved in the development of the city’s startup and hacker communities. I was perhaps most pleased that I have so far survived the Philly.com comments, mostly because I have helped build a small for-profit with three full-time employees.

The automatically-generated plaque that a company offered me by email after this news story ran. Though the $169 price tag was a little more than I thought worth it, I was interested in the process and how the newspaper itself didn't offer this.

While I am certainly proud to be included, I am humbled knowing that there are so many other young Philadelphians making great change. There is no way this list of 10 could do that justice. It’s just a highlight of some of us, and I’m proud to be part of it, but I am more than aware of how many others could have been on this list.

For the record, though, I am only 25, not 27. I should also say that I am certainly nervous about being included because of my relatively small contribution at such a young age. I look forward to being involved in much more in the future.

A PDF of the cover here and the article here.

I should also add that my colleague Sean Blanda was also recently included in a young up-incomers list.

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Beware ‘filter bubbles’ online: TED talk from Eli Pariser

From this very compelling TED video from former MoveOn.org Executive Director Eli Pariser on ‘filter bubbles’ happening online due to personalized algorithms (i.e., in truth there is no one Google search, as nearly 60 filters dictate results)

“We may have the story of the internet wrong. This is how the founding mythology goes: in a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information. And along came the internet, and it swept them out of the way and allowed all of us to connect together and it was awesome. But that’s not actually what’s happening right now. What we’re seeing is more of a passing of the torch, from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is, the algorithms don’t yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they’re going to decide what we get to see and what we don’t get to see, then we need to make sure that they’re not just keyed to relevance, but that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important…”

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