Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Feeding my ego to sell ads on my content

I got an e-mail yesterday from The Daily Reviewer congratulating me on being added to their list of the top 100 journalism blogs.

dailyreviewer

The Daily Reviewer selects only the world’s top blogs (and RSS feeds). We sift through thousands of blogs daily to present you the world’s best writers. The blogs that we include are authoritative on their respective niche topics and are widely read. To be included in The Daily Reviewer is a mark of excellence.

They even sent me this nifty badge:

Top journalism blogs award

The Daily Reviewer looks a lot like Alltop, down to the grid of RSS feeds. But the first thing I noticed wasn’t the content. It was the ugly ads. At least Alltops ads kinda blend into the page.

September 3, 2009 | Comments Off on Feeding my ego to sell ads on my content | Categories: Posts | Tags: , | Permalink

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New Washington Post Blog on Economic and Domestic Policy

The Washington Post launched a new blog yesterday, written by Ezra Klein.

That’s how the e-mail I got introduced it too. “a blog by Ezra Klein.” Pardon me, but who the @#$% is Ezra Klein?

Klein comes to The Post from The American Prospect, where he quickly built a dedicated following and became a widely recognized voice.

OK, nice credentials, but I still have no idea who this guy is.

Apparently he is going to write pretty extensively on “legislative issues at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, including economic recovery, reviving the banking system, cap and trade, and health-care reform.”

Important stuff. Why didn’t you lead with that, instead of expecting me to recognize a by-line?

The blog itself is off to a pretty good start, even if Washington Post PR isn’t.

  • A section called “Think Tank” will be updated with articles, studies, and policy briefs.
  • Ezra Klein is on Twitter.
  • His blogroll links outside of Washington Post blogs.

No word on how much he’ll interact with his readers, so I’ll withhold judgment on that point.

Oops, Ezra didn’t write his own About page:

ezraklein

Beatblogging.org has what Ezra needs to know to make his blog rock: Creating the perfect beatblog.

More about Ezra Klein:

Political Blogger Ezra Klein Joins The Washington Post (readwriteweb.com)

Ezra Klein to WaPo (outsidethebeltway.com)

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More on packaged journalism

Thinking more about programming in journalism (not computer programming, the one we associate more with radio and television) I realized there are a few things news organizations are doing that are really similar to the concept of packaging news with an identity: blogs.

At most organizations, news blogs aren’t structured around an identity. Instead they are topical. Which could be better, in some ways, what I really hate about TV news is all the self-promoting, self-congratulatory anchors and show hosts. Sometimes, identity is a bad thing.

So I was poking around several news Web sites looking for good blogs, when I stumbled upon USA Today’s “communities.” The Community Center blog (keeping you apprised of conversations and opportunities on the site where readers are getting involved with USATODAY’s daily journalism) is a hub for the other blogs on the site, which look suspiciously like beatblogs to me.

Each blog has a designated author (or small group of authors) and appear to be updated several times a day.

But something bothers me. Which of these things is at all like the other?

    game-hunters-usatodaycom
  • technology-live-usatodaycom
  • cruise-log-usatodaycom

I really like the Interactivity blog – just wish it looked as nice as some of the others.

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Learning Web Design: 6 Blogs, 3 Cheat Sheets and 1 Degree

Over the past few months, I’ve been picking up quite a bit of freelance work. Most of it has been on the technical side of building Web sites. For the most part, I’ve been working with WordPress, so I can send a client a list of appropriate themes and let them decide.

In the scenario that I’m not using an easily theme-able framework, I’m stuck.

So, I’ve been spending some more time looking at design elements on various blogs, how colors and typography and borders are used to make even a simple layout look amazing. I’ve also been collecting resources to keep in mind when working on Web sites.

Six Blogs

  1. Authentic Boredom: Cameron Moll’s design blog.
  2. 24 Ways: 24 ways is the advent calendar for web geeks. Each day throughout December we publish a daily dose of web design and development goodness to bring you all a little Christmas cheer.
  3. Designm.ag: DesignM.ag is a new site that is aimed at providing a wide variety of resources for web designers and developers. The purpose of the site is to keep many useful elements, such as a blog, community news, design gallery, and job board all at one place.
  4. i love typography: iLT is designed to inspire its readers, to make people more aware of the typography that’s around them. We really cannot escape type; it’s everywhere: on road signs, shampoo bottles, toothpaste, and even on billboard posters, in books and magazines, online … the list is endless, and the possibilities equally so.
  5. Jason Santa Maria: This site represents an experiment in art direction online. Rather than allowing the content to flow from a content management system into the same page layout every time, I’ve created a system for fast design direction based on the needs of the content.
  6. Mark Boulton: This is primarily designed to be a portfolio presence for Mark but it also acts as a notebook, journal, experimental space and general dumping ground for designs, commentary and ideas.

Three Cheat Sheets

  1. How a Simple Layout Can Be Mixed ‘n’ Matched with Patterns, Photos and Backgrounds:It’s pretty amazing how much color and background can change the look and feel of a website. In this tutorial we’re going to put together a quick, simple but effective layout and then create variations using backgrounds, photos and patterns. We’ll also look at how to make seamless tiled backgrounds out of a photo, methods for ending a single photo and simple ways to create pixel patterns. In short it’s a jam packed tutorial!
  2. 8 Simple Ways to Improve Typography In Your Designs:Many people, designers included, think that typography consists of only selecting a typeface, choosing a font size and whether it should be regular or bold. For most people it ends there. But there is much more to achieving good typography and it’s in the details that designers often neglect.
  3. 10 Simple and Impressive Design Techniques: Simple effects and techniques are the building blocks of today’s designs. With a “less is more” mentality, we’ve selected 10 very simple and impressive design techniques that can drastically improve the performance and appearance of your designs.

One Web Design Degree

  1. The Personal Web Design Degree: The personal web design degree is the response of one designer to the question “What do I need to study to become a web designer?” The truth is that all the information needed to obtain a functional knowledge of web design is out there just waiting to be read. The only thing stopping most designers from doing so is sifting through all the information and knowing what is worth reading.

What are your favorite design resources? Where do you get inspiration?

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Scaring highschoolers about the future of journalism

On Wednesday evening I spoke to a group of five students who are taking part in the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

I’ve mentioned BYJI here before, mostly begging for help with my public speaking anxiety.

To my surprise, the whole thing went pretty well. The kids were Web-savvy enough to have uploaded a few videos to YouTube, and knew of Twitter, though none are using it yet.

I talked about the “newspaper crisis” caused by lack of innovation, an old business model and the problems with advertising and paywalls. (The kids’ immediate reaction to paywalls: “That won’t work.” Out of the mouths…) I went over the basics of online journalism: blogs, social networks, multimedia. I also talked about citizen journalism a little bit, in terms of how everyone can have a voice in their communities, which is a big problem in the Bronx. They really liked the concepts of “Not Just a Number,” which I showed them, along with the Las Vegas Sun Web site.

One student asked me how he could learn to code, and I directed him to the W3Schools site. Another asked about the future of news on e-readers like the Kindle. And of course the final question was “Where are we going?”

Thanks to Mindy McAdams, Craig Lee, and Tracy Boyer for their advice and inspiration. I’ve uploaded a powerpoint presentation to Slideshare which I used as a guide for my presentation, although it was really more a conversation than a speech.

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Speaking at the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Next week I will be speaking to the students of the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative about online journalism and the future of news.

The West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is a weekly program offered to sophomores, juniors or seniors from Bronx high schools.

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

I’m nervous, because I’m really horrible at public speaking. But also because I have no idea what these kids know.

What’s the level of computer/Internet proficiency? Do they have access to computers at home? Do they read news online, have blogs, read blogs?

James Fergusson, the program coordinator and Editor of the Mount Hope Monitor, has told me that they have not discussed online journalism in class.

I got some great advice from Mindy McAdams, who told me not to assume that the kids are technologically ignorant. Even if they don’t have computers at home, the public libraries offer free access.

She also suggested that I show “Not Just a Number” and “The Mac” as examples of stories told by people about their own communities.

I can probably spend a few minutes at first figuring out what they know without looking like a total hack. The problem is how to adjust what I want to say to their level. After beating college reporters over the head with the “good news” for two semesters, I’m not sure how to condense the message to half an hour.

Any advice? What should these high-schoolers know about online journalism? What do I tell them about the future of news?

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: Represent

The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs.

This week, I covered New York Time’s Represent.

Represent is a look at the future of online journalism — focused, local and geographically relevant. It’s a different way to group and browse information based on an individual’s political districts.

Some have compared Represent to EveryBlock. It does fill a hole in EveryBlock’s coverage, taking the concept of block-by-block news and expanding it to fit the political realm of information. In fact, EveryBlock recently hooked up with The New York Times to display political news items for each block.

Check out Represent Helps New Yorkers Track Their Politicos to learn about how Andrei Scheinkman and Derek Willis did it.

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: Map-Timeline Framework

mediashift_spotlight The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs. The main spotlights will run every other week, with mini-spotlights running on the off-weeks.

Another mini-Spotlight this week, featuring the Washington Post’s TimeSpace framework for media browsing.

TimeSpace, a Washington Post project, is a coverage mapping framework that displays content from multiple sources in space (via a map) and time (via a timeline). A display map, covering anything from a single city block to the world, is tagged to show viewers where news is being covered. Viewers can also view the news map as it appeared at different points over the preceding hours or days, giving them a picture of how the news events unfolded over time.

Check out Washington Post’s ‘Web Ninjas’ Build Map-Timeline Combo for how they did it and screenshots of the development.

Please let me know of any innovative projects you are working on or have seen lately. It doesn’t have to be from a major newspaper, it just has to be an innovative blend of journalism and technology. Please e-mail me at mtaylor[at]megantaylor[dot]org to submit a Spotlight recommendation.

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First Look at a (new) News Interface

Over the weekend I discovered The New York TimesFirst Look” blog.

I’d never seen this before, although the blog has been around since 2006, when the Times was experimenting with “My Times.”

How did I find it now?

Because the Times is testing a browsing prototype, “the article skimmer.”

Article Skimmer by The New York Times

Article Skimmer by The New York Times

While “First Look” wants to compare the article skimmer to “Reading the Sunday Times, spreading out the paper on a table while eating brunch,” I simply find it an interesting — Ad-free — interface.

In fact, if Dave Winer hadn’t put together this alternative for free, I might have found myself willing to pay up to $25 a year for that slick interface. Here’s Winer’s podcast on what he would pay for from the Times.

Of course, now I can just take Winer’s river of news and spice it up with some CSS.

Don’t worry, Rex Hammock will pay for it.

Happy, Pat?

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MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: BronxRhymes Tracks History of Hip-Hop

mediashift spotlight logo The MediaShift Innovation Spotlight looks in-depth at one great mash-up, database, mapping project or multimedia story that combines technology and journalism in useful ways. These projects can be at major newspaper or broadcast sites, or independent news sites or blogs. The main spotlights will run every other week, with mini-spotlights running on the off-weeks.

And this week we’re back to our normal column. I found a really great project produced by two individuals who did not set out to create journalism, but have done so nevertheless: BronxRhymes Uses Locality, Maps to Track History of Hip-Hop.

BronxRhymes is an attempt to raise awareness of the history of hip-hop in the Bronx, the northwestern borough of New York City where the musical style is thought to have originated. The history of hip-hop is illustrated through rhymes and plotted on an online map.

Inspired by music, history and technology, Masha Ioveva and Claudia Bernett created a way for the community to become engaged in its history, at a time when gentrification may be wiping it away.

Please let me know of any innovative projects you are working on or have seen lately. It doesn’t have to be from a major newspaper; it just has to be an innovative blend of journalism and technology. Please e-mail me at mtaylor[at]megantaylor[dot]org to submit a Spotlight recommendation.