Megan Taylor

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

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I’m in the gray, working with public relations

I’ve been wanting to write a bit about what I’m doing and where I’m working, but had trouble figuring out how to approach the subject.

You see, I work for a PR company.

I can hear you all gasping. No, I have NOT crossed over to the “dark side.”

PR companies are scrambling like most other institutional businesses to figure out this whole “Internet thing.” My job as “Digital Media Intern” is to move Quinn & Co. forward by teaching how social media works. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, the whole kit and caboodle.

So I’ve been doing lots of research: what’s the best blogging platform for their purposes, how can the company and their clients build loyalty through Twitter and Facebook, how to monitor brands with Google Alerts, optimizing press releases and websites for search engines, and building lists of bloggers and micro-bloggers for Real Estate, Travel and Food, Wine & Spirits.

I’ve also been doing some multimedia work: a video from a media panel, working on an interactive email design.

All of which is very helpful in getting to my goal.

I want to work in news. No question. I don’t care if it’s a newspaper, magazine, radio station, because when you get to the website, it’s all the same.

Ultimately, news outlets have to learn the kinds of things I’m learning now. How do you build niche audiences online? How do you manage an online community? And so on.

While my true love is reporting through multimedia (including data), this is fun, too. I’ve never liked the black hat/white hat metaphor, so I’m working in shades of gray.

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I didn’t take a copy of the fake NY Times

As I got off the train at Penn Station Tuesday morning, still drowsy from the 1 hour commute, I heard “Free copies of the NY Times!” coming loudly from somewhere behind my left ear. I kept walking.

Two blocks later I caught a glimpse of the front page of the paper carried by the large, dark trenchcoat in front of me. Wait a second!

What I saw was this:

Naturally, as soon as I got to the office I did some Google searches. It took another 15 minutes for the first blog posts to hit.

Apparently a group of pranksters called The Yes Men recruited volunteers to pass out these FAKE papers!

Gawker has a great peice on the subject, and The New York Times takes it in stride.

Check out the Web edition and PDF files. Too bad they didn’t produce any multimedia.

That’ll teach me to ignore the word “Free.”

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I write as an ESTP

I stumbled across Typealyzer today, a little app that analyzes the text of a blog and assigns a Myers-Briggs Personality Type based on the words and sentences of the writer.

These were my results:

ESTP – The Doers
(Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving)

The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Analysis

This show what parts of the brain that were dominant during writing.

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test several times, and while I always come out with Thinking and Perceiving, I usually get Introversion and Intuition as well. Then again, I’m writing a blog, it would be weird if it came out with Introversion.

Read more about the Myers-Briggs Personalities.

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Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists

I just joined the “Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists” young journalist’s blog ring.

We’ll write about a different topic each month and address issues important to the under 30 crowd.

This month’s kickoff topic is: The biggest challenge facing a young journalist in today’s media is…

Check out my answer and others at Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists.

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Suggestions for changes at SOJo

This week I’ve been thinking about restructuring some areas of this site, as well as getting into a more stable posting schedule.

The first area of concern is the sidebar of this blog. I’ve already started messing with a few things, for example the blogroll. I had the blogroll pulling automatically from a folder in Google Reader. But I think its more serviceable to have links to things I’ve read or bookmarked recently, instead of a list of sites I may or may not have updated in months. What do you think?

What items are actually useful in a blog sidebar? What should go higher or lower? What do you look for?

I’m also going to change the postings from Delicious. I’ve been having problems with their auto-posting service for my bookmarks, and I’d rather have real content on here and put bookmarks in the sidebar. Besides, you can always grab the feed from my Delicious page or add me to your network.

My Twitter account is basically my “lifestream,” and I don’t want to duplicate that too much here. But I still want to provide easy access to all that information. Maybe a separate page that displays that?

I also need to update the Clips section. I want to provide a little more context, maybe break it up into sections for text, video, programming, etc.

I’d love any suggestions, and you’ll notice a few changes as I figure out what I want to do this week.

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Bandwagon of the summer: News APIs

In May announced its intention to build an Application Programming Interface for its data. MediaBistro quoted Aron Pilhofer:

The goal, according to Aron Pilhofer, editor of interactive news, is to “make the NYT programmable. Everything we produce should be organized data.”

More details, if they can be called that:

Once the API is complete, the Times’ internal developers will use it to build platforms to organize all the structured data such as events listings, restaurants reviews, recipes, etc. They will offer a key to programmers, developers and others who are interested in mashing-up various data sets on the site. “The plan is definitely to open [the code] up,” Frons said. “How far we don’t know.”

I haven’t heard anything since then, although the article mentioned that something would be ready “in a matter of weeks.”

Today I spent some time reading the API documentation for National Public Radio.

That’s right, NPR has an API. (mmm, I love my alphabet soup.)

NPR’s API provides a flexible, powerful way to access your favorite NPR content, including audio from most NPR programs dating back to 1995 as well as text, images and other web-only content from NPR and NPR member stations. This archive consists of over 250,000 stories that are grouped into more than 5,000 different aggregations.

You can get results from Topics, Music Genres, Programs, Bios, Music Artists, Columns and Series in XML, RSS, MediaRSS, JSON, and Atom or through HTML and JavaScript widgets.

Now, I’m a bit of an NPR junkie, so I’m thinking of ways to access all this information for my personal use. And I can see how it could be useful as an internal product for NPR.

But how would another news organization use this? Oh wait, they can’t:

The API is for personal, non-commercial use, or for noncommercial online use by a nonprofit corporation which is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

This one doesn’t make sense either:

Content from the API must be used for non-promotional, internet-based purposes only. Uses can include desktop gadgets, blog posts and widgets, but must not include e-newsletters.

And way down at the bottom of the page is a huge block of text describing excluded content. Boooo.

Check out these blog posts from Inside NPR.org, where they explain some of their decisions.

I think this was a great first step, but if you’re gonna jump on the bandwagon, make sure you don’t miss and land on the hitch.

cat

Further, really understand what purpose this bandwagon has. If you’re going to free your data, free it! Let people and news organizations use it (always with a link back) for all kinds of crazy things. Remember kids, sharing is caring!

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Berlin – Follies and free time

We’ve had a lot more free time lately, which has been nice. I took some time to recover from the past few days of walking and biking to edit photos and think about a subject for my project.

Having just come away from 4 years of sleeping 2-4 hours a night, 8 hours is such a luxury! I crash out around midnight and wake up around 8 a.m. This is great for this trip since I have plenty of good light time.

Andrew PurvisYesterday we went to a meeting with Andrew Purvis of the TIME magazine Berlin bureau. He talked about how to break into international reporting and some of the risks involved in reporting in places like Africa.

Laura Laabs He and intern Laura Laabs also talked about the unique personality of Berlin as a city. It’s certainly like no place I’ve ever been, and is becoming one of my favorite cities.

Next was a trip to Mercedes World. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one – I can’t tell one car from another and don’t particularly care for the luxury ideals promoted by brands like Mercedes. I took the opportunity to take a load off and sat around waiting for everyone else.

The last “group activity” was supposed to be a visit to the Helmut Newton museum. But, FAIL, the museum was closed.

Michelle and Robyn and I took off to re-shoot the old and new churches in Potsdamer Platz, visited the ZooBerlin and the Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum nearby. Through Old to New

The zoo was really depressing. I’ve never seen so many bars and cages. In the bird house, a lot of birds were plucking themselves, and the water in most of the tanks looked like lime Kool Aid. Jaguar behind bars

We went to the erotica museum hoping for some giggles, but it seemed pretty tame. Old Asian drawings and sculptures dominated, along with homoerotic sketches, a gold penis the size of a 7-year-old, and a sex store. I was unimpressed. erotica museum

By now our feet were aching and we needed food. We headed to Hackescher-Markt for dinner. A street cafe called Rocco was the nearest source of seating and sustenance. Sadly, the food was bland and the service awful, especially considering the prices!

Today I’m planning to go solo and get my project done, or at least started. I’ve been uploading dozens of photos to my Flickr account, so check ’em out!

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Berlin – Bike tour and the last carnival on earth

At 11am yesterday, 14 Americans clambered onto 14 cruisers and set off through the city. Our American guide Marielle was funny and friendly, and took us to some cool, off the beaten path spots.

Key sightings:

  • Commie architecture
  • a segment of the Berlin wall known as the East Side Gallery (the longest section left standing at about 1 kilometer)
  • the Soviet War Memorial
  • a watchtower in a park that used to be part of the “Deathstrip” or “No Man’s
    Land”
  • the Karl-Marx-Allee
  • lunch at a Turkish hole in the wall
  • a squat called Koepi

After the tour, Professor Freeman told us about a carnival that was taking place in a different neighborhood of the city. There was some discussion within a faction of the group about ditching the carnival and going after hot showers instead. But we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Points for adventurousness began to melt away as we were led through a park whose occupants looked to be selling happiness in powder, pill or plant form.

When we emerged from the trail of drug dealers, there was a clearing of pathetic little rides and bored carnies. And mud. And soon, rain. The most depressing carnival on earth.

We should have left 15 minutes earlier.

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The Alligator rockin’ at 10,000 Words

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words isn’t “just a blogger,” he’s a print journalist gone online. Luckie has been looking at college journalism this week, and The Independent Florida Alligator got some awesome mentions:

Online Student Journalism: Best of the Best

1. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida
The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post. The Alligator’s standout features are the Gainesville
Explorer , a look at the surrounding city using video and audio slideshows, the use of Google Maps mashups to illustrate problems like apartment overcrowding and rising gas prices, and its 11 blogsthat cover pretty much every spectrum of news. Admittedly The Alligator works on a larger scale than most student newspapers, but it is nevertheless an exceptional example of the possibility of online student journalism.

What a payoff for all the hard work we’ve done!

Online Student Journalism: Outstanding Use of Multimedia or Social Networking

7. Twitter, The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

It seems everyone is Twitteringthese days, but The Alligator is one of very few student newspapers doing so. The site uses twitterfeed to broadcast news stories and links, almost 2,500 of which have been sent since The Alligator began using the service.

Personally, I think we should have gotten more mention of our amazing multimedia, but at least my Twitter obsession has been justified.

Online Student Journalism: Best Site Design

4. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is an incredible example of the potential greatness of an online student newspaper. Its black and white design makes the fine journalism happening on the site look even better. Sections and stories are easily scannable and the site’s headlines are large enough to catch the eye. The Alligator also makes great use of its footer — a contrasting black to
the rest of the page — something that is rare in online student paper design.

That’s so totally what we were going for!