Megan Taylor

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


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.


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


MediaShift Innovation Spotlight: ChangeTracker, plus hiatus

mediashift_spotlightThis week I wrote my last Spotlight article for a while. Hopefully I’ll get to start them up again sometime down the road, but for now, sayonara.

My last Spotlight is ProPublica’s ChangeTracker, created by new intern Brian Boyer.

ChangeTracker is a project at ProPublica that watches three government websites —, and — for edits, deletions or changes to existing content. Through an RSS feed, Twitter account or daily email digest, ChangeTracker will inform you when a page changes on these sites, and show you what’s been added or removed.

ChangeTracker is yet another example of a trend I’ve noticed in newer journalism projects. Rather than building a single thing, some journalists are building tools that can be used over and over, in different ways, to produce information and tell stories.

It’s an important concept, given the restrictions and limited resources available to journalists whose publications are struggling. I hope to see a lot more work like this.



I’m confused. I feel out of the loop.

I get that Obama is the first black president.

I get that he represents a new era in our history.

I get that he represents changes that a lot of people want to see.

I get that his use of social media and technology during his campaign implies some very cool things during his presidency.

But why is everyone going apes**t!?

Why do I keep seeing articles about what the Obamas ate for lunch, or the kids’ first day at school or his physical appeal?

Why did a whole bunch of people stand around in the freezing cold to listen to other people talk, and musicians with numb hands try to play?

Why are there iPhone applications devoted to this man and his inauguration?

I remember Bush’s inauguration as a bad day, because my family disagrees with his beliefs and policies. I don’t remember Clinton’s. And before that, I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than my skinned knees.

But I’ve asked around, and no other inauguration has been compared to Woodstock.

I really don’t get it. Do you?


Have I been hacked?!

So, I write up my post for today, publish and check the site, only to find that three of my recent posts no longer exist! The comments are gone, the posts are gone, and the only record is in Google’s cache and my RSS reader.

Does anyone know of recent WordPress vulnerabilities? How can I check to see if I was hacked?


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, 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.


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!


An introduction to RSS

RSS has got to be one of my favorite reporting tools. Although my writing lately is limited to this blog and News Videographer, I still have to find something to write about and keep current in my field. That means communicating with a lot of people.

But I don’t have time to talk to all those people. Many of them have Web sites and blogs, and those who don’t get written about online by the former. It’s much easier and faster for all this information to be compiled in one place for my viewing pleasure.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It is most often characterized by the orange and white icon you may see on many Web sites. (See the icon at the top of the right column?) An RSS feed basically delivers new content from a chosen site to a feed reader of your choice.

A feed reader, also known as a news aggregator, can be compared to your e-mail inbox. Instead of e-mail addressed to you, it receives the updates you have subscribed to. Some readers let you interact and organize your subscriptions in many different ways.

So start receiving these handy-dandy updates, you first need a feed reader. My favorite is Google Reader, but other options are available such as Bloglines and NewsGator. You can also choose, like e-mail, to use a Web-based or desktop feed reader. You can peruse these options by simply doing a search for feed readers.

Having chosen your feed reader, start subscribing! In most cases, the orange and white RSS icon will appear somewhere on a Web site. Some browsers will also show the icon in the address bar if there is a feed for that site. Some sites do not have feeds.

I’ve subscribed to a slew of different sites, from news to blogs to entertainment and more. If your city government has a Web site, chances are it has some sort of feed (even Gainesville has one for municipal minutes). State and federal governments are more likely to provide more information. And don’t discount blogs! Even though you will have to double-check the information, blogs are an amazing resource, and with a little hunting you can find the good ones.

Now, all you have to do is remember to check the feed reader every day.

This post was also published at Wired Journalists.


More Online Politics: Newspapers and Databases

I’m always on the lookout for different ways to keep track of the political realm. It is an area that is very hard to cover well, concentrating on the issues without getting caught up in the “who has more money.” I believe it is an area that newspaper have so far failed to cover well. So I turn to the Internet.

The Washington Post has a Campaign Tracker, which lists and maps the campaign events of the 2008 presidential candidates. For each candidate, it lists the state and city with the most events, as well as the top state for fund raising. You can see the results by candidate, date and state, and there’s also an RSS feed. This is a nice start, but its focusing on the least important aspects of the campaigns. I’d like to see the issues candidates represent, whether or not they are being consistent, what groups are they getting support from, and links to every article in which they are mentioned.

EDIT: Derek Willis of the Post pointed out that I totally missed the candidate profiles, finance filings, and primary information linked to the Campaign Tracker.

WashingtonWatch reveals the costs behind proposed U.S. federal legislation and regulation. The site also asks for comments, allows responses to a poll and allows Bill summaries to be edited. The cost of a bill is broken down into “cost per family” which makes it easier to digest. Just looking at some of those costs makes me wince.

I may just be getting cool enough for people to send me press releases, cause I got this in my inbox the other day from the Congresspedia Associate Managing Editor:

  • Get an early look at Congresspedia’s new legislative section

  • What’s McConnell Hiding?’ Win $500 for getting Sen. McConnell to answer on the record

  • LOUIS—a new database of documents from the Congressional Record, congressional bills and resolutions, congressional reports, congressional hearings, GAO reports, presidential papers and the Federal Register.

  • federal money & politics search engine launched (so far only California and U.S. Congress)

  • Open House Project delivers recommendations to increase transparency on Capitol Hill

I really like some of these ideas: pinning politicians down, easy search of Congressional documents, following paper trails and shining a light on Capitol Hill are all great things to put out there. And not necessarily things I expect from my newspaper.


Making Twitter Useful

As far as web geeks go, I may be a little anti-social. I visit Facebook once a week, at most. I don’t even bother with Myspace anymore unless someone else calls my attention there. I don’t have many photos to post to Flickr, I don’t usually recommend links via (mostly because the people I’m networked with usually beat me to the link), Digg is no longer even an RSS feed and I post to Twitter only once every few days.

But I maintain these connections, cause you just never know.

For example, I’m a “twitter-follower” of the NYT. I get instant messages with links to new stories. I’ve found that this means I actually read them, instead of skipping over the headline and lede in Google Reader.

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel made an account with Twitter, and used it to track and update the launching of Atlantis. The best part is, they didn’t just “tweet” shuttle-related updates.

“Fours hours until launch and all anyone is talking about is Paris Hilton’s meltdown in court and her return to jail. Sigh.”

So having resisted Twitter, finally given in, and being a lukewarm user at best, why does this rock my socks?

Because I wasn’t within reach of TV or computer on Friday. I got those updates as text messages on my phone. And being addicted to being in the know, that just made my day.

The lesson here is that some weird and funky things take off in the online world. News outlets should join in the fun.


Staying in the know with RSS

Yesterday a post from Lifehack described how to use Technorati, Digg,, to stay on top of all the news that’s fit to read, especially in a particular field.

Since I’m always looking for new journalism and online journalism blogs, I thought this would be a great way to bring those blogs to me instead of searching for them.

So I nabbed the RSS feed for a Technorati search for “journalism.” So far, this one has been really great. I’m getting a lot of interesting and relevant articles from this one.

I also got the RSS for the same search term on Digg. This one is not as good. I’m getting a lot of stuff that doesn’t pertain to journalism at all. I may try a new search term or just give up on Digg altogether.

Then I subscribed to the feed for popular links tagged with “journalism.” Like Technorati, this is turning out nicely.

I’m finding a lot of new resources without having to search for them, which is always awesome. I’m gonna add some more search terms and see how that turns out. Can you think of any other ways to pull in information like this?


Online Journalism Review Review

Reposted from my class assignment blog:

Online Journalism review ( is a great resource for how to do good online journalism. It’s essentially a blog written by some of the experts, covering topics from free online applications to RSS. They also have a great discussion board where you can find commentary from OJR’s readers. This site has been in my feed reader for at least six months now, and is always a worthy read. They also put together some resources for online journalism ethics, video and student journalism. They even created an RSS mash-up of what OJR considers to be the best online journalism blogs (another one of my subscriptions).

and a classmate’s analysis of

The website I had to check was It’s a pretty good non-partisan website aimed at checking the accuracy of statements done by politicians, political organizations, and the government. I think it would be a useful site for a journalist looking to find contrasting views of a political event or political publicity. It’s archives have decent depth to look into facts that happened a while back. I did find that though the site claims not to have party favoritism, at the present time, most of the people under the microscope seem to be republicans. Maybe this is just due to what has been going on recently.

We were each assigned a Web site to analyze, in terms of content and usefulness rather than design.