Archive for the 'internet' Category

On ego searching, and why it matters

February 21, 2008

Great post last week from Growing Your News Website about journalists responding to conversations that involve them, even when these conversations are taking place not on the MSM dot-com that employs them.

Great example: Erie Media-Go-Round mentions the Erie Times-News probably every other day. But ETN reporters never join the conversation. Sure, in this particular example the “conversation” might be a little, well, woolly–but ignoring commenters won’t make them go away. You know how someone will be swearing at the computerized IVR (“Say ‘billing’ if you have a question about your bill. Did you say ‘B&DSYH$#@?’ Say ‘yes’ to proceed”) and then suddenly become mollified when they hear a real person on the line? Comments on blogs work a little like that, too. Rail all you want at the Erie reporter because he’s not going to read this!…Then you totally freak them out by posting a polite (yet non-troll-feeding) response, and then maybe, in a perfect world, they’ll realize that you aren’t a pigheaded chumswilling a**hole and that maybe your words have some merit to them.


What Steve has to say is that basically it’s important to respond outside of your own news website–to refute incorrect information, to say “thanks” to someone who wrote something nice about you, to show you care about your community, and to build your brand. (Gloomy aside: Most newspapers are still struggling, for myriad reasons, to get reporters to respond to comments on THEIR OWN sites, so this idea may still be in “pipe dream” stages.) And what I didn’t know is that it’s incredibly easy to find out where these conversations are happening.

Every journalist should be using “ego trackers,” which are simply accounts that track articles and blog items that mention your name. I use Google Alerts and have it track my name; it delivers both news articles and blog items where I show up. There are plenty of websites that you can search on your name (Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Google News, Topix, etc.).

I just set up an alert for myself and was pleasantly surprised to find that an article I was sure was killed was actually live at Common Ground. How’s that for instant gratification? Plus, even though nobody’s written anything nasty about me yet, I’ll be prepared when it happens.


For journos and webheads: Growing Your News Website

February 20, 2008

Last week I learned that the Watertown (NY) Daily Times, despite putting all its content online for free, is losing out to a competitor, Howard Owens, awesome blogger and journalist, wrote “Never before have I seen a get trounced in its own market by any competitor — not even a TV station. has twice the traffic, and is growing faster, than the local daily’s news site.” [Source] And this is despite the fact that all NewZJunky has is a terrible (really) layout, and links to obits, public records, the police blotter, etc. So, if this is the future of journalism on the Internet, count me out. Ugh.

Enter Growing Your News Website, a blog launched last week by Steve Outing (media pioneer and E&P columnist). The idea is that every day, Steve or a guest blogger will post one tip–not news, but tips that can be implemented–for making money or increasing traffic on a news web site.

I’ve already added it to my blogroll. Wouldn’t it be great if this site took off?

Hooray! やったー!

February 15, 2008

I am a fan of a new 20% project Google has rolled out: translation bots in Google Chat. Add a specific e-mail address to your buddy list (my bot of choice is and if you send it a message, it will spit back a translation. This is a lot faster than Babelfish and what have you, and you can have a group chat open with multiple translation bots. This is hard to explain, but check the link and look at the screenshot.

This is a fantastic resource for anyone trying to learn a new language. As my interest in Japanese has recently been re-piqued, I think I’m going to be having a lot of chats with en2ja in the future.

Tuesday’s Tools: Remember The Milk & Gmail

February 12, 2008

Click to enlarge the screenshot. From
One more organization system: A Firefox plugin that integrates Remember the Milk, the online task-management service, and Gmail. It has some nifty features: You can automatically create tasks by adding tags to messages (for example: every mail tagged To Do can become a task with that e-mail’s subject line) or manually add them. It can listen to your Google Calendar and create tasks like “Mail present 4 days before Fred’s birthday” assuming Fred’s birthday is listed on your calendar. What it doesn’t do, is it doesn’t talk back to your calendar, though–and since I can’t function without a visual representation of what I’ve got going on, Google Calendar is still king in my world.

If someone could invent a way to combine Remember The Milk’s powers to manage non-time-sensitive tasks and Google Calendar for everything else, I’d be golden. Not even Things does this. Le sigh.

Anyway, get it here.

30 places to find free online courses for writers

February 8, 2008

Via Lifehacker, 10 places to get writing courses online including MIT, Utah State, Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (more of a reference, less of a class repository, but whatever), and more.

Another free way to improve your writing: join a critique circle. I dabbled in a few through (just punch in your city/state and “writing” and you should get some results) and wasn’t impressed, but it’s all about finding a group with whom you work well. I took a fiction writing class in college three times because I knew the instructor was brilliant and that he’d bring amazing things out of the group. I think it’s harder to get this dynamic without an established leader/authority figure, but not impossible.

And last, courtesy of Freelance Writing Jobs, 20 more course offerings, with little overlap because this list includes courses that cost money.

I’m wary of online courses that cost upwards of $300, but I’m loath to make a snap judgment and say they are not worth it. Has anyone tried an online, paid course?