Comments redux

February 22, 2008

Continuing the comments discussion from yesterday, Mindy McAdams’ 6 Tips for Comments on Stories and J-blogs says more than I ever could about comments. This is a great series of tips.

Put the rules where everyone will see them. Check out Michelle Ferrier’s clever illustrated explanation of why this works.

Make the registration process and form as short as possible. I favor the kind of form that asks for exactly three things: A username, a password, and my e-mail address. The e-mail address will save me if I forget my username and password 12 years from now (I registered at The New York Times Web site in 1995). Some folks feel strongly that you should require real names. But if you’re asking for more than six pieces of information, in my opinion, you’re asking for TOO MUCH.

Make sure to scroll down and read about Daily Kos’s solution to trolls. :)


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?

Tuesday’s Tools: I, Rearrangement Servant

February 19, 2008

For what might be the most random and unpractical Tool ever, I present’s Internet Anagram Server (or “I, Rearrangement Servant”). I suppose this would come in handy when you needed to be witty, or if you had a character in your novel who loved anagrams, or if you were a blogger trying to come up with intelligent things to talk about (did you know “New York Times” can be anagrammed to “Timeworn Keys?”)…but really this is mostly a timewaster if I ever saw one.  The page has recently been updated to display anagrams in title case caps (The Quick Brown Fox…) rather than all caps (WHICH IS REALLY ANNOYING) so, props to the anagram folks.

(More: Washington Post ->Hating Now Stops. Los Angeles Times -> Elegant Semi Loss. Fitting, no?)

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.