@Memeorandum on @BarackObama’s new “Forward” campaign video

I finally got around to experimenting with Memeorandum, a web extension that aggregates popular news items and contextualize their bias. Created by Andy Baio and Delicious/Tasty Labs founder Joshua Schachter, Memeorandum uses singular value decomposition to graph the web of blogger-to-article relationships on a single spectrum.

The idea is to see how conservative or liberal a blog is without clicking through to every article. The colors (red for conservative, blue for liberal) don’t necessarily represent each blogger’s bias, but instead a representation of their linking activity. “The algorithm looks at the stories that bloggers linked to before, relative to all other bloggers, and groups them accordingly.”

For a simple demo, consider President Obama’s newly released “Forward” campaign slogan and video. (For more on the campaign see The New York Times article)

For this story, most of the bloggers linking to the Washington Times “New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism” are deemed conservative based on the history and nature of their linking.

Certainly not the best means of determining bias, but an interesting tool. Kudos to Andy and Joshua.

For more on Memeorandum, one, two.

@ProducerMatthew #FF

Matthew Keys (@ProducerMatthew), Deputy Social Media Editor at @Reuters, exemplifies reciprocity in social media. In addition to his tireless and timely news updates, he is a Rolodex for valuable media sources

On Friday, he shared a torrent of first-rate accounts in his Follow Friday (#FF) digest. Following are selections covering topics covering a range of topics. Get after it. Thanks @ProducerMatthew for the referrals.

Ethan Klapper (@EthanKlapper), social media editor at @HuffPostPol,for politics.

Jake Beckman (@jakebeckman), assignment editor at BloombergTV, for business.

Ryan Broderick (@ryanhatesthis), community moderator at Buzzfeed, for awesomeness.

Ernie Smith (@ShortFormErnie), the news editor of @ShortFormBlog for quick news.

Alex Ogle (@Alex_Ogle), for great photos, press  a journalist with AFP. 

Mike Hayes (@_mikehayes), the social media editor at @Buzzfeed.

Colin Jones (@colin_jones), associate media producer at @NYDailyNews.

Paul Balcerak (@PaulBalcerak) whose station @KIRO7Seattle broke big news this week, expanding the Secret Service scandal to El Salvador.

Of course, you are already following @ProducerMatthew.

Klouchebag Conditioning

As of 7:15 a.m., my Klouchebag rating was an embarrassing 40 – “Quite Noisy” on the service that assesses social media asshatery.

Klouchebag uses the ARSE rating system. Anger: profanity and rage. Retweets: “please RT”s, no or constant retweeting, and old-style. Social Apps: every useless checkin on foursquare or its horrible brethren. And English Usage: if you use EXCLAMATION MARKS OMG!!! or no capitals at all, this’ll be quite high.

I posted high on RTs and English Usage. This stung, like a friend criticizing your fashion choice. I didn’t know. I thought it was okay. Is it that bad? Does my mom know about my poor command of english on social media platforms?

As an aside, I scored a 49 on Klout, the service that inspired Klouchebag. According to this metric of online influence, “[I] may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.”

Whatever. Klouchebag has dealt the blow, making “second to none” dubious. Klouchebag’s cold truth is the kind of feedback I need. There is a lot of rubbish out there, and I certainly don’t want to be contributing to the dump. So rather than wallow in my online redundancy, I take it as a call for self improvement. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is on my desk, right next to my cup of coffee. I will pump up my keystrokes, put in the time and thought, to break free of the tempting RT button. The gauntlet has hit the ground, and I will not shy from the challenge. I will reduce my Klouchebaggery.

Africa Comes Online

There over 500 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. In 2008, there were 246 million, over a 100 percent increase. But only 3 percent of those are smartphones. [Afrographique]

There is a wealth of fascinating data on Afrographique, covering subjects from telecommunications to GDP growth rates.

Sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for 12 percent of the world’s population, and is projected to account for more than a third by 2100. [New York Times]

A mushrooming continent with an appetite for development and technology. It is difficult to fathom what the next century will bring for Africa and the world.

Overall, as noted in the companion report, the survey confirms that Facebook and Twitter are now pathways to news, but their role may not be as large as some have suggested. The population that uses these networks for news at all is still relatively small, especially the part that does so very often. Moreover, these social media news consumers have not given up other methods of getting news, such going directly to websites, using apps or through search. In other words, social media are additional paths to news, not replacements for more traditional ones. The survey also finds that Twitter and Facebook function differently from each other, both in terms of where the news links come from and the degree to which people believe they are encountering different news than they would have encountered elsewhere.  Each also draws a different population of users, with Twitter users standing out most. Facebook news users get more news from friends and family and see it as news they might well have gotten someplace else if Facebook did not exist. For Twitter users, though, the news links come from a more even mix of family and friends and news organizations. Most of these users also feel that without Twitter, they would have missed this kind of news.

What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News | State of the Media

I came across this incredible photograph of John F. Kennedy campaigning at the UW-Madison Field House on the 


HuffPo won a Pulitzer! And so did Politico! 2011 may become a watershed year for online journalism, as for-profit online news organizations finally took a bite out of the news industry’s most prestigious prize. The Huffington Post, known as the kings of aggregation, won for a fairly traditional piece for them — reporter David Wood’s ten-part story discussing the struggles of returning veterans. (Wood is shown above, trying to open up a Nattie Light, which clearly is the only beer HuffPo had on hand to celebrate his feat.) Politico, on the other hand, won for Matt Wuerker’s mad editorial cartooning skillz. The wins tell the journalism world what many already knew — the folks on the Web are at the same level as traditional newspapers. Anyway, here’s a round-up of a few newspaper winners of note:

  • one At age 24 and just out of college, the Harrisburg Patriot-News’ Sara Ganim won a Pulitzer for local reporting — she was the first to report details on the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State.
  • two The Stranger, a snarky Seattle weekly known for advice columnist Dan Savage, won a Pulitzer for Eli Sanders’ story about a woman who survived a brutal rape.
  • three Despite a tough time for the paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer won a public service Pulitzer for its “Assault on Learning” series, which tackled school violence.
  • four The Tuscaloosa News kept readers informed online, despite a tornado which stopped their presses and destroyed homes. For that, they won a Breaking News Pulitzer. source

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#ACES2012 Headline Contest Winners, distilled

The American Copy Editors Society announced the winners of its 2011 national headline contest on April 12, 2012, at the organization’s 16th national conference in New Orleans.

To download Thursday’s presentation with headlines and more as a PDF, click here. Below I have posted a smattering of my favorites, with the Nirvana reference on top.

  • “Spells like team spirit.” Becca Clemons
  • “Bridge over tribal water.” Damen Clow.
  • “Maybe he should have gone with a driver: Lawyer, disoriented after drinking, says he broke into the pro shop to warm up.” Rich Mills
  • “What’s their age again? After 8-year-hiatus, Blink-182’s stab at more mature, experimental sound backfires.” Daily Orange
  • “World doesn’t end.” Omaha-World Herald
  • “If you’re happy and you know it, must I too?” New York Times

[Source: ACES]

@PewInternet releases “Digital Differences”

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released it’s “Digital Differences” report examining digital differences among income groups, age groups, racial and ethic groups, and educational attainment. It covers internet, broadband, mobile, and social networks. tracking survey. Since the survey was first conducted in 2000, differences in internet access persist among different demographic groups, especially when it comes to access to high-speed broadband at home.

The whole report can be downloaded at the Pew Internet website.

Striking data:

  • One in five American adults does not use the internetThe main reason given for not going online is because respondents don’t think the internet is relevant to them.
  • 88% of American adults have a cell phone, 57% have a laptop, 19% own an e-book reader, and 19% have a tablet computer; about six in ten adults (63%) go online wirelessly with one of those devices. 
  • Both African Americans and English-speaking Latinos are as likely as whites to own any sort of mobile phone.
  • Notable correlation between education attainment and internet use: in 2011, 71% of high school grads use the internet, while 94% of those with beyond college education.
  • In 2000, 47% of adults (age 18 and up) used the Internet. In 2011, 78%.
  • 87% of internet users under 30 use social networking sites, compared with less than a third (29%) of those 65 and older.
  • Access to internet improving? In 2000, 16% of those with less than a high school diploma used the internet. In 2011, this group has increased to 43%

[Source: Digital Differences”, The Pew Internet & American Life Project]

@ReutersPR: “How Reuters Journalists Use Social Media to Uncover Today’s Stories”

Earlier today I attended (i.e. streamed) a webinar exploring how journalists are using social media to identify stories, research, build audience, and distribute their reporting. Hosted by Reuters PR, the “How Reuters Journalists Use Social Media to Uncover Today’s Stories” featured an impressive panel: Anthony De Rosa, Social Media Editor at Reuters; Lauren Young, Wealth Editor at Thomson Reuters; and Corey Fiedler, VP of Product Management at Thomson Reuters.

I will admit that I was already a huge fan of Mr. De Rosa, but found all contributors to be informative and generous with their offerings.

WEBINAR: How Reuters Journalists Use Social Media to Uncover Today’s Stories


Below are some of the more potent appreciations I gained.

Social media and journalists

Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa), states his responsibility at Reuters is to train journalists to effectively use social media for reporting and broadcasting. Given the nature of the technology and field, this means continuous innovation and skill development. He orchestrates semi-monthly workshops, along with “show and tell” sessions for journalists to share tools and strategies. As the 

Lauren Young (@LaurenYoung), Confessed that being amongst young and forward thinking professionals helps to keep abreast of new media developments.

@LaurenYoung: Social media has changed the pace, tenor, and veracity of journalism.

@antderosa likes the pace of real-time news. There is more emphasis on getting it right. In the fight to be first, some sacrifice validity. But he strives to maintain the balance between timeliness and veracity.

Social media as a reporting tool

To manage the fire-hose effect of Twitter, @AntDeRosa curates lists for beats, contacts, and competitors. I highly recommend following his lists, as they are among the most comprehensive and useful I have encountered.

@AntDeRosa mentioned that he used Geofeeder (I have yet to track this down, perhaps it is related to this research?), which permits you to spotlight social media activity for geographic locations. Muckrack was recommended as another tool to make sense of the  flood of journalistic activity on Twitter.

@AntDeRosa shared that he was particularly fond of using Twitter to monitor events inaccessible to reporters (e.g. civilian videos in Syria).

Social media best practices

@LaurenYoung argued that the most well received tweets are those that contain salient data points. Twitter’s 140 character format is perfect for that succinct powerful facts.
Ms. Young holds different social media platforms to be for different types of interaction. Twitter is well suited for, monitoring information. Facebook, she asserted, is better for conversation. On this subject, @antderosa added that Facebook (and potentially Google+) can be used to crowdsource. Accommodating more robust conversation, these environments encourage audiences to interact with journalists, and for journalists to get to know who it is they serve.

@LaurenYoung sees Twitter as a channel for community building, not story ideas. She finds out what the competition is up to, and what her audience is talking about. Good old fashioned reporting is still the best way to find a story, and that involves talking to a person. Big stories comes from being on the front lines, not Twitter streams. Social media is another place to spread the gospel, but a reporter can not solely work in that arena.

@AntDeRosa said he does not focus too much on generating traffic with his social media activity. He instead strives to provide valuable information as it reported and verified. Strategic timing of posts distracts from the content being useful and informative. Developing audience trust that information is timely and valuable will be traffic.

@LaurenYoung does believe in strategic posting.

On veracity in social media

@AntDeRosa argues that digital footprints do much to verify sources. Who a source is following, who they are followed by, where they are, how old the account is, etc. all can be telling. But he does not see this as a replacement for in person exchanges, which will remain an integral component to reporting.

On the future of social media and journalism

@AntDeRosa: “More passive customization of news.” 

@AntDeRosa predicts more passive customization, or news that is tailored to the audience. Facebook’s social graph knows a lot about us, and pushes specific information to us. News will likely go the same way. However, people often don’t know what they should do. Audience must be open to new stuff. Passive customization should not usurp editorial direction.

@LaurenYoung emphasized that her goal is to beat the competition. And when she can’t beat the competition, she insists on being a part of the conversation. Her work should be as newsworthy and timely as possible, “News you can use.”

Also, Collen Maleski created a Storify chronicle of the discussion.

“How to Ask a Question” takeaways

I have taken to slamming my phone down as a way to announce an Instapaper “Like” in real life. Today, this happened during lunch, and now I am sitting alone. I was reading “How to Ask a Question” by Peter Wood of The Chronicle of Higher Education. After attending a college debate, the author remarks that “college campuses present some of the worst spectacles of faux-questioning prolixity and inconsequence.”

I agree. Many college students have no idea how to ask questions, the value of doing so, nor do they care to. I have my suspicions why this is the case: when mom and dad are financially backing, there is no need to know what kind of oil your car takes.

But Mr. Wood shares some very useful guidelines for asking questions, in any situation.

  • The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. 
  • The best questions are poised between attentiveness to what the speaker has already said and the chance to deepen the discussion. 
  • You have not been invited to give a speech. 
  • Weigh the usual interrogatory words in English: who, what, where, why, when. If you can begin your sentence with one of these you are more than half-way to a good question. 
  • Don’t engage in meta-speech. 
  • Keep your autobiography to yourself.

[“How to Ask a Question” by Peter Wood of The Chronicle of Higher Education}

#longreads laudits

If you are not yet deeply addicted to longreads, then you are missing out and likely much more productive than I. I axed my Facebook account just so I could rationalize the insane amount of time I spend diving into longreads selections, barely remembering to come up for air.

Given my appreciation of longreads, I was beside myself to be named “Featured Longreader” on April 02, 2012. While my accomplishment is undeniably noteworthy, even more momentous were the articles that I submitted, and of course the treasure trove that is longreads.