Wednesday, February 19, 2014
To them Facebook is everyone they ever knew, and Twitter is something they’ve locked down to just a handful of people they care about–which is often the opposite of how adults use them. Teenagers don’t use social media to share links, says Microsoft researcher | Poynter.
Friday, February 14, 2014

Rethinking mobile at #ONACamp

Last weekend, I helped out with an ONA dCamp of mobile. It’s been brewing for awhile, before I even got into mobile, but after a long conversation about products, mobile and product teams with folks like Damon Kiesow and Eric Ulken at ONA13, Damon, with the help of the amazing Miranda Mulligan, made a conversation into a reality.

[Sidebar: Part of my interest in this is the struggle for a traditionally “non-tech” person like myself to budge into product teams. I am not a strong coder, but I can work with people who code. Is that enough? Depends on who you talk to.]

You can read this to see a little bit of what we did, but here are my takeaways.

It knows

I wrote this on one of our sticky notes. We can talk about the Internet of things, or wearable technology. But what all those things come down to, is that they know.

Some of the best apps, the ones I use every day, they know. It’s creepy, but what constitutes privacy is changing. Mynd, my calendar app, knows who I am meeting with next and shows me their LinkedIn profile. My alarm clock app, with a little input, has told me I sleep better when I drink tea and work out.

But news apps, news sites, they have never known. Not well, really. They might know what your friends have posted on Facebook from that site, but that’s hardly interesting.

What if you gave it access to your calendar and Facebook, and it told you Rob likes the Atlanta Braves and feeds you a few stories so you can make a tense meeting more relaxed? What if it told you the hotel you’re about to check into had break-ins last month that are still unsolved?

We can’t beat Facebook, but we can find spaces in the day

At least a couple teams tried to work on this. In our group the conversation went back and forth as to whether we — as news companies — really can compete with the timesucks of Facebook and Twitter, and the information gatherers like Flipboard.

But there are other moments in the day we can find. We can fill in the time where we’re waiting in line. The time when our readers wake up. The time when our readers are doing research. The time when they are looking up what is happening down the street. Is there a tree down?

We spend a lot of time focusing on the time of day we’re on mobile (early and evening) but the questions is what is our audience doing then? It’s not about time, it’s about activity. My hiking app has become indispensable when I’m out in the woods. Outside of the world of mobile, public radio is obsessed with drive time. Those moments, when people are trapped in the car and need something, anything to take their mind off it — driveway moments.

We need better building blocks

This is the least sexy thing. But it’s the most important. We can’t build anything for mobile unless we can actually program, write for, and control mobile. Most mobile websites are slight re-hashes of homepages. But when you’re on your phone, you’re most likely looking for something specific, or something that fills a need (interesting, funny, etc).

But to build something where the mobile display feel radically different, customized, we need to start somewhere better.

The building blocks can’t be

  • Headline
  • Byline
  • Photo
  • Tweet
  • Body

It’s got to be more like:

  • Headline
  • Byline
  • Photo
  • Nut graf
  • Inline image
  • Quote
  • Factbox
  • Background info

Our CMSs have to be ready for different displays. The preview needs to show not just desktop, but mobile. How can we have outstanding mobile products if our web producers and our mobile producers are just reproducing the same story, with the same basic elements? What’s the point of having two people if our systems won’t even let us produce different things?

If we crunch everything down to building blocks, then it’s easier to build on breaking news (goodbye, timestamps!!) and we can scale up easily to large scale projects without freaking out about mobile in the end.

Other nuggets

In tweet form, other thoughts that crossed my mind over the weekend

We need to get more women interested in mobile, in the tech side. Female product managers in news? A rare sight.

Push alerts aren’t the answer, they’re the beginning. The more relevant they are (@Circa) they more people use them.

Constant reminder: We are not typical news consumers. We have to stop building for ourselves.

The struggle to get newsroom to think mobile is the same struggle as social. We’re pushing the object of change, not the idea of it.

Big data needs to be broken down into small, actionable data on my phone.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
"If that sequence is reversed with opening parenthesis, hyphen, colon (-: , areas of the brain most readily involved in face perception aren’t able to process the image as a face," lead researcher Owen Churches told ABC. Your Brain Now Processes a Smiley Face as a Real Smile | Smart News | Smithsonian
The higher levels of fat in whole milk products may make us feel fuller, faster. And as a result, the thinking goes, we may end up eating less. The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean : The Salt : NPR
Monday, February 3, 2014
Consumers today have “contextual” analysis coming out of their ears. What they’re getting less of is the hard information — “what’s happening” — around which context is built. There are fewer reporters from general-interest publications covering city halls and statehouses, fewer devoted to issues such as the environment and healthcare, fewer keeping an eye on state and federal regulators. Supply of news is dwindling amid the digital media transformation -
Monday, January 27, 2014
The only real thing 30 took from me was the sense of limitless time. I can reasonably expect 30 more years of good health. With luck, there will be 9,000 sunsets to get the great work done, before one starts fearing cancer and death. On Turning 30 | VICE Canada
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Your eyes typically move across a page for between 7 to 9 letters before needing to pause to process what you’re reading. The Science Behind Fonts (And How They Make You Feel)
Monday, January 20, 2014
Women and members of minority groups, especially, are often raised with one set of values and expectations, and then suddenly need to excel in a new environment where the path to success is much different. How to Suppress the Apology Reflex -
Thursday, January 16, 2014
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22′
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!
Kurt Vonnegut on the Secret of Happiness: An Homage to Joseph Heller’s Wisdom | Brain Pickings
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Linus Pauling, 12 quotes from authors to remember when starting your first book (via nevver)