Important news from the land of content management systems, publishing, and journalism

It shouldn’t be, but I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week: the Bangor Daily News finally switched their entire publishing workflow operation to Google Docs and WordPress. According to his boss, here’s why:

As we lost staff to cutbacks over the years, assembling our content into finished products was taking a larger and larger percentage of our time. Simply processing press releases seemed to suck up significant portions of editors’ days. No one wanted to be in this situation, but our infrastructure for moving content demanded it. We were trapped.

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As the newsroom has grown comfortable with Docs, it is becoming more efficient (links and headlines, for instance, travel from Docs to WordPress) and we are shifting staff members from production to content creation. We knew we had a winner in Docs when we had a major election story with two reporters in the field and an editor in the newsroom, all working simultaneously on the same breaking story, adding content, seeing in real time what each was adding, talking to each other through the chat function and responding with updated information. Fast, simple, low cost.

Lauren Rabaino interviewed Will for MediaBistro to get the full details on how it actually works:

  1. Reporters and editors compose all stories in Google Docs. Using labels and native commenting, the stories get sent through the editing process.
  2. When a story is ready to publish, it gets sent from Google Docs to WordPress with one click.
  3. In WordPress, editors can publish the story to the web, then set up a print headline and print subhead.
  4. The story then appears in InDesign, where print designers can lay out the print newspaper.

Matt Thompson, in a piece for Poynter about why content management systems matter to journalists, gets the last word:

We’re beginning to understand that a CMS — every CMS, open-source, enterprise, or otherwise — requires continual investment and development. No matter how small or large your organization is, your content management system has to develop to accommodate a digital news environment that changes dramatically from year to year.

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Because it makes no sense to spend a month of training on a system that’s going to change in a year, we have to use content management interfaces that are beautiful enough for users to grasp intuitively.

And because we need to develop fast, we have to borrow tools and ideas from the world of open-source software to make our content management ecosystems better.

Finally we’re getting somewhere. Good investments pay dividends.

Tracking data on everything: Web team projects

Data makes the world more visible.

At the end of March, I embarked on a personal initiative at the J-School to quantify as many of our processes as possible. My working thesis: if we can generate enough data about a system, and have a framework to understand it, we can be far more effective in what we do. Quite possibly way over 5-6%. Continue reading “Tracking data on everything: Web team projects”

Adhoc transportation

Here’s the problem: I, like many people I know, drive too many places all alone in my car.  One person in a three ton metal vehicle that could easily transport five.  To move all of that mass around, with such unused, waste internal space, is an inefficient use of energy.

Money is made by identifying and capitalizing on inefficiency.  Inefficiency in the market, inefficiency in a business, and inefficiency in moving humans to where they want to go.

Here’s one solution: ad-hoc transportation.  Capitalizing on the triple convergence between location-aware devices (iPhone 2 on June 9th, anyone?), social networking (Facebook, Twitter, et al), and an absurd number of nearly empty cars on the road (suburban America), the goal should be to connect people with people who are pointed in the same destination.

We’ll call it Me Drive We for the time being.  It’s the most creative, available domain I could find in 30 seconds of searching.

Say, for instance, I have a ’99 Subaru Outback Legacy, Forest Green, and want to go out to Hood River for the day to photograph a windsurfing competition.  To get directions and a forecasted drive time on the day of the event, I’d most likely use my GPS-enabled device to search up the destination.  After I’ve decided on a route, Me Drive We could give me a wee little pop-up asking if I would like to publish my trip to the public.  Me Drive We would then send me a text message with the names and numbers of people either in my area or along the way who are interested in making a similar trip.  Or it could send my contact information to them, it doesn’t matter how the connection is made so long as it is made and made effortlessly.

It shouldn’t need to be limited to one platform, either.  If I had rock-solid information on what the wind conditions were going to be the week before (and we’re speaking a lot of hypotheticals here), I would be able to use a website to report where I’m going and when.  The value in having at least one mobile tentacle, however, is that I’ve never seen something like this done, and I read a lot of tech news, and you can make it brain-dead simple with one device: the cellphone.

Apple’s new iPhone is highly likely to be released in the next month with these features:

  • 3G high-speed internet
  • An official SDK (Software Development Kit) with first-round applications
  • GPS

It’s always going to know where I am, and I might just want it to also know where I’m going.

Wait, what if I don’t want to drive or ride with complete strangers who might axe me to steal my wallet?

This is where the social networking should poke its head.  Leveraging a social graph already created with Facebook or, heaven forbid, MySpace, I could choose to ride or drive with people I already know who have shared where they want to go too.  The service (ideally) would only reveal my location and travel plans to the circle of friends I’ve already identified.  If someone I didn’t know wanted to get a ride with me, I could again capitalize on the social graph to see if we know anyone in common.  

If I ended up riding with some I didn’t know, Me Drive We could even give me suggestions for ice-breakers, based on data culled from other social networks.  For instance, 90 percent of the music I listen to is scrobbled to Last.fm, and leads to very interesting charts.  This week, my top artist seems to be Gangstagrass, who released a stellar hip-hop/bluegrass album I would highly recommend downloading if you haven’t already.  Me Drive We could take this information, or knowledge of the recent books I’ve enjoyed from Good Reads, and give me and my passenger quality cultural artifacts to discuss. 

The most obvious constraints are usability and critical mass.  By riding on the shoulders of two giants moving through the forest at the moment, Facebook, or Facebonk as I call it affectionately, and Apple’s iPhone, I think Me Drive We could easily overcome them.  Integration with existing devices and sites would super necessary for successful adoption.

You build it for us lonely drivers and I will use it.  It’s time to be more efficient with our energy.