What should I teach for Blogging Best Practices?

For the next three of four Monday evenings, I’m teaching Blogging Best Practices as a part of the continuing education series produced by the J-School and Baruch College. The total class time is six hours. Here’s its description:

Anyone can create a blog, but what does it mean to blog well? This course will teach you how to set up and design your blog, how to get traffic, how to handle conversations, and how to make money.

Useful, right? The short of it: I have plenty of fodder for what I can teach, everything from the ethic of the link to basic HTML/CSS for formatting, but what I should teach is the more important question.

What’s one thing about blogging you’ve learned and can teach? Or, what’s one thing you still want to learn? Topics, teaching strategies and exercise ideas greatly appreciated.

What ever happened to the Populous Project?

The Populous Project is (was?) an open source, student news content management system which received $275,000 from the Knight Foundation’s 2008 News Challenge. It was supposed to be the panacea for college media, solve all of our College Publisher woes, and offered everything but the kitchen sink. CoPress talked to Anthony and Dharmishta a few times in October 2008, was promised an alpha to play with later that fall, but the project shortly dropped completely off the radar.

What ever happened to the Populous Project, and the Knight Foundation’s smooth $275,000?

Why this is an important story to be told: The Knight Foundation espouses “informed and engaged communities [that] lead to transformational change” except, apparently, when it’s inconvenient. A significant portion of college media is locked to a proprietary publishing platform that takes most, if not all, of their online advertising revenue. In order to build financially viable businesses online, these publications need to take control of their technology. Stories like the Populous Project don’t inspire the trust required for organizations to collaborate on their technology and benefit from the effects of a network of innovation.

Leave specific questions you want answered in the comments.

Idea: WordPress plugin to export to a given format

For those in the publishing world: if you could have a WordPress plugin that allowed you to export a post to any given format, what formats would those be? Furthermore, how would the data be structured for each format (e.g. RTF vs. Microsoft Word vs. PDF vs. NITF)? I’m thinking this might be a poor man’s way to InDesign integration for Edit Flow.

Questions currently of interest

What follows are a few of the questions that have been consuming a significant amount my brain cycles recently. This may or may not be a departure from what I might normally post, but I’d like to start using my web presence as a personal data store as much as a place to publish opinionated pieces about this, that, or the other.

Two more notes. First, on the subject of journalism, it’d be fascinating to see beat reporters regularly post their current questions of interest. This may even be a sellable asset. In addition to benefiting from the information they produce, I as a reader could also learn tremendously from their research process.

Second, I literally can not wait until I have a tool that allows me to manage my learning process. Specifically, I’d love to be able to articulate questions that inspire movement towards knowledge, map my answers when I find them, and then computationally mine the activity data for insights.


How many hours a day are wasted trying to solve a problem that has either already been solved or just needs existing data to generate a solution? Which industries spend the greatest amount of time solving information problems, and what would be the economic gains if you could provide the “just-in-time” data needed to solve the problems? What tools do you need to actively monitor and provide for these information needs?

How does the nature of work change when the efficiencies of technology rule an increasing number of jobs obsolete? How is the nature of local business and commerce shifting because of the web and supply chain efficiencies?

What percentage of students have to take out loans for tuition, and how has that number changed over the years? How has the payback period changed in total and by course of study? Does higher education make more or less economic sense? This data repository may hold answers.

What is the breakdown of information provided by a traditional newspaper (how much and of what topics)? What other local information providers overlap with this information, and how much of it is unique to the newspaper? What are the overall information needs of the community, and how do you surface and visualize this?

What percentage of vehicles drive down I-5 with solely a single occupant? How could you incentivize these drivers to self-report their “flight plans”? What systems have attempted to solve this, and what have been their successes and failures?

In what ways can you produce, structure and save a lot of personal data in such a fashion that it can become useful in the aggregate? How do you bake this into your workflow so that it isn’t extra work? What bits of data would be useful on a personal level, a community level, and/or a societal level? Related: absolutely fascinating RadioLab episode explores how the mining of Agatha Christie’s written works led to a surprising insight.

Measuring journalism

Steven Johnson, with “The Glass Box and The Commonplace Book” (emphasis mine):

But they have underestimated the textual productivity of organizations that are incentivized to connect, not protect, their words. A single piece of information designed to flow through the entire ecosystem of news will create more value than a piece of information sealed up in a glass box. And ProPublica, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of organizations – some of the focused on journalism, some of the government-based, some of them new creatures indigenous to the web – that create information that can be freely recombined into private commonplace books or Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalism. A journalist today can get the idea for an investigation from a document on Wikileaks, get background information from Wikipedia, download government statistics or transcripts from open.gov or the Sunlight Foundation. You cannot measure the health of journalism simply by looking at the number of editors and reporters on the payroll of newspapers. There are undoubtedly going to be fewer of them. The question is whether that loss is going to be offset by the tremendous increase in textual productivity we get from a connected web. Presuming, of course, that we don’t replace that web with glass boxes.

Whoa, wait a second… how do we measure the health of journalism then? If we were to develop this system, would we be able to track information density of text content or derive the quality of the information produced? Could we then mash this against topical and location metadata to see how well particular communities are being served?

This is one of the things I’d like to discuss at tomorrow’s BarCamp NewsInnovation.