Best Experiences Of 2009 (Part 2)

January 5, 2010

See Best Experiences of 2009 (Part 1) for numbers 6 – 10…

5. Social Network Steroids

Any seasoned journalist will tell you “breaking” a news story just feels good. However, breaking a news story in 2009 doesn’t apply the same way it did a decade earlier. If you happen to be first to report something, it’s usually incomplete by virtue of being “first”. It’s also not the best story — a departure from the old days of print — and requires outbound links to additional reporting or factual information. Since this is the case, breaking news isn’t nearly as rewarding anymore.

Fortunately there is a modern-day equivalent: hitting the top/front page of a social news sharing sites like digg, reddit or popurl. I had a handful this year… (READ: Best Buy Adds Rental Service Bloatware To All Net Gadgets, READ: M.A.D. – Mutants Against Disney, READ: 25 Cosplay Babes Of Dragon*Con 2009, READ: New Doctor Who Logo – Whatcha Think? READ: Richard Hatch Creating New Sci-Fi Network to Cultivate User Generated Content, READ: Kevin Smith Talks About Twilight Fans At Comic Con [w/Video], VIEW: PopURL Screenshot)

4. ‘Breaking’ The News About Motion Comics On iTunes

I realize I just explained why “breaking” a news story isn’t anything special in the age of Internet journalism but this is an exception. When Marvel announced they would be creating motion comics sold via iTunes, I was reporting for Geeks of Doom at the 2009 New York Comic-Con. During the panel I looked around at the others sitting in the front row designated for press… didn’t see anyone else scribbling down quotes and requesting more information — which is what I was doing because I frequent tech news blogs daily and knew it would be huge. I filed an article as soon as I could. I was typing in a crowded press room with a very weak Internet connection and a dying laptop battery. It was by no means the most complete post but it had good quotes and outlined the announcement.

Read Write Web also thought so and decided to write-up their own post linking to all the appropriate sources (mine being the first) that helped facilitate and enhance the information. In turn, that same post from RWW was syndicated in the NY Times. So essentially, an article I wrote was linked to by a top tech news blog and in the paper of record. Oh, and it also made the rounds on the social networks. (And yes, I felt pretty damn good about all that.)

3. Connecting With Geek Bloggers & Reporters

Nothing against writing predominantly for Internet publications, but I miss the hell out of working in a staff room. I’m in Nashville and not one of the larger metropolitan cities like San Fransisco, L.A. or New York City. There isn’t anything wrong with that in terms of being able to produce content, but it does mean all the editorial interaction I have is virtual. Covering the huge convention circuit this year I got to meet tons of other folks who are doing the same. Andy Sorcini did a great post from SDCC that encompasses my feelings exactly.

2. Meeting ‘Mr BabyMan’

For anyone who doesn’t know who Andy Sorcini is, he’s the man behind the alias “MrBabyMan”. If you look him up on digg you’ll find his profile has nearly half a million views and that he’s responsible for over 4,ooo links hitting the front page, which translates to hundreds of thousands of page views. There is a simple reason for this: he shares really interesting stuff with his friends. He was and is, by all means, a “power user” in the greatest sense of the term. I don’t think he gets nearly the credit deserved for the kind of dedication to digg.com in its early days. Before the rest of the world caught on to digg, I wonder how many people would have dismissed it as boring if Andy (and others, but Andy especially) hadn’t pointed to so many entertaining links.

Seriously, most of digg’s visitors are passive and don’t even sign up for user accounts. And of the registered users, those that don’t submit their own links vastly outnumber those that do. Andy made sure there was always something cool to read in the early days — and in doing so, played a role in the revolution of news media.

Having known of Andy since early 2006, it was great to finally meet him in person at the San Diego Comic-Con. My only regret is that I was so exhausted after an insane amount of panel coverage that I couldn’t offer anything resembling coherent conversation.

1. Retiring My Pen Name

I was still covering the public education beat for my local newspaper when I began writing for Geeks of Doom. I was concerned people would find my geek reporting and draw conclusions about my coverage of the local news and all it’s politics. To keep the two areas of coverage separate, I adopted the pen name: TechGOnzo. Fast forward to the present-day. My journalism career has shifted drastically. “Geek reporting” is most of my work.

I decided to retire the pen name after a story I wrote was ridiculed because of an honest error. (I didn’t understand the way the UK numbered seasons of its television programs). The commenter(s) didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt, despite understanding I was an American working for a publication based in America. Rather than fire off a heated rebuttal, I took a minute to see things from an irate readers perspective.

The conclusion? I’d probably leave a negative comment to someone listed as “TechGOnzo” too if I were him (or her).

[Devindra Hardawar of Slashfilm deserves some credit for pointing out how exhausting and unnecessary it was to maintain two separate persona. Thanks man!]

Honorable Mention: Being Quoted On Valleywag

If you follow my activity online, it would come as no surprise when I bash the Associated Press for their mishandling of producing news for the Internet Age. I could write a thousand words on how often they’ve dropped the ball on setting new standards for online journalism (concerning style alone). I could write a thousand more words about how they will never “get it” until they break down and hire someone like myself who wants to radically change the way they operate.

However, it was a nice surprise seeing one of my twitter updates quoted in Valleywag by the site’s editor, clever wordsmith Ryan Tate. I pointed out the lack of [read: zero] links within the AP’s article about Reddit’s Secret Santa exchange. You’d think a technology reporter would include at least one link to the reddit site itself — ya know, because the story is about how ONLINE communities connect ONLINE by SHARING LINKS. *sigh*

Check out the post to see my cartoon avatar sandwiched in between Lindsay Lohan’s racial slurs and Jeff Jarvis’ penis comment.


Best Experiences Of 2009 (Part 1)

December 30, 2009

Let me apologize for doing a “top 10″ post about why 2009 was personally quite amazing. Each experience listed below should have been represented as a short post on my blog at the time it was happening. As it stands, life got in the way and I got behind. I’m also writing this post to satisfy a recent suggestion by Nick Holland to document everything I’ve done — no matter how large or small — into a CV file for the sake of reference. I felt like I could do more (or at least go beyond a regular list of factoids) by ranking 10 most valuable experiences I’ve had in 2009.

10. Seeing Journalism I Funded Get Produced (spot.us)

Spot.us is a non-profit organization that provides a platform for local journalists to pitch stories to the community and be paid a predetermined rate for their efforts through crowd-funding. People in the community will fund the pitches they think are important and when the set rate is reached, the journalist goes out on assignment. [Read more about spot.us...]

Over the past year I helped fund three different articles (1, 2, and 3) that actually got produced and published. You have no idea how satisfying that is to a journalist like myself who started his reporting career at the very end of print media’s era. Although Spot.us is focused on two localities at the moment (SF Bay Area and Los Angeles), the potential for an organization like this to be duplicated across the country is exciting. No longer would I have to be disgusted by the local headlines that regurgitate national news and wonder why they don’t cover more “insert-under-reported-subject-here”. Instead, I could either pitch the idea or fund someone else to make it happen. Incredible.

9. Working on PodCamp Nashville

Let me say that I dove into planning PodCamp Nashville, the “un” conference about interactive technology, with zero knowledge of podcasting. Of course, that isn’t a prerequisite for participating in PodCamp, but I did want to learn the fundamentals of producing a basic web cast.  Initially that was my motivation for getting involved, but I soon discovered that the event was more akin to the penny dishes found on the side of retail store cash registers. If you need a penny, take one. If your change produces pennies, leave a few for the other customers. Replace “pennies” with “knowledge” that’s essentially the jest of PodCamp.

I knew about social media and journalism so I pulled together a speaker session outlining the value of staying connected to local communication channels while news gathering. In return, others shared their knowledge of producing web shows and podcasts.  Overall it was a great experience that I’d describe as two-parts instructional, one-part philosophy. Oh, and it’s free.

8. Guest Hosting Cinegeek’s Web Cast

Considering how often Editor of CineGeek Stephen Lackey has invited me on his web publication’s weekly geek news podcast, it seems like I should have specifically mentioned the CultureSmash show before now. I’ve joined Stephen, along with Con-Trek Co-Host Alan Smith, Niko Qualls and Clovis Chitwood nearly a dozen times as a guest host since they first asked me onto the show this past summer. Every time I’m there I thoroughly enjoy myself and wonder why their listeners tolerate me.

In all seriousness, it’s easy to forget there are other geeks of this caliber when living in the south. It’s not that they don’t exist, but compared to a giant metropolitan city like NYC you run into them less often. So it’s great seeing the CineGeek staffer covering a lot of the same conventions and fan-events that I’m at and then be able to discuss them at length via the podcast.

7. Creating The Journolution Subreddit

I get most of my news by reading online news blogs, but for almost half the decade I’ve relied on a link aggregation site to point me somewhere in the direction I’d like to go. Gradually my attention shifted this year from the social link sharing site digg to the much smaller Condé Nast owned competitor Reddit. There are several reasons for this but one of the largest is due to Reddit’s ability to create custom categories that act as their own individual link sharing aggregators (‘sub’ reddits). I immediately created a subreddit called Journolution to discuss the science and ethics of news. Technological advancement has wrecked havoc on the traditional code of ethics used to deliver the news and as a result there are thousands of Journalists discussing the science of news and then writing about it… reporting about it… all for the purpose of improving the quality of news gathering.

The core problem with writing and discussing the science of news is that there is no unity among its many “news scientists” and as a result, meaningful data cannot be extrapolated to reach greater, more complete conclusions. It’s as if every scientist was trying to nail down a conclusive theory for gravity even though such a theory exists and such theory is sound.

The Journolution subreddit could essential solve the problem described in the paragraph above by getting everyone to look in the same place as they tested their theories. It’s an effortless process of reading a thoughtful article about the state of news (or the News Industry, media trends, etc.),  clicking a button to submit that article’s URL, writing a meaningful headline and allowing the public to vote it up or down (and comment).

As of this post, there are 27 subscribers (Woot!) to the Journolution subreddit. Many of them are pretty active so there’s enough to read week to week.

6. A Full Year Of Convention Coverage

I covered five different conventions in 2009, including both New York and San Diego Comic-Cons and Dragon*Con. Maybe this is sort of given since the bulk of my freelance work has to do with the geek genre, but I have never been happier than the time I spent in giant crowded convention centers covering panels as a journalist. I would have more to say about it if I hadn’t already written extensively about each and every voyage. I will say working these events were the highlight of my entire year.

See Best Experiences of 2009 (Part 2) for 1 – 5…


Sprucing Up The Site For 2010

December 30, 2009

You probably noticed that I’ve made some slight tweaks to this web site — most notably, removing the language about being Nashville’s tech beat reporter. I’ve also removed the mention of “Linklove” — my ill-fated project to help strengthen local journalism — and replaced it with a link to David Cohn’s far more effective project, Spot.us. [I encourage everyone to check out what he's doing and drop the project a few bucks if you've ever found the articles on this site useful or entertaining.]

I’ll admit it. I’ve neglected my blog since (by my mental estimates) July of this year and in doing so, abandoned the coverage of Nashville’s technology community. I have perfect explanations for doing so, too.

First of all, most of July was spent preparing for the epic journey to San Diego where I covered the year’s largest annual Comic-Con as a reporter for Geeks of Doom. The second reason is because of an insightful conversation I had with Marcus Whitney about how our beloved city really isn’t big enough to gain traction that would merit coverage of technology. That doesn’t mean it never will, but for now I’m choosing to refocus my time elsewhere. Entirely where exactly that time will be spent, I can’t talk about just yet — but soon.

During the last few months I’ve certainly had my hands full writing for Geeks of Doom, Social Media Rage, The Drill Down and a handful of other publications on the web and in print. I’ve also guest hosted a slew of awesome podcast shows (Cinegeek’s Culturesmash, Social Blade and Social-Blend). In fact, this year has been so jam-packed with great stuff that I have to write an entire post about it after I publish this one.

The point is, I’ve been keeping busy and that won’t change at all in the next year. I purchased geekjournalist.com a while back and may end up revamping my site under this domain (or redirecting it to this site for the purpose of inflating my ego to epic proportions). Probably a custom CSS is on the books as well even if I don’t switch the domain.

Either way, I’m determined make things happen in 2010 — with the exception of writing lame blog posts about my blog posts. That will not happen in 2010, I assure you.


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