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 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.