Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lessons and links from science bloggers

Bloggers from the 2008 N.C. Science Blogging Conference have returned from last weekend's chilly event to their homes and keyboards, sharing their presentations, photos and thoughts online. What's so cool is that anyone can continue to learn from this conference from the comfort of their own monitors, wherever they might be, and whenever they can.

In addition, the conference has a heavy dose of participation from the
smart minds at Science Blogs, supported in part by Seed magazine. The networked circle of science represents one new way of aggregating and filtering information beyond the traditional methods of big-company media sites. NYU media professor Jeff Jarvis has made much of Glam for doing the same thing (perhaps with a larger emphasis on advertising and content that attracts ads). Glam doesn't impress me; its college fashion blog can't hold a candle to the Daily Tar Heel's The Good, The Bad and The Fab.

Oh but wait. We were talking journalism and science, not fashion.

I respectfully submit that Science Blogs serves as a better model for distributing, sifting and making findable strong content than sites like Glam. Ads play a supporting role, rather than being the goal.

And conference organizers are also demonstrating a new model of sharing strong content with "reverse publishing," creating a downloadable or paperback book of the best science blog posts of 2007. You can read the background of how the idea came to be at Bora Zivkovic's A Blog Around the Clock. The "publisher" of the compilation is Lulu, and the editors are Zivkovic and Reed Cartright, with input from the readers of Zivkovic's blog.

But back to the conference. The main jumping-off point of the group is a wiki.
Below are random links gleaned from various conference bloggers. They're filtered through what I find interesting and not too far above my head. Most bear a relationship to journalism; some don't. Of course, your mileage may vary.

How to report scientific research to a general audience
From Cognitive Daily, out of Davidson.
(Alternate title: How to report anything to a general audience.)
My favorite line:
"Visuals need the same treatment as words."

Peer-reviewed research
(How to dig through all the crap to find the ponies.)
(Or how wearing a badge can change the life of your blog.)
Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research
Research Blogging

Citizen Science

(Who knew? We thought it was all about us, the journalists and citizen journalists.)
Purple loosestrife detectives and reporters, at the U.S. Geologic Survey.
Cornell University's Citizen Science toolkit from a citizen science conference.

Public Library of Science and one of its online peer-reviewed journals, PLOS One.
Again, who knew?

A ring of science blogs
(Fix a big cup of something and stay awhile).

Questions for the next president.

PDF organization
Organize all your pdfs and papers as if they were songs on Itunes. Unbelievably valuable for people in distance-learning classes, but only if they're smart enough to have Macs. At Papers.

The Institute for Southern Studies

I remember this group from my days as a student journalist in Georgia. It's great to see they're still producing research galore. One of their most recent reports is about the "devastating costs" North Carolina is suffering from war, and it comes after the launch of the N.C. Military Foundation, a public-private entity to lure more defense contracts to North Carolina.
This site is worth digging into, keeping in mind the organization does have an agenda. It's intriguing to think about comparing its research with that available through The Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense at Earmark Watch Dot Org.

Flickr groups to identify plants
(These will change my life and possibly put my aunt, The Plant Oracle of the Mountains, out of business).
ID Please and What plant is that?

Invasive species blog
(And you thought mussels only stopped development.)
Invasive Species.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Committing Journalism in Fewer Than 140 Taps

The Times calls it "microjournalism" — using Twitter to instantaneously file reports from the field. The story focuses on how a few writers are using text messages to Twitter in order to report from the campaign trail.

Microjournalism is the latest step in the evolution of Mr. (John) Dickerson, who worked for years at Time magazine, and has moved from print to online articles to blog entries to text messages no longer than 140 characters, or about two sentences. “One of the things we are supposed to do as journalists is take people where they can’t go,” he said in an interview. “It is much more authentic, because it really is from inside the room.”

Some might consider the idea of a barrage of text-messaged snippets about the presidential election the final dreadful realization of the news media’s obsession with “sound bites.” And spending time with the Twittered campaign reporting can mean wallowing in skin-deep observations, anonymous trashing of candidates and more than you would want to know about the food and travel conditions for the reporting class.

But it is genuine, and at times enlightening, which is more than you can say for the candidates themselves, who have also taken to using Twitter to update their supporters. (The septuagenarian Ron Paul, for example, is an ardent Twitter user, it appears, though he has a penchant for exclamation points that would make a teenager blush. Typical Ron Paul Twitter message: “Thus far in the race, I’ve received more votes than Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani. Freedom is popular!”)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ACES meeting in Rock Hill

A quick reminder that the Southeast chapter of ACES is holding a meeting from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Rock Hill Herald. There's no charge, but organizers would appreciate an R.S.V.P. For more details, go to the ACES message board or e-mail Holly Kerfoot.

Among the planned topics:
  • Doug Fischer Fisher, a USC professor who writes one of my must-read blogs, Common Sense Journalism, will lead a discussion about moderating a small-town citj site such as Hartsville Today.
  • Teri Boggess of the N&O talks about "Sports as News."
  • The N&O's wire editor, Jon Wallace, will dive into the campaigns with a discussion on what copy editors can do to give readers the news they need in forms that are easily digestible.
  • "What's Up" — an opportunity for copy editors to talk about issues in the field, or just get to know colleagues at other papers.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Learn from science bloggers

The 2nd N.C. Science Blogging Conference is this weekend. It reaches far beyond the Carolinas and even far beyond science.

Go visit the organizers' wiki and blogs, and substitute the word "science" with "journalism" and see what happens.

Try that especially at the group's link to a Scientific American interactive article from Mitchell Waldrop, author of "Complexity."

Or start at the event wiki or the Facebook event.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Two cups data, one cup journalism

Matt Waite of Politifact is a smart guy. Go read him. Part of his latest:

"Are we really building a business model, or even a component of a business model, around making public data searchable? Because guess what? Google is too. That’s right. The search giant is dealing directly with government agencies to help them make their own data searchable. Sound familiar? Think your data ghetto can compete with Google? Do you think people are going to remember your newspaper.com url over Google? Really?"

"....That said, here’s how we can get out of the data ghetto: add some journalism to it."

Like Charlotte did here.

More on Google's efforts from my UNC class research last semester:
"The search engine company has launched technology and standards to make public records more findable on the Internet and is making agreements with states to help get public information in to the hands of the public. The most recent agreement was with the state of Florida, opening records about public schools, water and waste permits, employment data and consumers' commuting patterns. Google is offering its services for free for now. ...
Google has also initiated agreements with plainlanguage.gov hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Energy Department's Office of Scientific and Technical Information and the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics." Reference.

Ensuring government is only one search away here.
Agencies work with Google here.
Dense code but clues to the future here.
Hiding in plain sight: Why important government information cannot be found through commercial search engines (again, density warning): here.

H/T to Waite's post from John Hassell, from the Facebook group "The Exploding Newsroom," now a blog.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Poz remembers The Post

Another former Charlotte Observer staffer, Joe Posnanski, writes a loving obit for The Cincinnati Post on his blog.

It's long, but it reminds me of the days of the sitcom newsrooms and of the hardware and software we used to produce the news. The Poz talks about Teleram, the place that stories arrived in the "mainframe" computer system, written by folks on TRS-80s, lovingly called "Trash-80s." Don't they look like enhanced Blackberries?

(Sidenote: the fragmented, miscoded stories in Charlotte went to Teleram Bad. I kid you not. Can't find a story? Check Teleram Bad.)

Joe's column shows how newspapers were a part of young people's lives back in the day. Perhaps the next generation of columnists are growing up with the parents blogging in the living room, instead of helping to roll and deliver the afternoon dead-tree product.

The Poz started as a clerk-reporter at The Observer many years ago. Now he has a couple of sports books and a column in Kansas City. And his family questions his judgment in spending time blogging, even though he has a Facebook group, "I'm a Pozcar Voter," with 33 members.
Shows how easily the addiction to telling stories finds a new TRS-80.

Image from Vintagecomputer.net