Digidave http://blog.digidave.org Journalism is a Process, Not a Product Tue, 06 Oct 2015 22:25:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.8 Infamy in the Age of the Internet http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/infamy-in-the-age-of-the-internet http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/infamy-in-the-age-of-the-internet#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 22:25:08 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4468 Continue reading Infamy in the Age of the Internet ]]> It seems that random acts of violence are happening more and more. With every incident we have the same conversation about where the media should put its focus.

I wanted to wait a bit and not chime in directly after the recent Oregon shooting because I actually don’t want to dive into the particulars of that event and the debates about naming the shooter.

It’s suffice to say that the young man who killed people that day wanted to live and die in “infamy.” So let’s talk about that human desire: “Infamy.”

What I want to do first and foremost is put these kinds of events in historical perspective. It is not a new phenomena. And so when I hear talking heads trying to ascribe these activities to some kind of modern illness, I fear we are missing the point. I have a general philosophy: The internet doesn’t create new human behaviors/motivations. It just exposes existing ones and puts them in new context.

Herostratic fame

One of the 7 ancient wonders of the world was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. It was said of the temple by Antipater of Sidon:

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’”

The ruins of the temple remain in Ephesus and I had the great pleasure of traipsing among those ruins a few years ago.

So what happened to the temple? It was burned down by a young man Herostratus. Don’t let his name fool you. This man was an arsonist in the 4th century BC. Not only did he burn down the Temple of Artemis, he sought credit for it. He proudly exclaimed that he was the person who burnt down the temple. He wanted to become “infamous” for the deed.

In response Ephesian authorities not only executed him, they made mention of his name punishable by death. “Herostratus” became “he who must not be mentioned.” It was there attempt at seeking justice (a restoration of balance) in response to the actions he took to try and become notorious.

In the end, their attempts failed. The historian Theopompus reported the event in his book “Hellenics.” Today “Herostratic fame” is a rarely used figure of speech which could be applied to many of the people who commit acts of violence in order to gain the world’s attention.

The Questions I’m Left With

I don’t have any talking head statements about how these situations should be handled. I only have questions.

With the hindsight of several thousand years, do we think Theopompus did the right thing? Today we know how one of the ancient wonders of the world crumbled. Herostratus also got what he wanted.

Are modern reporters analogous to Theopompus?

Is the Ephesian technique of scrubbing a perpetrator’s name from history even possible today? An old boss of mine (who I would quote if we weren’t under Chatham House rules at the time) recently said in a conversation that “the Internet is a giant copying machine.” One utterance is all it takes.

Even if the internet makes scrubbing the name from history impossible, do individuals have a responsibility if/how they share the perpetrator’s name.

I noted that I don’t believe the internet creates new human motivations, but it does put them in new context. In a world where people KNOW with certain confidence their “infamy” will be assured (via the Internet) are we setting ourselves up to experience these more frequently.

Is there a difference in how we approach a crazed individual who seeks fame and a crazed ideology or group that seeks attention/power. I’m thinking here about violent propaganda images from groups like ISIS or the KKK’s propaganda from the early 20th century, etc. One could argue that these groups must be noticed and addressed head on in order to combat them. The notoriety they seek can’t be left unchallenged.

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Leaving AJ+ but wow, what a ride! http://blog.digidave.org/2015/09/leaving-aj-but-wow-what-a-ride http://blog.digidave.org/2015/09/leaving-aj-but-wow-what-a-ride#comments Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:32:40 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4430 Continue reading Leaving AJ+ but wow, what a ride! ]]> 1-4rxcrplAQcDD2lMLpAk4jg

Let’s not bury the lede. I’m going to be leaving AJ+ where I’ve been an Executive Producer for the last year. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I’ve been given an opportunity at Advance Publications to work on some new and exciting initiatives (that will be another blog post soon). I’ll at least say this: Whenever you are faced with two awesome alternatives – you should consider yourself lucky. And I do.

In my career I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore new space and ideas. I walk away from each having learned about the industry, myself and gained new skills and maturity. AJ+ is no exception to this. I’ve loved being a part of AJ+ and witnessing its coalescing over the last year. As an experience AJ+ has been more than I could have hoped for.

When I joined AJ+ a year ago the Facebook page had just over 50,000 likes. Recently it surpassed a million. And it’s not unreasonable to have a video that gets a few million views on any given week. This is a not so humble-brag way of saying: It has been an incredible ride and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of AJ+’s rapid growth. When I first joined I remember getting strange reactions from colleagues. “You joined something called ‘AJ+’ owned by Al Jazeera?” Today – my friends and colleagues know exactly what AJ+ is and comment on how much its style has become influential.

Here’s the kicker: I can’t say that I’ve played any “pivotal” role in the operation. And don’t read that the wrong way. It’s my way of pointing out just how awesome the operation at AJ+ is. A few notes off the top of my head.

  • I’m willing to bet AJ+ is one of the more diverse newsrooms in the country. It is a wealth of experiences, backgrounds, languages, knowledge and ideas.
  • It’s chock-full with talent. From animators/designers, presenters to video producers, editors and a whip-smart engagement and social team. The crew at AJ+ is sharp and ready to cut.
  • Combine the two above with a solid strategy and you have a recipe for success.

Everyone was fantastic to work with. Don’t forget AJ+ itself started about a year ago. Creating a work culture/vibe isn’t easy. Especially out of thin air while work needs to get done asap. I like to think I played a small role in this (next week I hope to share a management tip I began practicing mid-way through my experience). Slowly but surely everything and everyone has gelled together. Showing up to work felt like this.

davidkick(a Gif the team made for me on my birthday)

I expect big things for AJ+ in the future. I think it’s just hitting its stride. Which also makes it really hard to leave because I know only more great things are going to come for the organization.

Larger media thoughts

I joined AJ+ because I believe the future of video news will be dramatically changed by social/mobile. Where TV once was the center of gravity, you can see that center shifting. Which means storytelling formats will need to change, and AJ+ is pioneering these formats. I also appreciated AJ+’s dedication to audience engagement which is palpable. The first element (the changing nature of video) has become even more obvious. If you are in the video/news business and you aren’t paying attention to leaders like AJ+ and NowThisNews – it is to your own peril. And the second continues to be AJ+’s secret ingredient. It’s that extra mix of “Thousand Island Dressing” that makes an In-And-Out Burger the supreme delight that it is. This doesn’t need to be complicated or rocket science. But it does need to be intentional. You can’t accidentally find this ingredient. It just shows a little extra love in the product.

I will be watching AJ+ and cheering them along. Perhaps with a little nostalgia and jealously wishing I was still a part of the team. The good news. I’m staying in the Bay Area, so I fully expect to swing by the office on occasion and distract people from getting their work done (something I’m great at already!!!).

I want to thank everyone at AJ+. I could easily write a special little “you rock” note to each of them and that’s why I won’t call out anyone out by name (for fear of leaving anyone out). But hey gang – hit me up on email and I’ll write a little haiku about what our time together meant to me.

Below is a little something (slightly edited) I wrote for the one year anniversary. I wanted to share it here as another kind of public ode to what AJ+ has meant to me and what I expect of the team going forward.

Dearest team

Today there was a party for one year at AJ+. I am sorry I missed the occasion. Some of us just couldn’t physically be there. Some are no longer with AJ+ but our hearts are all united through the great work we’ve done in the past year.

I have been honored to do editorial battle with you this past year. Through it all we’ve learned a TON. About ourselves, each other and this crazy thing we call the internet. One of the interesting takeaways from the event I was at on Monday came from Emily Bell and she put it this way: 2015 will be remembered as the year platforms became publishers.

That’s a kind of brave new world.

But not to you! You’ve lived and breathed it. Dare I say – we’ve grown to wear it and wear it well:wink:

Any startup project can make it to a 1-year anniversary. But it takes an amazing team to make it there in style. To make it through the trials and tribulations and be able to call each other colleagues/friends and badass journalists. It takes moxy to make it to that one year anniversary having become an industry leader in the bold new world of social publishing. That is not just something that happens – it is an accomplishment!!

And for all these reasons and more – I salute you.

And of course. I would be remiss if I did not end this with…… ONWARD!

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What is possible with “Structured Journalism”? A response to critiques of Circa http://blog.digidave.org/2015/08/what-is-possible-with-structured-journalism http://blog.digidave.org/2015/08/what-is-possible-with-structured-journalism#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 16:00:36 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4415 Continue reading What is possible with “Structured Journalism”? A response to critiques of Circa ]]> Columbia Journalism Review did a great dive into “structured journalism” recently. It’s nice to know that this new-fangled space, which is still nascent. is getting some nods.

Circa of course was part of this growing space. And I hope will be looked at as a project that tried to break new ground.

There was also some good criticism of Circa in the post. They were indicative of other critiques I’ve heard/read and so I wanted to respond to them. It should be important to note, however, that while I’m providing some devil’s advocate here – it doesn’t mean I don’t understand the initial criticism or their merits.

The back/forth in my mind is not some deep ideological “are bloggers journalists” debate where tribes should be created. My respect for Adair and Reginald who made the critiques in the CJR post is unequivocal. I also suspect they respected Circa and all the folks who worked on it.  So with that aside – let’s jump into it.

From the CJR post:

Bill Adair, creator of Politifact and one of the early proponents of structured journalism, says one of Circa’s flaws was that it wasn’t structured enough. “Circa was like traditional journalism with a good workout for your thumb,” says Adair. The app deconstructed a story, but still  reassembled it in the linear format of a news article.

Adair and other structured journalism proponents would like to upend traditional journalistic formats. Structured journalism, they say, could evolve into a unified theory of digital journalism—though no one yet knows what that might look like.

This is an excellent point from Bill Adair, who in may ways is a godfather to structured journalism. And he is right about upending traditional journalistic formats. In fact, this was something Circa had on its radar.

Every “card” in Circa had a creation date. It also had a “retirement” date (when we pulled it from the public view because it was moot or no longer true). We always imagined a scenario where a person could come to a “storyline” and with a time-scrubber at the bottom move to see the evolution of the story through time. A ‘blowing up’ of the article in relation to time.

And of course – we also wanted to create bubble-maps of sorts where you could see how various stories were related to others through “bridges.” One would see where facts were used in multiple stories – or where stories forked/merged with others. A kind of moving through space/time manipulation of information.

So why didn’t we start with this? It was a philosophical decision. We wanted to do something different, but not require the average reader to change their behavior. People read articles from top to bottom. Therefore – our story lines would read from top to bottom as well. In fact, it was the goal of Circa to make it so that any first time reader would be able to jump in and not have to learn any new behavior. If we had to educate them in the first few steps, they’d never get past it. Everything focused on the “follow” feature as the first “new step,” because all it meant was somebody reading the story without even realizing it was “structured” and hitting a button that basically meant “keep me informed.”

Now obviously there is a critique that we didn’t lead with our most radical possibilities because of this philosophy. But that was the thinking behind the decision. We didn’t want to make people work. We wanted to go for the “average” consumer of news and they are used to certain patterns and work our way up.

All that said. I am a HUGE proponent of, as Bill Adair says, “upending traditional journalism formats.” Perhaps Circa should have done that more. It certainly was possible with the way we had set things up. No way to know now.

The next critique comes from Reginald Chua, who has been a champion of this space since before it really had a name.

Reginald Chua, an executive editor at Reuters and an early developer of structured journalism, says that structured journalism doesn’t only offer better ways to tell certain stories, it introduce new forms of journalism not considered before, which can create tension in newsrooms. Aside from the practical challenges of newsroom adoption, the question of what gets lost in structured journalism will need to be addressed. “Frankly, the narrative outcome [of structured stories] is not as exciting,” says Chua, “That was one of the big complaints over the death of Circa.”

This may have been the most common criticism of Circa. And it goes without saying – you have to have compelling content if you want to gain a loyal audience. There are two things I think are important to focus on in a response to this. One is about “structured journalism” as a genre. The other is about Circa specifically. Let’s start with the latter.

Circa consciously went with a “voice from nowhere” approach. It definitely bucked the trend. Circa was, more than anything else, a re-thinking of the wire service. If the AP were to be created today, I think it would look more like a grand visions of Circa than its current structure based off a cooperative formed in 1846. And as pointed out in this Nieman article:

“I would note, though, that Circa was not so much ‘The Future of News’ as a mobile-oriented rethinking of wire services, which have never really functioned as a consumer-facing product. Circa’s lack of traction in developing a user base was no exception.”

In short – if you wanted to compare our stuff to Buzzfeed. It was boring. If you compared it to the AP – it was on par. And we also discovered that some people absolutely loved a “wire service” voice. Interestingly enough – the most vocal people who disliked it were journalists.

The “voice from nowhere” approach didn’t mean we couldn’t do stories with drama. It just meant the drama had to exist in real life without our commentary. Stories like Manti Te’o, Tim Armstrong, General Petraeus or even following the story of Bat Kid were incredibly dramatic – even if we didn’t add any explicit “snark” or insider analysis. Sometimes real life stories are all you need. This Circa story made me cry once (keep in mind – it was a story that developed over a year).

But most of the time Circa was a ticker type service. It served an audience that wanted “just the facts, asap.” And I still believe there is a decent sized audience which values that kind of content. Bottom line, Circa adopted a neutral tone on purpose – because it thought of itself as a wire service. It didn’t adopt that tone because of technical restraints.

And that brings us to the larger issue: Is structured journalism doomed to create boring/dull narratives? Could Circa have provided Gawker level snark or Atlantic level analysis if it wanted?

I actually believe the answer is: Yes….. sorta.

The challenge of Circa was taking the concept of structured journalism as articulated by sites like Politifact, Homicide Watch, etc. – and applying it to all future stories, regardless of genre or topic. Politifact restrains itself and says “we only cover statements made by politicians” and that restraint allows it to create structure via the Truth-o-Metter. Circa wasn’t covering any specific topic. We wanted to create structure for any kind of story. And the truth is – the world is a sloppy place.

But adding order to that chaos doesn’t necessarily mean stripping out drama, narrative, humor or more. I think about how we approach stacks in our App at AJ+ and it’s very different. We aren’t always looking for structure around “facts” “quotes” etc. But instead are looking for structure in the storytelling technique. One card is the lede. Another card is the nut graph. This card is the human angle. etc. The elements that make up those cards may change – but their role doesn’t.

This does mean there is some “sloppiness” because one writers nut graph is another writers kicker. And in video structure is lost (you can’t atomize on a video timeline). But I do think there is some space between the hard structure where cards are defined by their content (fact, image, name) and their storytelling role. To Reginald’s point – I haven’t seen it successfully navigated yet. But I don’t think it should be ruled out.

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What journalists can learn from Aristotle http://blog.digidave.org/2015/07/what-journalists-can-learn-from-aristotle http://blog.digidave.org/2015/07/what-journalists-can-learn-from-aristotle#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:11:13 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4392 Continue reading What journalists can learn from Aristotle ]]> I wrote a blog post about Circa shutting down and a lot of people glommed on to this sentence:

“The schadenfreude in our industry is thick and disgusting at times. People love to read tea-leaves. This is a whole other tangent that we can/should confront as a community sometime.”

I was also asked to write an article for SPJ’s July/August issue on failure. Below is a small part of that which focuses on an alternative to Schadenfreude via Aristotle. Pedantic much? Yes!

Note: Much of this is inspired by Alain de Botton – who I highly recommend. But first let’s get one caveat out of the way and then do a basic primer on Aristotle’s “Poetics.”

Caveat: Schadenfreude is a natural human emotion/reaction. It is not unique to the journalism community or the Germans. Perhaps it is heightened because competition is built into our industry and its folklore. Taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortunate is also a sign of jealousy. Being jealous doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you alive. But it’s good to contemplate jealousy because it tells us who has traits we admire. So the question is – when somebody fails – instead of taking joy in that, why don’t we reflect on why this person, who has qualities we admire, was unable to succeed and what can we learn from it?

But I’m jumping ahead. Let’s get nerdy!

“Tragedy” was the highest form of drama, according to Aristotle. And a good tragedy left somebody feeling pity and fear. Ideally after feeling those emotions the audience had a sense of “Catharsis” or release.

Essentially the Greek people were supposed to better appreciate the fragility of life (they could be that tragic hero) and feel empathy for each other (e.g. bad things befall good people). The characters in tragedies were victims of fate. Anyone could be a victim of fate, and therefore Greek viewers were meant to walk away with a bit more empathy and pity (not Schadenfreude) for when bad things befell people. There was an understanding that some things are out of mortal control — that even a well intentioned Oedipus will end up killing his father and there was nothing he could have done differently to avoid it.

It was a social lesson taught through storytelling.

A tragic ending for Romeo.

The story of modern capitalism (and dare I say journalism) is the opposite. You rise and fall completely on your own merits. You claw your way to the top. And if you succeed then all the glory is yours. If you fail, you have nobody to blame but yourself and your insufficient product.

There is an element of truth to the story we tell ourselves in capitalism. But we should also recognize that tragedies befall us all the time as well. Perhaps as a journalism community and industry we should recognize that in every failure is a potential tragedy. And as the Greeks showed us, tragedies can be good. So when a startup fails – we shouldn’t presume everything was fate or out of our control: But we should appreciate what we have and understand that every project/organization we work for is a few steps away from fated destruction.


There is also something to be said about a kind of story we cover. My friend Monica Guzman showed natural horror in a Facebook post questioning why the story below even exists (it’s a great Facebook comment thread).

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 12.04.23 PM


Obviously the story is horrid. Anyone with normal moral fibers would be repulsed by the actions described. So what is gained by covering it?

While it’s easy to position this as “ambulance” chasing journalism – I think there is an ideal here where something more is gained. I’m not saying that every story of this nature reaches the ideal – just that an ideal exists where these stories aren’t about the sick/twisted mental state of the perpetrators, but are actually about the precious and fragile lives that we all live.

One of the reasons a 20-car pileup on the freeway is news – it reminds us that no matter how good of a driver we are – our lives are somewhat out of our control when we drive. Here’s an action that we take every day. Without thought. And yet in a moments notice it could be our downfall. To really be touched by a story like the one above or a 20-car pileup is to experience the kind of Catharsis that Aristotle thought was integral to living a good life.

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Quick thoughts as Circa shuts down http://blog.digidave.org/2015/06/quick-thoughts-as-circa-shuts-down http://blog.digidave.org/2015/06/quick-thoughts-as-circa-shuts-down#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:57:42 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4390 Continue reading Quick thoughts as Circa shuts down ]]> The news has broken – Circa is essentially shutting down.

While I haven’t been with Circa for the last 10 months, I was its first editorial hire and Chief Content Officer for almost three years. I am proud of all the work I did there and the editorial team I put together. I’d go to battle with them any day.

In early 2012, when I joined, mobile was still pretty uncharted territory. Circa was a pioneer. Discussions around structured journalism were nascent and ‘cards,’ ‘stacks’ or any ‘atomization’ as summarization/curation wasn’t even a thing. The idea of “following” a story was untested. This was even before the resurgence of the morning email newsletters. We offered a reading experience that was unique, innovative and despite its smooth surface veneer required deep editorial thought and expertise.

Some recognized Circa for what it was (or at least how I saw it: A product that made a statement about how things could be different). I still think product as cultural critique is an important role for a startup to play. That’s not to say Circa didn’t have its haters from day one (even more-so at the end). The schadenfreude in our industry is thick and disgusting at times. People love to read tea-leaves. This is a whole other tangent that we can/should confront as a community sometime.

I’m never one to shy away from moments of failure (cheap plug for a talk at ONA 2015 I am hosting “Fail Fest: I failed. It sucked. But here’s how I bounced back.”). But I’ve also learned that critical distance and hindsight from a failure helps put it in 20/20. I think I have that for Circa. But in respect to any ongoing conversations about Circa (to which I am not privy) – I want to reserve some thoughts for the time being except to say:

Timing is everything.

Circa was early and influential in a scene. There was a moment where the “iron was hot” and Circa was a hot commodity. There are a few key things that should have taken place during that time. They weren’t and as the metaphorical metal cooled the best that could be done was forming dents instead of angular shapes (to extend that analogy).

And now the space is very different. Other news apps have their versions of the “follow.” Conversations around push notifications have matured. And major players like Apple, Twitter and Facebook are going into the original curation space.

I have tons of thoughts on Circa, what it did better than anyone else. What it didn’t do well enough to survive. But I’ll save those for a conversation over a beer (you’re buying, right!?!).

I will say this: My hat is off to all who made Circa possible. The editorial team I worked with was top notch. I learned a ton leading you all. It was my privilege. And of course – Ben Huh, Matt Galligan and Arsenio Santos, it was truly an honor. I can’t express how much I learned working with you. More importantly – how much I enjoyed it. A startup has emotional highs and lows, but there was no other team I’d rather have gone through all that with. I loved every day and I know we made a difference. For that, I am in your debt.

And with that. There is really nothing to say except……….


p.s. Here’s a beautiful song……. but the video below always felt somehow like the artistic/video equivalent of atomized news. Each snippet is intoxicating – hard to turn away from. And even without knowing it – they add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

Also – this Neiman post is one of the best Post-Circa posts out there.

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Felix Salmon’s report on the death of journalism as a career is greatly exaggerated http://blog.digidave.org/2015/04/felix-salmons-report-on-the-death-of-the-journalism-career-is-greatly-exaggerated http://blog.digidave.org/2015/04/felix-salmons-report-on-the-death-of-the-journalism-career-is-greatly-exaggerated#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 23:22:33 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4376 Continue reading Felix Salmon’s report on the death of journalism as a career is greatly exaggerated ]]> At Perugia this year Felix Salmon gave a talk: “The end of journalism as a career?”

In typical fashion, anytime a headline ends in a question mark the answer is almost always “no.”

Throughout the video you can tell how excited Salmon is to play the contrarian. He wants to “bring you down and make you depressed” (his words, not mine). This is the role Felix is increasingly happy to play. The “Golden Age” person who is still a naysayer. ‘This is the best of times for journalism – but you shouldn’t try to participate if you have any hope at survival.’

Throughout the video Felix makes references to ‘startups’ and ‘platforms’ as if the two are interchangeable. Most journalism startups are not platforms. Or more precisely – they are closed platforms. Even the NYT is a platform … for NYT writers! And Fusion is a startup – but it’s not a platform for anybody other than Fusion writers. Same for Vox, 538, Circa, Buzzfeed (which is slightly more open with their “community posts,” but not really).

Whenever Felix begins to talk about “platforms” and how the entrepreneurs behind them don’t care about good labor because they only want scale – he is talking about pure-play technology companies like Uber (a platform for drivers) or Twitter (a platform for open communication). But he’s implying that a critique about those platforms (one Uber driver is as good as the next) applies to journalism – one writer is as good as the next. But I don’t think that follows. It’s a fair critique of open platforms – but not of closed platforms. Most journalism startups are closed platforms where there is an investment in people.

It is with this misconstrued backdrop that Felix goes on to say that while startups and platforms are great – they are not amenable to careers. His theory: There is so much change happening that the only thing that’s constant is change and only young people are ready to succeed. Once you are old, you are being disrupted and can’t change. Therefore – you can’t have a career. Give up now!

To that I say “meh” or more precisely “bullshit.”

Salmon defines career as something where you become more experienced/skilled over time and therefore become more valuable. While it might be true that the users in a platform (let’s take Facebook) aren’t more valuable over time, the people who build platforms have honed skills that are developed over time. A seasoned programmer is better than a brand new one out of college. Entrepreneurs that screw up eventually go on and learn from those mistakes. They become more valuable in future endeavors as a result. That’s the whole “embrace failure” thing. It’s not that failure is good – it’s that you learn from them. And “learn” implies improvement.

Richard Gingras (who helped launch Salon and is now at Google) once told me – “it’s not that I’m a super genius, it’s that I’ve had the opportunity to screw up more.” (rough quote)

So yea, you won’t have a career as a professional Facebooker or Twitterati.

But you can have a career building platforms like Facebook or Twitter and your experience building those will add to your value as an employee at tech platforms.

Look at Medium, created by the founder of Twitter, created by the founder of Blogger. Is it a three time coincidence? Or could it be that a person gains valuable skills along the way and continues to become more valuable?

We don’t even need to focus on any of these examples because these are OPEN platforms – not journalistic enterprises which are often closed platforms. I only bring these examples up to point out that even in the most disruptive of spaces experience, wisdom and knowledge are valuable, just as much as youth and vigor. I expect it to become increasingly valuable as Web 2.0 continues without being a bubble that pops into nothing.

But let’s focus on journalistic “platforms” (again, I think Felix is being a little loose with terms here, but let’s ignore it for now). Felix thinks if you work in the digital journalistic startup space you won’t have a career. Why? Only young people can be good at digital. And digital is changing, so in a few years – you won’t be good at it. You can’t mature. You won’t become more valuable as you gain more experience. “In most areas of life the more experienced you are the more valuable you become” says Felix. But this is not the case for digital journalism.

Then this is said: “You can’t really hope that those skills which you develop over time are going to make you as a person more valuable over time.” This statement is absurd on its face.

Even if you leave journalism, the skills you gain will be valuable in your career. The journalist that won a Pulitzer Prize and has since left journalism can still point to their Pulitzer Prize winning work and in any job interview say “I am a valuable employee that can produce fantastic work, see my Pulitzer. I’ve honed skills and [insert plausible argument here about why employer needs these skills] makes me more valuable than somebody without said skills.”

Back to Felix: “Everyone wants to be a platform, remember that.” This still assumes that creating good platforms, user experience, user interface, etc. is not a skill you can develop over time. Your first crack at Javascript sucks. Your first time managing a project, things will get crazy. You get better, you develop skills and over time that makes you more valuable even in the technology space!

Fact: There is more competition. A good media company needs to be a “full stack” company (have good technology) but that doesn’t mean the journalists in a news organization are interchangeable with any 23-year-old that walks into the door.

Fact: I agree with Felix not everyone will be part of the top 1% of superstar journalists. There are only so many Nick Kristof’s that we need. I would also agree that being a journalist isn’t going to make you rich – but that’s nothing new. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a multi-decade career path. You can become more valuable over time.

Where does Felix end? Sure enough by contradicting everything he just said. Salmon says it’s a good idea to be a digital journalist that is good at the fundamentals: Focus on a beat. Understand it deeply. Learn how to tell a good story (I presume he would also advise you to be good at specific mediums like video or photojournalism or the written word, or audio, etc). Those are skills you can develop with experience and time – he says. And if you do that, Felix agrees that everything he said earlier doesn’t apply – you can have a career.

I’m glad we could agree.

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Get your startup funded: SXSW V2Venture! http://blog.digidave.org/2015/03/get-your-startup-funded-sxsw-v2venture http://blog.digidave.org/2015/03/get-your-startup-funded-sxsw-v2venture#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:41:44 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4373 Continue reading Get your startup funded: SXSW V2Venture! ]]> It’s that time of year again. I continue to be on the advisory board of the SXSW Pitch challenge and now its sister-challenge: The SXSW V2Venture pitch event. This is an opportunity to “showcase your emerging technology product or service in front of industry leaders… This event takes place on July 21 & 22 as a part of the SXSW V2V Event, during which you can improve your product launch, attract venture capitalists, polish your elevator pitch, receive media exposure, build brand awareness, network, socialize and experience all that SXSW V2V has to offer. The deadline to register is Friday, May 1, 2015, so visit http://sxswv2v.com/venture  to enter today.”

Some information from the organizers

1)      Launch date eligibility requirements:

  • A company’s product / service must have launched no earlier than July 22, 2015
  • A company’s product / service must not be launched after October 21, 2016.
  • Companies will be allowed to submit only one product or service to the SXSW V2Venture.
  • Companies who submit more than one product or service will not be eligible to participate in the SXSW V2Venture.
  • Founders of the applying startup must retain some portion of ownership in the company to be eligible to participate.
  • Must not have raised over five million in funds from combined funding sources.
  • Product or service must fall within one of the SXSW V2Venture categories.
  • Companies cannot have presented in any of the following events as a finalist: SXSW Accelerator, SXSW ECO Startup Showcase or LAUNCHedu pitch events.

2)      Applicants must be within one of the five categories:

  • Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies
    The Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies category encompasses applications and technologies that facilitate comprehension and application of information. These startups seek to improve productivity and management of data, analytics, text, documents, and engagement for business and individual use.
  • Entertainment and Content Technologies
    The Entertainment and Content Technologies category highlights applications and technologies for gaming, music, film, television, video, news and publishing, streaming and digital storytelling, as well as new and hybrid forms of entertainment. These are reinventing the ways in which we learn, relax and enjoy our time. This category also contains technologies that focus on other cultural sectors such as sports, travel, mapping, publishing and food as they pertain to entertainment.
  • Social Technologies
    The Social Technologies category includes applications and technologies that enable personal connections. With this category we’re looking for new and interesting uses, cases, products and services, as well as messaging that push the boundaries of how we find, follow and share our lives with others. If your business or service has a social component but is primarily focused on Entertainment, Health or Wearable Technologies, then you should enter one of these other categories instead.
  • Health and Wearable Technologies

The Health and Wearable Technologies category focuses on patient-centric health applications and technologies that connect patients, families, physicians, pharmacists, care providers (hospitals, clinics) and benefit providers to share timely, relevant health data and drive better outcomes at affordable and sustainable cost levels.

  • Innovative World Technologies
    Any creative and innovative technology that does not fit in another category is encouraged to apply here. We are currently seeing lots of innovation in the Internet of Things, payments and virtual currencies, data security and privacy, transportation such as autonomous vehicles, energy, space, robotics, and artificial intelligence, If your business / service / application applies to one of these fields (or something not on this list that is even more ground-breaking), then this is your category.

3)      Where can I get more information:

Visit the SXSW V2V website at http://sxswv2v.com/venture


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The vocabulary of TV news doesn’t translate to the web http://blog.digidave.org/2015/02/the-vocabulary-of-tv-news-doesnt-translate-to-the-web http://blog.digidave.org/2015/02/the-vocabulary-of-tv-news-doesnt-translate-to-the-web#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 14:00:04 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4336 Continue reading The vocabulary of TV news doesn’t translate to the web ]]> Five months ago, I left Circa and joined AJ+. As I mentioned at the time, one of my interests was in TV news; more precisely, what TV news is when released from the constraints of television.

I’m not the first to point out that TV news sucks. Like Jeff Jarvis, I don’t want to dwell on it. Instead, I want to write a series of posts to explore what can change — and how — about our understanding of TV news. But to figure out how we move forward, I will need to analyze (but hopefully not dwell on) what elements of TV news don’t translate to the Web.

The sitcom moment that doesn’t translate

Ever watch an old TV show online? I don’t mean “Modern Family” on Hulu. I mean an OLD TV show. Last year, in order to up my nerd game, I watched all seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I’m not proud. But I also wasn’t tired (“Star Trek: Voyager” was pretty good, too).

Captain Pickard

The traditional TV show was beautifully crafted for its medium. Watching it outside that medium (the TV set) allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship, perhaps the way an archeologist appreciates ancient artisan bowls. It gives you meaningful insight into how the world worked at the time — but you sure as hell wouldn’t eat out of those ancient bowls now.

You can always tell where a commercial break once existed

If you watch an off-network show on Netflix, the script comes to a momentary emotional pause or small cliffhanger. Then, seemingly for no reason, an establishing shot is made (the Starship Enterprise circling a planet) and the “captain’s log” voice-over begins, reminding you what happened only seconds ago. Indeed, I’m convinced the captain’s log was invented by Star Trek writers as an aid to deal with the return after a commercial break.

Captain's log

In the world of TV, this made sense. The viewer had to watch commercials and be brought back into the story. In the world of online shows, this moment is artificial. It breaks the fourth wall. It sounds like a fake laugh track. What served a purpose then and fit the visual/story vocabulary needs of TV watchers doesn’t translate to the Web. With shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” or “Marco Polo,” the concept is taken even further — the breaks between episodes hardly exist. One can finish an episode and the next episode will pick up almost exactly where the last one left off. Enter the Netflix binge.

In TV news, the commercial break has been used as the teasing moment to the point of ridicule: “Stay tuned after the break when we play this segment about how there is a common household product that will kill you in your sleep.”

Nobody respects this. It’s a cheap trick but also one of the most successful — hence why it is so common. I’m not convinced this trick will work online. And that’s a good thing.

Why won’t it work? As Variety Senior TV Editor Brian Steinberg wrote in December, “Replenishing this crowd with younger viewers becomes tough when millennials and the generation behind them seem more comfortable with streaming video that does not require a subscription to a satellite or cable distributor.”

What moments like the commercial break currently exist in TV news?

Freed from the constraints of time and commercials, how should a programmed video news organization meet a customer’s needs? “Programmed” is a key element here. It’s the part of TV that I think should be preserved.

In a world where television is digital, the product isn’t “broadcast” news, but it’s still programmed. That’s the difference between Justin TV (reality TV born of the Web) and nonfiction storytelling (news): It’s the programming, stupid.

But the tropes of storytelling that broadcasters are so familiar with — the stand up, the walkie-talkie shot and the b-roll of people walking — don’t translate to the Web. All of these are very familiar. But they are anachronistic. The proof is in the satire.

TV journalists: You don’t work for a TV or broadcast news organization, you work for a video news organization. You always have. TV has just been the conduit. And a limited one at that.

TV is the No. 1 source of news in the United States. So the question arises — what changes and what doesn’t about how we understand TV news? What opportunities present themselves when we restructure “broadcast” programming for the Web?

Up next: Video without sound.

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I’ll say whatever I goddamned please. http://blog.digidave.org/2015/01/ill-say-whatever-i-goddamned-please http://blog.digidave.org/2015/01/ill-say-whatever-i-goddamned-please#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:00:45 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4350 Continue reading I’ll say whatever I goddamned please. ]]> If I am to be labeled any kind of extremist, it might be that I am a “free speech extremist.”

This does not mean I am a free speech “absolutist.” I recognize there needs to be limits on speech.

  • One should not be able to falsely yell “fire” in a crowd.
  • One should not be able to make  threats of violence.
  • Child pornography, no thank you.
  • Lying under oath. Bad form.
  • We can come up with more I’m sure……

This list, however, should be short and limited to moments when speech creates tangible victims based on the real world (including market impact ie: Copyright/Trademark) consequences of speech. The examples above cause real harm to real victims.

The current list of exceptions to the first amendment  is a pretty good list. Notably – many European countries have laws against hate speech. The U.S. does not. As despicable as I may  find a racist rant, complete with burning flag in the background, I won’t stop somebody from doing it. Even if I find it….. gasp…..  offensive.

Bottom line:  No idea is sacred to all. No idea is free of criticism. 

It’s freedom of speech as explained by Ghostbusters

Do I recognize that it’s ‘Dickish’ to go out of your way to offend. Sure. But nobody should be forced to “play nice” with an idea, especially if it’s one they think is stupid or want to criticize.

Just as they have the right to be critical of something you hold sacred, you can respond with your own speech. Point out how they are being an asshat. Or better yet – offer a rebuttal or critique their own speech/comment/criticism. In the open marketplace of ideas – may the best meme win.

Anyone who points out that Charlie Hebdo was being offensive is missing the point. Of course they were being offensive. There is and never should be a limit to how offensive one can be with speech. No idea is sacred to all. No idea is free of criticism.

As Jeff Jarvis put it:

Standing for free speech is not American. It is logical. If one allows a government to control—to censor—offensive speech, then no speech will be allowed, except that which government approves, for any speech can offend anyone and then all speech is controlled.

Speech is a human right.

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I have the Plague http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/i-have-the-plague http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/i-have-the-plague#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:00:06 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4340 Continue reading I have the Plague ]]> This weekend I caught the Plague.

I’m not sick – just using an app of the name. It’s a simple and somewhat addictive app and anyone interested in the dissemination of information (journalists) should pay attention to it. There is always talk about “gamification” of news and 9 out of 10 times we think that means there should be a game with a journalist as the main character and we follow them along on their investigation.

WRONG (only journalists think this is a fun game concept)

The Plague gets it right: The “game” isn’t about how you get information – it’s how you spread it. The app takes the meme concept and uses a virus as an analogy. You share information and it goes to 4 people close by.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.47.11 PM













They then choose to spread it further or not. Your meme can end up spreading all over the world, or just die in your backyard.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.47.36 PM










Here are the elements of the app I find enjoyable.

Simple “Tinder-like” swipe.

  • A “passive” user of the app can swipe up to squash a meme or down to spread it. Super quick and easy. A tap brings you to a detailed view to see comments. The comments are rather good because it’s focused on a single idea/photo/etc.

Elements of Secret/Whisper – without anonymity 

  • Everyone is connected to everyone. What you share will go to ‘local’ users first and you don’t necessarily know them, but it’s not anonymous. While there are no profiles to “follow,” you can click into a user profile. As a person who shares – you don’t run the risk of annoying your “followers” – you don’t need to overthink. There is no social media performance. Worst case scenario 4 people you share with will squash your content. But because it’s not purely anonymous the app isn’t filled with the same kind of content Whisper/Secret are – sex confessions/gossip/etc.

Level up

  • In addition to a transparent view of how things get shared (percentage of people who re-share your content, where they are in the world and total numbers) you are given an “infection index” score. The higher it is – the more initial people you get to ‘infect’ with your information.


Needs improvement on

  • Too much content is re-shared and the app isn’t smart enough to know whether I’ve already passed on(or not) information
  • Too many high-res photoshopped images from “top ten amazing things” blog lists are shared. There are only so many awesome mountain range photos I can stand in one sitting.
  • Minor UI/UX things – but overall the app is pretty sleek. I rather like the loading logo even though it reminds me how morbid the game concept is.

There is something here for journalists to ponder. 

  • What is ‘our’ role vs. the ‘amateur’ role of spreading information
  • The game mechanics of spreading information
  • What will/won’t work in The Plague or other future apps of the same nature
  • The simple intuitive force of the app. It’s not about news – it’s about information –  but each bit is quickly digested and passed on.
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