23
Oct 14

Where can I get a mace?

They sang “O Canada” in Pittsburgh for the hockey game last night. The Philadelphia Flyers faced the Penguins and they did both anthems and Penguin fans sang “O Canada.” Is it nationalism when another nation is involved? So, yeah, I watched Lyndon Slewidge sing it once more.

Here’s the video you really need to see. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, now a Canadian hero, returned to his regular duties this morning.

It is possible that he is going to start a renaissance of emotional stoicism. He might also make it fashionable to carry a wicked mace.

Much more at the CBC.

Things to read … because I don’t have a mace to give you.

Infiltrating people’s habits: How Time works to engage readers:

Time’s editors meet every morning at 9:45 to discuss stories for the upcoming day. After that meeting, Schweitzer, Ross, and Borchers gather to discuss the 15 or so stories they plan on promoting heavily and how they’ll use what Time calls its “external levers of distribution” — which range from its daily email newsletter and cross-promotions on other Time Inc. websites to working with the Time Inc. PR department and, of course, social media — to ensure that their stories are widely read and shared.

Of the three, Schweitzer is the longest tenured Time employee, having joined the company all the way back in August 2013, and their roles are emblematic of Time’s revamped digital strategy. Time had about 50 million unique visitors in both August and September, more than doubling the roughly 20 million it attracted the year before.

Their efforts go beyond social as well. The Ebola story discussed that morning, covering how some people are surviving the virus, was the top story in Time’s daily email the next morning. Called The Brief after the central feature of Time’s homepage, the email lists 12 things readers need to know each day, and it has an average open rate of around 40 percent. Time has more than 6 million likes and followers on both Twitter and Facebook, but Time assistant managing editor Sam Jacobs said the newsletter, which has about 650,000 subscribers, can drive significant traffic.

Terribly sad, Doctor in New York City Is Sick With Ebola:

A doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea became the first person in the city to test positive for the virus Thursday, setting off a search for anyone who might have come into contact with him.

The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center and placed in isolation at the same time as investigators sought to retrace every step he had taken over the past several days.

At least three people he had contact with in recent days have been placed in isolation. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which dispatched a team to New York, is conducting its own test to confirm the positive test on Thursday, which was performed by a city lab.

While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges involved in containing the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis.

The next sentence discusses his subway trips. What a logistical challenge. Tomoorrow, I suppose, we’ll begin to talk about the media onslaught.

Where did everybody go? Construction labor shortage more severe in Southeast:

According to data released this week by the Associated General Contractors of America, 83 percent of firms that responded to a recent survey said they are having trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill open spots, and 61 percent are having trouble filling professional slots like project supervisors and engineers.

According to the survey, the Southeast has been hit the hardest by this shortage, where 86 percent of the contractors polled said they had a hard time filling positions with qualified workers.

You haven’t seen a lot of stories about booming construction sites, so did the workers and the professionals have moved on or moved out.

Maybe they’re mace shopping.


22
Oct 14

Remembering Ottawa

Five years ago we were in Ottawa at a conference. It was a low key trip in a busy time. The conference only allowed for one paper each, so The Yankee and I got to be tourists. We took a walking tour of Ottawa one day, and it was lovely. The sky was overcast and chilly. We got snow flurries and red poppies for Veteran’s Day. We met exceedingly nice people at every turn. We walked through incredibly moving memorials and beautiful gothic revival architecture. It was, I said on Twitter today, a wonderful place to visit as an American. Some things I wrote that day:

Speakers Selection

We toured Parliament. I gave security fits. It seems the metal detectors there are set to the highest sensitivity. Wrists make them beep. Not watches, but the bones in your body. The security officers were very patient and polite, almost apologetic. But, then, everyone we’ve met in Ottawa has been unfailingly nice.

When we finally made it in we sat through a few minutes of the House of Commons, including their regular question period. We made our way up to the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber. The Memorial Chamber is a very solemn, quiet place. So much so that I didn’t even take any photographs there. Everywhere else, yes, and they’ll eventually make it into the November gallery when I get that section of the site back up to speed.

The picture above is from the gift shop in the parliament building. The kids working the cash register were not prepared for my line of questions about the Speaker’s Selection syrup. Peter Milliken has been the speaker for forever, they said (since 2001) and so this has likely been the syrup since he took office.

How did he decide on this particular syrup?

“I think it was a blind taste test,” one young lady offered.

But surely not. Milliken is from Ontario, but imagine if he’d chosen a syrup from British Columbia in a blind test. That’d be a bit embarrassing. No, he probably brought his favorite from home. Surely this producer is among his constituency.

Unfortunately I couldn’t bring some home with us. The humorless TSA would not allow it. Perhaps I can order some online.

We visited a fancy mall while looking for hats. Turns out this was the coldest day of the season so far. It was 30 degrees with the occasional flurry and we were out taking pictures all day. The guy working the desk at our hotel directed us to the mall, telling us “You can’t get more Canadian than Roots.” He told us to look for a toque.

This was the sort of mall that made you feel poor just by walking inside. “Authentic Canadian” must mean fooling the Americans. Before we found Roots we found Old Navy. Figuring they would be cheaper we steered that way. Right next to Old Navy was a store called Buck or Two.

Why not? We walked in, found hats right up front and bought two of them. Four bucks.

We found Roots, found the toques. Twenty-six dollars, each.

On our way out of the mall I noted my hat couldn’t get any more American: Made in China.

Take that, desk clerk! You will not be getting any kickbacks tonight!

Sure, we’re staying at the downtown Radisson, but we booked through an online discount site. We = Cheap.

We met some striking museum curators — a noun and modifier that could lend itself to a great band name or a magazine layout. These nice, freezing folks were trying to get better wages and less contract labor in their field. Museum curators are important; these are being replaced, the woman said, by non-experts at a lower wage.

Not Canadian, but what can we do? They urged us to drop this note of protest in the mail to our representatives. My guy wasn’t on the mailing list, what with him living in a different country, but I picked a good sturdy English name from a place I’d like to visit and dropped him a note in the local postal system.

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We also saw the Notre Dame Basilica. It is across the street from the art museum — we didn’t go — with the giant spider on the corner. If they make a Night at the Museum III they should start with that. Creepy.We saw black squirrels, the famous canal from which all of Ottawa sprang, Quebec on the other side of the river and some very nice, funky shops.

And, sadly, today all of that was locked down after a shooting at Parliament. It seems the Sergeant-at-Arms put a stop to the chaos. More details will emerge, but at this point one victim, a reservist, and the shooter are dead. The soldier was killed at the national war memorial. The shooter somewhere inside Parliament itself.

A writer wrote that this wasn’t supposed to happen in Canada. We can all sympathize; this sort of thing shouldn’t happen anywhere. Parliament member John Williamson wrote “Parliament Hill is never going to be the same.

Sad to think of that.

Things to read … because there’s always something to think of.

One more note from Canada, these are the running announcements from the Ottawa police.

We see people starting to talk about this subject. I’ve mentioned it and linked to some essays here. Today is a good reminder that it is a conversation worth having. There are plenty of great points here. User Generated Content: time to consider the ethical conundrums as well as the opportunities:

Steve Herrmann says verification is the main challenge when dealing with user-generated content.

“The biggest challenge of all is establishing something is true and retaining peoples’ trust at a time when information is moving so fast it can be very, very hard to check.”

He says that although the speed of the news cycle makes verification difficult, newsrooms need to make sure it’s correct before publishing or broadcasting.

“Or at least if you’re not quite sure, you need to be very clear [about that]”

However, Claire Wardle says the phrase ‘we cannot independently verify this’ is doing a disservice to the audience.

“Until we sort that out, we’ll have content being run too quickly with these caveats, and this isn’t transparent,” she says, indicating that there needs to be more transparency when dealing with UGC.

It is booming. Inside Bloomberg Media’s digital video business:

Bloomberg.com’s desktop site racked up over 5.3 million unique video viewers in September, more than triple the amount it ran a year earlier, according to comScore. Making that more impressive, overall unique visitors to Bloomberg.com declined slightly during that period, from 8.7 million to 8.2 million. That’s important, considering Bloomberg fetches $75 CPMs for its video ads, according to Marcum.

“The world leaders in business are tremendously appealing to advertisers, and we have them,” he said.

These are ambitious numbers, and even if they are close to accurate … Worldwide Subscription Video-On-Demand To Grow Nearly 30% In Revenue In 2014:

Information research company Gartner expects consumer spending on SVOD services to grow 28.1% in 2014 and 18.2% in 2015. Gartner says spending on SVOD services in North America is on pace to improve 28.5% in 2014 and 18.6% in Western Europe. Emerging territories will see a 53% growth rate in 2014.

What Journalists Worry About in the Middle of the Night: I find items 10, 9 and then, ultimately, 2 particularly worrisome.

Thursday update: A cartoon from Halifax’s Chronicle Herald by Bruce MacKinnon, with proceeds from the reprints going to the family of the fallen soldier:

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21
Oct 14

I will, in fact, run to wait

Looking forward to tomorrow. Our student journalists have a big story coming out. It is complex and sensitive and it is well done, a compliment to the people who’ve worked on it. I read it tonight — which is unusual, as an adviser I do not interfere with their editorial decisions, meaning I generally see everything as a regular consumer — and I’m proud of the work they’re doing.

This is a fun, loud, sharp, sarcastic group. They do their work throughout the week and they put their newspaper to bed early on Tuesday nights. But not this week. Tonight was a late night with lots of copy and good quotes and ink on hands. There was plenty of layout experiments and squibble marks and bleary-eyed readings of federal definitions.

The work is good. It is honest and fair and thorough. Our editor-in-chief has spent a lot of time writing it. She’s proven why the job is hers and is proving why she can handle the investigative work. I think she’s going to be proud of it all, after she has put the story to bed and steps away from it for a minute or two.

In the copy room … I’m making copies. I had to re-load the machine with paper. No one ever considers the humble wrapping paper that holds the copy paper together. Maybe we should:

paper

But I always like jam with my paper.

International Paper, under their Hammermill brand, has a program with St. Jude. One of their patients drew the fish.

Now I want to copy more things, to see what is on the next ream of paper.

Things to read … because someone put it on paper. Or a server.

Getting the truly geeky out of the way first: How A/B testing became publishers’ go-to traffic builder.

Journalists’ obituaries are usually a bit self indulgent, but this is a good one about an important figure in the industry: Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor, dies at 93:

See? Ben Bradlee and ‘the best damn job in the world’.

Few ever think about the importance of Barber, just north of Birmingham, but that place is important: Motorsports museum’s economic impact far reaching.

I’m not going to think about racing for at least a week, but here’s one last important economic story: Talladega Superspeedway impact transcends the track.

In a random musical moment I wondered: Whatever happened to Live?

Turns out they have a new album, their first in something like eight years, coming out next week. Here’s one of the new tracks:

But that’s not Ed Kowalczyk. He’s not been with the band in years. (Apparently it was not an amicable breakup.) He has a solo album out. And, in this just-released video, he smiles. This seems unnerving, somehow:

That’s what happens when you wonder about things from 15 years ago.

Here’s a thought exercise: Isn’t it interesting how things are so different for you than they were 15 years ago? Isn’t it even more interesting how things are so similar? Discuss.


20
Oct 14

Monday’s deep diving

Here are a few video clips from the day at the races. I didn’t shoot much of anything worthwhile and certainly not enough to tell an actual story, he said, again. But I have the video and it doesn’t have to live on my phone forever. So I threw a few of them together and called it “Things with engines moving very fast.”

And so another week begins, with the strings that drew the last week to a close pulling loose and then taut against the tendrils that start this week. In a conversation with a student on Friday evening barbecue kept coming up as a story example, which I interpreted as a clue that I needed barbecue. So I had some kind or another on Friday night, Saturday and last night. After dinner last night there was laundry and the blur of one week turns into the whirr of the next. Here we are.

Today we discussed feature stories. It was great, we sat out under an oak tree and batted around ideas that students are working on. It was a beautiful afternoon under a shade tree.

And then back to the newsroom, where I fixed something I’d broken Friday night. That took about an hour, wrapping up the ends of something I’d begun at the end of last week. And then office work, trying to wrap up the ends of a department project that goes on and on.

Also, there is a ceiling tile to replace. We had a saggy slab of high density mineral fiber pulp that finally gave way. And now all of the cold or warmth from outside is falling in through the attic. So a call to the nice people in the facilities department, who gave me a promise that they would come, sometime soon, to fix the problem.

There are, of course, also the tedious and silly routines and errands that really fill our day. Most of this particular day’s chores won’t even mean anything in the long run. It is a Monday, after all.

Things to read … because it is a Monday.

And now we’ve localized the American Ebola story, Alabama teacher on leave after traveling aboard same plane, but on a different day, as Ebola patient:

The Phenix City Board of Education placed a high school teacher on paid leave after learning the employee traveled on the same airplane that carried a person with the Ebola virus the previous day.

The school board placed the Central High School teacher on 21 days of paid leave despite the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health insisting there is no risk of the teacher being exposed to Ebola.

Superintendent William Wilkes wrote in a letter to parents dated Oct. 19 that the teacher was being placed on leave for the incubation period of the Ebola virus “out of an abundance of caution.”

The comments are almost all with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

I usually don’t enjoy Q&As, but this one is entertaining on a variety of subjects, In Conversation Marc Andreeseen:

You could probably bring in the whole online-education movement. But for me, the question is, who does the best with online schooling? And it’s mostly ­autodidacts, people who are self-starters. They’ve found that people from low-income communities actually get the least out of it.

It’s way too early to judge, because we’re at the very beginning of the development of the technology. It’s like critiquing dos 1.0 and saying that this will never turn into the Windows PC. We’re still in the prototype experimental phase. We can’t use the old approach to teach the world. We can’t build that many campuses. We don’t have the space. We don’t have money. We don’t have the professors. If you can go to Harvard, go to Harvard. But that’s not the question. The question is for the 14-year-old in Indonesia staring at a life of either, like, subsistence farming or being able to get a Stanford-quality education and being able to go into a profession.

The one other thing that people are really underestimating is the impact of entertainment-industry economics applied to education. Right now, with MOOCS,11 the production values are pretty low: You’ll film the professor in the classroom. But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we knew that they were going to be paying $100 per student, right? What if we knew that we’d have $100 million of revenue from that course per semester? What production budget would we be willing to field in order to have that course?

You could hire James Cameron to do it.

You could literally hire James Cameron to make Math 101. Or how about, let’s study the wars of the Roman Empire by actually having a VR [virtual reality] experience walking around the battlefield, and then like flying above the battlefield. And actually the whole course is looking and saying, “Here’s all the maneuvering that took place.” Or how about re-creating original Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theatre?

Sorta makes you want to invest in VR, doesn’t it?

And, finally, speaking of James Cameron, here’s some deep diving that should be filmed. It would be a 12-minute long film. New World Record for Deepest Scuba Dive:

Due to the requirements of decompression and the need to expel nitrogen, the ascent to the surface required a staggering 14 hours.

Sorta makes breaking the surface anticlimactic, no?


19
Oct 14

Talladega 500

We received tickets to the big race at Talladega Superspeedway. It was a great day. Everything worked out perfectly, the weather was grand. We were on time. We did not get sunburns and were entertained by a little bit of everything.

We drove up, fighting no traffic, walked a far shorter distance than we’d anticipated, waited in the shade for a few moments at the Will Call window and then walked a few hundred yards to the gate and to the proper section. We were sitting about 100 feet off the finish line. It was a perfect afternoon to be outside and we had a grand view of everything.

There were pre-race interviews, a parade of antique military vehicles, driver introductions and there was something called sky-typing:

Talladega

Then eight retired military service members jumped out of a plane with flags attached to their rigs:

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We saw a flyover synched with the military band playing the national anthem:

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And, of course, the race fans:

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Here’s the pace car for the day’s race:

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Brian Vickers had the pole, he would finish 20th:

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Dale Earnhardt Jr lead the most laps throughout the race, but his day ended with a disappointing 31st, which eliminates him from the championship race.

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For a time it seemed that we would see a little history. Danica Patrick had a strong run toward the end of the race, but caution flags and the last pit stop worked against her:

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Brad Keselowski won the Geico 500, advancing in his championship chase:

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But, really, you’re hear for the fans. Here are a lot more of them:

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