I Remember

I struggle when I reflect on September 11th.

In many ways I’ve moved on, taking with me everything that I have learned. A lot about the world. A lot about myself.

I struggle when I reflect because I often feel like I don’t need to. I tell myself that I’ve remembered enough.

Somewhere in my mind I know that the true purpose of reflection is not to remember. Instead the true purpose is to learn. For that reason, I’m not going to move on as quickly today. Instead I’m going to write it down as I reflect. To share what I remember and what has led to many lessons learned.

I remember a daze that lasted for a long time. It started the moment I turned on the television and saw one tower ablaze. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it may have been weeks. It didn’t seem that things could be allowed to go back to normal.

I remember silent sky. The eeriness of a world in which there is no air travel.

I remember community. An instant bond with people around the country. Especially that morning, while everybody was still trying to figure out what had just happened, business went on while people shared dazed observations.

I remember calling my friend Alan in New York to make sure he was okay. I hadn’t spoken to him in almost a year, but I felt the need to try. I remember being amazed that already, just several hours after the attack, he was reassuring me that New York was strong enough to handle this.

I remember Peter Jennings. Until then I had no attachment to television news. Jennings became my news anchor. He spoke to me during those days and he did a damn good job.

I remember anger. Anger at the hijackers. Anger at the world for failing one another. Anger at reactions against the wrong people.

I remember a strange fear. Fear that it happened, not that it would happen again. A fear of what would come next because it had happened.

I remember Ryan Adams and New York, New York. I remember seeing the video for the first time, sitting in my apartment with my friend Chuck. I think I remember both of us being speechless.

It’s strange. The things that you remember, the things you don’t. The new things that you will remember the next time you reflect.

However strange, it’s probably good to do it every once and a while. To take those reflections and those memories and to learn from them. To never stop remembering, but to especially never stop learning.

‘Twitter For Newsrooms’ – But Why?

Twitter launched a site today, titled “Twitter For Newsrooms”, in which they provide some information on which Twitter tools or clients are available for journalists to use as well as how to use them. Through the handful of pages, the assumption is made that a newsroom needs Twitter in order to find sources and readers.

we know Twitter is a tool all journalists can use to find sources faster, tell stories better, and build a bigger audience for their work.

It is a marketing document, so that’s a valid assumption for Twitter to want to make, but a critical argument is missing.

Why exactly does a newsroom need Twitter?

What does an investment in Twitter provide that makes it worth a newsroom’s time and money? How is this investment better than a team creating the tool that a newsroom needs? One that can directly target their subscriber base.

At the very least, especially because they know it is a useful tool, Twitter should provide some kind of statistical data. It doesn’t have to be too in depth, but something to show that sources and readers exist with the potential to have a major impact.

  • Of 200 million users, how many are potential sources? (Tweet # times/day)
  • Of 200 million users, how many are potential readers? (Click # links/day)

While print circulation appears to be dying, and for good reason, millions of newspapers and magazines are still sold every day. Without Twitter, millions of people are still reading articles in print and online.

Twitter is hot right now, and I’m an active user, but news organizations should know they still have a chance to be creative on their own, outside of a silo.

“What I Read” 10 Years From Now

I’m a big fan of the Atlantic’s “What I Read” series that pops up every once and a while. I always learn something cool about popular pundits and writers, and I usually find something else to add to my own list.

In 10 years, I do wonder if it will be a bit like a high school yearbook for some of those who have been interviewed.

🙂

Experimenting With Feedhose – Part II

My expirement with Dave Winer’s Feedhose protocol started off a week ago with a simple river that auto updated with the latest headlines from the NY Times. As I said at the time, I enjoy pushing out that first draft to help grasp what else I want to do with it.

So far, it’s been really useful. I leave a browser window open all day pulling headlines from the NY Times as they are published.

It only took a few hours before I started wishing for more.

My next step was to branch off a bit. I was able to hook in to The Guardian through their pretty fabulous open platform API. This wasn’t as easy as hooking into Dave’s Feedhose, but it was pretty close. Long polling isn’t an option and I have to keep track of my own cursor. The Guardian’s API keeps track of things by page number and items per page instead of item number, so some duplicate content has to be parsed. The API is snappy though, which is very helpful. Right now I’ve been making a request every two minutes for updated articles and I’ll probably up that to every one minute pretty soon.

Two sources still wasn’t enough, so when I saw Dave mention his AFP feed (coming soon here) in a comment on his post covering Erik Kidd’s Feedhose client, I decided to plugin BBC to see what would happen. Sure enough, it had already been hooked up and has been working smooth all day.

Of course, once I had three separate pages up tracking real time news from these great sources, the next logical “what if” became combining those into one easy format.

So here it is, with a brand new domain, Feed River Wire.

Note: The one caveat with The Guardian is their news traffic drops drastically during the late night hours, London time. NY Times seems to have a decent stream throughout the night. We’ll see about the BBC tonight.

A Feed River Wire

A few days ago, Dave Winer published a firehose for feeds that is currently hooked into a near real time feed of stories from the NY Times. In attempting to figure out what to do with a service like this, I find pushing out a first draft always seems to help. And since the explanation of the first draft is longer than a comment, here’s a blog post. 🙂

The Feed River Wire can be broken down as:

  1. Reads feeds. In this case, the NY Times feeds with support from Dave’s long-poll RSS server.
  2. Displays feeds as a river. In this context, to me, a river means– if it isn’t new, then it isn’t news. Dive in and read. No worries.
  3. Hooks the river to the wire. As new items are pulled in from the long-poll server, they are displayed on the front page almost immediately.

The river flows by.

Now, for the technical details.

Every hour, a script runs. This script is allowed to run anywhere from 55-58 minutes before it dies.

This script looks at the last known seed (cursor) and makes a request from Dave’s server for any items that have come in during the period since the last request. It tells the server to listen to its request for 30 seconds if no data is immediately available.

If data becomes available during that time, it is served up immediately.

If data does not become available during that 30 seconds, the script pauses for 60 seconds and then runs again. This pause time fluctuates depending on the number of empty requests. We don’t want to pound a server that isn’t giving up data, that won’t help.

If for some reason we go around 20 minutes without an update, the script stops and waits for the next hourly start trigger. I figure if we’ve gone 20 minutes without news from the NY Times, it’s either a slow news day or we can take a break during the middle of the night until the next hourly script is run.

On the front end, the end user is greeted with the 20 most recent items of the river whenever the page is loaded. If the page is not closed, it will ping back to the server every 5 seconds looking for new items. If one is found, it will populate.

Cool.

So check it out. No fancy bells and whistles, but I learned a couple things and the wheels are turning on draft two. Hopefully Dave can get a few more feeds hooked into the hose. 🙂