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Everything Takes Practice

February 2, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.

I don't have New Year's resolutions, really. I pick a few things I'd like to learn in a year, and sometimes I actually learn those things. Sometimes I end up on weird tangents, and sometimes those pay off.

What I do have, more by accident than intention, is something of an annual mantra, a little phrase that keeps coming back into my life and work.

Last year's mantra: Resist the urge to be clever.

I had that written on the whiteboard next to my desk at NPR. I can't remember which project inspired it, but ...

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What's Next?

August 14, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.

A sign that I've really fallen off the blogging habit: The front page of my site, which lists my 15 most recent posts, is still showing the post I wrote last time I changed jobs. Now I'm writing another one of those posts.

Monday, July 30, was my last day at NPR. A week from tomorrow, my wife is flying to Boston to start her Nieman-Berkman fellowship at Harvard, and I'll be following with an apartment worth of furniture a week later. After more than three years here, we're leaving DC.

This is also the first ...

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Iffy

February 8, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.

James Fallows, on why it's ok to give "iffy" answers to questions about China:

If anyone starts telling you with "certainty" what is or is not going to happen in China, you should mistrust that person -- precisely because of the certainty. There are contradictory pressures, trends, and "truths" in every part of the country every day. You can imagine the current system surviving more or less intact for another generation. You can also imagine it blowing up -- and, after it has happened, either would seem "inevitable" and "pre-ordained." So while this may seem like equivocation, it's actually a ...

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Two Tricks For a More Interesting VirtualEnv

January 2, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.

Ian Bicking's virtualenv has become one of those apps I just can't code without (or at least, I hate to code without). I have so many quick-hit, one-off, throwaway apps with so many strange and sometimes conflicting dependencies that I can't imagine how I'd get anything done if they all swam in the same soup.

This is all made better by Doug Hellman's virtualenvwrapper, which makes creating and managing virtual environments dead simple.

Given that, here are two tricks I figured out yesterday that could make things a little more interesting:

Using (Some) Global Site ...

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Features as Apps, Apps as Services

July 15, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.

The CMS is a dying concept. Erik Hinton at TPM gets us started on thinking beyond One System To Rule Them All:

Instead of revolving around a monolithic central piece of software, we have adopted the paradigm of feature-as-app. Our frontpage: an app. Our slideshow: a different app. Article publishing: yet another app. You get the picture. At the heart is a simple and flexible API that digests manifold requests from the different applications. For example, Moveable Type is great at publishing entries and updating its database accordingly. Our new system will simply wrap the MT database in a cached ...

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"The easy way isn't even an option."

June 11, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.

Over the months of the Chicago mayoral race, like a lot of people, I became a huge fan of MayorEmanuel, and the vulgar stream of ad hoc literature that sprung from the mind of Dan Sinker. Which is funny, because I've still never been to Chicago. I should fix that.

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com

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On Building Communities

May 26, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.

Building communities on the Internet is a new kind of profession. There are an awful lot of technology companies, founded by programmers, who think they are building communities on the Internet, but they’re really just building software and wondering why the community doesn’t magically show up.

From Joel Spolsky, talking about modern community building, who goes on to detail the unique challenges of the field.

Even better, there's a job opening at the end.

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Speaking of dated imperialist dogma...

April 29, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.

I've been muttering lines from this all morning:

Props to The Guardian for giving me a way to make extravagant demonstrations of inherited wealth disappear from their homepage. And to other news organizations that remembered there are more important issues at hand than a marriage in someone else's monarchy.

And if you must read something about royal weddings, read what Jeff Jarvis had to write about the last one.

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Happy Accidents. And Then What?

April 13, 2011 at 7:48 p.m.

If this was a new startup, a one or two person shop, I’d give it a thumbs up for innovation and good execution on a simple but viral idea.

But the fact that this is coming from Odeo makes me wonder – what is this company doing to make their core offering compelling? How do their shareholders feel about side projects like Twttr when their primary product line is, besides the excellent design, a total snoozer?

That comes at the end of the first post on TechCrunch about Twitter, then known by the shorter Twttr. The rest is history.

Twitter ...

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Let's Build a Better DC News Aggregator

February 19, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.

This month's Carnival of Journalism asks: What can I do to increase the number of news sources?

I take the following as given: DC doesn't have a shortage of news, or an inadequate supply of sources. There are three daily newspapers (with metro sections), a weekly, several TV stations and radio on both AM and FM. TBD's community network points to 225 blogs focused on the metro area. Between Wordpress, Facebook, cell phones and cheap broadband access, anyone with an urge to participate in conversation and report news (however defined) can do so.

(A disclosure I'll ...

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What Business is HuffPo In?

February 13, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.

One reason that The Huffington Post gets a lot of criticism for not paying its bloggers is because most people think of it as a publishing company, when really — like Facebook — it is more of a technology company. Whether the content is paid or unpaid, the site is able to generate a comparatively large amount of revenue from it because of things like search engine optimization, and the way that its editors use their page space: a poorly-performing article will all but disappear from the site almost as soon as it is posted, while a strong one can hold its ...

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Onward to NPR

February 7, 2011 at 9:48 p.m.

I've been holding off writing this post. It is, for a number of reasons, a hard one to write. Maybe it shouldn't be--but it is.

Wednesday is my last day at the NewsHour. Two years and a week ago I moved across the country with a backpack for a job I was recruited for in a tweet. Since then, I've worked on projects than reshaped how I think about journalism and changed the way I call myself a journalist.

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Carnival of Journalism: Students in the Mix

January 23, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.

This month's inaugural Carnival of Journalism asks how universities can be better information hubs in a networked community. Since I've been away from college a while now (and haven't really looked back) I decided to look at a working program and get insight from someone wrangling with these questions daily.

Matt Mansfield runs the DC bureau of the Medill News Service, part of Northwestern University's school of journalism. Students participate in the program in their fourth and final quarter as a capstone course. They're Capitol Hill credentialed and their work appears in mainstream publications. The ...

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Using TableFu to Crack Those Tables

January 21, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.

Note: in lieu of other excuses: I have a carnival of journalism post coming soon. Consider this an unrelated holdover to remind you that I do, in fact, still occasionally use this blog.

For a while now, I've been toying with a side project called TableFu. If you follow me on Twitter or Github, you've probably seen it. It might already be in your toolkit (if, for example, you needed to organize a bunch of Youtube videos of Christmas carols).

The project started as a Python port of ProPublica's project of the same name, which is written ...

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Secrets and Facts

January 14, 2011 at 12:23 a.m.

Reporters like secrets because that's sort of the raison d'etre of reporting: Getting new information into the world. Secrets are the things that you really need reporters to find out. But a lot of the secrets that end up getting attention -- so-and-so said such-and-such about this-and-that -- tend to be embarrassing rather than revelatory. And the relevant policy players aren't thinking about those secrets when they make the relevant policy decisions. They're thinking about age structures in Egypt. Thinking about age structures in Egypt is, after all, why they were hired for the job in the first ...

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