POST:// Taxonomy of Self: The Content Engineer Label

Headshot rendered in ASCII
I am a member of the species homo taxonomonsis: The Labelmaking Humans.

Labelmakers assign categories to things and seek to understand the relationships between those categories.

My professional work has graced me with a plethora of labels:

  • Director of Interactive
  • Experience Architect
  • Web Developer
  • Information Architecture Manager
  • Manager of Online Production
  • Producer
  • Editor
  • Writer

I never felt any of them satisfactorily described my actual work, though. (more…)

POST:// Moving Mountains: Lessons Learned from Organizational Change

Today is May 18. It’s a date that I’ll never forget. The only time a mountain ever came to me was on a May 18.

Plan for moving a mountain.
Photo “Mt. Rainier and Olympic Range, Olympia, Washington (ca. 1916)” courtesy of the Library of Congress. (

Mountains aren’t made to be moved. They are made to sit in one place. They don’t look like they are up to much, but most of them are either slowly getting bigger or slowly getting smaller. The ones that aren’t doing it slowly are doing it rapidly.

When mountains change rapidly, by definition there’s a lot of chaos involved. Shaking, fire, things falling down… mountains that are changing rapidly can be very dangerous places. (more…)

POST:// Presentation: The CMS Dilemma

A CMS roams the landscape, devouring Web pages and unaware of looming catastrophe.
A CMS roams the landscape, devouring Web pages and unaware of looming catastrophe.
Last week, I gave a presentation (embedded in this post complete with audio of my talk) at the Integrated Media Association conference in Austin. It was part of a two-session look at the evolving role of Content Management in the context of Public Media. I presented this in Session 1, and was followed by a presentation by Brian Underwood of KQED. Jack Brighton from WILL moderated and gathered audience questions. In session 2 later that day, Brian and I were joined on stage by Max Duke from PBS Interactive and Erin Martin of NPR Digital, each of whom gave a short overview of their CMS products before taking questions from the audience.

POST:// Snow Fall Breakdown: How The New York Times Built a Multimedia Story

Snow Fall

UPDATE 1/3/2013: My fellow MCDM alum Rebekah Peterson shared a great Q&A with the multimedia team behind “Snow Fall” on Source. I held my breath on first read, afraid they were going to say something that completely contradicted my analysis, but I fared pretty well. If my breakdown is too “in the weeds” for you, I think you’ll find Source’s Q&A pretty accessible.

The recent New York Times multimedia story “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” got a lot of attention. As Rebecca Greenfield put it on The Atlantic Wire, the piece “…integrates video, photos, and graphics in a way that makes multimedia feel natural and useful, not just tacked on.” The Times was rightfully proud of the piece and what it means for online journalism, boldly stating “Clearly, this is something The Times hopes to do more of, and others will undoubtedly do it, as well.”

It struck me as a beautifully designed and stunningly effective example of multimedia online storytelling and I couldn’t wait to share it at the public television station where I am the Director of the Interactive department. I was motivated in part to share as a means of saying “this is what we need to be capable of doing to survive.”

What makes the piece so remarkable isn’t that the New York Times has created anything new in a technical sense. It’s that instead of retreating from what’s disrupting their business they have embraced it and made it even better by using it to showcase their traditional strength: Meaningful storytelling.

While I love it as a strategic approach to storytelling, I also understand it as a piece of front end web development. A decade ago, the third phase of my media career led me to learn in depth how web technologies are designed to work together. That dive into the logistics of web development continues to shape my strategic and tactical thinking as a manager and I believe good online managers need to be familiar with the actual work of building digital media products. Businesses that succeed best in the online medium have managers who apply their real working knowledge of how it works to strategic decision making.

What follows is my technical breakdown of the front end code that makes the Times piece such an effective experience. My target audience is digital media managers with some interest in knowing some of the technical aspects of what goes into a presentation like this.

POST:// Surviving History: A Thanksgiving Post

Brook, Cat and Asa on the Athabascan Glacier
Family on Ice

I know I had direct ancestors on the European side of the table at the first Thanksgiving. It also seems pretty likely I had ancestors on the American side of the table: I certainly did have ancestors who were closely related to the people on the American side of the table. My European ancestors that were there that day were separatists whose views put them at risk of being murdered in England. Eventually, they hooked up with some of my other European ancestors whose views put them at risk of being murdered in France who had hooked up with my Native ancestors who had survived the genocide of their people and complete disruption of their way of life. (more…)

POST:// The Unreality of Gun Rhetoric

Today is the last day of May. On the last day of June, my son will turn 10. I had been thinking that not long after his birthday, I would take him on a trip to an indoor shooting range and teach him how to shoot a gun safely. But after a bloody week in Seattle, I have little enthusiasm for doing it. (more…)

POST:// Democracy and Psychopathology on Facebook and Google+

Facebook or Google+?On Facebook, your past stalks you like a vengeful ghost carrying a litany of your indiscretions written on (pick one: damaged car doors | overdue library books | your grandmother’s linen tablecloth) with (pick one: warm beer | bicycle chain grease | all-weather deck stain).

Your only escape routes are blocked by your present and your future. Your coworkers have decided to be Facebook friends, and so have a number of your business contacts. Every time a post on your wall starts with “Doooood…” or “Your Father and I were wondering…” you cringe at the thought that what comes next is visible to people you are hoping will see you as a professional genius well on the way to world domination.

If this is a fairly accurate description of how you feel about Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ll prefer the granularity and control over interactions offered by Google+. (There’s also a chance you’re a psychopath, but we’ll get to that later.) The implications of preferring one social network to the other goes deeper than just the practical considerations of obscuring references to beer bongs from your boss. The differing approaches to how we control our information have societal implications.


My last posts about Flip the Media caught the attention of the faculty and students involved in running it as an independent study. After few emails back and forth I agreed to come back on board in an advisory capacity. Specifically, I’ve agreed to work on SEO (I’m thinking of it more broadly as “user acquisition” or SEO+), but it’s not possible to do effective SEO on a site that hasn’t defined a target audience or any success metrics. So I’m trying to help push in those directions as a precursor to any other work. That said, after the first meeting I attended, I spent less than 30 minutes with some very basic tools and learned some things about the site which I shared in an email, reproduced below. (more…)

POST:// Physician, Curate Thyself

It’s been almost a year since I contributed a post to MCDM’s Flip the Media blog. This hasn’t been because I didn’t want to post there. Instead it’s because, just as the blog felt like it was reaching a groove of sustainable editorial policies encouraging quality content, decisions were made to change who was in charge and how work was solicited. Since that time, I haven’t really known who the editors are, how I should submit posts, or really anything else about the blog. I’m not even sure why I used to have an administrator account on it, why I don’t anymore, or when the change was made. It’s all a mystery to me, and with only a quarter to go until graduation I’m not going to try to unravel it.

Recently, the blog has begun adding features that, instead of being integrated with the WordPress platform it runs on, are hosted on Google Docs and displayed on the site in an iframe. This is the sort of HTML hackery that I help companies avoid or fix in my professional life, and which I wince to see my writing associated with on a site managed by the program in which I’m getting my Master’s Degree. It’s not my fault, but it reflects poorly on me.

Rumors that are going around have led me to suspect that Flip the Media’s days in its current form are numbered. Which might be a good thing considering its rickety state. But I’ve written some good stuff for the blog, and I don’t want to see it disappear in any sort of curatorial meltdown. So, using the RSS feed for my own posts, I’ve imported them to Blue Collar Rocket Science. They all appear with their original publication dates, and are in the category First Published on Flip the Media. I did discard one that was about an MCMD Wiki I set up, which never got any traction and is long since defunct.

My decision to duplicate my Flip the Media posts on to a blog I manage myself is tied to my decision some months back to archive all the Twitter posts I’ve made with my primary account as blog posts in the category Twitter posts. When it comes to curating your work, it’s best to take matters in your own hands.