Summer work recap

So I basically let summer go by without a peep here. Here’s what you have been missing:

The “Night Lives” series by Dan Zak was a lot of fun. I wrote up the experience for the Washington Post @Innovations blog:

That seems to be the challenge of a “tip line” call-out. Many readers believe their thoughts and ideas entered into forms and e-mails to The Post disappear into the ether of cyberspace. Conversely, seasoned reporters have seen some open requests for story ideas yield a lack of quality and usefulness. Zak said, “I expected to receive a slow drip of nonsensical invective. So I was pleasantly surprised that we got a couple decent, sane suggestions.”

Then there was the Palin e-mails. Ask me about that sometime.

Federal workers are a great group of folks to reach out to regularly. When the earthquake hit D.C., I helped reporters sort through what the fed employees were going through. For the 9/11 anniversary, I helped again reach out to find stories about workplace safety. Budget battles and possible federal default inspired lots of opinions.

Through the Muslims in America series, I was enlightening with some great user perspectives on Muslim family dynamics and faith: Suspicion, radicalization, defending faith, and family.

I went to the Online News Association conference in Boston! I was out to soak up the knowledge on crowdsourcing in particular, since that’s my evolving specialty, but also walked away with some great ideas inspired by Al Jazeera’s The Stream, Mobile Commons, and

Most recently, I’ve had a lot of good experiences with an evolving photo project involving the mobile app Instagram: #2012unfiltered#econdebate, and #leafscape. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know a lot of smart readers who have become Capital Weather Watchers - a group I am hoping will become vital to how The Post reports on weather in the region.

I’ve also started occasionally tweeting and facebooking for The Post’s main news accounts. These accounts touch a lot of people in Washington area, and I’m always surprised at how interested people are in this. Questions like: “Do you really sit there and tweet all night?” Answer: No.

But it has been a lot easier to explain my job if I say I do social media at The Post. People can grasp what that is whereas “engagement” and “interactivity” mean very little to the average person. You don’t read callouts for information and stories sourced from audience and think: “Wow, that’s really great engagement.” It should just weave into the fabric of a great web experience.

The world will end with squirrels

Sometimes I have no idea how we get away with this, and yes I am to blame:

Unless you live in a tree (which I do) you have probably heard that the world will end on May 21. That’s according to an 89-year-old human named Harold Camping. What does this mean? Well, it means the Redskins won’t have a quarterback controversy next season. It means we won’t get to see what Ashton Kutcher would be like on “2.5 Men.” In other words: Bring on the apocalypse.

But in my neck of the woods (which is, literally, a neck of the woods), the chatter has been of  a different sort. As squirrels, we don’t believe we’re going anywhere on May 21. (You probably aren’t either, but that’s a question for theologians.) Rodents are unlikely to be Raptured.

We have mixed feelings about this. On the one paw, the fewer humans on this planet, the fewer of us get flattened under steel-belted radials. On the other paw, we rely on birdseed that you guys put in those cylindrical feeders for us. (Thanks!)

We’re going to discuss these sorts of issues today — and anything else that’s on your mind, End o’ the World-wise. Squeak! Squeak! Blink.

A little singing never hurt anyone

I recently sang in 35th anniversary of the Thomas Circle Singers. One of the rarer things in the music world is being able to perform for the composer, and it was a pleasure singing the premiere of his work “August Moonrise.” See Blake Henson’s very flattering tweets below. Photo is courtesy Blake too – a rehearsal shot.

February in links

A lot of still ask what exactly I do at the Post. The short answer is I build stuff but the longer answer is that it is changing. Here is the public sampling of stuff I’ve been involved in at Washington Post in February:

Not sure how I survived an entire night of “watching” the Oscars but a fun time nonetheless.

Mad Libs for the Oscars! Fun times putting this together with the help of others. Anything that gets people doing something other than voting on a ballot. I did run a Oscars red carpet fashion chat the following day… talk about not knowing anything about that subject.

I got a chance to wax poetic on higher education in a chat with Jenna Johnson, the Washington Post education/culture reporter. I actually produce her chat every week and it’s a great time.

This one was particularly a hit with friends who live in or know of the D.C. area culture…


Hopefully, It Won’t Get Me Fired

My boss asks me: why don’t you blog anymore? Well, it’s because I work at The Washington Post. But one my New Years’ resolutions was to get back to writing so here it goes again. Or as one tweet puts it:


Actually, I have not been entirely radio silent as of late. I did a quick write-up of user submitted content to the Post’s Cairo Dispatches callout. I also have committed to doing a few trial posts back on my old blogging haunt – MiddBlog. My first post was “Stop with the Resumes,” an overview of starting a job search. I guess you can call that post and the forthcoming posts “fallout” from the blog I ran with Sarah and Leslie. I learned a lot blogging on finding a job while having a job, and I still believe what I wrote in that original “about” page: “We’re saying that the 20-something recession-grad is a story worth telling.”

The work at the Post has been a lot of things so far: challenging, rewarding, frustrating, boring, fun, laughable, cry-able, and more. What I appreciate so much is the ability to switch between high-level, intellectual work of strategy and hands-on, “tangible” day-to-day work. In other words, I get to produce things that have an immediate effect while also applying those liberal artsy skills to problems that require tons of ideas/solutions/perspectives. I occasionally have found myself of wrapped up in the rush of news that even stops the oldest hands in the newsroom. I have also found myself at times numb to the news now because I see so much of it every day.

I won’t promise to write more here at, but this blog has served me well for many many years now and it probably deserves some attention. And I shouldn’t ever forget the value of solidifying and growing thoughts by putting pen to paper (well, hands to keyboard or whatever). Maybe I can even make some new big plans.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.