WordPress 3.6 Coming – But I Really Want Workflow

wordpress-logo_318-40291.pngWe’ve got another fairly interesting release from WordPress on the way – 3.6.  From Mark Jaquith’s post on features:

  • Post Formats:  Post Formats now have their own UI, and theme authors have access to templating functions to access the structured data.
  • Twenty Thirteen: We’re shipping this year’s default theme in our first release of the year. Twenty Thirteen is an opinionated, color-rich, blog-centric theme that makes full use of the new Post Formats support.
  • Audio/Video: You can embed audio and video files into your posts without relying on a plugin or a third party media hosting service.
  • Autosave:  Posts are now autosaved locally. If your browser crashes, your computer dies, or the server goes offline as you’re saving, you won’t lose the your post.
  • Post Locking:  See when someone is currently editing a post, and kick them out of it if they fall asleep at the keyboard.
  • Nav Menus:  Nav menus have been simplified with an accordion-based UI, and a separate tab for bulk-assigning menus to locations.
  • Revisions: The all-new revisions UI features avatars, a slider that “scrubs” through history, and two-slider range comparisons.

All good features.  However I would suggest that it’s time for WordPress to address the one major feature of a CMS that they have woefully ignored: Workflow.

At it’s basic level, Workflow is the movement of information or tasks through a work process. In our case, it’s content as it moves through the WordPress system. This might be as simple as the blogger opening the editor, writing his content, adding a couple pictures, and then clicking publish; essentially three workflow steps.  In a larger media organization, that general process becomes much more involved as more people perform separate and distinct tasks.  The workflow might look more like:

  • Editor assigns story and deadline
  • Writer researches story
  • Writer writes story
  • Writer archives story research items (not for publication but as resources that may be used later)
  • Copy editor edits story
  • Photographer takes photos,
  • Photo editor edits photos
  • Editor (or someone) adds photos to story

So our simple task now involves 5 people at least, as well as spanning 8 distinct workflow steps.  Now realize there may be several cases of back and forth, for example., the editor sends the story back to the writer for rewrite, or the photo editor realizes they need another photo, etc.  Similarly, these same people are each involved in multiple workflows at the same time.

How do we keep it all straight?

Basically, we’d need a way to provide a “To Do” list for each of the members of our team.  The items on that list all might have separate deadlines, which would then allow our editor to see the progress of the story, as well as adequately budget time for the various resources.  Obviously your photographer isn’t going to be at two ends of the county at once…thus the editor is able to “budget” his resources.  Now extrapolate that to including not just your human resources, but perhaps your equipment.  Perhaps you’ve got two events your covering and you want to film both with your Red Camera.  Problem is that you’ve only got the one, and the events are both at the same time.

For your human resources, they are able to get notifications when something is ready for them.  In the newspaper world, a copy editor would see the article appear in his “queue” (his task list) and then he’d proceed to edit it.  This article might be assigned specifically to him, or perhaps it might be generically assigned to someone with the role “copy editor”.

Perhaps this system also enables us to get notifications on things.  Such as impending (or worse yet, passed) deadlines.  Or new work that needs to be done.  And maybe that notification is can be made at several levels of urgency.  Level one just sends an email, whereas level 4 alerts you via sms, email, tweet, and probably also warns the editor to something such as a missed deadline.

…And then, magic happens.

So let’s think about those steps in our workflow again.  We’re assuming that all of these steps are human steps.  They probably aren’t.  You might have videos uploaded to the system, and perhaps once they have been edited, you have an automated step that sends then through a program (which isn’t part of WordPress) to convert them to various formats.  Or maybe you have a program that extracts keywords from a post and creates a summary post that gets automatically tweeted out.  Simple stuff…but important.

So that is sort of what I’d like to see.  In it’s core, WordPress works well as a CMS, but the management of people and work is sorely missing. Yes, it is possible to cobble much of this together, but in my mind, there is no reason not to provide it in the system itself.  Many of us would be working much more efficiently and the system would certainly get much more acceptance as a real CMS for Media and Enterprise.

(If you’re interested in how you can setup a system with this level of functionality let me know – I’ve already got some of this working right now)

The 2012 New England Boat Show – Video Edition

This year, we pretty much only shot video, using my Evo 4g with an 8 mp onboard camera.  It’s really  the first time I’ve edited one of my videos down for release, and I can see a few obvious problems, such as the horizontal vs. vertical issue which has got to be as rookie as you get.  Still, I think it came together well enough to share.

So without further ado, the 2012 New England Boat Show in 4 minutes…

Boat dealers, you’ll remember where the comments section is below from the past couple years…  Everyone else, I look forward to your thoughts on this video effort vs. the print reviews of the past few years.

Other Links…

The 2011 Boat Show
The 2010 Boat Show
The 2009 Boat Show


The One Thing Newspapers Do Well…

Over the past decade, we’ve heard a lot of prognostications on newspaper’s place in the digital world, or perhaps their lack of said place.  Inevitably someone comes up with the statement “local newspapers do one thing well: covering local news you can’t get anywhere else.”

Over the past year or so, I can think of numerous occasions where I saw something, such as a car accident that tied up Route 146 for hours, which I’d have expected to find under the heading of “local coverage” only to find nothing.

Case in point, the other day I had to drive to Worcester after work, and along the eastbound side of Rt. 290 there were numerous small brush fires for about 5 miles, with police and fire personnel working them, along with major traffic jams.This was no small thing, and it was seen by thousands of Worcester residents, most of whom, like myself, would be wondering what happened?  Was it a peat fire?  Did a gas tanker spew gas along the road then burst into flames?  A bad prank by kids?

The Worcester Telegram website offered no answer. Plenty of AP stories from around the globe, but nothing on what was for many of us a major event for the day.  Great work, guys!

Here’s the thing: with all the cutbacks in newsrooms around the world, newspapers are now hard pressed to do the thing everyone says they do well, local news.  They’re short on bodies.  We forget that covering local news is actually very expensive versus running some puff off the wire.  What with having to actually get a reporter and a photographer in a car and all the way out to where the news is.  Wire service happens in the newsroom, making it quite convenient.

I have a news flash: if local papers don’t do local news, they’re valueless to the people they supposedly serve.

You Want Fries With That? Journalism in a Changing World

<This article was written in early September, and I can’t remember why I didn’t publish it then.  Must have had more to say, but I can’t remember it now…>

A look through my archives here will show you that I used to cover a lot of the downward slide of the newspaper industry.  It’s been a long time since I even bothered to write about Journalism and the not-so-slow downward spiral.

This morning a few things sparked my interest.  I picked up a copy of the Worcester Telegram, the rag I used to write for, and I have to admit I was shocked…in the way one is shocked when one sees an old friend riddled with cancer, gaunt, and hollow, and barely clinging on.  The weight of the newsprint, the general thinness, it was the mere shell of my once proud and noble friend.

Then I had my attention drawn to this article from Forbes the other day, in which Jeff Bercovici discusses layoffs from Slate.com the other day.  Normally I don’t even waste my time pontificating on journalism layoffs anymore.  This is different…this is an online flagship dismissing some of their top names.  The statement it makes is truly horrifying…

So I’m bummed about this. And I also found something Shafer said to the Washington Post rationalizing his layoff to be telling. He said:

The Washington Post has done this. The New York Times has done this. It doesn’t necessarily mean a huge, unsolvable crisis. It just means we have to economize. Many publications have to right-size themselves in this current economic environment.

Shafer could just as easily have said “Gawker Media has done this” and that would have been true. But the comparison to newspapers was more apt. With an editorial staff of 40, Slate (which is owned by the Washington Post Co.) is a fraction the size of those papers, but it’s built on the same model: a general-interest publication that tries to hit all the news people are interested in every day.

The thing is, this isn’t a boring broadsheet laying off, it’s an online property, the kind that were supposed to be eating the lunch of the newspapers, magazines and any old media that happened to get in their way.

We’re proving that online doesn’t exactly pay either.  If Slate.com can’t make quality journalism pay, then who can?

Have we conditioned readers to expect free content at the expense of quality journalism?  I hate to think so, but the case is clear.


Death of Newspapers – RIP Editor and Publisher

When I worked in the Atex marketing department, we lived and died by what we could get published in Editor and Publisher.  The once vaunted trade journal was the place you wanted to get mentioned, the measure of your having “made it” in the print world.  Those days are now gone – from E&P themselves:

Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.

An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.

The expressions of surprise and outpouring of strong support for E&P that has followed across the Web — Editor & Publisher has even hit No. 4 as a Twitter trending topic — raises the notion that the publication might yet continue in some form.

Its sad to see an industry that was once so much a part of my life now unable to even sustain a trade journal.  In my youth, it was impossible to imagine a world without newspapers.  Increasingly, it is becoming hard to visualize a future with them…

I could ruminate for hours on the subject, but I think the point is already made.  Even the journal of the print publication industry can’t make print work and is looking for a way “continue in some form.”

A Few Coherent Thoughts on Murdoch Blocking Google

Yesterday Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp, said that he was going to have Google blocked from all New Corp. websites.  That means something

From EditorandPublisher.com:

The Chairman of News Corp. said in an interview with Sky News Australia (reported here in MediaWeek U.K.) that once the newspapers get their paywalls, News Corp. plans to pull its content from the likes of Google and others.

Murdoch said: “We’d rather have fewer people come to the Web site and pay. Consumers shouldn’t have had free news all the time — I think we’ve been asleep. It costs us a lot of money to put together good newspapers and good content. No news Web sites anywhere in the world are making large amounts of money.”

Immediately the web went all a flutter, myself included, predicting that that Murdoch would rue the day.  Joe Mandese at Mediapost.com noted:

According to an analysis of Google-generated traffic released late Monday by Experian’s Hitwise service, Google and Google News currently account for more than 25% of the daily traffic to the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ.com site.

That’s an awful lot of traffic to put at risk.  Now the other side of the coin is that Murdoch knows that showing tons of traffic low cost network ads begging them to Punch the Monkey or telling them they just won a lottery is the absolute path of least resistence.  You go there when you have nothing else to possibly do… Continue reading “A Few Coherent Thoughts on Murdoch Blocking Google”

The Death Knell of Paid Posts

Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission issued it’s first change the policy on endorsements in over 30 years.  From this point forward, if you accept any form of payment for a post, you need to disclose it.  PCWorld.com sums it up:

Bottom Line: If you receive gifts, money or any other type of compensation from a product manufacturer or service provider you have to disclose it.

For the record, it’s always been my policy that if there’s any possibility of conflict of interest, I disclose, as do others.  Obviously, I work for Namemedia Inc. and when I write about our sites or services, I am going to be slightly biased, but here, the voice is mine and I write about what I want.

A month or so ago, my wife asked me to write a post about a company she had a good service experience with, honestly I forget who it was.  I turned her down…much to my later chagrin.  I did offer to give her a login so that she might faun over them under her own byline.  The truth is that I couldn’t recommend a business I had no experience with, even if my own wife told me to.  Yes, the view from the dog house is quite lovely this time of year.

The timing for this ruling could not have been better, coming right after the Izeafest show in Orlando, which is a celebration of the sponsored tweet.  I’ll make the statement right here and now, sponsored tweets will be one of the things that will kill Twitter.  That and the inevitable move to niche real-time web services.  The minute you begin to appear as not genuine in social media, you’re on a down hill slide.

It’s just sad that the FTC had to actually put into regulations that which we, as bloggers, marketers, etc. should have known all along.

Has the Public Library Killed Book Publishers?

As I was in the local public library picking up a little something to read on Saturday, I realized there was an interesting parallel between that and Internet file sharing.

What does the library do after all; it loans books for free to people.  The same books which both publishers and authors base their entire commercial livelihood.  Thus if the picture the music industry draws of the dire future for music if file sharing is allowed continue were really a concern, every book publisher and author in the country would have gone bankrupt long ago.

Instead, the public library is a place where publishers want their books to be.  They realize that by having them there, people will read them, then talk about them, thus causing other people to want to read them.  And some of those folks will actually buy the book…or even people who read the book at the library may decide they want to own a copy (yes, I have done this…).  Why would the recording industry or movie industry expect anything different for them?

In fact, many libraries also carry dvds of the same albums and movie which the recording industry is trying to protect, and loan them, for free…

Let’s here what you have to say on the issue…comment away!

Newspaper Tipping Point: Current Events

My 11 yo daughter called me while I was driving home last night, to ask me to pick up a newspaper so she could start her weekly current events assignment for school.  Without thinking, I told her “you don’t want a newspaper for that, you need to get the information of the web where it’s up to date.”

Now I’ve worked with newspapers on and off since my days atthe  University of Vermont, and I worked for Atex where we engineered newspaper publishing software for close to a decade.  My grandfather was a linotype operator.  For me to tell her that the print edition of newspapers weren’t the place to go for current events was a huge step.

The revelation: the print edition is all old news, yesterday’s news, in fact.

However, it was also particially incorrect.  She’s certainly be getting newspaper content for her current events brief.  It just won’t be from the print edition.

Strangely enough, I realized as I drove to the office today that the best way for her to put together her little weekly assignment would be to do the whole thing electronically.  That way she could link back to the original content, using only a summary so as not to violate copyright and run afoul of the AP and their army of revenue enhancement lawyers.  Now that would truly be a skill that all kids should be learning in school today.

So there it is, the point at which I realize I have no use save bird cage liner for the print edition…it is now as useful as would be one of those old linotype machines that were once state of the art in type setting.