June 25, 2007

We Scream for Ice Cream

by emily at 3:00 PM

We know that Topix has a news page and forum for every zip code in the United States, right? Did you also know that Topix has news pages and forums for about 300 thousand other things? We do and we are adding more all the time!

Is ice cream your thing?

Do you follow the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals?

Do you belong to the Cult of Tivo?

How about Ham Radio?

Oh, I know! It’s bugs you can’t get enough of!

If you haven’t already made a beeline for the Topix front page to search for your favorite hobby, actor, band, etc, what are you waiting for? Many of these pages are plugging away with Roboblogger, but they could sure use some love from Editors that really care about the topic and know where to find the best news to create a more valuable resource for other interested readers. When you find your favorite, post a link here in the comments and share. You might be surprised what is out there…and here!

June 19, 2007

Topix Editor Spotlight - Brookston

by sara at 10:09 AM

Brookston

This week we shine our Editor Spotlight on Brookston, editor of the Beer page on Topix. Affectionately known around Topix HQ as "Beer Guy", Brookston was one of the first editors to sign up when we launched our user editor platform, and he is still editing up a storm today.

Why did you want to come a Topix editor?
I've been writing about beer or otherwise been in the beer industry for over fifteen years and most recently was the general manager for a national beer magazine, the Celebrator Beer News. A little over two years ago, my son Porter was diagnosed as autistic and I stopped working full-time in order to be home with him. At that same time I began freelancing for a variety of beer publications. A year and a half ago, I also started a blog, the Brookston Beer Bulletin, in order to track the news in the beer industry that I was writing about. Since I was already using several internet resources to keep track of beer news, including Topix, I figured I may as well collect them into one place and editing the beer page for Topix offered a simple way to do that, freeing me to concentrate on analysis and opinion on my blog.

How much time do you generally spend a day editing?
At least an hour, but usually more than that. I try to check the Newswire at least three different times throughout the day. Since I work from home, I'm online almost constantly — apart from taking care of the kids (I now also have a two-year old daughter, Alice) — and working.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?
I use several Google News alerts of keywords for my field and have also set up an Grazr bar using OPML that tracks RSS and Atom feeds for every other beer source I know of that has a feed. Plus, I have many contacts within the beer industry and get tips from them and as an established journalist also receive press releases from all of the major beer companies.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?
Not all press releases are newsworthy, of course, and you have to decide which will be of interest to readers and which are simply self-serving attempts to get free publicity.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?
As I mentioned earlier, I've been writing about beer since around 1991 when I published my first book on beer. Since then I've also been the beer buyer at a major chain of liquor stores and the GM of the Celebrator Beer News. I'm also an active beer judge and evaluate beer at competitions small and large. For the last few years, I've been freelancing for all of the major beer publications, as well as the occasional general circulation magazine.

What question would you like to ask other Topix editors?
What do you do about keeping up with your page while on vacation or out of town?

What do you when you are not on Topix?
Most of my time is spent with my family, but when I do have time to myself I like to read and listen to music. I also collect View-Master reels and take stereo photographs. My wife and I love watching films and traveling. Of course, I also enjoy drinking beer.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home?
I work from home. I have a home office set up in one room of my house. I check the internet and e-mails when I first wake up and then after the kids are in their pre-school. The rest of the day is split between household chores and working just so I'm not sitting at one place all day. In the evening, after the kids are asleep, I usually work some more on the sofa on my laptop. When I have deadlines for writing assignments, it's harder to be online as much, so that's a challenge to balance.

How else are you involved in your community?
I'm an active member of several trade organizations, including the Brewers Association and the California Small Brewers Association. I'm also active in the brewing community's affairs and events in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?
Apart from other beer websites, blogs and forums, I use a lot of reference-based websites in my work. I also read political websites like Salon and AlterNet regularly. And I'm on eBay quite a bit. A guilty pleasure is also playing fantasy sports with friends around the country.

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?
Learn as much as you can about your subject but never assume you know everything.

Thanks, Brookston. Cheers!

June 15, 2007

Formatting a Headline

by sara at 2:44 PM

Let's face it. Robots are awesome.

Meet Roboblogger.

robo_profile_pic.jpg

Roboblogger is a Topix editor's best pal. He lives to serve. He posts news stories. He keeps an eye on your page and covers for you when you're on vacation. Frankly, he does most of the work for you, scouring the web for relevant stories with his glowing red eyes, and filling in the forms automatically when you post stories to your page. Cool, right?

Robots may be awesome, but in the battle of Roboblogger vs. Topix Editor, you humans will always be victorious.

Why? To start, your eyes aren't red or glowing. We hope. But you can catch errors and fine tune the formatting of a story with a human touch no robot can match.

When you choose Post to News in the Wire or send Topix out to crawl a news story on an external web page, Roboblogger does his best to format everything properly for you. However, sometimes extra or incorrect content may be added to the Headline field, such as a partial URL or the name of the originating website.

For example, you might end up with this headline:

C3P0 Receives Lifetime Achievement Award www.robotdailytimesonline.com

Or:

Robot Daily Times Online C3P0 Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Since a link to the story crediting the source will be provided for the reader in the Summary, a cleaner headline would be simply:

C3P0 Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

You might also find the Summary field populated with the caption from a photo from the originating page or other confusing text, instead of a catchy snippet to entice visitors into reading the full article.

Please be sure to take a moment to show Roboblogger who's boss. Delete or polish up that incorrect formatting, leaving your page full of clean, concise headlines and summaries that will draw in your readers and keep them coming back for more.

Humans 1, Robots 0.

June 12, 2007

Tutorial: How to find a photo for your post

by at 12:58 PM

upload1.jpg

Check out this short tutorial that will teach you how to find photos from flickr.com for your posts.

(Note: It's an audio-visual tutorial so be sure to turn on your speakers. Also, you may be prompted to install Java. Don't worry, it's a painless process :-)

Post from any Search

by at 10:01 AM

post1.jpg

We've just launched a site enhancement that should make posting easier: Editors can now post from any search result on the site, just as though it were a Newswire story. If you are an editor of a single page, you'll see the same "Post to News" link that you see in the Wire. If you edit multiple pages, you'll have a drop-down list instead of the single link to select the topic you want to post to.

A great place to use this is when doing a general Search All query, such as Title:"Sunnyvale". (See this previous post for more details.)

We hope this makes it easier for you to find great stories to post on your pages! As always, we'd love to hear your comments.

June 8, 2007

Dueling Editors – Sharing Your Newspage

by emily at 4:18 PM

Remember sharing the backseat of the family station wagon on those never ending road trips as a kid? Remember what happened when your leg accidentally, or not so accidentally, wandered over on your brother’s side of the seat? I remember. I also remember the stern talking to we both received about keeping our hands to ourselves and treating each other with respect, even though he was clearly born to torment me. Just as you cannot choose your family, you also cannot choose the other editors on your news page. There are usually several sides to every story. Because news is meant to inform all those sides, Topix is set up to allow for multiple editors on each of our news pages. For topics where there is a great deal of controversy, this can lead to some conflict when dueling editors from differing points of view post stories on the same page.

Believe it or not, this scenario was fully anticipated when designing the Topix editor tools. Because of this, Topix editors are able to kill Roboblogger stories, but are not able to kill stories promoted by other editors. This is meant to encourage a more positive means for editors to deal with differing view points on their news pages. If you feel the stories on your page are not representing your perspective promote more stories you feel accurately represent the subject matter. Edit. Edit. Edit. Information is power and we all learn from each other, no matter what the perspective. If a situation arises that you feel should be reviewed by Topix staff, such as consistent off topic posts or editors continually promoting only their own site, you may always contact our team at editorfeedback at topix.com

The key here is to respect that other editors sharing your page have applied for and been given Editor status, just like you have. While their take on the issues may be different than your own, it is no less valid, so please play nice and don’t make me turn this car around.

June 5, 2007

Making news in your town

by at 4:24 PM

While publishing from the Topix Wire is the easiest way to post stories, if you live in a small town like me, you sometimes find that there just isn’t much fresh news on the Wire. But there are a number of ways to find more news – here are 7 of my favorites:

1. “Title Search”

This is an undocumented but fun search feature on Topix that returns results when your town appears in a headline. All you need to do is go to the “Search All” tab in the upper-right of a news page, and enter, for example: title:”Sunnyvale”.You’ll usually find some articles that fell through the cracks of the Topix system with this search.

2. Local TV news websites

Topix crawls over 50,000 web sites, but we don’t catch every article. One area that’s especially difficult is video, because there’s usually little or no text for our system to analyze. I especially like to check the local TV stations, as they often have interesting breaking news that that is tied to video. For example, my local ABC station.

3. Government sites

These are some of my favorites because, although the headlines are sometimes bland, a little bit of digging can reveal all sorts of interesting things going on in your town that have been poorly promoted. A great way to find these sites is to do a Google site-search for, e.g. site:.gov sunnyvale. In this example, Google will return all “.gov” sites that mention Sunnyvale. From there, untold riches of news stories can be found just clicks away.

4. Neighboring towns

Used sparingly, it’s sometimes great to publish an article from a nearby town that your readers would find relevant, particularly if it is news that might affect the folks in your town soon (example: rising crime rates in the neighboring town).

5. Carry your camera

If you have a digital camera, it can be a lot of fun to take shots of familiar places in your town and share them with your readers. An event, a parade, a holiday pageant, or even some kids playing in the park on a warm summer day -- most folks love to be in the news. You have the power to put them there.

6. Take a look at Flickr and YouTube

You might be surprised to learn that there are already folks in your community that are taking great photos and videos of newsworthy events. For example, here's a stream of recent photos tagged "Sunnyvale" from Flickr. (If you choose to use a photo, be sure to give the photographer credit, and only use photos that you have permission to use.) YouTube and other video sharing sites also offer similar tagging and search features. Although Topix doesn't support video embedding yet, you can take a screenshot of video and upload it as a photo. (e.g. check out this post I put together for a visit from a presidential candidate that was visiting town.) We'll be posting more in the future on how to do this.

7. Write your own news!

Maybe you’ve been to a great (or not so great) local restaurant in the last week? Or maybe there’s that dangerous intersection downtown that’s been bothering you because the city hasn’t fixed the traffic light? Just use the “From Scratch” option in the editors tools and you’re on your way.

Oh, and one last tip: I have all of these searches bookmarked in my browser for easy, quick checks several times a day.

If you have tips for editors that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Topix Editor Spotlight - Pragmatist

by sara at 11:12 AM

Pragmatist_spotlight.jpg

Welcome to the Topix Editor Spotlight, the first of a weekly column featuring some of the best and brightest user editors on Topix.

This week we would like to introduce you to the prolific Pragmatist, editor of several news pages on Topix, including the cities of Flower Mound, Texas and St. Francisville, Lousiana, as well as the state news pages for Texas and Louisiana.

She took some time to answer a few questions about her experience as a Topix editor, and to share her tips for crafting outstanding news pages.

Why did you want to come a Topix editor?
The news being posted by the roboblogger is not as current nor as focused as the news human editors can post.

How much time do you generally spend a day editing?
I spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day reading online news and probably 30 minutes posting to Topix.com. I post anywhere from 10 to 40 articles per day for the 4 pages I edit.

Where else do you find articles, outside of Topix?
I read 8 online news sites every day PLUS whatever links those sites include in their articles of interest to me. It is these sources from which I pull articles to post on Topix.

What are some editing pitfalls you've learned to avoid?
I try to post the articles “of interest” first and then the “headline” articles so that the headline info appears at the top of the page for the day.

What is your prior editing and writing experience?
I have no prior editing experience, but I write business documents and am working on a novel.

What do you when you are not on Topix?
I’m a project manager for large financial networks.

What is your editing environment like? Do you post from work or home? Snacks, routine, etc?
I work from home, so it’s the same environment. I read the online news early in the morning (5:00 AM) and start posting then.

How else are you involved in your community?
Church, professional societies.

What other internet sites do you visit regularly?
CNN, Dallas Morning News, Star Telegram, Denton Record Chronicle, Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, among others

What advice would you give to other editors in making a great page?
Save your headline stories to post last so they appear at the top of your page. Search online newspapers in your surrounding area for news of interest to your community.

What question do you wish we'd asked you?
Would you like the ability to delete discussion topix or individual postings which violate the topix.net user agreement?

Thanks, Pragmatist, and keep up the excellent work! Be sure to check out her work on the following pages:

Do you want to be a Spotlight Editor? Catch our eye with your editing prowess and you might be next!