Category Archives: Journalism

Posts about online-journalism and the future of what we’re doing

In an effort to blog more, I’m trying to add more things to my site that I think are interesting. Thanks for sticking with me!

It’s Sunday morning and you’re getting ready for church or life and need to make breakfast for you and your spouse. With some simple bolillo rolls, (bolillo is Spanish for french bread) you can have this simple and quick lunch ready in about 15 minutes.

This is a simple brunch or breakfast idea. It’s an open faced sandwich on bolillo rolls with fried or scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, baby spinach mix and provolone cheese.


  1. Fry applewood smoked bacon in cast iron skillet on medium low (level four) until done to your liking. I cook my bacon low and slow so that it doesn’t burn and smoke out the house. Remove, drain on plate with paper towels.
  2. Drain grease from skillet. Immediately add eggs and fry 4 -5 minutes. Using a flexible metal spatula, gently work under egg to pry it from the skillet. Gently flip and fry on the other side until done to your liking.
  3. Slice in half and add bolillo rolls to skillet and lightly toast until brown on edges. This is optional and can be done in a toaster oven or broiler of your oven. Be careful of timing, not to burn rolls.
  4. Remove and serve rolls open faced with egg, bacon and cheese. Add toppings and vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp Boar’s Head deli style mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (one small lemon)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, whole
  • Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes or put in freezer for 5 – 10 minutes to chill. Mix and serve.

      1. Game Theory 101: The Basics To me, game theory is one of those things you hear about but unless you’ve studied it, you probably don’t have any idea how it could be used in the real world. The author of this book also has a great Youtube series. I really wanted to learn more about how it could be applied in the world of e-commerce and online transactions. If you know who John Nash is, you’re probably aware of the Nash Equilibrium which involves game theory.
      2. The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life. This book shows you some of the ways that people can skew numbers, reports and published papers to fit their own basis. I would skip it if I hadn’t read it already.
      3. Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics. This would be a great book if you work in marketing, but aren’t a math or stats wizard. This book is much like the last book, but more in depth with better examples. When we see things like drinking a pot of coffee every day will add four years to our lives, what does that really mean? Chapter 19 is the best chapter that ties it all together and there are highlights at the end of each chapter to reinforce what you’ve just read.
      4. How Mathematicians Think: Using Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox to Create Mathematics. This is a very philosophical book that I was hoping would get me super excited about doing math and being locked in room all day building models and doing analysis. Instead, the author looks more at the creative, almost poetic side of mathematics. Reviews are mixed, but if you like numbers, you should read it.
      5. Teach Yourself: Statistics: A Complete Introduction. This is just an introductory statistics book and you can get the majority of the information online for free. There is a chapter about “spreadsheets” if that tells you anything.
      6. The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. If you know anything about Bell Labs, you know that they cranked out some amazing stuff during their time. It’s an amazing view of one of the most important institutions of the 20th century. I would say that Google is a lot like Bell Labs in that regard. It has to be nice to work at a think tank type company where you get to do amazing stuff like this all the time with no time constraints.
      7. The Martian. Did you see the movie? Read the book! Did you read the book? See the movie! The last movie adaptation of a book I enjoyed was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I recommend both of those as well. I read this in one day. You could do the same.
      8. Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World. If you like calculus or you hated it or if you like history, you should read this book. There’s something in there for everyone.
      9. Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart. I’ll be honest, this is a book that a manager who is on a plane coming back from a ‘big data’ conference would be reading to kill time. It’s a lot of the “why” you should have quants, but none of the how. This was an easy read and might inspire higher ups to want to invest in being analytically driven.
      10. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. I had to save the best for last. If you love probability or wondering what the likelyhood of something happening to you would be; then read this book. It’s a fun, easy read and a book that I’ll be buying for my personal collection.

Today two people died in a murder-suicide at the University of South Carolina. It was very sad to see the tweets start rolling in shortly after lunch time today. After seeing the first tweet below, I hopped into Twitter Search to see what was going on:

Rolling out in real-time was a play by play of exactly what happened at USC during this frightening ordeal. News was being shared by amateurs faster than the established local media could collect, analyze and report on it.

In a weird way, it reminded me of why I was initially drawn to Twitter in 2008. This was before “personal brands” and the notion of constantly and mindlessly sharing tweets; back when I actually cared about being a part of social media.

One of the first times I remember going to Twitter to find out what was happening was during the president’s address to joint congress on September 9, 2009.

While President Obama was addressing Immigration Reform, Rep. Joe Wilson from South Carolina blurted out “YOU LIE!”

Within moments of this happening, Twitter was ablaze postulating and then confirming exactly who it was. This was an entire hour before the newsroom was even aware of who it was and could have something on the internet about it.

That was the first time that I remember thinking “Twitter could actually be worth something for collecting breaking news.” There will always be a need to verify before reporting something as fact, but I’ve watched for more than five years as news outlets struggle with social media.

Today was a sobering and somber reminder of what the immediacy of Twitter can be.

Commute Travel times in South Carolina

Another day, another stab at a data visualization. Today we are looking at commute times by zip code for South Carolina.

The average commute time for South Carolina is 26 minutes. The highest reported travel time came from Alcolu, SC at 67.8 minutes with a margin of error of +/- 6.7. The lowest travel time is in Bluffton, SC with 3.6 minutes with a margin of error of +/- 1.1.

You can view the map below or view the fullscreen version here.

*Note: There are 539 zip codes in South Carolina but only 400 in this report.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a new PPC/SEM position recently. After filling out dozens of applications I decided to see if I could visualize the locations of the jobs I’ve been applying for.

I signed up for an indeed API account and used the IMPORTXML function in Google Spreadsheets to come up with the following visualizations.

The first visualization shows job listing density by state. I first created a pivot table and did a count unique of Job Titles, but I realized there were a lot of overlapping titles. I then realized that the XML from the API returns a unique job key for each listing so I used that instead.PPC jobs by State

Of 300 jobs posted between May and August of this year; 76 jobs were listed in California, 35 in New York, 22 in Illinois and 20 in Texas.

Top cities included by number of lisitings: New York City – 25, Chicago – 11 and San Diego – 10.

The XML from the API also returns a longitude and latitude for each post so I visualized each job key across cities. It’s interesting to see that there are some states in the US with no job listings for PPC or SEM roles. I wonder why?

PPC jobs by location

On July 31, 2013, I admitted that I have failed as a small business owner. Let me tell you the story of how I got here and where I went wrong.

Working with newspapers

In 2004 I saw the light. I knew that the internet was the future of journalism. Nine years later, I’m wondering how far we have advanced with that mission.

I know now that it’s not just journalism that needs saving, it’s so much more. Advertisers and publishers are both grappling with how to drive sales online. Bad ads lead to bad websites with no conversions or KPI’s to track.

In 2008, I joined the online department at The State Newspaper (now The State Media Company). Things were great. I helped create and implement their first social media strategy on Facebook and Twitter. Something I was very proud of at the time.

In January 2010, I received unexpected news. I was being let go in the third round of layoffs at the paper. I was crushed.

Life after newspapers

On Feb. 5th, 2010, I had a job interview with The Washington Post to be one of the comment moderators for their website. I was to live in D.C. on 35k per year. I passed on the opportunity and went to New York City. I lived there for a month and a half.

In June, 2010 I joined a The South Carolina Policy Council. I was their social media manager. During that time, I joined a group called Operation Geek Farm (now Spark Freedom). As the social media manager I handled Facebook, Twitter, Google analytics and the website for the policy council and their news website – The Nerve. I learned a lot. I also learned a lot about the free market and the idea of running your own business. I knew that it was better to create a job than to find another job.

Life in the free market

On December 21, 2011, I started Creative Spark Columbia. I had one desire, help small businesses with their online presence. I wanted to run their social media accounts, host and maintain their websites and run reports in Google Analytics for them.

I landed my first client quickly. Before Christmas I was already working on building them a website. I would go on to host and build websites from various price ranges of $500 to $3,000.

Most of my clients are great. It’s my fault though. I was thinking short term and not long term. If I could go back and re do things I would.

Since I had structured my business to “help” small businesses, mainly financially, I was really hurting myself. I didn’t account for the monthly work it would take to maintain websites and I ended up undercutting myself. When you undercut yourself, you hurt your bottom line. Now I was stuck doing a lot of work for free when I should be charging for it.

Why I’m okay with failure

To me, failure is an option. It’s a chance to learn from mistakes, regroup and move on. I know how to do things better now. I know what it takes for a small business to survive.

My advice to people who want to start their own business

  • Know your bottom line. You need to be able to live as well
  • Know your worth. Don’t let a client lowball you. If they do, walk away
  • Learn as much as possible before you start your business
  • Learn as much as possible along the way and add that to your mix of tools
  • Plan for the long term, not the short term. Things will happen when you need an immediate fix. It’s not worth the pain and suffering.

Moving forward and looking to the future

Yes, some version of Creative Spark will continue to exist. I am changing how I operate, what I offer and more importantly, who I offer those services to. This time around I will be much more selective with the clients that I work with. My pricing structure will be different. I was knocked down, but now I am getting back up.

Wake up in the morning and go straight to work. No shower, brushing your hair or teeth, no makeup needed. Get to work, go to brunch early. Moet Mimosas while riding on a helicopter around New York City. Get off work at 2 and go mountain biking with your friends in Peru. Go to the club in L.A. until 5 A.M. Get up and do it all over again the next day.

Badass and Beautiful, or as I call it: B&B. That’s how Facebook wants you to feel when you use their new phone ‘experience’ Facebook Home. Just look at the photos.

Seriously Facebook? Are our lives that exciting? Are all of my friends photojournalist who take amazing photos all day long? I’ll reserve my opinions about Facebook being the one stop shop for everything on my Android phone (Hello, Google??). It will be interesting to see how Google jumps to integrate Google+ into the core of their OS the way Facebook has. And Apple users, looks like you’re SOL right now.

Instead, I’m going to leave you with a random sampling of images in my newsfeed from the past 24 hours. Just ask yourself, do you want to see this on your phone all day long?

If you think they won’t add fan pages and advertisements to your new home screen in the future, dream on.

  1. No one tool with save journalism. Four years ago it was video. Two years ago it was social media. Now it’s data projects, etc.
  2. Upper management can’t focus on pageviews, they have to make data driven decisions. This is something I preach the gospel on every chance I get. Focus instead on conversion rates and per goal value.
  3. Organizations have to focus on content consumption and not just content. This goes along way with paywalls.
  4. Advertising must get better. Newspaper advertising is siloed and a doomed to fail unless they adapt Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers and piggyback on them. Google has them beat hands down and there’s not much they can do about it. No chain of newspapers will ever have the reach that Google has. Also, newspaper ads online are crap. Fix them.
  5. Prominence must be given to great visual storytelling. Dedicated tablet apps need to be created to reinvent the visual story.
  6. Being an outsider I feel comfortable saying that newspapers don’t have the reach they think they do. If I don’t see it in an RSS feed or somewhere on social media it’s lost. I think a lot of other people feel the same way.
  7. Newspapers have to stop hiding behind false and inflated metrics. A VP of online advertising gave a speech saying that email sign ups had increased 300% since he took over the positon.  What he didn’t mention is that in order to leave a comment, you had to sign up to receive emails. There was never any mention about open rates, click through rates, etc. See number 2 on that one.