Month: June 2016

Newsvine on TV Tonight

Many apologies for the self-promotion, but I’m going to be on the KCTS show “Serious Money” tonight talking about Newsvine and the changing landscape of the journalism world. If you have access to KCTS, it’s going to be on at 8pm Pacific Time. Serious Money is in its 17th season and has hosted such CEOs as Jack Welch of GE, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, and Jonathan Klein of Getty. Economist extraordinaire and Colonial era dead-ringer Louis Rukeyser has also appeared. After the airing, the show should also be available on KCTS’ Streaming Video page, I believe.

I wore make-up too, so let the jokes begin…

The Sports Gods Hate Washington

Another night, another excruciating, last second, season-ending loss by a team from my state. Tonight it was the Washington Huskies. Last night, it was the Gonzaga Bulldogs. A couple of months ago, it was the Seattle Seahawks. This ever-growing history of late season chokery is making me think that Seattle is just getting what we deserve for being one of the most apathetic sports towns in America.

Yeah, I said it.

This town is not about sports. Most fans here are in it for the entertainment. We go to Mariner games to sit in the sun. We go to Sonic games to peoplewatch. And when our teams go through their inevitable bad years, we don’t even show up. This is not Green Bay. This is not Buffalo. This is a city that puts about as much into sports as we seem to get out of it. That is to say, not a ton.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this post but the Husky loss that occurred about an hour ago has me so pissed off that I just need to vent a little. As part of that venting, I want to put tonight’s loss in perspective with the other awful losses that have occurred here throughout the years. Here they are, in order of awfulness:

10. The UW Huskies losing to the Texas Longhorns in the 2001 Holiday Bowl. Dominating the game and up 36-17 near the end of the third quarter, the Huskies proceed to let Texas Quarterback Major Applewhite pass for 476 yards en route to a 47-43 victory snatched in the game’s final minute.

9. The Seattle Mariners losing to the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS. The Mariners were about to even the series at 3 games apiece when Mariner Killer and Halle Berry Non-Appreciater David Justice belted a three run homer off Arthur Rhodes to send the Yankees to the World Series against the Mets. The Mariners, though great that year, would retool for 2001 and make another appearance further down this list, unfortunately.

8. “The Kenny Wheaton Game”. I’d call this “The Damon Huard Game” but there were so many of those that this one must carry an original moniker. The 9th ranked UW Husky football team marched into Oregon in 1994 and were poised to take the lead against the hated Ducks in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. UW stood at Oregon’s 8 yard line and quarterback Damon Huard proceeded to throw a high-risk telegraphed pass to the sideline, which was then intercepted by Kenny Wheaton and returned 97 yards for the touchdown and the victory. This play is widely viewed as the greatest in Oregon football history and is still played at every single Oregon football game.

7. The Sonics losing to the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Chicago was the better team here, but after Seattle’s great victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals (the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever been to, by the way), it was a bit of a letdown.

6. *This spot saved for something I forgot which may come out in the comments*… UPDATE: Via Jamison Kelleher… the obvious one I forgot was the Sonics’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the 1994 NBA Playoffs. It was perhaps the best Sonic team ever, in a year that Michael Jordan wasn’t even playing and the Bulls were out of the picture. So what happens? The Sonics become the first #1 seed in history to lose to a #8 seed. The pattern is repeated the following year with a first round loss to the Lakers.

5. Tonight’s UW/UConn game goes here. UW forces #1 seed UConn into a season-high 25 turnovers, plays great physical ball the entire way, leads by 5 points with a minute to go, and then gets absolutely torched by a buzzer-beating, long-distance, off-balance three pointer as time expires in regulation. UW gets screwed by a goaltending non-call, has five players foul out, and proceeds to lose in overtime. Season over. The better team lost.

4. If I was a Gonzaga fan, this one might be even higher on my list, but that display of chokery last night against UCLA was almost too ridiculous to believe. Gonzaga dominates the entire game (and really the entire season as well, with only three losses… all to great teams), never loses the lead, and then in the final couple of minutes, everything falls completely apart. With ten seconds to go in the game, UCLA cuts the lead to one and then steals the ball from J.P. Bautista right after the inbound pass. One easy layup later and UCLA has their first lead of the game. Gonzaga then loses the ball again, fouls UCLA, and goes on to lose by two. Adam Morrison cries at midcourt as he realizes that he made the mistake of playing out his basketball career in a state that is reviled by the sports gods.

3. The Seattle Seahawks losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year’s Super Bowl. I almost didn’t even put this in here because Seattle played well enough to win and the overwhelming majority of the country agrees that the officials stole this game for the Steelers, but it’s in here because it goes to the concept of city karma. Pittsburgh is a great sports city. Steeler fans are passionate, hard-core, and deserving of a Super Bowl victory as much as any other fans in the country. My only solace in watching the thievery that occurred is that it couldn’t have happened to a better city.

2. The 116-win Seattle Mariners losing to the New York Yankees in the 2001 ALCS. The Mariners had just finished the winningest season in baseball history, ended the year on a hot streak, and then as soon as the playoffs hit, turned into a minor league team. Barely escaping Cleveland in the divisional series, it was on to New York where the wheels came completely off and Seattle’s season was ended by a far inferior Yankees squad. People around my city love to talk about how Seattle failed to make a move at the trade deadline that year, but please… I remember the trades that were available. The most heralded guy on the block was Juan Encarnacion… and he was only available if we gave up Joel Piniero. I’m sorry, but if you win 116 games, your squad should do just fine in the playoffs. But this is Seattle. Things are different here.

1. Anybody who watched this game knows why it’s in the #1 position. UW vs. UConn. 1998. Almost a carbon copy of tonight’s loss but even more dramatic and inexplicable. UW takes perhaps its best team ever to the Sweet 16 to play UConn, Donald Watts hits a three in UW’s final possession to go up by one. UConn’s Jake Voskuhl misses a shot with a few seconds remaining on the clock. Rip Hamilton gets the rebound, misses his first shot, gets his own rebound, and then shoots a near-vertical shot over a frozen 7-foot-2 Patrick Femerling for the victory as time expired. Most painful loss I’ve ever seen. One that actually desensitized me to basketball for a few years.

So there you have it. The most excruciating losses this state has seen in recent history and will continue to see as long as things stay the way they are. It’s pathetic that I didn’t even have to research any of this stuff either. Every item is still fresh in my head. And I know I’m forgetting some obvious losses as well.

So if you live in Washington State, just be glad we have other karma to replace what we lack in sports. We’re nice people and our crime rate is low. We’re tech-savvy and our economy is good. We’re environmentalists and our air is clean.

We’re just not a city of sports fans, and for that, we may be getting exactly what we deserve.

March Randoms

Some thoughts from the month of March:

  • Am I the only person who consistently burns the hell out of the roof of my mouth whenever I eat French Bread Pizza? I am done with that stuff. I eat regular pizza multiple times per week with no mouth-scorching issues, but for some reason — perhaps the fact that French Bread Pizza seems much hotter on the inside than the outside — I just can’t eat the stuff without inflicting personal injury. I’ve tried Stouffer’s and Red Baron… both with the same result. The worst part is that often you don’t even know you’re burned until hours later.
  • Greg Storey taught me a new drink in Austin: The Rusty Nail. It’s two parts Scotch and one part “Drambuie” (a Scotch-based honey liquour, or something like that). I never drink Scotch or any other straight alcohol, but damn! Not bad! So I get back to Seattle and try to order it in three places and apparently barely anyone has Drambuie up here. I was so psyched to have one though that I ended up ordering a regular Scotch on the rocks for the first time in my life. I fear it’s only a matter of time before I become “one of those Scotch people”. Thanks Airbag. :(
  • Normally when I don’t have something nice to say, I try to shut up about it, but regarding SXSW this year: I’m sorry but 80% of the panels I attended were awful at worst and unenlightening at best. I did go to some good ones, so if you spoke on a panel and you got a good amount of laughter, engagement, and positive feedback, then you were probably on one of those. Just like last year, I made it a point to attend mostly sessions which were outside my normal line of work (i.e. no web standards, no CSS, etc), but even so, I learned very little. The most outstanding session to me by far was Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s session about his book “Stumbling on Happiness”. I also found that in general, solo sessions were much more engaging than panels. When you have a panel full of people jumping from subject to subject and no experienced moderator to pull them together, the result is a mess. All future SXSW trips will be limited to solo sessions, daytime golf, and of course, the parties. I won’t even go into the parties because everyone else already has, but this year, they were great, great, great. To all of you who I met and consumed spirits with, thank you!
  • I was extremely happy to see so many Treos and Casio EX-Z750s down in Austin. I have written extensively about my love for both on this blog and it’s great to know so many people feel the same way. The Casio didn’t surprise me so much as it’s been the best ultracompact camera on the market since it came out a year or so ago, but I figured the SXSW crowd would be more into camera-centric flip-phones than business-centric Treos. I think that with both the Casio and the Treo, it comes down to one thing above all others: user interface. Neither can be beat in that department, as far as I’m concerned, and the SXSW crowd does seem like the type to care deeply about such things.
  • I could have been a big success story for Sprint and their Ambassador Program. I wouldn’t mind upgrading my two year old Treo 600 to at least a Treo 650 and I don’t mind switching carriers to do it. So what does Sprint do? They send me a free phone with six months of free unlimited voice, data, TV, and music service. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the phone is a flip phone with no qwerty keyboard or IMAP email support and it comes hardcoded with a Missouri phone number that cannot be changed. What am I supposed to do with that? The only thing I can think to do with it is just use it as a portable TV, but the screen is so small that it’s hardly worth it. On the bright side, it confirmed my long-standing opinion that I have very little interest and/or need for mobile video. It’s probably against the terms and conditions of the program, but I may give this phone (and service) away on Mike Industries. It’s a several hundred dollar value if you’re into it. By the way, I don’t mean to give the impression that the phone and the service suck… I think this is a great program for people who live in Missouri and like flip phones.
  • I don’t mean this in a rude manner, but does anyone know what causes “old person smell”? I think I remember seeing a Seinfeld episode about this awhile back, but can’t remember what the conclusion was. What I’m talking about is that distinctive scent that you can sometimes detect around elderly people. I smelled it again the other day in a coffee shop, and for the life of me I could not equate it to any known scent. I’ve had conversations with friends about this so I know it’s not my imagination, but the best we could come up with was that it’s either: a) an old perfume or shampoo that was perhaps popular around 50 years ago, b) medication related, c) denture related, or d) clothing related. I have a great respect for my elders and I’m interested in this subject only for its olfactory implications, but does anyone know what’s going on here?
  • If you’re into alcohol-free mouthwash and you think Biotene tastes gross, you should try Crest’s Pro-Health Alcohol-Free Mouthwash. It’s quite palatable.

Introducing Newsvine Tournament Pick ‘Em

March is the greatest month of the year for basketball fans. Not only are there a ton of great NCAA Tournament games to watch, but there are a ton of bracket games to enter as well.

Bracket games, as most college hoops fans know, are designed to test your ability to predict the outcome of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. From a field of 64 teams, you pick the winners of each game, collecting points along the way in each round, and the person with the most points at the end wins. ESPN’s Tournament Challenge is one of the best such bracket games out there and having worked on it for several years at ESPN, I can attest to how popular it is.

So now that we’re building a world-class sports section on Newsvine, we figured we should do an NCAA Tournament game as well. But brackets are a little played out.

We wanted to do something new.

Presenting Newsvine Tournament Pick ‘Em. Newsvine Tournament Pick ‘Em has no bracket. Instead, each entrant is given a budget of 300 “doubloons” with which they can purchase however many teams they’d like. The rub is that each team costs a different amount, with the higher seeds being the most expensive. You can buy three teams or 15 teams… it’s up to you.

Each win is worth one point and the person with the most points wins a 60GB Video iPod from Newsvine.

Entering can take anywhere from 10 seconds to an hour depending on how long you stew over your picks.

So here’s the best part though: You can also invite up to 50 of your friends to enter your Tournament Pick ‘Em “group”.

If anyone you invite ends up winning the Video iPod, you will win one as well.

How’s that for teamwork?

So head on over to Newsvine Tournament Pick ‘Em and fill out your entry today.

… and you thought the iPod Contests were going away. :)

Dave Chappelle on Newsvine!

Something happened on Newsvine’s opening day that really validated to us where this whole project is going. It had nothing to do with the traffic, the kind reviews, or the reports about us being acquired. It was a simple post by Newsvine member Corey Spring.

Corey is a senior at Thee Ohio State University, and when he’s not partying it up with the Buckeye coeds, he works at the local college TV station. It so happens that Corey was invited to Dayton, Ohio for the premiere of Dave Chappelle’s new movie “Block Party”.

Corey somehow managed to steal Chappelle away for a few minutes and conducted an impromptu interview with him. Then he posted the interview to Newsvine, tagged it accordingly, and bam, an exclusive Dave Chappelle interview for the world to see.

It doesn’t stop there though. Immediately upon posting, the Newsvine Doppelganger™ kicked in and automatically added a link to an Associated Press story from that same day about Dave Chappelle’s dispute with Comedy Central. So now the AP story is linked from the bottom of Corey’s interview, and Corey’s interview is linked from the bottom of the AP story.

Some hard-core citizen journalist types have asked us why we use Associated Press stories at all. There are hundreds of reasons, but this is a perfect example. You can read that Dave Chappelle AP story on many other popular news sites, but only on Newsvine would you spontaneously discover Corey’s interview in the course of reading it. That is pretty magical to me. People have also questioned whether “citizens” are qualified, in general, to be journalists. Well this is a textbook example of the concept in action. Journalism doesn’t always mean investigating scandals in the White House. Sometimes it’s simply about distilling stories from everyday life.

Make sure to head on over to Corey’s column and add him to your watchlist today. As soon as we turn on support for audio, polls, and other rich elements, these sorts of interviews will only get better.

Some other people to watch as well:

Carl Howe — Carl is considered by many as the Dean of the Vine, posting well-organized thoughts about marketing, technology, and where new media is going.

John Strubel — Exclusive interviews from Major League Baseball Spring Training and other excellent sports-related commentary.

The Anna Log — Benevolent lightning rod and perpetual catalyst for interesting political discussions on the Vine.

Mike Dojc — Sports and entertainment news from a guy who knows his stuff. Mike’s written for Maxim, Nike, The Toronto Star and many other properties.

Gary Goldhammer — Gary unique perspectives on the direction of new media come from 17 years of experience in journalism, public relations, and marketing.

Dave Sheldon — Dave’s day job as an ESPN Hockey analyst and play-by-play guy gives him an inside perspective into the sports world.

Salam Pax — Salam is known to many as “that famous Iraqi blogger” for his excellent first-hand reporting during the Iraqi invasion.

Newsvine Launches

After eight weeks of testing in private beta, Newsvine is now live to the world. It’s been an extremely productive couple of months, with countless enhancements and feature additions making their way onto the site almost every day.

The decision when to release to the world was a tough one for us. The site has come so far in its short existence, and yet, we feel we still have so far to go. Things are never finished around here, but that’s a good thing. By continuing to listen and react to the needs of the community, the Newsvine team is determined to make this site what it has always promised to be: a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and discuss the news.

We’d like to send out a huge thank you to all members of the alpha and the beta for taking the time to put Newsvine through its motions. When you build a large-scale news media site and an accompanying content management system from scratch, there’s simply no way to forecast what issues and circumstances will come up until a diverse group of people put it to everyday use. So for all 30,000+ people who made their way into the beta during the last several weeks, THANK YOU! A huge thanks also goes to Mike Slade, Nick Hanauer, and the rest of the crew at Second Avenue Partners who have not only provided us with the financial support to build Newsvine but also the industry expertise to help us build the best service we can possibly build.

So where are we with regards to features at launch? Let’s a quick look at the some of the features that made it in for launch, as well as the things the five of us will be working on for the next few months:

Already Live

The Fastest Wire News on the Web

Because there is no editor sitting between our newswires and the live site, news makes its way onto Newsvine faster than any site on the web. In some cases, we’ve beaten major news sites by hours on very important stories. The news mix is continuously being adjusted over here so we’re still working out some kinks, but one thing we know is we’re extremely fast.

500+ Regions Around the World

Newsvine now covers over 500 regions around the world… including Antarctica! While we’re just beginning to scratch the surface with international coverage, it’s now fully possible to submit content from all around the world and have it appear in its appropriate location. Not only that, but all news on the site is displayed in your local time zone, whether it be Pacific, Eastern, or Ulaanbaatar time. We have big plans for both expanding the breadth of our regional coverage as well as drilling down to the “micro-location” level… or neighborhoods. Stay tuned.

Easy Writing and Seeding

Over the last several weeks, we’ve added features like spellchecking, autosave, and inline previewing to our authoring tools while making them simpler at the same time. The goal at Newsvine is for people who’ve never published on the web before to easily hop right on and start writing. Additionally, we’ve made it possible for people to maintain their own columns simply by saving interesting news stories (seeding). The goal is to get people involved in any way they wish.

Newsvine Doppelganger™

The Newsvine Doppelganger™ is a handsome beast capable of determining the similarity of articles hosted anywhere in the world. For instance, if someone were to write an original Newsvine article on a particular incident in Iraq, Newsvine would instantly know if similar Associated Press stories were available anywhere on the site, or even external stories seeded from other sites like CNN or the BBC. The goal here is the automated clustered of similar information and the ability to point readers in the direction of the most lively and informative conversations.

Flexible, Usable Navigation

Searching on Newsvine is as easy as typing a term into the URL bar. “” gives you all sports stories on the site. “” gives you all sports stories by John Strubel. “” gives you all stories from the Seattle region.

Powerful moderation tools

We now have the ability to endorse and report every piece of content on the site. Whether article, seed, or comment, all users are now directly accountable for what they submit. We’re happy to say that during the private beta, system abuse was squashed quickly and, in most cases, automatically. The reputation and reporting system at Newsvine will continue to evolve every day as we react to new circumstances around the site. As in the case with any community, abuse will occur, but via a combination of automated tools and responsible community oversight, we expect these incidents to remain under control.

Things on the Radar

Depth of Content, Especially in Sports

Within a short period of time, you’ll see certain sections on the site receive their own special treatment depending on what sort of information needs to be displayed. For instance, in the sports section, we’ll have team navigation, live scoreboards, and all of the other things you’d expect to see on a sports site. In the business section, you’ll see stocks. We’ve built the system very wide, and now it’s time to go deep.


One of the founding philosophies of Newsvine is that where users put value into the site, they should receive value in return. For this reason, we offer the most generous advertising split in the business to those who contribute in good faith. We are in the midst of settling the details of our ad agreement, from a sales and technology side, so expect ads to go live within several weeks. Until the system is ready and tested, however, the site will remain ad-free.

Newsvine Guilds

One of the most heavily requested features has been group functionality, and through a series of articles written by the prolific Mykola Bilokonsky, we have begun to address this opportunity. There is nothing to show publicly at this stage, but rest assured, guilds are high on the radar.

Chat Lobby and Enhancements

Chat itself actually works pretty well, but right now initiating chats is a bit counterintuitive. If you hop in an empty room, others will usually enter within 3 or 4 minutes, but most people don’t think to do this. For this reason, we’ll be working on a dedicated chat lobby for people to get together with as little guesswork as possible.

Better Diversification of Topics on the Front Page

As many users have noticed, the front page of Newsvine can be tech-heavy and sports-heavy at times. Expect to see a concerted effort to keep the news mix as even as possible in the future.

Writer Discovery and Cultivation

During the private beta, we’ve just let writers discover Newsvine on their own. We haven’t advertised or made any other concerted efforts to get people on board. It is our hope that once the site is available for public viewing more and more people with interesting things to say will come on board and start writing. We do, however, need to step up our efforts in helping fill niche subjects and finding the best independent voices. The best way you can help is to invite friends and help spread the word.

Feature-Rich Columns

Right now, a column is simply a list of articles you’ve written and links you’ve seeded. This is nice and simple, but users have indicated they’d like the ability to add all sorts of modules to further personalize their pages. Now, we’re not talking MySpace-style auto-play music, tiled backgrounds, anything goes, stuff… obviously… but there are a wealth of additions we plan on making which will allow users to express themselves in other, creative ways.

And off we go…

So there you have it. We’re live. It’s been a great few months so far, and we look forward to a lasting relationship with the people who really make this site work… the Newsvine community.

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