It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Posts Tagged ‘evernote

Thinking about trying to go paperless for 30 days

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UPDATE: So I did not follow up with this post, namely because I saw I used very little paper. In attempting it, I found I’m a fairly light paper user, save my reporter notebooks. At the very least, this project showed me that. Thus the lack of follow-up.

I’ve been using Evernote, the note-taking productivity tool, since early last year. Since starting to use my Android phone, I’ve definitely began using it more and more.

Every once in a while, I see talks of “going paperless,” something that would be very difficult to do for a reporter using documents and such. But I’ve decided to give it shot with Evernote’s most recent blog post, advertising its 30-day paperless challenge.

While it’s not the best way to store all personal data (see: passwords), it’s a great tool for keeping things together that aren’t as critical, such as news clippings, grocery lists and miscellaneous information. It’s come in handy with my fiance and I as we plan our wedding: we can use the program to save items for our registry, and carry them with us to do some price comparisons at other stores.

Of course, not all paper can go away with being a reporter. Just ask this stack of notebooks sitting behind my desk at home.

It’s a great tool for journalism as well. I use it to type out my story notes, police briefs and save important web pages for later. I use a label system and can find what notes go with the school district I cover, my story list for the week or reference what police case numbers I’m requesting more info on from the local department for crime briefs.

So I’m taking Evernote’s advice and trying to reduce paper clutter starting tomorrow. I’ll post here at least once or twice to gauge how well I’m doing; I’m more likely to succeed if I make it public.

I don’t have a major gameplan yet, so I’ll probably try and follow Evernote blogger Jamie Todd Rubin’s advice for now. I’ll probably shift this as I go on, but it’s a good start.

If you want to, give it a shot as well. Follow the event on Facebook for updates. Some ideas are popping onto the wall as well, so be sure to use some of those.


Written by David Veselenak

August 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Journalism, Technology

Tagged with , ,

The best apps and uses for my smartphone after one year

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I’ve now been at the Redford Observer almost two months, and have not gotten around to an update. Before I do that, however, I’ve wanted to write a post around the beginning of July all about my cellphone.

I heard for years how helpful a smartphone is to journalists. I watched as fellow students and co-workers use their phones for their reporting. Being able to look up information in a pinch, taking photos on the fly and publishing on the web from a small device appealed to me greatly. In July 2011, right before Verizon killed off the unlimited data plan, I snuck in and purchased an Android-powered Droid Incredible 2.

Save for a few weeks when I was using a Samsung Stratosphere, I’ve used the Incredible 2, running Gingerbread, for an entire year. It’s come in handy several times, and some apps have meant more to me than others.

Here are the most useful apps I’ve found while using my phone:

Twitter: The app I find myself opening the most on my device. The official app from Twitter, it’s been updated from the design I originally got used to. I’ve made it a point to follow many different accounts, from Michigan news accounts such as the Detroit Free Press and MLive to other journalists and journalism-related publications, such as the Nieman Lab and Society of Professional Journalists.

It’s a useful tool when in the field, such when the tornadoes hit Dexter earlier this year. I was able to follow area agencies and news outlets to stay on top of things we may have missed in our reporting. It’s also a way to push out news, sharing photos from accident scenes and tweeting out information as it comes in when I’m not near a computer. It’s a must-have for me.

Facebook: Another big one, although not as big as Twitter for me. I used it more at my old job, posting updates to our weekly newspaper pages, and responding to readers’ comments. Photo-sharing from events was simple too, a quick photo of an event such as Manchester’s Easter Egg hunt, and it was pushed to our readers.

While Facebook has returned to a more personal use for me at the Observer and Eccentric, it still comes in handy. A lot of organizations in Redford use Facebook, and I’m able to stay up-to-date on everything the organizations in Redford are posting.

Evernote: A great note-taking tool I use exclusively for my current job. The ability to sync between my computer and phone is a plus, so everywhere I go, I have my notes with me. I type out my notes on a computer when I do interviews, and I’m able to clip articles if I find something that’s relevant to Redford.

I take personal notes in it too, such as directions or instructions. Each note can be placed in a specific folder, or notebook, and I can easily retrieve it with a quick search on my phone.

It captures other forms of media as well, including photos, audio and documents. I use the quick snapshot feature if I see something that’s story-worthy, such as a flyer on a billboard. I’ll use it to take images for reference, if I have to remember how something looked while writing.

There is a premium version of Evernote, but I’ve found that the free version does the best for me. I’ve thought about upgrading, but haven’t had the reason too. With 60 MB of storage per month, Evernote is a great tool for keeping organized at work.

Disqus: This is one I didn’t expect to be so helpful, but it’s great for those online moderators out there on the go.

We launched Disqus as our commenting platform at my previous job at Heritage Media near Ann Arbor in April. Looking, I stumbled across this app which, for some strange reason, could only be found on Android. For the month or so I was still moderating comments for, I would use this app to preview, screen, approve and delete comments that needed moderation for the website.

It came especially handy on weekends, when I was away from my computer. A notification would appear in my notification center, I’d open it, read the comment and approve or delete. Piece of cake.

Tape-a-Talk: There are plenty of recording apps out there, but I’ve taken a liking to this one. The quality is good, and you can record in two settings: wave/pcm or 3gp.

The recording is crisp on the Incredible 2, which has a microphone on the top of the device. I use it frequently enough that it’s replaced my $50 recording device from 2008.

It saves files in a separate folder on your device, and you can access it when you mount the phone as a hard drive. Simple and easy to use.

Google Drive: This is becoming my standard cloud storage unit since I have a folder on my desktop. I use it to write stories in, and label my folders according to month so I know right where a story is.

Recently, with the switch from Docs to Drive, I’ve been using it for photos for work. I take a few photos for work using my phone, and I use Drive to transfer them to the cloud.

Other cloud services are important, too. I find myself uploading large folders of photos to Box, where I have 50 GB of storage. I’ve tried using Dropbox, but I find I’m filling it up too fast. I may go back and use Dropbox, but for now, I’m going to with Google.

Flipboard: A new addition to my phone, it came to Android last month. And I love it.

Reading stories on Flipboard is a clean experience, much cleaner than on the web browser that comes on the Incredible 2. I can pull my Twitter and Facebook feed into it, and get a clean, crisp reading surface that “flips” as I read.

It also gives me top recommendations for subjects such as news, technology and sports. It’s great for lunchtime when I want to catch up on news that I haven’t had a chance to look at yet.

I’ve tried using different readers, such as Google Currents, the Flipboard copy, but nothing compares to the easy reading on Flipboard. It makes reading on my phone easy and enjoyable.

Is there an app I should add to this list? I’m always looking for a new addition to my phone.

Written by David Veselenak

July 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm

The New York Times and its “pay fence:” love it or not, it’s still revolutionary

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The big event finally happened Monday, one that’s been more than a year in the making.

The New York Times finally throw up its “paywall,” or as some have called it, a “pay fence.”

The basics: Readers can visit and click on 20 articles, blogs, videos or slideshows for free a month. After that, a box comes up over an article, asking you to pay for additional views. A “basic” digital subscription costs $15, the “intermediate” plan costs $25 and the “advanced,” which comes with the Times’ iPad app, costs $35. Print subscribers, no matter which subscription, will receive an all-access pass to the site and apps for free. Right now, the Times is offering a four-week introductory rate of 99 cents, presumably to hook people.

The kicker, though, is the “porous” aspect of the wall. Articles that a reader accesses from a third-party site, such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Google, can be accessed for free, even if you’ve exhausted your 20 articles that month (Google clicks can only number five per day, however). This aspect is one that has captivated the media world, seeing how no other publication had offered that type of access.

The move has to be a way to ramp up print subscriptions, since it’s cheaper to receive at least one paper a week than just digital access. Getting the cheapest print option, the Sunday only edition, will allow you all the access you want online, and will only cost $390. A full digital access-only subscription will cost $455, a significant increase. The move is clearly subtle way of making their print product viable, and getting their Sunday advertisers’ ads in the hands of the American public (Although one Canadian blogger, who saw the paywall two weeks before us Yankees, believes the new system could be trying to change the way news is published).

But is this an ideal solution? Rather, should the Times continue to try and sustain their print product, when the industry seems to point toward digital and mobile content? The Times is no doubt the leader in the news industry; when it changes a business practice, everyone watches and takes notes. Perhaps the Times should have looked closer at truly migrating away from dependence on a set of paper and focused more on improving the revenue stream online.

Regardless, the wall is still up. And people are still trying to figure out ways to crack it, my favorite being this Twitter account. It has created a list that feeds Times articles to followers, effectively allowing everyone that follows them to read articles for free. Of course the Times tried to shut this down, but not because it was tweeting articles left and right, but because it was using the stylized “T” in its logo.

You could also try the other approach, deleting key portions of the code in the URL. Because the Times tracks how you visit its site through cookies, all one has to do is click “Inspect Element” and do some code work (something I’m not very good at, although hope to be someday). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Times changes the overlay box to what the Wall Street Journal does, and completely block a non-subscriber from seeing a story instead of an overlay box.

I’m still weary of subscribing to news content when I know I can get a good chunk of it for free elsewhere, namely here. But I still continue to read stories on the Times’ site, and haven’t been confronted with the dreaded box yet. I might even subscribe to the Times for those first four weeks. After that, we’ll see.

(A quick shout-out to the website-saving site Evernote, which really helped me gather up links for this. A great service, definitely worth checking out.)

Written by David Veselenak

March 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm