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Tools of the Day: Blackbird Pie and What The Trend

When breaking news hits the web, chances are you will find out about it on Twitter first. Trending topics can quickly spiral out of control, and these two tools can help you display tweets and sort through the mire of tweets to get to the source of a trend — Blackbird Pie and What The Trend.

Blackbird Pie is a tool for embedding tweets into a page using hypertext. You may have seen this used on our last Tools of the Day post when we discussed sparktweets. Blackbird Pie has primarily been used by Twitter Media on their blog in example posts. Here’s an example tweet generated from the 10,000 Words Twitter account using Blackbird Pie:

AP Stylebook Adds More Social Media Terms (via @mashable)less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

The benefits of using Blackbird Pie is that you get some elements of Twitter functionality via the tweet, such as marking it as a favorite, retweeting it, or replying to it. Hashtags are also linked directly to Twitter search, to help you pull in more context.

The downsides of using the tool are that you would need to have a basic knowledge of HTML in order to troubleshoot any copy and paste issues from the tool, and the correct timestamp does not carry over in the pasted tweet. Also, the code provided for these tweets do not work in Tumblr.

Give Blackbird Pie a try and add some fresh-baked tweets to your posts!

Speaking of linked hashtags, What The Trend is just the resource for you when you need to figure out what a specific hashtag means, and to discover why it may be trending at the moment. With over 100,000 trends being tracked from all around the world, What The Trend is the premiere database of hashtag definitions.

What the Trend

You can also discover the top 10 trends at the moment, discover new trends in other countries, and even register your own hashtag for inclusion in the rankings. Journalists can use this tool to not just discover what’s generating buzz at the moment, but can study other successful hashtags to discover tips they could use for their own Twitter campaigns. What The Trend makes discovering this information simple and fun!

Visit them at and sign up for a free account.

Sign Up Today for Mediabistro’s Journalism and Technology Boot Camp

Listen up journalists! Do you need a crash course on the current digital landscape of the journalism world but don’t have the time for trial and error? Looking for industry best practices on how to use social media in your research or for your organization’s website? Mediabistro has you covered with their online Journalism and Technology Boot Camp course. Here’s the information:

WHEN: 8 weeks, May 24 – July 19
Online Chats: Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m. ET

WHERE: Online. Click here to register.

LEVEL: Intermediate/Advanced

In this class, we’ll explore the many interactive digital tools available to today’s journalist. Through weekly assignments, you’ll gain hands-on experience building maps, photo galleries, slideshows, and timelines, and learn how to use live-blogging and curation tools to take advantage of social media and real-time reporting.

In order to maximize the technology available, you have to know what tools are out there and when and how to use them. We’ll discuss innovative examples of journalism and technology to determine the best practices for developing your own tools and storytelling techniques. Students can opt to post stories and packages to their own blog or website, or contribute to a private class blog.

In this class, you will learn:

  • How and when to use interactive online tools to enhance your reporting
  • How to present and curate information using maps, video, photo galleries, slideshows, and timelines
  • What role social media should play in your research, reporting, and promotion
  • How to use a Content Management System and the basics of site management
  • What you need to know about Flash as a journalist

By the end of this class, you will have:
A portfolio of interactive components to support your reporting including a map, video clip, photo gallery or slideshow, timeline, live-blog transcript, and curated social news package. You’ll also gain familiarity working with a Content Management System.

Click here to register today! As an added bonus for our faithful 10,000 Words reader, use the promotional code WORDS50 to get a $50 discount!

4 Organizations more tech-savvy than your newsroom

1. The White House

Just a few months ago, the new presidential administration was greeted with antiquated computers and technology that forbade access to social networks like Facebook or even outside email. Fast forward to today and there are now a variety of ways to connect and interact online with the White House.

The official White House site has been revamped and updated to include a blog to keep the world abreast of President Obama and crew. The site also contains a number of photo slideshows based largely on photos from the official Flickr photostream.

The White House’s official YouTube channel contains loads of speeches and press briefings and — to dispel earlier allegations of technology favoritism — the same content is also available on Vimeo.

After Barack Obama’s landmark use of social networking during his presidential campaign it should come as no surprise that the White House is also friending people across the world. The president’s pad has more than 126,000 followers on Twitter and follows a number of government agencies, including FEMA and NASA.

The White House also has more than 205,000 fans on Facebook and the president himself has more than six million fans, more than anyone else on the site. The White House is also on MySpace, along with both President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.

2. The Vatican

As highlighted in this month’s issue of mental_floss magazine, The Vatican — the centuries-old religious institution — is also down with new technology.

The official newspaper of The Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, is available online in several languages as are many programs from Vatican Radio. The official radio station of Vatican City also has podcasts available for listening or to download.

Flickr photo of Pope Benedict XVI by Paul Resh

The Vatican’s official YouTube has almost 200 videos that range from morning prayers to papal visits. The Vatican even has its own iPhone app that contains prayers and scriptural readings and is available in six languages.

3. Major League Baseball

MLB has all the bases covered with its wide range of ways to follow games electronically. The most impressive offering is MLB.TV, a subscription service where baseball fans can watch live games online in high definition. The site streams 100 games a week to hundreds of thousands of subscribers and the quality is hard to match.

If you prefer your baseball on the go, MLB has a series of iPhone apps including MLB At Bat, where fans can find the latest scores, standings and schedules, and MLB World Series 2009, an interactive game that features all 30 MLB clubs.

The official MLB site contains various other ways to get your baseball fix, including a series of blogs, podcasts, video clips and photo galleries. There is also an official Facebook page where social networkers can step up to the plate.

4. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The FBI, America’s hub of criminal investigation with a reputation for secrecy, recently announced a slew of online efforts that will make the agency more open and approachable.

The Bureau’s official Twitter feed shares criminal alerts and press releases with its thousands of followers and similar content is shared on the official FBI Facebook page. The videos featured on the FBI’s YouTube channel give an insider’s view of such operations as bomb training and prostitution stings.

In an effort to spread news of and apprehend the fugitives on its famed Most Wanted List, the FBI also has several widgets available that anyone can embed on their blog, site or social network profile and apparently the new media approach is working. The widgets have directed more than 2.5 million people to the FBI website and the Most Wanted widget averages more than a thousand views a day, according to a press release.

The FBI even plans to take its Most Wanted list to Second Life where virtual visitors can keep tabs on real-life criminals.

Also on 10,000 Words:

12 Things to tell your tech-impaired editor
Great online journalism from non-traditional journalists
Create brilliant multimedia projects from the mundane
Visual and inte
ractive guides to the economic crisis

Sports arenas: How to put a multimedia twist on traditional coverage

15 Ways to follow the 2008 election online

The power of the net to provide more innovative political coverage than what is possible in traditional forms of media has never been more evidenced than in this political season. Major news organizations and citizen journalists alike have harnessed the power of the web to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the US presidential election than has ever been possible. Here are some of the best ways to follow the political landscape online:

1. perspctv

If there weren’t 14 other sites on this list then perspctv would be the one stop for any election news seeker. The site culls the latest news, blog posts and tweets and provides insightful charts and maps as well as an embeddable widget for keeping track of it all.

2. Patchwork Nation

We know the candidates are campaigning all over the country, but who are they campaigning in front of? The Christian Science Monitor has the answer. The site’s analysis shows both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama spent a good chunk of their time in wealthy suburbs and big cities.

3. Election ’08 Twitter Chatter

Everyone knows Twitter is abuzz with political views, skews and insights, including the observations of Twitter stars FakeSarahPalin and CNN’s Rick Sanchez. Twitter Chatter is one way to wrangle these conversations as well as to see on a map where they are coming from.

4. is the dream of any political statistics hound. The site has the latest polls, the latest news, the latest charts, graphs, statistics, hypotheticals…the latest everything. It’s like a political rabbit hole…check it out only if you have time to spare.

5. Map of 2008 Presidential Contributions

“Show me the money!” Okay it’s 2008, not 1996, but if you’re curious to know where the campaign money is coming from, Political Base has you covered with a well-designed Google map as well as a list of big name contributors and a handy search form.

6. Tube the Vote!

Tube the Vote strives to provide a balanced view of issues that are affecting this year’s presidential election by scouring the web for video, blog posts, Flickr photos and more that celebrate or repudiate either side.

7. Candidates’ life journeys

Get to know the presidential and vice presidential candidates a little better by following the milestones of their lives on a Google Map. Anyone can follow the journey of John McCain, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin or Joe Biden.

8. PolitiFact’s The Attack Files

Voters tired of the spin and searching for the truth will appreciate PolitiFact’s analysis of recent campaign assertions. Was Sen. Obama referring to Sarah Palin when he mentioned “lipstick on a pig?” No way, says PolitiFact. Does Sen. McCain support tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas? Not that simple, according to the site.

9. Election 08

iPhone users will be glad to know that they don’t have to be at a computer to track the latest on the 2008 presidential race. The iPhone application is a great source for tracking the latest polls as long as you don’t check to often — Election 08 is sometimes behind in its updates.

10. McCainPedia/Obamapedia

To say these two wikis are unbiased would be a big misstatement — the former is run by the DNC, the other is populated by Obama fans. Still, using modern technology to encourage citizen participation is never a bad thing.

11. What Would You Say to the President?

This genius bit of citizen participation encourages everyone to not only speak their mind to President Bush, but to presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama as well. Recent responses — which are themselves wholly interesting and telling — are displayed on each page.

12. Google Maps (campaign trail)

This Google map knows where the candidates will be and when and makes that information at the click of a button. Campaign appearances for both candidates are listed in reverse chronological order as well as marked on a map.

13. Google Maps (video)

Video of campaign speeches from both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are tracked and mapped on these map mashups that incorporate video from YouTube.

14. Everymoment Now

Everymoment Now uses a unique graph to chart the number of times a candidate was mentioned on any particular day since August of this year. Clicking on a bar in the chart reveals news stories that were published that day as well as more detailed charts and graphs.

15. ABC News’ Match-o-Matic

If you plan on voting in the upcoming US election, but still don’t know which can
didate to vote for, the Match-o-Matic is sure to help. The humorous, interactive quiz gives the user two quotes — one from Sen. Obama and one from Sen. McCain — and the user selects which one they agree with most without knowing who said it. The final tally reveals which presidential candidate’s platform the user is more likely to side with.

How to create a great widget

A widget is an embeddable chunk of code that can be placed on a website, blog or social networking page. The ability to create a widget from scratch often falls outside the technical know-how of even some of the most advanced multimedia journalists and the process is often deferred to “the tech side.” If your newsroom doesn’t have the funds to hire a pricey widget developer (and who does these days?) there are a few inexpensive or free options to provide widgetized content to your readers.

Perhaps the most novice-friendly online widget creator is Widgetbox. The site not only provides a variety of widgets to browse for inspiration, but makes creating a Flash-, HTML/Javascript-, or web-based widget as simple as possible. For the Flash and web-based options, users can simply plug in the URL to the content to be widgetized and the site does the rest. Those users who want to create HTML/JS coding from scratch are assured their widget won’t be crap — Widgetbox reviews each widget and bounces malformed ones with suggested corrections before it is made available through the site.

Those who want to provide blog content in widget form can create a Blidget, or blog widget like the example on the right, in literally minutes. The blidget can be branded with a logo and a variety of colors and instantly be made available to fans of your content. A complete guide to creating widgets with Widgetbox can be found here.

iWidgets provides yet another reason to skip the pricey programmers. Multimedia techies with a basic knowledge of web development can create widgets that mimic the look and feel of social networks like MySpace and Facebook and move away from the basic rectangle look that many widgets have adopted. iWidgets touts its “PowerPoint-style drag-and-drop” approach to widget creation which is helpful for those budding widget developers. Creating widgets on the site is visually intuitive and offers great flexibility.

One other online widget creator worth checking is Sprout, which offers video, audio and photo integration. Sprout has a few widget templates to choose from or you can build your own using the site’s Flash-based editor (whose interface has the same feel as working in Flash). Best of all the online service is free.

No matter how a widget is created, it must be created with the user in mind. StickiWidgets has a definitive list of the ten things to consider when building a widget that everyone should read before embarking on a widget-making odyssey.

Now that you know how to create a widget, read this post to see what a good widget looks like.