Six months at the Statesman… and counting
Yesterday marked six months since I started my job at the Idaho Statesman and I must say the time has flown by. I have probably learned more about the news business than I have about Web development, but I fully expected that to be the case early on. That’s not to say I didn’t learn some new Web tricks though. I’ve mastered many of the ins and outs of the McClatchy Interactive publishing system that runs our main site and I’ve also picked up the basics of Drupal development for our new Voices community site. In addition, I have scratched the surface of jQuery and dabbled a bit in the Zend Framework for PHP. My Linux and MySQL skills are being used every day, but I don’t think I’ve really learned anything new in those areas.
I want to thank the Academy
I’d like to share a list of accomplishments for the first six months. Please bear in mind that most items on this list were a group effort not just within our online team, but also involving the staff at McClatchy Interactive, our resilient vendors, and often my counterparts at other McClatchy papers like Anchorage and Fresno. Don’t worry. I’ll spare you the “shoulders of giants” speech. Here is the list:
- E-mail newsletters (via ExactTarget)
- Mobile version of our site (via Verve Wireless)
- Brand new Boise State Football section front (mostly Bob here in Boise)
- Story commenting (based on Drupal module from Anchorage)
- Blogs and forums (Drupal)
There were many other smaller projects that I worked on, but these are definitely the highlights. Story commenting has probably been the most interesting for all of us. We launched the feature about six weeks ago and we have roughly 6,500 comments on 1,000 stories by 1,400 different people! This is far more than anybody expected and the pace is still increasing each week. It is not without its challenges, though. I have created a rudimentary profanity filter using regular expressions, we are employing Drupal’s spam module, and a healthy dose of human moderation is also in the mix to catch the innuendos that computers can’t identify. For the most part people have behaved, but the conversation does get heated quite often and many of our reporters have had to become a little more thick-skinned. Overall, though, it’s been a huge success.
And now the music is playing
I should wrap this up. I will probably make these updates more frequent – every three months seems reasonable. We have quite a lot on the horizon including a new search plugin, user submitted photos and video, and several custom mini-sites that I’m not at liberty to discuss until they launch. I would hate to tip off the competition. So look for another round-up of Web news in January if not before.