Adding panoramas to Google Maps

Who doesn’t like shooting a panorama? It’s one of the most fun features of smartphone cameras these days. But because the gigantic and strangely-shaped images they produce don’t work natively on Facebook or Flickr, I think most of them are destined to sit forever in obscurity on smartphones.

That is, unless Google has something to say about it. I just found out that you can post your panoramas to Google Maps, where future visitors to a location can see what things look like. Here’s my view of Old Rag in Madison County, Virginia from this past Friday:

Still some wonkiness in between sections of the photographs, but it’s a pretty sweet way to host a panorama on a third-party site that you can share with family and friends.

Getting On With The GoPro

For Christmas this year, my Mother-in-Law bought my wife a brand new GoPro Hero 3+. Since January isn’t exactly high season for action sports of the kind these things are typically used for, it’s been sitting in its box on her desk for six weeks.

I decided to dust it off to shoot a timelapse video of our meager snowpocalypse in D.C. The view from our apartment window is not great, at least when it comes to snow accumulation, but the finished package is doing quite well on social media.

Facebook is all about pushing their video platform these days, so posting the video there has generated more views than we’ve gotten for far better, well-produced videos on Youtube. All social media folks should take note.

Photogenic Roadkill

Ever drive 5 hours on a workday for roadkill? I did, with WAMU’s environmental report Jonathan Wilson. My hope was that the process would lend itself well to the use of gifs, but they were about squirrely about me getting close to the machinery in motion, so I settled for shooting a slideshow.

Still a fun story to shoot, including one memorable moment where I was squatting by the side of a narrow two-lane road as 18-wheelers rolled by inches away to get the perfect shot of a dead possum. My hope is that I can find more stories that justify working remotely with a reporter to show that multimedia isn’t the heavy lift they sometimes make it out to be.

How Virginia Is Using Composting To Take Care Of Their Roadkill Problem

Vine For News, Fun and Profit

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of using Vine for a while now, but I feel like it’s a tool that lends itself best to spontaneity instead of planned news pieces.

Since I so seldom report in the field, I’ve mostly used it for weather or, as in this story, showing stormwater runoff.

It does such a great job of livening up a static page, though, I wish more reporters had it in their news kit.

D.C.’s RiverSmart Project Takes Aggressive Approach To Polluted Runoff

Fatbergs Ahoy!

This story was born of weekend tweet by DC Water warning somebody not to pour their bacon grease down the drain because of the damage it causes to D.C.’s sewer system. Obviously, showing how truly disgusting these blockages are was totally necessary, and I managed to sneak in this story at the bottom of the top 30 trafficked stories for of 2014. Go fatbergs!

Fatberg Ahoy! How Pouring Cooking Grease Down The Drain Hurts D.C. Sewers

Now I just have to chase down the DC Water folks again so I can see them actually remove of these suckers from a pipe, and capture my own wretching for some excellent radio audio.

Social Audio Cont’d

Some more stories for our pilot project with NPR Digital Services:

This story was probably the first I came up with when I sat down to think for ideas on the project, and for the category of “snappy interview” specifically. Mass transit is probably the thing that most people in this region have in common, so it seemed natural to tap the voice that sort of represents that experience. The response wasn’t as strong as I had hoped, thanks in part to the fact that we somehow got beaten to the story by the George Washington University student newspaper, but 3,700 plays as of the time of writing this is strong.

This interview with the doorman at The Mayflower was entirely Lauren Ober’s doing, so I have to give her credit. The category is “Storyteller” which is actually much, much harder to source than it seems. First you have to identify somebody with a good story, but then you have the more difficult challenge of prompting them in such a way that their story makes for compelling audio. This is something that radio reporters have to do all the time anyway, but trying to make something that stands on its own in less than two minutes? A tall task.

This is the most successful story we’ve done so far, by a good margin. For the category of “Woah Sounds,” Lauren found this concert taking place at Atlas Performing Arts Center where a cellist plays along with the sounds generated by her brainwaves. The concept of it is almost more “woah” than the sounds themselves. Still, since this wasn’t specifically local, it spread much wider on social, and even netted us a Buzzfeed article, bumping the total plays over 25,000.

Creating social audio for fun and profit

One of my favorite parts about being a web producer at WAMU 88.5 is that I get to be our point-person with the folks at NPR Digital Services. They partner with local member stations to help spread the the best practices in the digital space pioneered at the mother station around the country.

We just started participating in a program that they call the Social Audio Project. The short version is that, as radio folks, we have a vested interest in figuring out ways to make audio — long acknowledged as one of the least shareable news formats — shine on social media. So how do you do that? In short: keep it brief, use Soundcloud, use grabby headlines that promise a listening experience, and keep the text punchy and short.

I’ll leave the longer explanation to NPRDS’s Eric Athas.

The best part of it for me so far is the fire it has lit under Lauren Ober — the reporter we tapped to be our audio whiz and voice for the project. My hope is that she can be the evangelist in the newsroom for looking at how people consume audio when it’s not broadcast over the radio. I really think the format we’re trying out here can be something we do all the time, and probably to great success.

Anyway, here’s story numero uno:

El Tiempo Latino

I’m doing the web production for a series of stories from Armando Trull on the gang violence in Central America that is feeding the crisis among unaccompanied minors in the D.C. area. Apparently that’s enough to get your photo in the city’s free Spanish-language newspaper.

El Salvador: entre la violencia y la esperanza | El Tiempo Latino | Noticias de Washington DC

Really great journalism (which you should read), and I’m happy to be a part of it.

Military Children

The last few months have been really slow for me, in terms of original content. We’ve been without an Online Managing Editor at WAMU 88.5 since May, for one thing, which required a temporary adjustment in my focus and responsibilities. But the other chunk of my “free” time has been occupied working with our education reporter Kavitha Cardoza on the latest in her documentary series Breaking Ground.

Check it out:

Military Education

I have to give props to Kavitha — she’s a radio reporter through and through, but she built the web presence of this story into the bones of the project. Well before the rough cut of her radio documentary was cut, she was knee-deep in the weeds with me picking photos, culling extra resources with readers, and thinking about how this story would read on the web. My one regret is that I only got to report on one thing with her: this video on homeschooling in the military:

Anyway, on to new projects, and hopefully more original ones.