Our comment quiz module is now Open Source | NRKbeta

Our comment quiz module is now Open Source by Henrik Lied(NRKbeta)
Our quiz module is now open source on GitHub. After launching our comment quiz module, we’ve received a lot of questions about whether it’s available for download. Now it is.

Continue reading “Our comment quiz module is now Open Source | NRKbeta”

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Buzzfeed implements the IndieWeb concept of backfeed to limit filter bubbles

The evolution of comments on articles takes a new journalistic turn

Outside Your Bubble

This past Wednesday, BuzzFeed rolled out a new feature on their website called “Outside your Bubble”. I think the concept is so well-described and so laudable from a journalistic perspective, that I’ll excerpt their editor-in-chief’s entire description of the feature below. In short, they’ll be featuring some of the commentary on their pieces by pulling it in from social media silos.

What is interesting is that this isn’t a new concept and even more intriguing, there’s some great off-the-shelf technology that helps people move towards doing this type of functionality already.

The IndieWeb and backfeed

For the past several years, there’s been a growing movement on the the internet known as the IndieWeb, a “people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” Their primary goal is for people to better control their online identities by owning their own domain and the content they put on it while also allowing them to be better connected.

As part of the movement, users can more easily post their content on their own site and syndicate it elsewhere (a process known by the acronym POSSE). Many of these social media sites allow for increased distribution, but they also have the side effect of cordoning off or siloing the conversation. As a result many IndieWeb proponents backfeed the comments, likes, and other interactions on their syndicated content back to their original post.

Backfeed is the process of pulling back interactions on your syndicated content back (AKA reverse syndicating) to your original posts.

This concept of backfeed is exactly what BuzzFeed is proposing, but with a more editorial slant meant to provide additional thought and analysis on their original piece. In some sense, from a journalistic perspective, it also seems like an evolutionary step towards making traditional comments have more value to the casual reader. Instead of a simple chronological list of comments which may or may not have any value, they’re also using the feature to surface the more valuable comments which appear on their pieces. In a crowded journalistic marketplace, which is often misguided by market metrics like numbers of clicks, I have a feeling that more discerning readers will want this type of surfaced value if it’s done well. And discerning readers can bring their own value to a content publisher.

I find it interesting that not only is BuzzFeed using the concept of backfeed like this, but in Ben Smith’s piece, he eschews the typical verbiage ascribed to social media sites, namely the common phrase “walled garden,” in lieu of the word silo, which is also the word adopted by the IndieWeb movement to describe a “centralized web site typically owned by a for-profit corporation that stakes some claim to content contributed to it and restricts access in some way (has walls).”

To some extent, it almost appears that the BuzzFeed piece parrots back portions of the Why IndieWeb? page on the IndieWeb wiki.

Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | BuzzFeed

A new feature on some of our most widely shared articles.

BuzzFeed News is launching an experiment this week called “Outside Your Bubble,” an attempt to give our audience a glimpse at what’s happening outside their own social media spaces.

The Outside Your Bubble feature will appear as a module at the bottom of some widely shared news articles and will pull in what people are saying about the piece on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, the web, and other platforms. It’s a response to the reality that often the same story will have two or three distinct and siloed conversations taking place around it on social media, where people talk to the like-minded without even being aware of other perspectives on the same reporting.

Our goal is to give readers a sense of these conversations around an article, and to add a kind of transparency that has been lost in the rise of social-media-driven filter bubbles. We view it in part as a way to amplify the work of BuzzFeed News reporters, and to add for readers a sense of the context in which news lives now.

And if you think there’s a relevant viewpoint we’re missing, you can contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com.

Source: Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | Ben Smith for BuzzFeed

Editorial Perspective and Diminishing Returns

The big caveat on this type of journalistic functionality is that it may become a game of diminishing returns. When a new story comes out, most of the current ecosystem is geared too heavily towards freshness: which story is newest? It would be far richer if there were better canonical ways of indicating which articles were the most thorough, accurate, timely and interesting instead of just focusing on which was simply the most recent. Google News, as an example, might feature a breaking story for several hours, but thereafter every Tom, Dick, and Harry outlet on the planet will have their version of the story–often just a poorer quality rehash of the original without any new content–which somehow becomes the top of the heap because it’s the newest in the batch. Aram Zucker-Scharff mentioned this type of issue a few days ago in a tweetstorm which I touched upon last week.

Worse, for the feature to work well, it relies on the continuing compilation of responses, and the editorial effort required seems somewhat wasted in doing this as, over time, the audience for the article slowly diminishes. Thus for the largest portion of the audience there will be no commentary, all the while ever-dwindling incoming audiences get to see the richer content. This is just the opposite of the aphorism “the early bird gets the worm.” Even if the outlet compiled responses on a story from social media as they were writing in real time, it becomes a huge effort to stay current and capture eyeballs at scale. Hopefully the two effects will balance each other out creating an overall increase of value for both the publisher and the audience to have a more profound effect on the overall journalism ecosystem.

Personally and from a user experience perspective, I’d like to have the ability to subscribe to an article I read and enjoyed so that I can come back to it at a prescribed later date to see what the further thoughts on it were. As things stand, it’s painfully difficult and time consuming as a reader to attempt to engage on interesting pieces at a deeper level. Publications that can do this type of coverage and/or provide further analysis on ongoing topics will also have a potential edge over me-too publications that are simply rehashing the same exact stories on a regular basis. Outlets could also leverage this type user interface and other readers’ similar desire to increase their relationship with their readers by providing this value that others won’t or can’t.

Want more on “The IndieWeb and Journalism”?
See: Some thoughts about how journalists could improve their online presences with IndieWeb principles along with a mini-case study of a site that is employing some of these ideas.

In some sense, some of this journalistic workflow reminds me how much I miss Slate.com’s Today’s Papers feature in which someone read through the early edition copies of 4-5 major newspapers and did a quick synopsis of the day’s headlines and then analyzed the coverage of each to show how the stories differed, who got the real scoop, and at times declare a “winner” in coverage so that readers could then focus on reading that particular piece from the particular outlet.

Backfeed in action

What do you think about this idea? Will it change journalism and how readers consume it?

As always, you can feel free to comment on this story directly below, but you can also go to most of the syndicated versions of this post indicated below, and reply to or comment on them there. Your responses via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ will be backfed via Brid.gy to this post and appear as comments below, so the entire audience will be able to see the otherwise dis-aggregated conversation compiled into one place.

If you prefer to own the content of your own comment or are worried your voice could be “moderated out of existence” (an experience I’ve felt the sting of in the past), feel free to post your response on your own website or blog, include a permalink to this article in your response, put the URL of your commentary into the box labeled “URL/Permalink of your Article”, and then click the “Ping Me” button. My site will then grab your response and add it to the comment stream with all the others.

Backfeed on!

H/T to Ryan Barrett for pointing out the BuzzFeed article.

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Kellyanne Conway Sparks Media Debate About Interviewing Trump Advisers | Fortune.com

News Outlets Wrestle With Whether to Stop Interviewing Trump Advisers by Mathew Ingram(Fortune)
Some news programs have said they will no longer interview Kellyanne Conway because she isn't credible.

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Tweetstorms, Journalism, and Noter Live: A Modest Proposal

Tweetstorms and Journalism

Tweetstorms have been getting a horrific reputation lately. [1][2] But used properly, they can sometimes have an excellent and beneficial effect. In fact, recently I’ve seen some journalists using it for both marketing and on the spot analysis in their areas of expertise.[3] Even today Aram Zucker-Scharff, a journalism critic in his own tweetstorm [4], suggests that this UI form may have an interesting use case in relation to news outlets like CNN which make multiple changes to a news story which lives at one canonical (and often not quickly enough archived) URL, but which is unlikely to be visited multiple times:

A newsstorm-type user experience could better lay out the ebb and flow of a particular story over time and prevent the loss of data, context, and even timeframe that otherwise occurs on news websites that regularly update content on the same URL. (Though there are a few tools in the genre like Memento which could potentially be useful.)

It’s possible that tweetstorms could even be useful for world leaders who lack the focus to read full sentences formed into paragraphs, and possibly even multiple paragraphs that run long enough to comprise articles, research documents, or even books. I’m not holding my breath though.

Technical problems for tweetstorms

But the big problem with tweetstorms–even when they’re done well and without manthreading–is actually publishing them quickly, rapidly, and without letting any though process between one tweet and the next.

Noter Live–the solution!

Last week this problem just disappeared: I think Noter Live has just become the best-in-class tool for tweetstorms.

Noter Live was already the go-to tool for live tweeting at conferences, symposia, workshops, political debates, public fora, and even live cultural events like the Superbowl or the Academy Awards. But with a few simple tweaks Kevin Marks, the king of covering conferences live on Twitter, has just updated it in a way that allows one to strip off the name of the speaker so that an individual can type in their own stream of consciousness simply and easily.

But wait! It has an all-important added bonus feature in addition to the fact that it automatically creates the requisite linked string of tweets for easier continuous threaded reading on Twitter…

When you’re done with your screed, which you probably wrote in pseudo-article form anyway, you can cut it out of the Noter Live app, dump it into your blog (you remember?–that Twitter-like app you’ve got that lets you post things longer than 140 characters at a time?), and voila! The piece of writing that probably should have been a blog post anyway can easily be archived for future generations in a far more readable and useful format! And for those who’d prefer a fancier version, it can also automatically add additional markup, microformats, and even Hovercards!

Bonus tip, after you’ve saved the entire stream on your own site, why not tweet out the URL permalink to the post as the last in the series? It’ll probably be a nice tweak on the nose that those who just read through a string of 66 tweets over the span of 45 minutes were waiting for!

So the next time you’re at a conference or just in the mood to rant, remember Noter Live is waiting for you.

Aside: I really wonder how it is that Twitter hasn’t created the ability (UX/UI) to easily embed an entire tweetstorm in one click? It would be a great boon to online magazines and newspapers who more frequently cut and paste tweets from them to build articles around. Instead most sites just do an atrocious job of cutting and pasting dozens to hundreds of tweets in a long line to try to tell these stories.


D. Magary, “Fuck Tweetstorms,” Deadspin, 01-Dec-2016. [Online]. Available: http://deadspin.com/fuck-tweetstorms-1789486776. [Accessed: 31-Jan-2017]
A. Hope Levinson, “Men, Please Stop Manthreading,” Gizmodo, 13-Dec-2016. [Online]. Available: http://gizmodo.com/men-please-stop-manthreading-1790036387. [Accessed: 31-Jan-2017]
“Charles Ornstein on Healthcare and Trump’s #Travelban,” Twitter, 30-Jan-2017. [Online]. Available: https://twitter.com/charlesornstein/status/826264988784459777. [Accessed: 01-Feb-2017]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Aram Zucker-Scharff on Twitter,” Twitter, 10-Feb-2017. [Online]. Available: https://twitter.com/Chronotope/status/830096151957344256. [Accessed: 10-Feb-2017]
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Meet Ben! – A Matter-Driven Narrative | Medium

Meet Ben! – A Matter-Driven Narrative by Ben Werdmuller(Medium)
I remember when I first walked through the garage door on Bryant St, to see Corey and Lara’s smiling faces, welcoming us in.

Continue reading “Meet Ben! – A Matter-Driven Narrative | Medium”

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Hacks/Hackers Los Angeles meetup on Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hacks/Hackers Los Angeles(Meetup)
Hang out with our friends from ONA LA for fun conversation about digital journalism, the future of media and new projects for 2017! Maybe you'll find a new colleague, a kindred spirit, or a collaborator for that new digital media adventure that you've always wanted to pursue! ONA LA and HH/LA are kicking off the new year with an informal get-together on January 26th at the Library Bar near the intersection of 6th and Hope St. - one of the coolest venues in DTLA. We'll eat and drink and talk about technology, digital journalism and more! Also, if you're interested in helping out with either ONA LA or with Hacks & Hackers LA during 2017, then come along and lets chat!
RSVP https://www.meetup.com/HacksHackers-LA/events/236676436/

If there’s one thing that’s abundantly true recently, it is that journalism can get all the help it can. Won’t you join me in helping to effect some change?

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The IndieWeb and Journalism

Some thoughts about how journalists could improve their online presences with IndieWeb principles along with a mini-case study of a site that is employing some of these ideas.

I’ve been officially participating in the IndieWeb movement for almost two years–though from a philosophical standpoint it’s much closer to twenty. While I can see lots of value in the IndieWeb for even the average person on the internet, I’ve always felt that there’s also a tremendous amount of specific value for journalists and web-based publishers.

I suspect that a lot of the value of the IndieWeb philosophy is that it encompasses how many people inherently wish the internet worked. As a result I’ve seen a growing number of people discovering the concept de novo either on their own or by borrowing bits and pieces from their friends and colleagues who are practicing parts of it as well. This harkens back to the early days of the web when bloggers incrementally improved their websites based on what they saw others doing and sharing ideas more directly and immediately with their audiences.

An(other) unwitting example in the wild

Recently I came across the personal website of journalist Marina Gerner which is one of the few, but growing number, I’ve come across that is unknowingly practicing some of the primary tenets of the IndieWeb movement that I suspect more journalists will eventually come to embrace to better reach and engage with their audiences.

Another brief example I’ll mention having seen recently that almost explicitly rewrote the IndieWeb philosophy verbatim was on the the website redesign launch of PressThink, the blog of Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU. It’s a great read individually as is the majority of what Mr. Rosen writes.

Though I read many of the publications for which Ms. Gerner is writing and might see most of what she’s writing organically, having all of her work in one primary location is a spectacular convenience! I can quickly and easily subscribe to all her work by email or RSS. For a working journalist, this is a boon, because like musicians in the evolving music business a lot of the value that they bring to the table (and to the venues in which they play) is a result of their individual fan bases.

While her personal website probably doesn’t drive even a tiny fraction of exposure for her work as when it appears in The Economist or the Financial Times, for example, it does allow her fans to easily keep up with what she’s writing and thinking about. Ideally in the future, outlets will make links to writer’s bylines direct to the writer’s own website rather than to archive pages within their own publications (or perhaps both if necessary).

Journalistic Brand & the Sad Case of Leon Wieseltier: The Counter-example

Here I’m reminded of the seemingly sad case of Leon Wieseltier, the long time literary editor of The New Republic, who was ousted by its editor-in-chief and publisher Chris Hughes, a former Facebook executive. Wieseltier’s brand was almost all-too-wrapped up in The New Republic, where he had worked for decades, and when he was pushed out (ostensibly for the puerile desire to get more clicks and eyeballs), his output and influence seemingly disappeared overnight. Suddenly there just wasn’t as much of him to read. While he still has some output, as a fan who enjoyed reading his work, the problematic hurdles of finding his new work were the equivalent of using a cheese grater to file down one’s knee cap. I suspect that if he had his own website or even a semblance of a Twitter presence, he could easily have taken a huge portion of his fans and readership built up over decades along with him almost anywhere.

While there are some major brand names in journalism (examples like James Fallows, Walt Mossberg, or Steven Levy spring to mind), who are either so wrapped up in their outlet’s identities or who can leave major outlets and take massive readerships with them, this isn’t the case for the majority of writers in the game. Slowly building one’s own personal journalistic brand isn’t easy, but having a central repository that also doubles as additional distribution can certainly be beneficial. It can also be an even bigger help when one decides to move from one outlet to another, bridge the gap between outlets, or even strike out entirely on one’s own.


From a work/business perspective, Ms. Gerner’s site naturally acts as a portfolio of her work for perspective editors or outlets who may want to see samples of what she’s written.

Sadly, however, she doesn’t seem to be utilizing the WordPress category or tag functions which she could use to help delineate her work by broad categories or tags to help find specific types of her writing. She appears to have a “featured” category/tag for some of her bigger pieces to appear at the top of her front page, but I can see the benefit of having a “portfolio” or similar tag to give to prospective outlets to encourage them to read her “best of” work. This would also be helpful to new readers and future fans of her work.

Categories/tags could also be beneficial to readers who may want to follow only her book reviews and not her economics related work, or vice-versa. With a bit of massaging, she could easily have an economics-only RSS feed for those who wanted such a thing. I spent a bit of time in December writing about how I customized my own RSS feeds and helping to make them more discoverable.

An IndieWeb mini-case study of Ms. Gerner’s website

Because it might take some a bit of time to delve into and uncover a lot of the spectacular and inherent value in the the massive and growing wiki behind IndieWeb.org, I thought I’d take a minute or two to point out some of the subtle IndieWeb-esque things that Ms. Gerner’s site does well and point out a few places she (or others) could quickly and easily add a lot of additional value.

IndieWeb-forward things that she is doing

She has her own domain name.

If you’re looking for all things Marina Gerner on the web, where better to start than http://www.marinagerner.com?

She owns her own data.

Technically, it looks like her site is hosted on WordPress.com, so they own, backup, and maintain it for her, but there is a very robust export path, so she can easily export it, back it up, or move it if she chooses.

She’s posting her own content on her own site.

I’m not sure if she’s posting on her site first using the concept of Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE), but even if she’s posting it secondarily (known as PESOS), she’s still managing to capture it on her site and thereby own a full copy of her output. If any of the publications for which she’s published should go out of business or disappear from the internet, she will still own a copy of her work. (See and compare also the commentary at Anywhere but Medium.)

Syndication Links

She’s even got a syndication link (or attribution) at the bottom of each article to indicate alternate locations where the content lives on the internet. Since she’s not using Webmentions to back-port the resulting commentary (see below for more), this is highly useful for finding/reading the potential ensuing commentary on her posts or interacting with it in the communities in which it was originally intended.

Missing IndieWeb pieces that could provide additional value

Syndication Links to Social Media

There are no syndication links to where her content may be living on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media spaces to give an idea of the conversations that are taking place around her work. In addition to the value that these conversations add to her work, they also give an idea of the breadth of the reach of her work, which could be useful not only to her, but to future outlets/employers.

Webmention and back-feed from Brid.gy

She’s clearly not using Webmention (now a W3C Recommendation) or services like Brid.gy which would allow her to have the comments and conversation about her articles from other sites or social media silos come back to live with the original articles on her own site. Given the quality of what she’s writing, I’m sure there are some interesting threads of thought stemming from her work which she’s not capturing back on her own site, but certainly could. As it stands, it’s highly unlikely (and perhaps nearly impossible) that I would go trolling around the thousands or hundreds of thousands of links to try to uncover even a fraction of it myself, but it wouldn’t take much for her to be able to capture all that data and make it easy to consume.

Webmention is a simple protocol that allows one website to indicate to another that it has been mentioned elsewhere on the web–it’s akin to Twitter @mentions, but is something that works internet-wide and not just within Twitter. Brid.gy is a service that bootstraps services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Flickr via API to make them support webmention until they choose to implement it directly themselves.

Given the schedules of many journalists, they may not always have time to pay attention to the commentary on past articles, but if she were aggregating them back to her own site, she could occasionally check back in on them and interact as necessary or appropriate. Even better she could do this herself without necessarily needing to spend the additional time and energy to go to multiple other social websites to do so. I suspect that a lot of the value that journalists get out of Twitter could be better had by aggregating some of it within their own websites instead.

As an example, the reader will note that I also have syndication links (by means of icons) at the bottom of this post, but I’ve enabled Webmentions and have most of the replies and commentary from these social silos coming back to this original post to aggregate as much of the conversation back to this original post. In the event that any of these social media sites are acquired or go out of business for any reason, all of this commentary will be archived here on the site. As an experiment, if you’d like, click on the Twitter icon at the bottom of this post and reply to that post on Twitter, your reply will be sent to me via webmention through Brid.gy and I can choose to display it as a comment under this post.

Owning her replies to others

Naturally if she does interact with her pieces via other social channels (Twitter, for example), she could post those replies on her own site and automatically syndicate them to Twitter. This would also allow her to own all of that subsidiary content and conversation as well.

Search and SEO

Once she owns all of her own writing and subsidiary data, her platform of choice (WordPress along with many others) also provides her with some good internal search tools (for both public-facing and private posts), so that her online hub becomes an online commonplace book of sorts for not only searching her past work, but potentially for creating future work. Naturally this search also extends to the broader web as her online presence gives her some reasonable search engine optimization for making it more discoverable to future fans/followers.

And much more…

Naturally the IndieWeb encompasses far more than what I’ve written above, but for journalists, some of these highlighted pieces are likely the most immediately valuable.

I’ll refer those interested in learning more to browse the wiki available at IndieWeb or join the incredibly helpful community of developers who are almost always in the online chatroom which is accessible via multiple methods (online chat, Slack, IRC, etc.) Major portions of the IndieWeb have become easily attainable to the average person, particularly on ubiquitous platforms like WordPress which have simple configurable plugins to add a lot of this simple functionality quickly and easily.

Another IndieWeb Journalism Example

While I was writing this piece, I heard Mathew Ingram, who currently writes for Fortune, say on This Week in Google that he’s been posting his work to his own website for several years and “syndicating” copies to his employers’ sites. This means he’s got a great archive of all of his own work, though I suspect, based on his website, that much of is posted privately, which is also an option, though it doesn’t help me much as a fan.


I’d love to hear thoughts, comments, or questions journalists have about any of the above. Are there other online tools or features journalists would like to see on their own websites for improved workflow?

Please post them below, on your own website along with a permalink back to the original article (see “Ping Me” below), via webmention, or even by responding/replying on/to one of the social media silos listed just below in the syndication links, or natively on the social platform on which you’re currently reading.

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Plagiarism charges against Monica Crowley put her publishing house on stage | PressThink

Plagiarism charges against Monica Crowley put her publishing house on stage by Jay Rosen(PressThink)
These mettle tests are going to come more quickly than we thought, I guess. HarperCollins: you're up!

Continue reading “Plagiarism charges against Monica Crowley put her publishing house on stage | PressThink”

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Vanity Fair reporter on Trump’s response: ‘I was kind of shocked’ | Columbia Journalism Review

Vanity Fair reporter on Trump's response: 'I was kind of shocked' by Pete Vernon(Columbia Journalism Review)
Choking down “flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings” and dealing with bathrooms that “transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store” were uncomfortable enough. But Vanity Fair reporter Tina Nguyen feared a...

Photo by Michael Vadon, via Flickr

Choking down “flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings” and dealing with bathrooms that “transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store” were uncomfortable enough. But Vanity Fair reporter Tina Nguyen feared a more severe round of indigestion after her Wells-ian skewering of the Trump Grill attracted the Twitter ire of the president-elect. Continue reading “Vanity Fair reporter on Trump’s response: ‘I was kind of shocked’ | Columbia Journalism Review”

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Chris Aldrich is reading “How The Telegraph built its new CMS by focusing on simplicity”

How The Telegraph built its new CMS by focusing on simplicity by Joseph Lichterman(Nieman Lab)
The British newspaper was previously using five separate online publishing systems, each of which larded up the publishing process with dozens of fiddly steps.
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Chris Aldrich is reading “A Browser Extension That Shows You Your Filter Bubble”

A Browser Extension That Shows You Your Filter Bubble by Drake Baer(Select All)
If there’s anything to take away from the madness that is 2016, it’s that everybody lives in a bubble — the combination of where you live and the media you consume, crystallized, as these things are, in your Facebook feed. If you wish to know just how much of a bubble you’re in, there’s now a handy Chrome extension for that, PolitEcho.

Be sure to check out PolitEcho.

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Chris Aldrich is reading “Why It’s OK to Share This Story Without Reading It”

Why It's OK to Share This Story Without Reading It by Tim Cigelske(MediaShift)
The Washington Post recently published an article about social media metrics with an alarmist headline: 6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says This story then predictably made the rounds in the blogosphere, from Gizmodo to Marketing Dive. The headline reads like self-referential clickbait, daring readers to click on the provocative …
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Book Review: Fletch’s Fortune by Gregory Mcdonald

Fletch's Fortune by Gregory Mcdonald(Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Fletch's Fortune Book Cover Fletch's Fortune
Fletch #3 (in the stories' chronological order: #7)
Gregory Mcdonald
Fiction; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1978; e-book: March 2002
Kindle e-book
Amazon.com / Overdrive

He hadn't been a practicing journalist for years, although people remembered him and he still has a few contacts. And he's pretty sure he hasn't paid his dues to the American Journalism Alliance anytime recently. But somebody has.

Enjoying himself on the French Riviera, developing a killer tan, and sleeping with the neighbor's wife, Fletch is feeling pretty flush. But when CIA agents Eggers and Fabens show up with a little more information about Fletch than is comfortable and an invitation to the A.J.A. convention, how could he refuse?

So he finds himself enlisted as a spy among his peers. But before he can even set up his surveillance, there's a murder. And almost everybody's a suspect because a lot of people were employed by Walter March, and most of them had a reason to hate him.

Fletch’s Fortune has a great high concept plot, which is really saying something for Fletch novels which all seem to have a high concept start from a sprinting position. It also allows for a fairly closed setting and lots of satire. The fact that Fletch is somehow both journalist and not journalist allows for some interesting dynamics.

For a parlor-type mystery, there were almost too many characters/suspects, but given the potential size of the conference, I’ll let Mcdonald take a flier on it as he did an excellent job fleshing out each of the characters to make them unique enough to stand on their own without giving up too much. I also suspect that he may have thought of cute little character descriptions over one afternoon and then assigned them to people as they appeared–some of them are really delicious particularly:

The man’s shoulders were little more than outriggers for his ears.

One of my favorite constructs in this book that sets it apart from others in the series were the conference session titles being used deliciously as chapter openers. Many of them provide some hilarious counterpoint to the plot and certainly add to the humor of the overall piece.

Another interesting turn was the romantic portion of the plot in which one of Fletch’s unfortunate choices of pseudonym finally gets him into trouble, though not in the way in which one might otherwise suppose. The sub-plot with Freddie was hilarious and tense without actually coming to a final head. (Writing this after I’ve now read Fletch and the Man Who makes me even more glad that it didn’t. Their relationship is like the unrequited Sam/Rebecca pairing in the NBC television series Cheers, which this book preceded by several years.)

The humor at Crystal’s expense was all great if perhaps maybe even too much, though it was done with enough warmth that it’s obvious that Fletch is doing his part in the nicest way. (Now that I’m in the midst of Son of Fletch, it’s interesting to think back on his relationship with Crystal.)

This book read very quickly and was well plotted though the ending was perhaps all too quick. I would have preferred a slower unfolding in the third act. At least in this one, we get the payoff in the end of seeing some of Fletch’s machinations coming to a head all at once–something we didn’t get to see in Fletch when he set both of his ex-wives up to unwittingly move in together with each other while thinking that they were getting back together with him.

This is sure to rank at the top of my favorite Fletch novels by the time I’m done with the series.

Reading Progress
  • 08/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
  • 09/23/16 marked as: currently reading
  • 09/23/16 14.0% “As usual, a great zinger of an opening… Mcdonald knows how to open a first act.”
  • 09/24/16 22.0% “Things have slowed down a smidge, but the forward momentum of the murder investigation begins to move things along a bit.”
  • 09/28/16 53.0% “Making good progress, hope to finish tomorrow. There are certainly some interesting characters here, though perhaps feeling like too many, particularly since most seem to potentially have committed the murder.”
  • 09/29/16 100% “The second half read incredibly fast. The plot particularly began unfolding in the end almost too quickly. I wish the last act could have lasted a bit longer. I really enjoyed the Crystal character and the snide banter she continually spouts with Fletch. The wrap up with Freddie was generally unexpected, but delicious in its oddity in the larger canon. There was surprisingly little talk of Fletch’s ex-wives or even of his potentially adding another to the collection. Some of my favorite jokes were the chapter headings of the schedule of the conference along with even funnily named rooms in which the sessions were taking place.I’ll hope to write a longer review shortly.”


Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

“C.I.A., Mister Fletcher.”
“Um. Would you mind spelling that?”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 26

“The name’s Arbuthnot,” Fletch said. “Freddy Arbuthnot.”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 33
Yet another of Fletch’s many pseudonyms.

“If we wanted coffee,” said Fabens, standing up, “we would have made it ourselves.”
“Part of the C.I.A. training, I expect,” Fletch said. “Trespass and Coffee-Making. A Bloody Mary? Something to raise the spirits on this Sunday noon?”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 52

Trans World Airlines

Highlight (yellow) – Location 97
Apparently he’s got stock in TWA. (The original Fletch book also referenced TWA.)

“Yet here you are, living in a villa in Cagna, Italy, the Mediterranean sparkling through your windows, driving a Porsche … unemployed.”
“I retired young.”
“In your lifetime, you have paid almost no federal taxes.”
“I had expenses.”
“You haven’t even filed a return. Ever.”
“I have a very slow accountant.”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 121

“Did you have a nice flight?”
“Sorry to hear that. Why not?”
“Sat next to a Methodist minister.”
“What’s wrong with sitting next to a Methodist minister?”
“Are you kidding? The closer to heaven we got, the smugger he got.”
“Jesus, Fletch.”
“That’s what I say.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 178-182

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:03:45 PM

“They weren’t gentlemen.”
“Sorry to hear that. We usually send only our finest abroad. I haven’t made it yet.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 233-234

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:09:42 PM

“I’m working on a book about Edgar Arthur Tharp, Junior.”
“You’re working on a book about an American cowboy painter in Italy?”
“It brings a certain perspective to the work. Detachment.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 347-349

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:19:44 PM

“What’s your name?”
“I. M. Fletcher.”
“Fletcher? Never heard of you. Why so pompous about it?”
“You announced your name, I am Fletcher. As if someone had said you weren’t. Why didn’t you just say, Fletcher?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 354-357
I noticed this in the last book too. Surprised he didn’t make more ‘I’m’ jokes.

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:22:21 PM

“You have nice hands.”
“One on the end of each arm.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 363-363

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:23:56 PM

“Arbuthnot,” she said.
“Arbuthnot. Fredericka Arbuthnot.”
“Freddie Arbuthnot?”
“You’ve heard of me?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 373-375

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:25:49 PM

Helena Williams pushed the mental button for A Distraught Expression.

Highlight (yellow) Location 429-430
Mcdonald also makes references to people putting on a face in Fletch and the Man Who, particularly when describing the political candidate there. (Annotation added on 12/1/16)

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:32:02 PM

“Now you must tell me all about yourself, Fletch. Whom are you working for now?”
“The C.I.A.” He looked openly at Freddie Arbuthnot. “I’m here to bug everybody.”
“You’ve always had such a delightful sense of humor,” Helena said.
“He’s bugging me,” Freddie muttered.
“I’ve heard that joke,” Fletch snapped.

Highlight (yellow) Location 452-455

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:38:07 PM

“Would you children like to share a room?” Helena asked.
“We are sort of crowded—”
“Definitely not,” Fletch said “I suspect she snores.”
“I do not.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been told.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 456-458

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:38:42 PM


Highlight ( orange ) Location 461-461
One doesn’t see this word often, much less in an adverbial form.

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:39:31 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 494
Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:45:44 PM


Highlight (orange) Location 546-546

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:20:59 AM

“I was pregnant.”
“How could anyone tell?”
“Pardon me while I chuckle.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 595-597

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:30:50 AM

“What else do you know about the murder, Crystal?”
“That it’s going to be the best reported crime in history. There are more star reporters at Hendricks Plantation at this moment than have ever been gathered under one roof before. In fact, I suspect more are showing up unexpectedly, simply because of the murder. Do you realize what it would be worth to a person’s career to scoop the murder of Walter March—with all this competition around?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 617-619

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:33:09 AM


Highlight (orange) Location 630-631

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:34:51 AM

“Experts,” he said, “are the sources of opinions. People are the sources of facts.”

Highlight (blue) Location 644-645

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:37:09 AM

“Did you tell the other reporters about him?”
“No.” She said, “I guess it takes nine times being asked the same questions, for me to have remembered him.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 707-709

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:51:06 AM

“Good night, sweet Princess.” He turned out the bedside lamp. “Dream sweet dreams, and, when you awake, think kindly on the Bumptious Bandit! ‘Daughter, did you hear hoofbeats in the night?’” He left a light on across the room, to orient her when she awoke. “‘Father, Father, I thought it were the palpitations of my own heart!’”
Letting himself out, the telephone information sheet firmly in hand, Fletch said, “‘It were, Daughter. Booze does that to you.’”

Highlight (yellow) Location 776-779

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:58:07 AM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 780
Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:58:25 AM


Highlight (gray) Location 874-874

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:07:52 PM

“The Administration has decided not to ignore us completely,” Crystal Faoni said, “just because we’ve taken to stabbing each other in the back more openly than usual.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 890-891

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:14:47 PM

“My, my,” Fletch said of his marvelous machine, “it walks, it talks, cries ‘Mama!’ and piddles genuine orange juice!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 961-962

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:45:05 PM

“I take it we’re not sleeping together?”
Fletch said into the phone, “Who is this?” It was 1:20 A.M. He had been asleep a half-hour.
“Damn you!” said Freddie Arbuthnot. “Damn your eyes, your nose, and, your cock!”
The phone went dead. It wasn’t that Fletch hadn’t thought of it. He knew she’d washed her knees.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1082-1086

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 4:20:42 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 1087
Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 4:21:06 PM

“I. M. Fletcher?”
“One of us is.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1272-1273

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:19:06 AM

“Will you be needing equipment, sir?”
“I guess so. Also a partner. Playing tennis alone takes too much running back and forth.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1274-1275

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:19:25 AM

“Hendricks. H, as in waffle.”

Highlight (blue) Location 1309-1309

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:22:30 AM

You’re unemployed?”
“Presently unencumbered by earned income.”
“You have no outlet?”
“Only the kind you can flush.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1320-1322

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:23:38 AM

“That was a little song I was taught. As a child.” She was blushing more. “The ‘Wash Me Up’ song.”
“Oh!” Fletch said. “There is a difference between boys and girls! I was taught the wash-me-down song!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1387-1389

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:37:12 AM

“Would you please go get dressed?”
“Why are people always saying that to me?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1397-1398

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:37:53 AM


Highlight (orange) Location 1521-1521

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:48:54 AM

“Hey, Bob. We’re supposed to be journalists, aren’t we? Journalists live it up. I saw a movie once.…”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1572-1572

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:52:22 AM

The man shook hands as would an eel—if eels were familiar with human social graces.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1583-1583

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:53:46 AM

Other journalists referred to Lewis Graham as “the Reader’s Digest of the air.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1591-1592

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:54:41 AM

Trouble was, his colleagues read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, and the Old Testament as well as he and could identify the sources of his facts, insights, and understandings, precisely, night after night.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1589-1591

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:55:07 AM

He painted quite a picture. Sailing off into the sunset, hand in hand with his childhood sweetheart, sitting on his poop or whatever it is yachts have.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1633-1634

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:59:44 AM


Highlight (yellow) Location 1635-1635
Mcdonald seems to like these boats, or they’re the only kind he knows??

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:00:22 AM

“How do,” the Major said.
“Do I have the honor of addressing Irwin Maurice Fletcher?” The drawl was thicker than Mississippi mud.
“Right,” said Fletch.
“Veteran of the United States Marine Corps?”
“Serial Number 1893983?”
“It was. I retired it. Anyone can use it now.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1679-1683

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:04:23 AM

“Anyway, this here sharp-eyed old boy—he’s from Tennessee—I suspect he was pretty well-known around home for shooting off hens’ teeth at a hundred meters

Highlight (yellow) Location 1687-1688

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:05:00 AM

“Major, do you have a point? This is long distance. You never can tell. A taxpayer might be listening in.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1699-1700
Mcdonald shows a bit of his upbringing and time period here. He seems to have a “hangup” (pun intended) about telephones as this mirrors some of the snide remarks made in the original Fletch with Alan Stanwyk’s dad’s conversation about telephones.

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:05:59 AM

You asked the question. You could wear an elephant down to a mouse.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1819-1819

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:14:22 AM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 1888
Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:20:03 AM

“Now I’ve got the Fletch story to cap all Fletch stories! Tousle-headed Fletch kneeling by his bed, lisping, ‘Now I lay me down with sheep’!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2080-2081

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 5:54:39 PM

Crystal said into her parfait.

Crystal does a lot of talking to her food. In fact, in general, Mcdonald seems to be having way too much fun with Crystal’s food obsession.
Highlight (yellow) Location 2230

putting us up in their best hotel, which had the ambience of a chicken coop,

Highlight (yellow) Location 2245-2245
great description

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:08:57 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 2307
Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:14:56 PM

Would you care for some coffee?”
“I don’t use it.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2313-2314
In the 80s drug culture this sounds interestingly illicit.

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:14:17 PM

What’s keeping the wolf from the door?”
“My ugly disposition.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2319-2320

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:14:56 PM

Face It, Fellas— Few Stories Take Nine Months to Finish
Group Discussion
Aunt Sally Hendricks Sewing Room

Highlight (yellow) Location 2387-2390

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:21:31 PM

“Of course I’m at the Star. Would I be home with my god-awful wife if I could help it?”
“Ah,” Fletch said. “The Continuing Romance of Jack and Daphne Saunders. How is the old dear?”
“Fatter, meaner, and uglier than ever.”
“Don’t knock fat.”
“How can you?”
“Got her eyelashes stuck in a freezer’s door lately?”
“No, but she plumped into a door the other night Got the door knob stuck in her belly button. Had to have it surgically removed.”
Fletch thought Jack remained married to Daphne simply to make up rotten stories about her.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2460-2465

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:27:05 PM

“Okay. You want background or gossip at this point?”
“Walter March was murdered,”
“No foolin’.”
“Scissors in the back.”
“Next you’re going to say he fell down dead.”
“You’re always rushing ahead, Jack.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2480-2484

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:29:08 PM

“How do I know? If it is true, it happened at a dangerous age for Rolly—fifteen or sixteen—I forget which. Loves and hatreds run deep in people that age.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2507-2507

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:30:59 PM

The world’s greatest practitioner of the sufferin’-Jesus school of journalism.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2512-2513

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:31:31 PM

“If that’s an ivory tower, I’m a lollipop.”
“I can lick you anytime.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2542-2543

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:33:59 PM

“Sure, Jack, sure. Anything for ‘old times’ sake.’ “

Highlight (yellow) Location 2561-2561
Typo: there’s an extraneous single quote, and the closing double quote is facing the wrong direction.

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:35:19 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 2628
Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:41:04 PM

Fletch said, “Oh. Well, you haven’t identified yourself.”
The man shook his head. “I.R.S.,” he said. “I.R.S.”
“But what do I call you?” Fletch asked. “I? I.R.? Mister S.?”
“You don’t need to call me anything,” I.R.S. said. “Just respond.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2756-2759

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:58:00 PM

Fletch looked at I.R.S. The man was almost entirely Adam’s apple.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2773-2774

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:59:48 PM

The man’s shoulders were little more than outriggers for his ears.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2774-2775

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:00:00 PM

“Crystal? I’m going to say something very, very rotten to you.”
“The dining room is still open for breakfast.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2789-2791

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:01:07 PM

“As a matter of personal curiosity, may I ask why you have not filed returns?”
“April’s always a busy month for me. You know. In the spring a young man’s fancy really shouldn’t have to turn to the Internal Revenue Service.”
“You could always apply for extensions.”
“Who has the time to do that?”
“Is there any political thinking behind your not paying taxes?”
“Oh, no. My motives are purely esthetic, if you want to know the truth.”
“Yes. I’ve seen your tax forms. Visually, They’re ugly. In fact, very offensive. And their use of the English language.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2799-2805

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:02:47 PM


Highlight (orange) Location 2807-2807

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:03:19 PM

Address by Horsch Aldrich

Highlight (yellow) Location 2868-2869
What do you know? An Aldrich made it into the story! A long lost relative apparently…

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:10:24 PM

“Almost everyone here has made a point of telling me how important he or she is. Such a lot of important people. The seas would rumble and nations would crumble if I kept any of you out of circulation for many more minutes than I had to.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2908-2909

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:20:52 PM

“Right,” Crystal said solemnly to her fruit salad. “News does not happen unless a reporter is there to report it.”
“For example,” said Fletch, “if no one had known World War Two was happening.…”
“Actually,” Crystal said, “Hitler without the use of the radio wouldn’t have been Hitler at all.”
“And the Civil War,” said Freddie. “If it hadn’t been for the telegraph.…”
“The geographic center of the American Revolution,” Fletch said, “was identical to the center of the new American printing industry.”
“And then there was Caesar,” Crystal said. “Was he a military genius with pen in hand, or a literary genius with sword in hand? Did Rome conquer the world in reality, or just its communications systems?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2913-2919

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:22:25 PM

Did you try those blueberry muffins this morning?”
“I tried only one of them,” Freddie said.
Crystal said, “The rest of them were good, too.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2921-2923

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:23:22 PM

“It’s been like trying to sing ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ while your head’s stuck in a beehive.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2925-2926
Creative description

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:23:48 PM

Neale was paying more attention to the remainder of his salad than Crystal would do after trekking across a full golf course.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2954-2954

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:26:39 PM

“Oh, yum!” said Crystal. “Who cares about death and perdition as long as there’s chocolate cake?”

Highlight (blue) Location 2963-2963

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:29:10 PM

Who’d ever want to kill the Vice-President of the United States? One could have a greater effect upon national policy by killing the White House cook.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 3228-3229
Your Superfluous Excellency?

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:25:46 PM

And while the General was making this big entrance, landing in a helicopter on the back lawn, the Vice-President of the United States was arriving at the front of the hotel in an economy-size car—completely ignored.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 3231-3232

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:26:18 PM


Highlight (orange) Location 3418-3418

Added on Thursday, September 29, 2016 12:13:05 AM

“‘Live like journalists,?’ ” Fletch quoted. “‘Disgusting.’ ”

Highlight (gray) Location 3444-3444
The comma and quotes here need to be tweaked.

Added on Thursday, September 29, 2016 12:18:30 AM

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

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