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Monday Mashup: Sites and Technologies for Travel Writers

by David Miller Feb 8, 2010
In this new series we look at publications, technologies, and opportunities writers, journalists, and photographers or filmmakers might consider, along with people doing work we find interesting and relevant to travel and place.
Alexa Toolbar

For the past couple months I’ve had the Alexa toolbar installed on my computer. On one level it’s a powerful tool for anyone looking to get ad revenue for their blogs or who is networking via social media to expand their audience.

That said, the Alexa toolbar can fundamentally change the way you work on the internet and perhaps even the way you ‘deal’ with people. Basically, the toolbar shows a numerical ranking of every page you visit. It’s all based on traffic. Google is #1. Your brother’s law office website is #23,308,088.

Suddenly you start feeling sorry for people’s blogs. You visit a page like the American Poetry Review and wonder how your relatively crappy blog has a higher rank.

As an example of the effect of Alexa rankings, I’m going to add today’s Alexa rank to the rest of the items listed in this article.


Alexa Rank: #12,219

Trueslant is a privately held company funded by Forbes Media. They are, in their own words:

“an original content news network tailored to both the “Entrepreneurial Journalist” and marketers who want a more effective way to engage with digital audiences. Contributors, consumers and marketers each have a voice on True/Slant.

True/Slant is the digital home for the “Entrepreneurial Journalist.” Knowledgeable and credible contributors anchor and build their digital brands on True/Slant using tools that enable them to easily create content and craft stories filtered through human perspective (not an algorithm).

Consumers have direct access to contributors they respect and follow. By commenting with contributors and each other, they create an authentic and ongoing dialogue around the news.”

I feel slightly alienated at being categorized directly as a consumer although perhaps I should respect the transparent way the editors / publishers are describing their target audience and accept that the word “reader” is becoming more euphemistic than anything else.

This said, I like the structure of trueslant. It’s a lot like Matador in the sense of community building. I see trueslant as a potential option for many of our contributors looking to connect with networks of political writers.


Alexa Rank: #59,491

Last monday I talked about listening to music while writing. Afterward, I thought more about the idea of distractedness and its effect on how I work. I found this writing software OmmWriter. It’s basically a simple text editor with a very clean and minimalist interface designed to mimic the “close relationship of pen and paper.”

The Nervous Breakdown

Alexa Rank: #330,985

Following up on a story on 2 Transparent Responses to Current Economic ‘Climate’ for Writers, I found this “self-interview” by Stephen Elliot on his D.I.Y. booktour.

My favorite “question” was this:

So you didn’t hook up?

I made out with a woman in Ft. Lauderdale. I don’t generally hook up with people when I first meet them. And also, when you’re on the road, I don’t know, it’s kind of awkward. What I long for when I travel isn’t sex, it’s intimacy. I don’t know if you can have intimacy with someone you just met. Why are we talking about this?

I like the Nervous Breakdown. They seem transparent. They have a section on “Flash Nonfiction” with writing that focuses sometimes on travel and place.


Alexa Rank: #65, 956

My original system for recording phone interviews was putting calls on speakerphone and then recording them on a digital voice recorder. It sucked. Lately, I’ve been using Skype more and more, and just saw Pamela, an add-on for Skype that enables you to record calls as audio or video files. I can’t imagine a more useful tool for journalists, travel writers, and filmmakers. Download is free is you get up to 15 minutes of recording.


Alexa Rank: #50,230

Edge is good for reading when you start to have thoughts like “Damn, we’re all just Google’s ‘bitches’.” With all the positive effects that new media and the internet have created (such as being able to make a living typing this on a windy morning in Patagonia), we’re often so ‘heads-down’ in it that it’s hard (read: scary) to stop and question its trajectory vis a vis “cloud capitalism.”

From the Edge:

..A third threat comes from the new media moguls, the cloud capitalists: Facebook, Apple, Google, Salesforce, Twitter, who will seek to make money by creating and managing clouds for us.

These cloud capitalists are the new powers behind global cultural relations. Their rise has sparked an increasingly vicious civil war with the media old guard led by Rupert Murdoch. This battle between old and new media powers however has distracted attention from the question of how these companies will organise cloud culture on our behalf. Elements of their business models resemble traditional public services: Google’s work with a consortium of libraries around the world to digitise books that are out of copyright; ITunes U provides thousands of models of course material for free. However these companies are also businesses: they will want to organise the cloud to make money. By the end of the decade Google will have unprecedented control over literary culture, past, present and future.

Community Connection

Are you reading something, or have recently discovered something that might be useful to other writers, travelers, or new media professionals? Please send it to david [at] matadornetwork[dot]com with “Monday Mashup” in the subject line.

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