Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Widbook: A tool for collaborative journalism

As the market for freelance journalism grows, so too has interest in the evolving tools for that job.

That interest is acute where collaborative journalism is concerned, because simply pitching PDFs of Word documents back and forth via email tends to be a clunky way of doing business in this demanding age of digital interactivity. Now, no matter the distance or purpose, teams of people with shared goals all want to work together as if sitting in the same room.

A relatively new website called Widbook tries to provide that goal-oriented environment and foster a social network to supplement it. Widbook is a writing and editing space that lets people alone or in groups craft book-length projects and shorter stories; insert resources such as photos, videos and animations; and add to or augment contributions by other writers.

Widbook also invites writers and readers to share and tweak favorite developing works, and create libraries of published works whether self-written or from other authors.

Early reports on Widbook, still in beta, call it a “YouTube for books” because of its heavy emphasis on interactivity. The central theme and interface are better suited for collaboration on projects. Writers who prefer to work alone can use Widbook as well, but they’ll miss out on many of its features.

And Widbook is free of charge to register for and use — surely the most attractive feature to freelance writers and hopeful novelists working with meager budgets. The only things that first-time visitors to Widbook need to get started is to create a user name and password. Options include creating a personal profile, linking with Facebook, and selecting favorite literary genres from which to build a library. Members also can send messages and “follow” one another through the site.

Because it’s in beta, Widbook has limitations and quirks. For one thing, it’s not possible to export a finished project to another platform, though that’s expected to come later as the site matures, and it’s not obvious to early users how the social media aspect will supplement the collaboration tools. The interface is also a tad balky with projects of more than a few chapters.

Still, for collaborative writers and editors, Widbook presents an intriguing new way for journalists to exchange ideas and bring far-flung talent together in the same room.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Take a look: Web resources

As freelancers, we know a little about a lot. And one of the things we do (or should be doing) is keeping an eye on the newest technology to make our jobs, and those of our clients, a little easier. Here’s a quick list of some of my personal favorites. Didn’t see something you love? Comment and add it!

Know ‘Em

Whether you’re a beginning freelancer or an old pro, you should know how important a brand is. Keeping that brand similar in the realm of thousands of social networks can be next to impossible. No worries, use Know ‘Em. They’ll scour all the networks for you and provide information about whether your handle or tag or username is already taken. From there, you can rebrand, sign up or switch it out.


Meeting a source somewhere? An old friend? If they’re far away, it’s always harder to dig out the map, find a town halfway, then select a location that isn’t sleazy or unpleasant. Mezzoman will find a meeting point somewhere in the middle at a business of your choosing – coffee shop, Italian restaurant, book store, park. With apps for phones, it’s easy on the go as well.


Looking for a new way to present things? Want to run a cool graphic countdown on your website? Present something to an editor? Jux might just be the way to do it. Lay large graphics or photos behind a countdown, blocks or information or simple titles. The fullscreen view makes a distinct impression and it couldn’t be any easier to use.


With all of the tagging, following, friending and frolicking on social networks, it’s hard to keep things straight. Did you thank that person for the follow? If you connected with someone on LinkedIn, did you already friend them on Facebook? Or Twitter? Ifttt, which stands for “If This Then That,” gives you the ability to have action and reaction. Use their many channels to set up an “if this,” (someone friends you on Facebook) and “then that,” (message them Hello). If it rains in the designated zip code, they’ll call you, or text you, or post to your Facebook. The possibilities are endless and this one is my personal favorite.

There’s a quick taste of some new web resources. Stay tuned for more.


Tara Puckey is a freelance journalist based in Indianapolis, Ind. She focuses on military reporting and social media, helping clients navigate the digital world. Puckey has served on the national board, founded a local campus chapter and remains active in the freelance and membership committees. When she isn’t writing, typing or browsing, she’s spending time with her husband, Bryan, and their two daughters, Alexa and Brooklyn.

How to stay productive even when you’re not working

Busy freelancers out there ― and you know who you are ― have the blessing of bounty on their plates with one or more projects stacked atop each other. But some of these time-challenged souls are pounding the keyboard one minute, interviewing and conducting research another minute, and plumbing the market for more work in between. A moment lost is a dollar lost, the thinking goes.

After a while though, this routine takes a toll and the constant churn can make one yearn to do something else ― anything else. Giving in to this feeling, however, may instill discomfiture, perhaps panic, if it’s believed that slowing down even a little could possibly reduce the steady stream of income to only trickle.

There are ways though to break the routine and still remain productive, because in truth there’s more to freelancing than incessant work. The key is to vary one’s routine during busy periods as well as slow ones in ways that actually are be beneficial to the creative and productive processes. At least three pursuits allow this to happen:

Taking classes ― No, this probably isn’t the first thing on a writer’s list of diversions; education and training require time and money. Still, acquiring a skill or honing a current one opens the mind to new ideas and possibilities and may also pave a path to new clients. As the freelance marketplace crowds with former newspaper journalists, the choices available to prospective clients varies and finer distinctions such as skill sets can become determining factors in which freelancers are hired and which are left hunting. Learning something new at every opportunity, whether in classes, seminars or online training ― particularly about the latest Web-based technologies ― can keep the mind and the client sheet fresh.

Social networking ― And no, in this case, we’re not talking about Twitter or Facebook; we’re talking about good, old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Sure, there’s the networking one does to find work, but there’s also the networking necessary to keep it coming. It’s this second kind that can be easy, laid back, with the investment of occasional lunches or dinners to show clients and valued sources they’re more than just tools of a freelancer’s trade. The result can be not just a better working relationship, but also more ideas for later stories.

Personal projects ― Here again, the question of time and money are bound to surface. Nevertheless, spending a little of both on projects not already on the assignment calendar, whether they’re hobbies, community services or pro bono efforts, can be restorative and salubrious, and they can enhance one’s portfolio.

A little diversity in routine, just like a little diversity on a résumé, affords more than a change of pace. Consider each non-work-related undertaking to be the buff and polish that a working life needs to maintain its shine.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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