Reviewing stories on NewsTrust

November 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

I just joined NewsTrust, a website that lets users comment on the quality of articles on other news sites – a kind of check on the media. I think NewsTrust is built on a novel idea. Educated people giving their educated opinions on the quality of articles that lots of people read. It’s a way of seeing what’s really good, which I like.

The only drawback is the opinions you see are only from (first) those people who choose to join NewsTrust and (second) those who choose to actively participate in NewsTrust and (third) those who choose to actually pay attention to any given article.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s all based on the whim of those with the ability to use the site well. And so you may not always get the best variety of opinions about something. But then, I suppose even one opinion about something can be nice.

And NewsTrust does have a system of regulating the users who can really become active reviewers, so the hooligans are weeded out and you’re left with reviews that are actually intelligent and relevant.

So, I think what NewsTrust is doing is good, but it could be even better if more people participated.

Here are my reviews:

I did one review on an article from NYT about Google TV.

The next review I wrote was of an article from NYT about Ireland accepting bailout money.

Here’s the the third review I wrote about an NYT article about an “Afghani Hero Dog” that was accidentally euthanized.


The Case of the Comments

November 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

There are sites out there that leave their comments unmoderated, and the results can be somewhat … disastrous. It seems that behind the veil of anonymity, people are likely to write anything and everything, indecent or immoral as it may be.

But here’s one site that has fixed the problem:

It’s commenting text field isn’t just a product of the website platform the site uses; instead, the site uses a social plugin from Facebook that integrates comments on the website with an individual user’s Facebook wall. In other words, in order to comment, a reader must first sign in using his or her Facebook account, and comment on any given article with the option to publish that comment on Facebook. Here’s an example (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Linking comments to a person’s Facebook account makes him or her instantly accountable. The person’s name, picture, and even more personal information, like his or her birthdate, is tied to the comment. And so suddenly, those rogue, ne’er-do-well commenters are shooed away, and all that’s left are comments that are relevant and respectful.

One site that doesn’t do comments so well? MSNBC.

And not for a reason you would think. Ostensibly, the comments on this site are moderated, which is a step in the right direction. But here’s the thing: At the bottom of every article, one comment is displayed. If you want to read more, you have to click on a link that brings you to a different, comment-specific page. (View it here.) Meaning that if you read a comment that provoked you and wanted to counter it with an intelligent comment of your own based on information from the article, you would have to toggle back and forth between both pages, write your comment in a word processing program, and then finally paste it onto the site. It’s baffling to me why MSNBC would set up comments this way. It completely disengages readers, which is the entire purpose of allowing them to comment in the first place.

If you ask me, the Facebook comments are the way to go. No anonymity, only real names. That way people are forced to put their money where their mouth is, or something like that. But I will say that anonymous comments are better than none. The Internet is about interaction, and it would be foolish to disallow comments on an article, except, of course, if it was an obituary or something of such a delicate nature.

The Upper Crust

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

For more pictures of The Upper Crust, click here.

The Upper Crust
222 Newbury St.

Sun. – Wed. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Upper Crust is my go-to pizza place in Boston. Now, if you read my About Me page, you’re probably wondering why I eat pizza if I don’t eat dairy products. Well, I don’t eat pizza usually. But when I do, it’s Upper Crust. (Sadly, there is no vegan option.)

I paid a visit to the Upper Crust on Newbury Street with a friend to get a couple slices this weekend. If you don’t know how it works, I’ll lay it out for you. If you want to order by the slice, you have six options: cheese, pepperoni or the Slice of the Day, each on regular or whole wheat crust. (The Slice of the Day changes every day, and is always something delicious, like pineapple and gorgonzola.) Beyond that, they offer some whole pies with a variety of delicious toppings.

Here’s a rundown of the prices:
Slice of cheese: $3
Slice of pepperoni: $3.25
Slice of the Day: $3.57
(Regular and whole wheat crust cost the same)

Whole pizzas range in price from $14.25 to $20.75.

The Upper Crust is the perfect place to stop in on a chilly autumn afternoon and grab a slice with a friend. Usually one slice is good, they’re pretty big. It’s always pretty busy in the Newbury Street location, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a seat. But when you finally sit down and take a bite, savor the crispy, thin crust and perfect proportion of sauce to cheese. And the soundtrack can’t be beat: “Waterfalls” by TLC was playing as I left the shop.

The Upper Crust doesn’t have a student discount, but its does have a frequent visitor card – buy 10 slices, get the next one free. I forgot my card when I went. Oh, well.

My personal favorite is the cheese, and maybe some customers’ favorite too, but The Upper Crust is known for it’s Slice of the Day. It’s always changing, so be prepared for a surprise!

Figuring out The Beantown Bloggery

November 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

The only celebrity I’ve seen in Boston is Gary Busey – he was leaning against a limousine outside the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Boylston Street. But I know people who’ve seen Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes jogging down Newbury Street.  Sometimes Hollywood comes to Beantown! And the place to hear about it is The Beantown Bloggery.

The blog (I would call it more of an aggregator), from a nameless, former MIT student, compiles info about the best things to do in Boston, and where and when to catch celebrities making appearances/making movies here.

Let me give you a rundown of what I like and what I don’t like about the site:


– The way it selects the best events. My usual source for everything going on in Boston is Yelp, but sometimes it can get tedious to sort through everything there is. What’s nice about The Bloggery is it selects the cream of the crop.

– The Free tab. I like free stuff!

– The Contest tab. I’m not usually one to engage in something in which the odds are mathematically against me, but suppose I come across a contest with a prize I cannot resist? I would surely find it in that tab!

– The celebrity updates. I’d like it if my star sightings went beyond Gary Busey. (Although, I went trick-or-treating on Beacon Hill and saw former presidential candidate and Senator John Kerry hugging children outside his home!) The charms of Beacon Hill are endless…


– The 1000 Words tab. It’s a feature that tells stories with pictures, but the pictures suck.

– The frequency of updates. Some of the posts under a few tabs are from months ago.

– The blog’s Twitter feed. It’s just tweets about new posts on the site.


The site is nice for some arts and entertainment info, but I don’t think it’s a must-read, just a site to check out every so often.


Final Project: Edible Boston

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

A screenshot of the cover of the latest Edible Boston.

For my final project, I would like to profile Edible Boston, a local magazine about sustainable food.

A part of a larger network of local food magazines (ex. the sister magazine in Connecticut is called Edible Nutmeg, because CT is the nutmeg state), Edible Boston features recipes, profiles of local food producers and interesting features about the best seasonal food.

To accompany my profile of the magazine and its website, I would create a slideshow of the best places in Boston to get local food, even in the winter when New England produce is scarce. (A Google map would go along with this too). And my video component would feature interviews with editors of Edible Boston, food bloggers and perhaps some Boston residents who are passionate about local food.

I Live-tweeted the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Let me begin by saying I wish I could have posted pictures of the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, but my phone is archaic. I tried to set up an account with Twitpic, but then I tried to use it from my phone and nothing happened. Well, about an hour later I saw the picture I tweeted, but the text wasn’t there. Maybe I’ll figure it out in the future.

Anyway, I live tweeted the Vegetarian Food Festival. It was basically a large room (a gymnasium in the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College) filled with exhibitors promoting their vegetarian/vegan food and products. And the place was packed, as you can see by my tweets. I think the best thing about it was all the free, delicious food.

I wanted to go there to see if I could learn anything new about vegetarian food that I didn’t know already, and to learn about new products. But I’m a skeptic, so I was underwhelmed by the new products. How many vitamin-infused smoothies can there really be?

What’s unfortunate about live tweeting an event is that you don’t get the whole picture the way you would on a nightly newscast. Pictures would help, but they still don’t provide the whole scene. So Twitter is somewhat limited in the amount of information it can offer (the 140-character limit helps with that too).

The best part was the personal account you can get of an event. I’m always interested in how people spend their time, and I think it’s fascinating to experience someone else’s experience almost as soon as it happens.

Following Twitter for a Day

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ten Twitter users, one day. What did I learn?

First, here are the people I followed: Tyler Florence, Martha Stewart, Grub Street Boston, Bon Appetit, Ruth Reichl, Saveur Magazine, NYT Dining, Chez Panisse, The Kitchn and Mark Bittman. (These are links to websites, for their Twitter accounts, click on the link to my Twitter account on the right, and then see who I’m following.)

Now I’ll walk you through 24 hours (all day on Oct. 26) of these 1o Twitter users:

Mark Bittman started out the day linking to a post about McDonalds on his own blog and an article about greenwashing in the WSJ. NYT Dining and The Kitchn did links to posts on their own websites in the morning, but Saveur started out by retweeting someone who liked one of their recipes. I liked this, it engaged the Twitter user and promoted its website.

Next up was Bon Appetit, which promoted a contest to win the new NYT cookbook, and then Martha Stewart posting pics of her products at Home Depot. I think Martha was my favorite of the day. I’m much more interested in what she’s doing than reading tweets about what’s on her site. If I wanted to know, I would just visit the site, you know? (Side note, in addition to visiting Home Depot, she also met Tony Hawk. She’s crazy!)

So for the rest of the day, I would tell you what the tweets were like in some detail, but it can be summed up like this: NYT Dining, Saveur and The Kitchn just tweeted about posts on their site for the rest of the day, and there was a little Martha thrown in there too. I got nothing from Tyler Florence, Chez Panisse, Ruth Reichl or Grub Street Boston. What a tease! I will say that normally Ruth Reichl’s tweets are quite poetic, for instance: @ruthreichl Black birds swooping into orange trees; beautiful ballet of the air. Cool, bright autumn. Softly poached eggs on hearty white bean stew.

I would have loved to read more from Ruth. I think what I learned is that while Twitter can be a great tool to redirect traffic to your website, I most enjoy it when tweets are about something personal, and don’t feel like another extension of some corporate machine. I think the best way to do it is to focus on the personal, but every so often, throw in a link to your own site to let people know about the work you’re putting out there.

So far, I’ve just been tweeting about myself and not posting links to this blog, which is a huge mistake! Lesson learned.



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