What is a good mobile news home page?

Have you seen a good mobile news home page? I’ve been trying to find noteworthy examples, but I rarely visit the main page of any informational site. Like many others, I find most of my news through the “side doors” of mobile apps, social networks and search engines.

Here are four of the main ways I get news on my Android device, excluding Twitter and Facebook. These are screenshots from apps. From the left, we’ve got Prismatic, Zite (yes, I know they were acquired by Flipboard), Feedly, and Circa.

screenshots of four news apps
From left: Prismatic, Zite, Feedly, and Circa.

But an app is not a site. So what do the first pages of mobile news sites look like? Here are samples from four markedly different sites that publish news.

screenshot of four mobile news home pages
From left: The New York Times, TechCrunch, Gawker, and Mediagazer

I didn’t find many common elements between these and other news sites. Without access to their goals and analytics platforms, I can’t tell what works and what doesn’t work.

So what do you think? What mobile news home pages do you visit? What do you like about it? What improvements would you like to see? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me @ksablan on Twitter.

Meet my robot editor, Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway's boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)
Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway’s boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)

If you’re looking for a decent, cheap editor, allow me to introduce you to Hemingway. He started helping me with this blog yesterday. Here is how we work together.

I write a blog post in WordPress.

I copy the text from that post.

I visit HemingwayApp.com and select all the text in the middle column.

I paste in my text.

Hemingway gives me instant feedback. He highlights text that could be improved. Sometimes, I point to those highlights and he offers his advice: “Change to active voice.” Other times, I have to refer to the color-coded notes in the right margin to understand what he’s saying.

Hemingway tells me when he thinks a sentence is hard to read. He suggests simpler phrases when appropriate. He tries to lessen my use of adverbs.

Hemingway is a web app created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a robot editor whose goal is to make “your writing bold and clear.”  I couldn’t find any information on the site to explain how Hemington works.

The app is also available as a $6.99 program for Mac or Windows computers. For that price, you can work offline, save your text and use markdown.

No, Hemingway can’t completely replace a human editor. But I’m a zero-budget blogger with no one to read my posts at 12:41 a.m. Hemingway is the only editor I know who will work these hours for free, and he has definitely improved my blog posts.

The fastest way to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I Type 2000 Words A Minute... Uh Yeah
I Type 2000 Words A Minute… Uh Yeah by Bill Shaner licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you write about or follow breaking news in 2015, you need to know how to quickly search social media. Every second counts, especially when have to try many search words or phrases. On a laptop or desktop computer, one of the quickest ways to search Twitter, Facebook or any network is to use Chrome’s address bar.

If you don’t already use Google’s browser, download Chrome now. There, that’s better.

Google calls its address bar the “omnibox,” presumably because it does so much. For example, if you type words into that box and hit Enter, Chrome will bring you to a Google search engine results page. That magic box even works as a basic calculator for the math-challenged reporter.

I’ll show you how you can teach that omnibox to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Continue reading

How to detect Twitter sarcasm about Kanye and McCartney

National Sarcasm Society t-shirt
National Sarcasm Society by Acid Pix licensed under CC BY 2.0

Some media outlets, like ABC on Good Morning America, laughed at Kanye West fans for not knowing who Paul McCartney is. Yeezy fans posted tweets that credited West for featuring the unknown McCartney in West’s new single. (Listenbuy, or read “Only One.”)

The only problem is that those comments were sarcastic. I haven’t read all the tweets that each media outlet shared, but here is one I saw in every post I’ve read on the topic:

When I saw that, I was incredulous. This guy can’t be serious? If you are a reporter, run with that incredulity. Question that tweet.

Here are a few simple methods to detect Twitter sarcasm.

1. Ask!

The easiest way to find out if someone is serious is to ask that person. On Twitter, that means you hit the reply button and pose the question: @desusnice Do you really not know who Paul McCartney is?

2. Observe

Desus Nice might never reply to your query, so look at his timeline. Do Mr. Nice’s previous tweets suggest that he is unaware of people and places of cultural significance? Does he crack wise, or is he a straight shooter? Is sarcasm a comedic weapon that he wields? If he likes to joke around, there’s a good chance his McCartney tweet isn’t serious.

3. Search

If Desus Nice knows who Paul McCartney is, he might have tweeted about him before. To find those tweets, paste this into Twitter’s search box: “paul mccartney” from:desusnice

Twitter sorts the results using some secret algorithm. You want to see all the tweets, so click on the “all” link near the top of the page.

Twitter search all link
This will show all tweets during a search

You’ll find that Desus Nice has mentioned the former Beatle on many occasions. Here is a sample from more than two years ago:

Does it matter?

An investigation about sarcastic tweets might be frivolous, but the tips are real. You can use them when reporting on corporations, representatives, government entities, and breaking news.

This whole discussion is moot anyway, since we all know that Paul is dead.

A personal note

Some of the tweets mentioned by media outlets might be genuine. Some people don’t know who Sir Paul is, and that’s okay. Only when you embrace your ignorance can you learn and grow. When you embrace the ignorance of others, you accept them and encouraging their growth. When someone doesn’t know something, don’t make fun of them. Share your knowledge.

Do you want to grow as a human being? Do you want to learn something new every day? The only way to learn is to acknowledge that there is something you don’t know. Embrace your ignorance. Every day.