New and improved! Feed has arrived.

New and improved! Feed has arrived.

Well, mostly just improved. I had been getting pretty frustrated with some pieces of this site that weren’t working. There had never been an RSS feed, the comment form was broken, and so on. So, I hit up the very friendly people at the WordPress help desk at Northern Voice this weekend. Not only was the help free, but it was nice. No judging when I introduced the problem to each subsequent person as: Sorry, I built the site myself, so it’s probably not done right, and I probably can’t tell you how I did it…. Miss604 gave the first crack at it, with some tips on plugins that might work better for me. Then Digital Entomologist Lloyd Budd took it on for hours, looking for where I hid a wee bit of code that he figured was messing things up. He eventually did, with a little help from Scott Leslie, and now the feed works. Thanks all! I also learned a lesson: plopping code somewhere to make the site look prettier just might be breaking...

On code, poetry and trying stuff out

[This is a post about making this site, so ignore if you’re not into that.] This site is built using the blog tool WordPress. If you’ve never heard of it, neither had I until I went to Northern Voice last year. (Besides all the WP evangelists, founder Matt Mullenweg was the keynote speaker.) The funny thing about WordPress is, it looks pretty user-friendly. The site is clean and conversational. It advertises a “famous 5-minute installation.” But then there is also this ominous warning: If you have no idea what to do with this download, we recommend signing up with one of our web hosting partners that offers a one click install of WordPress or getting a free account on WordPress.com. I had no idea what to do with that download. I went ahead anyway, but got scared off for most of a year by language like PHP and mySQL. I can happily say now you don’t need to know what that means to install or use the tool. But it takes way longer than five minutes. The rest was comparatively easy, although I found most bits I tried to add didn’t work the first time either. These worked (and thanks be to their developers!): PrimePress as a theme, with an easily customizable header. (Others I tried said they did, but my pic never fit well) cformsII as a contact form. It’s not listed on the WP site, but others didn’t allow for the styling I wanted. Twitter for WordPress to show my Twitter feed. Others looked weird. I’d like to style this one more too, but that would take...

Welcome

I’m a journalist based in Vancouver, Canada, currently working as the environment reporter for CBC News Vancouver. One thing I’ll do here is post about the stories I’m reporting. They range from newsy, like the crash in recycling commodity prices, to the more citizen/consumer focused. For example, I recently did a piece on the messy question, “How clean does my peanut butter jar have to be to get recycled?” (Pretty clean, it turns out.) I used to be a biologist, or at least a biologist-in-training. That makes me a geek for all kinds of things that many journalists I’ve met dislike, including animal carcasses and math. The problem of communicating science and risk well in the news is an ongoing interest of mine. I’ve also been working at another intersection lately — where mainstream media is experimenting with social media. I was part of the team that started the Your Story project in 2007, which was CBC’s first pilot in citizen journalism. In some ways, this is a natural next step, another tool for newsgathering. But there’s also a culture clash there — which makes it tricky, and interesting. After a period of meaning to, I’ve now stumbled through enough code to put together this site, as a place to write about these topics. Thanks for checking it...