Friday, May 29, 2009

My first game at Wrigley Field

Posted by Craig Kanalley on 5/29/2009 0 comments
It didn't take long to size up the place.

Small. That was my first reaction.

Not sure why I expected it to be bigger than it was. Maybe it's because Wrigley Field to so many is "larger than life" - so I've heard anyway. As a Buffalonian and Yankees fan, I never paid much attention to the Cubs, and I just knew it best as the place Sammy Sosa hit homers and where The Rookie was filmed.

As the game went on, I soon saw why the place was so special.

First, it's the absence of commercialism. I swear it's like you walk into a time machine because there's no huge video screen, no advertising around the perimeter of the upper deck, hardly any advertising at all - heck, I wasn't getting any service on my cell phone. Without replays, an archaic green scoreboard that took getting used to, and no connection to the outside world -- and the passion of these fans -- I quickly immersed myself in a brand new world.

So this is what Wrigley Field is all about, I thought. It was comforting in a way, an escape from the rush of reality and chaos of the city streets.

The game was full of treats. I just hoped it wouldn't be as bad as my last Major League Baseball game, a 6-0 thrashing of my beloved Yankees in one of the last games at Yankee Stadium - to the Reds no less. Or one of my last games before that, a 1-0 final, Los Angeles over the St. Louis Cardinals, after eight innings of 0-0 ball.

Please, I just want some offense!

I got that, and a whole lot more.

Eighteen runs in all, the most I've ever seen in my life at a major league game. The 10-8 final, though a Cubs loss, was back-and-forth and anything but a pitcher's duel - that made me happy. It featured home runs, plenty of emotion, a Lou Pinella argument with the ump (always see it on TV, now witnessed it in person), and maybe my favorite, toward the end of the game, with the Cubs down two, Chicago pitcher Carlos Zambrano entered the game - as a pinch hitter! It was a Why Not move because the Cubs had loss seven straight. He struck out, but it was a great series of pitches...I got them all on video, and here's just one of them, which gives a glimpse of the atmosphere:

video

A few other cool tidbits:

(1) It was Memorial Day - there was a moment of silence prior to the game. Cool moment. Very reflective.

(2) Newly-arrived Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, from the Broncos, was sitting 12 rows in front of us. Nice eye from my friend Jon. Some people chatted with him, got autographs. Funny how he just sat with all the 'normal' fans, no suite or special box. Seemed real grounded.

(3) Mr. T. did Take Me Out to the Ballgame. It was hilarious! And a whole lot of fun.

I'm in Chicago, I had to go to a Cubs game. It was just a matter of time. This was great, even with the loss, and I highly recommend this venue - the 6th I've ever been to (other games at ANA, BAL, PIT, TOR, NYY) - to any avid baseball fan.

Friday, May 15, 2009

BT takes leap forward with CMS

Posted by Craig Kanalley on 5/15/2009 0 comments
Those close to me know that I'm a bit of a dork when it comes to content management systems.

I'm fascinated by how they put order to a wild World Wide Web - blown away by the fact that an automated system is smart enough to move stories around based on tagging and give a news site an overall finished look.

A few years ago, when I was first Online Editor at St. John Fisher College's student newspaper the Cardinal Courier, my buddy John Reade and I used to create every edition by scratch. We had templates, sure, but we'd copy and paste every story and rearrange them accordingly. Nothing to automatically set priorities, nothing to resize images for us; it was hard, tiring work.

We looked into a CMS to take the load off of us, so we could focus instead on Web-exclusive content, breaking news, blogs, and so on. We signed up with College Publisher and the rest was history: Cardinal Courier Online.

With more than 500 stories posted and 2,000 tweets the last three and a half months, the time was right for Breaking Tweets to implement a serious CMS. And that's just what we did today, moving our site from Blogger to Wordpress.

Blogger served us well, but Wordpress brings us to the next level, allowing for section pages, story pages, author pages, and a unique home page. Plug-ins have allowed us to take the site to the next level, automating even more of what used to be the dirty work. Every story has related stories and the site's navigation just improved 100 times over.

It's the next logical step for a site that has grown beyond my wildest dreams the last three and a half months. If someone told me that the personal blog I threw together on Jan. 31 - first posting on the Australia Open and Super Bowl - would generate more than 50,000 unique hits and 100,000 page views in such a short time, get reviewed by dozens of blogs and journalism staples like Poynter Online and Journalism.co.uk, get linked to by Sky News on a major international breaking story, and receive visits from more than 150 countries - I would have said they were crazy!

I don't know where the site will go from here, but this was the next move, an appropriate move. Google News just started indexing us last week and we just named regional editors today who will help recruit and post content. If the next three and a half months are half as exciting as the first, I'll be one happy guy.

Have a peak at the new look: http://www.breakingtweets.com

Friday, May 1, 2009

The day BT beat BBC, CNN

Posted by Craig Kanalley on 5/01/2009 2 comments
I've said this before, I'll say it again. The purpose of Breaking Tweets is not to "break the news"; there are plenty of sources doing that. The point of the site I put together is to chronicle the biggest news around the world each day and put a Twitter spin on it by personalizing the news through tweets.

Now I've also said that sometimes we break the news anyway based on the nature of the process. We collect tweets, and if can verify them and the story at a point we're comfortable, we run with it.

That happened yesterday, when Breaking Tweets had its biggest ever single day of traffic with more than 6,000 unique hits from 96 countries.

Our story on the apparent attack on the Dutch royal family in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, was posted one hour before BBC reported the news and two hours before CNN. How'd we do it?

22 minutes

Here's what happened -- I was just about ready to go to bed when I got this tweet from @kazitoshi in Singapore: @breakingtweets RT @mrbrown Some person just tried to drive a car to attack Queen Beatrix of Holland! There are pedestrians down!

I immediately searched Twitter for terms like "Queen" and "car," but wasn't turning anything up. I then did a Google search for some context. I found out the Queen was to be in Apeldoorn for a parade. I tried the term "Apeldoorn." Bingo. A tweet.

From there, I tried a number of other terms - in Dutch - to find more tweets from near the scene. In a matter of no time, I had a second account, a third account, a fourth account - this looked like the real thing.

I compiled the tweets, found a local report from NOS.nl confirming the story, and ran with it. The story was posted just 22 minutes after that first tweet. Twenty-two minutes.

First English report

What happened next was overwhelming. I watched the live stats through a service I use called "getclicky" (it's fantastic) and instantaneously saw the traffic numbers skyrocket in seconds. We had 50 visitors, then 100, then 150, then.. 200! Here's a screenshot when it hit 203; it got up to 219 at one point.


Just as interesting as the numbers was where people were coming from, and we were getting most hits from the Netherlands as shown above. It was really exciting, and the numbers remained high for hours. I couldn't go to sleep until about 8 I was running on so much adrenaline.

I noticed the links people were coming to our site from. It turned out, we were appearing all over Dutch forums and the Dutch blogosphere, with many heralding our report as the first in English. I wouldn't doubt it because I did all the work in translating the tweets and the initial local media reports.

Then I realized Sky News got a report up --- with this as part of its main story on its award-winning Web site: "People have been tweeting about the crash, saying the royals saw what happened and were shocked." That's right, they linked to us.

Just a little bit exciting. It's a night I'm sure to not soon forget - the night I beat BBC and CNN to report a story that dominated international headlines the rest of the day.

Oh, and by the way, Poynter wrote an article about us yesterday too. I knew they might do a write-up, but it came as a surprise. Fun timing.
 

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