Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 08/22/2007

Social Networking Features

Just wanted to take a minute to let you know about the new social networking features we recently launched on washingtonpost.com.

The new suite of features includes personalized pages for each registered user, new discussion groups and improved comments software.

The personalized MyPost pages, at this point, allow for readers to upload an image, publish biographical information, track discussion groups they're a part of and keep a friend list. It will also aggregate all comments a reader leaves on washingtonpost.com articles. The goal is to keep adding personalization options to these pages so that readers can set up de facto home pages for themselves if they choose. Additionally, these pages can serve as a starting point for direct interaction among readers. For example, here's my page.

Another cool feature of MyPost are discussion groups, where readers can join a community of interest around a certain topic. So far, we've rolled out a number of groups, including:

-- E.J.'s Precinct, a politics group hosted by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.
-- Right Matters, by the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru.
-- Trend Spotter & Co., by The Post's Suzanne D'Amato.
-- The Secularist's Corner, conversation on religion, politics and liberty, with Susan Jacoby.
-- Admissions 101, by Post education reporter Jay Mathews.
-- Rights Watchers, a discussion on human rights crises around the world with Ken Roth and Reed Brody.
-- Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, a group on race, culture and politics, by Washington Post columnist Gene Robinson.
-- The Carpool, a local commuting group by The Post's Steve Ginsberg.
-- Voting Blocs, a group on interest-group politics, co-hosted by washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza and Jason Manning.
-- Jobs Talk, a discussion on job hunting, careers and the workplace.

There are more groups coming soon, and we hope these will give our readers a wide range of topics to discuss on washingtonpost.com.

This rollout also features some improvements in our comments functionality. As mentioned earlier, all comments made by readers will now appear on their MyPost pages. Also, readers can now recommend a comment, which will allow us over time to find and promote the best user comments. We soon plan to offer filtering options so that readers can scan only the most recommended comments on an article.

These features continue the expansion on what we believe to be a core element of web journalism: the dialogue between reader and journalist, and between reader and reader. We hope you enjoy what we've launched to this point, and there will soon be more to come.

Thanks,
Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com

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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/22/2007

MyPost Launches

When you comment on a washingtonpost.com article or column, or participate in one of our moderated discussion groups, your contributions to the site will be collected on your individual MyPost page.

Our goal is to provide you with a home base on the site, a page where you'll be able to both share and track your thoughts over time. When you post a comment to an article or discussion group, you'll be able to get to your MyPost page by clicking on your MyPost ID just above the comment or by clicking on your ID where it appears in the top left corner of the washingtonpost.com home page.

Other readers will be able to browse to your MyPost page from your comments and, once there, view what you've had to say or ask to message you by sending a "friend request". You'll see those requests on your page -- they won't be visible to others -- and may choose to accept them, turn them down or ignore them.

You'll be able to exchange messages with readers you've accepted as "friends" on the site, and those messages will appear on your page. By default, only you and your friends will be able to see them, although you can open them up to any site visitor by changing the settings in the Profile section of your page. You can also tell others about yourself in your Profile by uploading a photo or filling in a brief bio.

MyPost isn't intended to be MySpace or another general social networking site, but a feature that will make washingtonpost.com more useful to you and others. We'll be adding features to MyPost over the next few months and hope you'll email us with your comments and suggestions.

-- Hal Straus, Interactivity and Communities Editor & Karl Eisenhower, Assistant Managing Editor for Newsroom Operations

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Posted at 12:42 PM ET, 05/23/2007

Three New Discussion Groups Launch

We've launched three new discussion groups - Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, E.J.'s Precinct and Admissions 101.

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, moderated by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, will focus on the intersection of race, culture and politics. "Our conversations will grow out of the news, and we'll have several in progress at any given time. One might be about some twist or turn in the presidential campaign, one might be about the Meaning of Hillary or the Meaning of Obama ...and one about the justice or injustice of American Idol," Robinson explains.

E.J. Dionne Jr., a columnist for The Post, and Alex Remington, an editorial assistant at The Post, will lead a discussion of partisan politics, economic inequality and faith issues in E.J.'s Precinct. The Precinct is "a place where you chat about any kind of politics that interests you, argue about policy, talk back to the media and converse with people who love politics as much as you do -- or, on bad days, just can't stand what's going on," Dionne says.

Post Columnist Jay Mathews will trade tips with readers "on winning the college admissions roulette game" with co-moderator Theresa Newhard of washingtonpost.com. "The idea is to make college, and the process of getting into college, what it ought to be, a road to a good life for everyone," Mathews says, "But it will take a lot of fresh thinking and heated arguments to get there."

Mathews, Robinson, Dionne and Remington will post discussion topics to their groups three to five times a week -- but they'll depend on washingtonpost.com readers to do most of the talking.

Please email us with your comments and suggestions for these groups, as well as your suggestions for future discussions.

-- Theresa Newhard, Comments and Groups Producer

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Posted at 09:34 AM ET, 05/16/2007

PostGlobal Launches "How the World Sees America"

Starting today, PostGlobal's Amar C. Bakshi will explore what people around the world really think about America. With a laptop and video camera, he'll report from the stands of Manchester United's stadium to a Pakistan Army training ground to a Bollywood sound stage, and post what he finds in "How the World Sees America"

Readers are invited to comment on Bakshi's blog entries and video clips, and help guide him to new destinations and communities as the project unfolds.

His first set of posts will focus on how America is viewed in the United Kingdom. Bakshi arrived in Manchester, Britain's third largest urban area, on Monday, May 14, to talk to the city's students, working class residents and members of its sizeable Muslim population. He will then move on to Oxford, Lancaster and London. The next stop after the UK will be Pakistan, which Bakshi's mother's family left in 1947. After three weeks there, he'll travel to India, where his parents lived until 1979, to complete the first installment of "How the World Sees America."

Bakshi joined washingtonpost.com nearly one year ago as the first editor and producer of PostGlobal, a forum for collaborative journalism hosted by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria. Working with PostGlobal's panel of top journalists around the world, he became increasingly curious about the views of the average citizens in their countries -- those who see the world primarily through the lens of their television screens and their local communities.

Theirs are the stories Bakshi now sets out to tell.

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Posted at 07:15 PM ET, 05/ 7/2007

Discussion Groups Launch

We've launched two discussion groups -- The Carpool and Trendspotter & Co. We hope the first will help Washington area commuters get from point A to point B safely, and as quickly as possible. We look for the second to offer fashion advice and useful shopping tips to those in need of either.

Washington Post Assistant Virginia Editor Steven Ginsberg will moderate The Carpool by offering quick takes on commuter issues and posing questions for group participants three to five times a week. Suzanne D'Amato, The Post's Sunday Source fashion editor, will host Trendspotter and Co.

Both expect washingtonpost.com readers to do most of the heavy lifting by contributing ideas and advice to the group discussion threads.

"We know what you're going through," says Ginsberg. "Together, maybe, just maybe, we'll make some sense out of commuting in modern day Washington."

D'Amato encourages readers to debate what will be in fashion this spring, "gossip about which celebs are getting it right (and wrong) on the red carpet, share your tips on new local stores, or talk about which boutique's snooty service needs a makeover."

The Carpool and Trendspotter & Co. are the first of a number of moderated discussions that washingtonpost.com will launch over the next few weeks. Please email us with your comments and suggestions.

-- Theresa Newhard, Comments and Groups Producer

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Posted at 03:11 PM ET, 04/10/2007

Update on New Home Page

Just wanted to send out an update on our new home page after reading through the thousands of the e-mails and comments you've contributed over the past week. Now, we're ready to talk about changes we've already made or are planning to make to the page in the coming days and weeks.

Discussions
The most common complaint we received was that we've hidden our discussions. Ironically, we've actually moved it higher up on the home page because it's such a popular feature on the site. (If you haven't seen it, there's a Discussions box on the upper left side of the home page, right under the Opinions box). The bigger issue for readers seems to be the removal of the full discussion schedule from the home page. That decision was made to save space to allow us to move Discussions up higher. However, to provide easier access to the full schedule, we will soon be adding a button in the Discussions box that will pop up the day's lineup. This pop-up box will look similar to the View All button under the News Columns & Blogs area.

Additionally, to allow Discussions to stand out more when promoted elsewhere on the home page, we'll be adding a chat icon similar to the new photo, video and audio icons we rolled out with the new home page.

World/Politics/Nation Headlines
There was concern about the removal of the headlines from these three sections in our More Top Stories area farther down the home page. We made the decision to remove those headlines based on two facts: 1) articles from these sections make up a large part of our top news table, and 2) those links didn't get many clicks. However, because these omissions clearly struck a chord, we'll restore those headlines soon.

Metro News
Many of you expressed a concern that we'd also removed Metro headlines from the bottom of the Washington home page. We'd planned to have a Metro headlines ticker closer to the top of the home page for launch, but were working out some technical issues at that time. We've since added that local news ticker to the Washington home page, right above Diversions. This ticker gives the Washington home page significantly more local flavor.

Most E-Mailed
The substitution of Most Viewed for Most E-Mailed hasn't pleased everyone. However, the good news is that we'll soon be unveiling a new page that will feature all of our "most" pages, including Most E-Mailed Articles, Most Viewed Articles, Most Viewed Photos Galleries, and more. That page should be ready within a few weeks. In the meantime, we will soon be adding a link to Most E-Mailed list at the bottom of the Most Viewed module, which is located at the upper right of the U.S./World home page, and halfway down the page on the right on the Washington home page.

Overall, while the comments on this blog have been largely negative, the e-mail traffic we've received has been far more positive, with the major compliments being that the page is loading faster, is easier to read and that the multimedia strip and icons have been helpful for readers interested in video, photography and audio. Thanks to everyone who has submitted a comment or sent an e-mail. We will continue to read through your feedback and keep evaluating our home page and site for opportunities to make it better. If you haven't commented yet, and would like to, go to the bottom of this post or send an e-mail to executive.editor@washingtonpost.com.

Thanks,
Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com

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Posted at 01:54 PM ET, 04/ 4/2007

City Guide Wireless Site Launches

For many in this town, a BlackBerry is your tether to the workplace. But we're happy to announce a reason to let it help you make the most of your free time, too.

We've launched a beta version of the City Guide wireless site at mobile.washingtonpost.com/cityguide, so you can use your Sidekick or Web-enabled cell phone to find reviews for local restaurants, bars and movies. Like the City Guide, you can search by neighborhood, city or zip code, or you can browse by what's been recently reviewed, among other options. When you're out, you can get more than movie showtimes and addresses; you can see what Stephen Hunter thought of a certain film, get the scoop from Tom Sietsema on a place perfect for a downtown lunch or pick out a new bar near Gallery Place recommended by the Going Out Gurus.

Like the City Guide to Go tool, our downloadable listings of top bars and restaurants for your iPod, it's another way to have City Guide details at hand when you're going out.

Anne Kenderdine
City Guide Editor, washingtonpost.com

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Posted at 12:57 PM ET, 03/30/2007

Editor's Note: About Our New Home Page

To our readers,

Welcome to our new home page. I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about some of the key changes, and the thinking behind it.

  • One of the most frequent complaints about our previous home page was clutter, specifically the number of links and lack of open space on the page. In this new page, we've added more white space and cut down the number of long lists of text links. The hope is that these changes give the page more of an open, inviting feel and make it easier to scan. We've also moved to a more modular layout to make it easier to find your favorite home page features.

  • To better highlight our award-winning video and photo content, we've added a multimedia strip to the page. This band will be comprised of videos, photos and interactives, and by using the scroll arrows or the iTunes-like buttons, you can scroll to see more multimedia features. We've also created a similar strip for features content, allowing us to better showcase all the content we have in that area.

  • This new home page also highlights the site's newest section, Smart Living. Designed for those seeking information to manage their lives, Smart Living will aggregate the best stories, blogs and columns from The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com in the areas of parenting, health, food and dining, home and garden, pets, relationships, personal finance and more. Prior to this launch, consumer content could be found in many different areas of the site; the goal of Smart Living is to provide a one-stop destination. Because we thought that sounded, you know, smart.

  • Because of the popularity of our Live Discussions, we've anchored a placement near the top of the home page to help readers find our schedule, previous transcripts and featured guests.

  • As you may know, we have two home pages: One for readers with Washington-area ZIP Codes, and one for our national and international readers. On our Washington home page, we've added a "Local" button to our global navigation to provide easier access to local news, weather, traffic, classifieds content and more.

  • On our national home page, we've anchored a Most Popular module on the upper right of the page. On the local page, this Most Popular module is located farther down the page, right below the features strip.

  • To make it easier to find our video, photo and audio assets, we've moved to using icons to signify those content types. One of the valuable pieces of feedback we've received from you over the past year is that you find it difficult to locate our multimedia content. Between the new multimedia band on the home page, our recently launched video player and the switch to these more eye-catching icons, we hope we've addressed that concern.

  • We've also added a strip across the top of the page that makes it easier to locate your user information, change preferences or set washingtonpost.com as your home page (c'mon, go ahead, you know you want to). Additionally, incorporating more of the feedback you've given us, we've added a label on the upper right of the home page to let you know which of our two home pages -- Washington or U.S./World -- you're looking at. There's also a handy link that allows you to set which home page you'd like to see.

  • We've also built this new home page to have a lighter page weight, and thus, faster load times. We have also built this page to make it much easier for those with disabilities to read our home page with screen readers.

We believe that these changes will make it a much better and organized experience for you. But we'd like to hear what you think, so please feel free to post a comment below or to send an e-mail to executive.editor@washingtonpost.com.

Thanks,
Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com

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Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 03/23/2007

Edwards Headline Issue

For 51 seconds on Thursday afternoon, washingtonpost.com had an erroneous headline on our home page related to the John Edwards press conference. The headline said, "John Edwards Suspends White House Bid." I wanted to explain how that occurred, and discuss an error I made after we found out what had happened.

As we waited for the press conference to begin, our home page editor was planning a new home page that would be published quickly upon learning the status of the Edwards campaign after the anticipated revelation that Elizabeth Edwards's breast cancer had recurred. As is the standard process when we're trying to prepare for multiple scenarios, we plugged a headline into our home page tool that we believed to be the most likely scenario. As you can see from this screen shot of the inaccurate page, the text underneath the headline said, "Democratic presidential hopeful cuts short bid to focus on health of his wife battling cancer. Former White House hopeful drops second bid to focus on health of his wife battling cancer." That's because we were preparing for the campaign to be suspended or ended, and were waiting for the press conference for official word. Then, Edwards announced he would continue with his campaign, and we pushed out a page with the headline, "Edwards: Wife's Cancer Is Back."

A few hours later, we saw a tipster on DC FishBowl had mentioned we'd published a bad headline. At that point, we were unaware -- and, in fact, rather doubtful -- that we had published any page that included bad information. But, after seeing that report, I asked the home page team to look into it. They plowed through our home page publishing archive and found that, for reasons still unknown, the bad page was indeed published out at 12:32:20, and replaced by the page with the headline, "Edwards: Wife's Cancer Is Back" at 12:33:11, meaning the bad page was live for 51 seconds. They reported this information to me, and we sent an e-mail to the group that manages the home page tool to ask how that bad page might have been published. We still don't know why this publish occurred.

I originally wrote this off as one of those minor publishing snafus that occasionally happen in the Web business, largely because it had been up less than a minute, and wasn't a journalistic error but a technical one. Nonetheless, it was an embarrassing error, and I apologize for the fact it happened. The Post's Howard Kurtz just posted an article on this issue.

We have provided many opportunities for readers to engage in a dialogue on this site, and we want to make sure we're talking to you when we need to as well. Please feel free to comment below.

Thanks,
Jim Brady
Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com


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Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 03/21/2007

Recipe Finder Launches

Are you scrounging through your refrigerator at the last minute for meal ideas? Maybe you're planning a dinner party? We've come to the rescue with just the thing to help. Washingtonpost.com's new Recipe Finder lets users search a growing database of more than 1,000 recipes that have appeared in The Washington Post newspaper and on washingtonpost.com.

Recipe Finder lets home cooks search for dishes by features such as Fast, Healthy, Meatless and Kid-Friendly as well as by course, cuisine and holiday. You can also just type in your desired ingredients or recipe name, click "Go" and explore. Once you find recipes you like, you can print them and e-mail them to friends. Nearly every recipe has full nutritional information and many have accompanying photos.

Recipe Finder will grow each week with new recipes and new features. So, come back often and happy cooking!

Stacey Palosky, Lifestyles Editor

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Posted at 07:07 AM ET, 02/15/2007

Editorial Roundup Launches

Don't want to be blindsided by an editorial in the New York Times? Interested in who George Will is taking aim at today? If you are -- but don't have time to read the opinion pages of the nation's biggest newspapers -- then The Editorialist is for you.

The new blog by Rob Anderson in washingtonpost.com's Opinions area will summarize editorials and columns from leading newspapers each weekday by 7 a.m., then follow up with weekly or occasional roundups of commentary in other types of publications, from opinion magazines to the college press.

"I'll be reading each weekday's op-ed pages so you don't have to," says Anderson, who grew up in Detroit, attended Georgetown University and, most recently, helped edit and produce The New Republic's Internet site.

Anderson promises a "CliffsNotes version of who's saying what," and will also produce a weekdaily e-mail of The Editorialist, which will debut next month. (Click here to sign up.)

Please give The Editorialist a read, and feel free to e-mail Rob with your comments and suggestions.

-- Hal Straus, Opinions and Community Editor

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