I scream, you scream

(Apologizes for the cheesy title, I just couldn’t resist)

With temperatures reaching the mid-70s tomorrow, can you really resist ice cream? Well, you don’t have to. Starting tomorrow, June 8, and running through June 10, the 28th annual Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl will take place at City Hall Plaza.

Starting at noon and running until 8 p.m., nine ice cream companies will be serving all-you-can-eat ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet.

All you can eat Baskin Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Brigham’s, Ciao Bella Gelato, Edy’s, and Haagen-Daz? Yes, please!

Tickets cost $8 for adults, and $4 for kids. The proceeds will go to support cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Photo (cc) by stevendepolo and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


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A day in the sun

Believe it or not, it’s already the end of May. The month flew by and I haven’t posted once. My apologies, dear readers. It’s been an extremely busy month. With graduation, parents visiting, the Lost series finale (YIKES!), and the weather finally starting to warm up, I really haven’t been home much. I am back, though, and fully committed to bringing this blog back to life. I mean, with the summer right around the corner (for a reason I can’t really explain, in my eyes, summer doesn’t begin until at least June), there’s a long list of fun things to do in Boston. So let’s get started.

It’s Memorial Day on Monday, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t really have any plans but to enjoy the day off. Weather.com tells me it’s going to be 73 degrees on  Monday. What more can we ask for? So, if you don’t have any plans for the day, may I suggest a picnic?

The idea of grabbing a blanket, some cold fruit, refreshing drinks, a good group of friends and just laying out in the sun has been lingering in the back of my head for a while now. Yup, I’ve been craving a picnic. They’re just so relaxing and fun. Now, the the thing is, where should you have said picnic? Well there’s always big parks like Boston Common and the Public Garden. Chances are, those spots will be full of other Bostonians trying to soak up the sun. One of my favorite spots is outside the Christian Science Center. It’s the perfect spot, really. The architecture of the building is beautiful, the reflection pool is mesmerizing, and Bon Bon is right across Mass. Ave if you feel the need to cool down with some gelato.

In any case, we should all take advantage of the long weekend. It’s probably too late to plan a fun get-away to the Cape, so we must work with what we have – and what we have is a day off, beautiful weather, and a great city to enjoy it all in.

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Exploring the city, Twitter is an invaluable tool

Boloco located at 1080 Boylston St. Click image for more photos.

On a nice day Tom O’Keefe can be found taking a walk through Boston Common, grabbing a beer at Publick House, then closing out the night at the bars on Boylston Street. While enjoying his day out and about the city, he tweets about it.

O’Keefe founded Boston Tweet in order to bring attention to local businesses. With his iPhone in hand, O’Keefe ventures through the city broadcasting things he thinks Bostonians would enjoy.

“It’s really all about what I like to do and places I like to go,” he said. “It kind of is Boston according to me.”

From beer tastings to musical performances, O’Keefe tweets about it all. He also gives a voice to the people by allowing them to broadcast events and happenings on BostonTweet.com. Any tweet that includes @bostontweet automatically gets pulled onto the site.

O’Keefe said he is just an ordinary guy who likes to go out and explore the city. He has lived in Boston for approximately 20 years and graduated from Boston College with a degree in economics and politics. After a number of unsuccessful start-ups and the economy’s crash, O’Keefe started Boston Tweet in November 2008, and so far it has been the most recognizable thing he has done, he said.

O’Keefe said he really values things that students and 20-somethings would enjoy like cheap places to eat and free events. He does not get paid for doing this job.

“I don’t make a dime off this. It’s purely where I go,” he said. “Not being paid allows me to go wherever I want and not be worried to offend people. It makes it a lot easier.”

O’Keefe said that he does not plan on making money off Boston Tweet but in the future would consider expanding, possibly with an iPhone application. The reason he maintains Boston Tweet is because he loves this city. To pay the bills, O’Keefe also works for Groupon, a company that provides daily coupons for things to do and places to eat around Boston.

“I don’t make money off of my tweets, and prefer that, but I make a lot of connections,” he said. “I do it mainly because I love Boston, it opens a lot of doors for me and it creates a massive amount of exposure for me.”

O’Keefe has also not advertised Boston Tweet. Its popularity has picked up through word of mouth.

As of April 27, O’Keefe has 15,333 followers, and in the month of March, Boston Tweet had more than 17,000 unique visitors.

“It’s purely just the people enjoying the content and following me on Twitter,” he said.

O’Keefe said he has seen the popularity of Twitter expand in the last year and a half that he has been using it. He did not have a Twitter account before starting Boston Tweet.

“It definitely wasn’t as popular as it was today. The best quality of Twitter is that it’s mobile. I can tweet when I’m out and about. It’s easy and it’s free,” O’Keefe said

Other local businesses have turned to Twitter to enhance the conversation with their customers.

John Pepper, CEO of Boloco, the burrito restaurant with multiple locations including Boylston Street and Huntington Avenue, started using Twitter about the same time as O’Keefe did in order to create a dialogue with the restaurant’s customers.

“We don’t know what the return on investment is. There’s no proof it has increased sales or had any real effect on our business. All we know is that it’s allowed us to communicate better with our customers,” Pepper said. “For us, it’s not really about building the business, but rather giving more avenues to the customers.”

Pepper said that Twitter can be a slippery slope because any business that decides to use it must be prepared to be honest and transparent.

“If you’re comfortable being honest with customers and accepting the good and the bad comments, then it is an invaluable tool,” he said. “If you truly want to embrace customer feedback and build a business based on that, it’s an unbelievable resource.”

Kerry Israel, audience development manager for the American Repertory Theater, said Twitter is all about engagement, connecting with people and creating a stronger presence in the community.

“The beauty of social media is that you join a larger conversation,” Israel said. “People are always going to have something to say, so Twitter is a way to overhear that conversation.”

Steve Quigley, associate professor at the College of Communication at Boston University said he is amazed and awed like everybody else with the astronomical growth of Twitter.

According to Nielsen Online, Twitter’s unique visitors grew from 475,000 in February 2008 to seven million in February 2009.

“It’s the immediacy of it that’s just staggering,” he said. “For essentially no cost, anyone can publish and reach a large number of people who have given you permission to communicate with them. The permission thing is a huge deal. Anyone can get a megaphone and stand on the corner and shout at pedestrians, but if you think about it, Twitter is powerful because it works best when people have indicated that they want to keep an eye on you and are exposed to your thoughts.”

Israel made a note of the hard work that goes into maintaining a Twitter feed.

“It can get crazy monitoring Twitter, but it is always an exciting thing to do, especially when I’m having a crazy day,” she said.It’s great to see positive comments … and it also provides an opportunity for us to help out if things come up. That’s the beauty of it – instant, real-life communication.”

O’Keefe sympathizes. He said he is often out until 2 a.m. and that it is not something that can be easily done.

“I can’t keep up with this pace for many years to come,” O’Keefe said. “It is a hard job but it’s much better than sitting in a cubicle all day.”

Asked whether he considers himself a journalist, O’Keefe’s immediate response was, “No. Do you? Am I a journalist?”

Quigley would respond yes. In Quigley’s eyes, O’Keefe may not be practicing journalism, but he is definitely a citizen journalist.

Whether it is considered a form of journalism or not, the power of Twitter cannot be denied.

“Twitter is powered by its simplicity. People in awe of Facebook or even Google have been awed by Twitter’s simplicity. It is much more simple and some might say, more elegant than Facebook. I think Twitter is more powerful for real-time communication. The real-time immediacy of it is pretty remarkable,” Quigley said.

Simple is how O’Keefe views Boston Tweet as well.

“It really is a simple concept. Boston Tweet is all about going out, having fun, and tweeting about life in the city. That’s it. There’s not much more to it,” he said.

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Dan Gregory and his IDEA

Today in class, Dan Gregory, of Northeastern’s School of Technological Entrepreneurship, stopped by our classroom today to talk about, and encourage us to be our own entrepreneurs. Gregory works with masters students at Northeastern to help them build businesses. He doesn’t teach a traditional classroom and he doesn’t make his students purchase textbooks. He has a more hands-on, real life approach in guiding his students to build their own businesses.

He asked the class to think about our talents, and what skills we could offer a company. As a group of journalists we all agreed that our skills include: writing well, knowing how to gather information, working on deadline, using social media and multimedia, and knowing how to ask the right questions.

This is all great, but in many ways I think making your blog your business is easier said than done. Maybe I’m just being cynical since the job-searching I have done these past few weeks has been disappointing and disheartening, but I just think it takes a whole lot of luck, and the correct timing, to really make journalism your business. There’s no doubt about it that this classroom is full of talented writers and creative thinkers. Even so, I think it is extremely difficult to build your own business from the ground up.

Who said I’m not up for a challenge, though? I must say, I love this blog and I am having a lot of fun maintaining it (OK, OK, I haven’t been great at posting these past few days, but cut me some slack, it’s the last week of school). I plan on continuing this blog even after Reinventing the News is over and done with. Will it ever be a successful business? I don’t know. I cannot predict that. I do know that it will help me keep up with the skills I’ve learned so far.

Gregory told the class in terms of finding a job, we shouldn’t look at ourselves as applicants, but rather as people with a certain set of skills that are adaptable for the company. That’s an awfully optimistic way to look at things, but I like it. I think, as a number of us are getting ready to graduate, it is a great tip on how to keep our chins up.

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Sign your name, please

Today in class we talked a lot about comments lefts on news stories and blog posts. In many places on the Internet, you can post a comment online anonymously. From my own personal observations, I feel like most people don’t sign their name. I don’t understand this fear of truly representing yourself on the Internet. A lot of my friends know that this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I’m a columnist for The Huntington News, and week after week, there’s a long list of nasty comments left on the message boards. It’s gotten so bad, that out of pure principle, I don’t check them anymore.

I truly believe that if you have something to say, and you feel passionately enough about it that you need to leave a comment on the web, it is your responsibility to sign your name. Personally, I can’t take anonymous comments too seriously. They lose legitimacy when it’s signed by a pseudonym.

Click here to read an article posted on The New York Times website about how news sites are rethinking anonymous comments. Here’s an excerpt.

Anonymity is just the way things are done. It’s an accepted part of the Internet, but there’s no question that people hide behind anonymity to make vile or controversial comments,” said Arianna Huffington, a founder of The Huffington Post. “I feel that this is almost like an education process. As the rules of the road are changing and the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity.

With that said, I feel like people will always find a way signing their real name. Let’s be honest, it’s not too difficult to make up a name and a fake e-mail address. Who would go through all the trouble to do that, though, is an entirely different conversation I’ll leave for another time.

So, I ask of you, if you decide to leave a comment (and I encourage you to do so), please sign your name. Do it for me. Merci.

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Bargain Cocktails

Earlier today, my friend Anne sent me this. Boston Magazine but together a list of bargain cocktails around the city. I was so excited to see this list as some of my favorite locations are on it. The Savant Project, Coppa, and The Frankin Cafe are all excellent places to enjoy delicious beverages around the city.

Now, can we all say a collective “thank you” to Anne?


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For a class assignment, I started checking out NewsTrust. About a week ago, I had never heard of the site, but after a few days of lurking around the site, I still hesitate to believe that it is an extremely useful tool for journalists.

NewsTrust is a non-profit organization that features news from difference sources including, newspapers and blogs. The site invites its users to review the stories they post and rate them based on facts, usefulness, fairness and originality.

I reviewed three stories. First, I posted a story from Yoga Journal. I always check in with Yoga Journal and see what’s going on in the Yoga world. It’s no secret that I total yoga junkie. Besides providing good information on yoga poses and tips, the site features great first-person accounts. The story I posted was about why yoga is dominated by females. When entering a yoga studio it’s pretty obvious that most people there are women, but I never knew why. This post, written by a man, explains why. A story about yoga and gender roles? This is my cup of tea.

The second story I reviewed was by the New York Times. My favorite section of the New York Times is the Health section. I think the stories in this section are the most interesting, and in many cases, provide the most useful information for our daily lives. The story I picked was about the Environemntal Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate the construction industry to help prevent cases of lead poisoning among children.

The third story I posted was a review of the film Date Night on WBUR.org. I love Tina Fey and Steve Carell, but watching the trailers of the film on television didn’t excite me all that much. The review pretty much said the exact same thing. While it’s always disappointing to read a negative review, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Overall, I thin NewsTrust is an interesting tool, but not one I can see as being truly successful. I can’t imagine how people other than journalists would use this site. Maybe I’m just being cynical, but I do not think this is the type of site I can see myself using much in the future. At least it’s good to know the tools is out there.

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