Google’s Panda update to fight content-farms

Summary: In an effort to fight erroneous search results resulting from black hate SEO tactics, Google’s new update utilizes user feedback to rate the quality of search results.

Image provided by

Google released its new weapon to fight content-farmers in February which it applied on April11 to all its English language searches. According to Google’s Webmaster Central blog,  “Panda” has affected two percent of search inquiries.

The new algorithm by Google utilizes user feedback, including what users choose to block from their search results.

However, this is prone to manipulation if a quality site is maliciously blocked by competing sites. Countering this, Google has introduced quality guidelines to help websites who may suffer negatively by the update.

Anita McBride on ‘the most demanding unpaid job’

Summary: The former chief of staff to Laura Bush talks about First Ladies in U.S. history, her work with the women of Afghanistan, which First Lady in history she would like to meet, and why Planned Parenthood is not safe from cuts in the federal budget.

Image provided by Politico.

Former Chief of Staff to Laura Bush, Anita McBride is “deeply involved with issues of women,” but believes that when it comes to  cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, everything should be on the table. McBride, who is an an advocate for women’s issues in Afghanistan, avoided giving her personal opinion about congressional republicans attempt to halt federal funding to the non-profit that officers reproductive and health care services. “Everything needs to be looked at and everything has to share in the sacrifice,” McBride said.

Her comments came during an April 14 C-SPAN interview with  senior executive producer and political editor Steve Scully and students from George Mason University, Purdue University and the University of Denver.

However, McBride did provide her perspective on the office of the First Lady. “It is the most demanding unpaid job,” she said, and possesses “challenges that are unique to the First Lady and her staff.” While the First Lady has the ability to pick and choose the issues she wants to focus on, she is also at risk of being drawn into a larger national debate.

When asked which First Lady which would have liked to work under, McBride gave two names.

“I would love to have known Dolly Madison,” she said, “She used her personality and hostess abilities to drive debate.”

McBride also finds the story of Abigail Addams intriguing.

Anita McBride career in began in 1984 when she joined the Reagan administration. From 1987 to 1992, she was Director of White House Personnel under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. She was a member of the U.S. delegation for the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in 2002 and the Commission of Human Rights in 2003.  From 2005-2009, she served as Assistant to President George W. Bush and Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush.

Currently McBride is a chair on the William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, a member on the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and a consultant for the executive service firm Global Political Strategies.

Mark Stencel talks about NPR and approaches to online journalism

Summary: Mark Stencel, currently the managing editor for digital news at National Public Radio, discusses how NPR expanded beyond being a radio only news outlet by utilizing multimedia and social networking sites, while highlighting the trends and tribulations in online journalism today.

Image provided by

National Public Radio loves traffic, and may be the only people who do if you ask Mark Stencel. While its members stations enjoy a loyal following of rush-hour listeners, the organization had a hard time getting them to follow NPR online.

Building a Web presence was not easy. NPR is a standard bearer when it comes to audio journalism, but expanding online meant incorporating skill sets from print and video broadcast.”We had to import a print organization,” Stencel said, “(we had) to figure out how to communicate in different ways…at NPR we started with great audio.”

Stencel admits that you won’t see a lot of video on its Website, and if you do, it is typically for feature stories. “Videos are time consuming and expensive…features have a longer shelf life that justify its costs.”

Where NPR has been successful is in cultivating fans through social media. “We probably have about 1.5 million Facebook fans,” Stencel said, adding that the site acts as a parallel homepage.

The social media site Twitter has added another level of interactivity for online journalists. Andy Carvin, NPR’s senior product manager for online communities, uses Twitter to report on the wave of revolts in the Middle-East. “Andy Carvin has turned the reporting process inside out,” Stencel said, and Carvin’s Twitter followers can see, tweet by tweet, Carvin checking the veracity of his sources as he reports on events.

Stencel did not shy away from talking about NPR’s mis-reporting of the Gabby Gifford’s shooting. Although NPR had two credible sources telling them that the congresswoman was shot,  what was more important was that NPR owned their mistake, he said, and apologized for it profusely.

Despite mistakes in reporting and accusations of a liberal bias, NPR maintains a loyal following of listeners by giving them something that they can’t find with news organizations. Mark Stencel will tell you what his colleague Matt Thompson articulates as NPR’s philosophy, “Don’t just cover the events, cover the implications.”

Andrew Card on George W. Bush ‘history will judge him better’

Summary: The former White House chief of staff discusses his admiration for the 43rd President of the United States and Obama’s appointment of William Daley as White House chief of staff.

Image provided by The Reid Report

What I miss the most about being chief of staff is the information I have…I found the information to be scary,” Andrew Card said today. Though he has served under three U.S. Presidents, Card is best known for delivering to news of the attack on the World Trade Center building to President Bush while he was reading “My Pet Goat” to a group of second grade students.

“I decided to tell him two facts,” Card said “a second plane hit the second tower, America is under attack.” Card describes the situation as the only time a chief of staff speaks to a president during an event. “Its rare for me to walk into the room after the President walks in.”

Card said that the Bush administration is misunderstood and that history will judge it better.

“He lead with Presidential courage,” Card said of George W. Bush.

Card spoke to senior executive producer and political editor Steve Scully during an interview joined by students from George Mason University, Perdue University and the University of Denver.

When asked about his opinion of Obama’s appointment of William Daley, Card said, “I do not believe that Congress should second-guess the President decision to hire an assistant,” he said, “yes he (Daley) is from the Chicago crowd..but he brings a good vision to the office.”

A native of Holbrooke Massachusettes, Andrew Card’s record of public service began in the Massachusettes House of Representatives from 1975-1983.   Card served under the Reagan and both Bush’s Administrations. He was the Secretary of Transportation for George H.W. Bush from 1992-1993 and chief of staff to George W. Bush from 200-2006.

Card recently joined the business advisory board of Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, and adult stem cell technology company.

Mark Potts talks online journalism, Twitter and the future of how we consume the news

Summary: Journalist and founder of the blog “Recovering Journalist” Mark Potts discusses why bloggers are the most passionate journalists, the uselessness of Twitter, and how the digital revolution has and will continue to change the way we consume the news.

Image provided by

Online journalists need to “use the medium to tell the story,” Mark Potts told a group of George Mason online journalism students today. The reporter/futurist/founder of the blog Recovering Journalist showered the class with Web sites as he gave his insights on the trend of journalism today.

Hyper-local journalism in an interesting model, Potts said, and utilizing passionate bloggers who focus on their local community can help break previously overlooked stories. Potts doubts the success of the hyper-local Web site saying that it does not harness the organic growth of these blogs and should instead focus on aggregating stories rather than creating it from scratch.

Potts also touched on “computational journalism,” using the power of a personal computer to analyze data and disseminating the results. One successful site is, which successfully predicted primary race results in 2008 before its founder was offered a job at the New York Times.

Instead of delivering the news, some organizations are finding was for its readers to interact with it. “I learned more about city planning by playing (Sim City) than in any college course,” Potts said, providing a personal example of learning through a video game. Allowing people to learn through simulations is more engaging and can be an effective tool when explaining processes not commonly known to the general public. The popularity of Zyanga games on social networking sites shows that this medium shows future promise, Potts added.

Unlike many journalists and technology enthusiasts, Potts is not a fan of Twitter. “I find twitter absolutely useless,” he said of the social networking site, “it great for publicity… but is not a tool I would use as a journalist.”