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How to Destroy Everyone At Trivia Crack

This post first appeared on Vox Magazine. 

If you’re reading this, you’re obviously betrothed to the latest social-gaming app Trivia Crack.

The name “Trivia Crack” is a morbid but accurate association — you’ll be hopelessly addicted within minutes.

Now all you have to do is win. Here are some shamelessly competitive tips from a level 60 addict with a 2-1 winning ratio.

1. Focus on your weakest categories. There are six categories, and nobody is an expert at them all. Check your profile to discover your weakest categories, and try to win in those categories first. You might always pick Entertainment first, but is that actually a smart move? If you can get your weakest out of the way first, you can make a swift coup de grâce when it counts.

2. Go with the answer you recognize. Oftentimes the only name that’s familiar is the correct choice. There are few trick questions in this terrible game, so don’t expect them.

3. Eliminate the wrong answers. You could save yourself some coins if you eliminate the clearly wrong answers first. This could turn a 25 percent chance guess into a 50 percent chance. Answers that use “all of the above” or “none of the above” are rarely the right choice — when they are, you’ll know for sure.

4. Trust your gut. Your unconscious often pulls you toward the correct answer at first glance.

5. If you’re dealing with numbers, choose one toward the middle of the pack. As said before, absolutes are rarely the right answers.

6. Play a lot. This goes without saying. I’ve had the same question about Einstein probably ten times now. The more you play, the better you’ll get — and the more coins you’ll win.

7. Play against people you consistently beat and who you consistently lose against. Easy wins will generate coins, losses will make you better.

8. Be smart with your coins. Don’t waste three coins on a skip right in the middle of a game. Save your coins for defining moments, such as when you need to get one question right to win. Same with your spins.

9. Give and ask for spins on social. It isn’t just a cheap marketing idea by Trivia Crack, it’s a way to help you win.

10. QUIT PLAYING. If you manage to reclaim your life from this wretched addiction, you’re the real winner. These wildly popular apps come and go about every six months, conquering the country then quickly fading into obscurity. Remember Words With Friends? Flappy Bird? Candy Crush?

Yeah, me neither. Be part of a movement and break free of the digital specter that haunts you.

5 Reasons Journalists Should Move to Seattle

Seattle. The name invokes imagery: a temperate rainforest, permanent rain, (God forbid) the Twilight novels, legal marijuana.

But actually visiting the city reveals something else: Seattle is poised to be the tech utopia of the future. Of course, this comes with problems. As journalists, here’s why you should get your ass to Seattle immediately and the challenges you’ll face:

Seattle is beautiful. A coastal temperature keeps the ever-present flora permanently green. Beautiful ivy and moss cover every corner of the futuristic, minimalist office and apartment buildings. Moody rainclouds part for glorious rays of sunshine. There’s no trash to be seen anywhere. Unlike the urbane vintage flair of New York or the historical weight of D.C., Seattle is building itself from the ground up as a city of the future. The downside: the Mediterranean climate means the weather doesn’t change often. No snow, no hot summers.

It’s perfect for millennials. Think West Coast values: widespread recycling, locally-driven grocery places like Pike Place Market, a chill music scene. Hardly anybody wears ties, yet there’s a clear frontier-meets-office-space fashion trend. Everyone you see on the street is young, hip, smart and attractive – why don’t you join them? The downside: Rent is wildly expensive, experiencing one of the steepest hikes in recent years. It’s only a few notches below New York.

Seattle is the new Silicon Valley. It’s a major shipping lane for Asian companies. It doesn’t have the same problems as SoCal. It’s been called the “Detroit of Tech Companies.” The Pacific Coast location makes Asia more accessible than New York. It’s home to giants like Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft, serious players in the tech scene. It refuses the fly-or-die tech startup blueprint popular in Silicon Valley. There’s none of the crazy Silicon Valley drama, either. In Seattle the vibes are chill and the tech progress is real. The downside: The tech industry has filled Seattle with tons of young, single men. Even though Seattle has a vibrant LGBT community, it could be hard for women to find equal upwards mobility.

Seattle has an evolving but distinguished journalism community. The Seattle Times is a hero of the digital future. Marketing agencies like Edelman are growing their presence in response to the technology industry. Legacy organizations like KING5, The Seattle P.I. and Amazon are picking up tons of journalists, especially Mizzou grads. Where the communication technology goes, journalism follows. The downside: Journalism jobs are disappearing, same as across the industry. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a job – it just means you might not end up as a journalist.

COFFEE. And fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood daily at the Pike Place Market. And legal weed, whenever you like. And awesome craft beers. And awesome mountain views. And the awesome American Northwest waiting for adventure, if you’re into that sort of thing. Seattle has a variety of things to offer, so isn’t it time you tried it out?



Edelman Worldwide: The Dark Side?

This post is part of a series about a class trip to Seattle. 

Day 2 and it still hasn’t stopped raining. We wake up too early and destroy complimentary breakfast and head downtown to the Seattle newsroom of Edelman, a worldwide public relations and marketing firm. Absolutely nobody has done research on Edelman, but by God we know where to find doughnuts. 

After a parking fiasco we file into a swanky office building near the Belltown part of Seattle. Marty directs us to go to the 24th floor, and we discover it’s the top. What!

We stumble out of the elevator and are immediately struck by the gorgeous view. In the style of modern buildings, mixed concrete and carpet floors lead to full-length windows on all sides. Maude and superfluous office furniture is everywhere, and the office has a futuristic vibe. There are no cubicles.


Young attractive people work at standing desks and laugh together. None of the guys are wearing ties and most women aren’t wearing high heels. There’s a huge community kitchen with a free Keurig. We drool.

In retrospect, this was a defining moment. Look at the place you could work. Look at the pretty people. Look at the pretty view. This could all be yours. 

Mizzou alum Cherylynne Crowder greets us and takes us into a side room for a frank discussion. We stand around half-constructed desks as she explains the office space is new. That’s probably why she didn’t lead us to a conference room.

So what do all these young people do, exactly?

In discussions about storytelling, brand trust and understanding trends, we discover Edelman is a PR firm through and through.

“I’m always thinking about the next new trend,” Crowder says, “Just the same as journalists, we’re always looking for the next new story.”

Her lessons sound vaguely familiar. “We need utility infielders – you have to be the next Renaissance person,” she says to a question about skills. “I have about 12 seconds to get the journalist’s attention.”

She goes on to discuss the changing nature of communication.

“For decades people yelled at the TV – now we’re closing the loop,” she says. Direct to consumer marketing is bringing people closer to the brands they love and boy, does it sound a whole lot like journalism.

She discusses the Trust Barometer.

“Media isn’t very highly trusted,” she says.

Two guys walk up to the group. One turns around a computer to reveal a MS Paint drawing of “Go Mizzou Tigers!” The mafia is everywhere. 

Rob, a young account executive in a plaid shirt, steps forward. He goes on to describe the storytelling he gets to do, all the multiplatform and emerging technology he uses. A story is told about a photographer that gets to swim with Great White sharks.

“What are the new ways we can tell familiar stories?” he says, referencing brand identities on various platforms.

He sounds like a journalist, but he isn’t. It’s perplexing. I challenge him.

“A lot of people, especially in our newsrooms at Mizzou, consider what you do to be the “dark side” of journalism,” I say. “What would you say to those people?”

He grins through frustration, like this is an argument he’s tired of making.

“I take pride in my skill set,” he says, “I’m a storyteller at heart, and I gotta make a living. If journalism can’t help you tell stories, find the channels that can.”

Another executive, Tyler, who just finished describing helping Microsoft start an Instagram, shares his perspective.

“In this job you get to work for stuff you believe in,” he says. “I don’t pitch stuff I don’t believe in.”

Rob closes his part with some strong words.

“Journalism is not the only place to do good.”

Exhausted from standing, we go for a tour around the building and head out. Quotes ring through my head.

Journalism is not the only place to do good. If Journalism can’t help you tell stories, find the channels that can. I take pride in my skill set. Media isn’t very highly trusted. 




Changing Media Business Models: Seattle Trip

I’m in a class called Changing Media Business Models, a class run by Marty Steffens, a respected professor in the Missouri School of Journalism.

Each semester this class takes a trip to Seattle and tours various newsrooms, including nonprofits, marketing companies and digital-only publications.

The trip was wildly complex and a blur of shattered expectations and great coffee. It was more than the educational experience we expected, and less of the vacation we thought we got.

Check the links below as they come.

I Can Has Cheezburger: Ben Huh

Edelman Worldwide: The Dark Side?

5 Reasons Journalists Should Move To Seattle

CrossCut: Survival Mode

Storytelling and Getting Paid for It

LIONDigitalMedia: The Grand Plan

The Seattle Times: Journalism 2.0?

Losing My Virginity Twice: Uber and Legal Marijuana

Seattle PI: A Kingdom Fallen

KING5 and Broadcast journalists

Zillow and the Public Service Hackathon

I Can Has Cheezburger: Ben Huh

This is the second post in a series about a class trip to visit various newsrooms in Seattle. 

On our first day in Seattle, we arrive at the hotel jet lagged and wired on coffee.

We’re scheduled to meet with Ben Huh, digital entrepreneur and CEO of Cheezburger, the network of websites (single-handedly?) responsible for the internet’s infatuation with cats.

Cheezburger is the meme center of the internet. Huh helped start Circa, voted the best app of 2013 on both Android and iOS. He’s a legend, the kind of journalism entrepreneur we idolize.

So imagine our surprise when we cruise into Cheezburger’s headquarters and discover a half-empty office, well decorated but lightly staffed. We’re led into a conference room.

And imagine our surprise when Huh, about to go on vacation, comes into the room and gives us a frank explanation of his company and his industry. He’s wearing his standard circular glasses and speaks like a West-Coast techie.

One expects a man who runs a company called Cheezburger to be cheerful. However, his demeanor is grave, in stark contrast to the hand-painted memes hung throughout the office.

We do introductions and he launches into a short history of his career, from founding a tech company to his biggest break as a journalist. Soon the conversation turns to entrepreneurship.

“The best part about being an entrepreneur,” he says, “Is that somebody else pays you to learn how to start a business.”

At first his speech is inspiring, but soon he starts dumping realities. Journalism entrepreneurs – somebody asked a question about them – face a harsh and brutal reality.

“There’s a race in journalism and media to find the next hot thing,” Huh says. “By the time something gets big, nobody cares.”

Posed with a question about the newspaper industry, Huh speaks boldly.

Joint Operating Agreements were the worst thing to ever happen to news,” he says. “They were essentially monopolies that propped up voices. Now we’re seeing the natural defenses of a regional monopoly falling apart.”

He’s of course referencing The Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer, two more locations we’ll visit later on the tour.

Even though it took a while to get profitable, and he had to lay off 24 employees, Huh doesn’t advise us to avoid entrepreneurship.

“People often talk about the ‘serial entrepreneur.’ It’s not about having ideas, it’s about a mindset. There’s no real value in an idea – ideas are worthless. The challenge is building something real. Don’t hold on to an idea like it’s a secret: the more people you tell about your idea, the better it will get.”

We leave Cheezburger disoriented. Was that a newsroom? Was the morbidly realistic Ben Huh the kind of journalist we’d all end up being? Is Cheezburger a success story or not? Why did we even visit?

Our professor Marty Steffens, in what I would call extreme wisdom, offers no opinions on Cheezburger or any other newsroom. She instead cheerfully offers the name of a good seafood restaurant downtown. We wander through the afternoon rain.

What is this trip about, exactly?

Vox Digital: Organizing talent and fostering creativity

I’m a Teaching Assistant for Magazines Across Platforms, a class run by Sara Shipley Hiles, Digital Director of Vox Magazine. These students, known as Digital Editors, make up the majority of the Digital Team, the web-based half of Vox.

As Digital Managing Editor, I’m basically the quarterback of the Digital Team, making sure we’re successfully producing digital content, maintaining our brand across social platforms and constantly exploring new storytelling mediums.

Last semester we only had 6 students, meaning our brand and production power was shoestring. This semester we have 16. I like to say the Digital Team’s accomplishments last semester attracted more students, but who knows?

Either way, this growth presents challenges for our organization. How do we engage these students each week while also hitting our production goals? Can we make this pedagogical, considering improving their skills will improve our content?

Here’s my major goals as a Digital Managing Editor for this semester:

Don’t let the organization descend into chaos. Our strength lies in our ability to organize, making sure everybody knows what they have to do and when. We’ve built a huge color coded spreadsheet with various shifts for each job we’ve defined, and each job has a perfectly clear statement of responsibilities and associated “How-To” documentation. Organization allows for forward planning and less on-the-spot attempts to produce content.

Discover, master and share digital storytelling tools with the entire Vox Magazine staff. The key to improving our digital content is showing people what we can create. If we show the staff all the interactive quiz, graphic design, and social aggregating tools we have, they’re more likely to implement them. Pair this with clear and concise how-to documents and innovation will spread.

Practice a clear and transparent style of leadership. Everybody knows what must happen and when they’re failing or succeeding. I want to drive all my students to improve upon themselves and practice loyalty to the organization. They will tell me what they want to learn, what works and what doesn’t, and how they think we can improve.  When they need help, I will be there. Office politics and drama will be at a minimum if everyone knows their role in the machine.

We know this is how to engage millennials in the workplace, so why not try it in class?

Innovate every single week. Digital organizations are in permanent beta, constantly changing and improving with every version of content. This goes hand in hand with technological advancement. We are no different. Each week we should build on the lessons we learned in the previous. As we continue, we set the bottom line for production quality higher and higher.

Teach every single student how to learn. The most important part of digital journalism is teaching yourself brand new tools. Because this industry requires multi-talented and multi-perspective journalists, that’s what we need to create. We need to create young professionals who both know the skills and understand theories. In the end they will adapt just as quickly as their industry changes.

Establish persistent and scaleable digital production methods. I know we don’t really know the best way for legacy print organizations to evolve in response to digital demands, but by God we’re going to try. Already I’ve established some methods that elevate our digital presence – hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have serious, long-term strategies laid in stone.

Here’s to hopefully having the best semester ever for Vox Digital.

Mizzou and bold new frontiers

Interactive data visualizations are all the rage these days, with major news organizations like the WSJ and the New York Times setting up interactive desks that churn out engrossing, compelling visualizations.

Mike Jenner, the Houston Harte Chair in Journalism at Mizzou and data visualization extraordinaire, set up a workshop back in October where dataviz journalists Chris Canipe (WSJ), Andrew Garcia-Phillips (Chartball) and Leah Becerra (Omaha World-Herald) came and taught us all D3, a Javascript library of data visualization, in one speedy weekend.

Check out that last link for some awesome data visualizations that capture the power of D3.

In one hot-and-heavy 16 hour sprint, we got the basics in Data Viz. Nobody left as data experts, but the class exposed lots of students to the future of digital journalism.

This was huge for one reason: while Chris, Andrew and Leah were all self-taught in data viz, they brought what they learned to an academic environment.  

After the class, Madi Alexander and myself organized the Mizzou Data Viz Club, where we met and tried to hang on to the skills we learned. (Madi recently got an internship at the NYT as a digital reporting intern. Hooray!)

In a conversation with Mike, I discovered he wanted to make a longer-term class, he just needed pledges that students would take it.

Our Dataviz club had the students and he had the resources. It was like the planets aligned.

Mike moved swiftly, organizing an 8-week course in D3 with Chris for this spring semester. I helped him design the posters to advertise it and recruited a bunch of students to join the class. Chris drives in occasionally from his home in Saint Louis, where he works remotely for the WSJ.

Our skills levels are all over the board, from accomplished programmers to brand new students. The class is open and modular with each student working at their own pace. It’s pitched together and sometimes challenging, but I want to outline a list why this Data Visualization class is wildly important to the future of Mizzou journalism academics.

1. Data visualization skills are in high demand. The success of Mizzou’s CAR and Data Reporting classes are testament to this. We teach the students how to find the data and how to pull stories from it, but now we’re on the cutting edge of visualizing it.

2. Most people who know this stuff were self taught, and our class is the foundation for rigorous academic improvement of the subject. By turning this into an academic affair, we make it easier for students to learn the basics quickly. Once people are learning it, they can move beyond and improve it, developing new techniques and taking those to industry publications.

3. It’s confusing, challenging and uneven – but it’s happening and we’re moving forward, setting standards for future dataviz classes. After this is over, we’ll know what kind of classes should be required for prerequisites. We’ll understand gaps in the digital knowledge of the journalists we’re training. We’ll know what kind of classes we need to establish a powerful data journalism sequence courses. This is us surging into a new frontier for science, know what I mean?

As we move forward, I’ll inevitably have more to say about this venture, so stay tuned.

How to Survive at Vox Magazine: 6 Lessons

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a student in your first Missouri-Method placement at Vox Magazine.

And you’re probably a little intimidated too, considering during your first week you’re helping launch an issue.

But fear not! Hundreds have come before you, and countless more will follow you. You need to focus on yourself now and the opportunity you have.

Here’s five pieces of advice to help you survive your semester at Vox, from somebody who has done it before.

1. Embrace the chaos and immerse yourself in the flow. Go forward and write every single meeting in your planner for the rest of the semester. Schedule your daily routine around Vox. We have a crazy workflow, but the sooner you embrace it and understand it you’ll see the genius.

2. Ask everyone questions and find your heroes. It’s common knowledge that Managing Editor Anna Seaman is a walking database of meeting times, class schedules and phone numbers of Vox employees. Half the time I ask her what I’m supposed to be doing. Ask people questions – they want to help you. Helping you helps the machine work.

3. Learn the language. I’m not talking about our official office language of sarcasm, I’m talking about communication. Learn how to ask, discuss and brainstorm with the right lingo and you’ll pick up quick. Learn those editing marks, and remember handwriting on galleys!

4. Don’t just hit the bottom line. Use this opportunity you have to boost your skills set, your connections and your clips. You’ll have the chance to enrich yourself and pitch the stories you want to cover. This is your chance to stand out from the crowd and make a difference for your career.

5. BREATHE. Stress is a side effect of our industry – learn to deal with it. Step back from the problem and go get Chipotle. Take a walk around the rotunda to clear your head. Freaking out about something doesn’t solve the problem. Learn how to mitigate and control your stress. Stay chill, dude.

6. Cherish every moment. Before you know it, you’ll be done and looking for job offers. Take every learning opportunity you can find. Genuinely get to know people. Stretch out of your comfort zone. This isn’t just a class, it’s an experience. Make the most of it.

The Oscars: Proof we’re all still racist and sexist

This post originally appeared on

As you probably know, the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced today.

As you also probably noticed, the internet is pretty upset about the intense lack of diversity in the nominations. Various excuses have come forward, from the homogeneity of the selecting voters (an overwhelming majority are male and white), to the selection of an African-American Cheryl Boone Isaacs as president in 2013.

These excuses excuse nothing.  These nominations prove that, even after a year of intense racial, gender and class conflict, nothing has changed. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, an organization of esteemed filmmakers, actors and cultural icons who deeply influence the evolution of American society, still don’t give a damn about black people or women.

This is a problem.

The Wikipedia page for The Oscars list the awards as “an annual American awards ceremony honoring cinematic achievements in the film industry.” What defines these achievements?

Did not Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, deserve recognition for her bold and poignant exploration of the Civil Rights Movement, during this time of reopened wounds of racial inequality? The film has a 99% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, a virtually impossible ranking to achieve. Doesn’t showing the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr., the biggest civil rights hero in American history, count as “elevating film-making?”

No. Instead, the academy prefers Budapest Hotel, a beautifully-shot but totally culturally disconnected film about a fictional hotel and a man who likes perfume too much.

Did not Laura Poitras, the director of Citizenfour, deserve recognition as a director considering she literally cannot reenter the United States for fear of government seziures due to her connection to Edward Snowden? She sat in the room with Snowden as he described what is arguably the most important governmental scandal of the decade. Citizenfour is in the running for Best Documentary, hardly the esteem it deserves.

You could argue “But the academy is actually picking good movies! Look at American Sniper!”

I would argue these awards are just as symbolic as they are literal. Look at how Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize — that award was an effort by the Nobel Committee (and the entire European continent) to show their approval for Obama’s initiatives. (They’ve since asked him to return it, further proof of it’s symbolism.)

Has the academy not seen the year we’ve had? The people who have died in Ferguson, New York and recently Nigeria as a result of racial inequality? Has the academy not seen what’s happened to free speech in Syria, Paris and our own country?

I’m not asking the academy to throw their votes. I’m asking them to recognize the influence of film-making on our world and to respond in kind.

I’m asking the academy to recognize their roles as social influences, as leaders who drive the cultural discussions in this country, to take responsibility for improving the world around them. I’m asking them to take responsibility for the influence they have to make this world a better place.

In that regard, they clearly don’t care. So continues the Wes Anderson Hollywood Love Train. 

What do you think? Comment below, tweet at us, or comment on our Facebook page. 

Bryan Bumgardner also does Twitter. 

Inside Vox: A Revolutionary Restructure

Vox Magazine is a lot like any other magazine.

We have editors, departments, budget meetings and contributors.

We also have a website and a pretty developed digital team.

Much like any magazine, we’re concerned with providing the best content to our readers. This inspired a pretty revolutionary shift in our internal workflows that we’re excited to start this semester.

Given that each semester Vox’s staff rotates, each semester we can reinvent ourselves. Sometimes this poses challenges for advancement or innovation. For spring 2015, every member of the Teaching Assistant Editorial Team, the administrative core of Vox, has already worked at the magazine for at least one semester.

Because of this experience, we’re taking a leap to ensure we’re delivering the best storytelling and content we can.

First, you have to understand where we’re coming from.

The legacy way

For most magazines, including some massively successful ones, their digital presence is a limited one. Sometimes the magazine simply dumps their print content to the web with little differentiation. Sometimes this isn’t the best – sometimes I’ve read an entire month’s issue of GQ before my print version even comes in the mail.

Sometimes organizations have a hybrid version, where print content is shared alongside digital-first content. This is common at Complex, who has built a vibrant internet community, and Scientific American, who has arguably the most-read scientific blogging community on the web.

This hybrid is what Vox does – we have print exclusive content that gets some slight modification for web, and we have consistent blog content.

Few of these magazines mesh their digital and print storytelling, which reveals a secret: nobody really knows the best way for print magazines to provide web content.

The new Vox way

In our first few meetings of the semester, our Editorial Director Heather Lamb proposed a shift in priority. No longer are we a print version and a website and a blog – now we are one being, the Vox brand. Our focus shouldn’t be on producing content for the magazine or writing things only meant for blogs.

We should focus on a multiplatform approach. Instead of pitching specific items for specific platforms, we have a new question:

On what platform can you tell your story the best? 

Some of our most vibrant and visually stimulating graphic designs bring life to our print edition that can’t be translated to web.

And some of our digital content lives so well online it can’t be replicated on paper.

Now we’re asking our students to not consider the simple requirements of pitches for web and print. We’re asking them to consider the quality of their storytelling and how it can be done the best.

To support this shift, we’re restructuring our magazine. Before, there was a separation between the print, digital and design aspects of our magazine. This created dissonance and difficulties in cross-platform production.

To fix this, we’re putting increased emphasis on Departments – Music Arts and Books, The Scene, Food and Drink, and others.

Headed by Editors, each department will have Reporters, Digital Editors and associated designers and Convergence reporters. They will tackle stories as a department, with each member of the multi-platform team considering the best way stories can be told.

You can’t pitch something exclusively for print anymore – if the story can be told better on the web, that’s where the Department will focus.

This opens our Vox brand to tons of different opportunities: linked Web and print content, live digital support of a print topic, social media campaigns to support stories, and increased emphasis on video production.

We aren’t sure if it’s going to work, but we’re super excited about it. Stay tuned for more as the semester goes on.