How to Break a Story Live on YOUR Blog

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Ok, this is the kind of stuff I absolutely love. A reader asks a question about a project he’s doing with some students, and we’re able to use that to show professional journalists how to cover a story in real time on a blog with a mobile phone.

Reader Dan writes:

A small group of seniors from my local rural Kansas high school are attending the presidential inauguration and I want to create an online experience for local friends, family, community members to follow this event, through the eyes and thoughts of the students. I’m thinking the students can text their thoughts to Twitter and I can use a hashtag to allow others to follow them there. Then I want them to post cell phone photos and Flip camera video to a Flickr group, so people can watch what the students are seeing too.

I then want this all to feed to my WordPress blog ( I’ve been experimenting with this, but am still having a bit of trouble getting it all to flow well. Do you have any input for me?

First of all, this is such a cool project and experience for the kids. Secondly, this is a perfect example of how journalism is changing. A huge event in history is going to be covered through the perspective of some young people from a small town for their local community, but their coverage is going to be available worldwide. Unbelievably cool!

So what does Dan need to do this project? He already has a WordPress blog ($0)…he just needs a way to pull stuff from Twitter ($0) and Flickr ($0) into it. He wants to create his own “mashup”. Assuming the Flickr group has been created and all the kids have Twitter accounts, all that’s left to complete this project is a Yahoo! account ($0).

Oh yeah, this how-to….$0

Yahoo! has a really cool service called Yahoo! Pipes that lets you create your own mashups from just about anything. A couple of design considerations for Dan’s mashup are that he wants the kids to use hashtags, which is a Twitter convention to categorize tweets, and he only wants his students’ tweets (he said it was a small group) to show up in the mashup. This will keep people other than his students from showing up on the site.

This is very easy to do in Yahoo! Pipes. In fact, I’ve created a Pipe (it’s right here) that does exactly this, and it’s output is displayed further down this page .

My Pipe pulls the feed from my Twitter account and Newscoma’s Twitter account and filters only tweets that contain links to websites, which are indicated by an “http”. You can find the RSS feed for a Twitter account up at the top right.



I’m also pulling the feed from this Flickr group for Maui, Hawaii. The feed for this group is located at the bottom of the group page.


The “union” function merges all these feeds together,


and the “sort” function sorts these posts by their publish date.


How does this solve Dan’s problem? Mostly because he doesn’t even have to do everything I just did. He (and you) can use this Pipe any time you’d like.

All Dan has to do is:

  1. Clone the Pipe I made to his account–Yahoo! makes this easy…just click the button!
  2. Use the students’ Twitter feeds instead of ours–add as many as you’d like
  3. Change the filter from “http” to “#inauguration” or whatever hashtag he decides to use
  4. Change the Flickr group to the one he sets up for the students.

Viola–a live feed of what the students are experiencing at the Inauguration in chronological order.

Now all that’s left is to display the output of the Pipe on his site. Yahoo! makes this easy too:

  1. Click on the “Get as a badge” link for the Pipe
  2. (optional) Choose the “Customize the size, type and settings of your Badge” so you can set the height and width to 100%.
  3. Paste the code into your site. Yahoo! generates a JavaScript that you can copy and paste directly into your post or page (make sure you’re editing using “html”–not “visual”).

The JavaScript for the one I’ve created looks like this:

<script src=””>

Seriously, that’s the only code you have to deal with. Now you have a feed that’s constantly being updated by a several people (or just you) and displayed on your site.

Note: If you edit your post later and your Pipe all of a sudden isn’t working, it’s probably because your editor commented out the attributes. You can either remove the comments or just repost the Pipe.

Here’s what the Pipe I created looks like (if you’re reading through our RSS feed you’ll have to come to the site to see the Pipe)–again, it is constantly being updated. As soon as one of us adds a link in a tweet or something is added to the Flickr group, this will change.

You can stop reading here if you’d like…the rest is automatically generated by Yahoo! Pipes. But feel free to include your own examples in the comments!

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  1. James said January 3, 2009 | Permalink

    I haven’t looked at Pipes yet, but the possibilities here are good.

  2. mark van patten said January 3, 2009 | Permalink

    Another easier alternative is

    One email to posterous can post to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, WordPress, Livejournal, Blogger, Movable Type, Typepad, Xanga, Tumblr and Shopify!

  3. sadcox said January 3, 2009 | Permalink

    @mark van patten

    Just checked out Very cool! This is a great way to autopost…going to use this in the future!!!

    I don’t think it solves Dan’s problem because I believe he was looking for a post or page to be the “live feed” of what the students are Twittering and adding to Flickr. With Posterous, every time one of the students tweeted or uploaded a photo there would be a whole new post created on his blog.

    Besides that, each student would have their own Twitter account, which means they’d all have to have an separate account with publishing rights on his blog or a shared account with publishing rights. He may not want that.

    Posterous is more like “mashing out” than it is “mashing up”.

    But this is a great resource for journalists who want to simply “email in” a story, photos, video etc. The WordPress email post thing is clunky, and I love it that this updates everywhere.

    Thanks for sharing!!!!

  4. Ron said February 27, 2009 | Permalink

    This was helpful, thanks for sharing it.

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