So, I didn’t know James Foley personally, but he and I had some friends in common. He graduated from the same journalism program as I did, just before I started.

His public execution by Islamic fundamentalists is yet another glaring example of the harms that religion does to the world. The animals who killed this man did so because of their religion and their ignorance. Because fundamentalism closed their minds, and convinced them their hatred was a virtue. They killed this man, not because he had committed some crime or threatened their lives or property, but just to MAKE A POINT.

Don’t try to tell me religion is harmless. It is actively poisonous, and it will continue to kill us like a disease for as long as we agree to let it. Fundamentalism, of every kind, is a toxic psychological plague.

A video purporting to show the beheading of James Foley, an American freelance journalist abducted two years ago in Syria, was posted by ISIS.

Click here for the full article

Posted from Facebook

Another post inspired by a mailing list post.

Today, a young lady posted, without context of any kind, an email to a semi-public email listserv, asserting:

Disclaimer:  All communication sent from charityXXXXX@XXXXX.COM, or from Charity XXXXX
is privileged communication, owned exclusively by Charity XXXXX, as proprietary owner/ideas and information as copyright. No duplication, dissemination or profit from the above-mentioned material may occur without the express discretionary consent of owner, Charity XXXXX.
Copyright Charity XXXXX 1958-2012
All rights reserved

You see a lot of these kinds of things these days.  Problem is, they’re completely pointless.  As was pointed out by the Economist back in April of last year.  And by Slate, in 2004.  In fact, the only thing I can find which indicates these sort of stupid things have any merit is this guy, and then only in very limited circumstances.
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So the Medill project came to a successful conclusion.

I’m now a Master of Science in Journalism.

I’m still looking for some full time work, but I’ve managed to get a couple of freelance projects that will keep me fed and housed for a couple of months.  I’ll post more about them as they get closer to completion.

So, additional freelance projects seem like a good idea at this point.  It seems wise to split my job-search time between full time positions and additional freelance gigs, at least for the time being.

And it’s almost X-mas.  Hope you’re having a good one!

As many of you are probably aware, I’ve spent the last couple of months working on the Interactive Innovation Project for Fall 2009.  This is the capstone project of my year at Medill.

The project has been about obituaries in print and online, and about how obituaries drive readership to local media outlets.

One of the two major pieces of the project was to produce a report on the state of obituaries in America these days.  I had a pretty large hand in this aspect of the project, as I was one of the primary authors of the report.  I’m happy to say that today, that report has been released.

From the blog about the project:

“To better understand the nature of our project and the role of in today’s obituary publishing industry, the Fall 2009 Interactive Innovation Project team at the Medill School of Journalism has been diligently researching the history and trends of American obituary writing. We have summarized our findings in a report that we have released this morning. In this report, we examine the nature of the contemporary American obituary, a phenomenon that constitutes an important content category for modern newspapers – and, increasingly, for publishers in other media.”

Read the full post here.

Download the report (PDF).

UPDATE: Oh, hey, look at this — we got a mention on the Washington Post Post Mortem blog!

UPDATE 2: Another mention, from an Editor & Publisher blog!

UPDATE 3: An article about the report appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

UPDATE 4 (12/8/2009): A story about the report appeared on the Northwestern University website.  We also got a link from Romenesko on

UPDATE 5 (12/11/2009): The AP wrote a story about the report, mentioning me by name.  That AP story has gotten republished all over, and even ended up on NPR’s Morning Edition.  Today, Michael S. Malone did an opinion piece for ABC News, which also mentions our report prominently.  Another article on  Oh, hey, look at this!  My buddy Jeff Billman wrote it up for a blog on the Philadelphia City Paper.  Here’s another article on

The interview and photos were done last quarter, but apparently, the so-called “Look Book” has now been published.  Here’s how my little piece of it came out.  Thanks to Katie Rogers for scanning the page for me!


So today was my first day of my last quarter of studies at Northwestern.

It seems that I’m going to be thinking intimately about obituaries for the next ten to twelve weeks.

It also is creeping up on time for me to start looking for work.  Can’t support this lifestyle with no income, so it’s going to be job-getting time here in the near future.

I’ll be posting an updated resume and clips on the site in the very near future.  If you know of a media organization that could benefit from my skill set, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Email ian at

Thank you!

One example of a complex adaptive system is the beautiful Japanese garden in Golden Gate Park.

The Japanese garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is one example of a complex adaptive system.

So this is an interesting thing.

I had two classes this quarter at Northwestern University, and they both had similar, but seperate objectives.

  • First, it was a project to highlight my interactive graphic design skills.
  • Secondly, it was a project to highlight my interactive storytelling skills.

Ok, so with the approval of the instructors for both classes, I created this microsite on the subject of complex adaptive systems.

Complex adaptive systems are one way to model lots and lots of different kinds of things that happen in the universe, at a variety of scales.  CAS models are used to understand everything from immune system responses to macroeconomic fluctuations, to sociological phenomena.

So why not take a look at it?  Features include:

  • Fully object-oriented complex adaptive system simulator, coded from scratch in Flash CS4 (Actionscript 3).
  • Introductory movie with all kinds of appropriated images from the creative commons and Prelinger archives
  • Links to lots of complex systems resources, including a full programming framework to create your own multi-agent modeling schemes.

Understanding complex adaptive systems.

Media theorist and author of many influential books on advertising, corporate influence on culture, and too many more to name, weighs in on the future of the publishing business on Publishers’s Weekly.  Conclusion: The publishing business’s woes are short-term; good things are coming:

Behind the bad news, there is much to look forward to. Our industry has for too long favored those skilled at negotiating the corporate ladder and punished those who simply publish great books. Now that publishing has revealed itself to be a bad growth industry, it is free to rebuild itself as the vibrant, scaled and sustainable business the reading public can support.

via Soapbox: Well Be Back – 8/24/2009 – Publishers Weekly.

Just finished up the last of my work for the second quarter at Medill.

It turned out to be a pretty darn productive quarter, if I do say so myself.  I was generally pleased with the work I produced, and I did work very hard to get everything done.

So now, I’m on vacation until June 22.  That’s when the next quarter’s classes start.  I think I’m lucky on Q3, since I have classes only on Mondays and Tuesdays.  That means five day weekends for the next 10 weeks!

Plus, now it’s sunny and nice in Chicago, so it’s a great time to have some freedom to explore the city.

Lesley Massey is coming for a visit this evening, and we’ve got tickets to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field this Sunday, so that should be a bit of fun.

Now, if only I could get rid of this pain in my back.  Got some muscle relaxers from the doctor, but they’re only partially killing the pain.  How does that rhyme go?  Pain, pain, go away, come again some other day…

In April, scientists from Northwestern University published a new technique for drawing nano-scale structures on a surface, using an atomic force microscope.  In this video, the authors of the paper demonstrate and explain the technique and some of it’s potential applications.


| Open Player in New Window

Note: This story was first published on the Medill Reports website, on 5/14/2009.  It’s re-published here for my own archives.