Greeting, friends.

Eleven months ago, I left Florida to come to Chicago and work my way through Northwestern’s Master’s of Journalism program.  Since then, I have been gainfully unemployed, focusing all my attention on my studies.

This year-long project has been a success thus far.  I’m now in my fourth quarter, and the end is in sight.  Medill has allowed me to build up a host of skills that I hadn’t yet fully developed, and on balance, I consider it to have been an extremely successful endeavor.

But as I reach the end of the program, I’m confronted with the reality that I’m now headed back into the job market, at a time when jobs seem to be particularly hard to come by.

Thus, I’ve decided to adapt a technique from the open-source software community, and to apply it to my job hunt.  It’s become common among groups that deal in open-source software to offer a cash reward to anyone that can code a particularly useful new feature, or quash some persistent bug.  (Interested in bounties in the open source world? Check out this, this, or this.) So, I’ve decided it would be an intriguing experiment to see if the same technique could be useful in finding my next gig.

I’m offering a $250 cash bounty to the person or persons who can provide me with a tip, lead, or introduction that leads to my next full-time job.

Why am I doing this?  Because I am convinced that the best jobs are not the ones you go and find, but rather the ones that find you. I’m interested in finding out just how useful it is to leverage social networks and personal connections in job hunting, or whether I’m better off going through want-ads and online job sites.  And I want to reward the folks who try to help me do well in life.  After all, it’s only fair, right?

So what kind of job am I looking for?

In short, I’m not sure.  There are lots of things I’m qualified to do, and I have an interesting skill set, combining a variety of expertise which often are not found together.  This makes me uniquely qualified for some kinds of positions which are generally very difficult to recruit for.

First of all, I have more than a decade of experience working with computers in a variety of contexts.  I’ve been a system administrator, a break/fix guy, a programmer and web developer.  I’m comfortable with a wide variety of platforms and technologies, from the executive level down to nuts-and-bolts of  implementation and support.

I’m proficient with a wide variety of media creation applications and production processes, including print, online, audio, video and interactive media.  I have been trained as a journalist at one of the most prestigious J-schools in the United States.  I understand newsroom dynamics and producing content on deadline.  I have good news judgement, and I know how to cultivate sources and story ideas.  My written work has been published in a variety of outlets.

I have excellent communication and problem solving skills.  I have a history of finding creative solutions to complicated problems.  I can translate complex technical information in to everyday language.  I can take creative ideas and translate them into technical specifications.  I’m a good multi-tasker, and can balance several projects simultaneously.

I have worked deeply with new media and social media, and I understand how to leverage new platforms to build audiences and maintain relationships.  I have experience with stuff like online advertising (both from a technical and business point of view), search engine optimization, and the semantic web.

Some possible jobs I’m qualified for:

  • Web Editor
  • Information Technology Manager
  • Content Specialist
  • Science/Technology Reporter
  • User Interface Specialist
  • Web designer/programmer
  • Project manager

This is only a partial list.  Frankly, (and hopefully without sounding too self-aggrandizing) I’m a pretty smart fellow, and I know how to make myself useful in a wide variety of roles.  I’m used to wearing many hats.  I’m flexible, responsive and I bring a good deal of value to my employer.

Here’s my current resume. Of course, I am happy to provide published clips, as well as professional and personal references upon request.

My Job Selection Logic:

  • Really interesting/innovative jobs get first priority in my search, no matter where they may be.
  • Jobs in the Chicagoland area get consideration over jobs that would require relocation.  However, relocation is not off the table for the right opportunity.
  • I’m not averse to traveling as part of my next job, and, in fact, I enjoy a little business travel from time to time.
  • Media-related jobs get consideration over technical-only jobs.
  • Full-time jobs get priority over contract positions.

The Rules:

  • I will pay $250 USD, via cash, check or Paypal to the individual that can provide me with a tip, introduction, or lead that translates into my next full-time job.
  • The bounty is payable upon my first day of employment.
  • Employment at this job must begin between December 14, 2009 and January 11, 2010.
  • Tips must be submitted via email. Send the email to:  If more than one person submits the same winning job tip, the winner of the bounty will be determined by timestamp on the email.
  • Professional recruiters may not win the bounty (but don’t let that stop you from getting in touch about potentially interesting positions).

So, do you know of a job for which I might be qualified?  Don’t hesitate — email me today and let me know.

Finally, even if you don’t have a tip that is immediately relevant, please consider that you might know someone who does.  So feel free to pass this offer along to anyone you think might be able to point me in the right direction.

PS – I will update this post with the results of the experiment as they become known.

UPDATE (11/19/2009):

World-renowned DJ and producer Q-Burns Abstract Message has decided to try out the job bounty idea as well.  He’s offering a 10% cut of his fee for anyone that can provide tips or contacts which end up turning into a live show.  Read the post about his variant here. Also, he’s posted some sweet DJ sets to provide a sample for the uninitiated.  Know a club or promoter that might be interested?  You should get in touch with him.

Once again, it looks like I’ve been neglecting the occasional update for you lovely folks.  Let me give you the quick rundown of what’s going on.

I’m knee-deep and wading through this obituaries project.  The interactive innovation project at Medill this quarter is about obituaries, online and off.  That’s eating up a metric ton of time, and is requiring a fair amount of work.  If you’d like to see what we’re up to, please feel free to visit the Obit Research blog that we’ve been keeping.  Feel free to comment there, too, if you like.  I’m sure that I’m going to have more to report as the project reaches it’s completion.

Halloween is coming up!  Horror movies all over the place!  Zombies, conventions, more movies than I can see, like whoa!  I wish I had more free time for seeing films this month.

I’ll be paying a brief weekend trip to Washington, D.C. in a couple of weeks.  Expect pictures.

The job search starts VERY SOON NOW.  I have a special post planned on this subject.  I expect to have it up on Nov. 1, which I’m naming as the first day of my OFFICIAL job search efforts.

Thanks for sticking with me.  I’ll try to get the updates more frequent. (yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before. )

MIT Professor Angela Belcher and the prototype battery she and her team created using a genetically engineered virus.  Photo credit: Donna Coveney, courtesy of MIT

MIT Professor Angela Belcher and the prototype battery she and her team created using a genetically engineered virus. Photo credit: Donna Coveney, courtesy of MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully demonstrated a technique for fabricating a better battery using a genetically engineered virus.

They announced their technique for the battery earlier this month, maintaining that it allows them to use a much wider variety of materials for potentially higher-capacity, rechargeable batteries.

The interdisciplinary team of MIT scientists combined research in biology, chemistry, engineering and advanced nanotechnology to fabricate the battery.

Dr. Chad Mirkin, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, said he is glad to see demonstrations of practical applications of nanotechnology. This represents one of the latest applications of the ongoing advances in nanotechnology using genetically modified viruses.

“There are many examples of using genetically engineered viruses to manufacture nanomaterials,” Mirkin said. “It’s a merger of molecular biology and material science.” He said that research in this area has been almost exclusively focused on batteries.

Applications of this type of virus battery may one day include powering personal electronics and even electric vehicles. The manufacturing process requires no organic solvents and can occur at and below room temperature. The process is described as “environmentally benign,” because it requires fewer toxic components, according to MIT.

To manufacture the battery, the researchers used a genetically modified strain of the common M13 bacteriophage, a virus that consumes bacteria but which is harmless to humans. By altering the virus’s DNA, the researchers were able to fabricate a battery cathode.

To do so, they altered the viruses to bond with iron phosphate on one end of their structure, and then to attach themselves to single-walled carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are used by scientists as a kind of super-small scaffolding to build nano-scale structures, and for their electric properties.

A small change in the virus’s DNA produced an affinity for molecules of iron phosphate, and these molecules were built up by the virus into a structure known as nanowires. The researchers then experimented with ways of combining the nanowires with carbon nanotubes, which are excellent conductors of electricity.

They applied the idea of modifying the virus a second time to produce an affinity for bonding with carbon nanotubes. When the researchers incubated the viral iron phosphate nanowires in a suspension of carbon nanotubes, the viruses were drawn to the nanotubes, and they produced a highly conductive network in which electrons “percolate” through the carbon nanotubes on their way to the iron phosphate.

The researchers used this network as the cathode portion of their battery, and packaged the battery in a standard coin shape. The prototype was used in a simple circuit to light a green LED, and was demonstrated last month at a White House press briefing by Susan Hockfield, president of MIT.

The prototype maintained power after being charged and discharged at least 100 times in lab tests. While this falls short of current-generation lithium ion batteries, MIT Professor Angela Belcher stated she expects to improve  performance with further research. Belcher, lead researcher for the battery project, is an expert in the fields of material science, engineering and biological engineering.

“We expect them to be able to go much longer,” said Belcher in a press release.

Note: This article was first published on the Medill Reports site, on 4/9/2009.  Reprinted here for my own archival purposes.

Starting today until the beginning of June, I’m working on Health/Science reporting.

My beat is Technology/Gadgets/Nanotech. If you should happen to have any good tips on these subjects, please please contact me and clue me in (ian at I finally have a beat that I can write about with some kind of clarity, so I’m looking to make it as interesting as possible.

Thanks in advance!

Here’s the thing — journalism is transactional.  You rely on other people to feed you information that you can use to write your stories.  In exchange, your sources get to draw attention to the things that they think are important.

For instance, if you’re writing an article about a new business, you contact the business owner or spokesperson, and they talk to you, give you an interview, answer your questions, or whatever.  In return, they get to communicate their message to potential customers, they get to get the word out about their business.

Or how about if you’re interviewing a politician?  Well, again, they provide the journalist with information, and in return, they get to have their viewpoints publicized.

Perhaps you’re doing an article about health food, so you contact health experts for opinions.  In exchange for their opinions, they get their names in print, which helps to build their reputations as experts in their field.

But if you are a student, working on, oh, I don’t know, a graduate degree, for instance, and your work is only being distributed internally, or on a private website, then the transaction breaks down.  The source feeds you information, and they get nothing in return, because nobody (or only a small number of people) reads the finished reporting.

So there’s no incentive for anybody to talk to you, unless they are motivated solely by listening to themselves speak.

When I was working for the Orlando Weekly, I could simply disclose my affiliation with the newspaper, and whoever I was talking to would take me seriously enough to answer my questions.  But now that the only place that my writing is showing up is on a private website, nobody can be bothered to return my phone calls or provide me with any kind of useful information at all.  Particularly since my beat is business, where everyone is busy trying to make money, and I have nothing to offer them in the transaction of journalism.

Frankly, it’s pretty much bullshit.  Maybe I should just call myself a freelance journalist.  That would get me more respect.