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Haiku update: Reprieve for a boiling frog

Photo by Olivier Ffrench.

First off, thanks to all of you who emailed, tweeted, commented, or otherwise submitted your Earth Day haiku to us.

Now, to our dilemma: As we announced a little while ago, we'd hoped to pick a successor to our venerable "frog in boiling water" Official Grist Haiku -- the one that concludes, "Dude, we are that frog" -- in time for Earth Day.

We asked for your submissions. We picked some of the best, and we also seeded the entries with some of our own that we kicked around here.

We figured we'd hold a vote, see what the popular will told us, and then present a "people's choice" and an editorial selection -- or, ideally, they'd be the same.

But the vote, as of Earth Day, turned out to be a tie. And the more we sat with this set of nominees, we realized that, much as we enjoyed them, we didn't feel that any was truly suited to knock our frog off its perch.

So we're sticking with him for a little while longer. Meanwhile, we'll go back to the drawing board and see what else we can do to build irresistible momentum in the (intensely competitive) "humorous green haiku" market.

Or, to summarize:

Grist Haiku contest
ends in dead heat. We're stymied.
Frog, live on! (For now.)

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Help us get haiku

Take the haiku road. (Photo by Alan Levine.)

We asked for your best Earth Day haikus, and you rhymed beyond reason. Now it's time to see democracy in action: Help us pick Grist's official haiku in time for Earth Day! Drumroll, please:

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For Earth Day, let’s get haiku together

(Photo by Chris Coomber.)

It's been way too long
since Grist's last haiku contest.
We're here to fix that.

Last time, we emerged
with Grist's official haiku.
Here it is for you:

A frog in water
doesn’t feel it boil in time.
Dude, we are that frog.

A fine haiku! Sure,
some may impugn its science.
We love its koan-

like flash of insight.
It served us well for years. But
its work here is done.

This Earth Day, Grist plans
To christen a new poem.
Will you help us out?

The earth's future could
hang on the syllables of
your five-seven-five.

Send us your haiku!
Email them to us right here.
Or just tweet them out.

(The hashtag "#gristku"
Will insure that we see them.)
Here's inspiration

in a video
from haiku master Dylan
Tweney. Now go write!

Who knows? Your words, too,
might end up immortalized
On a Grist T-shirt.

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We lost, we laughed, we cried: An April Fools’ post mortem

Photo by jonhoward.

Some of you liked "We Lost," our April Fools' item on green leaders throwing in the towel, but some of you didn't.

"April Fail," the comments read. "Stupidest idea ever. This is too big to joke about." "This scared the shit outta me until I realized the date. Don't do this to us." Over on Twitter, @BobbyHertz complained, "Awful April Fools' Joke, bad taste ... trivializes the fight for Climate Justice." Some readers reported tears.

Though we certainly didn't set out to make anyone cry, we'll never apologize for our attempts at humor here at Grist. We know some will work better than others, and one person's laugh is another one's gaffe. Chacon a son Grist.

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Welcome to my new blog

Photo by Taro Yamamoto.

Hey, welcome to my blog!

You may be asking, "New blog? What the hell have you been doing for the last eight years?"

Let me explain. (This is very inside-Grist-baseball, so if you don't care about that stuff, read my scintillating recent post on EPA's new carbon rule.)

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Grist spreads our new design’s wings

Our Grand Rolling Redesign of Grist continues today with some significant changes to the website that I wanted to run down for you.

We're taking the new page design that we introduced here on my blog (and more recently on David Roberts') and extending it throughout the Grist site. We're also introducing a new simplified Grist List design to match the new look. It's all about readability, flexibility -- and, yes, shareability (a tough word to love, but how else to say it?).

We've got lots of other new plans cooking too, including a new home page, new site navigation, and more. For the moment, you've got the current Grist home page design working alongside the new-model Grist article and post pages. This isn't because we're ambivalent; it's because we're trying to do all this right -- carefully, and in stages, and with plenty of time to correct course as needed.

So let us know what you think -- in comments below, by email, on Twitter or Facebook, via carrier pigeon or quadcopter, whatever works for you. We'll try to listen to it all.

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Help Grist build a Fast Green News Machine

We're cooking up a new project here at Grist, and I'd like to ask for your feedback and your help spreading the word about it.

When I came to Grist, as someone who was admittedly not an environmental-news specialist, I started looking around for a website or service that would show me, at a glance, a frequently updated selection of the trending headlines, news items and commentaries in the field. I was used to having this kind of tool at my disposal from my work in tech news, where Techmeme has been filling this need since 2005, and in political news, where Techmeme's sister site Memeorandum has long done the same.

These sites are driven largely by machine -- in other words, algorithms scan a flood of links and RSS items and tweets and draw up a portrait of the news and the conversation around it from a set of carefully selected sources. Human editors intercede at times to fix stuff the algorithm got wrong or to override its judgment with a more nuanced human-editorial hand. It's cyborg journalism -- not a replacement for original reporting, to be sure, but a highly useful adjunct.

I looked, but as far as I could tell, a green version of Techmeme didn't seem to exist. That left us with only one choice: We'd have to build it ourselves. And we're planning to!

When we're up and running, you'll be able to come to Grist at any hour of the day or night and scan a list of headlines and links to the newest and most important stories on the Web about sustainability, climate, cities, food, and other green issues. What news stories are brewing? What opinion pieces and blog posts are raising a ruckus? What are people talking about on Twitter and Facebook?

Our plan is to write the necessary software to power the back end of this service for Grist, and simultaneously share that software under open-source license for other people and organizations to use for their own needs. So the same technology that we're using at Grist could, say, get put to use by science bloggers or activists for human rights in China.

To make this work possible, we've submitted this idea to the Knight Foundation's Knight News Challenge, and this is where we could use your help.

If you head on over to the Tumblr site where the Knight people are collecting and posting applications, you can read our pitch. If you have a comment for us, you can post it there. And if you like our idea, you can like it there too -- or reblog it if you're a Tumblr type yourself.

Knight wants to see what kind of support we can drum up from you, our community. So if our Fast Green News Machine sounds like something you'd want to use and you want Grist to create it, give us a hand. Thanks!

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PR pointers: How to get me to pay attention to your pitch

As a journalist, I am the recipient of a lot of PR. A lot. On an average day, I get somewhere between 100 and 120 emails from people who want me to cover their campaign, product, statement, report, event, or info-f'ing-graphic.

A startlingly large proportion of the PR emails I receive are grossly incompetent -- a waste of my time and inbox space. This has become so irritating that I periodically respond to individual emails with exasperated hectoring. That hasn't proven particularly effective, so I'm now taking my rant advice public.

Perhaps you don't think of yourself as working in public relations. You might be in "communications" or "outreach," possibly something "strategic," or you might just be an academic or researcher promoting your own work. But if you want to use me to reach the public, you are operating as a PR person. You want to use my platform, voice, and authority to get your thing to a reasonably large and influential audience. You want something from me.

So why do you make it so hard for me?

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Shake hands with our new design

What you see on the pages for this blog represents the first phase of some redecorating, and rethinking, that's going to unfold here at Grist in coming weeks and months.

We're aiming to make our pages friendlier to read, gentler on the eyes, and easier to use. We're testing out some aspects of the new design here and plan on rolling it out more widely to other parts of Grist soon. Down the road we'll also be improving our mobile edition and our email services.

Along with these changes in how things look we'll also be revamping how our coverage is organized, beefing up our news coverage and making other improvements.

We're doing this in stages so we can make course corrections as needed, and that's where you come in. We do really want to know what you think about what we're doing. So I'll be checking in regularly with you all right here. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

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First post: Your new editor’s blog

I've been a regular blogger since 2002 -- first at Salon.com, then at my own site. Since joining Grist last September, I've sorely neglected the old blog; there's simply been too much to do here to keep up.

So I'm thrilled to begin this new blog at Grist. It's the first new feature we're rolling out now that we've completed our transition to the WordPress platform. And that's not because I have a burning need to see that little drawing of my face at the top of the page. (Flattering though it is, plainly I need hipper glasses -- but I refuse. On principle.)

The real point of this is for me to be able to talk with you about what's happening at Grist, and to hear back from you about what we're doing and how we could do better. There's a lot of change afoot at this place; we need to know how it's going and what you're thinking about it.

In addition, of course, I'll be weighing in on all things sustainable and green and Grist-y, as I feel the need and find the time. No point in having a blog if you don't use it!

P.S. If you're the creator of the movie-poster image above or you know its original source, let me know so I can credit you. This one has been kicking around the Web for a long time and its origins are lost -- at least to me.

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