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Rolling Up My Sleeves (cmdrtaco.net)
159 points by th0ma5 on Mar 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

This has to be one of the most forward-thinking hires ever by a news organization. There are great tech people involved in journalism, but few are at a position of authority.

The news industry, sadly, has plenty of people with ideas but very few who have any idea how to implement them. They need someone who can understand and influence the logistics...I would not be surprised if a large part of why innovation is stifled by something as mundane as a poorly-implemented CMS.

I do see the potential for cmdrtaco to have minimal impact, through no fault of his own. Something as mundane as office politics (I'm assuming editor-at-large is a position outside of the chain of command) also stifles innovation.


But the fact that they've setup an internal division to explore the changes in technology and their impact on publishing is a solid positive indicator.

That said, large models are slow to shift, and there's plenty of examples of boneheaded executives within all media clinging helplessly to the titanic.

Hopefully the leaders at WaPo are genuinely interested in the lifeboat that cmdrtaco is sure to provide.

Thanks for the friendlies HN.

Well done and congrats. Glad we nabbed you for a visit to New Zealand before you got lost in work again. Good luck in your new job.

I'd love to see you do write-ups on some of the 35+ cool companies you met with. Surely you've seen some neat things. Even if the companies/positions weren't for you, I'm sure they'd benefit from the exposure as would all of us.

Welcome to the Post!

Make it easy for me to pay for great articles. Make it easy for me to subscribe to online content (and maybe give online subscribers an ad-free Readability option). Consider a scheme for people to subscribe and donate the dead-tree paper to schools / colleges / prisons / hospitals / etc.

Out of curiosity, what other well known corporate R&D / internal incubators exist out there?

Maybe not particularly well known:

Walmart Labs: http://www.walmartlabs.com/

New York Times Labs: http://nytlabs.com/

Lockheed's Skunk Works comes to mind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk_Works

Google has its so-called X Lab: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_X_Lab

Xerox PARC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerox_PARC

If you want to read a great page-turner history of PARC, check out Michael Hiltzik's book: Dealers of Lightning. One of his conclusions is that the laser printer alone paid for PARC several times over.

In Cambridge, MA alone we have Nokia Research Center (NRC), Microsoft NERD (no really, New England Research and Development Center, but they've dropped the C in the last year or two :-) Disney Research... up until a couple of years back we had Orange/France Telecom, too. (BITD there was a "$foo Cambridge Research Labs" for most computer/tech values of $foo; these days all the new buildings, and a lot of the old, are biotech instead.)

Still in the news area, some of the larger newspapers keep dedicated infoviz and digital media departments. They report news, but in ways that just aren't possible with a newspaper, and don't involved tables and tables of columns.

Bell Labs immediately comes to mind.

They've changed hands so many times between AT&T, Lucent, Alcatel and Alcatel-Lucent that they're long gone. I think Alcatel-Lucent said they were basically disbanding the sliver of Bell Labs that was left around the 2007 time frame.

No link to WaPo Labs :(


Congrats. I hope it works out well. They're lucky to get him.

Congrats Rob! WaPo Labs is lucky to have you. Excited to see 14 years of slashdot learnings applied to Social Reader/Trove and to reinvigorate journalism-at-large.

Awesome to hear! The post newspaper journalism world is just taking shape, wonderful to see such a strong voice riding that wave.

Alas, it is newspaper distribution and not newsrooms that consume the vast majority of profits at most newspapers.

Congrats! Glad to hear you working for an org down in my area that's not the government!

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