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Why has this winter been so cold in Toronto?

Global temperatures on the rise, and yet Toronto is in the midst of what may be one of the city's coldest winters on record.

How could this be?

Conor Anderson, an environmental science PhD student at the University of Toronto, has studied Toronto’s climate data – and has some theories.

In a Q&A blog post, Anderson said our current cold snap and the previous coldest winters of the past 30 years (1993-94, 2013-14, and 2014-15) all included the jet stream veering south, bringing cold, polar air for extended periods – sometimes for 25 days or more in a row.

What has climate change got to do with it?

Anderson's research suggests that the jet stream itself is weakening due to a warming climate, allowing arctic air to push southward. "This in turn," he said, "has led to colder recent winters in Toronto, which seems counter-intuitive."

Overall, Toronto winter temperatures have warmed considerably since winter 1840/41. But since winter 1985/86, there was a significant expansion of extremes partly due to anomalies in the position of the polar jet stream over Toronto.

It's entirely possible that these cold snaps are a complication of climate change. Anderson said, "More and more climate scientists are focusing on the impact of climate change on extremes rather than average conditions, and these extremes can be cold ones as well as warm ones."

Main image by Osman Rana // Unsplash

Materialists treat their Facebook friends as “digital objects”: Study

It turns out materialists are interested in collecting Facebook friends and likes as another symbol of status.

According to a new paper from researchers at Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum, materialistic people treat their Facebook friends as “digital objects,” and have a greater need to compare themselves with others. The study’s lead author Phillip Ozimek concluded that materialists “acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession… Facebook provides the perfect platform for social comparisons, with millions of profiles and information about people.”

These findings were based on the results of an online survey of more than 500 people. This supports what they call their “Social Online Self-regulation Theory” (or SOS-T) – an online variation on Self-Regulation Theory (SRT) in which one consciously guides their own thoughts, behaviors, and feelings to reach goals. In this same way, social media can be used as a tool to achieve one’s goals – one friend at a time.

Fast Journalism: Researching Quick Tech and Business News Updates

I’ve written thousands upon thousands of news updates over the years. (Seriously!)

Many websites need to turn around quick news summary and analysis shortly after it goes public, and there are tons of people (like me) ready to react to those news stories.

I tend to cover technology and business news, and have developed a rough process that could be helpful to those new to this arena where speed is very important.

I think it’s best to know what information you need for the story while researching. Research can be really time consuming when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

WordPress and Long-Form Content

While it’s not explicitly designed for long-form-style content, WordPress is actually a great platform for long-form.

In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the themes that are suitable for long-form, the Aesop Story Engine plugin for long-form storytelling, and some simple CSS tweaks to help tune a theme for long-form.

A Quick Guide to Long-Form Content Online: Designing Longer Posts

One of the things I find incredible about long-form is how the story emerges as you scroll down the page. Whether it’s a photo gallery, or a long essay, you’re showing new information as you move down the page, and as the story progresses. 

I came up with a few basic guidelines for designers of long-form content:

A Quick Guide to Long-Form Content Online: Telling Longer Stories

A Quick Guide to Long-Form Content (WordCamp Toronto 2014)

This blog post is based on a presentation I did last weekend at WordCamp Toronto.

It’s widely believed that all online content should be short to contend with diminishing attention spans. In fact, a common online response to long-winded pieces of writing is “TL;DR” (or “Too Long; Didn’t Read”).

Yet, there are many vibrant examples of how long-form content is being consumed and shared online, and even driving traffic. Many of the most popular websites include long, in-depth content, and communities like Medium and Narratively are built around the idea that people crave long content – as long as it’s worth their time, obviously.

Keeping an audience hooked is a crucial aspect of long-form storytelling, but its something that requires specific strategies to keep them engaged.

This blog post will go over some of the fundamentals of long-form content, what stories are best suited to long-form, and what tools and techniques can be used in WordPress to create compelling long-form pieces.

Basically, the reason I think this is worth talking about is that different stories require different ways of telling them.

Writing Articles Fast

Before I go into the specifics of writing non-fiction quickly, I want to mention that there are plenty of advantages to writing slow. It leads to a certain meditativeness and nuance that’s often impossible to achieve when writing for a quick deadline. Most of the best writing involves quiet contemplation, careful consideration and a seemingly endless process of editing and revision.

I’m a fan of slow writing – but I also realize that writing needs to get finished and get in front of an audience, especially in a reporting or blogging context. As a news writer, I certainly know that posting quickly is essential, and it’s a skill that takes some time to learn.

When seeking out advice on writing with clarity, purpose, and speed, there’s probably no one better than writer Roy Peter Clark (who I’ll refer to as “RPC”).

A few months ago, I binged on his various books and interviews. This post is a summary of the advice that has helped me the most.

Of Interns and Employees: When should workers be compensated in creative industries?

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There’s been a lot of talk about unpaid internships in the past few weeks since the government has been cracking down on publications that use interns simply as unpaid labour. But look at a site like Craigslist and you’ll find daily postings for unpaid interns and volunteers in Toronto.

It’s a tricky subject because it’s obviously unfair that someone who’s put in years of schooling to work into a trade can’t even get paid minimum wage at a legitimate publication – or even an untested media startup. At the same time, the publishing industry is in tremendous turmoil as it copes with plummeting advertising revenues and new technologies that make planning for the future difficult.

I don’t really take a hard line on this.

I did an internship at the National Post, and it was a truly eye-opening experience that really helped prepare me for the work world. Also, I’m a supporter in getting together and doing things without a profit motive. But this usually falls under the banner of friends helping friends – and having fun doing it. Doing creative side-projects with friends is great, even if they don’t end up making money or helping our careers. I’ve done tons of this.

Now, it’s certainly possible to exploit your friends, but we usually stop before it gets that bad. When it comes to blogs and magazines, especially new ones, it’s important to know when seeking some help (which is fine) becomes exploitation. This is my perspective on the subject.

5 Thoughts About Podcasts from PodCamp Toronto 2014

The podcast has come along way in the years between my first PodCamp in 2009 and this weekend’s PodCamp Toronto. Aside from them mostly being played on iPods, podcasts in 2009 also tended to exist simply as another channel for radio programs or a personal hobby.

In the years that have followed, many podcasts have started and ended. And a select few have served as a creative outlet for new producers that have taken the form to new creative levels. I’ve seen many comedians, professionals, enthusiasts, and journalists take the podcast form to new levels.

Of course, PodCamp Toronto’s scope has also widened to many interesting areas of technology and media such as open government, the internet of things, and online marketing.

PodCamp Toronto 2014 was a great event to attend, and I was very happy to be able to meet some very friendly and interesting people. In this post, I’ll try to relate some of the interesting things from PodCamp Toronto 2014 that relate to podcasts.

The New Era of Music Journalism Requires Discovery

The idea that conventional journalism is more endangered now than in previous generations. Good journalism has never been conventional, and in all eras it has been shaped by new technologies and the demographics of the media we use to get our messages across.

It’s a given that we need to stay relevant to those new channels and those audiences. As writers and editors, we have to stay keen to what people want or need to know, and how we can deliver that to them.

But it sometimes becomes hard to balance this job with the higher principles of our profession that make it more than a good to be consumed but rather a public good.