Camayak Blog

Camayak is a content production tool for newsrooms.
Empower editors. Improve communication. Create better content.
  1. Scheduled downtime: Wednesday & Thursday this week

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    Tomorrow we’re going to be performing system updates. You won’t be able to access Camayak during this period so please make sure you’ve saved your work before we get started. We’re going to repeat the same thing on Thursday morning so the same will apply, then.

    If you’re based in Europe you’re most likely to be affected by this, so it’s important to mark these times on your calendar. Camayak may be accessible more quickly than we anticipate, so keep an eye on our Twitter account for updates on when you can resume your work.

    Depending on your location, here’s when Camayak will be unavailable:

    Central EU: Wednesday & Thursday, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

    UK: Wednesday & Thursday, 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

    Eastern US: Wednesday & Thursday, 7 a.m. – 9 a.m.

    Central US: Wednesday & Thursday, 6 a.m. – 8 a.m.

    Mountain US: Wednesday & Thursday, 5 a.m. – 7 a.m.

    Pacific US: Wednesday & Thursday, 4 a.m. – 6 a.m.

    Hawai’i: Wednesday & Thursday, 2 a.m. – 4 a.m.

    We’re sorry for any inconvenience this causes and look forward to updating our Twitter account when we’re finished with our updates.

    Update:

    Thursday’s scheduled downtime has been cancelled.

  2. Introducing: Automatic Notifications

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    We’ve all been there. You’re waiting for your editor to send your work back to you so you can make some changes. You’re expecting an email to let you know you can start working on it. The email never arrives.

    The next morning, you find out that your editor sent you your assignment, but you weren’t logged into Camayak (and either didn’t have desktop notifications activated, or were away from your computer) and so you missed it.

    From today, anyone who’s been assigned to a step in your assignment’s workflow will receive an email 15 seconds after the assignment is sent to them (unless you choose to send it to someone else in that time), letting them know that it’s ready for them to work on. By picking someone for an empty step, you’ll make sure they get that email, too.

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    For those of you using comments to tag people with emails that prompt them to log in, you can still do so if you’re a writer trying to notify an editor at an empty step. As an editor, you’re able to assign another editor to that empty step to ensure they receive the automatic notification.

  3. Getty Images Partners With Camayak

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    Today we’re announcing a new partnership with Getty Images, the world’s leader in visual communications, which gives Camayak users direct access to over 50 million images for non-commercial use in any of their assignments.

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    Using the embed tool, anyone working on an assignment in Camayak can now draw on Getty Images’ latest news, sports, celebrity, music and fashion coverage; immense digital photo archive; and rich conceptual images to illustrate their assignments.

    Whether you’re covering a news event or looking for creative images to illustrate the gist of a story, inserting high quality media into your editorial workflow has never been easier.

  4. Austin Chronicle Sponsors Local College Media Programs, Looks For Young Writers

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    In a bid to support young journalists and their college media programs, The Austin Chronicle is partnering with Camayak to offer its professional-grade tools to local students for free. Camayak, which is also used by journalism schools at TCU, SMU and UT El Paso among others in Texas, will be offered free of charge to any state school media organization in Austin, courtesy of The Chronicle. The partnership, which The Chronicle hopes will help its editors identify promising young writers and photographers, is designed to help student media weather budget threats and grow its influence in the city.

    For more information or to claim your free Camayak license, please email roman@camayak.com.

  5. Root Cause Analysis for Camayak Outage of February 3rd/4th

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    Overview

    Camayak customers experienced three service outages though the evening hours of February 3rd (US Time Zones)/Early Morning February 4th UTC.

    The outages spanned the following times:

    Outage 1 (34 minutes):

    – UTC From 02/04/2015 03:39 to 02/04/2015 04:13

    – CST From 02/03/2015 21:39 to 02/03/2015 22:13

    Outage 2 (12 minutes):

    – UTC From 02/04/2015 04:37 to 02/04/2015 04:49

    – CST From 02/03/2015 22:37 to 02/03/2015 22:49

    Outage 3 (40 minutes):

    – UTC From 02/04/2015 04:54 to 02/04/2015 05:34

    – CST From 02/03/2015 22:54 to 02/03/2015 23:34

    In the times between the outages, service may have been slow as customers tried to reconnect.

    Part 1: The service outage

    A: Cause

    We have determined that the service outages were caused by the following circumstances:

    1) A customer inadvertently created a large number of publishing destinations pointing to non-existent or misconfigured WordPress instances.

    2) When the customer went to the manage publishing destinations page, Camayak attempted to validate the publishing destinations. Due to the specific circumstances of those WordPress instances, the validation code ended up waiting a long time for validation before timing out.

    3) The validation attempts tied up application server threads, preventing them from being used to service other customer’s requests

    4) Our load balancer, seeing that the applications servers were not responding to the validation requests in a timely fashion re-attempted those requests to other application servers, causing application server threads on those servers to be tied up waiting for validation.

    5) This process continued until all application server threads were tied up waiting for validation.

    6) Eventually, the validation requests timed out fully, and the application server threads were available to process other requests.

    Steps 2-6 of this process happened three times, causing the three outages.

    B: Remediation

    1) We have, as of February 4th 16:45 UTC (10:45 CST) released a fix to our application server software to ensure that reasonable timeouts on the validation attempts. The validation timeout is well below the load balancer timeout, to ensure the cascade effect in (4) does not happen.

    2) We have, as an additional measure, increased our application server capacity.

    Part 2: The support outage

    A: Cause

    The Camayak support team was unable to respond to support queries from customers, which began at UTC 04:01, until UTC 07:29. The reasons for this are detailed here.

    B: Remediation

    We have, as of February 4th 14:45 UTC (08:45 CST) set up a notifications system with extra features to alert and inform off duty support personnel of service outages. This is an addition to our existing notifications framework for other critical and non-critical alerts.

  6. How We Messed Up

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    Last night we let our users down.

    At around 10pm Central Time, the Editor-in-Chief of the Kansas State Collegian emailed our support address to tell us that his staff had been unable to log into Camayak for ten minutes. Usually he would have expected a reply from us within the next fifteen, telling him what was up and what we were doing to fix it.

    Minutes later, the student media adviser at Pepperdine University and Editor in Chief of UCLA’s Daily Bruin both asked for help, too: Camayak wasn’t responding normally and had now been periodically inaccessible for at least twenty minutes.

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    As anyone who uses Camayak knows, the whole point is to have real-time access to your newsroom, 24/7, no matter where you are. We work to maintain that standard because it’s an essential part of our service and also because people rely on us to produce their work on deadline.

    But last night, after thirty minutes of intermittent service, we still hadn’t responded to the people letting us know that we had a job to do.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 2.07.40 PM.png

    Then, minutes-that-felt-like-hours later and still without any support response from us, Camayak seemed to return to normal and newsrooms from around the country reported that their staff were able to keep working.

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    But it didn’t last. Less than half an hour later, we received more alerts from other newsrooms of service interruptions that in some cases hadn’t let up since they’d first been reported.

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    By this point it was abundantly clear that we’d let our users down on two counts. They’d been forced to deal with unplanned downtime and even more confusingly, were doing so without any guidance from us.

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    Finally, at 11.45pm CST – a full two hours after the Kansas State Collegian had first reported difficulties accessing Camayak – we recovered full service.

    This morning, over an hour and half later, we sent our first responses to the people who’d reached out to us for help.

    Why we messed up

    First off, we’re profoundly sorry for letting our users down on two fronts last night. People use Camayak because it’s a more efficient way to work and we’ve always prided ourselves on our response times to any urgent difficulties our users are having.

    So what went wrong?

    Downtime

    Last night we experienced an outage, which we’re currently investigating. We’ll be updating our blog with our root cause analysis, later.

    Usually we’re in a position to react to such outages by monitoring our systems and adapt on-the-fly. Unusually, we didn’t respond like that last night. This is because we had a gap in our engineering and support coverage.

    Lack of support

    We’re used to ‘after hours’ questions from newsrooms, because that’s often when newsrooms get busy. We also work with newsrooms that are based in Pacific and other ‘later’ timezones. So the timing of last night’s issues was not outside of our predictable scope of activity.

    We’re a distributed company – which comes with timezone/support benefits – and decided three years ago that having a co-founder on the same timezone as many of our users was a sensible idea (we also have coverage for Central, Eastern and GMT/BST timezones). I’ve been living in Los Angeles ever since and am usually the first to respond to support questions from the Pacific timezones. We aim to get back to urgent requests within ten minutes.

    Last night however, I was not on the West Coast and our Central hub was off duty as our downtime began. As you’ll see from the time-stamps in this post, I’m currently in London, along with our GMT/BST hub that only came on duty at 6.30am local time (12.30am CST and 10.30pm PST).

    While these were highly unusual circumstances for our service and team, they shouldn’t have affected our service levels and we deeply regret that they did.

    What we’re going to do about it

    We’re going to publish the results of our root cause analysis for the outage Camayak experienced. Update: our analysis and remediations are listed here.

    Despite being spread across multiple timezones, we’re also taking steps to make sure our engineers and support team can be alerted to critical needs, even when they’re not on-call. The situation we ran into last night has never happened before but is a timely reminder for us to make sure we have a plan in place for urgent events that might occur when we’re all asleep or off duty.

    We’re hugely grateful for how responsive and patient our users are and won’t forget this as an example of how we can keep improving. We messed up and are determined not to let it happen again.

    If you’d like to follow-up with me, please reach out to roman@camayak.com.

  7. We Messed Up

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    This evening, we messed up. Over the last four hours you may have been affected by several periods of Camayak downtime that have prevented you from logging in and doing all the things you rely on us to help you do. Camayak has been back up for the last hour but we have more questions to answer, which we’re going to do in a separate blog post, shortly.

    Update: you can read our follow-up post here.

  8. 5 of The Best Editorial Management Tools

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    5 tips on producing better content.jpg

    If you’re reading this there’s a decent chance that you Googled ‘editorial management tools’ and are deciding which content management system to try with your team. Every day we speak to people who are also looking for ways to organize editorial calendars, plan their content strategy or make their editing process more efficient. Most of them want to save time, improve communication and produce more content, but last week someone asked us this: “do people who use your system say that it helps them produce better content?“.

    A qualification like ‘better’ assumes criteria that are going to be slightly different for everyone who produces original content. Then you have to pick who to listen to: the audience, who vote with their pageviews and engagement metrics, or perhaps the authors, by monitoring their sense of growth and satisfaction every time their byline appears?

    Let’s say that when a commercially-driven editor or publisher is looking for signs that their content quality is improving, they include these key indicators:

    • fewer mistakes (typos, quote accuracy, etc.)
    • content that gets shared more
    • better adoption of editorial style guides (e.g. using media, AP style, etc.)
    • characterful headlines and story angles that grow the brand

    The goal of the best editorial management systems should be to address all or most of these general needs. But beyond feature-based benefits like being able to track writers’ activity, prompt them with advice, incentivize good performance and keep everyone on schedule, there are habits that most ambitious newsrooms need to succeed. Streamlining your editorial process to save time and scale content production is a sensible objective, but what can you do to ensure that you’re not outsourcing your editorial management and abdicating responsibility for your core competencies and competitive advantage over other publishers?

    Here are some key criteria for successful newsrooms that we’ve observed over four years of working with editorial teams of all shapes and sizes.

    Consistent use of high quality photos that are thought-provoking and can operate in isolation or together with a headline, without requiring the rest of the story. We know that striking photographs and other media (e.g. videos) capture a wider audience than text on its own. Traditionally, these items would come together in the form of a ‘package’ that would be fed into a ‘package’ for print, web or app publishing. A key aspect of all these assets now being hosted on different platforms (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Vine) and assembled instead of all natively living in one place is that each atomic piece of content can be shared on its own. This means two things: content assets you produce yourselves should be relevant to audiences in isolation (i.e. alienated from its original package) and whenever you upload your original work to a third party service, always make sure it includes your brand and/or indication of copyright.

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    A man sits with two female statues at a shopping district in Dongguan, China. Photo credit: Roman Heindorff

    Senior editorial staff cast a wide net for new recruits and carefully select their key editors. Freelancer networks like Scripted, Ebyline and Contently offer freelance writers and editors the chance to work for multiple publications with ease. We typically see publishers and agencies hire a core team (usually no more than 20% of their editorial staff) and supplement it with access to networks of contributors to make sure that they can cover niche interests quickly and scale up their volume of production at short notice. Looking at Camayak’s own network of freelancers, we see ‘power users’ make up around 5-10% of the total number, which isn’t an unreasonable ratio of managing editor-to-freelancers for running a newsroom, provided the one or more chief content strategists you hire are top notch.

    Contributors always speak to other people (e.g. interviews), to enrich their story or argument. This is a basic principle in journalism and one of several that brands and agencies depend upon when hiring contributors out of news media to work on corporate, sponsored or public relations content.

    Avoiding ‘filler’ content (aka: ‘less can be more’). Whether its page inches, daily post quotas or other volume targets, scaling an editorial operation can often introduce threats to the quality of the product itself. Audiences are open to forming very close bonds with content providers, so every time they’re faced with material that feels token, half-baked or simply not interesting enough, they can feel that their loyalty to your brand may be misguided. If you’re looking for tips on going digital first or are considering downsizing your print edition to give it more impact, don’t forget what your unique objective is in serving your audience and prioritize what they’re going to find interesting about the story you’re working on.

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    And finally. We asked a senior editor at a national UK newspaper what they felt the best editorial management tool they used was. “We have a collection of powerful tools and without them we frankly wouldn’t be able to put out the amount of work we’re doing” she answered, “but if you’re talking about ‘tools’ in the abstract sense, the most critical skill we’re having to emphasize is what a good story actually is. There’s a sense that plenty of writers don’t actually understand what makes a good story.”

    Update: for more tips on managing an editorial team, follow us on Twitter or schedule a free consultation with one of our product designers.

  9. How to Combine an Editorial Calendar With Managing Writers Efficiently

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    Have you ever wanted to see a nicely packaged summary of everything your newsroom did today? As an alternative to staring at activity feeds all day long, what if you could have a synopsis of the things that matter emailed to you at the end of each day?

    For managing editors looking to get caught-up on the birds-eye view of their staff’s efforts, Camayak is the #1 place to go because it automatically combines assignments with collaboration updates and editorial calendars. That’s great if you’re a full-time editor who can respond to real-time prompts, but what if you’re part-time and have a million and one other things to do?

    The staff at the Kansas State Collegian asked us to send a daily email to their contributors that contained all the available assignments they could claim, to keep them engaged without overwhelming their inboxes with updates. This is the beginning of a daily newsroom pulse that we’ll be adding to over the coming weeks, with other key signs of activity and engagement.

    Want more updates like this in your inbox? Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

  10. TownNews.com teams with Camayak

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    Publisher software company TownNews.com and Camayak now offer one another’s customers an integrated workflow and website combination. Serving more than 130 college media programs between them, the services will work together using Camayak’s content API, which allows newsrooms to publish content to multiple platforms directly.

    The collaboration with TownNews.com’s BLOX CMS product is one of several partnerships Camayak has launched with content management system providers. “Third-party integration is always tricky, but with Camayak’s impressive college media track record we felt this would be a beneficial asset to our company and customers,” said Paul Wilson, regional sales manager and head of TownNews.com’s college program.