Help A Reporter Out

This site, Help A Reporter Out/HARO, is a great resource for anyone with expertise in any field who wants to be better known. (It’s also a resource for journalists, but I don’t have any experience with that side of the site.)

To participate as a source, you sign up and then are sent three emails every work day. Every email consists of 35-50 reporter queries, grouped by area (‘Travel’, ‘Tech’, ‘Education’, etc). Included in each query is the deadline, name of the reporter (if provided), anonymized reporter email address, and media outlet. There’s also some advertising, but I tend to skip past that (although I did click once on an ad that led me to learn about Google Apps Scripting).

Once you get the email, you scan the queries and see if you can and want to respond to any. I recently responded to one, but before that I’d passed off a number of requests for information to other people. Such handoffs are a great way to help other people out, and it’s kinda fun–who doesn’t want to talk to a reporter? (Psst, if you’re looking for a job, sending over a reporter query related to a company’s business is a great way to build rapport with people there.)

As I said above, a few days ago I’d finally found a query I felt I could help with, and responded with an email answering the reporter’s questions. The reporter responded, and I ended up have a 10 minute phone call about the story. So even when you actually participate, it’s pretty low impact.

I will say the hardest part of participating in HARO for me is scanning the emails–scanning 150 queries a day wears me down. I’ve stopped scanning them all, but still check from time to time.

I just think this is the coolest example of something that the internet allows, but couldn’t happen (at scale) any other way. The costs, both in money and time, of sending out and responding to reporter’s queries would be just too high.



Running a Google Apps Script Once a Month

I needed a way to email a Google spreadsheet to my boss once a month, for some reporting purposes.  I could have put an entry in my calendar reminding me to do it, but I thought it would be a great time to try out the Google Docs scripting that I had read about for a year or two, and seen an AppSumo video about.  (I got the AppSumo video for free, from an ad on HARO.)

It was laughably easy to get write the actual script (here’s a great set of tutorials).  The only rub was Google doesn’t allow you to run scripts in month intervals, only hourly, daily or weekly.  A small bit of scripting got around that.

Here’s the final script (edited to remove sensitive data):

function myFunction() {
  var dayOfMonth = Utilities.formatDate(new Date(), "GMT", "dd");
  if (dayOfMonth == 05){
    MailApp.sendEmail("email@example.com", "Spreadsheet Report Subject", 
'https://spreadsheets.google.com/a/mydomain.com/ccc?key='+SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet().getId());
  }
}

I set up a daily trigger for this script and installed it within the spreadsheet I needed to send.

I really really like Google Apps Script.  I think it has the power to be the VB of the web, in the way that VB made it easy to automate MS Office, reduce drudgery, and allow non developers to build business solutions.  It also ties together some really powerful tools–check out all the APIs you can access.

Once you let non developers develop, which is what Google Apps Script does, you do run into some maintenance issues (versioning, sharing the code, testing), but the same is true with Excel Macros, and solving those issues is for greater minds than mine.



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