The river around me

My blogging and social media sabbatical in 2014 and 2015 gave me time, energy and mental space to train for a marathon. It also helped me focus on my work at Duke University, where I’m communications director for the Department of Medicine.

Our main project over the last few years has been to update the department’s Web presence, as part of a collaboration with our communications colleagues in the School of Medicine dean’s office to design a new framework for web development. In May 2015, we did away with 18 separate sites (for our 12 divisions and training programs and more) and launched a new integrated website for the Department of Medicine. See it at

That’s the work that I was focused on.

At the start of my sabbatical, I’d curtailed my online surfing, but eventually I started to revisit a few of my favorite sites around the Web. I began to read Dave Winer again, and I caught on that he was developing a new way to create a river of news.

I’ve long wanted a better way to monitor more of the news flowing through Duke University. My colleagues on the Duke Today team work hard to curate important and interesting news, and I check that site a few times a day. And even though I follow the park ranger philosophy, walking all over campus to look and listen, I know there’s a lot I’m missing. Especially in the School of Medicine, where more and more departments have added communicators, updated their websites and created blogs. I needed a comprehensive, but efficient, way to see what other announcements, funding opportunities and scientific presentations might be relevant to the faculty and trainees in my department.

So, I read through all of Dave’s River4 posts and updates and tutorials, and watched his demo videos, and I set about to create the Duke River of News (narrating my work as best I could).

The result is

In October, when we learned that Duke Biochemistry professor Paul Modrich had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, in my department, won the same award in 2012) the Duke River was a perfect reflection of the stellar science, wide-ranging scholarship, competitive athletics and detailed learning in all corners of Duke’s campus and its global outposts.

It feels good to stand in the middle of this river. I feel lucky to work at Duke.

Every university should have just such a river.



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