Nerd Alert Issue Six: Is This Thing On?

Some light reading for your next meeting, conference call or hangout.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Shazna Nessa warns that as data visualization is increasingly designed for nerds by nerds we risk losing readers if we don't take our audience’s visual literacy into account.

 Ben: At this month’s book club meeting, we discussed how some of Ida Tarbell’s articles were first serialized in McClure’s Magazine, then bound and published in book format. I was curious if any organization still did that. Just yesterday it was announced that The Lantern, student-run official newspaper of The Ohio State University (disclosure: my alma mater) has published a book-format recap of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes football season. Can your organization do something similar?

 Denise: People are more than just dots on a map. Jacob Harris of the New York Times wrote this thoughtful piece about empathetic visualization design. Often our data represents people who died in a war, or were victims of crime or other terrible things. How can journalists make sure the human aspect comes through in our visualizations?

 Kaeti: In order to grow as organizations — and as people — we need to be able to admit our mistakes and learn from them. Instead of punishing employees who mess up, Etsy adopted the blameless post-mortem. This process encourages colleagues to own their mistakes, investigate what led to a particular system failure, and share what they learn with the team — all without fear of retribution. By investing in a culture where people can admit failure, we’re more able to identify problematic organizational patterns and grow together without shame or secrecy.

  Meredith: Stephen Godfrey is the owner of Rough Trade Records and co-founder of Flotsm, a beta social network. In this piece he reflects on his motivation to create it. I appreciate their lofty ideals --  “harness the wisdom of crowds; make better decisions; connect with minds, freely.”

 Ryan: The new Google Translate app will blow your mind with its "World Lens" and conversation translation features. The World Lens allows you to point your phone at a sign and have it translated on screen before your eyes. You can also carry on a conversation in an unfamiliar language by having your phone act as an interpreter. The fact that this technology exists and is something anyone can carry around in their pocket is proof that we're living in the future.

  Bert: About time I got a little attention around here.

This week's guest contributor: Chris Keller - data editor at KPCC - Southern California Public Radio

This six-year-old or so post draws a distinction between the "maker’s schedule" and the "manager’s schedule," and after it came across my Twitter feed over the weekend, it burrowed into that part of the brain that re-assess how work gets done. Many of us organize, participate or sit through meetings of all kinds, and I believe we’ve always kind of acknowledged them as a necessary evil. But - and I hate to say it - I’ve never really explored why I feel the way I do about meetings. This post has got me thinking in that direction more and how I can better navigate each work day, the never-ending flow of information and the constant competition for each other’s time.

Some early thoughts:

  • More to-the-point conversations.
  • Meet to move forward.
  • Parse larger tasks into smaller chunks.
  • To get things daily use a pen and paper.

Each week we ask someone from outside our team to contribute a link, tool or idea. Are you our next guest star? We think you might be. Send us a note at

We Made A Thing

Our projects, manifest

Some big announcements coming next week about Largo! But for this week you can apply for our summer apprenticeship program or to be our next full-time news apps developer.

Shout Out

Work we admire by our journalism peers


Michael Keller at Al Jazeera America built a nifty jQuery wrapper for ProPublica's Stateline library, adding some no-fuss tooltips, legends and source lines.


Some Other Stuff

Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Is this the world's longest mixtape?

COOK: Eat your brussels sprouts.

WATCH: In honor of Keller & Keller, here's Keller & Keller.

GIF: This pretty much sums it up.


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