Nerd Alert Issue 13: NICAR 2015 Edition

The nerds (except for Will who stayed home to guard our valuables) are gathered in Atlanta this week for NICAR. Find us and say hello!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: I’ve loved the work that Jennifer Brandel has done at public radio station WBEZ with her excellent Curious City program and I’m excited to hear that she’s now split it off as a separate company with a great team and plans for expansion. They recently shared a manifesto and lessons learned from the project so far with lots of great takeaways for any news organization that wants to be more responsive to the community they serve.

  Ben: Matt Sundquist from gave a talk yesterday about, a free*online graphing tool. I haven’t gotten a chance to play with it yet, but it looks much more powerful than Google’s products. Even if you don’t use their tools, the blog is worth reading for inspiration and tips.

  Denise: Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has started to release an index of all databases curated by the government, regardless of whether they are public. Sunlight has a great primeron how to access the index, which is being released in JSON format.

  Kaeti: A lovely and thoughtful essay by Frank Chimero on designing for the web. “What would happen if we stopped treating the web like a blank canvas to paint on, and instead like a material to build with?”

  Meredith: One of the good folks who participated in our NICAR book club passed out stickers that linked to Of course, I was curious. We read her autobiography back in January. This tool promises to help you craft and publish beautiful websites.

  Ryan: In this post, Joshua Stevens demystifies bivariate choropleth maps, explaining how to read and understand them as well as how to get started making your own. He successfully manages to break down the complexities of these maps into learnable chunks. Bravo!

  Will: To get ready for Apple's Watch announcement next Monday, readJack Riley of Nieman Lab's in-depth look into media and smart watches. Largo Project for wearables? Who knows.

  Bert: I enjoy a little artsy with my fartsy.

This week's guest contributor: Thomas ThorenThe Lens

For this week's NICAR conference, Abe Handler (The Lens), Todd Wallack (Boston Globe) and I talked about using simple tools to automate story leads without any programming experience. The presentation covered things such as RSS feeds, Google alerts, IFTTT and other notification systems that are quick and easy to set up.

The talk also served as a good reminder that developers could stand to do the same thing.

After working in news application development for only a year, I already find myself falling into this trap. Often the first plan that comes to mind involves writing original code or further complicating existing code. Many times, however, these tasks could be taken care of using simpler tools that are readily available.

It can be difficult to ignore hard-won coding skills and instead use a ready-made tool, but the end result is what's important. If you aren't careful, this could be you when you throw your next birthday party.

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

This week we announced a new WordPress plugin to make serving ads from Google DoubleClick easier to setup and manage. This plugin is available now to any publisher using our Largo platform and is completely open source and free for anyone to download and use.

Some Other Stuff

Gather Ye Rosebuds

LISTEN: We stayed in Atlanta's Cabbagetown neighborhood earlier this week, home of the Rock-A-Teens.

COOK: We had an Atlanta pie that made Serious Eats top in America list for our NICAR book club meeting. Wonder if this one comes close?

WATCH: A little slice of Atlanta karaoke.

GIF: We're getting ready to launch all the things next week.