INN Receives Knight Prototype Grant

INN is pleased to be the recipient of a Knight Prototype Fund grant for a new project we’re calling One Liner.

The Knight Prototype Fund is a grant program helping media organizations, technologists and newcomers or hobbyists develop new ideas from concept phase to, hopefully, a live demonstration.

Grants of $35k are awarded and grantees are given six months to research, test and build a prototype. The culmination of the grant period is a demo day in which all grant winners for a given cohort show off their work.

The problem:

Working in media technology, we (the INN Nerds) get frequent requests of INN members and clients to add third party scripts to their websites. The number and type of third party scripts is virtually endless, but there are a handful of usual suspects when it comes to this: Google Analytics, Omniture, Chartbeat, Comscore,, Facebook Insights.

We’ve found a few key issues with our members' and clients’ understanding of these things:

  1. They often don’t consider the performance implications of adding third party services to their sites. How much “weight” does any one script add to the page? How much longer will users be waiting for the site to load? How does this impact low-bandwidth and mobile audience?
  2. They also have a hard time understanding the privacy implications of adding scripts to their site. Does the third party retain any information about their users? Does it sell said information to other parties? The aspect of trust and advocacy for the audience is important, especially for journalists (if it’s not important to you as a journalist, I’d encourage you to reconsider).
  3. Sometimes they can’t even articulate why they need a particular third party service or whether it’s a good fit for their organization. In many cases, they’ve just heard of a new tool and believe they need it because other organizations use it. Consider Chartbeat, for example: if you’re only publishing one story per quarter, you very likely do not need this service on your site.
  4. Finally, they often need assistance  adding the scripts to their sites. The steps are different in subtle ways from script to script and documentation is almost always difficult to find and, once found, often inscrutable.

What is the solution?

We aim to de-mystify this process and help organizations to make better choices by building a web service called One Liner (named after the “just one line of code” selling point often cited by many third-party services).

Our prototype will have a few components:

  • A research tool listing some of the most common third-party services one might add to their site along with some simple information about each, including possible performance and privacy implications. The tool will also help organizations make informed decisions and select tools that are best suited for the size of their organization and the problems they are trying to solve.
  • A configuration dashboard where users can select from the list of supported services and walk through the setup process without leaving the dashboard. No searching for documents. No struggling to understand. Let One Liner guide the way.
  • A web service not unlike the services we’re looking to remedy. Once the user has selected and configured the third-party services they would like to use, we’ll deliver a single line of code they can add to their site. This single line of code will be responsible for loading the specified services and their configurations from the One Liner application.

The single-line-of-code service to end (remedy) all single-line-of-code services.

So, who are we trying to reach?

This is for the editor, reporter (or other web writer) who doesn’t have a lot of experience with web development, cringes at the sight of javascript and generally does not want to be responsible for the addition of these types of features and services but often finds the responsibility falls to them. These folks might also be their organization’s technologist by default or be serving several roles for the company as in the case of very small INN members (think: when you have one or two people of staff, you have to do a little bit of everything).

What’s Next?

Between now and the demo day in July we aim to develop a prototype of this service and test it with a few sites. We hope that the prototype helps not only make it easier for sites to setup and add third-party services to their sites, but also helps them to make informed decisions that improve their site performance while respecting visitors’ privacy.

If you’re interested in being a part of our pilot or have any suggestions for us, we’d love to chat! Drop us a line.