Nerd Alert #46: Cubs Win World Series!

Back to the Future Day feels like the distant past.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Not a new conversation by any means but a good reminder that traditional articles are not necessarily the best way to format and deliver news. And a bonus: what thinking beyond the article could mean for the news/tech ecosystem.

  Ben: What if HTML elements could change styles based on the element’s size, not the viewport’s? Marc Schmidt’s CSS Element Queries library is a proof-of-concept. How would you use this functionality?

  David: Webfonts have been vital to display crisp icons with small file sizes.This series explores some of the pitfalls.

  Jack: We all know governments can’t do anything right, like providing real time hyperlocal open data and engaging citizens to improve their neighborhoods. OK that’s actually awesome.

  Kaeti: Helpful Sublime Text settings for designers.

  Ryan: "The problem with calendars is that they are additive rather than subtractive." Every time you add a meeting to the calendar, you’re subtracting an hour from someone's life.

  Bert: shoo bee ooo bee doo wop!


This week's guest cotributor

Our guest this week is Meredith Broussard (@merbroussard), who teaches data journalism at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University.

The most remarkable story I read last week was Adrienne LaFrance’s story “Raiders of the Lost Web” in The Atlantic. Look at this great line from the beginning: “You can't count on the web, okay? It’s unstable. You have to know this.” The piece is beautifully written, and it covers the counterintuitive truth about digital archiving: for years, we’ve been told that the Internet is forever. It’s not. I was excited to see this story because I’ve been involved for the past two years with a group of scholars, journalists, and archivists who are thinking about how to archive the many wonderful, technically complex works of digital journalism that are being created every moment. Coincidentally, the same week, we scholars published a special issue of the Newspaper Research Journal in which we explore the many nuances of how media companies are dealing with or might better deal with the “first draft of history” represented by digital journalism. Software preservation is unexpectedly complicated. As digital journalism evolves, archiving the news starts to look more and more like archiving software. I’m delighted that people are starting to think seriously about how we can effectively preserve innovative journalism.


Good jobs with good people

Religion News Service has an immediate opening for a full-time Web Developer.

The Center for Investigative Reporting is hiring an Editor in Chief for Reveal.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is hiring a server administrator/web developer.

The Data News team at WNYC is hiring an Interaction Designer.

Elsewhere in public radio, WBEZ is hiring a number of new roles on their digital team.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

The Texas Tribune takes an immersive look at the new Texas space race.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Rammstein, a cappella.

COOK: Oreo rice. (or, on second thought, maybe don't cook that)

DRINK: The cocktail at the end of the universe.

GIF: So close!

Nerd Alert #45: When you get knocked down…

Some links to help you get up again.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: A simple suggestion on how to begin to fix online advertising:design like you give a damn.

  Ben: This article about mobile-first css is pretty thought-provoking. And habits-changing.

  David: The Answer is No.

  Jack: The New York Times news morgue was safely tucked away in a sub-subbasement. What could possibly go wrong with that?

  Kaeti: Writing (and sharing our writing) helps us organize our thoughts and explore half-baked ideas.

  Ryan: Umair Haque explains how and why society's brightest minds arefailing to innovate in ways that really matter.

  Bert: Mmm, tasty.


Good jobs with good people

Today is the last day to apply to be a spring apprentice on our team. This is a great opportunity for student or recent grads to gain some experience, learn from some really smart folks (*ahem*) and work on projects that matter. All of our apprenticeships are paid and remote friendly.

Elsewhere, ProPublica is hiring a data fellow, Religion News Service has an immediate opening for a full-time Web Developer and Chicago Reporter is hiring a data editor.


This week's guest contributor

Our guest this week is Damon Sharp (@damonsharp), a developer at Alley Interactive.

This article from Carrie Dils resonated with me as it probably does with some of you, especially the “A Tale of a Job I Hated” section. It’s important to remember what the important things in your life are and determine how much of your time and energy you want to put into them. As I get older I try to take inventory on each aspect of my life and determine if I want to expend energy on it, is it important to me, and if I were to reflect back on that time spent was it worth it? If you know for sure it’s not, it’s time to make a plan to move on to something that fits those criteria. After all life is short. Don’t waste it on things that aren’t meaningful to you.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

A new project from the Center for Public Integrity helps you follow the money in the 2016 presidential race.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: The Gospel Clefs sing "Rise Up and Walk" (1959)

COOK: Celebrate fall by making some pickled crabapples.

GIF: We're never gonna keep you down.

October’s Book Club Selection: Microinteractions by Dan Saffer

cover_color_lrgWe hope you'll join us for our next News Nerd Book Club hangout on Wednesday, October 14th at 1pm ET.

This month we'll be reading Microinteractions: Designing with Details by Dan Saffer.

From the book's website:

The difference between a good product and a great one are its details: the microinteractions that make up the small moments inside and around features. How do you turn mute on? How do you know you have a new email message? How can you change a setting? All these little moments—which are typically not on any feature list and often ignored—can change a product from one that is tolerated to one that’s beloved.

This book provides a new way of thinking about designing digital products: as a series of microinteractions that are essential to bringing personality and delight to applications and devices.

Here's the event invitation and hangout link if you'd like to RSVP.

Hope to see you on October 14th. Happy reading!

New WordPress Plugin: Link Roundups

Many sites we work with collect links from around the web and then either present this feed of links on their sites in a widget or turn them into daily (or weekly) roundup posts and email newsletters.

To improve the workflow for curating and publishing these roundups, we've created a new WordPress plugin called Link Roundups.

The plugin borrows some patterns and a bit of the original code from a plugin called Argo Links, but has been almost completely rewritten with a number of new features added (if you are a current Argo Links user, we've included an update script to help you migrate).


Some of the key features of the plugin include:


A browser bookmarklet to collect links as you browse, add your own description, tags and then save the link directly to your WordPress site, all without having to leave the site you're on. This bookmarklet will also attempt to automatically pull in the title, source and a featured image for the links so you don't have to populate these fields manually.

Widgets for saved links and link roundups to display the links you've saved or your recently published roundups in any WordPress widget area.

published-roundupA WordPress custom post type called Link Roundups with a way to browse your saved links and compile roundup posts to be published on your site.

Integration with MailChimp to simplify the process of sending the roundup posts to your newsletter subscribers.

Plugin options to control the display of saved links in roundups, manually specify the anchor text to be used and a number of other nice enhancements to give you the flexibility to format link roundups the way you want.


You can find documentation and installation instructions on GitHub and the plugin is also now available from the plugin directory.

What's Next?

In our next release we plan to add the ability to share links you save directly to Facebook/Twitter at the same time as they are saved to your site, improve documentation and add a number of other features.

You can submit feature requests and see our plans for future releases on the project's GitHub repository. Feedback, bug reports and questions are most welcome!


Finally, we want to thank INN member Fresh Energy who funded some of the development of this plugin as part of our recent redesign of their Midwest Energy News site. Thanks also to Aspen Journalism for offering some helpful feedback.

Welcome Jack Brighton, Our New Manager of Support, Documentation and Training!

Jack BrightonWe're very excited to announce the latest addition to the INN Nerds team, Jack Brighton.

Jack will be joining us full-time on September 21st as our new Manager of Support, Documentation and Training.

This is a new position we've created because we want to invest more time and effort in improving our documentation and training to help INN members take full advantage of the tools we build and level up their technology skills. We also hope to develop more training and resources on best practices in digital publishing and work more effectively with the open source community and other nonprofit and independent media organizations.

Jack comes to INN from Illinois Public Media where he has served many roles during his career in journalism and technology: as a public radio producer and host, multimedia editor, web designer, digital storyteller, and university instructor.

He says his proudest moments come from helping people succeed as journalists and producers at a time of rapid change in media technology and audience behaviors.

Jack has also been deeply involved in media preservation projects funded by the Library of Congress and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including the American Archive project and the PBCore Metadata initiative. He has also served on the PBS Digital Advisory Council and the NPR Digital Advisory Working Group, and currently serves on the advisory council of the Public Media Platform (a current INN client).

I am very excited to welcome him to the team and for all the work we know he'll do to help INN further its mission and better serve our members.

You can follow Jack on Twitter (@jackbrighton) or send him a note of congratulations to

Welcome, Jack!

What Should A Nonprofit News Site Look Like?

I had an interesting Twitter conversation this morning and wanted to collect and share some a few more thoughts and some of the side conversations it spawned.

Responding to this tweet by Josh Stearns (of the Dodge Foundation) I recalled some research we've done here at INN (and would love to continue) looking at how nonprofit news sites can better communicate their reliance on member/donor support.

Essentially, we've found that it can be very difficult for nonprofit news sites that rely on donations to distinguish themselves and stand out as distinct from for-profit sites that often rely more on advertising. In fact, some preliminary user testing we've done suggests that if nonprofit news sites have advertising AND donation/membership messaging visitors are more likely to assume the organization makes its money primarily through advertising. We have not yet done research with enough sites to definitively confirm this finding or to show that there is a resulting drop-off in donations, but it definitely gives us pause.

Communicating "nonprofitness" (or at least that donations are a significant source of revenue) is crucial if nonprofit news organizations need visitors to understand just how important their donations are to the organization's survival.

This exchange spawned a number of interesting side conversations. Steve Katz, the publisher of INN member Mother Jones brought their creative director, Ivylise Simones, into the conversation:

Mother Jones is in a unique position where they rely not only on donations but also print subscriptions and advertising. While not common to many INN members (most are web-only, a handful have a print products, most don't realize a significant amount of revenue from advertising/sponsorship), this is a situation that IS shared by some other nonprofit publications.

More well-established organizations struggle with adapting to changing conditions without harming the strong brands that they've established over time.

There's also a lot more to being a nonprofit news organization beyond just asking for money and relying on contributions from your visitors. The most successful organizations think about "membership" not as just a financial transaction, but focus also on involving their community in the editorial process, being responsive, getting out into the community and really providing a valuable public service.

And of course there's a lot nonprofit news organizations can learn (and share) from and with the broader nonprofit sector.

Communicating why your work has value and how the community can get involved are some additional points many donors look at when deciding whether to give. Does your site make this clear to visitors or do they have to go hunting?

And finally, while the tax status of nonprofit news organizations does distinguish them from their for-profit peers, the tax implications of a donation is far less important to many smaller donors. They care much more about the mission of the organization they're pledging their support to.

Should nonprofit news sites look different than their for-profit counterparts? What would they need to do to clearly communicate this to visitors? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

INN’s WordPress Framework For News Sites Now Fully Supports HTTPS

We're pleased to announce the release of version 0.5.2 of our popular Largo WordPress framework for news sites.

With this update, Largo is now fully-compatible with https out of the box. Also included are some enhancements to managing featured media for your stories, some new footer layout options and a number of minor enhancements and bugfixes.

Full HTTPS Support

For many news sites, user privacy and security are significant concerns. With this release we wanted to ensure that sites using Largo would be able to use https out of the box. We're proud to say that this is now the case. Starting from a base installation of Largo you should not have any issues enabling https for your entire site.

WordPress has a guide explaining how to do that, but the details will vary depending on the hosting company you use.

A couple of caveats:

  • If you are migrating to Largo from a different WordPress theme or even updating Largo from a previous version and enable https, you may find that you have http links hard-coded into the body of your stories or elsewhere in your site settings. To get rid of potential mixed content warnings you would need to perform a search and replace to change these URLs to https. We use and recommend this tool, but please be sure to backup your site before doing anything potentially destructive.
  • If you have done any custom work in a child theme using Largo as your parent theme, you may also need to review the code in your child theme to make sure it also fully supports https.
  • If you install third-party plugins or insert/embed content from other sites or services (ad networks, embedded media, etc.) you will need to ensure that those plugins/sites/services support delivery via https or you may also run into mixed content warnings, missing ads or other issues. This is sometimes a major tripping point for sites switching to https, so just be aware that a significant amount or work and testing may be required depending on the number and type of third-party services you're using on your site.

If you are an INN member using our hosted version of Largo and would like to enable https for your site, let us know and we'll explain how the process works, the cost involved, etc. and help you get switched over.

Enhancements to the "Featured Media" editor

In Largo 0.5 we introduced the ability to use a video, slideshow or other embedded media in the place of a featured image for each story. With Largo 0.5.2, we have added a number of enhancements to this functionality to make it work better in a number of additional contexts, including:

  • The ability to set a thumbnail for embed and video featured media types to be used on the homepage, category pages, widgets or anywhere else a thumbnail/featured image might appear
  • The video featured media editor will attempt to automatically pull a thumbnail from any available oEmbed provider (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) but still give authors the ability to upload their own thumbnail images if they would prefer
  • For theme developers, we have also added "featured-media" and "featured-media-{type}" classes to story containers for use in customizing the appearance of different types of featured media via CSS (adding overlays, icons, etc. to call out posts containing video, slideshows or other rich media)

New footer layout options

In working on a few recent client projects (Nonprofit Quarterly, Midwest Energy News and the redesign of our own site) we've developed a couple of new layout options for the footer of Largo sites, specifically:

  • A 4-column asymmetrical layout, with three narrow columns and one wide column, well suited for three menu areas and a donation, subscription or newsletter signup banner or widget.
  • A minimal 1-column centered layout, well-suited for sites who want a simpler, more minimal footer limited to simple navigation instead of having more widget areas to populate and manage.
  • For theme developers, an easier way to register and use a custom footer layout.

And of course a number of other bugfixes and enhancements.

We encourage you to download the new version and update your sites at your earliest convenience. If you host your site with us, we're making this update for you today. If you host your site elsewhere, you can download the new version from GitHub.

If you have questions or need assistance please check out the release notes and documentation first and if you're still stuck, open a ticket through the Largo help desk.

What's next?

Over the next couple of months we'll be working fast and furious on polishing a number of existing features gearing up for our next full point release, version 0.6 (currently slated for late October). Look for a new release almost every week in between now and then and if you're interested in following along or contributing to the project, you can check out the upcoming milestones on GitHub.

Three INN Members Launch New Websites Powered By Largo

Over the last couple of weeks three INN members who we've worked with over the past few months have launched new websites using our Largo WordPress framework.

In addition to some common requests like making their sites mobile friendly and responsive, we worked with each of the three organizations on some custom design and functionality and built a couple of new open source tools for you to use.

Investigate West


Investigate West wanted to make their homepage more of a branding statement featuring their partners, awards they've won and the impact of their work. In addition to building a new homepage grid, we worked with them to add credits for partner organizations to their projects and stories and also created a way for them to show which of their major projects had received awards.

Midwest Energy News


Midwest Energy News asked us to help them increase recirculation of visitors through the site and also to increase subscribers to their two newsletter products. The resulting redesign features a number of new design elements we're prototyping for future versions of Largo including a number of changes to article pages as well as some new homepage layout options.

We also made it easy for Midwest Energy News to insert newsletter signup boxes almost anywhere on the site and created a new plugin (a revamped version of an older plugin called Argo Links) to streamline the curation of links, creation of link roundups and allow them to push roundup posts directly to MailChimp.
popular posts

Nonprofit Quarterly

Nonprofit Quarterly migrated to WordPress from Joomla and wanted to make their site better for mobile visitors. In addition, they wanted to be able to feature popular stories in a number of places on the site. We've never been particularly impressed with the various popular posts plugins that exist for WordPress, so apprentice developer Will Haynes wrote a new plugin that pulls data from Google Analytics and algorithmically determines popular posts in a much more accurate and performative way.

Open Source

As with all of our projects, the code we wrote for these projects is open source and you're welcome to borrow bits and pieces to use in your projects.

All three child themes rely on the current version of Largo as their parent theme (here's more on WordPress child themes if you're just getting started).

You can find the child theme code here:

And the two plugins we referenced:

Work With Us

If you'd like to work with us on an upcoming project we are accepting new clients and would love to talk with you.

We offer substantial discounts on our services to INN member organizations and other nonprofit organizations but you do not have to be a member to work with us.

To discuss hiring us for an upcoming project, just email with a short description, anticipated timeline and budget and we'll be in touch!

Changes to Office Hours: New Opportunities For Code and Design Review

We've decided to make a few changes to our open office hours based on some feedback and requests we've gotten from our members and community.

It's been really exciting for us to help out with the projects that people bring to our office hours. But we've also heard from a number of folks at our member organizations, people who are often the only designer or developer on their team, that they don't have anyone to help review their code, give feedback on their design work, or have project retrospectives to look at recent projects and talk about what went well, what they might improve next time, etc.

So we've decided to hold our office hours more frequently and also to structure them in a way that will allow us to be better at giving this sort of feedback. This way, we'll be able to act as a resource and sounding board for these lone developers and designers while still preserving an opportunity for people to come and ask us more general questions.

Here's what we're going to try (starting in June):

  • Instead of doing a two hour block once a month, we'll now do an hour every week (on Friday from 2-3 ET).
  • Time slots will now be 20 minutes long (instead of 30), but we'd like to encourage people to sign up for more time (the full hour if necessary) if you think you'll need it and we'll try to accommodate. Generally we want to be able to dig a bit deeper and get into more complicated questions about your design or coding challenges and we know that sometimes that will take a bit more time.
  • Sign up as early as you can (preferably by Monday the week you want to attend) so we can get some more background on your project or questions, review your work and potentially ask some questions in advance to help us get the most out of our time together.
  • During unused slots we'll have code or design reviews for our own projects that you're more than welcome to participate in and help us make our work better. Hopefully seeing how we handle this sort of feedback internally will give you some ideas you can take back to your own organizations.

The office hours will still be held via Google Hangout (link), and they will still be completely open to the public by default – because we believe our community is strongest when we have a chance to learn from one another – but ask us if your project involves sensitive information that you may not want to share publicly.

The signup link also remains the same.

As always, if you have thoughts on ways we can better support your work, we'd love to hear them.

We hope you're able to join us in the coming weeks!

New Roles for Ryan Nagle, Ben Keith at INN Nerds

I'm excited to announce a couple of our team members have received promotions this week!

ryan_nagle_originalRyan Nagle, who joined us last May as our first news apps developer, will now be our Director of Technology. The change, effective immediately, reflects Ryan's increased responsibility in making technical decisions for the team, managing the roadmap for a number of our products, working more closely with our members and clients to help guide their decision-making, and all the work he's been doing to mentor our more junior team members and apprentices.

senior_photoBen Keith, who joined our team as a summer apprentice about a year ago, is now coming on as a full-time news apps developer. Ben has grown a lot over the last year and we're excited to continue investing in his growth and development while he takes on more responsibility for contributing to our products and to projects for our members and clients. Ben starts full-time with us next Monday.

Please join me in congratulating Ryan and Ben on their new roles!