Five Takeaways From My News Apps Apprenticeship

My apprenticeship ends this week, after nine great months with INN. In that time I worked on seven website redesigns, many INN members' sites, contributed to Largo releases and worked on some of INN’s plugins, namely Link Roundups.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.26.50 AM

I gained invaluable knowledge from my coworkers in pair sessions and improved my own self-learning. With the weekly INN Nerd Alert newsletter my coworkers shared great articles and I learned more about their interests. Each month the News Nerd Book Club exposed me to great ideas and discussions about newsrooms, audiences and web development. Plus every day working on INN member's sites I was exposed to terrific journalism and learned about the publishing needs of content creators.

(If the flexibility of remote work and all this sounds exciting to you, consider applying for one of INN's open positions)

Some important things I've gained:

Always be learning

One of INN's core values and one of mine as well. I've learned better habits and developed more informed opinions around publishing, design, development and business.

Documentation is more important than code

Frameworks, libraries and development techniques are all fleeting. Good documentation is timeless. Be kind to the soul who inherits your code — it could very well be you.

Responsive grids have made too many websites look alike

Web designers have gotten too good at following the rules.

Today a drive down Content Websites Blvd. is like passing through a bland subdivision: similar grid patterns, similar gardens of social media buttons and similar pairings of colors and fonts. Most of these websites aren’t bad, but most aren’t memorable.

Some of my favorite work was with INN members InvestigateWest, Midwest Energy News and New Mexico In-Depth, whose website redesigns called for a mix of unique and common design patterns to create usable, memorable sites.

Less is more*

In code. In design. In words. Often.

*Never in regards to tacos, documentation or testing.

Kindness, patience, and humor

In every job I aim to bring kindness, patience and humor. Being remote, it’s important to extend these things to yourself, in addition to coworkers and clients.

Thanks y'all and farewell

It's been a pleasure working with the INN Nerds and INN's members! I start a new position with TIME, Inc. and Fansided near Phoenix after the long weekend. You'll still see me in the #00-open-tech channel of INN's Slack org and @dryanmedia on Twitter.
Deez Nerds helped me take flight, gonna miss 'em! See y'all round the friendly skies of the Internet.

Nerd Alert 38: Bert’s Pancake ‘n’ Pizza World


Our thoughts are with everyone who loved Alison Parker and Adam Ward. #WeStandWithWDBJ7


What we're reading this week

  Adam: News sites have gotten a bad reputation for being pretty miserable to use by overloading their pages with ads, popups, social buttons and other gadgets. Designer Brad Frost has documented a number of anti-patterns to avoid (make sure to turn on the bullshit).

  Ben: Don’t use .dev for development domains - it’s a real top-level domain now:

  David: This post explores the WordPress Transients API and use cases for leveraging it. Here's a great tutorial using them to push plugin updates from GitHub via the GitHub API.

  Kaeti: Why it’s important that we design tools with emotional intelligence.

  Bert: Would you patronize Bert's Pancake 'n' Pizza World?

This week we bid farewell to our summer apprentice Dani Litovsky Alcala who did great work with INN members on data projects! All the best, Dani!

You could be our next apprentice this fall or spring. Our apprentices are paid, trained, appreciated and awesome!





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 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. Now available on


LISTEN: Stand by each other. Be excellent to one another.

COOK: Go crave these Quinoa lunch bowls. Not a joke.

WATCH: We always *knew* Android versions are delicious but...

GIF: Explore the world, bring a friend!



Nerd Alert 37: Deez Nerds


"Websites are really simple, but we insist on making them complicated." - Confucius


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Rolling Stone has a lengthy oral history of everyone’s favorite website from the 90s including (exclusive!) interviews with a number of the creators.

  Ben: Did you know that there are measurable stylistic differences between maps made in different countries? (PDF warning) (Hat tip to Joshua Stevens at NASA for this link)

  Dani: Sometimes, journalists misinterpret the statistics part of scientific research, but just as often, the research studies are flawed.

  David: It took all summer to read this story, but guess what I finally finished?

  Ryan: These absurd GIFs made using the woodblock art of Hokusai were created by artist Atsuki Segawa and are worth taking a moment to puzzle over.

  Bert: D'awww, little biochemical bots!

This week's guest contributor:Tanya Moushi, Serial Entrepreneur, Freelance Awesomeizer, TEDxPhoenix Wrangler

One of my favorites, this classic essay should be dubbed the Entrepreneur's Bible, and rogue corporate-employee-gone-cartoonist Hugh Macleod, is transforming business culture with his daily cartoon.

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



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


Work we admire by our journalism peers


18F recently expanded data available in their OpenFEC API, and this great post on Sunlight Foundation's blog explains how to make use of it. For more see the official docs.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: The Leningrad Cowboys’ rendition of Sweet Home Alabama, featuring the Red Army Choir

COOK: #90sJunkFoodClense. You've been warned.

WATCH: Explore strange new worlds.

GIF: git push

Nerd Alert Issue 36: A steady diet of waffles


It's important to maintain "a steady diet of waffles." - @NYTMinusContext


What we're reading this week

  Adam: This post on WeChat is a fascinating read on what might be the future of mobile commerce. WeChat is a popular messaging app in China, but it’s grown into much more than that - an entire ecosystem with millions of interconnected apps within apps.

  Ben: Here’s a really well-written explanation of the difference between imperative and declarative programming languages.

  Dani: I’m getting ready to go back to school (graduate school this time), so statistics is on my mind. This article uses data viz to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about p-values.

  David: All news organizations and reporters need to ask this regularly: Do we have a clear engagement strategy for the status quo of the attention economy to deliver news products? Or are we just posting links on social media?

  Kaeti: Is your platform perpetuating unconscious (or conscious) bias? Latoya Peterson writes persuasively about why we need to engineer the racism out of apps.

  Ryan: Check out this curated list of lists containing links to some the best literature, libraries, videos, etc., on a variety of topics related to programming.

  Bert: You just stay there on the couch. I got the lawn.

This week's guest contributor:Dom DiFurio, Digital Engagement Intern at The Dallas Morning News.

The sexplosion of Vanity Fair’s Tinder story this week displays the importance in creating for the new audience. Most people would unfortunately agree that, in this era, Internet users tend to trade an interest in foreign affairs for mobile apps that get you laid (40 unique lays a year, if that’s what you’re into). That being said, somebody should create a Tinder but for finding news content millennials left at frat parties.

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


Work we admire by our journalism peers



The folks over at Texas Tribune's News Apps team built Pymviewer, an essential tool for anyone using NPR's popular pym.js to power responsive <iframe> embeds.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: The caution tape is there because this may bamboozle you.

COOK: Crunch. Repeat.

WATCH: A layer-lapse blends multiple time-lapses each moving at their own rate and starting from different times of day.

GIF: Be fearless. Try something uncomfortable and new!

Nerd Alert Issue 35: So easy a snake person could use it!


"We cannot always build the future for our websites,
but we can build our websites for the future."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt


What we're reading this week

  Adam: A lot of good ideas in this post by Olivia Cheng, a designer at the Sunlight Foundation, about how they’re working to make their design process more open.

  Ben: Here’s how a recent WordPress vulnerability was found. Don’t worry! The patch has already been released.

  Dani: Uber’s model to predict where we are actually going. Warning: fun statistics math ahead.

  David: A handsome, open source, DIY Netflix app to run on your server. BYO on the binge viewers.

  Kaeti: Research often means admitting what you don’t know and interrogating your assumptions. Scary stuff. Erika Hall breaks down why it’s so essential and how to make it happen.

  Ryan: Making self-driving cars, it turns out, is hard. Consider the split-second decisions the machine might need to make in an emergency situation and you'll understand why they're not (yet) in widespread use.

  Bert: This is why we can't have nice things.

This week's guest contributor: Retha Hill, Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, Professor of Practice at The Cronkite School.

Look around your non-profit newsroom. Is there anything missing? Say, a brown or black face? If the answer is yes, you are more like mainstream media in one important regard -- diversity, or lack thereof. A new Nieman Reports has eye-opening looks at Race and Reporting and makes the case for more inclusion. But what is a better read is Alex T. Williams’ look behind the numbers into why we have a diversity problem today despite the availability of young journalists of color.

Check it out, then look around your newsroom one more time, then look in the mirror and ask yourself what you might need to change to do better.

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


Work we admire by our journalism peers

One year in Ferguson

An immersive multimedia project from St. Louis Public Radio.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Sick beats.

COOK: Not October yet, so still OK to share pumpkin things. But these are way more than pumpkin things.

WATCH: Squad goals to be this cool and fearless.

GIF: Summer is for getting outdoors! Seize the weekend.


75 Days to Learn and Build With the INN Nerds

Phoenix, AZ
The view from my home office when I sign-in for scrum.

My first week with INN has me reflecting on how job circumstances influence our approach to work and how we think about it.

Working remotely

My colleagues Kaeti Hinck and Meredith Melragon have some great thoughts about making remote work work and starting a job with the INN Nerds team.

Remote work has a unique set of challenges compared to office environments, but it's made easier by terrific documentation, and a friendly and welcoming team. I'm using a co-working space in my neighborhood, but I get plenty of face time with my colleagues. I've even got my own emoticon!

Working with an end date

Every job I've ever worked has come with a finite end date either at the end of a summer or the end of a semester. It changes how you approach a job.

Whenever I start a job, I count the days I have to work. This isn't an act of counting down to escape, but instead adding up opportunities. With an end date, job security is irrelevant. I'm focused on making meaningful contributions and leaving things better than I found them.

I have 75 work days with the INN Nerds this summer (70 after today). Knowing that number helps me immensely. It dictates the kind of projects I’ll pitch to my team and budget time for meetings and bugs.

Working on iterative products instead of one-off products

Prior to joining INN, all of my design and development has been for one-off products used by a single organization. It’s much simpler. One brand. One group of users. Some corners can be cut and user experience decisions are simpler.

But iterative products are much more exciting and a better investment of development energies. Each enhancement made to an iterative project like Largo helps dozens of newsrooms, and has to be documented . Building tools intended for a wide range of skill levels and organizations forces design problems to be solved more completely. The risks and challenges are greater, but so are the rewards.

Fun stuff

I pushed an initial version of NewsPub Cookbook earlier this week, a roundup of data visualization and publishing-centric development tools. It's not quite complete -- pull requests welcome!

I’ve always liked good organization-branded desktop backgrounds (the name of the team is the INN Nerds). On my personal account I use photos, but particularly doing remote work I appreciate the reminder of “where” I am (at work, even if it is on my couch) and who I’m doing it for.

David's INN desktop background (h/t Kaeti Hinck). Download