Life, the Universe, and Journalism


What we're reading this week

  Adam: I’ve long railed against hostile user-experience elements like annoying popups and interstitials. Adding further fuel to that particular fire, Google announced this week that they’ll start penalizing sites that show popups and interstitials to mobile visitors starting in January. Good riddance.

  Ben: If you’re thinking about moving anytime soon, here’s how to create your own WalkScore-style maps for the things in life you truly care about.

  Gabe: Become a better you – through illustration! How Google uses the work of Owen Davey and Maya Stepien to engage users on Google Calendar.

  Jack: CUNY journalism instructor Jonathan Stray says mastering data journalism requires such a wide range of skills – from stats to design to FOIA requests – that it’s impossible to teach in one semester.  So he tried to do it anyway, and here’s his course syllabus.

  Julia: The Sleeper Future of Data Visualization? is an interesting read about using composite photography to create data visualizations without the layers of abstraction commonly associated with the practice.

  RC: There’s a new Citation Importer plugin for WordPress that searches for citation details and imports them for you.

  Inndy: It’s nice to have far-sighted friends in high places.


Come learn with us

September 14 - Join us at 1 ET for our monthly News Nerd Book Club discussion. This month we'll be reading Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green.

September 28-29 - INN is hosting a two-day event for news leaders to discuss everything you need to know about managing technology and product design in your news organization. Travel stipends for INN members are available and we just added some new speakers/mentors. Hope to see you there!


This week's guest contributor

Our guest this week is Andrew Haeg (@andrewhaeg)internationally-known pioneer in crowdsourcing and journalism innovation, and Flag Bearer at GroundSource.

I’m currently swan diving into Chef’s Table, the Netflix series that explores the techniques and psyches of the world’s great chefs. I suspected it might be just an exercise in genius worship and food fetishization. But I’ve been surprised, consumed and moved by the stories of these chefs – by their artistry (brilliantly portrayed by show creator David Gelb), by their respect for their craft and the food products they work with, and by the extraordinary sacrifices they’ve had to make to pursue often grandiose visions.

It had me reflecting on the parallels with journalism, and my own journey towards a vision of making our craft more humble, more human- and community-centered. Understanding how these chefs think is helping me own the fact that I can’t achieve this vision or any vision by myself, and that systems don’t change without people taking extraordinary risks, and experiencing sacrifice and pain in the process. As Dan Barber, chef and owner of Blue Hill restaurant and farm in New York says in his episode, (quoting Wes Jackson) “If you’re thinking about an idea that you can solve in your lifetime, you’re thinking too small.”

Want to be a guest contributor for a future edition of this newsletter? Learn how and shoot us an email at if you're interested. We'd love to hear from you!


Work we admire by our journalism peers

The New York Daily Times first paper published in 1851

The New York Times has published continuously since 1851 so it’s a bit of an understatement to say they have a lot of stories in the archives. Today’s audiences are online, so it’s increasingly important to make news archives accessible everywhere. But as technologies have changed, it’s a big project converting earlier stories to today’s mobile-friendly digital formats. The archives team accepted the challenge, and they were able to convert some 14 million articles published between 1851–2006 into a format compatible with the Times’ CMS.


We love you back

Please consider supporting this newsletter with a donation to INN.

Or if you'd rather contribute content over cash, be a guest contributor! Read more about that here and shoot us an email at if you're interested. We'd love to hear from you.

Thanks much!


Good jobs with good people

INN is hiring a program director and an operations manager.

St. Louis Public Radio is hiring a digital and special projects editor.

Investigative Reporters & Editors seeks an interactive news developer.

PBS is looking for a project manager to lead the Ken Burns archive.

KPBS is hiring a news and digital editor.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Telsa Coil Music presents The Cars. ?

WATCH: Alien Dance Party.

EAT: Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff.

DRINK: The Summer Olympics are over but there's still time for a cocktail.

READ: Lifestyle Tweaks for Nerds.

The answer is:

Bill Gates saying Windows

Do Androids Dream of Electric Beer?


What we're reading this week

  Adam: CJR wrote this week about our unhealthy addiction to technology and role the news media has played in fostering it. If you’re looking for solutions (and aren’t we all), maybe consider these design principles for calm technology.

  Ben: I ran into a weird bug with CSS3’s flexible box properties the other day, and found this lovelycrowdsourced list of flexbox rendering bugs and solutions. When has an *, this has the solution.

  Gabe: Design how you design - a guide to applying semantic versioning to the projects you’re working on.

  Jack: When I see a web page that loads slowly, I think what the heck? Sometimes it’s loaded down with advertising scripts, but often the culprit is images that weren’t optimized for the web. Let’s make our images work for everyone.

  Julia: The New York Times’ Olympic coverage this week had two great examples of data interactives that made their storytelling ultra personal for the user: Can You Beat Usain Bolt Out of the Blocks? and Olympic Races, in Your Neighborhood.

  RC: Automattic just launched, which features a number of stories about design and promises new content each week (beginning this week!).

  Inndy: Let me get the next round.


Our projects, manifest

Samantha Hankins, product designer with the Coral Project, and Julia Smith attending SRCCON 2016.

Last month INN's Lead Designer Julia Smith led a session at SRCCON 2016 on strengthening our community through remote mentorship and other forms of non-F2F communication. The discussion was framed around the idea of “office hours,” but it was meant to be a broader reimagining of what a relationship between individuals could look like. As more of us are doing remote work, it's increasingly important to build in ways to communicate as team members and grow as human beings.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

Propublica logo

INN member ProPublica held an intensive Data Institute in June on how to use data, design, and code for journalism. For those who couldn't attend they have now published all of the materials used to teach the workshop: slides, exercises, links, and homework. All materials are available for use under the sameCreative Commons license ProPublica uses for its website content.


We love you back

Please consider supporting this newsletter with a donation to INN.

Or if you'd rather contribute content over cash, be a guest contributor! Read more about that here and shoot us an email at if you're interested. We'd love to hear from you.

Thanks much!


Good jobs with good people

INN is hiring a Program Director and an Operations Manager.

The Marshall Project is hiring a Web Producer.

NPR seeks a Scrum Master/Project Manager for Digital Media.

ProPublica has a position open for Engagement Reporter.

WNYC Studios is hiring a Social Media Producer.

Public Integrity has an opening for a News Application Developer/Data Journalist.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Cello and piano doing Mozart and Michael Jackson.

WATCH: The Olympic Cup Toss (unofficial).

Cook: Chocolate Guinness Cake.

DRINK: Guinness Cocktails.

We'll always be here on guard.

gif of robot guarding a building


July’s Bookclub Selection: Spam – A Shadow History of the Internet

We're all much too intimately acquainted with spam, which has become a fact of daily life in the digital age. In fact the vast majority of email sent every day is spam. We don't see most of it because our mail services and sysadmins do such a heroic job of filtering it before it hits our inbox.

For the July 13, 2016 (1 to 2 pm Eastern) Book Club we'll be discussing Finn Brunton's excellent cultural history, Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet. (Available on Amazon here.)

From the book overview at MIT Press:

This is a book about what spam is, how it works, and what it means. Brunton provides a cultural history that stretches from pranks on early computer networks to the construction of a global criminal infrastructure. The history of spam, Brunton shows us, is a shadow history of the Internet itself, with spam emerging as the mirror image of the online communities it targets. Brunton traces spam through three epochs: the 1970s to 1995, and the early, noncommercial computer networks that became the Internet; 1995 to 2003, with the dot-com boom, the rise of spam’s entrepreneurs, and the first efforts at regulating spam; and 2003 to the present, with the war of algorithms—spam versus anti-spam. Spam shows us how technologies, from email to search engines, are transformed by unintended consequences and adaptations, and how online communities develop and invent governance for themselves.

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

Hope to see you on July 13th. Happy reading!

Improvements to Largo Support Process

We love helping people get the most out of their Largo sites. As we have more sites using Largo we occasionally have to make changes to how we provide this support.

The help desk system we’ve been using has proven to be a bit confusing and not as flexible as we would like so we’ve decided to make a switch.

Starting this week, and officially launching May 1st we’ll be launching a new support portal at

The new portal includes the ability to create new support requests and adds a knowledgebase of answers to common questions and a community forum to ask questions, propose new features and share success stories with other Largo users.

This change does mean you will need to create a new account. But you can also still open a new support request by emailing

We’re also in the process of revising and expanding the Largo Project documentation, and developing new training resources to answer common questions about setting up and running a Largo website.

The preferred process if you need assistance with your site is as follows:

  1. Visit and search the knowledgebase and/or public forums to see if your question has already been answered (many questions come up time and again and we’ll try to have answers ready to go for you for as many of these issues as possible).
  2. Site administrators or developers may want to also consult the Largo documentation and editors and authors might want to reference our Largo users guide.
  3. If you’re still unable to find an answer to your question and require further assistance. Just open a new ticket and we’ll do our best to help.
  4. In some cases if you request is going to require more one-on-one assistance or custom work we may ask you to pay for this work to help us cover our costs. You can learn more about our consulting services here.

We hope these changes help you to get the most out of your Largo site. If you have questions or suggestions for us, feel free to reach out anytime.

Thanks for using Largo.

My First NICAR

Conference skeptics argue you can save money and learn more by staying at home. I have to admit some conferences I've attended mostly consisted of panelists showing off their latest stuff, glossing over warts, and basically trying to impress rather than share. Others have been important venues for collaborating around challenges, ideas, and solutions, and served a key role in building important relationships and communities.

So there I was in Denver attending my first NICAR conference, not knowing what to expect.

NICAR is a Big Conference

The first thing that struck me was how big NICAR has become - more than 1200 registered attendees - and how many sessions are concurrently scheduled. The NICAR Guidebook app showed which sessions were discussion-oriented, which were hands-on technical, and what level of knowledge was expected. But there were a dozen interesting sessions every hour. To be sure, hard to pick.

Here are some highlights/takeaways from sessions I was able to attend.


Jonathan Stray from Columbia University demonstrated Overview, a tool for analyzing and annotating “way too many” documents. It’s designed to extract a signal from noise in a large body of documents, like 391,832 reports from the U.S. Iraq War Logs, or Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails. Overview creates document maps based on topics, keywords, and other entities, with tools to drill down and find key information. A cousin to DocumentCloud, with some complementary features.

Building VR Interactives with Three.js

virtual terrain on marsArmand Emamdjomeh from LA Times blasted us though the process of modeling a three-dimensional virtual reality scene using Three.js and Mars terrain data from NASA. I found myself scrambling to keep up. At the end of the hour I had a working VR model of a Martian volcano based on geographic data. I could fly around the model using my laptop’s touchpad, or export the model for portable 3D displays. Coming soon to wearable devices.

Data Viz for All

The stories we publish today are increasingly experienced by users on small screens and mobile devices with limited bandwidth. Data visualization is now part of reporting and storytelling. INN’s own Lead Designer Julia Smith helped lead a discussion of data viz design for a world where “mobile friendly” can also mean “works better for everyone on all devices.”

Conversations: How Should News Apps Teams Respond to the Era of Distributed News?

Is it wise to rely on platforms we can’t possibly control? Is it even possible to go back? This session consisted of a thoughtful discussion of using Google AMP or Facebook Instant Articles without being consumed by them. Participants included developers from large news orgs like The Guardian, The New York Times, NPR, and smaller organizations more dependent on third-party technology solutions. Summary: becoming dependent on these platforms is a really bad idea; and it’s probably already too late to do anything about it.

How to Keep Up: Newsapps Teams as Lifetime Learners

Four team managers (including INN senior director Adam Schweigert) presented on learning, creativity, and diversity. A few worthy points:

  • Imposter Syndrome is an industry-wide epidemic.
  • Struggle is part of learning and we should embrace it.
  • A diverse team will always outperform a team that is homogenous.
  • Hiring good people with some skills generally works out better than hiring difficult people with mad skills.

Reporting and Presentation with DocumentCloud

A hands-on demo of DocumentCloud for reporting and publishing, lead by Ted Han from DocumentCloud/IRE. We’re in a golden age of open source tools for managing and making sense of large sets of data. In this session I got a taste of the power of DocumentCloud, and how easy it is to use for non-programmers. It’s a different use-case than Overview, and I’m curious to know more about how they could be used together.

So You Want to Be a Lonely Coder?

How do you “level up” from a journalist who does a bit of data work to a full-fledged coder in your newsroom? I think this is a key question the NICAR conference is trying to answer. This panel was about stories of success and failure, and let’s face it: the successes don’t often come first.

Lightning Talks

slide showing the number of NICAR attendees over the past few yearsFive-minute talks voted up or down by NICAR members. The top dozen proposals present a lightning talk. Inevitably, there were many slides with cats. It takes real courage to get up in front of 1200 people. Even if you're brilliant like all these people are. Definitely a highlight of the conference.

The Life Cycle of a News App

This session hit home for me as an accidental archivist. When we build a news app today, will it exist in five years? How many of our links will be broken? The history of the web informs us: Ten years ago Flash was the rage and smart phones didn’t exist. If what we publish matters, we need to think about how to keep it online and accessible. A great session with Scott Klein (ProPublica).

Ruby Web Frameworks: Rails

Another hands-on workshop with laptops provided by IRE. I participated in a Ruby intro session last year at Code4Lib. This one was better, and I might actually kind of understand Ruby and Rails at this point.

Intro to Python Frameworks

INN’s Director of Technology Ryan Nagle walked through Python as a framework for data applications and websites. For me this was the perfect thing following the Ruby session, as I was able to better grasp the similarities and differences. I feel better prepared to continue learning both Ruby and Python as a result. But I’ll definitely be hitting up Ryan for more help along the way.

Investigating Agribusiness: The Data and Stories Behind the Untapped Field of Our Food and Fuel.

Agriculture reporting panelPam Dempsey from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and BigAgWatch led a packed room of people interested in reporting on agriculture, business, science, the environment, health, energy, government policy, and of course the food and water we depend on daily. I see these intersections every day living in the Midwest, and there aren't too many issues more important to people's daily lives.

NICAR16 tl;dr

I know something about journalism and technology. But there’s still a ton I don’t know, and things are changing fast. NICAR seems like the kind of place where you could know things and share them, or not know things and learn them.

It’s also has become a primary gathering spot for mission-driven people to share their ideas and responses to far-reaching changes in technology, audience behavior, and business models for news.

For anyone interested in these things, it’s an extremely useful conference.


The INN Nerds hold a daily video scrum meeting, and exchange asynchronous work communications and hilarious gifs on Slack. I knew Adam from a previous life in public media, but this was the first meeting in person with the rest of the INN team.

house we rented in denverWe rented a house for the week, and discovered that we enjoy a shared taste for things like coffee in the morning, eclecticism in music, the occasional taco and good beer, and nerding out about basically everything.

We worked hard the entire time, preparing for sessions, meeting with INN members, and perpetually responding to INN issues while pushing our product work forward. We also spent a day and half just talking about our role in the future of nonprofit news.

Remote teams need to communicate effectively over distance and time, and thanks to tools like Slack and Zoom it’s getting easier. But how much bandwidth is needed to build trust? You can learn from a webinar, but you can’t really have the kind of extended conversation where everyone in the room learns from each other.

Sometimes it's important for the INN team to meet in person, hang out, eat tacos, play a little guitar, and have extended conversations about what we’re trying to accomplish.

It’s great to share technology solutions and skills, but conferences like NICAR are so important because they give us an opportunity to build a community around them. That's how people really get things done.

Like another first-time NICAR attendee tweeted:

Nerd Alert #60: Moonshots, Startups, and Funding Models, oh my!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Startup founders, Jennifer Brandel (Hearken) and Mara Zepeda (Switchboard), argue that we need a new funding model for startups that recognizes founders with long-term, wide-ranging visions instead of focusing myopically on things that matter less just because they’re the things that are easiest to quantify.

  Ben: Not all encryption is the same, and the random number generator used in network appliances isn’t iPhone encryption, but for a peep into how convoluted this mess can get, check out the blog post at AgileBits explaining how the NSA backdoored the Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator algorithm used to generate encryption keys. The math is explained in translucent prose, at least.

  Jack: The Wall Street Journal has a Snapchat team of five people pushing out content eight times a day. The Washington Post snapchatted (now a verb) during the Nigerian elections and has expanded its use of the burgeoning social media platform known for its young user base.  So how do many teens use Snapchat? It’s a different world.

  Ryan: Walk through this "Paint a room" exercise to see just how bad you are at schedule estimation. When you're through, send the link to anyone who needs to be convinced of the importance of evidence based scheduling.

  Bert: The Netflix graphical user interface is colorful and friendly, they say. But numbers are so much more fun.


This week's guest contributor

Our guest this week is Pam Dempsey (@pamelagdempsey), executive director, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Four years ago, we refocused The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting with an investigative lens on agribusiness. Based in Champaign, Illinois, agribusiness is a billions-dollar industry in our region which reaches nationally and internationally. Yet coverage of agribusiness is sparse.

But with our strategy to provide not only in-depth reporting but also training and research, our stream of content became lost in the noise.

To resolve this, we recently launched Big Ag Watch, a new brand of our Center to exclusively focus on the big dogs of agribusiness through original reporting, commentary and curation. This provides a clear channel for our investigative work on big ag while giving our research and training work - and more general agriculture stories - a better defined space at the Midwest Center.


Good jobs with good people

The Texas Tribune is seeking an Audience Engagement Director.

Oklahoma Watch is hiring a State Issues Reporter.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Tuvan throat singer Huun-Huur Tu.

WATCH: In 1969 we either went to the moon or faked the whole thing.

EAT: Can’t go wrong with a recipe that starts with “Bacon wrapped cheese and mushroom”.

Houston we have a problem
moon with a rocket stuck in its eye

Nerd Alert #59: Reclaiming Your Timeline


What we're reading this week

  Adam: In reading (and complaining) about Twitter’s switch to an algorithmically-sorted timeline, I learned (ht @TLBKlaus) that the seemingly impossible is, in fact, still possible. You can work around Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm and see all posts in reverse chronological order by using this link: The more you know.

  Ben: Maintaining open-source projects is a lot of work, and the folks at Taskwarrior have an excellent post of advice for developers, detailing common pitfalls and user interactions.

  Jack: In the Speaking of Social Media Department, if you don't like what Twitter did to your timeline with its new algorithm, here's an excellent post on TechCrunch explaining the change, and how you can change it back.

  Ryan: Bookmark this: a complete guide to flexbox, the future of layouts with CSS.

  Bert: You reported an error with your system. Here is the most likely cause of your problem.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

image of the citizens police data project visualizationThe Invisible Institute has collaborated with the University of Chicago Law School's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic to produce this of visualization of 56,000 misconduct complaint records for more than 8,500 Chicago police officers.

Reveal's podcast series Do not drink: The water crisis in Flint, Michigan tapped into great reporting by Michigan Radio's project Not Safe to Drink to provide deep insight into a tragic story that's still unfolding.


Good jobs with good people

The application period for the INN Product and Tech Summer Apprenticeships is still open until February 15th.  We’re committed to creating a workplace where diversity is valued. Applications from women, people of color and other underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged. If you know someone who might be interested in learning a ton about the intersections of journalism and technology, and doing good work, spread the word!


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Football season is done and baseball hasn’t begun. In the interim we’ve still got lots of Spacejam.

WATCH: Helicopters don’t fly, they beat the air into submission.

EAT: Fast-food fix - Kentucky fried, Nasvhille hot.

Keep looking for that perfect cheesy slice.

pizza rat

Open Video and the Democratization of Multimedia

Last month I attended a very interesting discussion in New York about the potential for collaborations among news and cultural heritage organizations around video content. This discussion led to formation of a working group that will consider ways to share knowledge, tools, and potentially project funding. Before the inspiration of the moment fades, I want to share some of the key info and thoughts I brought back from that meeting.

Five centuries ago the moveable type press massively expanded the reach of printed language and the tools of authorship. The printing press didn’t just open access to knowledge. It transformed expectations about what kind of society we could have. The idea that a person could participate in public life became possible only with the spread of literacy and access to the printed record of human knowledge and culture.

Today we are living through another historic expansion of access to the consumption and authorship of human knowledge and culture, enabled by the Internet and digital multimedia. For more than a century the practice of filmmaking was limited to people with specialized skills and technology resources. Today anyone with a smart phone has access to high definition video production and distribution technologies.

With more than 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s clear the moving image has joined print as a primary element of our daily communication. Video is now a part of human language. But the norms, technologies, and thicket of rights around video still limit its role in the commons. While text, images, audio, and data have become easy to access, manipulate, and remix, the reuse of video remains constrained.

For those of us working to build a universally accessible knowledge commons, limitations on the role of video are problematic.

Video and the Commons Working Group

To begin addressing this challenge, a Video and the Commons working group has been formed to consider new models of open video licensing and peer production. Participants from the Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, the Internet Archive, New America Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, the Institute for Nonprofit News, the City University of New York, and the PBS NewsHour have begun developing a plan for bringing open video to the commons.

The working group was convened for an initial meeting in New York by Ben Moskowitz (Mozilla) and Peter Kaufman (Columbia University, Intelligent Television) with a mission to make video a first-class citizen on the Internet, like text, images, data, and sound. This will require two key things: a commitment to licensing that facilitates public sharing, and new tools for easy access and reuse of video.

Licensing for Public Reuse

The licensing protocols and tools developed by Creative Commons provide a comprehensive and legally defensible framework for specifying terms for reuse of copyrighted works of all types. Public sharing of content without giving up copyrights is now a solved problem. But the economics of video production and the complex of rights associated with its elements often work against putting it out for public reuse. What has been lacking is a commitment by producers and organizations to produce video in a way that can be licensed for the commons.

This is changing for many cultural heritage institutions at the urging of foundations like Hewlett and Mellon, who increasingly require open access to the media content generated from the projects they fund. Especially in the case of archival media, clearing rights can be challenging and expensive. These funders believe the costs associated with open content are more than recouped by the social value in making the content free to reuse.

That value can be unlocked by helping rights holders to feel secure committing to an open content strategy. This will require resources for education, advocacy, and support.

So we were all elated as Creative Commons announced receipt of an unrestricted multi-year grant of $10 million from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to strengthen the knowledge commons movement. The grant will enable Creative Commons to more deeply engage with content creators, rights holders, developers, scholars, and a growing community of users and collaborators to build sustainable models for the content commons.

In announcing the Hewlett grant, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley told the Working Group they are especially interested in working with journalists and news organizations to expand the use of CC licenses for news content.

That’s when working group participants from the PBS NewsHour raised a very interesting possibility.

Open News

What if the NewsHour were to publish hundreds of hours of video from their 2016 election coverage under a Creative Commons license allowing for non-commercial reuse? This might include gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, interviews with candidates, incumbents, party officials, and analysts, along with B-roll footage.

Other news organizations (and anyone else) would then have access to the raw video content for use in their own stories and productions. Creative Commons could provide guidance and support (and potentially grants) to producers of the content and those who want to reuse it.

If we want to engage more people in collaborating on knowledge and culture using multimedia, the most important thing we can do is to make more high-quality multimedia content available for reuse. We need to nourish a culture of open production and collaboration around digital storytelling, including video. We need to educate producers, news organizations, and public media about how to make content sharable via Creative Commons licensing without giving up their copyrights and potential commercial licensing revenue.

Next we need better creative tools that facilitate and broaden participation in multimedia journalism and storytelling. Mozilla and the Wikimedia Foundation are hoping to do that by bringing video editing to the browser.

Video Remix

It’s now trivially easy to copy, paste, edit, save, annotate, and share text, images, raw data, and even sound using free desktop tools, and even within a web browser. But until recently, in-browser editing and annotation of digital video seemed farfetched. At the first Open Video Conference in 2009 some great ideas were floated and then sank under the weigh of proprietary video formats and browsers that didn’t comply with W3C standards. But in the last few years, the adoption of HTML5 and the maturation of certain JavaScript libraries have enabled development of some amazing news tools for online video.

One of these is a framework developed by Mozilla called Popcorn Editor. Popcorn enables easy browser-based remixing of video from multiple sources: adding clips, resequencing, annotating, deleting, and exporting a final version. But actually there is no actual final version since each revision is stored in a version history, and can easily be restored. Video clips can be stored on Wikimedia Commons, the Internet Archive, Amazon S3, or any other location accessible via http.

There exist many other tools for collaborative video editing, like Zaption,WeVideo, Kaltura, and of course YouTube Editor, but each of these has significant technical dependencies and licensing limitations. Popcorn Editor is an open source project that can be deployed by anyone with basic coding stills, and used freely by anyone with ideas.

Popcorn Editor isn’t a scriptorium; it’s a moveable type press.

If We Build It Will They Come?

As a multimedia journalist and producer I think carefully about sources and story elements. Who or what is credible and provides information or perspective to the story? I’m talking about people, documents, photographs, audio, and increasingly video. A good source or story element may be inaccessible given available resources and the production timeline.

With a tool like Popcorn Editor, I could quickly assemble video elements from open licensed video resources across the web. I might invite others to participate in a given production via the web. A deployment of Popcorn Editor on a website might itself become a new kind of collaborative storytelling platform.

But let’s say we have access to a vast store of video content licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. We have an open source browser-based video editor anyone can use to create stories, news, art, documentaries, and who knows what other forms of media from openly licensed elements.

Will people actually use it?

I expect Popcorn Editor or some iteration of it will gain critical mass when the timing and formula are right. The current version evolved from the failure of Popcorn.js, which came too early in the adoption of HTML5. At this writing the Editor needs further development and better documentation. Members of the working group include seriously talented developers from Mozilla and the Wikimedia Foundation, and that work is happening now.

Coverage of presidential elections has been increasingly dominated by large news organizations with outsized resources and privileged access to sources. The news agenda and narrative has largely been defined by a handful of corporate news giants, and public disengagement with political news is a byproduct of this trend. What if anyone could make use of raw materials produced by the news giants to broaden the narrative? What if we gave more people an outlet? What kind of stories would they tell?

I don’t know if the timing is right. Maybe we’ll all shrug and continue to turn on (or off) Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Comedy Central. We probably need some pioneers to show how this could work.

The most likely pioneers might be among today’s students who are all now digital natives, and journalists in public media and nonprofit news. And I expect that as this unfolds we’ll begin to see some interesting experiments. I’m planning some of those myself.

Your Mission If You Choose to Accept It

“The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.” I like that as a general statement. The SPJ mission statement adds that journalists should “encourage a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely.”

The free press could only become free when it was possible for anyone to access the tools of print. Five centuries after the moveable type press, the Internet enables anyone to access the tools of multimedia. I think we should encourage a climate where multimedia journalism can be practiced freely.

With that our adventures could get a lot more interesting.

Nerd Alert Issue 58: Red Datum, Blue Datum. One Datum, Two Data

Some people call us nerds, some call us engineers, and we're happy with all that. But scratch us beneath the surface and you'll quickly discover our inner Carl Sagan. That's right, we're cosmologists of news. So in a galaxy far, far away let's boldly go where no one has gone before.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Reminded this week of this excellent post by OpenNews’ Erin Kissane on why your conference/community needs a code of conduct and how SRCCON went about writing theirs.

  Ben: Suppose the CSS that was loaded first was the CSS required to load the “Above the fold” portion of your page, and everything else was loaded later. It could potentially be very fast, but it would be a lot of work, right? Rejoice, for someone’s already done the work for you! (via Eli Gladman)

  Jack: Back in the day, news organizations built their own distribution systems. Today many of us rely on third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube to reach audiences. As the platforms themselves become more powerful, we might want to think about what it means for the future of news.

  Ryan: released Keybase filesystem (alpha) this week, which promises cryptographically secure public directories for Keybase users. Read more about what it is and why you (might) need it.

  Bert: What kind of mess did you git into? Let’s straighten you out.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

Who would have guessed? Nonprofit news networks are fostering greater impact and sustainability. We like this trend.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published a new guide to the private financial interests of lawmakers, the bills they have sponsored and what committees they sit on, pulling together data from lawmaker income disclosure forms and other public records. Nicely done!


Good jobs with good people

The INN Product and Technology Team is looking for one (or more) apprentices to join our team for the summer of 2016. All INN apprenticeships are a paid, living wage situation and we are committed to helping people grow.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: It's truly a mad world.

WATCH: Carl Sagan sciences the hell out of science.

EAT: Mardi Gras is upon us. Let us eat cake.

Meanwhile back in the INN Nerds Science Lab...

Man dancing with a glass of beer held secure in a steadycam rig

Announcing Largo 0.5.4 – Improved Navigation And Social Sharing Tools

A lot of change is happening on the web. One of the advantages of working with so many great nonprofit news organizations is we get to see how they are using the web for journalism and storytelling, and how people are using their websites. This drives us to continually improve the user experience, for those consuming news and for those producing it.

Today we’re happy to announce the next evolutionary step in INN’s WordPress framework for news websites, Largo version 0.5.4.  This release brings a number of major improvements to the mobile experience, social media sharing tools, and general clarity and aesthetics.

Enhancements include:

Complete navigation overhaul - Menus have a cleaner look and are much more usable on mobile devices. On small screens, menus should help when needed but otherwise get out of the way. With Largo 0.5.4, the sticky navigation bar is visible by default on all pages for mobile screen sizes. It disappears when a user scrolls down and reappears on an up scroll.  There’s also an option to enable the sticky navigation for all screen sizes on article pages, and to hide the main banner on article pages.

New social sharing buttons on single-column posts improve functionality and look - As the user scrolls down into a story page, the social sharing buttons fade in and float along with the viewport, so they’re always in the user’s easy reach.

Here's a short video showing the new sticky navigation and floating social media sharing buttons.

Archive pages for terms (including categories, tags, series and other custom taxonomies) can now have their own featured image - This image will display as a banner image on the top of the term’s archive page and we hope to extend this functionality in the future to support images of different sizes and aspect ratios. Additionally, with the addition of this functionality the Largo Taxonomy List Widget now includes an option to display thumbnail images for each series.

Other visual improvements include removal of the sticky footer, consistent styles for the search box across all headers, and many other style adjustments that add up to a better user experience.

Behind the scenes we also improved the performance of Largo by streamlining parts of the code people never see.  We believe this release will result in more useable, attractive, and better performing sites for the dozens of organizations now using Largo.

You can read all the details in the release notes on GitHub. Largo 0.5.4 is being rolled out over the next couple of days for sites that we host.

If you're not an INN member using our hosting, you can download the latest version from the project repository on GitHub.

We’re not done improving Largo and probably never will be. As long as the web continues to evolve, we’ll roll with it. And we’ll keep working for your success and greater impact!