December Office Hours Recap

Monthly open office hours allow our team to connect with colleagues from organizations around the country — to work on projects together, ask questions, and brainstorm about various tech challenges.

This month’s session included a MailChimp how-to, a design review for an election app, and a discussion about reporting journalistic impact.

Connecting WordPress to MailChimp

First, we talked with Ariel Jensen-Vargas from Women's eNews about connecting WordPress with MailChimp.

We walked through a few of the options to customize and automate mailings using the custom RSS feed template we've built into Largo to integrate seamlessly with MailChimp's RSS to email functionality.

If you want to learn more here are two how-to resources from MailChimp that explain the process:

And to see an example of the Largo to MailChimp integration in action, check out the newsletters from Aspen Journalism or Yellowstone Gate.

An Election App From The Lens

Next, developer Thomas Thoren walked us through an app that The Lens built for November’s election and will use again for their Dec. 6 run-off election coverage. (You can see the November election results here.)

The design discussion included mobile considerations and how to refine the user experience.

A couple of resources and examples that were referenced during the conversation:

Impact Reporting For Foundations

Our final conversation centered on thinking about how we might optimize and automate the reporting of journalistic impact metrics for foundations. Specifically, we talked with Lauren Fuhrmann of Wisconsin Watch about a project she is working on to expand and tailor something like this web metrics guide for nonprofit news organizations and the foundations that fund them.

Some of the questions foundations ask and news organizations expend sometimes a lot of manual effort in answering are:

  • What did we do (how many stories did we publish and what did we cover)?
  • Who did we reach (and what do we know about them)?
  • What happened as a result of our work?

Lauren showed us a sample report they've been working on and then we talked about ways of potentially automating the collection of this data from Google Analytics, social APIs and other sources.

And then to wrap things up, in the spirit of December celebrations, we enjoyed a YouTube jukebox of carefully curated holiday tunes.

Next Month

Our next open office hours are Thursday, Jan. 8. Sign up for a slot, or just drop by and join the conversation. They're always held via Google Hangout so you can join from anywhere and all are welcome!

Nerd Alert: Issue Two


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In this post-holiday week, the leftovers are dwindling and yet we forge ahead.  To Mars!


What we're reading this week

Adam: Studio 20 (a graduate program at NYU) is teaming up with Storyful to explore what it would take to create a more agile newsroom. Here at INN we borrow a number of elements from agile software development, so we’re interested to see how this project unfolds. They already have two excellent interviews up with Melody Kramer and Brian Boyer of NPR and Vox Media's Yuri Victor.

Ben: Friedrich Lindenberg talks about, a story editor that finds figures and companies in your story as you write and gives you significant information side-by-side with the story in progress. It’s an attempt to take story composition tools beyond mere text editors, and Friederich muses about additional ways that software editors can help writers commit acts of journalism.

Kaeti: In order to move the web forward responsibly, we need to understand our past. This lovely history of web design (with illustrative GIFs) is a great place to start.

Meredith: Melody Kramer launched a mom-approved blog and shares her thinking. Melody loves "making magic on the internet." She is thoughtful, funny and always learning. Recently she weighed in on the Serial podcast and its community.

Ryan: John Pavlus writes about Bret Victor (former "Human Interface Inventor" at Apple) and his ideas for unlocking our creativity by thinking differently about our interactions with computers. For a deeper dive, check out Victor's "Learnable Programming" project in which he explores some pragmatic approaches to easing the process of understanding programming.

Will: As part of my apprenticeship with INN, I've been exploring various ways to pull site metrics directly into WordPress. And while collecting data is inherently good, using metrics meaningfully can prove difficult, as Caitlin Petre from the Tow Center of Journalism explains:

To know the implications of metrics for journalism, we must first understand how this data is created, interpreted, and used by real people in actual organizations.

Bert: Humans may make it to mars, but never forget that robots got there first.

This week's guest contributor: Lauren Fuhrmann, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

My new favorite tool for collaborative docs: James Somers (@jsomers) built DraftBack to let you play back and analyze the making of every Google Doc you own or have permission to edit.

(Hat tip to Kate Golden @wiswatchkate.)

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


Our projects, manifest

Two things this week: A post from Ryan on recent updates to our deploy tools. This is the set of tools we use to deploy the Largo platform to WP Engine but there are many helpful tools in here for working with WordPress more generally. And a post from Adam on our various community building efforts including our News Nerd Book Club, which is coming up next Wednesday.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

Election Night is one of the biggest news events of the year for MinnPost, but as a small, nonprofit organization, they can’t afford election data feeds from AP or Reuters. They also focus on local and state races — results that aren’t always available from national feeds.

Figuring that other small organizations have similar needs, MinnPost’s data team built the Election Night API — a set of tools, configurations, and instructions to collect and serve election results. Check out the write up to learn more about how and why they made it happen.


Thanksgiving we will never let you go 

LISTEN: Sam Amidon and Bill Frisell perform “Walkin’ Boss” on World Cafe, one of the first tunes Amidon learned to play on the banjo.

COOK: Vox ranked cranberry sauce second to last in their definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides. Clearly they haven’t had Adam's cranberry sauce.

World-Famous Award-Winning Bourbon Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Serves ~8, depending on how much you like cranberry sauce. I normally make a double batch because I REALLY like cranberry sauce.

This can be made a day or two ahead; it’ll keep for a while in the fridge.


  • 4 cups, fresh cranberries (frozen would probably be OK, too)

  • 1 cup,  orange juice

  • 1/2 cup, white sugar (to taste, add more if you like your cranberry sauce sweeter)

  • 1 or 1 1/2 tablespoons (to taste), chopped fresh ginger (I leave mine pretty coarse but you might want to dice yours finer if you don’t like big chunks)

  • Spices to taste, I’d start with about 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves and adjust to suit your tastes

  • 1/4-ish cup, bourbon (a.k.a., the secret ingredient)


  • Rinse the cranberries, then combine with the orange juice, sugar, ginger and other spices in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.

  • Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

  • Reduce heat, add the bourbon and simmer for 8-10 minutes, continuing to stir frequently.

  • Once the cranberries have mostly popped and the sauce starts to thicken, adjust the spices to taste and then remove from heat and let cool.

  • Store refrigerated and serve cold.

GIF: We are all made of stars.

Point of View: Reflecting on My First Week at INN

The view from my remote office window.
The view from my remote office window.

Sitting down at a desk in your own home is not the traditional way to begin the first day of a new job.

As a new member of a remote team, the first few days can feel disorienting and humbling, but frequent access to my co-workers and the team's established practices enabled me to feel a part of the team immediately.

Posts, found here on the team blog, offered me guidance about remote work, insight into how the INN team works, and a template for reflection. I read through all the posts and appreciated the public record of INN's work and the team's history.

Orienting myself, with guidance and support, included slipping into the stream of both projects in process and our longer range plans.

The team's daily Scrum has been a huge help in getting up to speed, serving as a quick check-in on the previous day's work, a prompt to plan for the next and a barometer of all my teammates' projects. A few short minutes sheds light on the team's priorities and connects us together -- united by our preference for hoodies on chilly days.

A new working situation offers a fresh start, a bit like the first day of a new school year, an opportunity to consider two big ideas and themes – organization and documentation.

Decisions about how to organize communication, resources and time impact work flow and efficiency. Moving onto a new team in a role focused on supporting and documenting digital work, I am inspired to consider organization with design and functionality in mind.

I have started by thinking about existing structures and tools such as the team docs repository on GitHub.

Documentation is both a private and public endeavor. Many years as a student trained me to take copious notes. The challenge is to make them useful to both myself and my team.

As I reviewed the INN member sites using Largo, the WordPress platform that our team builds and maintains, I created a chart that identified the Largo features each member site incorporated. My intention is that the chart can be used a reference for my team and not solely a personal exercise in documenting my own exploration.

I am looking for relevant examples, templates and advice. Here are a couple that I've found helpful so far:

If you have any other favorites, please send them my way.