Storytelling Tools Plugin for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/storytelling-tools/

If you're not familiar with them already, The Knight Lab at Northwestern University has built some great storytelling & visualization tools for journalists, all of which are freely available on their website.

Knight Lab Storytelling Tools

You may have already seen some of these tools in action as a reader and not realized what they were. Their Timeline, StoryMap, Juxtapose, and Soundcite tools have been featured in Time, The Washington Post, ESPN, and ProPublica, to name a few.

Even better, the Knight Lab has taken steps to make it as easy as possible for anyone to build these visualizations and embed them on their site. Each tool has its own page on the Knight Lab site that contains either a wizard to guide you through building the visualization or detailed information and examples on how to do it yourself (in the case of Soundcite).

Why We Built The Plugin

When you use the online wizard to build one of these tools, you'll get a few different options to embed the finished product on your website. If you're publishing on Medium, you'll receive a link you can just paste into your editor. If you're using WordPress or another platform, there's some iframe code you can add to your editor. For Soundcite, there are some rather detailed instructions for WordPress users, because you need to include the Soundcite JavaScript file that builds the players.

For non-technical users, relying on code to embed these tools can be difficult, and even prevent people from using these tools. We saw an opportunity here to add first-party support for these tools in WordPress, allowing for the same automatic embeds as Medium and a shortcode for Soundcite. Now, anyone can begin using these tools in WordPress without any coding skills!

More Info

By this point, you're probably thinking, "WOW, where can I get this plugin to start using it myself?!?"

You're in luck - it is freely available on https://wordpress.org/plugins/storytelling-tools/ or you can install from the comfort of your own website's plugin section. At that link, you'll also find detailed information about each of the tools and how to use them on your site.

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact us via email, open a ticket on Github, or leave a note for us in the WordPress.org forums. We look forward to hearing from you!

SSL & 2-Factor Authentication Coming to All Hosted INN Member Sites

The security and performance of our hosted member sites is one of the most important tasks we handle on the INN Product & Technology Team. Our members rely on us to keep their sites secure and accessible so they can focus their efforts on the important journalistic work they're doing.

This week we're beginning a rollout of SSL certificates and 2 Factor Authentication for all hosted members sites. SSL provides encrypted connections to websites, is increasingly becoming the de facto standard for the web, and Google has indicated it will increasingly be viewed as a ranking factor in search. Enabling SSL will mean that all pages will be accessed using https:// at the beginning of the URL (and don't worry, we'll redirect any non-SSL URLs to the safe SSL version).

Two-Factor Authentication is an additional security step we are also making available in the coming months to our hosted sites through Google Authenticator. This will allow you to add additional authentication to your account by using your phone or another app to verify your identity when you log in. We're currently testing integrations of this and will provide public documentation for using this feature once we begin rolling it out on our hosted sites.

If you're a member with an INN-hosted site, there aren't any actions you need to take to enable these features. INN's tech team will be implementing these infrastructure improvements on a rolling basis, and we'll continue to communicate any updates or changes that may affect your site before they occur. If you have any questions, you can always find answers and reach out to us through our support portal.

Goodbye. Thanks For Everything.

Today is my last day at INN.

It's been a privilege to work this past 4+ years supporting a nationwide network of over 120 nonprofit news organizations.

Now, I'm excited to turn my attention to a single organization that I really admire. I start next week as a senior developer for Mother Jones.

I'm sad to leave but proud of all that we've accomplished.

In the time since I joined INN 4 or so years ago the team has grown from one (me) to six people. And we've done it in a way that has remained true to our values, even through some very tough times.

We helped dozens of organizations, become leaders in supporting remote work, started a killer newsletter and have done our best to promote nonprofit news as a cause that is well-worth supporting. We've also written extensively and shared as much as we could about what we've learned along the way.

Above all, I am grateful to have had an opportunity to work with such an incredible bunch of folks. First, thanks to Jessica Plautz for recruiting me in the first place and Kevin Davis for giving me the opportunity. A special thank you to Ryan Nagle and Kaeti Hinck who joined the team early on, when no one had really heard of INN and the team had yet to build any sort of reputation. They did a huge amount of work to lay the groundwork that has allowed INN to get to where it is today.

Also, of course, to Boss Of The Year (2015), Denise Malan, and our other team members, Nick Bennett, Jack Brighton, Jacki Keys and Meredith Melragon, who  all contributed along the way.

Thanks also to all of our incredible apprentices who have gone on to do great things at other organizations,Will Haynes, Dani Litovsky Alcala , David Ryan and Sinduja Rangarajan, as well as our current apprentice, Gabriel Hongdusit. It has been incredibly fulfilling to work with all of you and I'm excited to continue to follow your careers and cheer you along the way.

I leave the team in the capable hands of Julia Smith, who has taken over as acting director. She is incredible and I'm confident that she will carry on the important work we've really just started. The rest of the team, RC Lations, Kay Lima and Ben Keith are also some of the best in the business. Period. It's been a pleasure to work with all of you.

I'm excited to see what you do next. Keep in touch.

Welcome Kay Lima, Our New Support And Community Lead

kay-1This week we're excited to welcome Kay Lima to the team as our new support and community lead.

Kay comes to INN most recently from a marketing firm in New York City where she has supported clients and users through her roles as a client-facing project manager and digital marketing manager. She has worked on various WordPress, Drupal, and custom technology projects. She also holds a degree in Music from Salem State University, is certified in Inbound Marketing and Google Analytics, and is a graduate of a renowned full-stack coding bootcamp.

At INN, Kay will be leading front-line support for our member organizations and consulting clients and will also be responsible for creating documentation, training and other resources to assist publishers in the adoption and use of our Largo WordPress platform and the other tools we build and support.

Her first day is Wednesday, January 18th. We're thrilled to have her on board and I hope you'll join me in welcoming her to the team!

Busy Week

We've had a busy week here and wanted to share a bit more about some of the sites and projects we've launched this week.

Largo 0.5.5

largo-sqEarlier this week we announced the latest release of Largo, our WordPress framework for news websites. We've been hard at work on that release for about the last nine months and it has some significant improvements to things like photo galleries, byline formatting and social network integration as well as a number of bug fixes, smaller improvements and features for developers. You can read the full release notes for all the details.

We've also started the process of updating all of the member sites we host to this new version and making some important infrastructure changes that we hope will make your sites even more stable and easier to work on. More on that shortly and we'll be reaching out to you individually to set the timeline for updating your site to the latest version in the coming weeks.

As the launch release noted, this will be the last major release for the current Largo codebase. We've reached a point in the project (now four years in, believe it or not) where we feel like we need to step back, re-architect and redesign a lot of things in the project to make ensure we're able to keep up with the rapid growth and demand we've seen for the tools we build. We'll be sharing a lot more about that process as it unfolds and we're excited to share that work with you in the coming months!

Mississippi Today

mississippi-today-screenshotWe also launched a redesign (using Largo) for Mississippi Today. They had launched a very basic site using Largo a few months ago to get their new publication off the ground but then asked us if we could do some more custom design work for them.

The result was some illustration work by our very talented design apprentice, Gabriel Hongsdusit, and some other custom design work to polish up the typography and develop a more refined color palette and style patterns for use throughout the site.

Gabe wrote an excellent post about his process earlier this week.

In the process of building the new site, we also added a neat new feature to Largo that makes it easier for developers to add interstitial donation messages and signup widgets in rivers of stories (on the homepage, topic pages, etc.). Using this feature in conjunction with our Super Cool Ad Inserter Plugin now makes it easy to add these sorts of messages (or advertisements, if your site has them) directly in the flow of the content on your site where they're more likely to be noticed.

Kinsey Confidential

Earlier this week we also launched a new website for Kinsey Confidential, a project of the Kinsey Institute and School of Public Health at Indiana University. They run a podcast and blog providing research-based sexual health information to college-aged readers. We worked collaboratively with a designer at IU, Alan Milner, and then did some additional design work, content migration and development to migrate the site to Largo.

Here's the before/after:

kinsey

The Observatory

wiscOne more Largo site launched this week, The Observatory. This is a project at the University of Wisconsin journalism school that it teaching students how to improve their fact-checking while also developing a statewide resource to hold those in power accountable. We built the site using Largo and then added some additional functionality to make it easy for students to rate fact-checks on a four point scale and display appropriate graphics for site visitors.

City Limits: ZoneIn

zoneinLast but certainly not least, launching today is the new project ZoneIn from City Limits, funded by the Ford Foundation, where they'll be covering a series of zoning proposals in New York City.

We worked with City Limits to develop a new section of their website (which was already using Largo). We extended the custom landing page functionality in Largo to provide a more focused experience for the project pages that almost feels like a site within a site.

They're also making use of Largo's optional series and post types taxonomies and an additional Neighborhoods custom taxonomy to create landing pages for each of the zoning proposals that include recent news, project status, a listing of public meetings and more. They're also accepting community commentary and hope to have a vibrant discussion about each project over time.

Work With Us

Want to join our team and work with us to build and support projects like this? We're hiring.

Want to hire us for an upcoming project? Get in touch.

Announcing Largo 0.5.5

We're excited to announce the latest release of Largo, our WordPress framework for news websites.

This is a big release that we've been working on for the past nine months or so and it includes a lot of great new features we think you'll love as well as a bunch of smaller improvements and bug fixes. You can see the complete list in the official release notes.

Here are a few highlights:

Redesigned photo galleries

The photo galleries in Largo were inherited from Project Argo and were looking pretty dated. We completely redesigned the galleries to make the design more minimal to focus more on your photos while also ensuring a better mobile experience for your readers. We also added support for full-screen viewing (a very common request we've heard from a number of sites). Here's what the galleries looked like Before:

gallery-old

and After:

gallery-1

We also added support for a grid view of photos to better support the "columns" attribute you see in the settings when you create a gallery in WordPress (thanks to Rivard Report's photo editor Scott Ball for this suggestion). So now when you set that option:

gallery-1a

You're able to display your photos in a grid view (with the ability to click to view them as a full-screen slideshow):

gallery-2

Improved byline functionality and support for multiple authors

Previous iterations of Largo included some byline enhancements to support multiple authors (using the popular Co-Authors Plus plugin) and showing a "time since" dateline instead of an absolute date. In this version we've added a number of additional improvements, including the ability to display author avatar images directly in the byline:

byline

We also included better support for the optional job title field available in Largo user profiles. Some sites use this for job titles and some have been using it to identify partner organizations:

byline-2

Additionally, for posts that have been updated after they were originally published, we now show the date and time the post was last updated at the top of the body of your story. There are also a number of general improvements to Co-Authors Plus compatibility and support for guest authors.

Better social network integration

As you may have noticed in the byline example above, we've also added better support for additional social networks.

For non-developers, there are some additional social networks in the Appearance > Theme Options section of the dashboard (most notably, support for Instagram and Pinterest). Once you add the links to the relevant social networks you'll see the icons/links appear in the header/footer and also in any Largo Follow widgets you may have added to your site. On a related note we've also updated the Largo Follow, Facebook and Twitter widgets to support the latest and greatest from each of the social networks.

For developers there are some additional hooks and filters that allow you to easily add additional social networks to the sharing tools on article pages and also the theme options and related widgets. If you're not a developer but you'd like to add this support for your site, we're happy to help with that as part of our paid consulting services. Just get in touch with us and we can discuss how best to accomplish what you're trying to do.

Better admin user-experience for featured media

In a previous release we added some powerful new functionality that extended the default WordPress featured image functionality to support photo galleries, videos and other embedded media. Unfortunately, adding a new button for this above the Post window proved confusing to people, as did the option to override the automatic display of featured media at the top of the post.

We've moved this functionality back to the default location in WordPress (in the right column of the Post Edit screen) and also made it much easier to find the checkbox to override the default display of featured media on a per-post basis (useful if you want to just show the thumbnail image on the homepage but include the photo elsewhere in your story instead of at the very top).

featured-media

We've also added support for featured media to the legacy two-column post template. We still recommend using the single-column template in almost every instance. To make this transition possible, we have released a number of recent plugins (mostly notable the Super Cool Ad Inserter) that should make it easy to insert advertising, donation messages and signup widgets without needing a sidebar or right rail on article pages. Your mobile users, particularly, will thank you for making this change. If you're not quite ready to make that leap, however, we're now pleased to at least give you the same featured media support that we incorporated into our new default article template in the last Largo release.

...and much more.

THANK YOU!

To everyone who contributed to this release, including community contributions from yayannabellejmusalntwbMsPseudolus and rclations (before he joined our team).

There are also some new features in this release that were originally built for a few of our recent clients which have now been open sourced so that all can benefit. So, a huge thanks to Rivard Report, Religion News Service, Mississippi Today and others who, in one way or another, contributed to some of this work.

Get The Latest

For INN member sites that we host, we'll be rolling out this update over the next couple of weeks. We're also making some infrastructure changes at the same time to improve reliability of your sites so we'll be reaching out individually over the coming weeks to coordinate scheduling for the updates.

For sites that we don't host, the update is available now to download from Github (zip file). We do strongly recommend that you apply updates to Largo as your time and resources allow. Keeping the Largo parent theme up to date will ensure you have, at times, critical bug fixes, the latest features and will also help us to provide better support when you come to us with questions. As with all major updates, we recommend testing the update on a staging site before updating your live site. If you require assistance with making the update, we're happy to help either through our weekly office hours or our paid consulting services. Get in touch if you need a hand.

What's Next?

This is the last planned release for the current Largo codebase. Over the next few months we'll be starting a process to take the work we've done over the first four years of the project and re-architect the core Largo framework to make it more modular, flexible and easier to use.

These planned improvements will make it easier for you to pick and choose the components you want to use for your site instead of having to sort through a bunch of options and configuration settings. We will also release a number of components as standalone WordPress plugins so you can take advantage of the work we've done without necessarily having to use the entire Largo theme in its present form.

Finally, we also plan to have a number of new WordPress themes built using this framework that will have incorporate much of the newer design work you may have seen on some of our more recent projects.

In short, we hope to keep the best of what has made Largo such a popular platform for newsrooms but make it easier for you to use and easier for us to maintain and improve.

You'll be hearing a lot more about that process soon and we're excited to share the work as it progresses!

Recent Staffing Changes + We’re Hiring!

Wanted to make a quick announcement of some recent staffing changes here at INN.

Jack BrightonLast week we said goodbye to our Support, Documentation and Training Manager, Jack Brighton. Jack has decided to move on and possibly go back to school so he has wrapped up his time here as of Friday, October 28. We're sad to see him go but grateful for all of the contributions he made in the year he was with us, particularly the work he did to get our support process better organized, some notable improvements to documentation for Largo and some of our other projects, and his assistance in putting together our tech and product training event in Chicago last month. Best of luck, Jack, in your next chapter!

We have posted a new position that encompasses some of the same responsibilities (but with a few tweaks here and there). It's a bit less focused on training and a bit more on building community around the products we build. If this sounds like a good fit for you, we'd love to chat. Check out the full posting and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or want to discuss before applying. We'll likely start interviewing for that in a couple weeks and you can read more about our interview/hiring process in this post.

Fran Scarlett

Finally, we're thrilled to welcome Fran Scarlett to INN as our new Director of Programs and Services. You can read more about her and this new role over on the main INN site, but in short, she comes to INN most recently from the University of North Carolina where she was regional director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). She'll be leading INN's business training, coaching and professional services. She starts on November 17th and we're really excited to have the opportunity to work with her to make a difference for INN member organizations. Welcome to the team, Fran!

Two Days In Chicago To Improve Your Tech + Product Management Skills

We're pleased to announce a special two-day gathering in Chicago, September 28-29 where we'll be assembling some great speakers from INN member organizations and beyond to help news leaders better understand how to manage technology and product design in your organization.

The workshop will take place on the campus of Columbia College in Chicago and will be geared toward executive directors and editors, along with news technologists, with the goal of raising tech literacy of leaders at nonprofit and independent news organizations.

The workshop takes place on the two days before the LION Publishers Conference on the same campus to help members save travel costs.

The event is FREE for INN members and we are  pleased to extend registration at a discounted rate to LION member organizations.

Thanks to the generous support of the Mozilla Foundation, travel reimbursements also are available for INN members to attend the training. (Please apply here for travel funds.)

Register here.

Agenda

These are our confirmed sessions and speakers as of this writing but this is subject to slight change as the event draws closer. All times are CT.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

10 - 10:30 am -  Welcome and introductions. Sue Cross and Adam Schweigert, INN

10:30 - 11:15 a.m. -  Congratulations, you’re a product manager! Journalists love telling great stories and they’ve developed the skills and experience to do it well. But now you have to (also) think about how to distribute those stories, who you want to reach, what impact you want to have and, above all, how to turn that into a business. Congratulations, you’re a product manager! Speaker: Rebekah Monson, WhereBy.Us

11:30 - 12:15 p.m. - Planning and budgeting for tech projects. Tools and techniques to eliminate the guesswork. Speakers: Amanda Krauss, independent consultant and Adam Schweigert, INN

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. - Lunch (provided) + Lightning talks from attendees and mentors. Prepare a five minute talk and share something you’re passionate and excited about. There’s no requirement for these to be tech related; could be about projects at your organization, side projects or other interests you have to share.

1:45 - 2:30 p.m. - Beyond pageviews: Getting the most out of analytics and impact tracking. An overview of the latest best practices around measurement and impact tracking. Speakers: Lauren Fuhrmann, Wisconsin Watch and Ryan Sholin, Chalkbeat

3 - 4 p.m. - Mentor meetings. Break into small groups and meet with mentors to discuss issues and solutions.

4 - 5 p.m. - Happy hour

Thursday, Sept. 29

10:00 - 10:45 a.m. - Recruiting and managing technical staff. Building and managing a diverse and inclusive workforce plus some general best practices for recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining tech/design talent. Speaker: TBD

11  - 11:45 a.m. - Planning and executing successful data projects. How to plan and budget for data and editorial projects, work effectively with news technologists and create impactful stories that drive change. Speakers: Julia Smith, INN and Fernando Diaz, Reveal/CIR

12 - 12:45 a.m. - User-centered design on a shoestring. How to bring design thinking into your organization without breaking the bank. Speaker: Kyle Ellis, SND

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. - Lunch (provided). More time to meet one-on-one or in small groups with mentors discuss challenges/solutions.

2:30 - 5:00 p.m. - From theory to practice. Split into groups, work through the design thinking process to propose solutions to a design challenge and share your work with the full group.

5:30 p.m. - LION opening reception. All attendees of the INN tech conference are invited to attend the LION opening reception at Film Row Cinema, 8th floor, 1104 S. Wabash, just off South Michigan Avenue in the South Loop. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the bar opens at 5:30.

Speakers/Mentors

Rebekah Monson is co-founder and VP of Product of WhereBy.Us, a local media startup that connects people to their cities through storytelling and experiences. Its first publication, The New Tropic, produces an email newsletter, original journalism and events in Miami that reached more than half a million curious locals in 2015. WhereBy.Us achieved profitability in its first year of operation and will scale to new markets in 2016.

Kyle Ellis is a visual journalist turned product owner with a penchant for producing collaborative innovation events for media and civic technology communities. Energized by blue-sky ideation and fulfilled by collaborative execution, Kyle believes that data-driven decision making, a deep understanding of audience needs, and a strong sense of business goals are key to launching products that win. He currently works for American City Business Journals and the Society for News Design.

Fernando Diaz is a senior editor for Reveal, overseeing coverage of labor and privacy and surveillance. He has spent most of his career in Chicago, working at newspapers, magazines and websites, including as managing editor of Hoy, a Spanish-language daily newspaper. He has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Chicago Headline Club and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and The Society for News Design. Diaz is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Lauren Fuhrmann is associate director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Fuhrmann joined the Center in 2011 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. At the Center, Fuhrmann leads revenue development efforts as well as public engagement initiatives, including events, social media, newsletter and promotional materials; tracks the distribution and assesses the impact of WCIJ’s news stories; assists with development of donors and writing of grant reports; handles bookkeeping duties; produces photos, audio and video content; and copyedits stories. Fuhrmann is vice president of the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She was among five young leaders in the inaugural group of “Future Headliners” honored in 2014 by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Amanda Krauss is an independent digital consultant who specializes in user-centered strategy and smart product decisions. Previously, she was the Director of Technology for the Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, all-digital news source for Texans. She also worked with the Tribune as an interactive producer, and before that, she developed custom websites, wireframes, and prototypes on WordPress and other platforms. Previously, Amanda was a university researcher and instructor, which gave her a strong foundation in user experience, information architecture, and public speaking. She holds degrees in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, and has also co-translated an Aristophanes play, Women in Congress, which was performed at UCLA in 2013.

Ryan Sholin is the Director of Product & Growth at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering equity issues in education. A former investigative reporter for the Oakland Tribune, online editor for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, trainer and strategist at GateHouse Media, and Product Manager at Gannett, Ryan was also a co-founder of Wired Journalists and a Knight News Challenge winner for ReportingOn.

Adam Schweigert is Senior Director of Product and Technology at INN, leading all of its technology-related efforts, including developing publishing tools, managing content syndication and measuring the impact of members’ journalism.
Julia Smith is the design lead on INN's product and technology team, working on a mix of internal projects (like Largo, our open source WordPress framework/platform for news sites), creating design standards and style guides to help guide our work and helping out INN's 110+ nonprofit members and our consulting clients.

Hope to see you in Chicago!