Office Hours June 30: INN WordPress Plugins

We'd like to hear from users of our WordPress plugins this week during our open office hours. Join us from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern in our weekly video chat and in the notes to talk about what you want to see from our plugins.

We maintain:

We'd love to hear what feedback you have on the plugins and ideas you have for their future development.

Join us from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android at

Or by telephone: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 298 377 456
International numbers are available.

Notes for this week's office hours will be in this etherpad.

Our ongoing office hours schedule is in this Google Sheet.

More about our office hours:

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.

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

INN Nerds Invent Tools To Promote Community At SND Makes Austin

A couple weeks ago a group of designers, developers, community managers, educators and students met up in Austin, TX for the latest edition of SND Makes. The group included two members of our team, Ryan Nagle and Adam Schweigert, among representatives of 22 different news organizations from around the country.

This was the latest of a series of events presented by the Society for News Design and our design challenge for the weekend was: "How might we invent tools that promote community?"

There were ten teams in total and SND has a recap post that you should check out showcasing all of the projects to come out of the weekend. Here are the two projects our respective teams cooked up and a bit of the thought process and work that went into them.

The Gist: Giving Topic Pages A Makeover


Topic pages on news sites tend to be very static and are often just a reverse chronological list of stories about a given topic or category.

Our team wanted to re-imagine the traditional topic page as something more dynamic. We wanted to also use the topic page as an opportunity to create and engage a more active community around any given topic and establish the reporter/editor at our hypothetical news organization as more of an authority on that topic by positioning them as a "host" of that topic page and community discussion.

What we created for our hypothetical news organization (called The Gist) is a re-designed topic page that would replace the traditional "Education" section front or topic page on the site. When visitors to the site click on "Education" and then land on this page, instead of being presented with the usual list of stories, they would instead see the topic for that week (or perhaps month if the news organization had a slower cycle of fewer resources). In our example we picked "Racism on Campus" because there was a lot of conversation around that topic this week and we believe that picking a more specific topic each week will lead to a more engaged community around that topic on The Gist.

At the top of the page we see the topic, a link to view the traditional list of stories in the education category (for readers who still want to get to that easily) and then an introduction to the topic for that week, the host of the page for that week and then everyone who has contributed content or added to the conversation.

Below, we see a list of curated stories, links to conversations on social media, promoted comments, photos, videos, graphics, etc. that have been selected and arranged by the page's host. We specifically call out content that has been added by the community to help them feel like their contributions are valued by The Gist. At the bottom of this river of updates, you might expect to find the usual comment form, but instead we ask readers what we've missed or what they'd like to add and then make it easy for them to contribute. The host for the page can then add this contributed content to the river above.

At the end of each week, we would have captured a collection of some of the best stories, discussions, personalities, sources, etc. on a given topic and then we would send out a weekly newsletter to either help people catch up or to give them some further reading on that topic. We also tossed around the idea of hosting a weekly QA with the host or particularly active contributors, experts on that topic, etc. so that the activity on the page each week would drive to some capstone event which could then also be recorded and offered as a podcast or on YouTube.

At the end of the week we would also announce the topic for next week and again invite the community to send us the best content, conversations and personalities they've found on that topic to help inform our reporting. And we would have an archive page that would allow you to see previous topics if you wanted to go back and reference them.

The team consisted of:

Cultivate: Unearthing Community Leaders


Team Zilker created project Cultivate, which sprang from the desire to find and foster community advocates or leaders by analyzing the activity of community members on social media.

We used Twitter for our proof of concept since its API is relatively straightforward to work with and would provide enough data to make a real-world judgement using our algorithm.

The algorithm, as it stands after the event, is pretty naive. It assigns a score to individual users based on their mentions of a particular keyword (something associated with our brand or organization), their total number of followers and how many times their mentions are interacted with by other Twitter users.

The use case: team member Chris Coyier works for and is visiting New York. He wants to find Codepen community leaders in town and offer to take them out for dinner. With cultivate, he enters keyword "Codepen" and location: "New York, NY." He gets back a list of users ranked using the algorithm described above.

The team consisted of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The signup link also remains the same.

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

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

How We Build Community

As a remote team, we pay special attention to how we communicate and build connections within our organization. But the need for community and connection extends beyond just our team — we're keenly aware of the challenges faced by the often lone technologists working at our member organizations. Even if you have supportive colleagues, it's not easy to be the only person at your organization who does what you do.

Organizing opportunities to learn together is a core component of our team’s commitment to “Always Be Learning.” To that end we have recently announced a number of new programs that we hope will help people connect and create affinity groups, ask questions of us and one another, and form a more tight-knit community and support network.

There are a number of existing online communities for news technologists — the NICAR-L mailing list comes to mind, as well as various Twitter chats, Google groups, etc. — but we want to create more opportunities for people to casually connect with each other online and to meet “face-to-face” (even if these face-to-face interactions are mediated by technology). This is why, as a team, we have a daily standup meeting, or scrum, using Google Hangout where we can actually see each other (via video chat) and communicate via always-on chat throughout the day (using HipChat).

Since part of our role is to support a network of organizations, we’re trying a number of things to create similar experiences for the broader community of technologists at INN member organizations and beyond.

Book Club

Our News Nerd Book Club is an idea that sprang from a discussion with Ryan Nagle about how we might replicate a shared team library as a distributed team. Instead of mailing books around to each other we decided to start a book club where we pick a book each month, read it and then get together to talk about it (either via Google Hangout or, occasionally, in person if we happen to be at a conference or other team gathering in the same physical space).

We decided to open the book club to anyone because we view these get togethers as not only a time to gather and discuss the book itself, but also as a scheduled time every month to convene a community that might not otherwise have an opportunity to come together outside of conferences (and, for people at organizations without a significant travel budget, that might not meet at all).

If you’d like to join the club, we have a crowd-sourced list of potential books (we’re trying to keep the selections accessible to a general audience and not overly technical), a Twitter account you can follow and our next hangout is scheduled for December 10.

Office Hours

We now hold monthly open office hours where anyone can sign up for a slot to come talk to our entire team about projects you’re working on, questions you have or really anything you’d like to chat with us about. The aim here, again, is to set aside time each month to get people together to learn from each other and for us as a team to spend time thinking about different problems than we typically work on in our day-to-day work.

We see these office hours as part of our commitment to transparency (all of our office hours are open by default, meaning that anyone can drop by and listen in or join the conversation) and a way to give back to the community. They're also a great way to generate new project ideas and possible leads for our consulting work.

Additionally, we hope that these office hours provide students, recent grads or prospective team members a non-threatening opportunity to get to know us, other members of the news and tech community, and to see first-hand how we work.

Open Chat

Another tool that has become indispensable for our team, as for many distributed teams, is some sort of asynchronous, always-on chat (we use HipChat and Slack is another popular choice).

In addition to our private team chat room where we talk about projects, share interesting links and post the occasional animated GIF, we now have a semi-public HipChat room that is open to any news technologists (particularly from INN member organizations, but we’re not too picky) who want to come hang out with us, ask occasional questions, share projects and interesting things they’re reading, and generally feel like part of our extended team.

If you’d like an invite to this room, we need to add you to our HipChat account (HipChat is kind enough to offer free unlimited accounts to nonprofit organizations), so just send an email to and we’ll get you an invitation.

Weekly Newsletter

Finally, just last week we sent out the first edition of our new weekly newsletter, Nerd Alert. This newsletter is a collection of interesting things our team is reading, open source tools, projects we're excited about, some random fun stuff and, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for us to highlight "guest stars" whose perspectives we value and want to share with our readers.

Our aim with this newsletter is to capture and share some of our team's collective knowledge that might otherwise be trapped within our HipChat room or relegated to Twitter or an inaccessible email thread, while also highlighting voices that are less-often heard (particularly, again, the "lone wolf" technologists at our member organizations).

You can sign up for the newsletter right here and if you believe you or anyone you know would make a good guest star for a future newsletter, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list.

Those are a few recent things we've been trying to help build strong networks among INN members and the broader journalism and tech community. While they're not a replacement for spending time together in real life (something we're hoping to do more of in the new year) we hope they're at least a start.

If you have any ideas for other things we might want to try, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch. We'd love to hear from you!