Nerd Alert 51: Black Friday Deals


A $35,000 gift card, looking for a good home: The INNovation Fund.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: The NPR Visuals team has an excellent post on the effectiveness of their recent sequential visual stories as measured with Google Analytics event tracking.

  Ben: When your laptop detects that you've changed time zones, it's using one of the oldest protocols on the Internet: Network Time Protocol.

  David: This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for years of not needing to doaspect ratio math.

  Jack: In the best of all possible worlds, we could raise enough money from grateful donors who love our content to keep making more. Radiotopia has some ideas about turning fans into partners.

  Bert: How do you detect a human pretending to be a robot?


Swans, from Kensington Palace

A trio of swans float in a slate-grey pond. The pond is located at Kensington Palace, London, The United Kingdom.



Our cool work

So many blog posts this week! Twitter has removed share counts from its buttons, so we have a list of neat tools to learn more about who's sharing your #content. And the very best #content has images, so we wrote about how tospeed up your website with optimized images. January's News Nerd Book Club features a back-to-back twofer of responsive websites goodness from the folks at A Book Apart.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: The MitchiriNeko March is also worth a watch.

COOK: If you still have room for dessert, here's a simple shortcake recipe.

GIF: Even superheroes have to buy groceries.

One Punch Man shops in the meat aisle of his grocery store. He walks offstage to the left, carring a handbasket. A young mother walks onstage, headed right, carrying a basket and towing behind her a young boy who has a face of awe and is pointing back towards One Punch Man. In the background, a female shopper is unperturbed.

Nerd Alert 50: Nerdiversary!


Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of this newsletter. Have you been subscribed that long? Tell us your newsletter stories!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Last week at SND Makes in Austin, Chris Coyler (of CodePen) blew some minds with his lightning talk on SVG animations. If you’re like me and fairly new at working with SVGs, here are some good tips on creating and exporting them for the web.

  Ben: Creativity is about asking questions.

  David: Jack has been exploring image optimization to keep INN member sites lean and fast. This shell script uses Homebrew and ImageOptim to shrink images using lossless libraries that don’t alter any pixels.

  Jack: After the adblockolypse, revenue for news may have to rely more on voluntary contributions from consumers. How to do this? Maybe make them Tipsy.

  Kaeti: Relevant to my interests: writing CSS on growing teams.

  Ryan: Among PHP’s 5,000+ built-in functions, you’ll find metaphone: a function that can compare two strings to determine how similar they sound.

  Bert: Let's paint some happy little robots.


This week's guest contributor

Our guest this week is Sean Flynn, the integrations developer for and a recovering journalist.

Regular expressions can be both a valuable tool and a serious headache. Netscape developer Jamie Zawinski once said, “Some people, when confronted with a problem, think ‘I know, I'll use regular expressions.’ Now they have two problems.”

Zawinski’s frustrations are common, but there is hope! RegexOne has an interactive tutorial that will teach you the basics of regular expressions, and there are a number of invaluable cheat sheets floating around the internet. Pete Freitag wrote one that I used heavily when I was just starting out.

When you’re ready to graduate from interactive tutorials into daily use, provides a free online regular expression tester, while UltraPico’s Expresso has proven itself as an invaluable (free!) offline regular expression design and testing tool. And if you just want to shake the rust off your regex skills, how about a few rounds of regex golf?

Just don’t try to parse HTML with regular expressions.


Good jobs with good people

St. Louis Public Radio is looking for reporting interns this spring.

Maplight seeks a data editor.

Public Source is hiring an interactives and website developer and two editorial positions.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

The WordPress REST API: An untechnical guide for non-developers.

What is the WordPress REST API? Why is everyone else so excited about it? What can you do with it? From Torque and WPEngine comes a free white paper answering all those questions.

Also, the NPR Visuals Team ran the analytics on their photo slideshow stories.What they found out may surprise you.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: A concert celebrating 25 years of Studio Ghibli.

COOK: Macaroni Grill's rosemary bread.

GIF: Meet Jennifer, the hockey robot learning to ski:

A gif of a knee-high robot with skis and poles, awkwardly propelling itself across a powedery snowpack near a building.

Nerd Alert 49: Building Better Workplaces


Can we get another helping of links, please? Thanks.

Pass the green beans, too.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: When building a new team, project or company it’s important to  stop and think about what the end goal really is. Many incentives are aligned with growing as big as possible (often as quickly as possible), but is that really the best way?

  Ben: Do you want to make your sites more accessible in a quick and easy way? Here's an intro to ARIA’s accessibility role landmarks.

  David: Each of us take our own path. Comparisons are the worst. Meet my lovely neighbors (including quadrupeds).

  Jack: If we had a chance to re-think news 20 years ago, what might we have done differently? Let’s travel back in time.

  Kaeti: Ideas from Forge Conference on how to build a better, more humane workplace.

  Ryan: Fordite isn't really 'real,' but it's really cool.

  Bert: Beep beep. ☹


Work we admire by our journalism peers

A screenshot of DocumentCloud's responsive embed comparison tool.

Document Cloud embeds are now responsive! Play with all the options.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: The cast of Hamilton celebrate "A Chorus Line."

COOK: We like pie. You like pie. How about some tamale pie?

GIF: One! Two! Three!

A mixed group of young men and women - the men in black shirts, red neckties, and black pants; the women in red dresses with black trim - circle up and stack their hands midair in the center of the circle. They pump the stack of hands once, and then raise them. If you could hear it, it would probably be accompanied by a shout of 'Go Team!'

Nerd Alert 48: It’s November!


The sun sets early
Church bells tolling off-kilter
The year is ending


What we're reading this week

  Adam: When AOL’s Patch collapsed in 2013, a number of observers jumped on this failure to call hyperlocal news unsustainable. Not so fast, say a number of former Patch editors who’ve decided to go it alone with the support of organizations like LION and the use of open source tech like INN’s Largo.

  Ben: Autotune for images can regularize patterns or highlight and distort differences. But what will it do to family portraits?

  David: The history of WordPress.

  Jack: Are news websites some of the slowest on the web? Let’s make them go faster.

  Kaeti: It’s far too easy to make assumptions about our users when creating a product. This is a fantastic reminder of why it’s so important to design with empathy.

  Ryan: Check out slouchy if you’d like a constant reminder that your posture is terrible.

  Bert: Tensegrity tetrahedrons, tripping through thy tubes.


Good jobs with good people

Public Source is looking for an interactives and web developer.

The NPR Visuals Team is hiring a developer.


Work we admire by our journalism peers


From, an analysis showing that planned light-rail extensions avoid neighborhoods with lots of carless workers.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Moon Hooch.

COOK: Egg in a bagel hole.

WATCH: Live stream of the “Drones as Disruption” forum on drone law at The Ohio State University.

GIF: Happy owl.


Nerd Alert 42: The Hitch-Hacker’s Guide to Papal Pizza Rats


Too many pop culture references to fit into one newsletter. We'll do it anyway!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Instead of focusing on who owns which piece of a project, let’s make product development a team sport.

  Ben: Celebrate important things in life with donuts, from the author of September’s News Nerd Book Club book.

  David: When most people think about solar power in Arizona, they likely envision scorching temps and near-unlimited sunlight. However, this unique solar thermal installation at Northern Arizona University generates heat for the Flagstaff campus’  frigid winter months.

  Jack: With 2 billion smartphones on the planet (expected to be 4 billion by 2020), native mobile apps must be the future of news on the web, right?  There might be some really good reasons for not buying into that.

  Kaeti: How, in a rapidly changing field that requires increasing levels of specialization, do we foster and protect a holistic culture?

  Ryan: This week, North America ran out of IP addresses.

  Bert: Do robot rats dream of robot pizza?


Work we admire from our journalism peers

Screenshot of "Blackout: Reinventing the Grid", a website by Inside Energy.

Blackout: Reinventing the Grid by INN member Inside Energy explores problems with the power grid, and ways of improving it.


Work with people we admire

MinnPost is hiring a development director.

INN's tech team is hiring a contract WordPress developer, and applications are open for spring 2015 apprenticeships.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: An epic rap about history.

COOK: A homemade Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme.

WATCH: How to Make a $1500 Sandwich in Only 6 Months.

GIF: A papal pizza delivery in Naples:

As the Popemobile drives down a seaside street, a man jumps from the crowd to hand the pontiff a pizza.

Nerd Alert 41: Adpocalypse Now


Ancient Mayan prophecies foretell the end of ads.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Lots of talk about ad blockers this week with the release of iOS 9. Nilay Patel explains how this is less about Apple caring about a better experience for users, but rather money, power and a fight for control amongst big tech companies.

  Ben: A first-generation Pokemon talks about the sad state of web development, and comes to the conclusion that PHP has so many users because it just works.

  Kaeti: Welcome to the (ad) block party.

  Ryan: Take Lauren Rabaino's advice for fostering a happy, productive team.

  Bert: Is Google's 418 error page actually served by a teapot?

This Week's Guest Contributor: Thomas Thoren, open data reporter at The Lens.

Drudge Report, the news aggregation site created by Matt Drudge, is known for its conservative stance and its bare-bones web design. The site looks like something that might have come out of a "Hello world" beginner HTML lesson. Its famous siren would fit right in on a late '90s GeoCities page.

Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, argues that this seemingly oversimplified news site actually does a lot right. In an era of bloated websites, the stripped-down Drudge Report is a breath of fresh air. It doesn't try to do anything more than give you headlines, so it excels in getting you your news and getting out of your way. By hardly changing its design over the past two decades, it has a distinct style that readers can rely on. It exists as a single web page that requires little technical knowledge, allowing Matt Drudge to focus most of his time on the content of the page instead of fighting with a content management system.

While your editor might not appreciate any future design mockups that offer little more than black text on a white background, it's worth remembering that simpler is almost always better.

Each week we ask someone from outside our team to contribute a link, tool or idea. Are you our next guest star? We think you might be. Send us a note at


Work we admire by our journalism peers

More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen have been set free as a result of an Associated Press investigation.


Work for people we admire

The Sunlight Foundation is hiring a director for Sunlight Labs.

Chalkbeat is hiring a Director of Product and Growth.

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is hiring a Data and Visual Director.

INN's tech team is hiring a contract WordPress developer, and applications are open for spring 2015 apprenticeships.

If you're posting jobs, let us know!


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: How about a mashup?

COOK: Summer's almost over, but there's still time to make sorbet.

WATCH: Where CSS color names come from.

GIF: Enjoy your weekend!

A gentlebro on a wakeboard is pulled down a flooded street by a small hatchback car that is up to its axles in water.

Nerd Alert 40: The INN Nerds Alpaca Farm


Applications are open for our spring 2016 apprenticeships, and we're hiding a contract WordPress developer for this fall. Tell your friends!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: I really enjoyed this fascinating read on the current state of news economics for freelance writers.

  Ben: Clean, minimalist design doesn't mesh well with Apple's Human Interface Guidelines. Guess which one was thrown out.

  David: The hard truth on making things.

  Kaeti: The key to any successful project is how well you communicate — with your team, clients, and everyone in between.

  Ryan: Research on knot tying done by MIT and Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris lends a scientific explanation for a variety of knot-related problems. Everything from how your headphones wound up an unusable, tangled mess to the more significant issue of how the configuration of knots can help in surgical procedures.

  Bert: My robot friends are taking over farms.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

The Next to Die tracks upcoming executions. The Marshall Project has even made the tracker embeddable, if you want to use it on your site.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Sarah Vaughan singing "Misty" in 1964.

COOK: Make some cookies for your camelids.

WATCH: The alpaca song.

GIF: Have a happy weekend!


Nerd Alert 39: That New Car Smell


Take some time off this weekend to go out and visit nature.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: An excellent discussion of the ethics of algorithms: “Should the Facebooks and Googles of the world put users on a healthy diet, by filtering search results to reflect the truest truths and News Feeds to promote nuanced, substantial discourse?”

  Ben: How evil can newsletter signup popups get?

  David: How many trees are there on Earth?

  Kaeti: Just in time for the long weekend, the sensible case for totally ignoring all the emails you miss on vacation.

  Ryan: Jason Cohen's company, Analytical Flavor Systems, is helping craft breweries improve their beer by using graphics processing units (GPUs) to analyze beer tasting data to identify common issues with ingredients and brewing methodologies.

  Bert: Let's build a Lego bus that drives itself.

This Week's Guest ContributorDaniel Bachhuber, Director of Engineering at Fusion

As a newly minted manager, I have a lot to learn — and I’m trying not to learn it all the hard way. One book I’ve found to be incredibly helpful is Crucial Conversations, because it provides an approachable framework for being effective in emotionally-fraught conversations.

Thinking about asking for a raise? This book will help you frame the talk with your boss. Frustrated with how other people on your team are working? This book enables gives you tools to be real with them, and help get them to be real with you.

Fixing people problems isn’t as easy as fixing code. Make your news nerdery more successful by reading this book.

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

Want to help us build tools for nonprofit newsrooms? We're hiring apprentices for the fall and spring.

News Nerd Book Club is next Wednesday! We're reading Designing for Performance by Lara Callender Hogan.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.17.26 AM

The Lens' project Missing Home maps the thousands of houses demolished in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and exhibits some of the demolished houses.

The source code is up on GitHub!



Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: This video has tons of excellent drum solos, and not a drumkit in sight.

COOK: Got a blender? Make some Green Power.

WATCH: Why journalists carry guns in the Philippines, via The Guardian.

GIF: Adam is test-driving cars today.