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 Issue 19: A New Player Has Entered The Game


We have a new apprentice!


What we're reading this week

  Adam: When choosing icons, remember that clarity is key and sometimes the best icon is no icon at all.

  Ben: Everyone likes a good gif, right? Lena Groeger thinks there's something special about looping images. Here's her talk at OpenVis Conference 2105, and here's the slide deck. It's a treasure trove of gifs, and it's actually pretty interesting. Small multiples, gifs, or both?

  Dani: I'm a huge data-algorithms nerd, and I particularly get excited when these tools are used to solve everyday problems in our communities. While Google Maps may be able to tell you if the route you're about to take has traffic, the Traffic Prediction Project hopes to use data to predict jams an hour in the future.

  Kaeti: This set of CSS icons is fun and flexible. Check out the GitHub repo here.

  Meredith: Audiences fascinate me.   Does it matter if an institution has aglobal audience and zero visitors?

 Nick: Edsger Dijkstra was an ACM Turing award-winning computer scientist who conceived Dijkstra’s Algorithm which finds the shortest distance between two nodes in a graph, a fundamentally important algorithm in these networked times. He wrote a great deal of correspondence with fellow scientists, in English and in Dutch, and it’s extremely readable. The CS department at the University of Texas has an archive of scans of his notes from 1962 to 2002. Some are even funny; try How “They” Try To Corrupt “Us”.

  Ryan: I've always had trouble understanding SQL joins. These two links explain, in simple terms, what each type of SQL join does and how each can help you. Take the time to really own this knowledge so you can have the confidence that your SQL is as efficient and accurate as it can be.

  Will: “You know, the machine challenged me, so I challenged the machine.” An interesting look into how computers affect our lives and shape our characters.

  Bert: Beep peep xkcd beep boop.

This week's guest contributor: Ryan Cavis, Public Media Platform

We live in a world of web comments. And it's a cold, cruel world orbiting an unnormalized and indifferent sun. The "surface web" we spend all day browsing and indexing is a drop in the data-bucket compared with the blog comments, online communities and discussion boards of the "deep web". Estimates have put this non-indexable part of the web at over 400x the size of the indexed web.

Now before you jump out that window from despair - Diffbot recently announced their Discussion API for analyzing just such data. And hey, it's an API - which means normalization and repeatability for developers! The same way you might monitor and interpret Facebook and Twitter comments, you can track pretty much any discussion platform (Javascripty or not) including Disqus, Livefyre, WordPress, Blogger, Hacker News, and apparently pretty much anything I could think to throw at it.

So why not go ahead and read the docs, then take it for a test drive? Go ahead. You've earned it.

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

Dallas Morning News' Rolodex is in the news this week. It's a Django-based directory of people and the organizations they belong to. Users in your newsroom can add people, orgs, and relationships to the database, and see the relationships with some network graphs. Here's a Nieman Lab writeup, a live example rolodex, and the project on GitHub.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: From the New York Times' article about the new THX trailer: Bach's Fugue in B Minor.

COOK: Kimchi Party!

WATCH: The little thruster that tried.

GIF: Popup books are cool.