Nerd Alert 65: Stop Fooling Around


What we're reading this week

  Adam: An excellent post on the challenges of writing (or at least trying to write) scalable CSS.

  Ben: Adam’s link this week is an excellent follow-up to the last two weeks of CSS links in this slot, so here’s a different post by the same author: The Veil of Ignorance. Use it as a design tool.

  Jack: Is virtual reality a reality for journalism? Probably too early to know where it is in the technology adoption life cycle, but some recent VR projects have shown potential for immersive experiences that lead to deeper understanding. Sounds worthy of our efforts, if it actually can work. Here’s a great set of articles on the state of virtual storytelling.

  Julia: Learn how one news dev went about automating XKCD-style narrative charts – inspired by one of my all-time favorites: The Movie Narrative Chart.

  Ryan: Create shiny interactive maps using OpenStreetMap data with MapHub. Think: Google's "My Maps" but built using open data.

  Sinduja: Writing and getting data by issuing FOIA requests can be a long and complicated process. But the first step to even writing them is knowing what data is available and who to contact in an agency. The FOIA mapper helps you navigate this difficult process by mapping FOIA logs.

  Bert: I would never lie to you.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

story on about the EgyptAir hijacking arrest
Pitch a SRCCON session (before April 20) and help beta test a new version of Tabula while listening to some sweet, sweet tunes on NPR's new (non-flash) audio player.


Our projects, manifest

Mississippi today logoNew INN member Mississippi Today launched their site using Largo. As part of their launch, we helped them get set up with Gravity Forms and Stripe to accept both recurring and one-time donations directly through their site. We'll have a tutorial on how that's working up on our blog next week!


Good jobs with good people

The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund has launched a new fellowship for investigative reporters of color.

Knight Lab is looking for two developers.

And public radio station WAMU is hiring a digital managing editor.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: A ten hour loop of the Girl From Ipanema. Useful for migrations, long deployments and DNS updates.

EAT: How to cook a snake.

DRINK: 3 Floyds' Dark Lord aged in a Jeppson's Malört barrel. (or don't)

GIF: This was too big for the newsletter, but worth it. (we promise)

Time to make our getaway.

dog robber being chased by dog cop

Nerd Alert #44: INN nerdbots exterminating the roadblocks

We definitely believe the Internet should be free, fast, and open to all comers. We also like farms.


What we're reading this week

  Adam: From Maine FarmLink, a list of farms for sale (or lease, for the noncommittal).

  Ben: Today is a good day to write tests. Here are some test strings.

  Jack: Google’s new plan for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) promises to kick the speed of news on the mobile web into hyperspace. Or it might destroy the open web. We can’t wait to find out which!

  Kaeti: A helpful collection of CSS #protips.

  Ryan: Zappos is tossing its organizational chart in favor of a new system with no job titles or descriptions.

  Bert: Happy packets make for a better Internet. You don’t want to make them angry >:)


Good jobs with good people

INN seeks an apprentice.

Also, a contract WordPress developer.

ProPublica is hiring a Data Fellow.

Religion News Service (RNS) has an immediate opening for a full-time Web Developer.

MinnPost is looking for a Director of Development, and an Education Reporter.


Work we admire by our journalism peers

IRE y NICAR lanza una lista de correo en español.

The Texas Tribune's God & Governing series examines how Texas legislators' religious beliefs guide their lawmaking.

FBI recognizes Wapo and the Guardian for collecting better data than the FBI.


Just thought we'd overshare

LISTEN: Wagakki Band: Too good!

GIF: Let's speed up everything! What could possible go wrong?

Dalek exploding

Nobody Said This Would Be Easy

Allow me to introduce myself: I’m the idiot who joined the INN tech team and thought he could be on top of things right away.

OK not totally on top of things, but how hard could it be? I spent the past 28 years working for public broadcasting in a variety of roles, most recently as New Media director at Illinois Public Media. I’ve designed and coded dozens of websites, set up and run Content Management Systems, and provided training, documentation, and support for staff and public users of Illinois Public Media’s websites and digital services. Prior to the web I produced lots of radio using tape decks and razor blades, learned the ropes in television production, and got caught up in on-air hosting for a while. As digital technology came along I migrated from tape to computers, file systems and servers, and I had to learn about this thing called data. I edited our first websites using Netscape Communicator, and started posting broadcast archives online as RealMedia. After 28 years I knew everything about our operation, what the work was, and how to do it.

Now I’m completing my first week at INN as your new manager of support, training, and documentation, and suddenly I’m working with about 110 different news organizations. Each of these has different needs, and relies on INN for a variety of mission-critical services. There’s a whole new INN technology stack developed by people smarter than me, and a different way of working than anything I’ve experienced. (Although, lots fewer meetings!) The INN team has a pace that is both more intense and somehow more relaxed than I’m used to.

These people know what they’re doing, and it’s clear to me I don’t yet. This is a very uncomfortable feeling, and it causes me to question if I have what it takes.

But wait: This feeling is familiar, it’s just that I haven’t experienced it for a long time. I’ve been doing the same work in the same ways for at least 15 years, with lots of incremental change but no seismic shifts.

If you have worked in news for the past 20 years, odds are good that you have also experienced  a feeling of deep anxiety and displacement in the digital age. As change in technology and audience behavior has accelerated, the ground has shifted under our feet and we find ourselves in a strange new landscape. We don’t know the rules, the skills, or even the roles required for effective digital journalism. I’ve seen this in many of the people I’ve worked with, and it can lead to stress, conflict, and even organizational failure.

We are seasoned news professionals who have won many awards, and deserve our sense of accomplishment. Acknowledging this doesn’t change the fact that the technology, business,  and social base of our industry has changed, and that change will continue.

So my first week at INN was a bit of a wake-up call, which I pretty much knew was coming. It would have been much easier to stay where I was, doing the same things I had long been doing. It would be much more comfortable for us veterans of the news business to pretend change isn’t happening, and that we can keep doing our business as usual. But none of us can afford that illusion, and we owe it to our communities and stakeholders to take the next steps in the evolution of news.

I’m not sure how we do that comfortably, without stress and anxiety. Speaking for myself, I am aware once again that I have much to learn and this will take some hard work. It definitely helps that my teammates at INN have also experienced this seismic shift, and understand that we’re all in this together. As I was tempted to panic this week, they reminded me that I actually do have what it takes.

And here’s the best part: so does the nonprofit news industry, and INN is here to help.