Nerd Alert 112: La La Labs


What we're reading this week

Ben: Today’s link is a very long post, and it opens with an anecdote about how a comic author was almost driven to suicide by people who objected to his words, but it’s worth a read. “Empowerment” emphasizes identifying ways that people have agency and can change things, rather than telling them that everything is hopeless and run by a flawless conspiracy.

Gabe: Side projects give interviewees a chance to talk about their passions, how they work, and how they manage their time. What are questions you should be thinking of when you talk about your side project?

 Julia: This interactive graphic looks at gender equality and dialogue in 2016’s highest grossing films. And here’s a look at how it was made.

 Kay: Listen up, video journalists! Make sure to check out this app reviewed by Poynter. It gives you more control over the camera in your phone and lets you monitor your audio with headphones while filming.

 RC: A huge step forward for collaborative editing in WordPress: Google Docs integration is now available on and via Jetpack.

 Inndy: Who’s a good dog?


Are you shining just for me?


This week the team got together in person for an INN staff meeting in LA. It was a great way to set goals for the future, collaborate on Largo, do some team building, and plan for INN Day. It was an incredibly productive week. Go team!


Work we admire by our journalism peers


OpenNews recently introduced their field guide to open source in the newsroom. The guidebook walks you through the entire open-sourcing process, from getting your first release to handing off your project. If you’re interested in contributing, check out this guide.


Stay in the know

Sunshine Week starts this Sunday across the country, spanning from San Francisco to Minneapolis. Check out all of the panels, workshops, and events about the latest development in freedom of information resources.

MuckRock will be hosting two free events in Boston on all things FOIA-related.


Good jobs with good people

INN is hiring a Grant Officer & Writer and a Director of  INN Labs.

The Center for Public Integrity is hiring a News Application Developer/Data Journalist.

The Marshall Project is hiring for a Multimedia Editor, an Immigration Reporter, a Membership Manager and Communications and Development Associate.

The Lens is looking for an Environment Reporter.

Mother Jones is hiring for a Facilities Manager, a Managing/Production editor and for a Mother Jones Documentary Film Residency.

ProPublica has a bunch of job openings for their new Illinois office.

NPR Visuals is hiring a Summer Intern.

VTDigger is hiring a Chief Innovation Officer and a Social Media / Community Editor.

The Better Government Association (BGA) seeks a Development Assistant, a Board Liaison & Development Associate, and has Internships available.

Reveal is hiring an Investigations Editor.

The Sunlight Foundation is hiring an Operations Manager.

Mississippi Today is hiring a Product/Web Designer and Developer.

Chicago Public Media is hiring a Developer.

The Tor Project is seeking a Communications Director.

Vox Media’s Storytelling Studio is looking for a Front-End Designer.

If you're looking for general jobs in nonprofit news, check out the main INN newsletter and sign up here to get it in your inbox every Tuesday. Two INN newsletters are better than one!


We love you back

Please consider supporting this newsletter with a donation to INN.

Or, if you'd rather contribute content over cash, be a guest contributor! Read more about that here and shoot us an email at if you're interested. We'd love to hear from you.

Thanks much!


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: It’s been 11 years since we started taking the hobbits to Isengard.

EAT: Laksa in 30 minutes.

DRINK: Kombucha cocktails. Best drunk before yoga.

READ: 3 ways to fix a broken news industry.

Shake it.

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

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

Nerd Alert Issue 14: Signs of a Spring Thaw

How many clocks did you change last weekend?


What we're reading this week

  Adam: Lukas Mathis writes: “Whenever [a design] discussion veers from «how can we solve this problem» to «should we pick option A or option B», you need to take a step back, and ask yourself — and your team — if these are really the only two options.” He goes on to offer tips on avoiding these false dichotomies and ensuring you’ve considered the range of possible options available to you.

  Ben: Drone journalists should expect to get arrested, says Drone Journalism Lab professor Matt Waite. The first few years of flying won’t be easy, but communications will help that. If you think you might fly a drone in the future, be sure to comment on the FAA’s rule making.

  Denise: Many of us probably use Chartbeat to look at real-time analytics of our stories. This CJR profile of the company and CEO Tony Haile breaks down why some of us might be using it all wrong. Attention should be a more important metric than clicks. “Imagine if Woodward and Bernstein had access to this kind of data and they said, ‘I’m sorry, this break-in is not really trending.’”

  Kaeti: As a woman working in technology, I have experienced the coded, and occasionally blatant, assumptions people (often men) make about my abilities and experience. No, I’m not here with my boyfriend. Most of the time, these comments and assumptions aren’t malicious — they’re born out of privilege, ignorance, and a deeply broken system. Sailor Mercury breaks down what it really means to code like a girl in a thoughtful, concrete, and compassionate essay.

  Meredith: A gentle farewell to the Google Code project. The conversation highlights the nature of tools and how those that are most widely used and adopted survive, and the desire to continue to be able to find work after a particular tool or site shuts down, via @cdibona

 Nick: Since starting on March 9, I’ve jumped in the deep end with this amazingly productive team and feeling a serious case of Impostor Syndrome. When I have doubts, I listen to this short piece by Ira Glass on being creative and the natural distance between having fine taste but not quite producing at that level. The point I take from it: stop worrying about how inadequate I am, just keep working, and only by doing that will I become adequate and eventually awesome. One of the key points of the INN Manifesto is to always be learning. I suggest you read that manifesto and borrow part or all of it for your own manifesto.

  Ryan: In this post, Melody Kramer shares a story about her friend Betty, 89. She explains how Betty gets her news and some of the difficulties she encounters in the process. The anecdote reminded me that there are lots of people out there who do not share in my lived experience. The things I build will wind up in the hands of people I never took the time to consider, used under circumstances I may never have imagined. Please keep this in mind as you build out your next big project.

  Will: Read about how UI designer Zoltan Hosszu learned to code in order to build a live widget to integrating Google Analytics beautifully into the OS X notification center and then download it.

  Bert: The next time you reach for a snack, maybe share one with me?


This week's guest contributor: Melody Kramer, 18F

Using the Doppler Effect, you can now implement motion sensing on your computer screen using only a computer speaker, your mic, and your hands. Which means you can create a theremin — or in a more useful application, scroll down a computer screen without using a mouse or touching the screen.

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 7.29.50 PM_thumb
This week we launched (built using Largo) and announced our new name, Institute for Nonprofit News. Our design director wrote about how we redesigned INN in less than 60 days.


Work we admire by our peers

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.33.13 AM_thumb

A live style guide generated based on existing code that you can edit in the browser? Sign us up. As we think about how to build our own pattern library, we’ll definitely keep the SC5 Style Guide Generator in mind.


Gather ye rosebuds

LISTEN: Terry Riley celebrates his 80th birthday this year.  Listen and participate to this version of his famous, "In C."

COOK: Fridays on the Fire, Thai Chicken on the Grill from the fine Wild Yonder folks..

WATCH: Spring arrives for these beauties.

GIF: Our new logo is mesmerizing.

logo gif

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!