Nerd Alert 89: A subject-line joke

A subject walks into a bar and orders a pint. The bartender replies, "This isn't an email!"


What we're pondering this week

  Adam: For the 52 days we have remaining until election day, a timely guide to talking politics at work (or, say, in life) without alienating people. Hint: be respectful and focus on common ground.

  Ben: “Building better tech cultures for people with ADHD” seems to be broadly applicable to building better tech cultures in general. Take a read, and think about your office.

  Gabe: Ethnicity is complicated and the UX for defining it tends to be simplistic. How can better design reflect the complexities of ethnicity? (Hint: Checkboxes, not radio buttons)

  Jack: A Gallup survey released this week paints an alarming picture of decline in Americans’ trust in mass media. Which begs a question: In the digital age is there any such thing?

  Julia: This analysis of the most popular colors on the internet reminded me of another fun little game: Name That Blue. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

  RC: Baffle.js is a neat little visual library for obfuscating text in the browser.

  Inndy: I’m considering taking up ballet.


The happening things

Tonight, September 16: The INN@ONA Happy Hour6 p.m. Mountain Time at the Denver Press Club.

September 28-29 - There's still time to register for INN's two-day event for news leaders! We'll be discussing everything you need to know about managing technology and product design in your news organization. Travel stipends for INN members are available and we've added some new speakers and mentors. Hope to see you there!


Work we admire by our journalism peers

A screenshot of the "View Forms" interface of Ask, the new tool by the Coral Project

The Coral Project will launch their new community-engagement tool Ask on Monday, and unveiled the Comments Lab on Thursday.

A shoutout to NPR for publishing the things they’ve learned about Facebook Live.

Congrats to All the Online Journalism Awards 2016 finalists.


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!


Doing the good work

INN is hiring a program director and an operations manager.

The Marshall Project is hiring an editorial designer in New York, NY.

The Northwestern University Knight Lab and the Washington Post are looking for two software developers interested in journalism for their Knight/Post scholarship program.

MuckRock is accepting applicants for their newly-announced Thiel Fellowship.

If you're looking for general jobs in nonprofit news, the main INN newsletter had 29 job openings this week. Check it out and sign up here if you'd like to get that in your inbox every week. Receiving two newsletters from INN is twice as good as one!


Help us make a thing

Want to help us build the next release of Largo? Here’s a list of outstanding issues before we ship the next milestone.


It's what's for dinner

LISTEN: I want my tears back ?

WATCH: Evolution in action ?

DRINK: A strawberry-basil milkshake

COOK: Savory Mooncakes

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

A couple dance on a cloud, backlit by the full moon.

How Your Small Team Can Have A Big Impact: Lessons From ONA 2014

Making things happen with limited resources and a small team can be a challenge. It can also be an opportunity to experiment and think creatively. During our ONA panel on Friday, John Keefe of WNYC succinctly captured this sentiment with the sage advice: Do crazy sh*t sometimes. (In his case, that meant roadtripping to a cabin in the Catskills with his team in order to finish a major project.)

John, Adam and I share the experience of building and leading small news apps teams within our organizations and we've learned a lot along the way. We wanted to talk openly about our biggest obstacles and how we've tackled them — in order to make our work more effective and our working lives happier.

Here are a few of our ideas:

  • Break down ambitious projects and iterate. Figure out the most essential part of the project/idea and start by solving that problem. You can add features and build on the project in the future.
  • Check in regularly and be honest about obstacles. We can't get things done if we can't talk about what's preventing us from doing the work.
  • Attend the daily news meeting. If possible sit in the newsroom. Being present during the editorial process will encourage collaboration and make your news apps team more accessible.
  • Don't make people feel stupid. If you want to build momentum for news apps and special projects in your org, try not to talk down to your colleagues just because they have different skill sets. Instead, encourage skill sharing across departments, talk about what you're learning, and reach out to those who may be shy about approaching the team.
  • Say no and explain why. Inevitably you will have to say no — you're on a small team, after all. But when you do, explain why and include people by explaining your decision making process. Affirm ideas even you can’t immediately execute them.
  • Automate repetitive tasks. Think of it like a word processing macro. Anything you do over an over again can probably be automated, saving time and making your process more consistent. Writing simple automation scripts can also be a great way to learn some basic programming even if you’re not very technical (or at least is a way to start thinking like a programmer). Check out IFTTT for some ideas.
  • Document all the things. It can feel like a waste of precious time but it will save your butt in the future. Keep a simple txt file for a project and keep notes about what you've learned, bugs you've solved and your general process. This documentation will help you share your work with others and help you remember how the heck you built something.
  • Look to the community. There are so many excellent resources out there. Check out IRE/NICAR (and subscribe to NICAR-L). Explore some of the open source code that newsrooms are releasing. Read about how other teams make things over at Source. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, and this community is full of people who want to help.

Check out all of the slides below. Find our notes (and contribute your own ideas) on the Hackpad we put together. We know our ideas are only a small piece of this important topic and we'd like to keep building on the conversation.

Come Learn With Us! Announcing The News Nerd Book Club

On Web TypographyINN encourages you to Always Be Learning.

To make sure we’re being responsible and accountable professional news nerds, today we're announcing a new monthly book club.

What we’re proposing is pretty simple — let’s read a book each month and then get together to talk about it.

We'll likely focus on books about design, development, team workflow and dynamics (especially remote/distributed teams), but we’re open to suggestions for other topics (we have a hackpad here to collect future book suggestions).

Since we also value learning and building in public we also want to open the book club up to anyone who wants to participate, not just our team and not just INN members. We’re hoping this will also be a way to get to know other people interested in or doing the kind of work we do.

Since we're a remote team we'll likely meet via Google Hangout, at least initially (although if we happen to be in the same city we may meet in person and let others join via hangout).

For September, the first book we'll read will be "On Web Typography" by Jason Santa Maria. You can find out more about the book and purchase it here.

Our team is planning to be in Chicago for the Online News Association Conference (Sept. 25-27) so we're having our first meeting in real life there on Thursday, September 25 at 5:30 CT a short walk from the conference at Dollop Coffee and Tea (345 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611). We'll also work out a way for people to join virtually and will send out details closer to the date.

Please RSVP if you plan to attend so we have a rough count.

As part of that meeting we also plan to have a book exchange so if you're going to be at ONA and have old books sitting around you'd like to swap, plan to bring them along.

Get updates by following @newsnerdbooks on Twitter and we hope to see you in Chicago!