Posts

Archive of posts from
2013

  • New microsite to document and explore social network analysis in journalism

    Campaign contributions. Insider trading. Conflicts of interest. Each of these topics requires a journalist to understand relationships among people, places and organizations — social network analysis. The Knight Lab started exploring this subject in April 2013 by experimenting with software that makes it easier for journalists to perform SNA. Our next step: a Knight Lab microsite that serves as a hub for collective intelligence around the application of network analysis to journalism. The site is...

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  • Introducing the StoryMapJS Alpha, now with an authoring tool

    Where? is one of the fundamental questions journalists set out to answer, but often, the maps produced to accompany stories feel flat, or are hard to interpret. StoryMapJS is a new Knight Lab tool to help you connect the places of your story into a media-rich narrative. Like its sibling, TimelineJS, StoryMap makes it really easy to illustrate your work with photos, videos, sound, tweets and more. And today it's easier still: a couple of months...

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  • 'The master conductor': product management in journalism

    My fellowship at the Knight Lab has been a deep dive into news media product development. I have spent the past year helping create tools such as twXplorer, which helps reporters leverage Twitter as a research and reporting tool, and Untangled, the Lab’s network analysis research initiative. I believe that digital innovation can drive social impact and that news media product teams are uniquely positioned to change the course of journalism's’ development and sustainability. So...

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  • 'You have to put in the reps' and other advice to help you learn technology

    As my third quarter at Medill came to a close in September I found myself at a crossroads, because after years of being paid to simply put words on a page, I was switching teams. I had earlier enrolled in the school’s interactive track because deep down, I knew I wanted to learn to code — or rather, I knew I liked the idea of learning to code. Technology is constantly evolving, and journalism technology...

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  • Nine new prototypes from journalism and computer science students

    Yesterday, 30 journalism and computer science students in Northwestern’s Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology class presented nine new media prototypes. The prototypes, developed in a 10-week quarter, cater to various audiences in the media equation — “tools for journalists, software for publishers, and applications that could be useful or fun for media consumers.” Occasionally, promising prototypes will be further developed by Knight Lab. If you missed the presentation, a summary of the apps and...

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  • Open Lab Hours bring out budding hacker journalists

    The Knight Lab student fellows began hosting Open Lab Hours each Wednesday evening this fall. The hours are an entirely student-run operation, with students providing instruction and insight to less-experienced web-makers and other students bringing new projects and ideas to pursue. Each week 10 to 12 students come to the Knight Lab to learn and collaborate on projects. Check out the video below (by Northwestern students Suyeon Son) to get a sense of what Open...

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  • Nine new projects unveiled this week by journalism, computer science teams

    Journalism and computer science students from the latest “collaborative innovation" class at Northwestern will unveil nine new technology prototypes this week — and you can see the demos in person or via a live stream on Wednesday. The technologies they will be presenting are: Spectacle: An app for Google Glass that provides an augmented-reality experience exploring the Northwestern campus. TweetBeat: A service that helps a journalist find Twitter users worth following to keep up with...

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  • TimelineJS passes 31 million pageviews, 250k deployments

    When we pushed the final design and functionality of TimelineJS out to the world about 18 months ago, it was already a success for Knight Lab. It had been deployed at LeMonde, RadioLab, Gigaom and other big-name publishers. But in the year and half since, TimelineJS become a staple of the the web making world. In fact, early this month the 250,000th instance of TimelineJS was created and deployed. At around the same time reader...

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  • Three lessons from Hacktucky on how to build and launch projects in real life

    Screenshot from Hacktucky.com Last weekend I participated in Hacktucky, the Society of News Design's first annual hackathon (held this year in Kentucky). The goal of the hackathon was to build and ship something of local interest within 24 hours. It was an amazing learning experience and it reminded me that habits that are absolutely essential at hackathons should also be used in the real world. The team I worked with had very a diverse background...

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  • Knight Lab's MozFest 2013 wrap up and link-o-rama

    This post has been updated with additional links to MozFest 2013 content. Kicking off the festival, Friday night begins with a Science Fair at Ravensbourne College. Just like last year, the Knight Lab team took a jump across the pond a couple weeks ago to attend the Mozilla Festival (October 25-27) in London. Still running on fumes from the remaining high felt from our attendance in 2012, the eleven of us were really excited to be there. This incredible...

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  • MozFest 2013: Content customization for publishers

    One of my favorite ads of all time was one of the simplest: a 15-word Facebook ad created by an artist in New Zealand hawking a pendant he’d made that symbolized “safe passage over water.” I was a dedicated kayaker at the time, so what thrilled me the most was how this ad seemed to speak directly to me — even calling out “kayakers.” When it comes to news however, I’ve never been similarly awed by...

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  • MozFest 2013: Journalists should command the command line

    Journalists who want to learn more technology often jump into HTML, CSS and Javascript. Those are great places to start (as Knight Lab and others have written before), but if you want to maximize the potential of your computer, one of the first things you should learn is the command line! Some quick background: Regular computer users access the computer via a graphical user interface (GUI). This interface allows you to interact with the machine...

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  • MozFest 2013: If it ain't broke, break it — how and why to test your news site

    Moments following the Boston Marathon bombings, the Boston Globe's website shut down due to excessive traffic. And it stayed down. For hours. Suddenly, the state's most prominent news provider was no longer an information resource for arguably the state's most newsworthy event in years. As Dan Sinker, head of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project, and speaker at this year's MozFest so eloquently put it: this is a really stupid problem to have. Sinker teamed with Dylan...

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  • MozFest 2013: For journalists, web literacy is not quite enough

    One of Mozfest’s most prominent themes this year has been “Build + Teach the Web.” Throughout the keynotes and sessions, Mozilla has pushed its new initiative, Webmaker, as a rallying point for all of us interested in educating the world in becoming creators of the web rather than users. It’s a great initiative. Nothing is more important for us as makers than getting more people onboard, especially in journalism. But journalism has a specific set...

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  • MozFest 2013: Measuring news engagement and impact

    I’ve been thinking and writing recently about how news organizations can purposefully and meaningfully measure engagement and impact. It turns out to be a common question and at MozFest on Saturday morning Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellows Brian Abelson, Stijn Debrouwere, Annabel Church, Sonya Song and MIT Center for Civic Media researchers Erhardt Graeff and J. Nathan Matias helped lead a session on the subject. Organizing thoughts and ideas in the news analytics sessions. The session started...

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  • Slimformation is now Firefox-ready, just in time for the Mozilla Festival

    This update includes a number of technical updates plus a Firefox add-on We've made some updates to Slimformation which include a number of technical updates and a Firefox add-on (the first version was built as a Chrome extension). Slimformation is a prototype for a tool to help readers to track and improve their reading habits. After installation and, say, a week of reading via the browser, a reader can see how much time they have...

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  • Come meet Knight Lab at ONA13

    Knight Lab brought a team to the Online News Association Conference and we're eager to talk to meet and talk to as many folks as possible. This year myself and Miranda are in Atlanta and will be hanging out at Knight Lab table on the ONA Midway and presenting throughout the conference. Catch us almost anytime on the Midway and in these sessions: Miranda: Friday 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — Bringing Tech into the Classroom...

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  • Announcing StoryMapJS developer release — a new tool for storytellers

    TimelineJS is the Knight Lab's most popular project, and is one of the most widely used interactive storytelling tools on the web. Today we're excited to announce an early-access release of its sibling, StoryMapJS. Like TimelineJS, StoryMapJS is primarily developed by Medill professor Zach Wise, based on his experience developing interactive news projects at The New York Times and the Las Vegas Sun. While TimelineJS makes it easy for you to tell stories based on...

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  • What's next for twXplorer? Help us decide.

    Just over two weeks ago we launched twXplorer, a tool to help people make sense of searches and find interesting conversations on Twitter. When we launched the tool we didn’t know how it would be received or what use people would find for it. So far, we've been pretty happy to have more than 13,000 people use twXplorer and to get a few kind words from The Atlantic (“control your own little battalion of news-finding...

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  • TimelineJS — Now with even more Knight Lab

    From the beginning, TimelineJS has been a project of Northwestern University Knight Lab. However, when Zach Wise first set out to create it, the Knight Lab had a less developed software process and identity, so Zach presented Timeline as a product of his personal Verite.co website. Since then, two things have happened: TimelineJS has become wildly popular, and the Knight Lab has established cohesive design guidelines and a more methodical software development process. In the...

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  • Meet Chris Williams, programmer-journalist in training and the first Knight/Washington Post scholar

    Chris Williams Chris Williams, a freelance web developer for the past nine years, enrolls in the journalism master's program at the Medill School this week as the first recipient of a Washington Post scholarship for people with programming backgrounds. Williams is the 11th master's student to enroll at Medill under a program established with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to attract experienced programmer-developers into journalism. He is the first to participate in...

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  • twXplorer — A smarter way to search Twitter

    TwXplorer, a new social-media research tool launched today by the Knight Lab, started with one journalist who told us he had a problem. Peter Slevin, a Medill faculty member, has been working on a book about Michelle Obama. As part of that work, he periodically tracks her place in the "global conversation" by searching Twitter for references to the first lady. What he gets back: a long list of tweets mentioning Michelle Obama. He can...

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  • Designing tools for investigation at the Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires Media Party

    Above, Bike Storming's Mati Kalwill and the Lab's Joe Germuska exchange ideas and show each other project demos at the #hhba #mediaparty media fair. As I recently wrote, last week Joe and I had the privilege to participate in the Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires Media Party. We prepared a couple of talks and spoke to the group: mine was about the current state of Knight Lab, and Joe's was about the future of journalism. We also prepared and facilitated a workshop on designing...

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  • Noticias del futuro Knight Lab: My talk at #hhba #mediaparty

    Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires #MediaParty group photo by Ramiro Chanes Last week, my partner-in-crime and the chief nerd around the Lab, Joe Germuska, and I had the privilege to join what just might be the largest Hacks/Hackers gathering in the history of the grassroots journalism organization at the Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires Media Party. The group is reporting over 900 people participated in its three-day gathering, with participants coming from all over North and South America, plus Africa! Ciudad Cultural...

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  • A guide to online tutorials for the code-curious journalist

    “I definitely think that coding now is a kind of a literacy, no matter what position you are in,” - Louise Ma, WNYC’s data news interaction designer, in CJR Here’s a fact: The occupation of newspaper reporter was recently rated by one career services website as the No. 1 worst job of 2013. With a negative six percent projected job growth and a painfully low median salary, it's become clear that the concept the “traditional” journalist is...

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  • Journalists! We're building a tool to help you discover obscure relationships and we'd like your help

    Can new software help journalists do a better job of gathering, organizing and making sense out of newsworthy information? That's the question the Knight Lab has set out to answer through our Untangled project. When Joe Germuska wrote about Untangled in April, we were imagining a multipurpose "browser-based knowledge management" tool that would help journalists keep track of information they found online. Since then, we have explored this idea through a variety of approaches: by...

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  • User testing: how news designers and developers add context to quantitative data

    Last week I wrote about how news organizations use A/B testing to help iterate on design elements such as page layout and headline writing-style in order to increase reader engagement. The technique provides essential information about what a reader is doing, but it does have limitations. “When you’re only looking at metrics you see the what, but you don’t see the why,” said Steve Mulder, director of user experience and analytics at NPR Digital Services....

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  • Ethan Marcotte on web design, accessibility and why it matters to journalists, digital storytellers

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. My career has been blessed with many mentors, but few have had a more profound effect on my work, and my career, than Ethan Marcotte. We worked together on the imagining, responsive design, prototyping and launch of The Boston Globe’s new website — BostonGlobe.com — in 2011. In fact, he actually coined the phrase “responsive web design” in his May 2010 A List Apart article,...

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  • New journ-tech community in Miami + Follow-up to the Code with Me Miami workshop

    The February, we sponsored Code With Me's second workshop in Miami. We asked our friend, Miami-based journalist and Code with Me Miami mentor, Rebekah Monson, to give us a follow-up explaining how journalists in the area have since started their own Hacks/Hackers chapter and have been hosting weekly open hack nights with the Code For Miami Brigade at one of the city's co-working spaces called The LAB Miami. Code With Me Miami aimed to teach 18 local journalists basic HTML, CSS and jQuery...

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  • Disqus helps Knight Lab gather feedback on Refine—Better Commenting

    Earlier this week Disqus published an article about Knight Lab’s Refine—Better Commenting technology. The post is the first semi-tangible result of a conversation we started with Disqus many months ago and one that might help shape the future of the technology. Refine—Better Commenting basically takes high-volume comment feeds (think CNN, where certain stories attract thousands of comments), analyzes them and provides users unique insight into what’s being discussed most. From the Disqus post: It can...

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  • Callie Schweitzer on audience hacking, the future of social media editors, and the benefits of authenticity

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. It seems strange to say now, but a month or two back Callie Schweitzer wasn’t anywhere on my radar. Her name first appeared in my inbox along with a compliment and a bold suggestion for Knight Lab’s Q&A series. And then, suddenly, she was everywhere. She moved from VOX Media to her new gig as director of...

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  • Designing from data — How news organizations use A/B testing to increase user engagement

    Back in November I had a minor journalism crisis, questioning journalism’s impact on society and the business models that are trying to sustain news organizations. This prompted me to look into other ways that people interested in social impact were developing and organizing businesses. Long story short, I applied and was accepted into a 6-month program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management called NUvention Impact. It’s an interdisciplinary social entrepreneurship program that gives Northwestern graduate...

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  • Travis Swicegood on leaving startups for journalism, book publishing, and advice for aspiring hacker journalists

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. Two weeks ago Travis Swicegood announced he’d taken a job at the Texas Tribune that some of us might’ve assumed he already had: news apps and data editor. After all, Swicegood has been a staple and leader in the news developer community for a few years now, publishing two books, speaking at conferences, and shepherding Armstong, an...

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  • Updates from the past six months, PLUS! Come be a student fellow

    [KICKS OFF SHOES. FALLS INTO CHAIR. LETS OUT AUDIBLE EXHALE.] Oh. My. Guess what?! Last week was my first anniversary here at the Lab. I came to this job with the intention of substantially chipping away at the media-stack, innovative-systems-for-news-publications, journalism-tech "problem." Well, that  expectation was quite naïve. A university is not positioned to produce and support substantial, commercial-level software technology. One can expect ideas and students from a university. The product that a university contributes...

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  • Tyler Fisher on being a Knight Lab student fellow

    In my sophomore year of college, I prototyped a product for a class final project. Thanks to the help and support of the Knight Lab, that modest prototype became a fully realized product in my junior year, and now, it has been used by The Washington Post and WBEZ. Tyler Fisher The full weight of that still hasn't hit me, really. I still find it hard to believe that I have made something of value...

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  • Early adopter: Why an incoming freshman wants to be a hacker-journalist, discovering Knight Lab

    [sc:editors-note notetext="This spring incoming Northwestern freshman, Alex Duner, reached out to us in utter excitement about newsroom programming and eager to get started. He's come to this niche of computer science and journalism earlier than most, so we asked him to write about why he wants to study computer science and journalism." ] Alex Duner, incoming NU freshman. Plans to study journalism and computer science. Hello! My name is Alex Duner, I am a recent...

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  • How our university lab is helping prepare future hacker-journalists

    Medill “unicorns” at graduation (left to right): Assistant Prof. Jeremy Gilbert;Hilary Fung; Dan Hill; Sarah Adler; Katie Zhu, Prof. Rich Gordon The Knight Lab produces software -- but not just software. We also help produce a new generation of journalists who can thrive at the intersection of journalism and technology. The lab is contributing to Northwestern's educational mission, while also giving students a platform to prepare themselves to have an impact after they leave. Cases...

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  • Accidental journalist Jennifer Brandel on taking assignments from listeners and the need for positive news

    [sc:editors-note notetext="The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series." ] If Jennifer Brandel is an "accidental journalist," it's a very happy accident. Brandel's Curious City project has become a thriving component of the audience engagement program at WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Recently, the Knight Foundation recognized the promise of Curious City with a grant to package the project's technology in hopes of making it easier...

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  • How to: Portfolio sites for journalists, GitHub makes them cheap and (kinda) easy

    Time and time again, new journalists are told to market themselves and make a brand for themselves. The new media heroes of the day have all done it — Nate Silver and fivethirtyeight, Andrew Sullivan and The Daily Dish, Brian Stelter and TVNewser, Matt Thompson, Kat Chow, Touré, Danyel Smith — the list goes on. Sometimes, though, all you need is a static site to tell people who you are and what you do — a personal, or portfolio site with contact info and...

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  • Mark S. Luckie on finding inspiration, testing ideas, and the importance of asking Why?

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. The first eight years of Mark S. Luckie's career have been rich with accomplishment. For starters he founded and sold 10,000 Words. Then he penned The Digital Journalist's Handbook, which was published in 2010 and is now in its third edition. He's also held a variety of writing and technology jobs at the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment...

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  • Six things to know about successful open-source software

    In the community of media and journalism innovators, it is commonly accepted that releasing software with an open-source license is the best way to maximize the chance that others will use your code. Yet, by any measure, the vast majority of open-source software goes nowhere. That's why we've spent some time at Knight Lab trying to understand the dynamics of software adoption — especially the factors that cause open-source software to be widely adopted. After...

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  • Sisi Wei on news games, learning to code, and improving Code with Me

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. As a journalist who is about to graduate, I find easy inspiration in Sisi Wei.  She’s a recent Northwestern grad (class of 2011), which is where I’m studying. More importantly she’s already had a big impact in journalism. She's a news application developer at ProPublica and a co-founder of Code with me, taking on the role of...

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  • Fact checking Chicago Public Schools using algorithms, statistics and data mining

    Some students take it easy for the spring semester of their senior year; I loaded up on Introduction to Algorithms and Statistical Methods for Data Mining. The stats class covered theoretical foundations for data mining techniques like logistic regression and neural networks and finished with an open-ended group project assignment. As it happened, the class coincided with Chicago Public Schools' decision to close 49 schools. The move drew ferocious criticism from community groups (including the...

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  • The Department of Better Technology wants to get us one step closer to "Government as a platform"

    In our profile series, we often ask the question: If you could design an application that would solve any problem in the world, what would it be? Clay Johnson, the subject of our most recent profile, was recently awarded a Knight News Challenge grant, so he was ready with an answer substantial enough to deserve a piece of its own. With Adam Becker, Johnson has started a company, the Department of Better Technology. They are designing...

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  • Introducing Neighborhood Buzz

    Neightborhood Buzz, Chicago, O'hare, Science tweets As social media have become a regular part of daily life, people have wondered what they can learn about themselves and their communities from the millions of messages posted online—especially on Twitter, because it is so public and so conversational. Many projects in this space begin by selecting tweets for analysis based on who tweeted or specific terms used in the tweets. Students in our Fall 2012 Innovation in...

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  • Newsroom developer? Why? Journalism matters and it is in crisis is why.

    I care deeply about journalism and it is in crisis. Journalism matters. The free press is important to a functioning democracy. Journalism has the power to change the world. There are few moments in time more innovative, entrepreneurial and exciting than right now in the news industry. It amazes me how often I find myself talking about journalism's design problem and that technologists are struggling to understand why the digital transition has been so painful for...

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  • Clay Johnson on creative technologists, designing with empathy and news as a community service

    The Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Follow the series. In many ways, Clay Johnson is a force of nature. He is best known as the co-founder of Blue State Digital,  his book — “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption” — and as a full-throated advocate  for open source information in the federal government. In fact, meeting and befriending Clay was the highlight of my trip to Webstock in February. Formerly,...

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  • SEO for news — you might not know everything you should

    A month or two back I got roped into going to a happy-hour SEO seminar. Ugh. Talk about an acronym that doesn’t inspire joy in the typical journalist or even the typical hacker journalist: SEO. I’d heard it all before, I thought — keywords, links, URLs, metadata, etc. — but I agreed to go, wanting to appease a boss and deciding that at the very least I’d get to meet some folks and talk some...

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  • Want to build a data journalism team? You'll need these three people

    When I started using software to analyze data as a reporter in the late 1980s, "data journalism" ended once my stories were published in the newspaper. Now the publication of the story is just the beginning. The same data can also be turned into compelling visualizations and into news applications that people can use long after the story is published. So data journalism — which was mostly a one-person job when I started doing it...

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  • SoundCite gives voice to WaPo's account of Wendy Davis' filibuster

    Knight Lab couldn’t have been more excited to learn that The Washington Post used our newly launched project, SoundCite, to tell the story of the Wendy Davis ‘tweetstorm’ following her filibuster in Texas. There's just something about launching a project and seeing it used to help tell stories. It's like sending a child off into the world and watching her succeed. SoundCite co-creator and Knight Lab student fellow, Tyler Fisher, said it best: Got home...

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  • On receiving Google Glass: The world – well, the Web – #throughglass

    This post by Knight Lab founding faculty member Owen Youngman originally appeared on his personal blog. Glass, meet Owen. Owen, meet Glass. Wednesday, June 19 — my grades turned in, and commencement yet to come — I headed to Google’s Chelsea Market space in New York City, across the street from the massive New York headquarters building the company bought for $1.9 billion in 2010 (check out Andrew Blum’s book “Tubes” to learn an interesting reason the...

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  • Web scrapers for journalists: Haystax and other graphical interface systems

    I’ve spent my last weeks as a Knight Lab student fellow exploring web scrapers for non-programmers through an open source browser plugin called Haystax. As a journalism student who picked up computer science, I love scraping because you create a program that acts like a reporter, tracking the information you want from web pages you specify. It’s a useful technique to save journalists time copying and pasting data from an organization’s website, and scraping can...

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  • SoundCite beta, in-line audio tool, ready to use

    https://vimeo.com/68383495 Knight Lab officially took the wraps off of SoundCite this week, our most recent tool for content creators. In a nutshell, SoundCite makes it incredibly easy for web publishers and writers to include in-line audio in their stories. We released an alpha version a month or two back and WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis used it to give a profile of Chance the Rapper more depth by allowing readers to hear the lyrics DeRogatis cited in his piece....

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  • Slimformation: A prototype that helps you read smarter, improve your “information diet”

    Slimformation: A prototype that tracks the kinds of content a user is viewing and provides advice on how to improve his or her “information diet.” Activities tab shown above. How many of you have tried to diet before? I know I have my fair share of attempts. So we all know there are better and worse foods for you (say, vegetables over macarons). The same logic applies to information. We live in a world of...

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  • On being a journalist at Confab 2013, a content strategy conference

    Content strategy is a kind of floofy term, and it refers to a relatively new field. I didn’t know what it meant before I spent some time last week in Minneapolis at Confab 2013 with the Facebook content strategy team, learning from the great Kristina Halvorson and her gang of accomplished mavericks changing the way companies think about content creation, delivery and management. Many conference attendees complained that, at their companies, content wasn’t considered until...

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  • Civic Needs App helps developers find interesting problems to solve

    At a National Civic Hack Day event in Chicago earlier this month, one thing was clear: a lot of talented developers want to use their skills for a good cause. The problem is that it's difficult to get all that talent collaborating and working on the right problems. That's why Ryan Briones, who does civic development for the City of Chicago, came up with a new idea he calls the Civic Needs App. With the...

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  • Getting GitHub: Why journalists should know and use the social coding site

    The famous GitHub logo. If you've been hanging around newsrooms or journalism classrooms lately, you've probably heard the word GitHub. It might sound a little scary and mysterious, but even the most traditional pen-and-notebook journalists should know about this super helpful tool (to say nothing of aspiring newsroom programmers). So, what, exactly, is GitHub? Why do you need to get it? GitHub is a social coding site. Designed for the purpose of democratic and collaborative...

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  • Tasneem Raja on growing an interactive news team, skill-sharing and smart approaches to data

    Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with smart people who are shaping the future of media. Catch up and/or follow the series here. Meeting the lovely Tasneem Raja was the highlight of my week during 2012's South by Southwest Interactive Conference. Formerly a staff writer at The Chicago Reader and the news apps editor at The Bay Citizen, she is now an editor at Mother Jones leading their interactive storytelling team. She is...

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  • My first news apps team: Making the North by Northwestern housing guide

    This post by Knight Lab student fellow Tyler Fisher, originally appeared on Knight-Mozilla OpenNews' Source. The North by Northwestern housing guide project we built Last week, I launched my first team-developed news app with a group of amazing student news nerds and peers: Hilary Fung, Dan Hill, Rebecca Lai, Sheng Wu and Katie Zhu. We developed a housing guide for incoming freshmen to Northwestern University who are in the process of applying for freshman housing. It includes an interactive map of campus, filters to narrow down housing options, photos...

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  • Journalism, computer science students to unveil eight collaborative projects

    Next week, journalism and computer science students from Northwestern’s “Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology” class will unveil the prototypes they’ve built over the past 10 weeks. And you’re invited to see what they’ve come up with. The students have been working since April, when I and my Knight Lab colleague, Associate Prof. Larry Birnbaum of the computer science department in the McCormick School formed eight interdisciplinary teams out of the 27 students enrolled in...

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  • Mohammed Haddad on his journey from computer science to Al Jazeera data driven storyteller

    Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media and its fringes, each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re talking to smart people who are shaping the future of media. Not all of them work in a newsroom, not all are big names, not all have fancy titles, but each is a bright person with something to...

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  • Beyond spreadsheets for CAR reporters: Algorithms

    The lightning talks at NICAR are often the highlight of the computer-assisted reporting conference, but Chase Davis (who recently did a Q&A with us) really grabbed my attention with his “Five Algorithms in Five Minutes” talk, complete with a mic drop. So much so, that three months later I'm still thinking about it and all of the ways that I might put these algorithms to use. NICAR coincided with my internship at The Sacramento Bee,...

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  • Claudia Núñez on Chicago Migrahack, hackathons and tolerance

    Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media and its fringes, each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re talking to smart people who are shaping the future of media. Not all of them work in a newsroom, not all are big names, not all have fancy titles, but each is a bright person with something to...

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  • National Day of Civic Hacking Comes to Chicago

    Hackers, unite! For the first time, civic hackers across the nation will come together to participate in one of the largest collaborative hacking projects, National Day of Civic Hacking. The initial idea came from the White House’s desire to establish programming that increased government transparency. They reached out to hacking organizations like SecondMuse to help organize hackathon events across the country. These events will use data released by federal agencies to build useful tools that...

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  • Chase Davis on data-driven decision making for news projects

    Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media and its fringes, each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re talking to smart people who are shaping the future of media. Not all of them work in a newsroom, not all are big names, not all have fancy titles, but each is a bright person with something to...

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  • Travis Swicegood's real world data lessons from Texas Tribune

    Travis Swicegood Travis Swicegood, director of technology at  Texas Tribune, spoke this week at the latest Hacks/Hackers Chicago Meet-up about the challenges of working with public data — real world data, as Swicegood calls it. There are plenty of challenges in collecting, managing and presenting data from a state the size of Texas — 26 million people, 254 counties, five major cities and a gross state economy of $1.2 trillion. Swicegood shared just a few...

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  • A journalist's beginner guide to code and web proficiency

    It's really easy to make it through journalism school without picking up a stitch of coding knowledge. But you know this already. Hacker journalists have written article after blog post about how the new crop of journalists needs to sit down, plug in and plain learn the essentials of the web. Well, some of us are listening. [sc:pull-right pulltext="All you need is a computer, the Internet and the will power to add some new abilities...

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  • Dan Fletcher on Facebook, good content and monetization

    Editor's note: Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media and its fringes, each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re talking to smart people who are shaping the future of media. Not all of them work in a newsroom, not all are big names, not all have fancy titles, but each is a bright person with something...

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  • Semantic APIs, what to consider when picking a text analysis tool

    Today, our online experiences are richer and more interconnected than ever. This is in part due to the existence of third-party services called Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs for short. APIs allow computer systems to speak with each other and exchange information. Facebook and Twitter’s APIs, for example, allow Twitter to repost your Facebook updates, and vice versa. At the Knight Lab, we often make use of semantic APIs. These APIs will usually take text...

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  • Ignore your focus groups, test relentlessly, and other lessons from NU's entrepreneur conference

    Some of the the Knight Lab crew spent some time yesterday at the 2013 Entrepreneur@NU Conference yesterday, and I have to say, while we didn’t hear anything ground breaking, the team members in attendance agreed that it was inspiring to be around so much energy, so many new ideas, and so many folks who had built something new. It was also a good reminder of the trends in technology and startup culture that we try to keep...

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  • Karen McGrane on mobile, content strategy, fixing technology and the media culture

    Editor's note: Using ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as our marching orders, the Lab's profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media (and its fringes), each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re after smart people shaping the ways we communicate with technology, and not all of them work in a newsroom. Catch up and/or follow the series here. I want to be Karen McGrane when I grow up, and you should want to be...

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  • A model for every story type or smarter story modeling?

    This post by Knight Lab student fellow Tyler Fisher, originally appeared on Medium. For about seven months, I have been developing my college publication’s homebrew Django-based CMS (not to be confused with django-cms). I suppose “maintain” would be the more appropriate word; I didn’t actually build the CMS. Instead, I’ve added a few features, subtracted a few useless ones and optimized for performance. These days, it works well, and my editors know how to use...

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  • Michael Lopp on Apple, managing humans and disruptive technology

    Editor's note: Using the theory ‘Hire humans. Not skills. Not roles.’ as inspiration, the Lab’s profiles are Q&As with highly-impressive makers and strategists from media and its fringes, each with unique perspectives on journalism, publishing and communications technology. We’re talking to smart people who are shaping the future of media. Not all of them work in a newsroom, not all are big names, not all have fancy titles, but each are bright people with something to...

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  • Untangled: New Lab project aims to improve browser-based knowledge management for journalists

    When we canvassed the community at News Foo late last fall, many people described tools they'd like to see which help journalists manage and make sense of data. These suggestions encouraged us to make a specific 2013 initiative we're calling "Reporters' Notebook," in which we'll look at existing tools and imagine new ones. As one step in brainstorming possibilities, we returned to a student project called Untangld. This project came out of our collaborative innovation classes,...

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  • What is Knight Lab? Technology, editorial content and events

    Knight Lab has three major buckets of output – technology, events and editorial – all dependent on the other two for success. Immediately following the announcement of our new blog, my inbox was flooded with questions like these: Is Knight Lab making a content play? Are you all trying to be Nieman Lab? Reporters' Lab? Short answer: No. As this journalism nerd lab evolves, we have found it necessary to expand the definition of our output....

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  • What we learned hosting three Chicago Crime Hacks

    On Saturday the Knight Lab hosted its third and final Chicago Crime Hack with an event at the Cibola co-working space in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. We drew our largest crowd yet, got to meet a ton of new folks, came up with some new ideas, and ate some delicious tamales in the process. A group of hackers works at the Cibola co-working space in Pilsen. It felt to us like a success, but it’s fair...

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  • Design thinking on Chicago's crime data — Chicago Crime Hack

    On Saturday the Knight Lab hosted its second in a series of three Chicago Crime Hacks, which help hackers explore Chicago’s crime data via the Chicago Tribune’s Crime API. This weekend, in addition to all the usual hack day activities, attendees participated in a unique design thinking exercise. Hack day attendees participated in a design thinking exercise. After a brief bit of instruction from Joe Germuska, Heather Billings and David Eads about how to navigate the API, curious hackers, students,...

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  • Trying to find your place in the future of news? Find it with a Knight Lab writing fellowship

    Hey, reporters, writers, and bloggers! The Knight Lab has a few fun paying reporting gigs open and we’d like all you bright Northwestern students to apply. The job will give you the opportunity to learn more about technology in journalism, make connections in the news and technology industries, and add professional clips for your portfolio. As a Knight Lab editorial contributor, you’ll help the Lab cover interesting people and cool projects from around the industry,...

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  • How I got my journalism project funded in 10 easy steps

    International Women’s Day is always inspiring and encouraging. But this past March 8, was even more special. That's the day I found out a project I co-founded, Boxx Magazine, had been chosen as one of the winners of the McCormick Foundation’s New Media Women Entrepreneurs (NMWE) grant! Selena Fragassi and I had talked about creating a music magazine highlighting women since our days at Venus Zine in 2010. After watching the documentary Hit So Hard...

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  • Alpha release: SoundCite makes inline audio easy and seamless

    Over the weekend we released SoundCite, a tool that lets anyone easily include inline audio in their stories. We have open-sourced our code on GitHub and would encourage you to contribute in any way you wish. Fork it, send us pull requests or just let us know what you think. SoundCite helps users create short audio clips from files on SoundCloud. Users insert those clips into the text of a story with an embed code...

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  • We have a new look — and strategy — for the Knight Lab's blog

    Knight Lab's responsively-designed relaunch I am so excited to pull back the curtain on our brand, spankin' new blog design and I'm not sure that we could be more eager to get going. It is a pretty new toy that, in contrast to our old site, will allow us to participate more substantially in the dialogue that is already taking place within our geographically diverse community of journalism-technologists. More importantly, our new name, visual identity,...

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  • Aaron Salmon joins Knight Lab as professional fellow

    It all started with Quake II. Aaron Salmon and his gaming buddies — his “clan,” in the parlance of the game — played the first-person shooter game feverishly in the mid 90s when they decided what they really needed was a website to track scores and records. Salmon built it, reverse engineering the whole thing using view source and eventually filling it with clan member profiles, achievement badges, downloads of maps, and screenshots of clan...

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  • Scott Robbin joins Knight Lab as professional fellow

    What does it take to make Crain Chicago’s 40-Under-40 list? Well, for Scott Robbin it took creating a new way for millions of people to listen to music online while keeping a neighborly eye out for his fellow Chicagoans. All of which makes the Knight Lab very happy to have him as part of our inaugural class of professional fellows. Over the past six years Robbin has done great development work for Twitter, Adobe, and...

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  • Designing newsrooms for digital: No more silos, try pods

    NOTE: This post was written by Knight Lab student fellow Katie Zhu for the AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholars blog series, and originally appeared on Online News Association's AP Google blog. http://twitter.com/saila/status/249646241758199808 As a programmer-journalist studying journalism/computer science, I’ve found myself at the “intersection of journalism and technology” or in the emerging field of computational journalism. I used to think the technical stuff was the hard part. I spent my time trying to grasp scope in JavaScript, scraping webpages...

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  • Chicago Crime Hack, day one

    The Knight Lab hosted its first ever hack day on Saturday and about 15 civic-minded hackers showed up to tinker with the Chicago Tribune’s Chicago Crime API. A group works at the Knight Lab's Chicago Crime Hack Day. The day started with a quick round of introductions from a diverse group. Some were professional developers with day jobs building software for trading firms or IBM, while others were self-described apprentices and hobbyists. No matter, everyone...

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  • Knight Lab's NICAR 2013 wrap up

    Photo by Pete Karl II At the beginning of the month, most of the Knight Lab team participated in the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual computer-assisted reporting conference, NICAR, in Louisville, Feb.  28 - March 3. In its twentieth year, this conference educates journalists on tools and skills for digging deeper into stories and online publishing. Throughout the conference, the team participated in a bunch of sessions. Rich Gordon and Larry Birnbaum reviewed open source licenses and talked with DocumentCloud's Ted...

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  • It's all about storytelling at SND Awards

    Earlier this month, I joined 15 professionals digital designers as a student helper on the Society of News Design’s Best of Digital Design awards. It was my second time helping and I took away a few great lessons on the development of online news from the judges’ deliberations. (Check out snd.org for winning entries, or twitter and sndlive.tumblr.com for some more light-hearted coverage.) The biggest lesson was that while many of the winning entries featured...

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  • Students! Learn about content strategy and get paid

    Calling all journalism students! Apply for a fellowship at Facebook. Facebook is offering students a pretty fantastic opportunity to apply for content strategy fellowships and attend one of the leading content strategy conferences, ConFab Minneapolis, this summer. Three fellowship winners will receive the following: A full conference pass to Confab Minneapolis (June 3-5) All-expenses paid travel (flight, hotel and stipend) A private reception to introduce the winners Opportunity to apply for a paid 12-week internship in Menlo Park,...

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  • Numbers and narrative: A computer scientist at NICAR

    NICAR 2013 was my first journalism conference and, as a computer scientist, I can't help but wonder what the implications are of this unprecedented NICAR showing — the largest ever attendance at the conference. The world is changing, to be sure. We are no longer in an age where it is okay to be afraid of mathematics. Everyone from the worlds of journalism, government, and business must become math savvy and computer literate. Today, even some...

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  • NICAR Lightning Talks: A round-up

    Undoubtedly the most attended session at NICAR 2013, the Lightning Talks provided a delightful relief from the heavier (thought certainly worthwhile) information-laden talks that make up the bulk of the conference. Eleven journalists took on the challenge of presenting a topic of their choice in five minutes or fewer. It was lighthearted and fun, but concise but valuable. There’s a rumor that a video of the talks will appear sometime soon (and pictures have surfaced),...

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  • Spreadsheets bridge gap between developers and reporters

    This is my first NICAR, but someone mentioned that NICAR 2012 was “The Year of the Map”, with panels, tutorials, and discussion otherwise centered around new, exciting tools like Mapbox and Leaflet. We invented new terms like BoyerMaps and used the rest of the year to make some incredible map-based news apps. If NICAR 2013 has a theme among its divergent, widely varied sessions, it is the resurgence of an antiquated tool: the spreadsheet. From...

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  • Highlights from NICAR's Year in CAR presentation

    This morning’s Year in CAR presentation at NICAR 2013 provided a great look back not only at some of the great investigative work of the last year, but also some really good visualizations and presentations. The full slide deck from Mark Horvit and Megan Luther’s presentation should be on the IRE site soon, but below are some of my favorites from their list of 2012 data-driven highlights. Click through for some of the great work...

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  • Knight Lab gears up for NICAR

    On Wednesday the Knight Lab will head to Louisville for NICAR. It’s the biggest gathering of our tribe and we couldn’t be more excited. The schedule is stacked with sessions on everything from data visualization to basic Python programming to building news apps with Django. A few Knight Lab staffers and faculty will add their insight to the mix at the following sessions: Mobile + DataViz: Friends or Frenemies: Miranda Mulligan will talk about data...

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  • Spark Camp: Design – Recap and thoughts

    Around the beginning of the year, I participated in a Spark Camp, this time themed around design and designers – which was the fourth in a series which has already covered themes like "real-time," "data" and "money" – and hosted in Palo Alto, Ca., on Jan. 11-13. Lunch and the Spark Camp idea wall in the atrium – d.school at Stanford University Hosted in conjunction with the d.school at Stanford University, campers were asked to focus the weekend's...

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  • Twitter hacks and the Yahoo redesign: This week on Twitter

    Each week our very own Stephen Autar tracks the tech and journalism conversations on Twitter as he runs the @KnightLab handle. He offers a recap of the most intriguing and important stories each Friday. If you’ve been paying attention on Twitter this week, you know there was a lot to talk about. It wasn't journalism, but on Monday the Burger King Twitter account was hacked and “defaced,” according to CNET. The hacked tweets said the...

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  • Questions and consequences when publishing public data

    Over the past few months something unusual has happened to public data projects: they’ve made national headlines. For journalists the most well known project was the gun permit holder map the Journal News in White Plains, New York published late last year featuring names and addresses of all registered gun owners in two New York counties. The map was controversial and inspired journalists and journalism pundits to weigh in on the project’s virtues and faults...

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  • Pair-programming-ish learning model and Code With Me Miami thoughts

    First, this post is incredibly tardy, yet I am going to publish it anyway. This Lab-hosted event was just too cool! Two weekends ago, Feb 2-3, Knight Lab hosted a Code With Me workshop at the University of Miami's School of Communication. This was the second of the two-day introductory web-making workshop for journalists offered by co-founders and Medill School alumns Tom Giratikanon and Sisi Wei. The first one was hosted by NPR in D.C. last...

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  • What j-schools can learn from music conservatories: CompJ

    Was Computation + Journalism an academic conference or an industry conference? It's hard to say, especially when nearly every panel through its two days featured a working journalist and an educator, and an equally diverse audience pressed questions from many ends of the field. Unsurprisingly, the debates that came to the fore early and often centered around that intersection between educators and practicing journalists. As a student in a journalism school, I paid special attention...

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  • Creating hacker journalists: Medill and WaPo announce partnership

    Last week the Washington Post and Medill School of Journalism announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope, of course, is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. “We need to have more technologists who speak journalism and have hands on experience with it,” says Rich Gordon, a Knight Lab co-founder and the Medill professor who founded the scholarship program....

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  • Computation + Journalism demo projects

    This week a few Knight Lab staffers, students, and faculty made it to the Computation + Journalism Symposium at Georgia Tech. It’s been a great couple of days filled with new ideas, lively Twitter debates, and plenty of new faces. One of the highlights so far has been the demo presentation Thursday night. We thought these innovative projects and ideas deserved some attention beyond the conference so we’ve collected descriptions and screenshots of as many...

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  • Knight Lab student fellow lands at Twitter

    Katie Zhu Northwestern senior Katie Zhu had no journalism experience coming into college, just a love for writing and English. Almost four years later, Zhu has become a promising young journalist in the digital news world, combining her journalism major with a computer science major that has led to a bevy of journalism internships and an engineering job with Twitter. This technological leap from journalism was first inspired by an interactive project on the North...

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  • #Doprah and The Atlantic's 'blunder': This week on Twitter

    Each week our very own Stephen Autar tracks the tech and journalism conversations on Twitter as he runs the @KnightLab handle. He offers a recap of the most intriguing and important stories each Friday. This week, like every other, was a great week on Twitter. There was much news to follow and talk about—even more so than usual. Conversation surrounding the death of Aaron Swartz carried over into much of this week. Everyone from NPR...

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  • BookRx Launches

    Just before Christmas the Knight Lab launched BookRx, a project that analyzes your tweets and recommends books based on what it finds. BookRx is similar to other projects in our Social Loupe. In the first phase, it analyzes your tweets (the words, Twitter usernames, and hashtags you use) and compares them to terms that are correlated with book categories. In the second phase, it looks within those categories to find specific books to recommend, again...

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