Posts

Archive of posts from
2016

  • A Google Spreadsheets change affecting TimelineJS users

    Google recently changed something about their Sheets service which is causing many people to run into an error when they are making a new timeline. Note: there should be no impact on existing timelines! After this change, many of you click on the "preview" and get this message: An unexpected error occurred trying to read your spreadsheet data [SyntaxError] Timeline configuration has no events. There is a straightforward work-around, but it requires those of you who have...

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  • How Americans think and feel about gun violence

    A man killed his wife, then himself. I want you to see his face and learn that he enjoyed fishing with his grandchildren. A small-time drug dealer is shot by two men in a parking lot. I find his Facebook profile and a photo shows him striking a playfully irreverent pose, giving the camera the middle finger. The photo’s comments take a mournful turn after a certain date. “Rest easy bro ???” Gun Memorial runs...

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  • Software developers interested in journalism: Northwestern and The Washington Post want you!

    Northwestern University and The Washington Post are offering a unique opportunity for two talented software developers interested in applying their programming skills in media and journalism. Here’s the proposition: (1) a full-tuition scholarship to earn a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University, followed by (2) a six-month paid internship with The Post’s world-class engineering team, with the possibility of subsequent full-time employment. These opportunities are made possible by the John S. and James L....

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  • What happened when Gun Memorial let anyone contribute directly to victim profiles

    If you’re reporting local or niche news, there’s a good chance that your audience collectively knows more about the story than you do. That’s especially true for us at Gun Memorial, a small publication with a nationwide mission of covering every American who is shot dead. In our latest, mostly successful, experiment, we let readers add to our stories without editor intervention. This article shares some lessons from that experience. Asking for reader contributions A...

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  • How conversational interfaces make the internet more accessible for everyone

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. In 2004, human-computer interaction professor Alan Dix published the third edition of Human-Computer Interaction along with his colleagues, Janet Finley, Gregory Abowd, and Russell Beale. In a chapter called “The Interaction,” the authors wrote...

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  • Three tools to help you make colorblind-friendly graphics

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. I am one of the 8% of men of Northern European descent who suffers from red-green colorblindness. Specifically, I have a mild case of protanopia (also called protanomaly), which means that my eyes lack...

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  • Phone stories: How a 100-year-old-technology helped Pop-up Magazine make news convenient for audiences

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. As news organizations look increasingly to social networks, apps, and other recently-emerged technology to find new audiences, at least one has gone in the completely opposite direction. Pop-Up Magazine this year launched a product...

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  • Cat and mouse: Reaching readers who live under heavy government censorship

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. I had just moved into my dorm in Beijing. After connecting to Wi-fi, I opened Twitter to check out the news. It wouldn’t load. Then I tried to open my Northwestern email. Same thing....

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  • New team member: Divya Sasidharan, developer, mentor, civic technologist

    Earlier this month we introduced you to a new Knight Lab developer (Rebecca Poulson), today we’re happy to introduce you to a second: Divya Sasidharan. Divya joins Knight Lab from Sparkbox, a web agency in Dayton, Ohio, and brings strong technical ability, a history of civic hacking, and a focus on mentorship that will serve her well at Knight Lab. Divya Sasidharan “Divya is a great addition to the Knight Lab team,” said Joe Germuska,...

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  • Want to build a successful digital community? This old book may help

    If we ever meet I’ll probably ask you for advice on my latest project, Gun Memorial. I’ll explain that we’re trying to humanize reporting on gun violence in America by showing the face of every victim. I’ll say that we’re getting lots of traffic but we need more contributions from “citizen journalists” to sustain the project. I’ll ask, “do you have any suggestions?” I was surprised when two people recommended the same book to me...

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  • How to reach audiences that don't have internet access

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. “Our audience” is a phrase that has been used so much during my time in various newsrooms that it has sometimes become as soothingly monotonous as white noise. "Who is our audience?" "How do...

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  • How WSJ used data and design to show Americans their polarized politics and media

    If you want to see just how polarized America's media and political landscape has become, you’d have a hard time finding something more compelling than Blue Feed, Red Feed from the Wall Street Journal. The project shows the viewer two hypothetical Facebook news feeds — one that contains content from sources favored by very liberal Facebook users, and a second that contains content from sources favored by very conservative users — each of which contain...

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  • Limited connectivity: Including readers whose only access might be a mobile phone

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. Although internet adoption rates have neared saturation among young adults and people with higher education, a broader, more diverse audience lags behind when it comes to internet connectivity, often relying on slow, mobile-only connections....

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  • Knight Lab tools now embeddable on Medium

    We’re excited to announce that instances of TimelineJS, StoryMapJS, and JuxtaposeJS can now be embedded directly into your Medium posts. To make this possible, we’re using Embedly, a service that makes it easy to embed content into a variety of sites. Embedly works well with Medium, which is one of the most popular platforms that supports the service. While you may be able to embed our tools on a number of other platforms using the...

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  • Translation: How and when to translate news and news graphics

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. More than 60 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home. Of those, 25 million report that they “speak English less than very well,” according to Census Bureau...

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  • A bigger tent: How new techniques and technology can help journalists reach more people

    In the last few years we've seen a rush of new storytelling technology and techniques — from virtual reality to scrollytelling to chat interfaces. For many of us, these advances have made the experience of consuming news richer, more convenient, and more illuminating. We can learn more quickly, see the world with fresher eyes, and immerse ourselves in stories in ways that go far beyond text on a page or moving images. For those of...

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  • New team member: Rebecca Poulson, storyteller and developer

    A few months ago we put out a call for two new developers. Today, we’re happy to announce that the first of those positions has been filled. Rebecca Poulson will join Knight Lab later this month as a developer and will bring a unique skill set that includes storytelling, technology, and virtual reality. Rebecca Poulson “Everyone involved in the hiring process at Knight Lab was impressed by Rebecca’s technical skill and, just as importantly, her...

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  • Letting readers get a word in: An experiment in reader engagement

    Forward-thinking journalists value "reader engagement," and that generally means that readers are actively contributing to the story instead of just consuming it. What happens when we take reader engagement to an extreme? What kinds of reader contributions are useful and which are just gimmicks? The Tow Center's 2015 Guide to Crowdsourcing says that "news consumers clearly have stories to share, but they don’t necessarily want to write the news." If not the actual copy, then...

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  • A few small improvements to StoryMapJS

    Based on research and user testing, we're making a number of small changes to StoryMapJS. We think they make the tool easier to use, but we wanted to explain the changes for any veteran users who might notice them. Thumbnail preview First, we made a simple change to the media section: you'll now see a thumbnail preview of whatever media you've attached to the slide. This should make it easier for people to know what they are looking at...

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  • Getting started with conversational bots using Wit.ai

    Bots. The word is everywhere and each week seems to bring a new project or piece of technology — from Facebook's new bot-building platform to Microsoft's Bot Framework to Taco Bell's bot for Slack. Journalism is not immune. Platforms like Quartz and Purple use bots to bring a conversational feel to news with a mobile apps and SMS interfaces while CNN’s bot will send you personalized news right through Facebook Messenger. The potential appeal of...

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  • Ten lessons learned after launching the Miami Herald online in 1996

    The Miami Herald homepage on the day it launched, May 11, 1996. Check out a complete, saved copy of the site here. Twenty years ago today, The Miami Herald went live on the World Wide Web, unveiling its website a couple of weeks ahead of schedule because of breaking news: the crash of a passenger airplane into the Everglades about 25 miles northwest of The Herald's building on Biscayne Bay. At the time, when newspaper...

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  • How a holiday shopping story led to an investigation of equal access to retail services based on race

    For those of us who aren’t retail executives or addicted to Amazon’s Prime service, Bloomberg’s story on last-minute holiday shopping in November probably didn’t register. The story basically laid out the number of people the retailer could reach with its new Prime Free Same-Day Delivery service and how it might impact brick and mortar retailers like Target and Wal-Mart during the holiday season. But to the reporters who wrote it, that story provided the kernel...

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  • Challenges in structured journalism: Why it's hard to write the same story every day

    This article is a part of a series written by Knight Lab Professional Fellow Steve Tarzia documenting his work to develop a crowdsourced model to support the ongoing content creation needs of GunMemorial.org. Follow the series here. The Pulitzer Prize awarded two weeks ago to the Washington Post’s police shootings database was a victory for everyone working on telling big stories with data. The Post’s database is a great example of structured journalism, and what I...

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  • SNDMakes: Nine good reasons to attend SNDMakes

    Earlier this month I was lucky enough to rep Knight Lab and Medill at SNDMakes-SF, a rapid prototyping event that preceded the Society for News Design’s annual workshop. Over the course of two and a half days, 28 media and tech professionals formed seven teams — appropriately named after San Francisco neighborhoods or landmarks — and swiftly conceptualized, designed and developed prototypes aimed at answering the central question: “How might we grow the news and...

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  • SND panel: How designers can try to correct for the unconscious bias in design

    At last week’s Society of News Design’s San Francisco Conference, three speakers hosted a panel on the application of unconscious bias in design: Sanny Lin, a product designer at Bloc; Martin Gee, senior art director at Time; and Tory Hargro, a product design manager at Facebook. Unconscious biases are the unconscious clichéd beliefs we hold about certain social groups. While we may consciously loathe the biases, numerous studies and research show that we act on...

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  • Steve Tarzia joins Knight Lab as a professional fellow

    Last week Knight Lab welcomed Steve Tarzia as a new professional fellow. During his fellowship, under a program supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Tarzia will work to make a gun violence site he founded more sustainable. Tarzia, who has a Ph.D. in computer science and has worked on development teams at several Chicago companies, launched GunMemorial.org in December and will work at Knight Lab for the next three months to...

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  • A quick look at recommendation engines and how the New York Times makes recommendations

    A recent prediction that algorithmic curation would be one of the major trends of 2016 got me thinking about news recommendation engines. I’ve always been curious about the technology so I recently started digging into what makes them work and realized there is a whole lot to learn. But a little research and conversation with a newsroom technologist at New York Times helped me to understand how they work. First you should know that the...

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  • Transforming type: The changing landscape of digital type design and typography

    I’ve been involved in print design since my high school days of working on the school newsmagazine. It’s where I got my start learning the basics of design, layout, typography, and it’s what became the foundation for all my other design-related ventures. Only within the past school year, however, have I started getting into type design and studying typefaces. Type is a very nuanced field to get into—there’s a lot of history to a practice...

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  • Paying dinosaurs: Lessons learned from many hacky deployments with Heroku

    As a hobby developer and computer science student, I find myself using Heroku to release many of my projects. Heroku is a cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) business that provides server power for developers, and I have taken recently been taking advantage of their Free and Hobby plans. While Heroku offers a simple, cheap solution to developers, it’s not perfect. The documentation isn’t always clear and there are many small hurdles that come up...

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  • NICAR16: They're coming for us: How platforms shape the way we tell stories

    One of the recurring themes of NICAR was how graphics reporters and news apps developers are grappling with new distribution platforms like Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP and even Snapchat. There is no one canonical version of a graphic. Instead, you might create different versions of it for different platforms: a fancy D3 interaction for the mobile web, a fun GIF for Twitter and a static image for Facebook Instant Articles. One of the key...

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  • NICAR16: Tackling federal election campaign finance data

    In an election year, NICAR was bound to feature plenty of election-themed sessions.One of the more interesting that I caught was “Election: Reverse-engineering campaign finance stories,” in which Aaron Bycoffe, Carrie Levine, and Derek Willis walked the audience through the steps they took to break various campaign finance stories. Using an open-source parser to find small donations In quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission, candidates must declare how much they’ve raised and spent, among...

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  • NICAR16: A glimpse at an Excel-free future thanks to relational databases

    Some people come to NICAR with goals, whether they were networking goals or technical goals or partying goals. I came to my first NICAR with next to nothing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than it being half a week’s worth of sessions and panels about data, journalism, and everything in between, which it turns out, is quite a bit. One thing I had been meaning to learn for a while, though, was...

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  • NICAR16: Visualization designed for the human brain

    Data visualizations must tell a good story. But even the best stories might get lost in the translation to a chart, infographic, or map and end up in the dreaded WTF Viz hall of fame. In a session called “Information design for the human brain,” BuzzFeed reporter Peter Aldhous and MediaShift metrics editor and curator Allie Kanik highlighted different ways of encoding data and shared their tips and tricks for deciding the appropriate visualization for...

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  • Say hello to Knight Lab at NICAR16!

    Hello, NICAR 2016! We’re Knight Lab, and we’d love to meet you. Find us in person or online throughout the weekend, or at the Hacks/Hackers Colorado Meetup we're sponsoring on Thursday night. Two exciting things: We’re hiring! We’ll soon have a presence in San Francisco! (Though we’re not hiring there.) Can't wait to meet you all! Here's who we are and where we'll be: Faculty and staff Emily Withrow — Faculty Joe Germuska — Director...

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  • City Hall Monitor seeks to help reporters find newsworthy documents

    This week we’re happy to announce a first iteration of City Hall Monitor, a project designed to help reporters in Chicago find unique, newsworthy documents among a slew of mundane government paperwork. Currently, a journalist who searches the city’s archives is likely to be buried under a pile of boring documents that are unlikely to provide much journalistic value (think approvals for awnings or sidewalk cafés and notes of congratulation or gratitude). Though some aggregate...

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