Posts

  • Introducing StorylineJS

    Today we're excited to release a new tool for storytellers.

    A screenshot of a StorylineJS instance StorylineJS makes it easy to tell the story behind a dataset, without the need for programming or data visualization expertise. Just upload your data to Google Sheets, add two columns, and fill in the story on the rows you want to highlight. Set a few configuration options and you have an annotated chart, ready to embed on your website. (And did we mention, it looks great on phones?) As...

    Continue Reading

  • Join us in October: NU hosts the Computation + Journalism 2017 symposium

    An exciting lineup of researchers, technologists and journalists will convene in October for Computation + Journalism Symposium 2017 at Northwestern University. Register now and book your hotel rooms for the event, which will take place on Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14 in Evanston, IL. Hotel room blocks near campus are filling up fast! Speakers will include: Ashwin Ram, who heads research and development for Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence (AI) agent, which powers the...

    Continue Reading

  • Bringing Historical Data to Census Reporter

    A Visualization and Research Review

    An Introduction Since Census Reporter’s launch in 2014, one of our most requested features has been the option to see historic census data. Journalists of all backgrounds have asked for a simplified way to get the long-term values they need from Census Reporter, whether it’s through our data section or directly from individual profile pages. Over the past few months I’ve been working to make that a reality. With invaluable feedback from many of you,......

    Continue Reading

  • How We Brought A Chatbot To Life

    Best Practice Guide

    A chatbot creates a unique user experience with many benefits. It gives the audience an opportunity to ask questions and get to know more about your organization. It allows you to collect valuable information from the audience. It can increase interaction time on your site. Bot prototype In the spring of 2017, our Knight Lab team examined the conversational user interface of Public Good Software’s chatbot, which is a chat-widget embedded within media partner sites.......

    Continue Reading

  • Stitching 360° Video

    For the time-being, footage filmed on most 360° cameras cannot be directly edited and uploaded for viewing immediately after capture. Different cameras have different methods of outputting footage, but usually each camera lens corresponds to a separate video file. These video files must be combined using “video stitching” software on a computer or phone before the video becomes one connected, viewable video. Garmin and other companies have recently demonstrated interest in creating cameras that stitch......

    Continue Reading

  • Publishing your 360° content

    Publishing can be confusing for aspiring 360° video storytellers. The lack of public information on platform viewership makes it nearly impossible to know where you can best reach your intended viewers, or even how much time and effort to devote to the creation of VR content. Numbers are hard to come by, but were more available in the beginning of 2016. At the time, most viewers encountered 360° video on Facebook. In February 2016, Facebook......

    Continue Reading

  • How to Edit 360 Video in Adobe Premiere Pro CC

    Before you start editing your footage, make sure you have stitched your footage. You can read our guide to stitching here. After you have completed stitching your footage, you can now “edit” them in traditional video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Stitching is a common term that involves merging the separate camera inputs into single viewable format. On the other hand, editing is a broad umbrella term that we will use to refer......

    Continue Reading

  • Guide to shooting 360° video

    Before embarking on any 360° video project, we strongly encourage you to ask why. It is true that a spherical video can transport and immerse viewers in a way that is hard to replicate with traditional film, but which shouldn’t be used for the sake of creating 360° video. We encourage content creators to ask themselves the following questions before deciding to shoot in 360: Are we transporting the viewer to a place they cannot......

    Continue Reading

  • An introduction to 360° video

    360° video is a fairly recent technology in which omnidirectional cameras are used to grab a spherical video capture of a space, rather than the rectangular capture in traditional videography. The perspectives of the omnidirectional cameras are then stitched together to generate an immersive experience for viewers to experience, placing the viewer within the context of a scene or event rather than presenting them as an outside observer, and giving the viewer the ability to......

    Continue Reading

  • The 4 Key Components to Photogrammetry Capture

    Location, stillness, camera settings and camera movement

    Whether you are in a controlled or uncontrolled environment, there are four key components for successful photogrammetry capture: location, stillness, camera settings and camera movement. Paying close attention to these will help reduce tiling, blurring and other issues when scanning photogrammetry objects. Location lighting, shadows, refraction and reflections Example in Photoscan of a model with far too many artifacts, or elements of their environment that intertwined with the model as the point cloud processed. During......

    Continue Reading

  • Photogrammetry Tools Review

    The winner is clear, but expensive.

    Journalists know the maxim, “show, don’t tell” creating engaging stories. We spent ten weeks exploring tools for creating 3D photogrammetry models which can be used to show story subjects in an entirely new way. Here we present a rundown of what we learned. For any journalist interested in creating 3D photogrammetry models there are two key steps: capture and processing. The basic gist is this: a journalist shoots about 100 images during the capture process,......

    Continue Reading

  • Photogrammetry for Journalism

    Documenting reality in 3D

    The ability to recreate an object in 3D to be viewed and handled in virtual reality seems like something you would read in a science fiction novel. In fact, as early as 1950, Ray Bradbury entertained the idea of a virtual reality nursery in “The Veldt” - his short story about two children who solve their anger with their parents by escaping to a simulated grassland. Photogrammetry is the science of deriving measurements from photographs.......

    Continue Reading

  • 3D Modeling in the field

    Capturing People for Photogrammetry With a Smartphone

    Virtual reality has been called an internet-sized opportunity. But the Internet only attracted the billions of users it has today once every user was empowered to create, contribute and share content, whether they could code or not. Similarly, making something today for VR generally requires coding skills. However, there may be an easy solution from the surveying industry: Photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is any process that uses photos to make measurements. Initially, surveyors used it to create......

    Continue Reading

  • A New Look-Around Cosplay

    Photogrammetry 3D models from the floor of Chicago’s C2E2 Comic Convention

    12-feet of dark feathers, a noir-detective’s trench coat, blue tie and black boots was a sight to see on a 5-foot stature. Truly appreciating her costume required seeing it from all angles—exactly the reason we went to make 3D models of cosplayers at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. I really just wanted an excuse to make wings Morgan She spent a lot of late nights on this high school science fair project—but even when......

    Continue Reading

  • Democratizing data reporting from the ground up

    Building a dust sensor network

    As the Trump administration continues to curtail funding for longstanding federal agencies like the EPA, citizens have taken it upon themselves to gather and contextualize the data formerly compiled by federal agencies. Scientists, academics and individuals have banded together to form save the data events to protect existing environmental data that has already been collected for fear it may be deleted or made inaccessible. This trend raises the question: Where will future data come from?......

    Continue Reading

  • Uncharted Territory

    Diving in to Data Visualization in Virtual Reality

    Virtual reality goes beyond the world of video games and 360 videos; it provides the opportunity to better communicate information to readers by having them experience data rather than just observe it. In instances where a bar chart just isn’t enough or when you find yourself making yet another line graph, this interactive website is here to guide you through the things to consider when creating data visualizations in virtual reality. It will tell you......

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • How I built my first mobile app scraper

    Scraping web pages is a well documented process. There are plenty of guides on how to pull information using plugins like Python’s Beautiful Soup or browser extensions like Kimono. Many web applications even provide public APIs for gathering information, such as Facebook’s Graph API. Yet, there is a growing set of popular mobile apps that do not have a public API. Apps like Yik Yak, Tinder, and others contain a wealth of information about the...

    Continue Reading

  • An inside look at The Guardian's effort to document deaths at the hands of law enforcement in "The Counted"

    The Guardian's "The Counted" documents law enforcement killings in the United States. On Nov. 15, Richard Perkins was fatally shot by officers in Oakland, California. His death marked the 1,000th entry in The Guardian’s The Counted’s database that now includes more than 1,063 names. The project launched June 1, and has quickly won acclaim for its relatively robust law enforcement killings database, which is generated via tips submitted on the Guardian website or on social...

    Continue Reading

  • The challenges awaiting journalists heading toward virtual reality

    While virtual reality has just recently emerged as a storytelling tool for journalists — The Columbia Journalism Review even calls it “journalism's next frontier.” — filmmakers and gaming enthusiasts have been experimenting with the technology for much longer. To get a sense of where the technology might be headed and the challenges journalists are likely to face as they adopt the technology, I talked with two people who have been working with VR for quite...

    Continue Reading

  • Uncle Sam's digital makeover and the lessons it holds for publishers

    The website for the US Digital Services Playbook looks like anything but a typical government website. Find it at playbook.cio.gov/. In September, 18F, a team of designers and developers within the General Services Administration (GSA), and the United States Design Services (USDS) released the US Web Design Standards, a project that aims to unite all government websites under a single set of guidelines that guides visual design and user experience. This idea of creating a...

    Continue Reading

  • Big tech wants to help journalism. What's that mean for creative storytelling and the user experience?

    As a typical #millennial I get most of my news from the organizations and friends I follow on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also started regularly checking Snapchat Discover for curated entertainment content at my fingertips. This year, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat and Apple all released new news aggregation and presentation features and apps for mobile. There are so many new ways to get your daily dose of news and information that it can be overwhelming to...

    Continue Reading

  • No soft focus: Behind the design and launch of Broadly

    When Broadly, Vice’s female-centric vertical debuted on August 3, 2015, I was struck not just by the kinds of content they were putting out, but also by its clean yet personable design that complemented its unique voice. Unlike the heavy black color scheme and font weights of Vice Media’s other sites, Broadly was bold in its use of color, typography and grids. I was curious about how Vice designed and launched Broadly, a site that...

    Continue Reading

  • 30 tabs deep — How can we build a tool to track our journeys around the Internet?

    These days curiosity is likely to lead you on a long trek through the depths of the Internet. You read one article and you stop at a shiny hyperlink that screams, “click me!” Before you know it, you are 30 tabs deep and way off topic. I value these journeys for the unexpected treasures that lie along the way, but sometimes the connection of that treasure to your origin isn’t clear. Though you have the...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2015: Gamification for a better understanding of the world

    I was an avid gamer when I had the luxury of time, which is not an affordance you can indulge when you go to Northwestern. The games I enjoyed the most were those that not only had me immersed in a new world but the ones that had me learning along the way. I can vividly recall enjoying the Assassin’s Creed series because of its (somewhat accurate) historical context. Even though I was fighting as...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2015: From climate change to digital design, you may need to change your language

    Ask me what my biggest take-away was from hours of logging tape for NPR’s ongoing series on the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, and I will say, “If you want to ensure that your audiences are educated, empathetic and responsive, responsible you'll have to speak their language." In the past few weeks, I’ve listened to (and rewound, slowed down, and re-listened to) some of the world’s leading scientists describe what went right...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2015: Why open-source, -science, -knowledge, etc. can't be passive

    At MozFest you’ll hear the word “open” a lot – open data, open news, open knowledge, open science, open web and so on. I wondered, though, what does “open” really mean? A few years ago, I found out about open source software. My understanding at the time was that open sourcing a project was simply allowing other people to see its code. That simple understanding was enough to get by. But after hearing “open” prepended...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2015: Why data visualization for mobile shouldn't hurt

    As data journalists, we tend to focus on visualizing our numbers beautifully for desktops. We pour over D3.js line charts and spend hours getting the tooltips on our maps just right. And right before our deadlines, we’ll throw in some CSS media queries for mobile screens and call it a day. I know I’ve been a culprit more than once. One of my favorite sessions was Aaron William’s MozFest session “Crafting new visualization techniques for...

    Continue Reading

  • Why you shouldn't talk yourself out of attending your first hackathon

    For some reason, in my head, I’ve always had a really vivid image of what a hackathon might look like: a conference for brilliant individuals (who probably self-taught themselves how to code when they were 11-years-old), madly typing away on their computer and seeing possibilities that I couldn’t see. I’d probably meet the next CEO of Silicon Valley’s newest tech start-up. Or, meet other superhero geniuses in the form of young 20-year-old bodies. So, when...

    Continue Reading

  • ONA15: How news organizations build simple bots to help report the news

    It’s no secret that newsrooms are increasingly using bots to cut down on busy work. Software now routinely churns out quarterly earnings stories for The Associated Press and earthquake alerts for Los Angeles Times, freeing reporters to pursue more in-depth projects. And while no bot can write 3,000-word investigative stories, it can assist reporters by alerting them to new data and filtering the information for them. While the idea of creating a bot may sound...

    Continue Reading

  • Seven coding lessons learned building "Your CPS"

    I have been a journalist and journalism student for a decade. When I started my first professional job, in 2007, the dream of every young reporter was to have a scoop stamped on the front page of the paper the next morning. At that time, of course, we didn't have the Internet on our phones and social media was 100 percent something called Orkut — at least in Brazil, where I am from. For years I worked reporting, writing,...

    Continue Reading

  • What we learned about using data to generate custom content

    A year ago, I was struggling to choose between offers to study journalism or computational analysis and public policy. I ultimately chose computational analysis and public policy as I was excited by the prospect of learning about the frontiers of data and policy. I quickly developed a fascination with civic hacking and the open government movement. Aspiring to use my data science skills for social good and to return eventually to journalism, I applied for...

    Continue Reading

  • Former fellow takes project from Knight Lab to VICE as Knight-VICE innovator

    Knight Lab alumni fellow, Farahnaz Mohammed, received a nice bit of news recently, when she learned that she’d made the cut for the inaugural class of Knight-VICE innovators. Mohammed is among four young journalists selected to develop innovative ideas in journalism that’ll be supported by VICE, Knight Foundation, and City University of New York. Farahnaz Mohammed Mohammed, who graduated from Northwestern’s master’s in journalism program earlier this year, will continue work on a platform she...

    Continue Reading

  • Seeking developers interested in journalism: New options at Northwestern

    Through a unique scholarship program, the Medill School at Northwestern University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have brought a dozen talented developers into journalism over the last several years. Successful as these scholarships have been, the program could benefit only those technologists who were able to take a year out of their lives to study journalism in Medill's full-time master's degree program. Now that's changed: Money from the Knight Scholarships is...

    Continue Reading

  • Plotting a course and finding direction for a new podcasting project

    Since joining Knight Lab as student fellows in April, Michael Martinez and I have been thinking about podcasting technology and online audio in hopes that a project idea would emerge. We're obviously not alone. The last 12 months have seen the rise of highly popular shows like Serial and advanced mobile or in-car "podcatching" platforms. Just last week, podcasts marked another milestone when President Obama appeared on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. Unfortunately, a handful of...

    Continue Reading

  • How the Washington Post used data and natural language processing to get people to read more news

    In April, Washington Post announced that it had set a new single-month traffic record, with more than 52 million unique visitors. The figure represented not only a new record, but also a 65 percent year-over-year gain that led other big-name publishers, according to the Post. Publisher Frederick J. Ryan praised the addition of new editorial staffers and awards, and then called special attention to engagement: While unique visitors were up 65 percent, pageviews were up...

    Continue Reading

  • Combatting imposter syndrome with community

    Knight Lab squad at NICAR15. Photo by Anne Li. Until college, I never thought coding was for me. I never intended on learning about the “push” and “pull” of GitHub. I was perfectly content not knowing about the existence (and immense power) of the web inspector. I simply fell into it. It’s been exciting to learn and build new things, but part of “falling into” coding has meant that I can’t seem to shake that...

    Continue Reading

  • Spring 2015 Collaborative Innovation class presentations

    Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 3, journalism and computer science students in the latest version of Northwestern’s “Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology” class will unveil the prototypes they’ve built over the past 10 weeks. You’re invited to see what they’ve come up with. The projects they will be presenting are: Composite: A provocative project that shows the faces of individuals around a location based on publicly available photos. ImageTweet: A tool that makes tweeting pictures with...

    Continue Reading

  • Bootstrap for beginners

    When I first showed up at Knight Lab, I heard a lot about a thing called Bootstrap. In particular, one student fellow was hesitant to use it, much to the disbelief of the staff and guests who dropped by. “How can you not use Bootstrap?” one said. “Practically half the internet is built on it.” Well, I thought. That sounds important. I’d best try this out. While I can’t speak to the statistic of half...

    Continue Reading

  • The art of failing

    I have a fear of failure. I don’t like it when my inbox has more than five emails sitting in there (at the time of this first blog post draft’s conception, it was at 400). I cringe when my desktop is cluttered with screenshots and downloads. These, for me, are true indicators of the clutter that accumulates in life and how success is measured by organizing that clutter very, very well. Let me be clear,...

    Continue Reading

  • What I learned building my first website

    Through sheer luck and a generous professor, I nabbed a two-month fellowship at Knight Lab after I graduated from Northwestern’s graduate journalism program, despite considering myself a web development newbie. I knew full well what the Lab did, but I never imagined getting involved on the development end. My aim at the start was to research a potential digital tool to aid in the practice of journalism and hand over a stack of paper to...

    Continue Reading

  • Implementing SSL on Amazon S3 Static Websites

    Since this post was written, Amazon has launched AWS Certificate Manager, which provides certificates at no cost and substantially simplifies managing them for use in the AWS context. We recommend that readers investigate the AWS Certificate Manager product before following the guidance in this post. Every day, more and more websites are serving their pages using HTTPS. This can lead to warnings or complete failures when those sites want to embed content from other sites. Until recently, that...

    Continue Reading

  • How and why NPR made 15 years worth of audio available across the web

    Screenshot of NPR's new embeddable audio player. Last month, NPR announced that it would make 800,000 pieces of audio available to embed across the web. While NPR has offered limited embedding since 2009, the depth and breadth of this project is new. It's the first time that NPR will offer a single embeddable player with access to such a large amount of content. The work to design and build the player began earlier this year and was led...

    Continue Reading

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning story features TimelineJS

    For the second time in three years, a Pulitzer Prize-winning story has featured a piece of Knight Lab technology. The TimelineJS instance the Daily Breeze created to "show the superintendent's machinations through the years." On Monday, the Daily Breeze won the prize in local reporting for its work investigating California’s Centinela Valley Union High School District and its superintendent’s outsize salary. Featured prominently in the series of stories was an instance of TimelineJS, Knight Lab’s...

    Continue Reading

  • How Byron Lutz untangled the Calderon family's connections and what it tells us about social network analysis

    On Friday, February 21, 2014, two members of a Southern California family dynasty were indicted on a series of political corruption charges, including tax fraud, money laundering, and bribery. Two members of that family — Tom Calderon, a consultant and a former assemblyman, and Ron Calderon, a state senator — would surrender themselves by the following Monday, both pleading not guilty to the charges. Tied to their alleged wrongdoings was an extensive network of people...

    Continue Reading

  • Event recap: Kickstarter for Journalism

    On Friday, Knight Lab co-sponsored an event with Kickstarter and Cards Against Humanity, whimsically entitled "How to journalism in a Scary World if you don’t have a Fancy Grant." The event brought together journalists and other storytellers to talk about how they’ve supported their work and the various funding models you might be able to use as well. Nicole He was on hand to make a pitch for Kickstarter, which last year launched a journalism category. It’s obviously...

    Continue Reading

  • Long a challenge, Snapchat delivers crowd-sourced storytelling

    In the last few months, I cheered from the sidelines of the Macy’s Day Parade, I built a kite to fly in India, I strutted the streets of New York Fashion Week and I tailgated a football game in the dead of January. All from the comfort of my bed. How did I do it? Well, I watched these events unfold via Snapchat, an app I normally reserve for sending selfies to friends. I didn’t see...

    Continue Reading

  • Newsroom love stories start with collaboration and communication

    This twice-weekly exchange has been going on since my first editor’s meeting two years ago when I first joined the editing team of North by Northwestern, Northwestern’s online student-run news magazine: “We’re going to do a story on the architecture on campus for this Sunday,” a section editor declares excitedly at the editorial meeting. “It’s going to be interactive. It’ll be so cool!” “That’s great,” a managing editor responds. “Have you talked to the interactive...

    Continue Reading

  • Andrew Golis on launching This.cm and creating a social "magazine experience" on the web

    Occasionally we'll do a Q&A with an impressive maker or strategist from media and its fringes. Each person brings a unique perspective on journalism, publishing and technology. Catch up and/or follow the series here. Up until the end of last year, my daily news experience involved sifting through endless tweets and clickbait on Facebook. When I got an invite to This, a link-sharing social network that aims to “find and share the web’s best stories,...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: Machine learning lessons for journalists

    Machine learning is certainly not a new concept in journalism, but it seemed to enjoy plenty of prominence at NICAR this year — fantastic news for newbies to the field like me. I attended several sessions on it, both theoretical and technical, and a few key concepts came up repeatedly. Whether this year’s conference was your first exposure to machine learning, or you’re a seasoned pro, here are four takeaways worth reviewing: Machine learning is...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR15: Finding business data outside of "business" datasets

    If you want to uncover business news, never underestimate the power of looking at datasets that don’t look like traditional business datasets. Speaking in the “Investigating business with data” session at NICAR15, the Wall Street Journal’s Andrea Fuller and CNBC’s John Schoen provided a wealth of examples of stories written using not only traditional business datasets like the SEC's Edgar and FINRA but also non-traditional business data sets such as Medicare.gov. Datasets like Medicare.gov greatly...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: Jack of all trades, master of none?

    Participants in the NICAR conversation, "The 'hybrid reporter' identity crisis?" posted their official job titles and what they want their job titles to be. Despite the fact that neither drinking nor networking (“You need to be more sure of yourself!” Alex Duner wailed to me after an awkward introduction to his former colleagues) is really my thing, I found myself at the bar of the Marriott Marquis, in a circle of journalists from across the...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: Space Journalism and Remote Sensing

    Some of the coolest investigations that have been published over the last year have made use of remotely sensed data from satellites in space. Space is cool. And journalism is cool. So surely the combination of the two must be interesting. And while it didn’t involve firing rockets with journalists on them into orbit, a session at #NICAR15 titled “Space Journalism” introduced some really cool ideas about using satellite data to find and tell stories....

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: On the necessity of interactivity

    Data. Interactive. D3. X charts and Y graphs that explain Z. I feel that we’ve reached a point where “interactive” has become an empty buzzword in journalism. It’s amazing how quickly interest and adoption of news apps and data visualization has grown in the last few years (just look at the sheer size of this year’s NICAR conference), but as interactive and data-driven journalism becomes more pervasive, we also need to reexamine the meaning of...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: Data from scratch — How to crowdsource data

    We know data tells us a lot. We write programs to automate data scraping. We spend hours creating data visualizations that help readers see what they need to see. We use data to make claims and generate stories that are reliable and have impact. Data is important and we seem to be surrounded by it. But that's not quite true. Sometimes, there is no data? A session at NICAR that really resonated with me was Data from Scratch:...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR15: 10 tips to avoid data mistakes in the newsroom

    A big mistake when dealing with data can ruin your day. Luckily there are simple ways to avoid big mistakes and maintain credibility with your colleagues and your audience. At NICAR 2015, a panel of data journalists from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussed the road blocks they've encountered when working with data for a story. The panel, moderated by MedPage Today reporter Coulter Jones, featured advice and cautions to keep in mind when dealing with numbers,...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR 2015: Finding the elusive data/prose sweet spot

    Before I become a good data journalist, even an adept data journalist, there is a skill I really need to nail down: balancing data and anecdotes in an easy-to-understand narrative. Super simple stuff, right? Wrong. It’s a skill that I was drilled and tested on in a handful of courses at Medill, but I don’t feel I've reached the sweet-spot where numbers are present, yet not boring facts that most readers skip. Coming into NICAR...

    Continue Reading

  • Say hello to Knight Lab at NICAR15!

    Knight Lab brought a big crew to Atlanta and we’d love to meet as many of you as possible. If you’re interested in talking some shop, sharing ideas, or just saying hello, keep your eye out for: Heather Billings (presenting PyCar, an introduction to Python, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday) Joe Germuska Ryan Graff Jordan Young Mallory Busch Alex Duner Anne Li Anushka Patil Luke Rague Kulwant Saluja Ashley Wu Nicole Zhu (facilitating...

    Continue Reading

  • Learning by copying: Why pulling inspiration from existing ideas is great

    Back in September I finally started to build my portfolio site from scratch. This was back when the extent of my coding knowledge pretty much ended at how to save a document as an HTML page. Making my own website? Forget it; I had no idea where or how to start. Former student fellow KK Rebecca Lai suggested I find a bunch of websites, study the elements I liked through the console (the box that...

    Continue Reading

  • Joe Germuska expands Knight Lab role

    News veteran and technology expert Joe Germuska will take on an expanded role at the Knight Lab as interim director. Germuska has served as director of software engineering for the Lab. He previously co-founded OpenGovChicago and was on the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. Knight Lab executive director Miranda Mulligan will take a job in late January as creative director of National Geographic Digital. Mulligan has led the Lab for two years. “Our faculty, students,...

    Continue Reading

  • How news organizations are using SnapChat to report and distribute news

    On the surface Snapchat would seem like a poor service for journalists seeking to convey information. Users are restricted to images, text or drawings that last no more than 10 seconds before disappearing. And the only people who will see your content are people who already follow you. But that hasn’t stopped a few enterprising news organizations from experimenting, adding their own voice to the more than 500 million Snaps sent each day. Especially with...

    Continue Reading

  • Nine tools for journalists to cut Twitter list creation and management time

    Journalists know Twitter can be a pretty crazy place, but it’s not like they can just leave. News occasionally breaks amidst the chaos! To cut down on all the noise Twitter offers a little-used but very helpful feature, lists. Lists allows users to cut Twitter down into bite-size Twitter chunks.  With lists journalists can specify which accounts they’re interested in and then view the accounts separately from their main Twitter feeds. Each list will ideally...

    Continue Reading

  • How four girls conspired to take down CAESAR

    Someone once said, “we should totally just stab Caesar.” Our school’s student account system, CAESAR, is the official course registration tool and is also the source of several frustrations for students. So my peers and I committed an infamy. We dared to totally take a stab at CAESAR. Each quarter, Knight Lab encourages its student fellows to think of how best to develop skills specific to our personal interests and needs. In the past, I’ve...

    Continue Reading

  • How the git mergetool solved my anxiety, fears, and most importantly, my merge conflicts

    Back in March, another student fellow Nicole Zhu and I worked on a team challenge for which we were the primary coders. One day, she emailed me: “Uhh. I messed up. Sorry. I think you have to delete your repo.” She had been attempting to resolve a merge conflict, ended up in vim somehow, nope’d out of there, and messaged me to let me know her solution was to delete everything and re-clone. More sadly,...

    Continue Reading

  • The devil is in the details: shifting gears from developer to designer

    For an entire quarter, I had the privilege (a curse to some) of focusing all my time on a single project. Romaine, a social platform/tool for selecting courses, had a simple goal: how do we harness the community nature of the question, “what class are you taking next quarter?” My initial solution was laughably naive and simple. ‘Just link each course to Facebook!’ I thought to myself. We’d be done in no time. Ha, ha....

    Continue Reading

  • What can we learn from the history of social network analysis?

    When I joined Knight Lab as a student fellow six months ago, I became determined to make progress on a social network analysis (SNA) tool. As journalists we continually look to provide quality information through captivating perspectives and I believe that network data fulfills a part of that purpose in capturing the details of our society from a structural point of view. But the fact is that network analysis is a tough problem to tackle....

    Continue Reading

  • Resources to build and deploy web applications quickly

    Beginner coders often look to learn specific languages, like JavaScript or Ruby on Rails. While this is important to understand concepts like control flow and functions, as learners become more comfortable with these technologies, their focus shifts from tutorials and side projects to designing solutions for real-world problems. These solutions typically include common core features that start to require backend and devops experience: data and user storage, a presentable user interface, and a live link...

    Continue Reading

  • New journalism/technology prototypes unveiled Wednesday

    On Wednesday, December 3, journalism and computer science students in the latest version of Northwestern’s “Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology” class will unveil the prototypes they’ve built over the past 10 weeks. You’re invited to see what they’ve come up with. The students have been working since September, when I and Associate Prof. Larry Birnbaum of the computer science department in the McCormick School formed seven interdisciplinary teams out of the 25 students enrolled...

    Continue Reading

  • Pop Up Archive's Anne Wootton and Bailey Smith on born digital audio, search and transcriptions

    "Obligatory question: what shows do y’all love to listen? Give ‘em to me. The more obscure the better." "Oh my god, Miranda. There's this podcast, Serial, that is so good." Unless you've been ignoring the future-of-journalism chatter completely, chances are you've begun to tire of the whole "podcasts were dead and now they are back" discourse. This story is everywhere and it’s not exactly accurate, as they never really were "dead." That said, if you...

    Continue Reading

  • In our ears… November edition

    Around the Lab, some of us are long-time podcast junkies and some of us were about eight years old when podcasts came on the scene. We've been publishing our research into web audio from our primer on its history to why it feels stagnated. However, we haven't published much about podcasts or podcasting (because everyone else is writing about it, including listicles from just about everyone from The Atlantic to The Huffington Post) or about...

    Continue Reading

  • Jake Shapiro on PRX, developing Radiotopia and the future of web audio

    Follow the full series of Q&As with smart folks shaping the future of media. Find more articles about podcasts, podcasting and audio on the Web. When I first started researching web audio, I was surprised to find again and again that an organization I’d never heard of was leading the charge, pushing hard on the current state of sound on the internet, and helping the medium into the 21st century: Public Radio Exchange, more commonly...

    Continue Reading

  • Alex Blumberg on StartUp podcast, Gimlet Media and the future of podcasting

    Follow the full series of Q&As with smart folks shaping the future of media. Find more articles about podcasts, podcasting and audio on the Web. Alex Blumberg is a man who needs little introduction... At least not much of one within public radio and podcast circles. He's produced stories for This American Life for years and co-founded the award-winning Planet Money. Lately, Blumberg has been climbing the iTunes charts with StartUp, a new podcast chronicling...

    Continue Reading

  • How to get rich in the podcasting gold rush: Steal these 6 ideas from Odeo

    Odeo’s vision for casual content creation didn’t take off in the mid-00’s, but with new interest in web audio maybe these ideas are worth another shot. Before there was Twitter there was Odeo, the web-app that aimed to make podcasting accessible, discoverable and social. While it’s mostly remembered as the humbling misstep Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone took along the path to building Twitter, it was filled with innovative audio ideas the net...

    Continue Reading

  • Leaps and sounds: 6 product categories creating the future of web audio

    In our "Why web audio can’t grow up" article, we presented the case for moving away from “podcasts” as the de-facto definition of web audio, to create new audio platforms and new ways to experience interacting with audio on the web. Quick summary: Podcasts are difficult to share, tough to discover and not inherently suited to community building. They just feel old! Luckily we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed the problem, innovators of all...

    Continue Reading

  • The 4 Stages to Internet medium maturity: Why web audio can't grow up

    Audio storytelling on the net has looked the same for about a decade - why are we accepting the status quo while text and music evolve? Screen grab from Comedy Central. The current state of audio on the 'net It doesn’t take a genius to see web audio has problems. In a Knight Lab brainstorm we pinpointed more than 20 things we can’t stand about how audio storytelling works on the net. Plus we’re not...

    Continue Reading

  • From Carl Malamud to Dr. Dre to Ev Williams: The history of web audio

    When Dr. Dre sued Mega Nerd, and now famous serial-entrepreneur, Sean Parker’s Napster back in 2000, digital music distribution seemed like the biggest danger to the rapper’s fortune. Maybe the threat triggered something in the hip-hop mogul’s mind. What was once a threat became booming business for the good doctor in May when he sold Beats Music to Apple as part of a massive deal. Dre nearly became hip-hop’s first billionaire in the process, and might...

    Continue Reading

  • Rethinking the listicle. What can it do for "serious" news?

    Odds are, you’ve read more than a handful of listicles. They proliferate social media, they’re sweet and short (but short on nutrition), and in a culture of distraction, it's hard not to love a numbered article. This October, I facilitated a session at Mozilla Festival, seeking to discover where these listicles belong "serious" news reporting. The proposal might sound strange considering that most listicles are headlined with some variation of “50 hottest …” “8 simple...

    Continue Reading

  • New Team Member: Heather Billings, Designer/Developer

    Heather Billings We are pleased to announce that Heather Billings will be joining the Lab as a designer and developer. Heather comes to us from the Chicago Tribune, where she has been a member of the News Apps team for the past three years. I'm very excited to have the chance to work with Heather again. When we brought her onto the team at the Chicago Tribune, I was already impressed by her smart, humane, and generous presence on social media. The...

    Continue Reading

  • How to learn to code: Tell everyone, then ask questions

    The second you decide to learn to code, let everyone - your parents, your grandparents, your Twitter followers - know. Coding might be portrayed as a loner activity in the media, but I've found that when coding your best friend is the universal coding community. I built my first portfolio site with the help of learn.knightlab.com last fall. The feat took me a year to complete. In hindsight, I realize that part of the reason...

    Continue Reading

  • Mozfest 2014: Natural language processing in news

    Natural Language Processing is still very nascent within the field of journalism. Apart from a few great examples, the world of NLP has barely been tapped by news organizations. This year at Mozfest, I facilitated a session "How to find insight hidden in speeches, scripts and books with computers." In the days leading up to my session, I spent hours wrangling various datasets in hopes to create The Perfect Lesson Plan ™ complete with a...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: Finding inspiration in video games to teach technology

    Man, I’m still in love with MozFest. I know I sound like a kid who can’t quit talking about summer camp, but it’s my third MozFest and I’m as excited now as I was two years ago. Back in 2012 MozFest was was intimidating, exciting and incredibly fulfilling by the time all was said and done. It was a tough act to follow, but 2014 seems to have done it. Why? Probably because I once...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: Gotta lotta analog data? Crowdsourcing may make it useful for you and fun for readers

    When we think of data, we almost always think of computers. But when it comes to data that was created before the digital area —  handwritten notes, ancient maps or printed documents, for example — nothing beats human eyes to quantify and verify. And when many human eyes are needed, journalists have the option to crowdsource their data. At MozFest this weekend, Mike Tigas of ProPublica and Jeremy B. Merrill of The New York Times...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: My first time — a rookie’s Mozfest experience

    On Wednesday night I was en route to London and getting nervous. “I’ve never attended a conference or a festival before,” I told Knight Lab’s Joe Germuska as we sat at Chicago's O’Hare International Airport just two days before MozFest kicked off. Joe assured me that MozFest was a good one, but I still had nerves. It wasn’t just that it was my first festival. I'd also had a proposal to facilitate a session accepted,...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: Designing products for news with the Werewolf game

    Yesterday I attended a fun and interactive MozFest session led by Melody Kramer, a digital strategist at NPR, in which she used the game Werewolf to teach how she makes products for NPR. Only, in our game, the scary Werewolf didn’t kill people, it killed features. In a traditional game of Werewolf: The moderator divides players into two secret teams – the werewolves and the villagers. The werewolves’ goal is to kill all of the...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: On community, and why it's not just a buzzword

    A couple years ago a 13-year-old boy in Ireland started to learn to code and built a game so successful it knocked Angry Birds off its No. 1 spot in the Irish App Store. At 13, I’m pretty sure I was still listening to Hilary Duff and fighting my sister for AIM time on the computer. I know why CoderDojo Global CEO Mary Moloney shared the story of game-making Harry at the MozFest kick-off to...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest 2014: Thinking about (and soon building) sentient articles

    Notes and questions from the MozFest session On the first day of MozFest, I went to an intriguing session called “Rise of the Sentient Articles.” Led by ProPublica’s Sisi Wei and Ryann Jones, the session encouraged participants to brainstorm the future of news powered by algorithms. What if articles modified themselves based on an individual reader’s needs? What if, rather than building news applications and interactive graphics that rely on user input, the content was...

    Continue Reading

  • What I learned building my first news product, JuxtaposeJS

      Just in time for last week's Online News Association Conference, Knight Lab announced the launch of JuxtaposeJS, a lightweight, easy-to-use, image comparison tool. Any product launch is exciting and I'm excited to see how journalists use JuxtaposeJS to tell stories. But from a personal perspective JuxtaposeJS is more than just a tool — it’s the first tool I’ve ever built from start to finish. It was also my first major Javascript project and I...

    Continue Reading

  • Introducing JuxtaposeJS, an easy way to compare two frames

    We’re pleased to announce JuxtaposeJS, a new Knight Lab tool that helps journalists tell stories by comparing two frames, including photos and gifs. JuxtaposeJS is an adaptable storytelling tool and is ideal for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.). For example, check out this NASA image...

    Continue Reading

  • On the state of data journalism, at #SRCCON 2014

    As a computer scientist about to graduate from the Medill School of Journalism, I have a front row seat on the intersection of data and journalism. Unfortunately, as Alberto Cairo has pointed out, there is still a lot of work to be done to properly combine the two. The first ever Knight-Mozilla OpenNews’ #SRCCON seeks to mind meld data savvy journalists, many of whom also attended NICAR. While most conferences are a collection of talks...

    Continue Reading

  • On scaling and efficiency of long-form news story design, at #SRCCON 2014

    Day one session, "Art directing posts, sustainably" with Scott Kellum and Lauren Rabaino. (Photo by Ramla Mahmood)There seems to be an uptick of production in digital storytelling: More and more newsrooms are beginning to build longform editorial pieces on the web, with designs that break out of their day-to-day article templates. Web developers in newsroom sometimes find themselves struggling to meet growing editorial demand for special treatment on story projects, sometimes by copy-and-pasting previous code in...

    Continue Reading

  • On better project management for newsroom stories, at #SRCCON 2014

    Build a storyteller something interactive, and you feed them for a day. Teach them digital or data skills, and you start to unlock your newsroom nerd potential. Jaeah Lee, interactive producer at Mother JonesOn day two of #SRCCON — Knight-Mozilla Open News inaugural conference in Philadelphia last week — Mother Jones' Tasneem Raja (editor) and Jaeah Lee (interactive producer) led a discussion where participants exchanged ideas about changing the newsroom training culture generally, I.E. strategies...

    Continue Reading

  • Technology and teamwork: How to get the most out of your interdisciplinary team

    With code sometimes you have to run before you can walk. Tutorials and W3Schools are great for learning the basics, but at some point you just have to open a blank window in Sublime Text, focus on a project and start writing code from scratch. If you’re like me and aren’t a disciplined runner, it can be hard to keep up the momentum when working on your own. Having teammates keeps you on track and...

    Continue Reading

  • Event recap: Twitter talks elections, politics, and data

    In the eight years since Twitter launched, the platform has become an essential tool for modern journalists. Yes, it’s great source of interesting content and anecdotes for coloring your work. It’s also an undeniably effective platform from which to promote your work. But with more than a billion tweets posted every two days, the data and insight derived from those tweets is probably even more intriguing. Late last month, several members of the Twitter for...

    Continue Reading

  • SoundCiteJS update makes the tool mobile and MP3 friendly

    Last year, we released the initial version of SoundCite, a tool that helps content creators add inline audio clips to their stories. It was designed to be easy to use for any author (no coding required). We open sourced the project and hoped that our users would guide us on future development. They have. Recently The New York Times and Al Jazeera published stories using customized versions of SoundCite that included the ability to do...

    Continue Reading

  • A hackathon for journalists, the highs and lows of the first Journalism School Hackathon

    This month saw the debut of the first ever Journalism School Hackathon, hosted by the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It was an exciting opportunity for forward-thinking and tech-savvy students from across the country to come together and use their combined powers to work on challenges a few local news outlets had developed. The participants were tasked with maintaining a focus on creating products that would be feasible, desirable and, perhaps most importantly,...

    Continue Reading

  • Six social search tools to help journalists find and analyze trends on Twitter

    This is the third post in a series highlighting research and possible new directions for our Twitter search tool, twXplorer. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are bursting with information thanks to people and organizations the world over ready and willing to share. For journalists these platforms can make for invaluable resources – that is if they know how to use them. In my work researching possible future directions for twXplorer I came across...

    Continue Reading

  • Five mini programming projects for the Python beginner

    After Shelly wrote this post, Webucator, a company that provides Python training, volunteered to create solutions for these projects. They've made a series of videos that'll help you out if you need it. Learning a new programming language is both the most exciting and the most humbling experience. For me, that language has recently been Python, which I’ve been learning over these last few months. And as every coder knows, the best way to learn...

    Continue Reading

  • Learning more about twXplorer's potential and pitfalls through user testing

    This is the second post in a series highlighting research and possible new directions for our Twitter search tool, twXplorer. I was in India working for CNN-IBN on their Citizen Journalist website searching for some meaningful way — any meaningful way — to share Twitter trends generated by the voices of everyday citizens when I first came across twXplorer. I was so excited! Wow, I thought, I must be able to share these histograms with my...

    Continue Reading

  • From Sourcerous to Trendable: Nine new tech prototypes unveiled next week

    Nine new projects from teams of Northwestern journalism and computer science students demonstrate ways that technology could help journalists, publishers and media consumers. And you can see them unveiled next week. The final presentations in our unusual "Collaborative Innovation in Journalism and Technology" class take place at 6:30 p.m. (Chicago time), Wednesday, June 4 in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. If you can attend, please let us know. If you can't, catch the live stream...

    Continue Reading

  • Keyboard shortcuts for tech-savvy journalists, no matter if they write code or articles

    Rebecca Lai watches me type every letter of a long file name — something like pythonreallylongfilename1234567.py — into Sublime. After the first couple letters, she cannot contain herself. “TAB COMPLETE! TAB COMPLETE!” If there's an apt analogy for the way Lai must feel when I forget to tab complete (keep reading if you're unfamiliar with the term) as she helps debug my code, it must be something like this: you're watching over your mother’s shoulder...

    Continue Reading

  • Help us improve twXplorer, our Twitter search tool for journalists

    As part of his academic research, graduate student fellow Neil Holt is examining ways in which Knight Lab’s twXplorer might be updated to be more useful to working journalists. This is the first post in a series. Knight Lab is looking to bring its well-reviewed Twitter search tool, twXplorer to the next level over the next three months and we’re hoping you’ll help shape its future by telling us where you’d like to see it go....

    Continue Reading

  • Five tips to help you make the most of your first hackathon

    [caption id="attachment_5488" align="alignnone" width="850"] The author's project from HackIllinois.[/caption] Last weekend I participated in HackIllinois, a 36-hour hackathon hosted at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There wasn’t a set theme other than to create something awesome, which left participants open to hack on whatever they wanted — web apps, mobile apps, hardware hacks, and anything else you can imagine. While all this creative freedom sounded great at first, my teammates and I — all first-time...

    Continue Reading

  • How the NYT graphics team prepped for and carried out its Sochi Olympics plan

    The New York Times’ graphics team began working on the many explanatory, video-based interactives and composite images for the Winter Olympics many months in advance. When the Olympics roll around every two years, virtually every news site covers it in one way or another. For interactive teams in particular, the Olympic spectacle provides a wealth of opportunity to craft stories that are beautiful, functional and informational. For Sochi many newsrooms put together great packages (some...

    Continue Reading

  • How a young developer stumbled in to journalism and landed at FiveThirtyEight

    Dhrumil Mehta On Friday, FiveThirtyEight announced that Dhrumil Mehta (a former Knight Lab student fellow) would be joining their team as a database journalist. It was fun news for us to hear, particularly when you consider that a year and half ago journalism wasn’t even a small part Mehta’s career plan. At the time, Mehta was a senior here at Northwestern and six months from completing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (with a cognitive science...

    Continue Reading

  • StoryMapJS' GigaPixel tool follows Game of Thrones adventure

    Last week we put the final touches on a StoryMapJS update. As we were wrapping things up, we started to look for fun way to show off the new GigaPixel tool, which allows you to use the StoryMap interface to explain what’s happening in a static image. Eventually we decided to follow the Game of Thrones character Arya through the show’s imagined world of Westeros. The Lab’s operations and project manager (and resident Game of...

    Continue Reading

  • Building a content creation ecosystem: journalism and collaboration on the web

    Editorially, one of the first and prominent of the collaborative "pre-CMS" tools, recently announced that it will shut down May 30 despite much fanfare from users. I once worked at a content creation agency in Boston where we churned out an exorbitant volume of content for client companies’ websites on a daily basis. Each writer was responsible for 15-20 stories per day that ranged from 200 to 500 words. We peer-edited and posted all of...

    Continue Reading

  • StoryMapJS Beta gets a fresh look, MapBox maps, and a new gigapixel image tool

    Back in December we released an alpha version of StoryMapJS, our tool to help journalists tell better stories with maps. Since then it’s been adopted by a number of journalists and deployed around the world — helping to tell the stories about boarding school runaways in England and chart the impact of the debt ceiling debate in the U.S. among many others. We have been refining StoryMapJS and rolled out a few bug fixes already,...

    Continue Reading

  • Kicking off a new, international fellowship with Manuel Aristarán

    As we traveled to various conferences and events last year, we met a number of fascinating nerds doing digital journalism work in Latin America, Europe and Africa. We learned a lot from talking and hacking with them, but just as we were getting going, the event would end. We wanted more time to talk to these journalists, and even work with them, and we wanted to connect them to our wider community back home. Manuel...

    Continue Reading

  • How humans make crime data apps more compelling

    Although the Chicago Tribune's homicide application makes extensive use of Chicago’s Data Portal, humans play the crucial role of sourcing and compiling the individual stories. I’m constantly in awe of the newest “data-driven news app.” I ooh and ahh at choropleth maps and play around with filters, marveling at what I’ve always thought to be the product of exclusive scraping, APIs and D3. I didn’t really think beyond the data wrangling and visualization toolkit. When...

    Continue Reading

  • Five data scraping tools for would-be data journalists

    This past Fall, I spent time with the NPR News Apps team (now known as NPR Visuals) coding up some projects, working mainly as a visual/interaction designer. But in the last few months, I’ve been working on a project that involves scraping newspaper articles and Twitter APIs for data. I was a relative beginner with Python — I’d pair coded a bit with others and made some basic programs, but nothing too complicated. I knew...

    Continue Reading

  • Preserving interactive news projects with Newseum, OpenNews and Pop Up Archive

    Photo by Ted Han during the #apparchive designathon at Newseum with OpenNews and Pop Up Archive On Sunday, March 2, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, the Newseum and Pop Up Archive hosted a one-day conference focused on solving a fairly new problem: How to preserve the new breed of complex interactive projects that are becoming more prevalent in news. While print newspapers are relatively well-preserved, we as an industry do a poor job of preserving interactive databases and...

    Continue Reading

  • A beginner's guide to collecting Twitter data (and a bit of web scraping)

    As a student fellow at the Knight Lab, I get the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects. Recently, I’ve been working with Larry Birnbaum, a Knight Lab co-founder, and Shawn O’Banion, a computer science Ph.D. student, to build an application that takes a user’s Twitter handle, analyzes their activity and returns a list of celebrities that they tweet most like. It’s not an earth-shattering project, but it is a fun way for...

    Continue Reading

  • Googling for code solutions can be tricky — here's how to get started

    Mad Libs was driving me mad. In order to learn JavaScript earlier this quarter, I set out to build a web application that would mimic a game of Mad Libs and immediately got stuck. The idea was that the game would prompt you to enter a set of random words according to specific parts of speech, and then return to you a story whose blanks had been filled in with those words. Cue a hilarious...

    Continue Reading

  • If you want to learn to build the web, start by building your community

    Students at Open Lab Hours. Photo by Suyeon Son. For the last two quarters, student fellows at the Knight Lab have been hosting Open Lab Hours each week. The atmosphere, conversations and community that have developed have been more than we have expected. Friendships were born, pizza was consumed, and, most importantly, new projects were pushed online. The idea behind Open Lab Hours is simple: create a space for students interested in journalism and technology...

    Continue Reading

  • The annual NICAR lightning talks have become the highlight of the conference

    Derek Willis welcoming the crowd to the fourth year of lightning talks. Photo by Aaron KesslerWhen the 2014 CAR conference open call for lightning talk proposals was sent out, the session became the one I was most looking forward to at NICAR 2014. Moderated by Derek Willis of the New York Times, each presentation was entertaining, informative and (as advertised), fast. This year they were sponsored by the Knight Foundation, positioned in a primo Friday...

    Continue Reading

  • Let's get physical: Discovering data in the world around us

    The world of a data journalist is mired in numbers. Stats after stats, spreadsheets after spreadsheets — gathering, cleaning, and processing data is undeniably a tedious process. They are worthwhile and necessary endeavors, yes, but as a budding journalism student it seems learning all of that process could make developing the skills of the data journalist seem inaccessible. It’s hard to remain invested in a project before its narrative has been fleshed out, when all...

    Continue Reading

  • Hack or Hacker? Know when it is appropriate to access data and when it is not

    Attending NICAR14 as a computer science student without a journalism background was an interesting experience, to say the least. Never have I been surrounded by so many journalists (and developers) who were so passionate about data and the tools that can help them attain it. As the journalism and developer worlds are converging and as access to information is becoming ever more important, the question of “when it is appropriate to access data and when is...

    Continue Reading

  • Displaying of aggregate info: Dynamic storytelling with Google Fusion Tables

    Slides from "NewsCamp::The next generation of data viz" Alberto Cairo gave the first talk I saw at NICAR. The room was packed. He is the author of The Functional Art, maintains a blog the same name, and has become a highly respected expert in data visualization. Cairo’s talk was titled "NewsCamp::The next generation of data viz," and he made the slides available. Cairo said something that really stood out for me. “We should not focus...

    Continue Reading

  • Brainstorming ideas for social network analysis in investigations and journalism

    Some of the "How might we…" questions at the NICAR14 designing new tools for social network analysis journalism session in Baltimore Sunday morning. This year's CAR conference has had many discussions about organizing data and surfacing stories, whether it’s through crowdsourcing personal stories in Al Jazeera’s “Uganda Speaks” project or by analyzing 80,000 censored Weibo posts in ProPublica’s “China’s Memory Hole.” Social network analysis, which is the analysis of the connections linking people, businesses and...

    Continue Reading

  • Don't believe your eyes: Learning how to be critical with Alberto Cairo

    A previous version of this story misstated Alberto Cairo's position on the proportion of people who oversimplify infographics. We've removed the number. Read Cairo's take on thinking critically about data visualizations, including his reaction to this piece, here. Not 15 minutes into the first session at my first NICAR conference, I felt utterly mortified. Here was Alberto Cairo, author of “The Functional Art,” telling me the graphic I retweeted not two weeks ago with the...

    Continue Reading

  • NICAR14 reflections from a graduating visual journalist

    I joined the relatively large crew of Lab student fellows this past weekend at my first NICAR conference, a crowd of fellow young journalists and I were invited to an “Unsession” about job searching for millennials. .@jeremybmerrill and @sisiwei dropping knowledge on the young'ns pic.twitter.com/tVk5BSoLKv— Lena Groeger (@lenagroeger) March 1, 2014 Jeremy Merrill, an interactive developer at the New York Times, and Sisi Wei, a news apps developer at ProPublica, put the event together to...

    Continue Reading

  • Tips, resources for print designers learning web-based, interactive infographics

    For the past year, I’ve been transitioning between my previous background as a print news designer to producing graphics and visualizations for the web. When I planned my schedule for my first ever NICAR, my goal was to attend every data visualization session and panel I could. Four days and over fifteen sessions later, it’s hard to describe the enormous breadth of information I was exposed to, but I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced...

    Continue Reading

  • Quick roundup of student sessions at IRE's CAR 2014 conference

    Students flocking to Sisi Wei's & Jeremy Merrill's "jobs and career straight talk unsession", photo by Ted Han. Being a student at a 1000+ people conference full of industry professionals can be an intimidating experience. Based on an unofficial survey, there were roughly 30 college students at the conference from schools around the US, Canada and Denmark. Their majors ranged from journalism and communication to statistics and computer science. While students were merely a small...

    Continue Reading

  • Knight Lab team at NICAR 2014

    Hello, NICAR 2014. It’s lovely to see you all again. Knight Lab’s brought a small(large) crew to Baltimore for this year's annual conference. Some of us are old friends and some of us are just dying to get to know you. So, please, don't be shy. Reach out and say hello! Student fellows: Alex Duner (freshman, developer, journalism) Tyler Fisher (senior, developer, journalism) — Find Tyler at the student brown bag lunch and from 3-4...

    Continue Reading

  • Journalism's biggest data experiment, EveryBlock, relaunches

    Plenty has been written about EveryBlock since word came last month that the site’s owners planned to revive the site after it was abruptly shut down 11 months ago. But last week OpenGovChicago created a unique opportunity for developers, local news lovers, and open data folks: the chance to speak directly with the Comcast executives in charge of bringing EveryBlock back. The event generated plenty of interest in Chicago, the city that gave birth to...

    Continue Reading

  • Behind the dialect map interactive: How an intern created The New York Times' most popular piece of content in 2013

    NYT's most popular piece of content in 2013 — “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” generates a personalized dialect map based upon user responses compared to data from more than 350,000 survey responses collected in 2013. How do you create the most popular piece of content of the year at one of the nation’s most prestigious news outlet? Well, for starters, study or consider careers in politics, law, and philosophy before eventually deciding that...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • '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...

    Continue Reading

  • '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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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,...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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),...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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....

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • #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...

    Continue Reading

  • 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...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Glimpses of the future

    While we’ve spent the week looking back at 2012, what we’re really excited about is 2013 and beyond. Nieman Journalism Lab has a whole series on what to look for in 2013, from a not-so-shabby group of journalism and technology gurus — Amy Webb, Matt Waite, Erin Kissane and our own Miranda Mulligan among them. At the Knight Lab, we saw glimpses of the future in a many projects that launched this year: Summly’s launch got...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Glimpses of the future

    While we’ve spent the week looking back at 2012, what we’re really excited about is 2013 and beyond. Nieman Journalism Lab has a whole series on what to look for in 2013, from a not-so-shabby group of journalism and technology gurus — Amy Webb, Matt Waite, Erin Kissane and our own Miranda Mulligan among them. At the Knight Lab, we saw glimpses of the future in a many projects that launched this year: Summly’s launch got...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Kickstarter journalism and alt. approaches

    This week we have been taking time to acknowledge what we think are significant achievements, advances and cool projects from the past year in the technology + journalism space for our Moving the Needle 2012. The recently published Tow Center report, "Post-industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present," documents the collapse of the long-standing advertising subsidy, pointing out the need for new business models. Today, we look at a few new approaches: For a few journalism projects, Kickstarter provided a...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Our news nerd community

    It's not as though 2012 was the year in which a digital journalism community popped fully-formed into the world. However, looking back, there are some developments in our world which deserve to be called out. For this installment of our Moving the Needle 2012 series, we take a look at some of the best. As always, we expect we've missed a few, so please fill in the gaps in the comments below, or on Twitter...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Some design and presentation projects

    This week, Knight Lab is posting daily as we look back at 2012, taking a moment to call out some significant achievements, advances, or cool projects of the past year that move us just that much closer to saving journalism. Yesterday, Ryan Graff highlighted some of the storytelling that made 2012 great, delicately skirting a “Best of” list and instead noting some of the ideas that we thought were intriguing. Today is dedicated to design...

    Continue Reading

  • Moving the Needle 2012: Storytelling highlights

    In the great tradition of news organizations for at least the last few decades the Knight Lab is taking a look back at the year gone by. It’s safe to say that for the technology and journalism community, 2012 was a great one. Every event and gathering seemed to have more people, more energy, and more ideas than in years past. All those people, ideas and energy produced some great work. Each day this week,...

    Continue Reading

  • Data's nice, but a school choice tool is better

    In Chicago, like most big cities these days, there's no shortage of data available about the local public schools. A parent trying to find the best school for his or her children can find data about schools in at least five different places: the Chicago Public Schools website, the State Board of Education's website, the Chicago Tribune's school report card section, Northern Illinois University's Interactive School Report Card and the "Five Essentials" site operated by...

    Continue Reading

  • Symbolia: Process and challenge for the comics journalism startup

    After a decade in news, Symbolia co-founder and publisher Erin Polgreen is adjusting to startup life. And, judging by the vigorous press coverage, it’s not all bad. Plus, there’s the actual work, which is also nice. “Operating as a start up is great because we can change course quickly if we need to,” says Polgreen, who launched Symbolia last week. “There’s not a lot of weight or infrastructure holding us back.” That ability to change...

    Continue Reading

  • 'Freehadists' and The Daily's demise: 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. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest focal points of conversation this week was—of course—about The Daily. This tweet from Jeff Jarvis expertly sums up the situation: everyone has something to say about it. Over on All Things Digital, Peter Kafka argued that...

    Continue Reading

  • Automated journalism prototypes

    The Knight Lab takes new, innovative ideas wherever we can find them — conferences, quick chats with industry folks, academics, students, etc. But one of the surest places for us to look is Northwestern’s Innovation in Journalism and Technology class. Sure, it’s close to home, but it’s also unique because we get to see prototypes in action — a rarity when discussing ideas and innovation in journalism. As Larry Birnbaum, a Lab co-founder who co-teaches...

    Continue Reading

  • NewsFoo 2012: What we learned, where we're going

    We wanted to take advantage of the great brains assembled at last week's News Foo event, so we proposed a panel to suss out "big questions in journalism" that the lab should tackle. As might be expected from an unconference, the conversation ranged a lot more widely than our official topic. For starters, a number of folks had general questions about how the Lab works: Who are your stakeholders? Will your tools mostly be journalist-facing...

    Continue Reading

  • Ignite #NewsFoo 2012: 'Design is the missing link'

    Over the weekend, some of the Knight Lab team participated in News Foo, an unconference at the Cronkite School of Journalism, hosted by O’Reilly Media and the Knight Foundation. It's in its third year, deliberately maintains small – somewhat controversial – attendee list of about 150 "campers," all of which are involved in technology and/or journalism an interesting ways. It was overwhelming and exciting and we feel incredibly grateful have had the opportunity to participate. I...

    Continue Reading

  • 'Bottomless' stories, Instagram mashup and more: 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, one of the stories I found most interesting was that magazine publisher Future is reportedly selling $1 million in tablet magazines per month. I know how much I dislike tablet magazine designs for the most part so that seemed like a...

    Continue Reading

  • New team member: Director of Software Engineering

    Joe Germuska We are pleased to announce that Joe Germuska will be joining the Lab as the Director of Software Engineering. He joins us from The Chicago Tribune, where he has worked as a news apps developer for the past couple of years, and brings with him twenty years of software design and development experience. We are all atingle with excitement. In his tenure at The Chicago Tribune, Germuska was instrumental in building out their crime, elections and schools applications, among...

    Continue Reading

  • Evening Edition's big rush to return to slow news

    The beauty of startup life is how quickly things happen. For Evening Edition — a journalism startup dedicated, ironically, to slow news —quick meant taking a spark of an idea from a Wednesday night Twitter conversation, building it, and launching the product four days later. “In less than a week’s time we went from a joke on twitter, to something that was live and people could subscribe to,” says Jim Ray, one of Evening Edition’s co-founders....

    Continue Reading

  • Alan Taylor's journey from technologist to journalist

    Alan Taylor, photo editor and curator of The Atlantic’s InFocus, hadn’t planned to become a journalist. But he did just that a few years ago while working as a programmer for Boston.com. For years, he’d been using interesting pictures to craft photographic series for friends and family. “I seemed to have a knack for seeing these jumbled photographs and putting them in an order that felt right,” Taylor says. “It may not be chronological, but...

    Continue Reading

  • Twitter on technology and journalism

    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. Read the inaugural post below: If you’ve been following the news this week, you’ve surely seen news of David Petraeus’ resignation following news of his affair. What is most incredible about this story is how investigators unearthed the affair using data...

    Continue Reading

  • Knight Lab's MozFest 2012 wrap up

    Last week, a significant portion of the Knight Lab team was fortunate enough to join the Mozilla Festival in London, November 9-12. This incredible event, hosted by the Mozilla Foundation, is in its third year and intends to motivate an entire generation of web makers. As far as we can tell, they are doing this job well. In fact, during the Sunday morning keynote, Mozilla's executive director, Mark Surman shared an anecdote that an attendee had likened #MozFest to #SXSWi in its early...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest: What the heck is a hack?

    This year’s MozFest offered a session titled Jumping between Hacks and Hackers Communities, so as one of the newly appointed organizers of the Chicago Hacks Hackers I decided to attend and meet some people in the same ship. OK, really I just wanted to ask them for some pointers since I have found it to be a challenge getting Chicagoans in consistent enough attendance to build a community. Mariano from Buenos Aires showed us a...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest: Turning data in to a story in three hours? Almost.

    This year at MozFest, I responded to a “call for help” from three African nations to solve the mysterious drop in life expectancy they experienced. In a session called “Data Expeditions: Scout the Data Landscape with our Data Sherpas” (organized by a caped Michael Bauer) all participants split into groups to research and tell a story. My group, made of people with diverse backgrounds, reminded me how valuable a wide variety of skill sets can...

    Continue Reading

  • Oh, the places you'll go, Hacker Journalists!

    My, how far we've come. We, meaning the OpenNews community. A little over a year ago, I was sitting in Berlin with 20 amazing, talented individuals — five of whom were to be the first OpenNews fellows — and five of the best news organizations in the world. Gunner, Michelle Thorne, Mark Surman, Ryan Merkley, Dan Sinker (and his beard) were all in attendance. We called our event #hacktoberfest, and it was the penultimate stage...

    Continue Reading

  • One person's work, another's new idea at MozFest

    I have a rocky relationship with note taking. In middle school, my teachers encouraged me to copy their presentation slides word for word, insisting that putting pen to paper would help me retain information. I quickly realized that I would learn nothing that way, and I still struggle to note important and interesting events because in the most interesting moments, note-taking is the last thing I want to think about. This weekend, MozFest showed me...

    Continue Reading

  • Dan on Data at MozFest

    I spent a lot of time at MozFest thinking about data and how we can use it as journalists. Here’s a quick recap of the sessions I attended and the lessons I learned. Data Expeditions More than 50 journalists and engineers followed a group of  “data sherpas” in to a role-playing game-style hack on datasets in the “Data Expeditions” session. The three-hour session was intended to be a hack and teams — consisting of storytellers,...

    Continue Reading

  • MozFest's maker mantra

    MozFest. Man, so hard to describe what this thing is. I don’t want gush too much, but it’s been a great weekend so far. I was intimidated coming in to the festival. The maker ethos here is strong and as a words guy I didn’t think I had the right cred to properly collaborate with the coders and designers. I can cobble together some HTML, shoot photos, and edit video, but generally words are my...

    Continue Reading

  • TweetCast knows (probably) who gets your vote

    Today the Knight Lab quietly took the wraps off a project that seeks to uncover a secret most Americans hold — who we plan to vote for in this week’s presidential election. The project, Tweet Cast Your Vote (tweetcast.knightlabproject.com), is experimental, but accurately predicts the candidate Twitter users plan to vote for up to 80 percent of the time. For now the tool is an interesting experience for the user — a sort of political...

    Continue Reading

  • @KnightLab gets a new voice

    Stephen Autar Stephen is the Knight Lab’s newest student fellow and he’ll be running our Twitter handle for the next several months. We’d originally planned to shamelessly steal the @Sweden model, recruiting a rotating cast of slightly off beat, moderately offensive contributors. But the idea has evolved over the last few weeks, and we think will Stephen will be running the show through the end of the year and maybe longer. So, who is Stephen?...

    Continue Reading

  • Gold coins for tablet users

    This afternoon a team from Medill and Poynter presented their findings on an Eye Track Study for tablets, that sought to answer two questions: 1) How do people choose what to read, and 2) How do they go about reading. It’s clearly a difficult riddle to unravel, but the team — Mario Garcia, Jeremy Gilbert, Dave Stanton, Sara Quinn — managed to suss out some themes, interesting ideas, and solid takeaways for designers and developers...

    Continue Reading

  • The Knight Lab goes to Menlo

    Last month, we kidnapped the entire Knight Lab team on a road trip to Michigan to visit Menlo Innovations and take their popular course Project Management: The Menlo Way—or as we fondly to refer to the trip, forced family fun time. Normally a three-day workshop, Menlo arranged a one-day intensive course for our small group. Located in large, open-floor-planned basement with concrete floors and a sizeable glass wall at the entrance, Menlo is unlike the...

    Continue Reading

  • Following @Sweden's bold example

    Remember all the fun and trouble caused when Sweden gave regular old citizens control of @sweden on Twitter? Yup, we do too. And since it seems like the embarrassment to entertainment value bends toward entertainment we’re doing the same thing with @KnightLab. Starting next month @KnightLab will be handed to Northwestern students for a month at a time. Since Northwestern students are a pretty bright lot we’ve got some confidence that we’re making a good...

    Continue Reading

  • Knight Lab wins an Online Journalism Award for Congressional Primaries

    The Knight Lab won an award at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco last week! We won in the Planned News/Event category for our work on Congressional Primaries. The project was a ton of work and literally everyone in the Lab contributed code, research, partnership development, or publicity so it was nice to get some recognition for such a collaborative effort. Thanks also to the broadcasters and publishers around the state who adopted...

    Continue Reading

  • TimlineJS deployed more than 1,500 times, new features

    In March the Knight Lab released TimelineJS. By June, journalists around the world had picked it up and used it to tell some of the biggest stories in the country. All told, more than 1,500 sites have used the technology. With all that adoption TimelineJS’s developer, Zach Wise, has added new features, resources, and even a new license that hopefully makes TimelineJS available to even more people. First, a quick overview new features: Languages — TimelineJS...

    Continue Reading

  • TwxRay taken to task on Twitter

    Last week the Knight Lab released a beta version of twXray and received some tough Twitter feedback. We knew, of course, that twxRay was fallible, but it’s another thing to have it out in the world. At any rate, a run down of where it stumbled: You can trick TwxRay with a tweet that takes a common word and applies it in a unique context. A tweet about Tom Cruise may be categorized as travel...

    Continue Reading

  • Discover what you (or anyone else) tweets about most

    The Knight News Innovation Lab at Northwestern University launched technology this week that brings transparency and insight to any Twitter feed. twXray (pronounced “twix-ray”) analyzes and categorizes tweets in a user’s Twitter feed to identify the topics they tweet about most – from politics to food to energy to sports. Users simply enter a Twitter handle into twXray.knightlabprojects.com and the site retrieves the most recent few hundred tweets, analyzes them, and produces a chart about...

    Continue Reading

  • Miranda Mulligan to head Knight Lab

    EVANSTON, Ill., June 28, 2012 — Miranda Mulligan, a seasoned innovator in journalism, education and news web design, has been named executive director of Northwestern University's Knight News Innovation Laboratory. The lab, which brings together journalists and computer scientists, aims to develop innovative technologies to be used by journalists, publishers and citizens locally, in the U.S. and abroad. Miranda Mulligan "This is an incredible team to be joining, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to further...

    Continue Reading

  • Finding the "Local Angle"

    Who says a local story has to happen locally? The Knight Lab has released the first generation of Local Angle, an application that helps content curators and consumers discover articles that may be of local interest even if they don’t originate locally.  The application associates articles with information such as a newsmaker’s birthplace or a company’s headquarters city. The goal is to spot content from around the web that may be of particular interest to...

    Continue Reading

  • TimelineJS picked up by storytellers worldwide, some examples

    Back in March the Knight Lab partnered with Medill Associate Professor Zach Wise (a former staffer at The New York Times and part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Las Vegas Sun) to launch a product that was then known as Timeline. In the 2.5 months since the launch, Timeline has grown and adapted to user needs and the marketplace. For starters, the name changed from Timeline to Timeline JS – a move that...

    Continue Reading

  • Wrap on NATO in Chicago Project

    The Knight News Innovation Lab has just wrapped up its latest project: NATO in Chicago. In addition learning quite a bit about the interplay between Twitter and mainstream news and recognizing some interesting Twitter trends (read all about that here), the Knight Lab also caught the interest of Chicago media. WTTW invited Knight Lab executive director Michael A. Silver to appear on Chicago Tonight to talk about the project, social media, and the evolution of...

    Continue Reading

  • NATO in Chicago Deployment

    If you want to know what people around the world are saying about the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, head to www.natoinchicago.com, a website created by staff and students from the Knight News Innovation Lab at Northwestern University. The technology behind the website spots, sorts and analyzes what protestors, leaders, city residents and other groups are saying about the NATO Summit on Twitter. It also aggregates and presents traditional media coverage from around the globe,...

    Continue Reading

  • Journalists begin adopting TimelineJS

    About three weeks ago the Knight Lab introduced Timeline – a tool that enables journalists to quickly and easily create good-looking, interactive timelines. Word of Timeline slipped out a few days before we formally announced the product on Twitter on March 21 and followed up with a press release on March 23. A week later Twitter feedback made it clear that Timeline’s developer and Medill faculty member Zach Wise had created something particularly useful. Links...

    Continue Reading

  • New tool: An easy way to build attractive timelines

    Timelines are a great tool for drawing readers into stories and the Knight Lab is pleased to introduce a great tool for creating them. Our timeline builder was created by Zach Wise, who last year joined the Medill faculty from the New York Times.   In teaching students to deploy timelines, Wise found there wasn’t a satisfactory tool that met current needs.  Working with the Knight Lab, he created one of his own and it’s now...

    Continue Reading

  • Partners go live with Congressional primaries technology

    Over the past week we’ve been excited to watch a number of news organizations around Illinois (14 to be exact) complete implementation of our Congressional Primaries 2012 technology on their sites. We’ve ended up with a diverse group of partners—from niche neighborhood publishers, to down state broadcasters, to the big traditional players in Chicago. Elements of the CongressionalPrimaries.org service—either as complete pages or widgets—have been incorporated into the following sites: Daily newspapers Chicago Sun-Times Daily...

    Continue Reading

  • Congressional Primaries 2012: ONA award submission

    In early 2012 the Knight News Innovation Laboratory at Northwestern University developed CongressionalPrimaries.org, a suite of technologies to help news organizations around Illinois cover the Congressional primaries. Sixteen news organizations used the Lab's tools to augment traditional election coverage or to present readers with ready-made profiles of every congressional primary candidate in Illinois who had a social media footprint. There were 25 contested primaries in Illinois this year – the first campaigns in districts that...

    Continue Reading

  • Opening the door to our Congressional primaries site

    Today, we removed password protection from the beta version of our Congressional Primaries website and moved its homepage to congressionalprimaries.org. We think we’ve put together a good showcase for our set of tools that publishers can utilize to supplement traditional coverage of elections, which we outlined last month. It’s still a work in progress—and will continue to be throughout the weeks leading up to the March 20 primary in Illinois. Our first order of business...

    Continue Reading

  • What's in our toolkit for Congressional primaries?

    This week we are releasing details of the services we’re creating to enhance coverage of the March 20 primaries that will choose Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress in Illinois. The Lab is actively monitoring digital activity surrounding the 25 contested races across the state’s 18 congressional districts.  As we said when we announced the project in December, our goal is to help voters better understand what the candidates stand for and where they are...

    Continue Reading

  • Building tools for covering Congressional primaries

    Spurring technology innovation in the way elections are covered will be an ongoing initiative at the Knight Lab, and the March 20 primaries in Illinois provide a great place for us to start. (See project page here.) Thanks to redistricting and successive "wave" elections that brought many new faces to Congress in 2006, 2008, and 2010, there will be hotly contested Republican and Democratic contests throughout the state on March 20, 2012. The races will...

    Continue Reading

  • Results of the first publisher survey released

    One of the first challenges the Knight Lab undertook after really getting started this summer was to try to understand some of the challenges and opportunities facing Chicago-area publishers. We wanted to know what publishers were capable of, what their priorities were, and what they'd like to accomplish next as their sites grow. With these objectives in mind, we sent out an online survey in late September. By mid October 44 percent of the publishers...

    Continue Reading

  • A Welcome to the Lab's Advisory Board

    Because we're located at Northwestern University, the Knight Lab has the benefit of frequent interaction with a bunch of really smart and creative students and faculty. With the hiring of relationships manager Ryan Graff, we've begun to gear up our ongoing dialogue with publishers in the Chicagoland area. But everyone can use some outside advice, and to help us in that task we've assembled an advisory board of talented individuals with deep expertise and diverse...

    Continue Reading

subscribe via RSS