News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Tools

November 15, 2011

New drawing tools for Google Maps

Many news sites use Google Maps to illustrate stories or support interactive geo-related features. But sometimes the default tools for marking Google Maps (mainly various types of “pins”) are not enough to really make your point.

This week, Google introduced a new toolset for drawing on Google Maps…

The new drawing library lets you draw shapes, lines and markers on a Google Map. You can also annotate locations, hide or show overlays, and make shapes editable by users.

These drawing tools can be used for individual maps, or for applications or interactive features that include or generate Google Maps.

News organizations and journalists might use these tools to:

  • Indicate areas affected by an issue or event, such as crime statistics, foreclosures or school districts.
  • Illustrate and update breaking news, such as the locations of a wildfire or a police chase.
  • Crowdsource location-related stories, such as local storm damage.
  • Internally analyze location data as part of the newsgathering process.
  • Illustrate “what if” scenarios for development, floodplains, and more.


John Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb noted: “There’s a working demo embedded on the Google Geo Developers Blog. Try it out; it’s easy to use, but it’s surprisingly flexible. While it’s easy to make stupid doodles… the interface is quite precise.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

December 21, 2011

Feed the beast: Team-managing Google+ brand pages, Evernote for journalists

One of the hardest parts of the news business is “feeding the beast”—supplying a steady stream of quality content and engagement. Two recent articles shed light on how journalists and news organizations can use two popular and powerful online services to making feeding the news beast more efficient…

When Google launched brand pages last month, many news organizations quickly staked their turf. The catch was, only one person could administer a given brand page, and that had to be the account holder who set up the page.

With this week’s update to Google+, that’s changed. You can now specify up to 50 people as managers for any brand page. You can also transfer brand page ownership to a different Google+ user. These features will be a huge help for news publishers who are branching out into Google+ to deepen engagement and improve the visibility and findability of their content.

So news execs and staff responsible for social media and online engagement should check out ReadWriteWeb’s step-by-step guide to adding managers to Google+ brand pages.

Meanwhile, on the tech site Lockergnome, writer Kelly Clay explains how to use Evernote to be a better blogger. Her tips apply equally well to journalists or anyone who has to provide a steady stream of coverage.

Evernote is a “freemium” online service for capturing and annotating anything you might want to find or use later, via any internet-connected device, including smartphones.

Clay had been using a combination of tools to keep track of what she wanted to cover, and to produce her Lockergnome posts. Her old toolkit included a text editor, e-mail threads, browser bookmarks, and even paper notes. But she found herself overwriting files, or unable to successfully find stats or quotes when needed for specific stories.

“I was finding that my lack of an organizational system was getting chaotic—I was missing e-mails, losing notes, and missing stories because my incoming social media streams were sheerly overwhelming. I wasn’t necessarily doing things the best way—and I was wondering how I could be better.”

Then, at SXSW 2011, Clay heard author Tim Ferris mention that he relied on Evernote to help compile his latest book. While she didn’t immediately switch her processes to Evernote, that concept resonated with her. And over the next several months she shifted much of her research and writing process into Evernote.

“With Evernote, all your notes about a single article or topic can be in one place,” wrote Clay. “And since Evernote is based in the cloud, everything is saved automatically, and can by synced to other devices connected to your account.

“This has translated to the development of a notebook devoted specifically to LockerGnome blog posts, where I now create notes for any possible idea for a LockerGnome blog, whether this happens in my home office, at happy hour with friends, waiting for the bus, or anywhere else I have either Wi-Fi or 3G access. (Since Evernote is also on my iPhone, I can access and edit my blog post ideas anytime, anywhere.) I can drag and drop in links to references or research, quotes, pictures, or related thoughts I may have to build out the article over the course of a few days, and features like the Evernote extension for Chrome and my personal Evernote e-mail make it easy to add (or add to) notes in just a few clicks or taps.

“Previously I cranked out a blog post in just a few minutes (usually under 20), mostly because I didn’t have a system to organize resources related to a topic that was worthy of both explanation and analysis. There is something to be said for breaking news, but several other blogs have that beat covered. Evernote has allowed me to take time to develop stories over the course of the day, gathering resources and quotes and building upon ideas without feeling rushed that I need that space—that .txt doc or real estate on my screen—for another article.”

Evernote allows you to capture info in several ways—links, photos, audio, video, and more—and organize it on the fly with folders and tags. For group projects, you can also share specific folders with selected individuals. Journalists may want to consider paying for the premium version of Evernote ($45/year), which allows local storage for offline access to notebooks, as well as PDF text search.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 04, 2012

Storify experiments with adding Livefyre comments

In the curation-as-content movement, Storify has emerged as a leading tool for weaving coherent stories from disparate bits of digital media from social media and elsewhere. But so far, storified stories have been mostly self-contained content islands -- and not especially "social."

Today news comes that Storify has added an experimental new commenting feature...

ReadWriteWeb reports that Storify has quietly integrated the Livefyre commenting platform. (Storify hasn't announced this yet, but LiveFyre has.)

RWW's Marshall Kirkpatrick notes: "It only makes sense to allow Storify publishers to permit readers to comment on their collections, too. What was originally social becomes social again when commenting is turned on. Otherwise it feels oddly frozen in time."

This new feature is opt-in. Here's how you activate it:

  1. Log in to Storify.
  2. Click the down arrow next to your avatar (top right corner). Select "settings."
  3. On the settings page, select "labs" (bottom of menu on left)
  4. Check the box that says "Activate comments on my stories (powered by Livefyre)"

Kirkpatrick wrote: "Livefyre appears to have most of the same features that other platforms offer. (We use Disqus here at ReadWriteWeb. Echo is another leader in the field.) But there is at least one additional element: the ability to 'listen' to conversations without commenting on them publicly. Livefyre will e-mail you comments on posts you're listening to either in real time, hourly or daily depending on which you select."

Livefyre also supports comment moderation (and multiple moderators) and a social sync feature that automatically displays related Twitter and Facebook comments automatically -- which helps get around the issue that most people tend to comment via social media rather than directly on the site where a story is published.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 13, 2012

Follow the political money: New tool links organizations to bills they seek to influence

Always finding fun new ways to slice and dice campaign contribution data, this week MapLight (a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics) debuted company pages. This tool can help reporters and others tie contributions made by specific organizations to the bills they seek to influence…

So far this service covers contributions made to members of the U.S. Congress, as well as the state legislatures of California and Wisconsin.

Regarding money given to Congress, Maplight’s company pages profile the top 200 companies (including companies, trade associations, unions, and their employees), selected in terms of total contributions given to candidate campaign committees for members of Congress serving since Jan. 1, 2007.

Assessments of bill positions are based on Maplight’s research on bills introduced since the beginning of the 110th Congress

Maplight company pages also show total contributions from related companies and industries, as well as MapLight’s latest related research findings. Company page data is also published via RSS feed.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 24, 2012

NPR releases free Project Argo WordPress tools for topical news sites

When a news topic gets popular, it might make sense to give it some special online treatment. NPR recently published its Project Argo toolkit for creating topic-focused websites using the popular free open source content management system WordPress.

Matt Thompson, Editorial Product Manager for Project Argo, explained how news organizations and others can use these tools…

Project Argo is a collection of sites, each produced by a full-time journalist-blogger (or, in some cases, a blended teams of full- and part-time journalists). Examples include Ecotrope (Oregon Public Broadcasting), Mind/Shift (KQED) and DCentric (WAMU). Each site focuses on reporting and aggregating news about a single topic of ongoing interest in the host station’s city.

Stations feed their work into NPR’s application programming interface (API), through which all Project Argo reporter-editors can easily access each other’s work. This allows them to “inform, enrich and add context as they produce their stories.” Project Argo is funded by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

According to Thompson, NPR hopes this collection of open source tools and best practices will be useful to anyone seeking tools, themes, lessons learned, or inspiration for:

  • Niche websites
  • Blogs
  • WordPress sites
  • Web reporting projects

...Or any combination of those types of projects.

Thompson explained the three main types of tools offered:

1. Code and plugins. Over the past year NPR developed several WordPress plugins to make blogging easier for Argo journalist-bloggers. These include:

  • Jiffy Post, which “allows people to quickly post links with a super-simple—almost Tumblrish—workflow.”
  • Slideshow, “a low-footprint, flexible photo gallery plugin that extends the functionality of the native WordPress gallery functionality.”
  • Audio player, “Built with HTML5 so it’s compatible with your iPad and your MacBook Air.”
  • Media credit, which provides extra options for metadata and rights management for images.

NPR also is working on two more Project Argo plugins: link roundup and a plugin to make it easier to embed DocumentCloud documents in WordPress.

2. Themes. Thompson said that NPR web designer Wes Lindamood developed a series of “gorgeous, robustly-featured themes for the Argo sites—with fresh typography, sophisticated content promotion, myriad formatting options, etc. For the open-source release, he prepared a highly extensible foundation theme and three child themes to demonstrate some of the different ways that foundation could be modified. All four of those themes are freely available for folks to use and customize.”

3. Lessons and documentation. “Even for folks who aren’t using WordPress, or aren’t developing a niche site, we’ve tried to share a lot of what we learned over the course of the Argo pilot. We’ve compiled pretty much everything we wrote or presented into the open source site, and bundled up our overall lessons into four wrap-up posts on the Argo blog.”

But wait, there’s more! Thompson noted that people in public media who are interested in creating an Argo-style site but who don’t want to take on the overhead of supporting it, “NPR Digital Services will be offering to host, support and train member stations to develop these sites. That training is coming in Spring 2012.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 03, 2012

FreeDive: new searchable online database tool from KDMC-UCB

Today the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California-Berkeley released a simple tool to make data searchable on the web…

FreeDive uses the Google Visualization API to generate a widget that can be embedded in a website. To use it, post your data online in a Google Spreadsheet. Then, configure your widget and link it to the spreadsheet.

Within your widget, people can search your dataset, view a table of results,  filter those results, and click on column labels to sort the table. Widget users cannot save or print results, however.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

June 12, 2012

New Facebook plugin for WordPress: Expand community engagement on your site

Many community and niche media websites rely on the WordPress content management system, and on Facebook as a key community engagement tool. A new plugin announced today makes it easier to integrate Facebook features into Wordpress sites…

According to Facebook engineer Matt Kelly, the Facebook for Wordpress plugin requires no coding skills to install or configure. It’s also mobile-friendly and supports internationalization (especially useful for many ethnic media outlets).

“Once the plugin is installed, you can cross-post content published to WordPress to your Facebook Timeline and the Facebook Pages you manage. You can also mention the names of Pages and friends as you post to further distribute your content.”

For instance, with this plugin installed, if you mention a Facebook friend in a post to your WordPress site, that post automatically appears on that friend’s Facebook timeline.

In addition to this plugin, Facebook also offers several WordPress widgets which can integrate Facebook commenting into your site, display a custom activity feed )so people can see their friends’ activity on your site) and more.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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