News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Open Source

September 01, 2010

OpenBlock launches demo site for Boston

On Aug. 26, the OpenBlock project launched its first demo site, serving the Boston area in partnership with the Boston Globe.

This project is the open-source successor to EveryBlock, a Knight News Challenge-funded project that was acquired by MSNBC one year ago. OpenBlock is “an open-source software initiative to bring hyperlocal news and data capabilities to news organizations of all sizes.”

Here’s how this project could benefit all news organizations…

OpenPlans (a nonprofit technology organization focused on civic engagement and open government) is developing OpenBlock. In June, Information Today reported: “Now, through three interrelated Knight-funded projects, OpenPlans is, according to Nick Grossman (the company’s director of civic works) aiming to ‘take [EveryBlock’s] source code and make it better and easier to use, so that other online news organizations can build similar sites in their towns.’”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded its OpenBlock Initiative through three grants totaling $458,625, to:

  • “Streamline and extend the EveryBlock code base and build a community of open source software developers and newspapers who can use and improve the software.”
  • “Install and test OpenBlock at The Columbia Tribune (Columbia, MO), and add new features in the context of a smaller newspaper.”
  • “Install and test OpenBlock at The Boston Globe, to add new features in the context of a larger newspaper.”

The Boston OpenBlock demo site is fairly minimal so far. The OpenBlock Project blog says that there are “plenty of known rough spots. The home page map doesn’t have popups yet, the theme could use work, and there are some broken pages. And there are no maps on pages other than the front page.”

News organizations of all sizes should keep an eye on this project, explore the test sites as they develop, and offer input to the development team. Such participation will help make make OpenBlock a more useful, practical tool for news organizations. And perhaps a lucrative tool, as well—OpenBlock is an example of a structured information service that could support the news business model through new kinds of data-supported products.

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.

April 06, 2012

KnightApps.org: Open source software from Knight News Challenge winners

Over the last several years, the News Challenge projects funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have produced open source software that journalists, news outlets and anyone can put to use. These tools are now easy to find, all in one place…

KnightApps.org showcases software such as Ushahidi (crowdmapping), DocumentCloud (index, share, annotate and publish source documents), Panda (data analysis) and more. You can learn how this software is being used. Also, you can download the source code to customize, improve, or expand upon this software.

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