Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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SNDBoston: Making Data Webby

with Adrian Holovaty! This is the highlight for me, since my background is more programming and I’m defenitely a huge geek. Seeing Adrian speak was the deciding factor in coming to SND.

How to take data and make it efficient in terms of how the hypertext is laid out. Example: Wikipedia = Serendipity

Journalists are essentially collectors of data.

Rant #1 No serendipity in online journalism. Bullshit!
Data browseability: people want it and expect it. (IMDB, Amazon.com)

Serendipity increases stickiness and usefulness.

It all starts with structure. Have a structured list of data (facts) like an Excel spreadsheet. Journalists take clean data and turn it into a story. Computer programs can’t read the story. News orgs have the infrastructure to collect data, edit and verify the data and get the data to people. But they don’t leverage the data!

Lesson #1 Structure your data
Everything has structure. Sports. Obits. Even photos: subject, photographer, where, when, camera, size, colors (Flickr)

After the structure, the easy part.

Lesson #2 Give your data “the treatment”
Example: crime data
Step 1: lists fields (date, time, type, address, location, arrests, case number)
Step 2: key concepts (what data is useful? date, time, type, address, location)
Step 3: make breakdowns (list all possible values for each field)
Step 4: make list pages (pages for each value in each field)
Step 5: detail pages (pages for each crime)

Things to note
– Permalinks for concepts (distinct URL) linkability/bookmarkability
– SEO
– Serendipity

Example sites: chicagocrime.org, Faces of the Fallen, Video Game Reviews, Mixed Messages.

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Typography Documentary: Helvetica

While not on my top 5 movies to see list, this sounds really cool. Even though I don’t see Helvetica used often on the Web, it should still provide some good insight as to how and why to use different typefaces.

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. Helvetica will begin screening at film festivals worldwide starting in March, followed by cinema screenings across the US and Europe, and the DVD release.

Sidenote: I keep being told by other students (not by teachers) that Tahoma is the preferred and most professional typeface for the Web. Yet, I don’t see many sites using Tahoma. Tahoma is not one of the “safe fonts” and

is very similar to Verdana but with a narrower body, less generous counters, tighter letterspacing, and a more complete Unicode character set. (Wikipedia)

My confusion is that the people I’ve heard this from are capable Web designers. Why are they insisting on using a non-safe font that looks almost exactly like Verdana, which is safe?

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Mavs ride into the Web with a Wiki

From Micro Persuasion:

The Dallas Mavericks have a wiki where fans are encouraged to document games and submit photographs. This may be the first wiki in professional sports.

From MavsWiki:

The Official MavsWiki is a collaboration of Mavs history, official stats and the all important FAN perspective. Editing of this site is open to all and we encourage everyone to share thoughts, comments and photos of their experiences with the Dallas Mavericks.

Now that’s citizen journalism. What would happen if the same idea was applied to online news?

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Gainesville, Gainesville

I saw this last week, in the parking lot next to what used to be T.I.S. Bookstore and is now Textbook Brokers. As I walked past, I had the sense to pull out my phone and snap a picture (I would have stopped to talk but I was running late for class).

He called after me, and asked me to pull a didgeridoo out of the knapsack leaned against the wall. I did and handed it to him, and he proceeded to continue hula hooping while playing the instrument.

This is why I love Gainesville.

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News Resources

Former President Ford’s death resulted, among the large headlines and formal events, in a post at LostRemote, with recommended resources for news coverage.

Here are some resources to help with coverage in the next few days: Website for the Ford Library, Official page for condolences, UCSB archive of Ford presidential papers (excellent historical resource with transcripts of significant papers), official biography, Wikipedia bio, TIME article from Sept. 9, 1974, famous quotes.

This kind of thing should be automatic shouldn’t it? When I think about the resources available to newspapers, beyond what’s available to the public, it makes me dizzy.

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And We’re Back!

Sorry for the absence folks, I had three finals on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, plus some projects to finish up before the end of the semester.

My Web site is now live!

Having business cards made has already turned out to be a great idea. I ran into a couple of people the other day who are in excellent positions to help me out in my attempts to get internships, clips, and general newsroom experience.

The last bit of required reading for classes struck me as an excellent post topic: The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism

It’s a great read, full of applications of citizen journalism to traditional media frames. From allowing public comment on any article to incorporating citizen contributions to the newsroom as a wiki, Steve Outing’s article advocates embracing citizen contributions instead of trying to fight them.

What do you think of citizen journalism? Will incorporating CJ make or break the newspaper industry?