Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

What a night

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Wow. Tonight’s primaries were unprecedented, unpredictable and pretty much everything in between. As it stands, Bill Brady is leading in the GOP governor primary, while Pat Quinn leads for the Democrats. A total of 99 percent of the precincts are in. But Republican Kirk Dillard and Democrat Dan Hynes are not far behind and both vow to fight, fight, fight. This could be settled in court and take months. The race for Democratic comptroller is also coming down to the wire. State Rep. David Miller is in the lead at the moment, but Raja Krishnamoorthi also vows to keep the battle going. The races for lieutenant governor are also–you guessed it–strikingly close. While it’s possible these races could be decided in the next few hours (it’s all ready 1:15 a.m. as it is), I highly doubt it.

Interestingly enough, the Republican party has a unity breakfast tomorrow. That should be interesting…

Anyways, I spent the night covering two other races: the 18th Congressional District and the 19th Congressional District. Things really picked up around 8:30 p.m. because our first deadline was an hour later. We got our stories up and then had to quickly update them for our 10:30 p.m. deadline. After that, we had to update the stories as the final results came in. Fortunately, my races were decided fairly early, at least compared to the governor races.

Between phone calls and frenzied typing, I helped tweet on behalf of Lee Enterprises (@Illinois_Stage). Between Mike and I, we put up a ton of tweets, got in some political conversations with locals and picked up 15 new followers! And many of our newspapers did a great job promoting the feed on their web page. The Pantagraph, for instance, put a nice, colorful teaser on the front page, under the main articles:

The Southern embeded the feed on their front page, just off to the right of the lead articles:

The Herald & Review also embeded our feed on their election page, but that has since been taken down.

We followed the race closely by basically clicking refresh on the result pages for hours on end. My eyes were in pain and honestly, it’s a miracle I’m staring at the computer right now. We finally left at 12:30 p.m., a few hours after our deadlines. Much uncertainty, however, still remains in some of the night’s most important races.

Well I’m running out of steam, so I’m going to end while I’m ahead. It was a fun night but also stressful. But I made it out alive and will live to see another day!

Be on the look out for more updates to come in the next few days…

Google Fast Flip irony

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I met to post this sooner but didn’t. Anyways, on Monday I posted about the new “Fast Flip” tool on Google News that allows users to surf the news using a flip-book style navigation system. Instead of just text, the new tool allows users to flip through pictures of articles as they appear on their publication’s web site. Well, a controversy soon popped up. On Monday morning, just days after the tool was added to Google News, it was revealed that “Fast Flip” was showing a picture of a topless model in its “most viewed” section. SearchEngineLand reported on it Monday morning and by the afternoon, the article was gone. But later that night, when I was searching Google News I noticed the SearchEngineLand article itself was now being shown in the “most viewed” section of the site. So while Google managed to delete the topless model from it’s “most viewed” section, an article about the topless model being in Google’s “most viewed section” was now being shown in Google’s “most viewed section.” Got all of that? Maybe a screenshot would help:

That, folks, is a screen shot of a screen shot…

And that’s my ironic post of the week.

Written by csessig

January 13, 2010 at 8:57 pm

The future of online news-gathering?

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Google has quickly become the go-to web site for journalists and news gathers alike because it takes everything that is great about the search engine and implements it into a thriving, robust news cooperative. But fortunately for us, Google News is not done evolving. In the last month, the company has unveiled a few new, flashy features that may change news-gathering forever. Well…maybe not. But check them out:

1. “Fast Flip” – Google News received a face-lift last Friday with the addition of the “Fast Flip” option at the bottom of their homepage. The new option allows readers to browse the news by flipping through images of articles as they appear on their publication’s web site. Images can be sorted by region, publication, popularity, etc. This is similar to the options already utilized at Google News. Here’s a screen shot I captured earlier today:

Apparently “Fast Flip” was rolled this out in September over at Google Labs, a sub-site that showcases “experiments” designed by Google developers before they officially make it into Google.com. But on Friday the “experiment” became an official part of the news page. And I believe Google News is all the better for it.

This trend of image-heavy, online news publications is growing. The Chicago Tribune launched a new web site a few months ago that vastly increased the number of images on its front page. Now, almost every main article on the front page is accompanied with an image. And I don’t think the Huffington Post even bothers putting anything online unless they have a stock photo that can be tagged with the article.

This trend will likely continue into the new year. People love photos and they are naturally drawn to web sites that are image happy. And be on the look out for videos to play a more important role on publication web sites, as well. YouTube News is a great example of what some newspapers may latch onto in the coming months.

2. Living Stories – Still in the developer stage on Google Labs is “Living Stories,”a so-called “experiment in presenting news, one designed specifically for the online environment.” Basically a Living Story is a mini-web site devoted to a single topic hosted by a news organization. Content includes images, articles and timelines, and each page is designed with Google’s easy navigation in mind. Topics range from the War in Afghanistan to the NFL Playoffs. Unfortunately only two newspapers are currently participating in the “experiment,” the New York Times and the Washington Post. But the experiment is still young, leaving plenty of time for growth.

The last 12 hours has seen a flurry of activity, leaving me very hopeful for the future. In fact, two living stories have been updated in the time I left for work and now. Hopefully developers find the time to stretch this new technology to the fullest…

As is customary with Google, they released a video to accompany the launch of the web site. It’s pretty self-explanatory but at least it’s short. Check it out:

Oh, and sorry for the really cliche headline.

Written by csessig

January 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm