Chris Essig

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

Posts Tagged ‘Google

Google declares Living Stories a success

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Almost two months ago, I blogged about an innovative news-gathering format being tested at Google called Living Stories. At the time, the New York Times and Washington Post were experimenting with the format. Well, a few weeks back Google declared the experiment a success and opened it up to the public. Specifically, Google is open-sourcing the code, allowing developers to create their own “living stories” using Google technology.

As I noted when I first blogged about it, Living Stories has a lot of potential. It basically allows newspapers to create a web site for specific issues they cover extensively. Along with written stories, newspapers can add images, links, timelines and more to the web page. The advantage of the technology is basically being able to store all of this content into one place. Navigation is also a snap, allowing for an easy, and informative, reader experience.

From Google:

The basic idea of a living story is to combine all of the news coverage on a running story on a single page. Every day, instead of writing a new article on the story that sits at a new URL and contains some new developments and some old background, a living story resides at a permanent URL, that is updated regularly with new developments. This makes it easier for readers to get the latest updates on the stories that interest them, as well as to review deeper background materials that are relevant for a story’s context.

The Post, for instance, put together a number of interactive stories, including one on area schools. The Times covered the N.F.L. playoffs. Basically any issue or topic that a newspaper covers extensively can be utilized.

The only question is how difficult it will be to create stories, especially for non-techy journos. I haven’t tested it out myself, so I can’t answer that question. But hopefully we’ll know for sure in the next few months as newspapers begin experimenting.

For more background, here is a video from Google:

Image posted by Flickr user psd. It is used under a Creative Commons license.

Written by csessig

March 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Housekeeping matters

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1. So I’m finally switching over to Gmail after almost ten years with Hotmail. I checked my account information, and I opened up my Hotmail account on March 13, 2000, at the ripe age of 13. I really should have made this transition long ago because Gmail is just fantastic. But a few things caused me to cave in just now:

  • Google groups. I’ve been invited to two just this week, and they are so simple but effective.
  • Google Buzz. I haven’t really used this capability yet but it seems full of potential.
  • Chat. I have used chat in the past and it’s great.
  • Organization. All e-mails in Gmail and their replies are keep in the same thread, making navigation and organization incredibly easy.
  • MSN stagnation. Hotmail hasn’t changed it’s outlook significantly in 10 years. Think about that for a second.
  • iGoogle. I use Google Maps, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google News, which all can be conveniently organized using iGoogle. Why not just complete the package?
  • Google. It’s just better.

My new account is csessig@gmail.com.

As expected, the transition will take a lot of time and probably cause some headaches along the way. But I think the switch will be for the better.

2. The transition has caused me to change my pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the list goes on and on and on. And that doesn’t include all the e-mail subscriptions that I’ve gathered over the years…Of course, I’ve also had to tweak my web page slightly. But the biggest change I’ve made to the site today is adding a link to Publish2. A quick look:

For those journalists out there that haven’t yet heard of Publish2, go take a look. It’s basically a social networking web site for journalists (think Delicious), and, more importantly, a great tool to organize all of your newspaper clips from the Internet. It even has a toolbar add-on for Firefox, making it even easier to link pages to your Publish2 web page.

One of the most strenuous aspects of job hunting is finding the appropriate clips for the job. Of course, some clips will work better for some positions. Others won’t. This web site makes it incredibly easy to keep track of those clips, allowing journalists to fluidly go through them later. Seriously, go check it out.

And that’s it for the housekeeping matters. Useful posts coming soon.

Written by csessig

February 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm

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