Storytelling tools, collaboration, and open source in a student newsroom

Last fall, I took on the position of Creative Director at North by Northwestern (NBN), Northwestern University’s independent online publication on campus and culture. My main goal was to encourage our staff to take advantage of the web as a storytelling medium, especially since we have great multimedia and interactive teams here at NBN. During an editors meeting, I was asked to talk about just that – ways to tell excellent stories on the web. While it could have been just a fifteen minute talk with a follow-up email containing a list of helpful links, I saw an opportunity to make something that wouldn’t get lost in someone’s inbox and could be used as a reference guide regardless of our quarterly staff turnover.

Introducing NBN Web Tools (a work in progress):

web tools

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Building my first Chrome extension

I built my first Chrome extension! It replaces the text ‘you guys’ with ‘you babies’ (you can install it from the Chrome Web Store and find the code on GitHub).

I was inspired by this tweet from Ryan Gantz:

I’ve been meaning to make a silly find-and-replace words Chrome extensionfor awhile now, but I just haven’t been able to think of a good word or phrase. My personal favorites include Millennials to Snake People and Cloud to Butt. I’ve also seen some find-and-replace Chrome extensions that have an impact (though everyone needs a good chuckle every now...

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52 Books in 52 Weeks

In February 2014, I decided to read a book a week for a year.

It’s February 2015 and OH MY GOD I DID IT.

52books2014

What would possess a person to read 52 books in 52 weeks?

This time last year, I felt buried by school work and Chicago snow. I’d already abandoned whatever half-assed New Year’s Resolutions I jotted down in some journal. Then, I read this great Medium article by Julien Smith - he’s read a book a week for five years straight.

I like that he not only spoke about the benefits of doing such a massive challenge (building a “habit of completion”), but also listed concrete ways to achieve that goal, such as taking things “one day at a time” and making it a “routine.” Reading is something I’ve loved ever...

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Thoughts on "Fresh Off the Boat"

ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat premiered yesterday. When I initially saw the trailer, I had mixed feelings. I was pleasantly surprised that there was going to be a show about a Chinese family on American television. I found some of the scenes relatable and hilarious (the lunchroom necessity for white people food), but I was also worried that the show would just end up being extremely racist (FOB accents, kung fu, Tiger Moms and whatnot).

When I read some of Eddie Huang’s thoughts on the television adaptation of his memoir, I thought he was going to confirm my suspicions: “The network’s approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-American resembling moo goo gai pan.” He goes on to detail the problems he had with the writing and production in a lengthy 4000 word article. But at...

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WildHacks

It’s 10:53 AM on a Saturday morning. My friend Summer and I are attending our first intercollegiate hackathon - Wildhacks. We’ve secured a spot in the corner of the Northwestern Room on the second floor of the student center overlooking the Lakefill. We’ve also laid claim to a power strip.

wildhacks-corner

We’re not in this hackathon for the prize money - we’re doing it just to have the experience of building something in 24 hours or less, and also so we’ll be a little less scared of doing hackathons in the future. I’ll be liveblogging WildHacks just for shiggles.

11 AM

As expected, this hackathon is overwhelmingly male. The group of guys next to us have already requested a whiteboard (they were told that there’s a lot of paper that they can use).

...
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Conversation and Controversy at GHC14

megan smith

Last week, I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing for the first time. I was definitely overwhelmed by the 8000+ attendees, a mobile app’s worth of programs and panels, and the sheer size of the Phoenix Convention Center. But the general air of openness and camaraderie meant that I was still able to talk one-on-one with so many interesting women. The conference’s theme this year was “Everywhere, Everyone.” While that certainly inspired a lot of great conversations, it also prompted some backlash related to a few of the panels and speakers.

##Conversation Limited table seating makes for great introductions. I found myself sitting at a table on the third day with perfect strangers, talking with a Ph. D candidate who also worked full-time as a product manager, a UX designer and...

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A new blog

It’s a new school year and I figured it’s time to start a blog where I’ll actually write things instead of just reblogging Parks and Rec screencaps. This site was made following this tutorial - “Build a Blog with Jekyll and Github Pages.” Clark’s tutorial is easy to follow and he also details the advantages of a Jekyll-powered blog:

  • No database: all posts and pages are converted to static HTML prior to publication (good for loading speed)
  • No CMS: posts can be written in Markdown (so they can also be written in a web browser or while on-the-go)
  • Fast: makes fewer HTTP requests and since it’s serving static pages, the site doesn’t have to load a database
  • Minimal: your Jekyll site doesn’t contain features or functionality that you aren’t using

I also thought it would be a...

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