How we built (and iterated) North by Northwestern’s Year in Media 2015

North by Northwestern’s Year in Media is an annual collaborative and interactive project in which writers reflect on developments in news, tech, sports, politics, entertainment, and pop culture. Since we’ve never really stuck to a single design or workflow, this year was an opportunity to iterate and experiment. Here is how we built NBN’s Year in Media 2015 across timezones and behind firewalls.

Both the 2014 and 2015 Year in Media projects are built using Middleman, which is a static site generator that makes web development really easy (plus it’s the static site generator I’m most familiar with). Last year, I used the Middleman Google Drive gem to make our backend a shared Google spreadsheet, and while it allowed for easier collaboration, it also introduced a lot of confusion in terms of data entry. This...

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Year in Review 2015

An incomplete series of lists detailing what I wrote, built, read, and watched in 2015. I also wrote a more ~real~ reflection of my year on Medium.

Projects Completed:

Things Written:

Medium posts

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console me

My laptop has been a steady companion for the last three years. Sure, the battery has deteriorated since I was a wide-eyed freshman, but it has otherwise never given me any problems. Until today, when the space bar decided that it’d had enough and would press itself to its heart’s content without the slightest provocation. I could barely type a URL in Chrome without the cursor making a mad dash to the right of the screen. I was stuck at the bottom of any website, the cursor still blinking madly as it tried to go beyond the end of the webpage.

Nothing wrong with the key itself, the Apple store guy at our campus bookstore told me. Then he said the four worst words I’ve ever heard besides “We’re out of guac”: “It’s a hardware issue.” This meant separation, and...

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This Audio Hackathon

In today’s blog post, insights from audio creators, projects that tackle problems in audio storytelling, and takeaways from two days of brainstorming and building.

From ThoughtWorks NYC, it’s This American Life: (The Audio Hackathon).

Act One

When I listen to podcasts, I get lost in them. I laugh out loud in the grocery store, shake my head at something the host says, or even nod along in agreement with a particularly resonating segment. It is a profoundly personal experience, listening to a podcast. Though content and structure are absolutely the most important aspects of good audio storytelling, this past weekend I was exposed to a whole range of topics concerning podcast listeners and creators that I hadn’t ever given much thought to.

The overarching themes included audio analytics, distribution, flexibility, audience development, funding, and sharing. Andrew...

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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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