Archive for the ‘Gear and Software’ Category


The secret to success for early adopters

Early adopter(Editor’s note: A version of this post first appeared at DKSheets.com.)

We all enjoy occasional trips along the cutting edge. Spurred by our adrenaline and excitement, these trips can lift moods and egos by suggesting that we’re smarter, faster, better than the masses.

Those who live by this routine are called early adopters, or “trendsetters.” They’re a step removed from innovators but enjoy the cachet of being first at anything.

They constitute a distinct population, whereas most of us prefer hanging with the masses and steering wide of the danger zone, because the comfort zone has lounge chairs and mini refrigerators.

But what if there seems no choice but to join the early adopters?

That was the feeling people had last week before flaws and a resulting wave of bad press beset two high-profile tech arrivals: Windows RT 8.1 and HealthCare.gov.

Both were supposed to address pressing national issues. Both were touted as easy fixes for those issues. And both went public after intense PR campaigns nudging the public toward early adoption.

Now, both are case studies for caution.

Windows RT 8.1, an operating system update released last Thursday, aimed to fix the balky, user-unfriendly Microsoft Windows 8 for tablet PCs. Less than two days later, RT was withdrawn from the free-download section of the Microsoft Store because of reports that it was rendering tablets unresponsive or inoperative.

HealthCare.gov, the official registration site for the Obama administration’s health care expansion, was promoted as an easy-open door to health care for millions of Americans without any. But it nearly drowned from a flood of applicants after going live Oct. 1, then suffered complaints that it was confusing and difficult to use.

Microsoft resumed Windows RT 8.1 downloads Sunday and showed dismayed users how to resurrect their failing tablets. Exactly what went wrong in the first place was not announced.

The federal government meanwhile says it will enlist “experts” to repair HealthCare.gov ― which sounds as if they weren’t already on board ― but time is against them; the deadline for millions of uninsured Americans to register is late March, and the site was supposed to handle much of the load.

Early adopters relish the exclusivity that being first provides. This emotional impulse puts these people out front and keeps them there.

But the impulse works two ways; a segment of the early adopter population simply seeks completion. Members vie for first place not to brag but to escape the crowd. Their comfort zones lack room for more than one person.

I was among them until becoming personal technology editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For six years, part of my job involved reviewing new devices and software before they went public and wrestling with whatever hardships ensued. The main benefit was that I learned how to fix computers and other gadgets without guidance, because sometimes the equipment was too new to have any.

The secondary benefit was an awareness of what it took to be a successful early adopter: research. Those who take risks at any level and count their success in bunches also prepare for failure to come just as often. They examine what precipitated innovation and see obstacles as challenges. They have read about other people’s mistakes, even interviewed the people who made them. They trade wisdom and warnings, share insights and incentives.

In short, they’re prepared to accept the pain just as much as the pleasure of early adoption.

Close observers of Microsoft understand that Windows has a history of quirkiness. That’s not necessarily a dig against Microsoft, rather an acknowledgement that computer operating systems are complex and difficult to perfect.

Web developers understand that any site meant to guide millions of visitors simultaneously through a maze of information by disparate and perhaps conflicting sources needs testing and re-testing before going live. That’s not necessarily an assault on HealthCare.gov’s creators, rather a reminder that huge sites require a huge amount of testing no matter whose name is on them.

In hindsight, it was smarter to wait on Windows RT 8.1 and hold off jumping into HealthCare.gov. So, next time you’re pressured to be an early adopter, consider looking back before taking the lead.

____________________

David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Interactive newspaper, anyone?

No, I don’t mean those icky PDF-based “e-edition” replicas of print editions that are available online but aren’t interactive or updated. I mean, what’s the use when you can keep up with breaking stories AND get yesterday’s news on the full website?

No, I mean imagine a print edition that’s on paper … but it reacts to you like a touchscreen, and you can type on it, click on it, scroll it or swipe it.

The Japanese company Fujitsu has developed a way to make anything — a piece of paper, for instance — a touchscreen by using a special projector. So a newspaper can sell a onetime projection unit (once the costs drop down to realistic levels) to subscribers, and send a daily “newspaper” that can be projected on paper, or maybe on a wall (maybe the bathroom wall!).

Ah, technology. You gotta love it.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Pinterest and Instagram get married

Yes, this idea had to happen sooner or later: Two incredibly popular social tools have merged.

Pinstagram's "Popular" page

Pinstagram shares the same basic layout design as Pinterest.

And just last week, the merger occurred out of humor. It’s called Pinstagram, an amalgamation of Pinterest and Instagram employing the former’s downward-streaming interface design as a display setting for the latter’s broad public appeal of kitchy imagery techniques.

Ideally, Pinstagram provides a desktop environment for a mobile application that didn’t have one of its own, explained co-creator Pek Pongpaet in a Wired interview. This way, Instagram lovers now can view entire portfolio themes and concepts in a Web page-size environment distinct from Instagram lovers’ blog sites.

Not that this deeper realization originally factored into Pinstagram’s creation. Pongpaet revealed in Wired that he and business partner Brandon Leonardo concocted it as a joke — playing off the Pinterest and Instagram names — but saw value in the idea after mulling it awhile longer.

Because it’s so new, Pinstagram has only a few thousand image shares and even fewer members, but the registration rate has been prodigious. And Pinstagram possesses many of the same traits that make Pinterest a convenient and creative platform for photojournalistseducators and job hunters.

A version for iPad is said to be in the works.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Change your sorry tech habits — now

We live in awe of technology, demonstrated with each remarkable advance over the generations. From the cotton gin to the computer, the tools we contrive to enrich our lives have affected how we behave as well as how we work.

Then the awe fades and we begin behaving badly, treating our tools as toys, or worse, as trash. That’s because once the bloom is off our newest gadgets, we slip into boredom and let bad habits sprout. We allow gadgetry to supplant or interfere with things it shouldn’t, such as responsible behavior, and then we have the nerve to be disappointed with the results. Pretty soon, we’re itching for another innovation to come along and make us feel better about our ourselves and our devices when the one thing that really needs to change is … us.

So, start making that change now by:

Improving your passwords — For a couple of decades, technologists have implored us to use passwords that are roundly more complex than our pets’ names, or our maiden names, or our nicknames, or — for God’s sake — the word “password.” Yet we are well into the 21st century and still making bad choices when pretending to protect what little security we have left. Get creative with passwords now, before someone gets creative with your personal information soon.

Standing, or taking a walks — Among the latest in fear-provoking research is a study out of Australia that says too much sitting can shorten your lifespan by 40 percent. And why not? The research material abounds: we’re in cars, at workstations or in front of the TV much longer than we’re on our feet. Other studies show that inactivity leads to weight gain and potentially fatal blood clots. Do more strolling, less trolling, and add years to your life in the process.

Changing chairs — When we sit, we don’t do that properly, either. Part of the blame lies with our poor posture, another part lies in the one-size-fits-all workstations employers impose on staffs. Work can be stressful enough; why compound it with sorry seating? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers suggestions for improving workplace comfort. Study these to create the optimum working environment at home, and make suggestions to your employer’s human resources department about replicating that environment at the office.

Taking better care of your equipment — Face it, computers and tablets are not appliances; they require somewhat more care and attention than the average bagel toaster. That includes:

  • System updates, to improve performance and security. Do these at least once a week.
  • Software backups, to prevent loss of critical data. Do this daily.
  • Battery optimization, to improve power-source performance. This involves running batteries all the way down, after their first use, before charging them all the way up again.
  • Cleaning and dusting, to reduce strain on components. Even solid-state devices such as cell phones require regular cleaning to prevent dust and grit from damaging their connectors, and to prevent germs from causing you grief.

Putting it all away — There are numerous optimum places to use gadgetry. Your car and your bed are not among them. For the sake of safety, avoid texting or talking on the phone while driving. And for the sake of sanity, set the phone or the tablet on the nightstand and leave them there. No amount of technology compensates for lack of sleep.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Four good uses for Foursquare

Just about everywhere these days, chances are good you’ll see walkers, talkers and (unfortunately) drivers with their faces tilted toward their smart phones as they text and tweet their every move. A byproduct of our digital lives has been an urge to let the world know where we are every moment, whether the world is interested or not.

This is a bane to the digitally uninterested but a boon to everyone else, particularly journalists, who are in the business of finding and talking to people. And topping the list of socially invasive tools with serious people-tracking capabilities is Foursquare, the 3-year-old location-based social networking site for mobile devices that now claims well over 15 million registered users worldwide.

Foursquare utilizes a mobile device’s global-positioning hardware to report where members are at a given moment when they “check in” at venues listed in the application database. The member can acquire “friends,” leave “tips” or advice about each location and post photos. Frequent visits earn travel points and the possibility of becoming “mayor” of that location. Furthermore, Foursquare awards “badges” for patterns of behavior, whether it’s visiting several coffee shops, seeing lots of movies or participating in product promotions.

The useful aspect for journalists is the digital trail Foursquare leaves; they can monitor member movements if they are “friended” by those members. In following this trail, it’s possible to track:

Frequent visitors — Foursquare lists real-time data on location, the current mayor, the latest tips posted by visitors, and the Foursquare identities of frequent visitors. Journalists can sift those lists for potential interview subjects if, say, it’s important to find interview subjects who are knowledgeable about particular locations or the clientele who visit them.

Personal behavior — When members check in at a location, all their friends can see where they are at that moment. Foursquare also displays lists of member badges, mayorships, tips, favorites and approximate arrival time at the last check in. Accumulated points hint at how often members are out and about, so it’s possible to guess an individual’s travel habits.

Trends — Besides seeing where people go, Foursquare shows how many other members are at a location. By clicking “Explore,” and then “Trending,” Foursquare shows potential social hotspots by listing all current check-ins, not just those by members’ friends. Want to find the most popular restaurant, the busiest nightclubs, the best concerts or surprisingly heavy traffic? Just watch where the Foursquare crowd is going.

Location information — Foursquare tips provide reasonably good detail from members about what’s going on at each location, whether it’s bad service at a restaurant or gridlock on the interstate. And Foursquare compiles the tips it receives, helping indicate whether a pattern of activity or potential news is breaking.

Foursquare isn’t the only geo-tracking social medium available, just among the most popular. Other tools worth trying are Gowalla, Loopt, Where, Yelp and, of course, Facebook, which added location-tagging about a year ago.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Digital Media Tools: One click away

 

As we near the SPJ convention in New Orleans; it’s a good time to remind you of all the digital media tools we have written about in the past year.   Just in case you’ve missed some of our past blogs, here is a list of topics we’ve covered.  

How to use Facebook in Journalism

Making Maps with UMappter 

Social media marketing tools for journalists

Getting started with quick, easy data visualization

Data Visualization and Infographic Sites to Bookmark

Build your website for free

Tablet or laptop? For some of us, the choice is obvious

Streamling your social media posting

Quora tries to answer all your questions

How to participate in a Twitter chat

Using Windows Movie Maker to edit audio clips

Google Charts Part 2 of 2: Motion charts

CuePrompter: No more memorizing scripts for your video blog

Digital media skills every young journalist needs 

Tools that help you get more from Twitter

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning freelance reporter in Dallas, TX. She is the vice chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee, and a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Fort Worth Chapter of SPJ.  She has 30 years of experience: television news, online news and video producing.  She can be contacted at aguilar.thereporter@yahoo.com

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

How to use Facebook in journalism

Facebook has been around since 2004, yet there still are journalists among us who keep the social networking tool at arm’s length, preferring to play with it around friends and family instead of incorporating it into reporting.

However, time and trial have proven that Facebook, in fact, is not limited to extending one’s ego trip; it also can extend journalists’ reach, their audience and consequently their effectiveness. In an age when having an online “brand” is essential, this burgeoning news site, perhaps more than any social tool available, builds and bolsters that brand and may soon be for journalists what TV and newspapers once were: one of the best places to publish timely information.

That means you should learn now about Facebook as a tool for journalism, instead of waiting much longer. At the least, a professional presence on Facebook could help forge contacts with other journalists on story ideas — or, for that matter,  job hunting.

At least three places online offer good information about Facebook’s advantages for journalists and how to get started using them. One is a post on the site Mashable from earlier this summer. Another is at the Nieman Journalism Lab. A third, called “Facebook Journalism 101,” resides on the document-sharing site Scribd. Some information among the three is duplicated, but all offer different tips and perspectives on getting the best out of Facebook for professional purposes.

Read these sources now. In this digitally driven society of ours, tomorrow is already too late.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Social media marketing tools for journalists

In the widening world of electronic journalism, it’s not enough to report the news; reporters and editors are coming to the difficult realization that they must market it as well. This is due in large thanks to decreasing interest in static print media and the corresponding growth of the hit-driven culture that is online publishing, which unlike the print environment demands audiences be pinched and tweaked every waking minute to keep news stories fresh and memorable in their minds and to ensure they’ll click back to fresher stories later.

Add to this the rise of social media, a one-on-one engagement with information seekers and attention-getters, and the expansion of mobile computing through smart phones and tablet devices, and the effort to reach one’s community becomes a relentless task as news-gathering, more than ever, becomes a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, no-need-for-a-desk-or-office enterprise.

It’s tiring just to think about it.

But fear not, harried journalists; help is out there in the form of new and improving applications for iPhone, iPad and other portable devices that are replacing newsrooms as the central headquarters of reporting. This week, the site Social Media Examiner has published a list of 44 apps designed chiefly for Apple devices and intended to smooth the way toward easier information marketing. Some of the apps are personal in nature but the majority of the list constitutes a small library of easy, effective tools for information mavens of all kinds. Take a look and, if you haven’t heard of them already, feel free take a few out for a spin.

David Sheets is a sports content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Getting started with quick, easy data visualizations

Charts, fever lines, maps and diagrams: They aren’t just for the Graphics Department anymore.

There once was a time when reporters dealt with words and someone else dealt with the numbers and the pictures. But not anymore. There are plenty of free, easy tools now to get any journalist, regardless of their word-centricity, started on data visualization all by themselves.

That means you can do you can do your own quick and easy data visualizations to go with your own online stories or blog posts.

My Digital Media Committee colleague Jodie Mozdzer, who is working on her masters in news infographics, recently blogged for us on some handy Web sites you can use to learn more about data visualization. With Jodie’s gracious permission, I’d like to pick up that thread and add some more.

If your newsroom is a small shop like mine, doing your own data visualizations is great because you don’t need your own dedicated graphics staff to turn out a professional-looking pie chart or fever chart. If you’re in a larger newsroom with its own graphics department, your (probably overworked) graphics staff may not be in a position to crank out a fever chart every time you want to do a quickie blog post about the new revenue projection numbers from the city finance department. But you can do a simple visualization all by yourself.

But this isn’t just about generating pictures to dress up your blog posts. As a reporter, doing your own simple data visualizations using free tools — especially earn on in the reporting process — allows you to spot interesting trends that you might not always see easily just by reviewing a spreadsheet full of numbers.

And, best of all, it prevents the situation that one former newspaper graphics guy complained to me about recently: The moment when a graphics guy/gal realizes that the reporter who’s writing a spot story about tax revenue projections going up has just handed over a spreadsheet of numbers that, when plotted on a chart, show the projections actually going down.

With free data visualization tools, reporters can draw their own quick-and-dirty graphics and make sure the squiggly lines really are going up, up, up, and not down, down, down before they make 17 phone calls asking the city council how the city should spend all that extra tax money.

We’re going to talk mostly about free, browser-based tools today.

For basic charts, fever lines, stock-price-type charts and old-fashioned pie charts, go to Google Docs. You’ll only need a free Google or Gmail account. Go into the Google Docs spreadsheet and type in or import your data.

Then, go to the icon in the toolbar that looks like miniature bar chart showing, say, your state budget’s spending on highway pothole repairs. Hit that button, and it’ll walk you through the steps of creating a chart with a custom title. You can then save that chart as a .jpg or .png image file and place it in your Web story or blog post like you would any other image you would use in your CMS. (Microsoft Excel will also create nice charts and has more customization features for charts than does Google Docs, so if you have Excel and know how to use it, you can try Excel. However, my older version of Excel won’t let me export a chart as a separate image file, so I use Google Docs anyhow.)

To compare the size of different things — relative size — try making a “bubble chart” using IBM’s free ManyEyes site. This generates a graphic that I see in the New York Times probably more than any other major news outlet site, one that looks like you’re looking at a glass jar full of marbles, with little marbles of various size and big “shooter” marbles mixed in. (For those of you who also read the SPJ Generation J blog: “Marbles” was a game children used to play before they invented Nintendo.)

Outcome of Chihuahuas at LA City Shelters in 2009 Many EyesHere’s an example: A ManyEyes visualization of the fates of chihauhuas brought in to a California animal shelter. Like Google Docs, ManyEyes allows you to save your graphic as an image file and then upload it to your CMS, which enables me to plop this chart right down in the middle of this post. (What is going on with the seven chihuahuas that escaped, by the way?)

But notice one thing: The data shown here regarding chihuahuas could also work just as well as a pie chart. I mean, we’re talking about one finite set of numbers — all the chihuahuas brought into a certain shelter in a certain year. So, the most crucial aspect to be visualized is what proportion of the whole wound up being adopted out, euthanized, escaped, etc. And that’s what pie charts generally show, proportions of the whole.

Let’s imagine a bubble chart that shows something that you couldn’t show with a pie chart. Say you wanted to show the amounts of emergency preparedness spending in the current fiscal year budgets for all the cities in your MSA.

You can’t show that very well in a pie chart, can you? I mean, there’s more than one pie, because there’s more than one city involved. But the size of the bubbles in the chart will help people see the sizes of the emergency preparedness budgets relative to one another.

From WikipediaScatterplot charts: I’ll be honest with you: There’s something about scatterplot charts that makes my head hurt. If you’re really needing to use a scatterplot chart, you’re probably an education reporter (or a former ed reporter having a post-traumatic stress disorder flashback to your last statewide standardized testing data-dump day). A statistically minded friend of mine tried to tell me not long ago that scatterplot charts are just fever charts with a really fuzzy fever line, which makes more sense to me than any other explanation I’ve ever heard. But if you’re in need of a scatterplot chart, ask yourself, “Am I still an education reporter?” If the answer is yes, both Google Docs spreadsheets and Google Fusion Tables will create scatterplot charts. If the answer is no, you probably do not need a scatterplot chart. You just need a stiff drink.

Wordles: We’ve all seen a Wordle: A computer program takes all the words in a given piece of text, analyzes them and diagrams which ones were repeated most often. This may not count as the purest form of “data” to visualize, but can sometimes be kind of entertaining, such as when people have dumped the text of gubernatorial “state of the state” speeches into the computer brain. You can also try some variants of Wordles like word trees through ManyEyes.Wordle: US Constitution

Maps: So much of what we do as journalists involves not just data but data tied to geography, which means creating maps is a good way to do data visualization — but there are several ways to make maps depending on just what you’re trying to show.

The simplest way to do a map online — a map showing one dot on it — is with Google Maps’ My Maps function. Are you the 6 a.m. cop shift reporter at your shop who’s assigned to update your home page with breaking news, and you get a report that an F-4 tornado has just destroyed all of downtown Snodgrass, Okla., including the World’s Largest Upright Vacuum Cleaner, which had been housed at the National Museum of Vacuums and Cleaning Appliances in Snodgrass, and you need to quickly get a map up online showing the location of Snodgrass? Go to Google Maps, search for Snodgrass, Okla., hit the “link” button in the upper-right corner to grab the embed code, and plop that code in your Web story.

Multiple points on a map: But it’s much easier to understand the power of maps when you see how easy it is to plot multiple pieces of information on a map. Back a few months ago, the school system here in Houston was considering closing some “small” schools — schools with the fewest students, said to be less-than-economical to operate — to save money. A colleague of mine mapped the location of all 60-plus schools that were in play for closure using another free site called Geocommons, which allows you to upload a data file of many map points and customize the information window text for each point. (You can see her map below.) You’ll first need to add a column to your data file that includes the latitude and longitude for each point (each school, in this case), and if you have a relatively small number of points, you can do that for free using sites like Batch Geocode. Geocommons is free and its maps are easily embeddable.

You can also map multiple points using Google Fusion Tables, which has the added benefit of built-in geocoding (to “geocode” something is to find the lat-long coordinates for it). A nonprofit online news site in North Carolina used Fusion Tables to produce a super-cool map of damage by a recent tornado in the Raleigh area, for instance (at right). Again, free and embeddable.

You can get as creative as you want with tricking out the info window text in these custom maps. Here’s a map I did a couple of years ago where we took just about all the information we could find online for all 181 Texas legislators and married it all to a Google Map. Yes, it did take a long time to pull all this together, but with the incredible improvements recently in services like Google Fusion Tables and Geocommons, it’s a lot easier to do a map like this today than it was when I did it in ‘09.

Lines or routes on a map: Need to show the six different cities the governor flew to on state aircraft to rendezvous with his mistress? Go to Google Maps and plot each trip using colored lines for each of the flights using the crooked line tool in the upper-left corner of the map window. Then save the map, grab the embed code and embed that sucker in your blog post or story.

Maps with shapes on them: Sometimes it’s not enough to show a point on a map, or even a line. You need to show the boundary of a county or the proposed lines for newly redrawn legislative districts or the jurisdiction of a municipal utility district.

The map people call these shapes  “polygons,” a word most of us haven’t used since high school geometry class, and it used to be, you’d need $2,500 worth of software like ArcGIS to do stuff like that.

Not anymore. Geocommons and Google Fusion Tables will both allow you to upload GIS “shapefiles” of city, county and other government boundaries — and you can often download those files directly from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site or get them from your local planning department. Just upload your map boundaries and tell it what color scheme to use. Here’s one I made not long ago that shows Houston’s 88 “superneighborhoods,” as defined by the city.

Comparing geographic areas: Need to show the difference in per capita incomes in each county in your MSA or state? I’ve always called these “heat maps” though I think the formal name is “chloropleth map.” Just like Geocommons and Google Fusion Tables will both let you upload shapefiles, they will also enable you to shade the polygons to show data characterisitics for those areas — the redder the red, the higher the per capita income in that county, for instance. Or, the bluer the blue, the more kids living in that Census tract who live at or below the poverty line. Just upload your map boundaries, upload your data, and tell it what color scheme to use. Here’s one (below) from ManyEyes, showing the number of youth homicides in the states of Brazil.

Homicidios de Jovens por Estado - 1998 a 2008 (Mapa) Many Eyes

Again, not only is this a good way for readers to take in a whole lot of information easily, it’s a good way for you as a reporter to quickly spot trends that could make good stories. For instance, here’s a map (below) plotting county-by-county Census data. For instance, notice the counties with the high numbers of small kids in, say, several counties in Utah. Why? Might make a good story. In the very southernmost tip of Texas? What’s up with that? And a baby boom in western South Dakota?

Before I sign off, let me add to Jodie’s list of good sites to bookmark if you want to see cool data visualizations. My Facebook friend and former competitor Matt Stiles, late of the Texas Tribune but now of NPR, has a Tumblr blog on data visualization called the Daily Viz. I found the Census data map through his site, so check it out.

Jennifer Peebles is a deputy editor at Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit online news site based in Houston, and is chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee. A truncated version of this blog post appeared in the most recent issue of SPJ’s Quill magazine. Contact her at jennifer@texaswatchdog.org, 281-656-1681 or on Twitter at @jpeebles or @texaswatchdog.

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit

Build your own website for free

More journalists these days are setting up their own websites where they can profile their work. It’s one of the best ways to grow your brand and display your resume online.

I’ve taken web design classes for four years, and I must admit sometimes I get lost in all the language: CSS, HTML, PHP, HTML5, Flash and the list goes on.  I’m fortunate, because as a freelance reporter I’ve had time to take classes.

But if you don’t have time to learn how to build your own website from scratch or can’t afford  to get one designed; here are a three free website builders  Each of these companies will also host your website for free if you don’t mind the long url  (example: http://www.wix.com/rebeccaaguilar/aguilar-the-reporter ). 

I set up sample websites at Wix, WebStarts and Moonfruit.    It was very easy and fast.  I think the end results look very professional at all three sites.  Check out my Wix sample website.   Each free website builder offers:

  • Templates designs for your website
  • Text editors
  • Variety of font choices
  • Drag and drop tools for images
  • Video embed tools
  • Video tutorials to help you use the site

Wix.com

 

WebStarts.com

Moonfruit.com

Each company offers a “premium” package,  if you want to buy more tools to use on your website.  In my opinion, what they each have to offer for free is good enough if you need the basics.   You also have the option of paying to get it hosted by the hosting company of your choice.  Now go out there and get yourself a website!

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning freelance reporter in Dallas, TX. She is the vice chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee, and a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She has 30 years of experience: television news, online news and video producing.  She can be contacted at aguilar.thereporter@yahoo.com

 

EmailTwitterGoogle+FacebooktumblrPinterestReddit


Newest Posts

Congratulations! Mark of Excellence Awards list April 16, 2014, 5:21 pm
Mark of Excellence Award duplicate order form April 16, 2014, 5:13 pm
Google Chrome: The Only Browser You’ll Ever Need April 16, 2014, 12:00 pm
Congrats & Annual Reports! April 14, 2014, 4:25 pm
Three Web Design Resources Every New Grad Should Play With April 14, 2014, 12:00 pm
Three Web Design Resources Every New Grad Should Play With April 14, 2014, 12:00 pm
6 Things to Bring to an Interview (and 6 Things to Hide) April 8, 2014, 1:50 am

Copyright © 2007-2014 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ