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Archives: January 2011

Tools of the Day: definr & Thsrs

Does anyone own a printed dictionary anymore? I know some word enthusiasts will shout yes, but owning a dictionary these days is becoming slightly less rare than owning an encyclopedia set.

Online dictionaries and thesauruses thesauri have existed pretty much as long as the web has been around. However, in today’s lightning-fast digital world, even those sites seem cumbersome and slow. Enter definr and Thsrs, two separate tools for quickly checking out the meaning of the word or an alternate synonym.

Definr makes searching for definitions incredibly easy and fast by populating definitions below the search box as you hit the “meep!” (enter) button.

Thsrs, an unrelated thesaurus tool brought to you by 10,000 Words fave Ironic Sans, doesn’t just find synonyms, it finds shorter words that have the same meaning as the word you enter. So if you are a perspicacious person but want to be modest about it, Thsrs recommends you simply use the word “wise” to describe yourself.

Both tools have plug-ins and add-ons available for the Firefox browser (definr here and Thsrs here) that can make your word sleuthing even faster.

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10 Common features found on hyperlocal news sites

2008 and 2009 saw an explosion in the number of hyperlocal news media around the world. Since then, hyperlocal media has matured and many news sites now offer similar features that both distribute and aggregate news from their respective communities.


Community voices

Hyperlocal news sites often capture the thoughts and voices of their community of readers through blog posts and articles written by citizen journalists or local bloggers. The Seattle PostGlobe is one such hyperlocal site incorporating this approach.


Story submission page

Nobody knows more about what’s happening in the community than those who live in it. Many hyperlocals tap into this knowledge by requesting news tips on their site using prominent graphics and submission forms.


Fix-it callout

In addition to a general call-out for news tips, many sites also ask readers to identify problems in the city or region that need to be fixed. This can range from relatively small issues like potholes and broken parking meters to larger problems like government inefficiencies.

Oakland Local uses the community tool SeeClickFix to map areas in the northern California city that are in need of repair.


Community calendar

A great way for a site to present itself as a go-to resource for events in a community is to provide an online calendar. CultureMap Houston provides such a resource in both a traditional calendar format and a detailed list view that is easy to scroll through.


Donation page

Start-up hyperlocals have a variety of funding sources, including grants, corporate sponsorships, and more. Many sites also ask their readers for support and, like the Voice of San Diego, have a page specifically dedicated to donation requests.


Social media

You can’t tap into the news of a community or region these days without connecting via social media. Twitter and Facebook are the social networks of choice and are used by sites like Bakotopia. There are, however, a slew of other online social networks hyperlocals can tap into.



The type of video that appears on hyperlocal sites varies wildly from reporter-shot video to footage submitted by readers. Mission Local, a project of the University of California, Berkeley Journalism School, features video shot by student reporters.


Contact page

If the goal of a hyperlocal outfit is to connect with the community, then the community needs to know who they are connecting with. A good “Contact Us” page, like the one from DNAinfo featured below, should include names and photos of staffers and information like email addresses and social media handles.


Reader-submitted photos, a site with a reach too expansive to really be called “hyperlocal,” nevertheless excels at call-outs aimed at residents of the Washington, D.C. metro area which are then turned into reader-generated photo galleries. Recent galleries include photos of reader’s winter-time footwear and Halloween costumes, to more topical subjects like photos from the recent Glenn Beck rally on the National Mall, .



Many hyperlocal newsrooms have relatively small staffs but can compensate for it by aggregating stories from other media institutions or social media sources. Aggregation can also pull in a diversity of voices into a single site. The Texas Tribune, for example, features TribWire which includes stories from other news media like Houston Chronicle, New York Times, and Dallas Morning News.

There are a lot of features found on hyperlocal sites, but what works and what doesn’t? That question and many more are answered in this study on community news networks published by J-Lab.

Five free tools for finding design inspiration

Whether you’re working on a personal project or a package for your news organization, there will be times when you simply hit a wall and have a hard time moving forward design-wise. It happens to the best of us. When those moments inevitably occur, these are the websites I visit for finding inspiration in color schemes, design layouts, logos, CSS structure, and typography.

Design samples

Web Creme

Web Creme is a regularly-updated gallery of websites with rockin’ designs. There are hundreds of designs to peruse if you’re looking for inspiration in general site design, creative navigation or use of imagery and graphics. It’s also a one-stop shop for simultaneously finding color and typography inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with finding bits and pieces you like from each site and putting it together to make your own masterpiece with your own twist. Stand on the shoulders of giants, right?

Color schemes

If you’re looking for an individual color, a full palette or patterns, ColourLovers is the community to visit. With more than a million schemes to choose from, you can browse through categories like weddings, home, fashion or business. If you have an eye for colors, you can make an account and upload your own for the world to use. The ColourLovers blog features some of the best colors and patterns from the community.

Other great places to go for finding colors are Adobe’s Kuler which you can sync with your Photoshop preferences if you have CS4 or higher,  and Color Scheme Generator if you already have a good idea of the base colors you want to use.

Identity inspiration

Logo Pond

For me, the biggest roadblocks come when creating a logo for a website or a graphic, but we can’t skip out on these elements. They’re important for visual engagement. LogoPond has great identity inspiration from very talented designers who upload their comps to the site to be rated.

CSS Frameworks

HTML5 Boilerplate is a well-document framework for getting started with HTML5.  From Github, you can download a .zip file that includes images, CSS, javascript and all the other necessary files to get the site up and running. And if you have any questions, mosey on over to the documentation or forums to search for answers or ask.

If all you’re looking for is a basic CSS framework, the 1140-pixel grid system and 960-pixel grid system are excellent starting points. These layouts are based on percentage-width columns so that you don’t have to worry about applying classes and pixel widths to divs when creating a site. All you have to focus on is the content within and which column widths you want to use — and where.


Google Webfonts

Google has a nifty font API that allows you to use pretty fonts on your site without needing to purchase a license, replace fonts with images, or do any other annoying technique.  The API is limited to fonts within Google’s own directory, but the selection isn’t terrible, especially considering that it’s free.

Using the open-source API (a collaboration with TypeKit) is simple. Just define the replacement fonts in a stylesheet and use the WebFont Loader to call the Google API and ta-da — you’re on the path to overcoming your design roadblock and making your site a little prettier.

7 Innovative online maps

The technology that is paired with online maps is constantly improving, which means the ways media organizations are using them have become more diverse. Check out a few online maps that are furthering what’s possible with map mashups.


Ratio Finder

This eye-catchingly designed map analyzes Foursquare check-ins and visualizes them by gender. Visitors can use the site to compare where male and female users check in and what type of businesses they are most likely to check in to. The site is available for San Francisco and New York.

This site allows the visitor to compare the standard of living in the United States to pretty much any other country around the world and see how they differ. For example, If Germany were your home instead of the U.S., you would statistically consume less oil, have fewer babies, and have lots more free time, according to the site. Each page includes a map that shows a scale image of the country overlaid on top of a map of the United States.


Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties

Behind CNN’s flashy interactive map is a sobering message: the large number of casualties in the two war-torn countries. The dual maps and accompanying charts show data like the hometowns of the deceased, where they were killed, and when.


Products of Slavery

This map of the locations where child labor happens around the world presents a complex issue in a way that is very simple and easy to understand. Site visitors can view the top 25 countries where products are made with child labor and also toggle between the map view and several graph views.



Much like the homicide databases produced by the Los Angeles Times and Stamen Design (here and here), MurderMap aims to visualize homicides in London. Visitors can toggle the map by murder weapon and click each marker to view more information about the victim.


Mapping America: Every City, Every Block

This New York Times map that displays census data on race in America is most notable for showing just how many neighborhoods are clearly divided by race. For example, Manhattan’s 95th street has mostly White residents on one side and Black and Hispanic residents on the other. Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard creates a similar divide — a large percentage of residents who live north of the avenue are White, while the majority of those who live south of the street are Hispanic, as evidenced by the colored dots.


What’s in a Surname?

National Geographic elevates the word cloud with this map that shows popular surnames by location. “Smith” is a popular last name in most of the country — especially in the eastern United States — while Garcia and Hernandez are popular in the West and Southwest, according to the map.

Love is (almost) in the air: Valentines for journalists

In what has become a yearly tradition, 10,000 Words has created and shared digital Valentine’s Day cards specifically created for journalists (here and here). Now, it’s your turn to join in on the fun.

Post your one-line idea for a journo valentine in the comments or tweet with the hashtag #journolove. The top picks will be turned into a digital valentine like the ones below. The writer of the best one-liner will receive five (5) printed copies of the final valentine. Good luck!