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Archives: November 2012

NY Times Redesigns Digital Crossword Puzzles

I’m a word person, but I’ve never been any good at crosswords. I’ve always thought my vocabulary was a hindrance, not so much that I don’t know the right word but that I know too many possible words that my brain can fill in the blank with two or three options and, even in pencil, that makes me afraid to commit to a potentially wrong answer. I’m more of a Sudoku gal, personally.

Nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to see that the New York Times — the de facto crossword king — has redesigned its digital crosswords games this week. It’s an interesting development because, while I’m all about the journalism, I like to see news agencies realize their mission isn’t just to inform but also to entertain. That’s why newspapers print things like movie reviews, comic strips and yes, crossword puzzles. I know several people who only (or in large part) pick up the newspaper for the puzzles or who save outdated editions for the day off someday when they’ll have time to work through them. (I hope they get some of the news while they’re there, though.) So it’s nice to see the Times devoting some of their IT power to improving the digital presentation and play of one of their most popular non-news features. Note: They do charge a few bucks a month for premium access to the daily puzzles, but do offer older puzzles from the archives for free.

Not only have they rolled out an HTML5 version of the crossword, but they’ve also coupled the new style with a very in-depth tutorial and explainer on the changes. They even have puzzle maestro Will Shortz on video explaining how he works and giving tips for Crossword beginners.

Among the changes the Times says they’ve made:

  • Clean and simplified layout
  • One entry point with various options on how to solve
  • Redesigned personalized scorecard
  • New bonus puzzles
  • Larger squares
  • Redesigned leaderboard statistics with top 10 puzzlers
  • Cleaner color scheme of blue, gray and white

The new game play is intuitive, and because it’s running on HTML5 it’s played right in browser without me needing any extra plug-ins or anything. Even on my older Mac, it worked seamlessly and swiftly. I might even be able to get into crosswords with a platform like this. Maybe.

Instagram, Like Other Social Media, a ‘Police Scanner’ for a Demographic

Instagrammed screenshot of a picture of SnapRecognizing a new tool at The Boston Globe is a gateway to worthwhile discussion on social media strategy: not everyone likes, has access to or uses the same digital thing. And that’s great for journalism.

Journalism.co.uk has a nice read on the wall-o-local-Instagram pics that the Globe is test-driving in its newsroom. Appropriately named “Snap,” the project is a result of a partnership with the MIT Media Lab, and it displays every local Instagram image on a big map of the area. Neat on its own (i.e., worthy of an Instagrammed pic of its own), and notably, it’s also being used for helping find sources for local stories.

There’s definite newsroom utility to display social media data like this on a map. You naturally are exposed to events, with pictorial evidence, that you may not have otherwise paid attention towards. And you can can pinpoint where that action is happening. That’s practical on a day-to-day basis, and particularly helpful during event like Hurricane Sandy, where much is going on and you’re looking to move your reporting fast. It’s clearly a useful tool (and if it isn’t yet clear, I’d certainty love to play with it.)

What I think is worth noting beyond the obvious ingenuity, however, was the main story that according to the article Chris Marstall, creative technologist at the Boston Globe, actually produced during Hurricane Sandy. After spending “about eight hours staring at Snap” during the storm, this piece says that Marstall didn’t know what story to pick up and write. “Eventually I figured out that the interesting story to tell was that everybody was staying home and getting drunk in their apartments, doing a lot of day drinking,” he said.

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Retweeting Without Reading? Yeah, It’s Happening– and It Affects Journalism Strategy on Twitter

Worth noting for journalists looking to measure engagement on the Twitters: your retweets aren’t necessarily your click-throughs, and the two unfortunately may have almost no correlation either.

Hubspot’s Dan Zarrella analyzed 2.7 million tweets that contained links, and his findings show that the retweets and click-throughs had only a sad Pearson’s correlation coefficient of .038. More vividly (and perhaps this is a stat that’s easier to understand), an entire 16.12 percent of the link-containing tweets Zarrella analyzed generated more retweets than clicks.

Digesting those stats, that means your assumptions are probably right when you notice a weirdly fast retweet, or see a RT of something that you already recognize as not true: Zarrella’s study implies many people tweet a link without even clicking on that link.

Forget about “RT are not endorsements.” RTs may not even be an acknowledgement that a particular link was clicked, let alone read.

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Nate Silver Gets His Own Memes

For your dose of Friday journo-geek fun, we have Nate Silver and more Nate Silver.

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed that The New York Times’ blogger and statistician Nate Silver accurately predicted the outcome of the election in all 50 states through impeccable data analysis. Despite criticism, much of the social web is now regarding Silver as the nerdy Chuck Norris, and memes are popping up everywhere.

For what appears to be mostly Nate Silver pick-up lines, see Tumblr for images like this:

And for a continual, hilarious flow of tweets to keep you distracted all day, open up a search for the #drunknatesilver and #natesilverfacts hashtags in a new tab (there’s now also a @drunknatesilver account and a @nateDRUNKsilver account.). You will not be disappointed. Here are a few gems:

https://twitter.com/tomchannick/status/266970746956419072

https://twitter.com/nateDRUNKsilver/status/266934280175898624

Since the election, Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise is now No. 2 on Amazon.

Why Instagram’s Web Profiles Could Benefit News Organizations

Earlier this week, Instagram announced that it would be bringing its profile pages to the Web. Currently, Instagram has been a mobile-only entity, where users could upload images only through their mobile devices and browse friends’ and brands’ pages only through mobile devices.

Now, this is going to change, according to an Instagram blog post announcing the move:

“Your web profile features a selection of your recently shared photographs just above your profile photo and bio, giving others a snapshot of the photos you share on Instagram. In addition, you can follow users, comment & like photos and edit your profile easily and directly from the web.”

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