Off the Top: Reference Entries


May 2, 2012

The Data Journalism Handbook is Available

The Data Journalism Handbook is finally available online and soon as the book Data Journalism Handbook - from Amazon or The Data Journalism Handbook - from O’Reilly, which is quite exciting. Why you ask?

In the October of 2010 the Guardian in the UK posted a Data Journalism How To Guide that was fantastic. This was a great resource not only for data journalists, but for anybody who has interest in finding, gathering, assessing, and doing something with the data that is shared found in the world around us. These skill are not the sort of thing that many of us grew up with nor learned in school, nor are taught in most schools today (that is another giant problem). This tutorial taught me a few things that have been of great benefit and filled in gaps I had in my tool bag that was still mostly rusty and built using the tool set I picked up in the mid-90s in grad school in public policy analysis.

In the Fall of 2011 at MozFest in London many data journalist and others of like mind got together to share their knowledge. Out of this gathering was the realization and starting point for the handbook. Journalists are not typically those who have the deep data skills, but if they can learn (not a huge mound to climb) and have it made sensible and relatively easy in bite sized chunk the journalists will be better off.

All of us can benefit from this book in our own hands. Getting to the basics of how gather and think through data and the questions around it, all the way through how to graphically display that data is incredibly beneficial. I know many people who have contributed to this Handbook and think the world of their contributions. Skimming through the version that is one the web I can quickly see this is going to be an essential reference for all, not just journalists, nor bloggers, but for everybody. This could and likely should be the book used in classes in high schools and university information essentials taught first semester first year.



September 28, 2010

As If Had Read

The idea of a tag "As If Had Read" started as a riff off of riffs with David Weinberger at Reboot 2008 regarding the "to read" tag that is prevalent in many social bookmarking sites. But, the "as if had read" is not as tongue-in-cheek at the moment, but is a moment of ah ha!

I have been using DevonThink on my Mac for 5 or more years. It is a document, note, web page, and general content catch all that is easily searched. But, it also pulls out relevance to other items that it sees as relevant. The connections it makes are often quite impressive.

My Info Churning Patterns

I have promised for quite a few years that I would write-up how I work through my inbound content. This process changes a lot, but it is back to a settled state again (mostly). Going back 10 years or more I would go through my links page and check all of the links on it (it was 75 to 100 links at that point) to see if there was something new or of interest.

But, that changed to using a feedreader (I used and am back to using Net News Wire on Mac as it has the features I love and it is fast and I can skim 4x to 5x the content I can in Google Reader (interface and design matters)) to pull in 400 or more RSS feeds that I would triage. I would skim the new (bold) titles and skim the content in the reader, if it was of potential interest I open the link into a browser tab in the background and just churn through the skimming of the 1,000 to 1,400 new items each night. Then I would open the browser to read the tabs. At this stage I actually read the content and if part way through it I don't think it has current or future value I close the tab. But, in about 90 minutes I could triage through 1,200 to 1,400 new RSS feed items, get 30 to 70 potential items of value open in tabs in a browser, and get this down to a usual 5 to 12 items of current or future value. Yes, in 90 minutes (keeping focus to sort the out the chaff is essential). But, from this point I would blog or at least put these items into Delicious and/or Ma.gnolia or Yahoo MyWeb 2.0 (this service was insanely amazing and was years ahead of its time and I will write-up its value).

The volume and tools have changed over time. Today the same number of feeds (approximately 400) turn out 500 to 800 new items each day. I now post less to Delicious and opt for DevonThink for 25 to 40 items each day. I stopped using DevonThink (DT) and opted for Yojimbo and then Together.app as they had tagging and I could add my context (I found my own context had more value than DevonThink's contextual relevance engine). But, when DevonThink added tagging it became an optimal service and I added my archives from Together and now use DT a lot.

Relevance of As if Had Read

But, one of the things I have been finding is I can not only search within the content of items in DT, but I can quickly aggregate related items by tag (work projects, long writing projects, etc.). But, its incredible value is how it has changed my information triage and process. I am now taking those 30 to 40 tabs and doing a more in depth read, but only rarely reading the full content, unless it is current value is high or the content is compelling. I am acting on the content more quickly and putting it into DT. When I need to recall information I use the search to find content and then pull related content closer. I not only have the item I was seeking, but have other related content that adds depth and breath to a subject. My own personal recall of the content is enough to start a search that will find what I was seeking with relative ease. But, were I did a deeper skim read in the past I will now do a deeper read of the prime focus. My augmented recall with the brilliance of DevonThink works just as well as if I had read the content deeply the first time.



February 25, 2008

Paparazzi on Mac Fix-up

Since I upgraded to Apple's Mac Leopard I have had intermittent issues with Paparazzi for Mac, a webpage screen grab tool that will make an image of the full page. I am not sure what version I had, but am fairly sure it was still version 0.4.3 from my Tiger build. My issue was it would not render pages and would just stay blank.

In search of a remedy I went to the Paparazzi page and grabbed the 0.5 beta. When I loaded this on my MacBook Pro with Leopard 10.5.2 it the application would just crash. This was a step in the wrong direction.

One thing to keep in mind is I am a huge fan of Skitch, which I use for capturing sub-page elements. The ease of use, beauty in the interaction would make it really difficult for another tool to supplant the viewable screen grabs and sub-page screen grabs of Skitch. The freakishly ease of moving grabs and images out of Skitch into the apps and places I need to use the images and places I want and need to share them is unparalleled in any other application on any platform. So, I am looking for a full webpage screen grab tool

Call for Help on Twitter

I put a call out to friends on Twitter for an alternate resource. As is normal with Twitter I had a response with in minutes and many responses in 30 minutes. Jorge Arango made the great suggestion of using FireFox Extension - ScreenGrab, which I loaded and does a good job. Occasionally, I want to grab images of variances across many browsers, so I kept listening.

Another FireFox and Mozilla offering was surfaced by Joshua Porter of Page Saver by Pearl Crescent. The full paid version offers sub-page screen grabs, but it whole of the tool looks decent.

Nate Koechley stated his Paparazzi 0.4.3 was running just fine on his Leopard 10.5 and 10.5.2 installs. I went back to Paparazzi and grabbed the 0.4.3 install and used it to replace the 0.5 beta install. I started up Paparazzi and it ran just fine, just like it used to. The bugginess with my old install may have been that I had not recompiled Paparazzi to run under Leopard, which is what reloading essentially performed.

I am not one to always stop looking once I found what I was looking for (things are not always in the last place you look), so I listened to The Ronin and his suggestion for WebSnapper from Tasty Apps, which looks to be the next step up from Paparazzi with the breadth of output it offers. But, the downside is WebSnapper does not offer a preview of the output page as Paparazzi does.

The Result

It looks like Paparazzi (repaired) 0.4.3 will be my replacement for Paparazzi for pages it will deal with and WebSnapper will be its likely back-up. I hope that one day Skitch offers a full-page screen grab of web pages, but that day is not today. I am deeply appreciative of all those that offered their responses on Twitter.



February 14, 2006

Yahoo! Releases Web Developer Golden Nuggets

An e-mail from Nate tipped me off to the Yahoo! releases today. We now have at our finger tips, Yahoo! User Interface Library, the same libraries that power Yahoo! Yahoo! Design Patterns Library, which has been the culmination of a lot of effort and is considered to be the best internal resource around and is now in our hands. Yahoo! User Interface Blog and its corresponding Yahoo! User Interface Blog feeds. Lastly, Yahoo! delivers a Graded Browser Support (article).

Once again Yahoo! shows it gets community involvement with developers and is becoming a killer resource. This is the kind of involvement and giving that raises the level for all web developers. Bravo Yahoo! and thank you Nate for your involvement.



July 12, 2005

The World in Our Hands

SmartMobs announces It is official, there are more cellphones lines than landlines in the U.S.. I was thinking about this in the past couple weeks. We have already started seeing text and data uses tipping our mobile hands (it is about time we started getting to where much of the rest of the globe has already been).

Now if I could just keep my finger on the number of data enable phones and the lesser number of laptop/desktop internet connections for the globe. Every time I see this number I forget to mark it or grab it.

[Hat tip Anne]



May 30, 2005

Academic Cites for Interested Parties

One of the things that I am still mulling over that came out of the Social Software in the Academy Workshop is the relationship between academic cites and interested parties (non-academics researching, thinking deeply, and writing about a subject). Over the past year I have had some of the work I have posted on my web sites cited in academic papers. These papers have been for general coursework to graduate thesis.

In the academic realm these cites in other's works give credibility and ranking. In the realm of the professional or "interested party" these cites mean little (other than stroking one's ego). These cites do not translate to higher salary, but they may have some relationship to credibility in a subject area.

Another aspect is finding a way to tie into academic work around these subjects. There are often wonderful academic related gatherings (conferences, symposia, etc.) around these subject matters, but these are foreign to the "interested party". There is a chasm between academic and professional world that should be narrowed or at a minimum bridged in a better way. At SSAW there were some projects I found out about that I would love to follow, or even contribute to in some form (advisement, contributor, etc.).

I have a feeling I will be mulling this for some while, and will be writing about it again.



November 30, 2004

Flexibility in Folksonomies

Nick Mote posts his The New School of Ontologies essay, which is a nice overview of formal classification and folksonomies. The folksonomy is a good approach for bottom-up approach to information finding.

In Nick's paper I get quoted. I have cleaned up the quote that came out of an e-mail conversation. This quote pretty much summaries the many discussions I have had in the past couple months regarding folksonomies. Am I a great fan of the term? Not as much of a fan as what they are doing.

The problem of interest to me that folksonomies are solving is cross-discipline and cross-cultural access to information as well as non-hierarchical information structures. People call items different things depending on culture, discipline, and/or language. The folksonomy seems to be a way to find information based on what a person calls it. The network effect provides for more tagging of the information, which can be leveraged by those who have naming conventions that are divergent from the norm. The power law curve benefits the enculturated, but the tail of the curve also works for those out of the norm.



June 18, 2004

Webmonkey Comes Back To Life

Oddly, Webmonkey seems to have come back to life today. There is a new articles on Contribute2 dated June 18, 2004. Just below that is a note stating it is back alive and kicking (not dated). Anybody have the scoop?



December 4, 2003

CSS Cribsheet

I nearly forgot, Dave Shea has come up with a CSS cribsheet that flat out rocks. Dabbling or living in CSS? Use it.



November 18, 2003

Guide to Ethnography Wiki Lives

Peter Van Dijck relaunched Guide to Ethnography Wiki. This is a very good resource for understanding ethnographic studies and research.



October 1, 2003

Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver gets a referance site

My first edition copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver arrived yesterday. I flipped through it yesterday and was very impressed with the craftsmanship of the book. The paper and typography are very impressive. I read the intro this morning and I am very much looking forward to digging in.

Also to note, Metaweb, an annotated reference for Quicksilver. The annotations are provided in part by Neal himself along with others. There is a need for this reference as this is a historical novel with fact and fiction interwoven. The reference provides a guide background and what is real.



August 1, 2003

Information Design Explained at Design Council

The Design Council has a fantastic overview of Information Design, written by Sue Walker and Linda Reynolds. This series covers why it is important to business and public service along with examples, challenges, where to find out more, and so much more.



June 13, 2003


April 28, 2002

UNIX and Mac OS X guide

I finally got my hands on a copy of Mac OS X Unleashed, which is a great resource. Not only does it provide indepth understanding of the Mac side of OS X, but it provides an excellent resource for the UNIX side too. I have had problems getting Perl's CPAN running through the "make" process for some modules. This book seems to give me enough understanding of the foundations to get me through the processes. I have knowledge of UNIX and Linux and each variant has its own twist, which is not a bad thing.


April 16, 2002

Related to using the proper URL in the doctype, IE 6 renders table content as centered when wrapping the table with center tag. The article explains when this happens and how to work around the problem. One option is not using centering (either in a div align or in the deprecated center tag). It seems setting the CSS is the best work around. We have found using the center tag to be far more problematic than the div align usage of center. (Yes, we have to support "older" browsers at work).


March 13, 2002

Boxes and Arrows is finally live.


January 23, 2002

Digital Web is out with a new issue. My favorites from this issue are the interview with Chopping Block, the ever needed Flash usability guide, and the hands down my favorite is when design motivates. The rest of the issue is enjoyable and insightful as always, which includes motion design, the future, book review of 'Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground', and a review of digital video.


January 4, 2002

Digital Web Magazine has its fresh issue out. This month's focus is business, but also includes a solid review of HomeSite 5 and review of Web ReDesign: Workflow That Works, by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler. This is wrapped in my favorite cover to date.


January 2, 2002

I really would like XP Home to have Samba (SMB) as the Apple documentation on using SMB to network machines and share drives is very solid. XP Home does not have SMB capability. If anybody knows a way to build it in plese e-mail me (comments being turned on this month or next month).

SMB is an open source networking tool that is supported on most operating systems. Windows 2000 and XP Professional support SMB. I should have learned my lesson and never by consumer grade software or hardware as I am always wanting to do more.



January 1, 2002

The folks at Digital Web - new have been busy finding the few new items over the past few weeks. It is always good to keep your eye on the DW-new page every day or two as it covers a broad spectrum of Web/Internet design and development issues. It is good to have Nick back and manning the daily post again as this means vacation is over.


November 15, 2001

Chistina Wodtke's secret project is no longer a secret. Boxes and Arrows is out of the bag. I have been having a wonderful time offering my services to help see this come to life. I offer what I can to move a great project along that is filled with some wonderfully amazing folks from around the globe.


November 6, 2001

Web-Building provides website development resources. Don't be afraid of the initial presentation, this is a one-stop-shopping resource for HTML, scripting, application development, and everything in between.

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