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Giving news products longevity

Keeping things relevant is increasingly difficult in the internet age because the internet accelerates the lifecycle of anything it touches.  How the news is presented and what media products result are also affected by that phenomenon, especially as an aging generation of new-media staff struggle to keep up with todays youth, always hoping to dodge the “fellow kid” type of engagement (much akin to Steve Buscemi’s undercover character from 30 Rock).  The article itself tackles the question of what and how do you choose to present your media in the pursuit of “the readers of tomorrow?”  How should media companies move forward and embrace an increasingly-necessary digital identity?  But even beyond that, what might this evolution mean for journalism as a whole?  Will it lead to the “smashing of AP stylebook worship?”  Who’s to say; but as the article states, “One thing we tend to forget in this pile-on pursuit of eternal youth is that our target demographic of the moment is bound to grow older.”

Photography as data visualization

This piece begins with the notion that some might say that data visualization is inherently dishonest, at least in part, because the graphs, maps, and charts that deliver the raw data are curated representations of some parts of that data.  How would you mitigate that or remove that obfuscation?  The articles gives us an answer through “data-vis guru” Nicholas Felton (the creator of Facebook’s Timeline).  Though he’s speaking more about “photo vis” and not data vis, he holds the contention that you can use photos and manipulate or stack them (though without obfuscation) to create interesting visualizations (like their example of a photographer that fused several photos of New Yorkers yawning into one).  Whether or not photo visualization does materialize as a discipline is anybodies guess.  “The best data designers [still] have to work very hard to make you recognize the significance of a bar chart,” the article concludes.  “Photography is human at its core. It speaks in objects and faces, the language of life itself.”

That module that built the internet

Several internet sites recently encountered problems when sotware packages that they depended on started to fail.  The cause was a small 11-line chunk of Javascript module called “left-pad” that easily helped append a leading zero to certain numbers.  This module was hosted on the open source platform npm, a place where anyone can upload their code and then other developers can link to it and use it directly through npm.  Wtih this particular issue, the short of it is that Kik, the instant messaging app, wasn’t thrilled with a coders choice of name for his software package (“kik”) and went after him.  Npm backed up Kik (the corporation), causing the coder to delete his code (in this case that included a small module called “left-pad”) from the platform after disagreeing with how npm sided with the corporation.  As it turns out, this module had been referenced and used as a dependency thousands of times (and the incident has caused some to question why we let this happen).  Npm eventually restored that one package in order to solve the problem, but it’s interesting to note that a single dependency could cause such widespread problems.

Making food look delicious

Podcast 99% Invisible seems to be relevant to our class at all the right times.  Just this week in class we were going over those food magazines, and inside we talked about how all the food wasn’t just prepared and photographed; instead, it’s prepared and then carefully arranged to look as mouthwatering as possible.  In this episode of 99% Invisible,  Roman Mars and co. look back on the history and techniques of food artistry.  I found it to be at least partially relevant to the design of news, advertising, and everyday things.


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