You may have noticed a few changes on the Boston.com homepage today.
For longtime Boston.com users, the most notable development is our new Boston.com logo – a more modern and compact design than the logo we’ve used since 1995. We’ve tested versions of this logo with our users and the end result was a bigger version of the same font, without the wave effect. We’re confident this graphic will translate more effectively across all our platforms – desktop, mobile, print and, eventually, on our newspaper delivery trucks.
At the same time, we’ve moved a few elements around and added a few new featured positions in the left and middle columns of the homepage. You’ll notice you can share content straight from our homepage more easily now. You can also easily follow Boston.com on Twitter and Facebook.
Our producers and product teams continually monitor a host of metrics on how our content is performing, including what is being shared and tweeted. So it was important to us to feature content going viral and promote easy sharing. For that reason, you will regularly see a “trending on social” content feature that highlights our most shared content.
These are just a few of the changes you’ll see on Boston.com in 2013, as we continue to expand our content, video offerings and social media connections. We simply want to provide you, our reader, with the best possible experience, across all your screens.
General Manager, Boston.com
Vice President, Digital Products, The Boston Globe
By Joanna S. Kao, January 2013 GlobeLab intern
Today is the last day of my month-long internship at GlobeLab. Coming in at the beginning of the month, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spent last summer interning at WaPo Labs, a similar group at the Washington Post, but I was pretty sure that apart from the name, things would be pretty different.
For my internship, I worked on redesigning and refactoring parts of SNAP, a database and visualization of Instagram photos around Boston, and created a spin-off project using it. I named the spin-off app “FoodPic.kr” — the app takes a location as an input and then displays a panoply of Instagrammed food images taken around that area (I got hungry pretty often this month in the lab). The idea is that people can use the app to find a place to eat based on how the food looks and the type of people who frequent it.
Interning at GlobeLab didn’t mean that I just sat (or stood) at my Steelcase adjustable standing desk being a code monkey — we also had great ideation sessions on our wall, newly painted with ideapaint. I probably shouldn’t give away all of our ideas, but if you check back on GlobeLab once in awhile, I think you’ll be rather delighted with the projects in progress.
It’s been a fun month, and I’m going to miss getting to brainstorm about new innovative apps with incredibly creative people every day. Fortunately, I’ll be back again as an intern at the Boston Globe (although not at Globe Lab) this summer as a data visualization/news developer intern!
Joanna S. Kao is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in writing at MIT. She interned at Globe Lab for the month of January. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter for more information.
By Joel Abrams, Senior Product Manager
I’m a contrarian, so instead of the usual top list, I decided to put together a bottom list.
Note: All of these are actual search terms that users typed into the search box on boston.com in 2012, but they aren’t the true bottom. Our analytics system only let me get the top 100,000 search terms, and many are actually quite prosaic. These are my selection of the most obscure, random, and unlikely to yield useful results.
- mass. witches assembling to end tim tebow’s season, keep tom brady’s alive
- Video of unknown male murder feburary 19 2012
- bhjgffghyfgfrfdfffffffffffffffffffffffjhghuehwyhbhhduddddddddiyhygugy yugy
- Sex in Kenya
- and rabbi akiva said it was 200 plagues as we got closer to the sea
- What are the two qualities looked for in choosing sled dogs?
- what do it look like when the sun tern to a blak hole
- why globe is placed on the table in every office?
- internet explorer and its helpful features
- Would you wait in line 8 hours for a beer?
By Alvin Chang, data visualization
It took weeks to clean up homicide data for our Bowdoin-Geneva project. I was ready to map it and move on. But I was unsure about one of the data point, so I looked it up in the Globe archives. I found this 1993 story about Jose Lizardo’s murder:
They followed the well-trod path of generations of immigrants before them, three brothers, journeying to Boston from afar to open a corner variety store in a time-tested pursuit of the American dream.
But on Saturday night, two of them came face to face with a nation’s nightmare: a handgun-toting thief who walked into their Dorchester shop, demanded all their cash and fired shots that within hours would end one of their lives.
For me, that story — which was written by our new boss, Brian McGrory — turned a dot on the map into a person with family, friends and a life narrative. It reminded me that, too often, we forget what the dots on our maps represent. That realization helped me transform a conventional crime map into this interactive.
It’s not always easy to mix data and narrative, but there are three things that made this possible in the newsroom.
1. Resources: As a reporter, one of my biggest challenges was introducing contextual metrics into my stories; as a data journalist, one of my biggest challenges has been humanizing the numbers.
Thankfully, newspapers archives are full of stories that humanize the world. We often forget about these resources because so much of our job is about getting new things. But one of the biggest breakthroughs in this project was finding the incredible breadth of archived material that can give life to our storytelling.
2. Willingness to do great journalism: At this point, we had to go into the archives, find these stories and re-publish them to BostonGlobe.com. It was a monumental task — something I could never have done alone. But to my delight, everyone I approached understood the importance of humanizing this data. Head librarian Lisa Tuite searched and compiled the stories; the wonderful Jeff Fish spent time putting the stories on BostonGlobe.com. At least three others collaborated on this project.
3. Easy presentation: To display these stories, we took advantage of our responsive website. We embedded stories from our own site, and because it adjusts to the width of your screen, it took little effort to make them presentable. It’s the Boston Globe, inside the Boston Globe!
The blending of big data and compelling narrative often requires collaboration, but the newsroom is a perfect petri dish for these two data types to interact. The resources are available, the people are willing and it brings a whole new dimension to our readers. It turns isolated stories into actionable trends; it turns dots on a map into people in our world.
This week the Globe published the fruits of a year-long effort to tell the story of one of Boston’s forgotten neighborhoods.
Mention Bowdoin-Geneva to the average “The Wire”-loving holiday shopper walking down Newbury Street and you’ll draw a blank. Few in the prosperous tribe that hugs the Charles have heard of it. But summer after summer, it’s a Dorchester neighborhood in the cross-hairs of gang violence, with a rate of violent assault three times that of the rest of the city.
This summer the Globe decided to go deeper than the usual “drive-by” journalism that follows shootings with an article or two, then disappears. So we rented an apartment in the heart of Bowdoin-Geneva and moved a small group of journalists in. They even slept there. The outcome is the sprawling 68 Blocks series, a 5-part, 25000-word newsvella.
And we didn’t stop at embedding ourselves in the physical Bowdoin-Geneva. What would happen, we asked, if we embedded ourselves in the virtual Bowdoin-Geneva, too? We looked at traces of the neighborhood’s lives left on YouTube, on Twitter, on Facebook – even vertical networks like ThisIs50.com. We found fascinating conversations and expressions coming from these 68 blocks everywhere we looked. But one service clearly rose above the rest for the widely ranging way it reflected the neighborhood: Instagram.
Instagram was perfect because it showed people’s lives in an intimate way: their children, their homes, their moments and big and small. And it provided a great counterpoint to the main storyline, which is one of lives darkened by violence. Instagram showed that normal lives were being lived in Bowdoin-Geneva, too.
We started by saving links to every Instagram photo taken in the neighborhood over the summer. Then we built a tool that allowed an editor to browse through them regularly and pick out pictures that seemed to tell a story. We phoned the photographers, asked them about their picture, and recorded their answers.
Check it out here.
Also see a lovely post about the project by Rachel McAthy at journalism.co.uk, which has covered the Globe’s Sandy-related Instagram work previously.
Today, Mozilla announced the 2013 class of Knight-Mozilla Open News Fellows. The program, funded by the Knight Foundation, embeds smart developers in some of the world’s best newsrooms for 10 months — among them ours. The 2012 fellows are also working at the BBC, The Guardian, Zeit Online and Al Jazeera. In 2013, three other leading news organizations will be participating, including The New York Times.
Our fellow this year has been Dan Schultz, who has been working in our development team and will continue on for 5 more months. Dan has created a tremendous connection into the MIT media lab and has been experimenting with the data mining of closed captions and working on a project to rebuild Boston.com’s quiz tool (among other cool things).
In 2013, we will be joined by Sonya Song, who has degrees in Computer Science from Tsinghua University in Beijing, the country’s leading university, and a Master of Philosophy in Journalism from The University of Hong Kong.
We are excited to have Sonya be joining us early next year. Here’s more on the program from the Nieman Journalism Lab.
Sonya isn’t the only new face who’ll be helping us innovate. Through a separate program with the Knight Foundation, we have received a grant to hire two full time staffers to create a connection to the MIT Media Lab and other Boston area universities. We’ve posted the two new positions, a Creative Technologist and a New Media Catalyst, who will be working in the Globe Lab and finding ways to grow our audience, tell stories, and connect us more deeply to Boston’s top universities to explore new ideas. We will also offer fellowships during winter and summer breaks for students to join us to work on interesting projects.
Chris Marstall has some more details on the positions, as well as a celebrity photo from the Lab.
VP, Digital Products, The Boston Globe
General Manager, Boston.com
Globe Creative Technologist Chris Marstall showing John Hodgman around @GlobeLab. Behind him are Tweevee and Snap, two social media experiments developed in the lab.
The Knight Foundation recently gave the Globe a 1-year grant to collaborate with MIT’s Center for Civic Media. The idea is to take a few great ideas from one of the many academic organization studying the changing news industry and turn them into actual, real-life products! Whether they would be stand-alone websites, smartphone apps, or features of boston.com or bostonglobe.com, these will be usable, helpful, and, hopefully, profitable.
Last month we announced the grant (you can read Nieman Lab’s coverage here). Today, we’re ready to start hiring. The core positions are as follows:
New Media Catalyst
The New Media Catalyst acts as a liason between the Globe and MIT’s Center for Civic Media, as well as other academic departments that study the news. The Catalyst finds exciting, relevant research and brings it into the Globe’s innovation and product organization. S/he works with researchers, product managers, our Creative Technologist and other internal developers to turn ideas into realities that can be used to delight and inform our millions of digital readers. apply here
The Creative Technologist, working in conjunction with the Catalyst and outside researchers, turns promising research from MIT’s Center for Civic Media and other news-industry-focused academic departments into working software that will delight and inform the Boston Globe and boston.com’s millions of online readers in new and unexpected ways. This is an opportunity to collaborate with some of the smartest researchers in the world on projects that bring Greater Boston to life in completely new ways. apply here
The work will be centered in @GlobeLab, our new media experimentation and demo space a few feet from the newsroom, with frequent trips on the red line to the MIT Media Lab. Interested? Click on one of the links above, or email me directly:
Chris Marstall: email@example.com
Note that these are one-year positions only.
Looking forward to hearing from you!