Glimpse Inside the 2015 Digital Reporting Toolkit

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.
Steve Jobs

Friend and industry colleague Robert Hernandez and I recently had the privilege of presenting to fellow journalists on behalf of NAHJ San Diego/Tijuana on some of the more noteworthy emerging tools and trends for the 2015 digital storyteller’s radar.

credit: tontographer/flickr

Before we broke out the digital sorcery and prototype magic wands Robert brought back from CES 2015, we felt it was important to lay out a few quick acknowledgements to reaffirm the tone for our afternoon together.

THE ROAD TO 2020

2015 starts the road to 2020 and begins to better define the next five years in news reporting and innovation. Our trends are focused around the rapid evolution of media and technology, digital journalism breakthroughs and — ultimately — audience behaviors helping to shape the next five years.

Technology is intertwined in our lives and old definitions of media are being replaced with algorithms, data, social activation and creative expression across screens.

WHO YOU CALLING EARLY ADOPTER?

There’s a big difference between being an early adopter and earlier adopter. I make it a point to try very hard to NOT be the first person I know to try each new technology as it hits the market.

I would much rather wait a bit for the innovation to shake out, get stretched to its limits, shortcuts and best practices to be publicized and — most importantly — ensure it’ll go beyond more than an overnight sensation and potentially disappear as quickly as it arrived.

LEARNING TO SURF THE TECH-TIDAL WAVES

It’s important to note that none of us are immune to the overwhelming sensation of ‘tech-tidal waves’ crashing over us when it comes to new tech thrashing around — all the time.

First rule for how to avoid drowning: stay calm, don’t panic. No one person or entity can keep up with everything… we all need help, guidance and support. There is much solace in working through these issues of uncertainly, collectively as colleagues and peers — particularly at events such as this.

TRENDS > TOOLS

One last thematic reference before we dive into the long list of awesome and emerging resources… we continue to talk at length about tools but our attention should be much broader.

We love to learn about tools. We love lists about new apps to try. We love to be among the first to share fresh tips and recommendations with our circles.

But let’s keep in mind that most tools come and go. New things come along, previous tools get cycled out, we move onto bigger, better, faster and cheaper things.

While we get excited about some of these latest tools — let’s lend the bulk of our bandwith toward the true big picture: trends.

Important to consider not just what new tools offer and how they work, but it’s even more significant to thoughtfully understand what challenges they address and what other opportunities could or should exist to attack these issues or other related areas. Most compelling trends have staying power. Tools are much less harder to predict.

Ok, buckle in. Here we go…

DISCOVERY

Hash

Smarter way to get plugged in with the conversations happening on Twitter’s trending topics. With a heavy emphasis on aesthetics, Hash is a simple, visual way for users to catch up on global events.

credit: hash

Facebook Graph Search

Without a doubt one of the most under-utilized features of FB. Graph search provides a streamlined method to locate individuals for the verification of information. Journalists do not need to know the name of the person they are searching for; instead, they can search based on other known criteria such as location, occupation and age.

WikiWash

Brilliant tool that will help track sudden changes in near-real that could potentially signal the first moments of a developing situation — WikiWash tracks Wikipedia edits in real time. Follow breaking stories as they are written.

credit: wikiwash

Vine Viewer

More and more cases of ‘first video’ during breaking events are occurring on the Vine platform. Unfortunately the native app doesn’t make it very easy to search for Vines. VV is one of the better, more thorough search tools for exploring Vine videos.

Gramfeed

Besides serving as a simple search tool for Instagram content, big fan of two other useful features; ability to visualize photos on a map and users can login with multiple accounts for more efficient management of more than one IG feed.

credit: gramfeed

Pixifly

When an Instagram username or hashtag isn’t enough… this iOS app enables users to perform geo-located searches of public Instagram photos, posted on a particular date. By default shows 1m radius of your area.

GEOLOCATION

Banjo

Social content discovery app allows for real-time window into breaking news, sports and weather events, entertainment stories and other trending events around the world. Prefer the mobile app for searching for nearby posts and focusing on specific locations (in the event of breaking news).

credit: banjo

MULTIMEDIA

Steller

Lets you create elegant multimedia stories by easily merging photos, videos and text directly from your iPhone or iPod Touch into a compelling visual narrative. Reminds me a lot of iOS app Ptch, which was built for the super-creatives. Steller strikes me as even more intuitive than Ptch.

credit: mortal muses

ThingLink

Image engagement tool that lets users add clickable tags (content) to web images and share the tagged images on social networks. Use web links to connect music, video, notes, and more with relevant points on your piece of content. Highly shareable!

Storybyte

Makes photo slideshows complete with captions that go connect with the popular social platforms. App turns the photos already on your phone into stories you can share beautifully or relive privately. The folks behind the app seem to be targeting heartfelt family photos left buried within your camera roll — but I see lots of potential for dispatches from the field by journalists looking for a simple solution for culling and publishing slideshows in just a couple minutes.

credit: storybyte

DATA

Import.io

Crawls through websites and pushes swaths of information — a catalog of products or a list of arrests, for example — into a chart format. Set it up to continue grabbing this information in as it’s posted and keep tabs on changes to online databases, court records, arrest reports, etc.

credit: import.io

Tabula

Tool for liberating data tables trapped inside PDF files. It is now being developed in collaboration with ProPublica, La Nación DATA, The New York Times and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews. Available under the MIT License.

PUBLISHING

Timeline.js

Timeline creator tool that requires no coding knowledge. Just add dates, copy, photos, videos, social media posts and more to a Google spreadsheet and post the HTML it spits out into your story. Users can click left or right to move through the timeline or scroll to specific dates with the tool at the bottom.

Storymap

Powerful digital tool to help tell stories on the web that highlight the locations of a series of events, therefore affording a much more contextualized story experience for the consumer.

credit: geoawesomeness

AUGMENTED | VIRTUAL

Oculus Rift

Virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds.

Samsung VR Gear

It’s a headset, like the Oculus Rift; in fact, it’s made in partnership with Oculus. But unlike Facebook’s fabled virtual-reality goggles, you can buy the Gear VR now (in the US, at least) for just $199. It runs a handful of demo apps, experiences, panoramic photos and videos and games. But it only works with one phone: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which — when snapped into the headset — acts as the display.

credit: usa today

WEARABLES

Google Glass

An attempt to free data from desktop computers and portable devices like phones and tablets, and place it right in front of the eyes of the viewer. Google Glass is a camera, display, touchpad, battery and microphone built into spectacle frames so that a display is perched in the wearer’s field of vision, allowing him to film, take pictures, search and translate on the go.

UPDATE: shortly after this presentation was delivered, Google announced the company will stop selling the novel device — at least in its current form. Google insists the product is still in development and it’s highly likely that a new version will eventually be released.

Myo ($199)

Armband that provides gesture control by being able to read the movements of the user’s muscles. Myo allows its users to use the electrical activity in their muscles to wirelessly control their computes, phones, and other interesting digital technologies. It is designed to work with PC, Mac, and Android operating system.

credit: thalmic

Samsung Gear S smartwatch ($349)

Samsung’s sixth smartwatch in a little over a year, but it has one big difference: it gets its own cell service and data. It even has its own SIM-card slot. It’s a watch that’s also a phone.

Narrative Clip: ($149)

Narrative is a “life blogging” camera that users wear and shoots 5mp photo every 30 seconds. The power is within the algorithm that takes the file, exports it into the cloud and stitches the stream into most relevant points of one’s day, considering composition, lighting, histogram, etc. Touted as unique ‘backstory — behind the scenes’ storytelling tools for first person perspectives to tell a different type of narrative.

credit: cnet

MOBILE VIDEO

FiLMiC Pro: ($7.99) the new standard for iPhone videography. FiLMiC Pro gives iPhone and iPad users control over their videos that has previously only been available to pros, and it captures killer video content that you won’t believe was shot on a smartphone or a tablet. Features include manual control, ability to change frame rates, stunning image quality, motion effects, audio monitoring and easy-share capabilities.

Videolicious

Provides easy-to-use video creation solutions that enable the creation of professional-quality videos for business communications. Known for intuitive drag and drop editing capabilities.

credit: videolicious

Hyperlapse

Makes it easy and fun to take slick recordings that add interest to stories and make advertising departments happy. Hyperlapse’s potency comes from two major features: its remarkably good shake-reduction algorithm, and its timelapse ability that allows for up to 12x video playback

credit: instagram

Lomotif (freemium)

Okay so now that you just shot that awesome timelapse video — something appears missing from making it a complete killer content-consumption experience… oh right, music! This app transforms mobile video clips into short, punchy personal music videos for sharing on social platforms.

credit: lomotif

PHOTOGRAPHY

Camera Plus ($1.99)

Remains the best smartphone camera app for the money. It has a slick and beautiful interface, zero learning curve and features that don’t overawe the user. One of more impressive recent features is AirSnap — an innovative way to let users pair any two iOS devices to capture photos and videos remotely from afar. Using Bluetooth of Wi-Fi, one device is assigned as the camera and the other becomes s remote control so that nobody gets left out of the captures.

credit: appsafari

Snapseed

For photo editing, I’m all about SnapSeed from Google. It’s fuller functioned than the next best product (made by Adobe), is intuitive to use and allows for spot edits, rather than full-frame ones. I use it on all of my iOS devices and Mac computers.

Tagg.ly

Co-founder and Fusion journalist Tim Pool is known for using mobile tools in his reporting, so it’s appropriate that his app would help ensure photographers always have their work correctly attributed. The app allows users to quickly add customized watermarks that include name, date, location, logo and timestamp to photos they shoot. The identifying info can be added automatically, when photos are taken within the app, or added to photos uploaded from your device’s camera roll.

credit: nerdilandia

VERIFICATION | SLEUTHING

Izittru

Thanks to editing tools like Photoshop, it can be hard to tell what’s real on the web. There have been a number of forensic tools available to those wishing to investigate suspect images, but likely none so easy to use as Izitru, the service introduced recently by a Dartmouth professor. Izitru, pronounced a bit like “is it true,” lets you upload a photo and automatically get a computer’s analysis of whether or not it may have been modified. The results are simplistic, generally telling you that it believes an image to be an original — as in, it’s come straight from a camera — or that an image may have been modified, meaning it’s been saved again since coming out of the camera.

credit: izittru

Lens

Lets you capture photos that are verified by date, time and location and displays them on a map. By giving you the power to capture and view photos that are 100% verified, you’ll never have to ask when or where a photo was taken again.

Geosocial Footprint

A website where one can track the users’ location “footprint” created from GPS enabled tweets, social check ins, natural language location searching (geocoding) and profile harvesting.

credit: geosocial footprint

Spokeo (freemium)

A people search engine that can find individuals by name, email, phone or username. Results are merged into a profile showing gender and age, contact details, occupation, education, marital status, family background, economic profile and photos.

SOCIAL

RebelMouse

Publishing platform that is fully wired for social. Its solution enables brands, media companies and individuals to create vibrant content experiences that build communities and continually reach and grow audiences across the social web.

credit: poynter

Snapchat

In 2014 a handful of newsrooms began using the mobile tool to connect with a valuable younger demographic. Organizations like the Washington Post, NPR and NowThis News create short Snapchat Stories to share headlines over whimsical, often hand-drawn, images.

Storify

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. With Storify, you collect the best photos, video, quotes from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more to publish them as simple stories that can be embedded anywhere.

credit: optimizesbiz

PRODUCTIVITY

Evernote (freemium)

Suite of software and services that allow users to capture, organize, and find information across multiple platforms.

Cogi (freemium)

Not every part of the lecture or interview you are recording is interesting, but when the speaker does say something important, you want to be able to go back to it. Cogi makes it easy with a smart highlighting feature, along with other annotation tools. This tool has become a game-changer for me during business meetings.

credit: indiegogo

Notifyr

Enables users to view all of their iPhone’s push notifications on their Mac’s desktop, so they can read essays, and see incoming tweets and Facebook messages, without ever unlocking their phone. The $3.99 app pairs over Bluetooth to minimize battery drain. It is compatible with the iPhone 4S and later, as well as most Macs from 2011 and later.

credit: notifyr

VISUAL | DESIGN

Piktochart (freemium)

Infographics app that allows non-designers to create visual graphics to better engage their web audiences. I’ve tried a bunch, this by far is most user-friendly and effective for building awesome infographics.

Canva

Facilitates graphic design by providing a drag-and-drop design tool and a library of stock photographs, graphic elements and fonts.

credit: sociallinkmedia

More tech tools: webjournalist.org/topics/tools/

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Comments Section: please leave your takes on these tools — AND — feel empowered to drop your new favorite tools/trends/themes so that others (especially me) may consider for our next toolkit upgrade.