Newsroom.Tools Launches at MozFest

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Newsroom.Tools, which started at a #newsHACK from the work of a team of journalists at the Times and Sunday Times, launched last weekend after being developed by students at Goldsmiths, University of London with support from BBC News Labs.

Alli Shultes shares her experiences on the project:

When four journalists from the Times and Sunday Times prototyped Newsroom.Tools (then Journalist Toolbox) at the BBC #newsHACK last year, they imagined a culture shift as much as a platform. What our team at Goldsmiths has tried to deliver is an answer to both:

  1. A site that provides clear and accessible information on newsroom technologies
  2. A platform that encourages journalists and developers to rethink best practices when designing and evaluating newsroom tools

Newsroom.Tools is designed to let users search by categories, tags and tool names. It ranks search results by upvotes, so the most popular tools are the easiest to find. Users can add reviews on a scale from one to ten in categories such as how easy a tool is to learn, how long it took to finish a project with a given tool and whether or not they’d recommend it to a friend. Alternatively, journalists can search recommendations by browsing our “Featured Tools” lists.

We’ve tried to make it easier for developers to publicise tools they have built for in-house use — tools such as CardKit, the social image generator from the Times and Sunday Times. If you want to contribute, you can add a basic JSON file to your project’s GitHub repository to automatically generate an entry for the site.

All of this functionality makes tools easily searchable and accessible, but it still doesn’t add up to a culture change. We hope that the type of information we provide will start solidifying standards for newsroom tools — many of which are already recognised best-practices.

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The demo of Newsroom.Tools presented at #newsHACK and the site today.

Towards A New Set of Standards

Chris Hutchinson first published a call for a set of community agreed standards for newsroom tools in a Medium piece last year after #newsHACK. He proposed the following criteria as starting points:

  • Documentation should be written in at least one language, it’s even better with more
  • How-to guides, videos and tutorials should be provided and written in language aimed at journalists of all abilities
  • Projects should be open source, so developers can expand and extend them
  • Tools should offer demo versions, allowing journalists to experience them without a lengthy sign-up or deployment process

When users contribute new technologies to Newsroom.Tools, they are asked to provide information on a tool’s documentation, customisability and installation, as well as a link to a relevant tutorial. These fields aren’t mandatory, but we hope that by encouraging contributors to use them - and populating the site with an initial 70+ tools that do use them - we can show how this information can be useful for journalists and developers alike.

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Can Newsroom.Tools change the way we think about tooling by emphasizing customisation, the availability of tutorials and the quality of documentation?

Newsroom.Tools and You

How can you interact with Newsroom.Tools?

  • Register to upvote the tools that help you get the job done and downvote the ones that don’t.
  • Explore lists of featured tools recommended by journalists from The Times and Sunday Times, or from the Newsroom.Tools team.
  • Create your own private tool lists for individual projects or general usage.
  • Add a tools.json file to your GitHub repositories and make your tools searchable on our site.

Newsroom.Tools and Goldsmiths

What are our ideas for developing this project further?

  • Interview journalists, editors and developers on the challenges they face when working with newsroom technologies.
  • Curate featured tool lists to provide insight into new tools and innovative topics.
  • Set up a monthly newsletter with industry interviews, new tools and posts from our Medium account.
  • Develop a chat bot that uses the database behind the site to provide tool suggestions to journalists on Slack or other target platforms.

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