NewsBot, Slackbot, Tracking Online News and Open Source Image Management

NewsBot is a brilliant new Google Chrome extension which allows you to create your own streams, by sending you related articles when you show it a piece of writing that you are interested in.

Recently launched, NewsBot is incredibly easy to install and use, appearing as a small icon next to the address bar on a Chrome search window. If you read an article on a subject that you want to research further, clicking on the icon opens up a small box, giving you the option to instantly click through it’s top five suggested articles, related to the one you’re reading. Additionally you can chose to follow the subject you are currently reading about and NewsBot will send notifications when related articles are published. You can even highlight text within the article you are reading and perform a right click to send to NewsBot for instant recommendations based on that particular exert only. NewsBot is partnered with quality sources, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Economist, NASA, MIT, Fusion (to name but a few), so the articles it points you to are consistently useful.

NewsBot is not to be confused with Slackbot which has been built by the New York Times to help it decide which articles it should publish to social media. Nieman Lab reports that the programme (which is called Blossom) helps them to predict which of their articles will get the most views and shares.

At the moment, social media editors — and, really, anyone else within the Times newsroom who uses Slack — can query Blossom via a direct message or in a Slack channel to figure out which story to post to Facebook. “Blossom Facebook?” editors can ask in Slack, and receive answers about what might do well there. The bot also includes some “Easter egg” features (such as weather) to encourage Times editors to explore and get familiar with the tool.

An interesting tracking tool has been launched, with the code available on Github. NewsDiffs was born out of a Knight Mozilla MIT hackathon, and is designed to track changes made to online news reports.

In the age of rapid reporting and digital news, there is rarely a single “final” version of an article. NewsDiffs watches different versions of highly-placed articles on online news sites, starting with For better or worse, readers can now view “the making of the sausage” that historically was discreetly tucked away from view with dead-tree editions. Some of those changes provoke criticism.

The Columbia Journalism Review thinks ‘diffing’ could make news organizations more transparent. While minor changes to sentence and paragraph structure are not very interesting, the CJR is interested in the more substantive and possibly politically motivated alterations, or cases where a publication gets it wrong but is slow to correct a mistake.

Also being shared on Github is the Guardian’s new image management tool, Grid. Nieman Lab reports that the product is fully integrated into the Guardian’s workflow and provides a image management system that caters for the needs of a news organisation which is split over three continents.

Looking for images can be an unnecessarily arduous process. Beyond simply finding the picture, a user searching must also contend with rights, size, and previous usage considerations. Grid, which is the result of a year’s work by a dedicated team of four Guardian developers, a product manager, and a UX architect, looks to solve these problems for The Guardian by integrating all that information into a clean and organized package that integrates with The Guardian’s other existing tools.