Facing interactivity, a personal reflection: what is next?

During the last few weeks I focused on the interactive practices on the Media. I wanted to know what is happening at this moment, and which tools are popular among journalists.

With the aim of grabbing some ideas and increasing my knowledge on this field, I followed those people and companies who are working on interactivity throughout Twitter and websites.



I also tested some tools by myself: CartoDB, StoryMap JS etc. Some time ago, getting interactivity was something extremely hard for those who were not ‘hackers’ (programmers).

Thanks god, a lot of good samaritans have created powerful and efficient apps which make it much easier than it was.

Despite all these miraculous things, we cannot forget the fundamentals: HTML, CSS and Javascript. Journalists cannot avoid to learn some coding as professor Jeremy Rue said before.

I have checked out some handbooks and websites which let you learn a little bit of this huge universe.

Learning to use space and time in an interactive way

One of the biggest problems as researcher is to know what you are looking for. A lot of things nowadays are considered as “interactive”: social media, feedback, animations, maps, timelines or quizzes are all different aspects of engaging people.

From my perspective, I was not sure about what things I should focus on. So I started with those contents that people normally see on digital newspapers today: maps and timelines.

I started having a look to journalist Alex Gamela’s blog in which I have found some interesting things related to interactivity, but also extra information about timelines. Alex, who is a former student of online journalism at Birmingham City University, had runned a project on timelines in 2010.

He commented some of the main editing tools who were in use at that time. This reading inspired me to figure out which apps are the most popular in 2015.

After publishing the post, I initiated a debate in Twitter to know if journalists normally use the same tools I had mentioned.I did the same with those tools to create maps. At this point, I realised that I would need some extra knowledge on Javascripts and geolocation. With the video below, I tried to explain a bit of this process.

Therefore, I used Open refine, which helps to clean data, in order to use Google Fusion Tables or Carto DB.

Code is unavoidable, but I found JQuery better than Javascript

Prior to this project, I had already had some knowledge on HTML and CSS languages, but I really did not know anything about Javascript. It was the next level.

First at all, I started to check out books like “Javascript in 24 hours” or “Javascript: the definitive guide”, and also doing some free courses on Code School and Code Academy, following journalist Jeremy Rue’s tips:

“Many people often fail to advanced past this point because they find difficulty in applying the lessons to real-world projects. It’s important to have something tangible to build and working toward that goal — and Googling questions often.”

This language is always a challenge. That is the reason I also tried JQuery, whereby I could aproach to coding in a easier way. According to Wikipedia, JQuery works as a “library of pre-written JavaScript which allows for easier development of JavaScript-based applications.”

 Upcoming project: Birmingham24, 24 issues in 24 hours

The good practises I have checked out encourage me to build an interactive story with multimedia contents in which I could put the theory unto practice. Honestly, there are many things related to code I still have to learn. After the first steps on the field, it is time to go further and try to do more complex things.

As my MA award leader Paul Bradshaw suggested, the upcoming elections are a very good opportunity to explore and do something great. In this case, young voters (18-24 years old) could be the perfect public, trying to create a story through 24 issues related to futures policies which will affect youngsters.





StoryMap JS brings interactivity for anyone

Few days ago, we talked about Timeline JS as simple but powerfull tool to create interactive timelines. Its brother, StoryMap JS, also offers a strong experience, in which users immerse themselves whitin the story.

Journalist Thierry Labro from the Luxemburger Wort told me that his diary has recently used this tool for the first time ever (click on it to watch):



Unless you do not have any knowledge on Javascript, you can get interactivity for your content indeed. By the way, here three big reasons to use StoryMap JS:

1. The interface is so simple

Interface is like the simplest version of any editor. It displays ‘edit’ and ‘preview’ modes. You can go across the different slides of your piece.

2. Adding multimedia content is easy

Each slide is based in one picture. Next to this, you can show multimedia content, throughout an html box.


3. You can embed your work

After finishing, you can post your work on any site you wise, but remember that you must use WordPress.org user to embed its iframe code -it’s my case-.

This tutorial can make your first steps whith this tool easier:

Top Simple Tools for Journalists to Create Interactive Timelines

Stories talk about an specific time. Luckily, today you can create your own timelines which support your content. Showing a story across the time enlights audience about previous facts, which are very necessary to understand what is going on now.

Thus, timelines are one of the ways to get interactivity. Your public can go back and go forward and enjoy multimedia content in each event. By the way, these are the easiest but useful tools to make it possible: Timeline JS, Timetoast and Timeglider.

 1. Timeline JS

The most complete of them: it is free, powerful, clear. Using a simple spreadsheet you can put into the cells olaoladifferent multimedia stuff, as well as you can curate content from the social networks. It has been used by companies as Al Jazeera, Le Monde or TIME magazine.

 2. Timetoast

Its minimum cost is $5,99/month, but the truth is that you are paying easiness. Forget the spreadsheets, you can add timetoastevents directly. It is also perfect to work in group: can be used by five accounts and more. People can also comment in the own timeline.

 3. Dipity

You can customise four types of presentations (Timeline, flipbook, map and list), sizes and colours, and get the RSS dipityfeed as well. It is not as elegant as Timeline JS, but it is enough for assingments and other uses.