Publishing Versus Performance: Our Struggle for the Soul of the Web

Jeffrey Zeldman talks about the struggle for the soul of the Web, brought forth by the The Mobile Web Sucks on The Verge. It’s worth a read as is Jeremy Keith’s related On the Verge piece. To strike a balance between wonderful content and performance, like most things worth doing, we need more cooperation, experimentation, failure and patience.

News for Betty + Accessibility Hackathon

Today, I participated in an accessibility hackathon run by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, 18F, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and DC Legal Hackers. The day was packed with demos, discussion and coding on all sorts of projects, ranging from solving the lack of alt attributes on Twitter images to a more efficient way to integrate Section 508 into the government procurement process.

We didn’t solve everything in one day, but we had lots of ideas, worked together and did it in the open. I contributed to a new, in-progress web app called News for Betty. It’s a news aggregator that takes the home pages of major news sources and cuts out the cruft, making it easier for people of all abilities get to the news faster. A fun project for a former journalist! You can check it out on Github. A handful of my pull requests centered on improving its accessibility have already been merged.

It’s easy to jump into any problem thinking you need to bring a new solution. With a newer, but established project like News for Betty, the creators had already formed a solid base to an existing problem. Sometimes you just need to give something support, a nudge in a new direction or a different way of thinking, and maybe a few pull requests. 🙂

This is especially true on the Web where thousands of worthy projects need more accessibility attention. What have you helped today?

Beta USA Today Site Truly Different

The new USA Today Beta website marries a the content and navigation of a traditional news website with the look and feel of a bleeding-edge news app. Poynter has the details of the new site and an interview with its designers.

So far, according to one of the Poynter articles, USA Today staff has loved the new design:

The client has been ecstatic. Their own feedback has been overwhelming. They knew they took a risk. I think they’re super relieved at what they’re seeing.

It looks different, feels different and the ads don’t intrude on the reading experience. So far, I have a number of questions that will be interesting to watch play out:

  1. The site focuses on the desktop experience, leaving the mobile experience not to responsive design, but apps. From a reading/user perspective – will this be the better approach long term? And does zeroing in on device experiences like this better for inovation?
  2. Why aren’t other news organizations (and other industries!) taking more bold chances with their web presence? (The web needs that.)

Journalism Lives just Launched

You may have noticed a recent update I sent out via Twitter.

Steve Earley and I just launched a new blog focused on how interactivity is helping and can help the news industry. Both Steve and I love blogging, have a deep passion for the future of the news and wanted to join the larger debate surrounding journalism’s ongoing evolution, so starting this blog just made sense. We were lucky to have quite a few supporters already.

If you enjoy reading what I write here, I encourage you to check out Journalism Lives. Steve and I worked together really well during grad school at Elon, and have big plans and hopes for the site.

I’ll also say this: even though Journalism Lives will focus on the news industry, I won’t stop writing about it in this space. I plan to continue exploring multimedia journalism and other types of storytelling with technology here. Journalism isn’t the only field facing a massive evolution, so the more we entertain problems and questions from anywhere and everywhere, the sooner we be able to craft innovative solutions and answers.

That’s why I believe a blog like Journalism Lives can hold value for anyone interested in how people access online information. Our blog, like this one, is likely to draw inspiration from many different sources.

I hope you check it out and thanks for reading.