Archives for category: One For Fun

Team Delicious Cake in action
TL;DNR: Sign up now for the TimesOpen Hack Day at The New York Times on Nov. 16. Why? Because talking is good; making is better. It’ll be fun. You’ll learn things. And meet interesting people.

My very first hackathon was in 2009, when Yahoo rode into town with what is still the splashiest of all hack events I’ve ever been to, Open Hack Day NYC.

There must have been at least 500 people in attendance. I decided to go because I wanted to meet other people and try to make something. Yahoo had brought a bunch of their YUI and Brickhouse incubator engineers, whose job it was to help attendees during the hackathon. Any code-related question was OK, and the organizers and engineers themselves would remind you they were around to help.

At first, I was nervous about asking for assistance. After all, the people surrounding me — mostly men — appeared far more confident about their code skills than I felt about mine. If I asked for help, wasn’t I just perpetuating the stereotype that “girls can’t code”?

Eventually, I said “Screw it.” I was a code novice. And I was going to get better by learning from people who were right there offering to explain things to me. Those who helped me weren’t just nice about it, they taught me more about SQL and PHP (at the time, my hack language of choice).

The photo above shows part of the 4-person team who called themselves Cake. They tied for Best Food/Hardware Hack. One of the team members was data scientist Hilary Mason. When she talks about that hack day — and she still does — she talks about it being really fun.

Participating in a hackathon is often about winning, but winning isn’t everything. Take advantage of the opportunity to push yourself, enjoy yourself, learn from others and meet people. Join me at the TimesOpen Hack Day.

I don’t know about you, but December’s been pretty crazy for me. Between trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance (yeah, right) and trying to learn new things, I was shocked to realize Christmas is next week.


Nevertheless, I’ve a little treat for you: Do-it-yourself polka dotted Christmas wrap and digital wallpaper, made with Processing. A sample’s below.

Take your pick of default sizes: 960 x 600 pixels or 1280 x 800 pixels.
Christmas polka dots
I learned a few things while making this project:

  • What they say about coding is true: You’re more apt to learn something if you’ve got a project in mind.
  • The initial bits of Processing are pretty easy to understand. But then there’s trying to grok random (not so bad) and shuffle (oy).
  • Coffee is good. Sleep is better.

To try Processing for yourself, copy my code from Github and paste it into the Processing.js Web IDE, or download Processing and tweak it locally.

Creative Commons LicenseThe code is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Ever wonder what the most popular links are within your circle of friends and trusted sources?

Web Trend Map, a new interactive site, let’s you do that. Created by designer Craig Mod and information architect iA Inc., the website maps selected Twitter users and displays the trending links among those users off to the side.

The site was sorely lacking in food-related maps, so in the spirit of my most recent post, I made one.

Are there any food bloggers/makers/photographers you love who are on Twitter? Let me know and I’ll consider them for inclusion.

Craig and iA write more about the thinking behing Web Trend Map on their site. And if the words “web trend map” sound familiar, it’s ’cause iA Inc. is the company behind the popular Web trends infographic, now available as a poster.

The human side of work often gets lost in the race to be best, first and profitable.

A simple but compelling ad by Fairly Painless Advertising tells potential employees why design firm Herman Miller might be the right place for them to work.

Can the news outlet you work for say this?

The latest Ricochet news contest gives you the chance to show off enterprise reporting on a tight budget.

Tools of the Trade by Princess Valium on Flickr

Show a story borne of the pursuit of an original idea and crafted for the Web and you’ll be entered in this round’s random drawing. The prize? We’ll donate $40 to the community-funded reporting project Spot.Us in your name.

The Rules:

  • One entry per person.
  • The entry must have been posted online in 2008.
  • The entry be an story that no one else in your market had (we’re holding you to the honor system).
  • The entry must have a thoughtful Web component (interactive graphic, video, audio, slideshow, map).
  • Winners of previous contests held on Ricochet in 2008 are ineligible.
  • Deadline: Dec. 23 at 9 p.m. ET.

To Enter: Post the link to your entry in comments. Include your contact info. Again, one entry per person, please.

To Win: Winner will be chosen by random drawing and announced here and on Twitter on Dec. 23 at 10 p.m. ET. The drawing result is final, as is the prize.

Let other reporters and bloggers know about this contest — it’s an opportunity to show others your good work on the Web. Good luck to all entrants!

Photo: Princess Valium/Flickr

Vlad Studio has created a free typography map wallpaper that also works as a clock.

Whether you need to know the time or need to know Morocco’s location, this handy, free download can help you out. Enjoy.

Typographic Map, Wallpaper Clock by Vlad Studio

Typographic Map by Vlad Studio

Ricochet celebrates its first year in publication this month. To thank you for being a part of the community here, we’re doing a series of holiday giveaways.

Christmas Gifts by Brungrrl on Flickr

For the first round, we’ve got one copy of “The Wire,” Season 4 on DVD up for grabs.

The overarching themes of the show (set in Baltimore) were the failures of the educational system and local law enforcement.

For the Ricochet Giveaway “Wire” round, we want to see examples of reporting about police and education programs that have worked or are showing clear signs of improvement in the community.

The Rules:

  • One entry per person.
  • The entry must be from a community blog, news blog or news outlet — mainstream or not.
  • The entry must be mostly original reporting. Links within the report are fine.
  • The entry should come from a community you have ties to. It doesn’t have to be your employer, it doesn’t have to be your own work, and it doesn’t have to be an all-text + photo piece. Video, slideshows and interactives are welcome.
  • Entries from smaller outlets would be very much appreciated.
  • Deadline: Dec. 15 at 9 p.m. ET.

To Enter: Post the link to your entry in comments. Include contact info. Again, one entry per person, please.

To Win: Winner will be chosen by random drawing and announced here and on Twitter on Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. ET. The drawing result is final, as is the prize, which we’ll send to you via

Let other reporters and bloggers know about this contest too. There is bound to be a lot of good work on the Web in police and education reporting. And if you enter, good luck!

Photo: Brungrrl/Flickr

By most reported accounts, Barack Obama won Wednesday’s faceoff by not losing to John McCain.

The unfortunate thing about these televised events it that they sounded a lot like stump speeches and talking points, rather than any real discussion of plans and intentions.

Impressions are all the voting public is left with, so I thought I’d publish a poll:

NBC may have a death grip on the U.S. broadcast of the Summer Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped other outlets from coming up with different ways to cover the Beijing Games online. Here are a few medal-contending approaches you may have missed.

Bird's Nest Beijing Olympics Venue, photo by Rich115 on Flickr

Soaring Over the Bar” from the New York Times
American gymnast Justin Spring explains the mechanics of some of his tricks (moves) on the high bar in this combo news graphic-video-audio feature. The video’s a little grainy and the difficulty legend in the lower left-hand corner could do a better job (is A the hardest or the easiest?), but we give the news organization props for another great interactive. Go Team NYT.

Now Diving: Sir Isaac Newton” from The Wall Street Journal
With the Journal’s reputation as the country’s dominant business news outlet and as the home of personal tech guru Walt Mossberg, it’s easy to forget they cover other subjects too.

This sparkling article by Barry Newman explains the evolution of the low-tech DiveCam in the high-tech Water Cube. It also includes an interactive graphic that demonstrates how the DiveCam works. Click to watch the diver plunge into the pool over … and over …. It’s geeky, but so much fun. Go Team WSJ.

Off the Wall: Foot Massage” from the Associated Press
(Go to the “Interactives” box, scroll down and click the title)
Say what you want about the Associated Press’s business policies, their reporters are still top contenders in solid reporting and creative story ideas. This video by John Marshall is a gem of the latter category.

Marshall has been sampling Beijing’s culture outside the Olympic venues in a video series called “Off The Wall.” In this piece, he took his tired dogs to a local foot massage spa and got an experience much different than he expected. Listen to the nat sound and the narrative. It’ll make you smile. Go Team AP.

Fourth-Place Medal’s Investigative Unit from Yahoo Sports
A team of Yahoos has been writing a rip-roaring Olympics blog and doing what bloggers to best: acting on reader questions. They call the posts “Olympic mysteries.” So far they’ve answered:

  • Who was that mas linda Paraguan marching in the opening ceremony?
  • Where was swimmer Cullen Jones during the rowdy 4×100 men’s relay celebration that kept Michael Phelps’s gold medal record hopes alive and solidified Jason Lezak’s reputation as the team’s strongest closer?
  • Why do divers shower between each dive?
  • What’s that black stuff on beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh’s shoulder?
  • And from a question asked last night during Michael Phelps’s 200 meter IM race, what’s on the golden Olympian’s iPod playlist?

The off-the-cuff blog has an enthusiastic following, judging by reader comments. Expect live-blogging and reader reaction again tonight as Phelps whips through water in the 100 meter fly, and women take to the track in the 10,000 meter final. Go Team 4PM.