Technology

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    Why journo-nerds have the advantage

    Writing for Nieman Journalism Lab, ProPublica's Scott Klein warns that journalists who shun data and programming can lose out in the chase for stories: "We all know reporters who don't know how to write a FOIA letter and who can't bear the thought of reading the avalanche of documents that, with luck, arrive in response. You can be a good journalist without being able to do lots of things. But every skill you don't have leaves a whole class of stories out of your reach."

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    Ten tips for your computer problems

    When in doubt, reboot. That summarizes one tip in this PCWorld compilation on troubleshooting your own PC problems. Other advice includes which malware scanner is best, how to measure your download speeds, and what to do when your computer is slow to start up. There's also a warning about knowing your limitations: "If you think the problem is too complicated, call up a more knowledgeable friend, or bite the bullet and work with a professional tech support service."

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    Internet security tips for journalists

    It's too easy for writers to get sloppy about security in their digital communications, Casey Frechette writes for Poynter in a post with 15 "best practices" tips. Take email, for example. Before it gets to your recipient, your message may pass through any number of other computers. "In principle, anyone with access to those computers can monitor the communications that pass through them. We think we’re sending a sealed envelope, but we’re really mailing a postcard."

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    Can outsourcing email hurt journalism?

    Steve Henn reports on NPR about a recent move by the New York Times to let Google handle the news organization's email: "This summer, the paper moved all of its reporters onto corporate Gmail accounts. Before the switch, Times emails were stored on servers it owned; now those messages are in Google's digital filing cabinet." Henn raises a question: How strong is Google's committment to protecting reporters — and confidential sources — from government subpoenas?

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    What writers need to know about video

    Sabrina Doyle writes on the Canadian Science Writers Association site about the differences between reporting as a writer and reporting for video, such as sound: "When you’re working alone, it can be overwhelming the number of things you need to check — focus, lighting, composition, white balance, and let’s not forget what the person is actually saying — but adding audio to the list of priorities is crucial. If the sound’s bad, nobody’s going to listen."

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    E-books surge as print demand drops

    One-third of Americans now own either an e-book reader or a tablet computer, according to the latest update from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. That's almost double the rate from one year earlier, and it corresponds to a decline — from 72% to 67% — in the percentage reading print books. E-book readers are typically 30 to 49 years old, have college or graduate degrees, and live in households earning more than $75,000, the report said.

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    The new world of news algorithms

    Nick Diakopoulos at Nieman Journalism Lab has some words of warning about the computer tools that sites like Google use on news pages: "Even robots have biases. Any decision process, whether human or algorithm, about what to include, exclude, or emphasize — processes of which Google News has many — has the potential to introduce bias." He also defines algorithm types: Summarization, personalization, optimization, ranking, association, classification, and aggregation.

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    The good and bad of the new e-books

    Will digital books be a boon or bust for journalists? Stephen Beale sends word — from a workshop by the Association of Health Care Journalists — that it's a mixed bag, quoting Jim Azevedo of Smashwords: "When people ask, 'What’s the best thing about Smashwords?' we say, 'We make it fast, free and easy for any author anywhere in the world to publish and distribute a book.' When they ask, 'What’s the worst thing about Smashwords?' we give them the same answer."

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    Take the plunge into video editing

    No longer is video limited to well-equipped pros with years of experience, Sean Patrick Farrell writes on Nieman Storyboard: "Now we have cheap and good cameras that most of us carry in our pockets, plus numerous ways to disseminate the content." Farrell provides tips ("Hold the camera in landscape, or horizontal mode whenever recording video.") and Casey Frechette at Poynter offers a quick tour of video editing software and a guide to its use.

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    Who are the best writers on Twitter?

    Brevity is the soul of wit and the essence of Twitter, but it's a challenge to write well in such brief bursts. Who does it best? Mallary Jean Tenore has some nominees on Poynter: "Twitter is a powerful tool for writers. With its 140-character limit, it's like an electronic editor that forces us to find a focus and make every word count. It's a verbose writer's friend and worst enemy — a constant reminder that it's often harder to write short than it is to write long."