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Mapping in journalism comes of age

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Long the domain of geeked-out urban planners and environmental scientists, geographic information systems have evolved to be within the reach of even moderately adept journalists, according to Matt Wynn at the Poynter Institute. "Interactive maps and location-based services have unleashed a torrent of spatial tools throughout the past few years, making everything from analysis to sophisticated Web applications accessible," Wynn writes, then discusses the best of them.

How to read a PDF on your Kindle

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From the eBookNewser site, a step-by-step guide to converting a PDF document into something you can read on a Kindle or other eBook reader. The instructions start with a pointer to a free conversion tool, and include tips on removing stray characters and unwanted page headers after the conversion is complete. Also from the Poynter Institute, more tips on cleaning up text on a computer.

A tool for finding diamonds in data

Dirty data is the bane of computer-saavy journalists. For them, Google Refine may be worth a look, according to Maurice Cherry on the 10,000 words site. A free, downloadable desktop application for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, Google Refine gives your web browser a suite of tools for finding and fixing inconsistencies, transforming data between formats, and integrating with services such as online mapping and language translators.

Blogs and Twitter streams on the history of science

Michael D. Barton has updated a list he first produced last fall, with nearly 200 URLs now included. They range from Advances in the History of Psychology and Adventures of a Post-Doc to something called Zoonomian. Barton invites more contributions and some of them are listed in the comments.

Bad news for overpriced map vendors

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Topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey are now available for free, online, via a new government web site that lets users search for them and select from current and historic topo maps, plus aerial photos and special maps such as those delineating mineral deposits. A fuller description of the online map archive is available here from USGS. Warning: The map search page does not appear to work correctly in some browsers.

Things you never knew a search engine could do

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Google, Yahoo, Bing — and others like them — have useful features that have nothing to do with keyword searching. Like checking a flight time, converting avoirdupois to metric, or doing simple arithmetic. Those tips and others are lists in this article from USA Today. Searching for "Google tricks" turns up a few more lists, like this one: Adding "&imgtype=face" to your Google image search can distinguish Paris Hilton from Paris the city.

Project Gutenberg reaches middle age

Before there was a Kindle there was Project Gutenberg. Founded 40 years ago this week, it began when a University of Illinois freshman named Michael Hart typed a copy of the Declaration of Independence into a mainframe computer on July 4, whereupon six people downloaded it. Now, the online archive has more than 36,000 books. Read this history of Project Gutenberg, and other relevant blog posts here.

Twitter tips for journalists — from Twitter

Not to be outdone by Facebook, the other social media empire has just released a guide to using Twitter in journalism. It includes searching archived tweets, guidance on using Twitter material in your reports, and a glossary of Twitter-related terms. "We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow, others native to the hashtag," the introduction says. "But you share a common bond: the desire to make an difference in the world."

A journalist's database of research studies

Bookmark this one for deadline time. Harvard's Shorenstein Center has summarized and linked to more than 250 research studies on environment, economics, government, and society. The studies are chosen for the source's authority, the clarity of the study's language, and its lack of bias. For educators and students, articles on basic reporting techniques and instructional materials are also included.

Of Wikipedia, Paul Revere, and academia

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It's no surprise that Sarah Palin's remarks on Paul Revere's famous ride set off an editing war on the colonial patriot's Wikipedia page as users supported or mocked the former vice-presidential candidate's assertions. But here's something new: At the recent Association for Psychological Science annual meeting, the group enlisted members to help improve Wikipedia's psychology entries, and the response was enthusiastic.