Announcing the Fall News Nerds in Residence

Announcing the Fall News Nerds in Residence

Two journalists have answered our call to make Quackbot the next great journalism tool

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy and JPat Brown

In June, we put out a general call to news nerds everywhere asking for great ideas to make our Slackbot for news (we call it Quackbot) amazing. Today, we are thrilled to announce we have had not one but two journalists take up the challenge.

Ryan Restivo, Editorial Development Coordinator at Newsday, proposed adding a superpower to Quackbot designed to help journalists get better, faster information about the stories they share to social feeds.

“Producers constantly fine-tune the title and description for social media posts to reach our audience, however, they don’t always see these updates when they share on Facebook or Twitter,” Restivo wrote in his proposal. “When our team needs to see how the content looks on social media platforms they have to work with each network’s debugger to force it to scrape fresh information. This can be detrimental in breaking news situations where headlines, descriptions and images can be fluid.”

Restivo plans to add a superpower to Quackbot that will automatically update the content “in milliseconds rather than minutes” with nothing more than a URL needed.

Ryan Pitts of OpenNews is our second nerd in residence. He wants to create a superpower to help teams easily and quickly publish data to the web. His project will grab data from a Google Sheet, translate it into JSON and publish that as a file.

It will be an updated version of a Slackbot already in use within OpenNews. Using that tool, any staff user can publish or update data from a shared Google Sheet by simply typing a command into Slack, Pitts wrote in his proposal.

This is how OpenNews powers, for example, its conference schedule for SRCCON. Another potential user could be newsroom data teams, which often use Google Sheets as a backend for interactive graphics because they are easy for nontechnical users to share and update.

Adding the ability to publish to Slack “makes it super easy, and abstracts away the opportunity to accidentally do the wrong thing,” Pitts wrote.

Pitts and Restivo will be working with Quackbot author John Keefe, from the Quartz Bot Studio, on their projects and hope to have these new superpowers in production later this fall.

Now it’s your turn to give QuackBot super powers

But we have even more exciting news: If you have a great idea, we’re opening up applications for our next News Nerd in Residence now. Just apply below with your idea, any details on progress you’ve made (is this just a dream, a working prototype, or an internal service you’ve already got running and want to share with the world?).

We’ll be reviewing submissions on a rolling basis and are looking for simple, chat-based tools that can help newsrooms and individual reporters around the country in new, creative, and surprising ways. You can read more about the program in our original call for applicants.

In particular, we’re looking for QuackBot skills that will be useful for reporters focused on local issues. Maybe it’s a service to help scrape and digest city council minutes or a modern twist on the police scanner. If it has the impact to help those covering towns and cities across America, we want to put it into the hands of our 70,000 users to make it as widely available as possible.

The News Nerds in Residence program is supported by the Knight Foundation and Lenfest Institute.