August 14, 2018

PENCIL ME IN: The hot technology story right now is the way social media influenced the last U.S. election. In the long term? I’d put money on the way technology is changing the way the human mind functions. In the workplace, we use tech to juice our productivity and ignore the many ways our brains tell us that we’re flailing. Quartz and (ironically to some, I’m sure) Slack share seven ideas to align technology with the old gray matter.

PIXEL PERFECT: Screenshots have evolved since the days of hitting the Print Screen key… err, actually it looks like that’s still the way to take screenshots on a PC. But did you know that pressing Alt + Print Screen takes a screenshot of only the currently selected window? You still have to paste it into an image editing tool like Paint or Photoshop, but it’s a great way to clean up those images you use for presentations, articles and tutorials. You have a few more options if you’re on a Mac.

  • Press Command-Shift-4 to bring up the selectable screenshot tool.
  • Press Command-Shift-4 and Space to grab the current window with a fancy drop shadow.
  • If you don’t want that shadow (you skeuomorphism hater), do the above but hold down the Option key when selecting the window.
  • Mac screenshots always save to your desktop. No Paint necessary.

40 BETTER HOURS: Poynter has an enterprise account with Google; a very good thing when one of its employees has 5.82 terabytes of uploaded data (that person is me). My personal account, on the other hand, is 88 percent full. For others with a brimful of files, Lifehacker shares five quick ways to free up space in Gmail, including:

  • Search for and delete big files in Gmail by entering “filename:mp3” or “filename:mov” in the top bar. Other file types to search for: avi, mp4, flv, wmv, raw, png and zip.
  • Search for and delete large emails by entering “larger:5m” in the top bar. That’ll surface all emails bigger than 5 MB. Raise and lower that figure to suit your needs.

PICTURE THIS: Google Keep is one of the best tools for clipping and saving bits of the web. And it has a hidden feature that makes it so much more. Samantha Sunne shares (in her awesome digital tools newsletter) Keep’s semi-secret ability to grab text from images. If you’re not awed, know that this is not typically a free or easy thing to do. Google’s decision to put it in a drop-down on one of its lesser-known tools is the equivalent of tucking a Stratavarius into a dusty corner of an orchestra pit where everyone pays good money for half-broken rental instruments.

DON’T DO THIS: When wacky conspiracy theorists made a big play for media coverage a few weeks back, they got it. Why? There’s a symbiotic relationship, Syracuse University’s Whitney Phillips writes for the Guardian. The “trolls needed journalists to amplify their attacks (and they found the reporting funny), and some journalists needed trolls to give them sensational things to write about.” Phillips shares three things journalists are doing to help push a dangerous flow of misinformation.

GOOGLE THIS: In July, Google made a few changes to the way it sees the internet. A month later, traffic from Google search on mobile to news publishers is up 10 percent. Total traffic to news sites from Google search is up 5 percent. I offer some context and a few takeaways for publishers looking to take advantage of this trend.

HIGH IQ: It’s not the first time they’ve done it. I’m sure it won’t be the last. The Washington Post used Genius, an online annotation tool originally built to provide context to rap lyrics, to add context to a conversation between Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Reporter Aaron Blake uses Genius to add context to Trump’s statements and provide links to further readings without disrupting the flow of the story for those who just want to read the transcript.

OLD TOOL, NEW TRICKS: My favorite indistinguishable-from-magic tool, Descript, launched a Windows version last month and it keeps getting better. Descript automatically transcribes audio that users upload to it and then allows them to edit the audio by editing the text. It’s the perfect tool for podcasting. The Windows version seems to be catching up with the original Mac version in terms of features, with playback speed controls, support for video files and more. And the Mac version just got a new beta that includes automatic cloud sync and backup and more support for multiple collaborators.

WHAT GOES AROUND: Facebook’s People You May Know functionality is decidedly creepy. The faces of people’s doctors, long-lost relatives and one-night stands have appeared there for various users, haunting them with the question of how. How could Facebook possibly connect us? When Gizmodo put together a tool that attempted to answer that question by giving Facebook users more information about how Facebook sees them, the social media giant wasn’t happy. It tried to shut the tool town. Facebook likes to hoard information about its users, but doesn’t like it so much when users try to take that data back.

FROM POYNTER: You officially have three days left to apply for the Poynter-NABJ Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media. It’s a transformative (seriously, ask past participants), tuition-free leadership program to train journalists of color working in digital media. It’ll help you personally and professionally. And, if you get in, you might just get to see my face in person (which maybe isn’t a benefit worth advertising, but my editor thinks it is).

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

More News

Back to News