January 29, 2018

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Hawaii’s governor forgot his Twitter password. No big deal, right? Some days it’s your LinkedIn password, others it’s which darn email address you used to set up your Amazon account. It’s a tune as old as song. 

Except in this case, a forgotten password prevented a governor from telling the citizens of his state that there was not, in fact, incoming nuclear armageddon. 

Rather than blaming Gov. David Ige, who probably has enough to worry about, let’s talk about how we’ve all been systematically trained to create awful passwords. 

We learned to always combine characters, numbers and symbols. Even better: Just jam the keyboard until the password strength indicator goes from red to yellow to green. Oh, and we’re supposed to change passwords every 90 days. Or maybe every six months. Or every semester. And sometimes we just ignore it all and use the same password (maybe our last name and birthday) on every other site. 

That’s all junk. Computers can crack even complicated passwords like p@$$w0rd2018! in no time at all. And changing a password that frequently is an invitation for laziness (and forgetfulness, as Gov. Ige found). 

There are two solid paths to take to create safe and unforgettable passwords.

  1. Take the xkcd approach and combine four random but easy to remember words to create a new password for each site. Sure, sugarllamapeanutsfactory might be silly, but I won’t forget that anytime soon.
  2. Lean on technology and pick up a secure password management tool. I prefer LastPass (free for cross-platform password storage, $24 annually for premium features) but Dashlane (free for one-device password storage, $40 annually for premium features) has been getting a lot of great reviews lately. In these systems, all passwords are computer-generated and stored in a vault so that you only need to remember one long password. Mine’s about seven words long and easy to remember.

Whichever path you choose, remember to practice good password hygiene. And keep your finger off that missile alert button.

GET SOCIAL: We told you that Storify is closing its popular social curation tool and that all existing Storifys embedded in articles will disappear on May 16. We also provided a few ways to preserve those Storifys. But possibly the easiest way is with a tool called Wakelet, which offers a one-to-one Storify preservation tool. Today the company announced even more good news for Storify fans: You can now curate tweets directly from the Wakelet tool by searching for hashtags, keywords and mentions. 

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Speaking of sites shutting down, one of my biggest hangups when recommending tools to journalists is that the tool may eventually cease operations. Why put work into something that won’t exist in two years? That’s one of many reasons I’ve been digging the data visualization tool Flourish lately. When you’re done creating a visualization, you can download it and host it on your own server. It’s also fairly easy to use, at least as far as visualization tools go. 

PICTURE THIS: I’m always on the hunt for stock images. There are only so many times you can use the same picture of a reporter’s notebook. Pixabay is an old standby, but I also just found Unsplash. It has more than 300,000 free high-res pictures for commercial and non-commercial purposes. The terms are so open that you don’t even have to credit the photographer (though I recommend that you do).

​​​​​​BAD NEWS: Facebook is turning over the reins to its users to determine which news organizations are the most trustworthy. If that seems like a bad idea, consider the fact that the survey they’re using is only two questions long. Eek! But I talked to a survey expert and it turns out Facebook’s methods are sound, even if their results won’t be. 

FIX THIS: Facebook’s problem with Russian bots has been covered ad nauseum. But that’s really just a small piece of what we have to worry about. Police can use facial recognition on photos your friends post of you to track you down. Giant financial companies can accidentally release your personal information. In other words, “the grim reality is that quitting Facebook or divesting yourself of some other part of your web presence would only remove some small portion of the sway technological systems have over your life.”

LAST WEEK: You are your own best advocate. There are a number of ways you can gather and highlight your work, including building your own portfolio site, but there are also some great pre-baked alternatives out there. My colleague Kristen Hare and I talked about the pros and cons of tools like Muck Rack, Clippings.me, Contently, Pressfolios and Journo Portfolio. 

One we missed was Authory. One thing I really like about this tool is that you can drop a link to your user page on any website and Authority will automatically grab and make copies of your articles. It’s an easy way to keep backups of your work and, for $7 a month, easily worth the cost.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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