March 10, 2020

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Tuesday? Sign up here.

As if there was any doubt, thanks to technology we know for certain that everybody is focused on the spreading coronavirus outbreak.

We can tell that everybody is writing about coronavirus with MuckRack Trends, which reports a whopping 1.6 million articles about the virus since the beginning of the year.

We can tell that everybody is reading about coronavirus with Parse.ly Currents, a tool that tracks what types of news stories are most popular across the whole of the journalism landscape. As I’m writing this, all but two of the top 10 topics are explicitly about the virus, and the other two are Donald Trump (possibly also in reference to the outbreak) and Bernie Sanders.

We can tell that everybody is talking about the coronavirus, well, by looking at social media or reading email or speaking with just any other human being. But if you’re looking for something a little more curated, check CrowdTangle, the content discovery and social monitoring platform. The team there put together a social media display of U.S. coronavirus coverage.

Journalists are taking advantage of technology this story in new ways, too. The New York Times and The Washington Post have both launched newsletters devoted exclusively to the coronavirus. So did BuzzFeed News, which also put together a texting service where readers can ask specific questions.

And where would we be without a punctual novelty site? Is It Canceled Yet? lists all of the big conferences, festivals and events that have (or haven’t been) canceled.

Lastly, if you’re working from home, Google and Microsoft have a little solace for you. Google is making “advanced” features for Hangouts Meet available for free until July 1, unlocking a bunch of handy features for remote workers. Similarly, Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial of Microsoft Teams premium, which includes workplace chat, video meetings and file storage. Microsoft is also opening up the free versions of Teams, allowing all users to create teams of any size and to schedule video calls and conferences.

No technology can substitute for the best way to stay healthy, washing your hands — though of course there’s an app to help you remember to do that.

OK, that’s enough about the coronavirus for this newsletter. Let’s talk about something else.

How to dox yourself (hmm, didn’t exactly lighten the tone there). If you’re unfamiliar with the term, doxxing is when someone finds and shares personal information about you online for malicious purposes. Journalists are a major target. The best way to protect yourself is to out-dox the doxxers. By using the techniques these malicious actors use to dig up information about you, you can find and remove it from the internet first, saving yourself heartbreak and hassle. The New York Times put together a fantastic step-by-step guide for doxxing yourself.

Here’s how to follow the other big story in the U.S. CrowdTangle also put together a social media display of U.S. political coverage. The display tracks political accounts with the most interactions — which is certainly not the same thing as most reliable — across social networks. As I write this, the political page with the most interactions on Facebook is Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, followed by Breitbart, President Donald Trump and Fox News. The group with the most interactions is simply called “Donald Trump Is Our President.” If you’re a journalist, this will likely burst your filter bubble with great fury.

Who do you follow on Twitter? A tool called Proporti.onl doesn’t exactly tell you that, but it can give you a gender breakdown of your followers, categorizing them as male, female, nonbinary or unknown. If you’re interested in following a diverse group of people (and you should be), this is a good place to start.

Ephemeral “stories” are coming to every social network. LinkedIn announced it was testing the format, which was pioneered by Snapchat and Instagram. So did Twitter. The upside to these is that it minimizes clutter and produces no longtail — because it’s probably best for you and the world if your 3 a.m. post about grilled cheese doesn’t exist for eternity. The downside is that these formats are easy for mis- and disinformers to exploit without alerting the immune systems of the social networks. Something to watch.

Here’s your regular reminder that online advertising is about to change drastically. Apple has already banned cross-website trackers on the mobile and desktop versions of Safari. Google will phase out this type of tracking by 2022. There are two likely outcomes. Advertising technology companies could find a new way to track users across sites, Alex Barker writes for Financial Times. Or advertisers could shift their focus entirely to the Facebooks, Googles and Amazons of the world. The latter would shatter an already-cracked business model.

Fans of obscure images, rejoice! The Smithsonian Institution just released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images into the public domain, available via an easy-to-access online platform. If you ever needed a photo of a hard plastic beer tap knob from the most successful brewery in Washington, D.C., in the first half of the 20th century, or a picture of an American flag whirligig from an unidentified folk artist, this is your place. But for real, there’s some tremendously useful stuff here.

Artificial intelligence is fun. And stupid. But mostly fun. Evidence: Here’s an online adventure game in which AI generates scenarios and responses to your prompts. Bookmark it for a laugh after a long day.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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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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