Need to monitor for arcane changes to Wikipedia entries? There’s an app for that.

This week in digital tools for journalism

February 18, 2020
Category: Tech & Tools

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.

Wikipedia is the fifth most listed website globally. It hosts more than 6 million or more articles in English. Three edits are made every second. It’s Google’s favorite non-Google site, appearing at the top of many Google searches.

Everyone knows that anyone can edit most Wikipedia pages, but also that it’s not quite that easy. Wikipedia has its own culture, complete with mysterious rules and norms that tend to be more understood than openly stated.

If you’ve got a stake in a Wikipedia page — whether it’s about your company, a topic you’re interested in or even about you, yourself — how do you keep track of the changes others make? How do you manage the site’s outsized influence through its confusing layers of editing?

WikiWatch is the answer. WikiWatch tracks changes to articles across Wikipedia. It reports updates in real time, hosts them on a secure website and makes them shareable with others. It’s built for non-Wikipedia experts, AKA most of us.

“Wikipedia problems are like snowballs,” William Beutler, the CEO of Wikiwatch, told me. “It’s highly subject to inertia. Small problems become bigger ones. The longer it lasts, the harder it is to fix. An early presence can make a big difference.”

WikiWatch comes with a premium price. The tool starts at $3,000 annually for the barebones platform (just watchlists and reports that can focus on any page, not just yours) and charges more for its velvet glove, personalized features that help clients make edits to pages. And, even at top tiers, there’s no guarantee that a page can be edited to suit your tastes.

Still, if you have a good reason to keep an eye on some Wikipedia pages and you’re not an expert on its culture, that cost might be easy to swallow.

Clean up your calendars and make scheduling a breeze. That’s what a tool called Woven promises to do for you and, because it comes recommended by newsletter expert Dan Oshinsky, I believe it. Woven does a couple of great next-level calendar-y things. First, it makes it possible to open public blocks of time so people can book meetings in open parts of your schedule without the endless email back-and-forths. Second, it includes polling support for multiple attendees, making it possible to easily find meeting times when everyone is free. Woven is available for Windows, Mac and iOS and currently works with Google and G Suite calendars, but promises Office365 support soon.

Looking for something simpler? If you’re looking for the most barebones of digital calendar experiences, useful mostly for scheduling at a glance, check out TinyMonth. It syncs across multiple devices but is otherwise about the most analog calendar experience you can get online.

Be careful about how you use Google Maps. I’ve been encouraging journalists to embed easy-to-make Google Maps in any articles that mention locations for years. A lot of readers who are presented with unfamiliar places — say, in articles that mention far-flung countries or regions or new shops or restaurants — will navigate away from news sites to search for them on a map. Why not embed one for them to keep them on your site? While I still think it’s a thoughtful service to provide, you might want to skip out on posting Google Maps when reporting on disputed territories like Crimea or Kashmir, where Google redraws the borders depending on who’s looking.

Storyful has an archive of 15,000+ licensed videos from social media. The social media intelligence company scours social media for newsworthy or otherwise interesting photos and videos, verifies their accuracy and then licenses them to news organizations and others who pay for its wire service. But that’s changing. Storyful just opened up its big ol’ video library to non-clients, making individual licensed videos available for the first time.

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Want to experience going viral? An iOS app called Botnet simulates a social network in which you are more beloved than Caroline Calloway at the peak of her … whatever it was. Here’s how it works: You’re the only real human. Everyone else is a bot who is obsessed with you. Their reactions to your “posts” appear in “real time,” just like they would on a real social network (this one most closely simulates Instagram). Their reactions are just as strange as real users’. It’s something.

TikTok ain’t just dancing and comedy. A lot of people seem to mistake the popular new-ish social network as frivolous and unserious, but that isn’t the case at all. TikTok does skew young, which means there are plenty of confessions and requests for validation and support, but others are making fun and useful informational posts. And then, as my colleague Alex Mahadevan wrote last year, there’s always whatever The Washington Post is up to.

Here’s another stunner of a story. NRK, what English-speakers would call Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, published an investigation of how climate change is transforming Norway. In terms of words, it’s about as sparse as the Norweigan countryside. The story instead relies on photos, videos and other visuals to illuminate the changing climate — to outstanding effect.

Ren LaForme is Poynter’s digital tools reporter. He can be reached at ren@poynter.org or on Twitter at @itsren.

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