Playing with free online tools to enhance newspaper sites

One thing good developers do is play around with the new toys.

The other day, Nick Sergeant was messing around with Yahoo! Pipes. He discovered that by ingesting content from one of our newspaper sites, and comparing those stories to the content in a specific story, he could automatically create related links to other stories on that site.

We immediately launched this on a bevy of sites, because it was so quick and easy, but then found that not all of the links were showing up as quite as related as we wanted.

With a few more tweaks to help narrow the range of possible matches, as well as adding the ability for editors to manually add a related link, we’ve now got something that works pretty darn good.

Example here.

We have additional enhancements planned to improve the content matching, but we’ve got a good start.

Note: There are vendors who provide this service for thousands of dollars. Thanks for one smart developer playing around with the latest, cool open-network tools, GateHouse Media can now make it available on our sites for free.

Another cool tool Nick found is Wufoo. Wufoo is an easy-to-use form builder.

As any developer knows, building forms sucks. It’s a lot of repetitive work that would be better assigned to a robot. Wufoo takes all the heavy lifting out of form building. It’s a tool so easy to use, according to Nick, there is no reason any reporter or editor in any newsroom couldn’t use it to add some interactivity to a story or story package (assuming the CMS makes it possible). Nick writes about Wufoo here.

6 thoughts on “Playing with free online tools to enhance newspaper sites

  1. I got addicted to Wufoo for a bit, but then Google Forms came out. Much easier, unlimited questions – and a handy-dandy spreadsheet with all the results.

    Also (although I’m biased cause I’m a contributing editor) – makes widgets that can feed links into sections of a newspaper showing the highest quality stories as it’s related to a topic. Yahoo pipes is good cause it’s automatic and light. NewsTrust is powered by collective wisdom.

  2. Howard,

    Met you very briefly in Orlando @ the Adicio lunch. Just want to pass along another pretty nifty free tool: Google charts. We used these for our election coverage and I think it worked out pretty well.

    It’s not the CNN touchscreen map, but not bad.

    Take care.

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