Friday, July 27, 2012

Digital survival guide: Techterms journalists should know

Digital survival guide: Techterms journalists should know
In digital media journalism and technology are beingstrongly connected to each other. Here is a tech survival guide for the digitaljournalist – with all the tech terms you should know to stay on top.

- I have no idea about technology, many journalists takepride in claiming. But in digital media journalism and technology is in themiddle of merging. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a top-gradejournalist without a basic understanding of the story-telling possibilities ofweb technology.


Thus this list was made – a summary of terms onlinejournalists should be familiar with. The list has been produced byHacks/Hackers, a network concerned with the intersection of journalism andtechnology.  It is a  crowdsourceddocument, bringing together theexpertise of many people written for intelligent nontechies in (mostly) plainEnglish.

In line with crowdsourcing philosophy Hacks/Hackers havemade their eminent list available for anyone to republish under a CreativeCommons licence. And they encourage you to contribute in making it even better.

Here is the current survival guide for journalists who liketo understand all the important tech terms in online publishing:
(Version 1.0, released June 22, 2010 under a CreativeCommons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.)

API (Application Programming Interface) — The waycomputer programs share data and functionality with other computer programs.APIs are an increasingly critical part of the Internet’s interconnection.Many say that the future of the Internet lies in APIs because they helpdistribute and combine content. On the Web, APIs are generally special URLsthat give back machine-readable data, in formats like JSON or XML, rather thanhuman-readable data, which is usually HTML. Facebook, Twitter and Google Mapsall have APIs that allow other websites or computer programs to use theirunderlying tools. The New York Times and NPR have also released APIs that allowother programs to draw on archives of movie reviews, restaurant reviews andarticles.

algorithm — A set of instructions or procedures usedin order to accomplish a task, such as creating search results in Google. Inthe context of search, algorithms are used to provide the most relevant resultsfirst based on those instructions.

Android — Usually used in the context of Androidphone, Android is a free and open source operating system developed by Googlethat powers a variety of mobile phones from different manufacturers andcarriers. It is a rival of the iPhone platform. In contrast to Apple’stightly controlled architecture and App Store, Android allows users to installapps from the Android Market and from other channels, such as directly from adeveloper’s website — which allows for X-rated content, forexample. Some well-known Android phones are the Nexus One, the Motorola Droidand HTC Evo. Expect to see competitors to the iPad running a version ofAndroid.

app — Short for application, a program that runsinside another service. Many mobile phones allow apps to be downloaded, leadingto a burgeoning economy for modestly priced software. Can also refer to aprogram or tool that can be used within a website. Apps generally are builtusing software toolkits provided by the underlying service, whether it isiPhone or Facebook.

AJAX — A bundle of technologies and techniques thatallow a web page to do things quietly in the background without reloading thewhole page. AJAX is not a programming language, but rather an acronym used todescribe that bundle, “Asynchronous Javascript and XML.” AJAXprovides much of the functionality associated with Web 2.0. One of the firstbig uses of AJAX was Gmail, which allowed it to be much more responsive thanother web e-mail at the time.

Atom — A syndication format for machine readable webfeeds that is usually accessible via a URL. While it was created as analternative to RSS (Real Simple Syndication) to improve upon RSS’sdeficiencies (such as ambiguities), it still is secondary to RSS. (See also,RSS)

blog — One of the first widespread web-nativepublishing formats, generally characterized by reverse chronological ordering,rapid response, linking, and robust commenting. While originally perceived tobe light on reporting and heavy on commentary, a number of blogs are nowthoroughly reported, and legacy media organizations have also launched variousblogs. Originally short for “web log,” blog is now an accepted wordin Scrabble.

Blogger — A simple, free blogging platform created byPyra Labs, which was sold to Google in 2003.  It was one of the first massblogging services and is credited with popularizing the format. UnlikeWordPress, it is not open source. Many Blogger sites are hosted atblogspot.com.

civic media — An umbrella term describing mediatechnologies that create a strong sense of engagement among residents throughnews and information. It is often used as a contrast to “citizenjournalism” because it also encompasses mapping, wikis and databases. MIThas a Center for Future Civic Media.

cloud computing — An increasingly popular computingmodel in which information and software are provided on demand from over theInternet rather than staying on local computers. Cloud computing is appealingbecause companies can reduce the amount they spend on their own computerservers and software but can also quickly and easily expand as the companygrows. Examples of cloud computing applications include Google Docs and YahooMail. Amazon offers two cloud computing services: EC2, which many start-ups nowuse as a cheap way to launch their products, and S3, an online storage systemmany companies use for cheap storage.

client side — Referring to network software where worktakes place on the user’s computer, the client, rather than at thecentral computer, known as the server. Advantages of doing so include speed andbandwidth. An example is Javascript, a programming language that allowsdevelopers to build interactivity into websites. The work is done within thebrowser, rather than at the hosting website. (See also server side)

CMS (Content Management System) — Software designed toorganize large amounts of dynamic material for a website, usually consisting ofat least templates and a database. It is generally synonymous with onlinepublishing system. The material can include documents, photos or videos. Whilethe first generation of content management systems were custom and proprietary,in recent years there has been a surge in free open-source systems such asDrupal, WordPress and Joomla. Content management systems are sometimes builtcustom from scratch with frameworks such as Ruby on Rails or Django.

CPA (Cost Per Action) — A pricing model in which theadvertiser is charged for an ad based on how many users take a specific,pre-defined action—such as buying a product from an onlinestore—based on viewing an ad.  This is the “goldstandard” for advertisers because it most directly matches the cost of anad to its effectiveness. However, it’s not commonly used since it’sextremely difficult to measure: it is often unclear when or how to attribute anaction to a specific ad. (Also sometimes referred to as Cost Per Acquisition.)

CPC (Cost Per Click) — A pricing model in which theadvertiser is charged for an ad based on how many users click it. This is acommon model for “search advertising” (the all-text ads associatedwith search results) and for text ads in general. CPC is well-suited for“directed” advertising, intended to prompt an immediate response,because a user’s clicking on an ad shows engagement with it. GoogleAdWords is generally priced on a CPC basis.

CPM (Cost Per Mille) — Cost per one thousand (oftenviews). Much of online advertising — particularly display advertising— is priced on a CPM basis. (Mille = Latin for one thousand; we use“K” for “kilo” almost everywhere else in tech, but“M” for “mille” here, which causes some confusion.) CPMis well suited for “brand” or “awareness” advertising,in which the primary purpose of the ad is not necessarily to prompt animmediate response.

Creative Commons — A flexible set of copyrightlicenses that allow content creators to specify which rights they reserve andwhich they waive regarding their work that is supposed to codify collaborative spirit of the Internet. There are six main Creative Commonslicenses based on four conditions that creators can choose to apply:Attribution, Share Alike, Non-Commercial, and No Derivative Works. The leastrestrictive of the licenses is Attribution, which grants anyone, from anindividual to a large company, the right to distribute, display, or otherwisemake use of the work so long as the creator is credited. The most restrictiveis Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives, which grants only redistribution.First released in December 2002 by the nonprofit Creative Commons organization,which was inspired by the open source GNU GPL license, the licenses are nowused on an estimated 130 million works worldwide. The glossary you are readingis released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license in aneffort to encourage wide distribution and contribution. (Also see open source)


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) — Instructions used todescribe the look and formatting for documents, usually HTML, so that thepresentation is separate from the actual content of the document itself. If youwatch a web page that loads slowly, you will often see the text first load andthen “snap into place” with its look and feel. That look and feelis controlled by the CSS. CSS, which was first introduced by the World Wide WebConsortium in the late 1990s, helped eliminate the clumsy and often repetitivemarkup in the original HTML syntax. W3cschools.com has a great introduction toCSS with tutorials.

CSV (Comma-Separated Values) — An extremely simpledata format which stores information in a text file. CSV is popular preciselybecause it can be easily read by many different applications, includingspreadsheets, word processors, programming text editors and web browsers. Thusit is a common way for people, including governments, to make their dataavailable. Each row of data is represented by a line of text. Each column isdelimited/separated by a comma (,).  To prevent confusion about commas inthe data, the terms are often surrounded by double quotes (“). Manyapplications support the use of alternative column delimiters (the pipecharacter, |,  is popular). Example below:
“Name”,”Address”,”email”
“Jack”,”1 Main St., Town,NY”,”jack@hill.com”
“Jill”,”2 Elm St., City,CA”,”jill@hill.com”

data visualization — A growing area of contentcreation in which information is represented graphically and ofteninteractively. This can be used for subjects as diverse as an analysis of aspeech by the president and the popularity of baby names over time. While ithas deep roots in academia, data visualization has begun to emerge on contentsites as a way to handle the masses of data that are being made public, oftenby government. There are many tools for data visualizations, includingSeattle-based Tableau and IBM’s Many Eyes. Data visualization should 1)tell a story, 2) allow users to ask their own questions and 3) startconversations.

document-oriented database — An increasingly populartype of database. In contrast to relational databases, which rigidly requireinformation to be stored in pre-defined tables, document-oriented databases aremore free-flowing and flexible. This is important when you don’t knowwhat is going to be thrown at you. Document-oriented databases retrieveinformation more quickly, but store it less efficiently. The samedocument-oriented database might let you store the information for an article(headline, byline, data, content, miscellaneous) or for a photo (file,photographer, date, cutline).  MongoDB is a popular open sourcedocument-oriented database.

Drupal — A popular content management system known fora vibrant open-source community that creates diverse and robust extensions.Drupal is very powerful, but it is somewhat difficult to use for simple taskswhen compared to WordPress. Drupal provides options to create a static website,a multi-user blog, an Internet forum or a community website for user-generatedcontent. It is written in PHP and distributed under the GPL open sourcelicense.  Whitehouse.gov uses Drupal.

Django — A web framework that is popular among newsand information sites, in part due to its origin at Lawrence Journal-World inKansas.  It is written in Python, a sophisticated dynamic language. Majorprojects built in Django include Disqus, Everyblock.com and TheOnion.com. Newsapplications teams, including those at the Chicago Tribune and Los AngelesTimes, use the framework to present large data sets online in easily accessibleways.

embed — A term meaning to place a specific piece ofcontent from one web page inside of another one.  This is often done usingan embed code (a few lines of HTML and/or Javascript) that you can copy orpaste.  This is a common way for video content to be spread around theInternet and is increasingly being used for interactive components.  Arecent example is PBS Newshour’s oil spill tracker widget, which wasplaced on many news sites around the country. Note: This is different from thenewsroom sense of “embed,” popularized during the 2003 Iraqiinvasion, which means to have a journalist work from within a military unit.

EC2 — A computing power rental system by Amazon thathas become popular among technology companies because it is much cheaper thanmaintaining your own computer servers. Users can host their applications on EC2and pay depending on usage. EC2 is an example of cloud computing. (Also seecloud computing)

Facebook Connect— A technology from Facebook thatallows a reader to log into a third-party website with their Facebook account,rather than creating a new profile for that website. Facebook Connect, which isan API, also allows the third parties to pull certain data from theuser’s profile, such as his or her name and age. In turn, thereader’s activities on the website can also be displayed on her or hisFacebook profile. Launched in 2007, Facebook Connect was one of the firstexamples of Facebook extending itself into a platform for the entire Web. (Alsosee OAuth, Open ID)

Facebook community page — Introduced in April 2010,community pages were created as a counterpart to “official fan pages,”which are built around a specific person, company, organization, product, orbrand.  In large part, community pages are mostly auto-generated aroundinterests or affiliations found in people’s profiles, like cooking. Thereis not a way to actively add content to the page, unlike with Facebook groups.But because they are autogenerated, based on likes, they can quickly buildgigantic memberships. Cooking, for example, has over 2 million fans. These pages are a bit confusing, and Facebook is still working on the kinks.
Facebook fan page — A Facebook profile for a specificperson, product, company or organization, usually administered by officialrepresentatives. This is different from a Facebook personal page, which must beowned by an individual, and different from a Facebook community page, which isbuilt around an interest not related to a brand, such as “cooking.”It is also different from a Facebook group. Fan pages can gather thousands ormillions of fans though “likes,” and official posts by the pageadministrator generally go into the fans’ news streams.  Once a pagehas more than 25 fans, it can claim a short form URL, such asfacebook.com/nytimes or facebook.com/wikileaks. Facebook community and fanpages are strong players in ongoing efforts to bring content to people wherethey already are, instead of requiring them to come to the content.

Facebook group — Facebook groups are analogous tooffline clubs. Unlike Facebook fan pages, groups do not have to be administeredby official representatives. In addition, the activity posted in groups doesnot get pushed into users’ feeds. But as long as it has fewer than 5,000members, Facebook groups are allowed to mass-message all their members.
Facebook personal page — A profile page tied to asingle individual. What information is controlled (in theory) by theindividual. However, because there is a 5,000-person limit to friends, somecelebrities have fan pages instead. As of 2009, individuals can choose ausername, which makes their page available at facebook.com/username.

Flash — A proprietary platform owned by Adobe Systemsthat allows for drag-and-drop animations, program interactivity, and dynamicdisplays for the Web. The language used, ActionScript, is owned by Adobe; thiscontrasts with many other popular programming languages that are open source.Creators must use Adobe’s Creative Suite products and web surfers mustinstall a Flash plug-in for their browser. Many claim that Flash players areunstable and inefficient, slowing down web pages and crashing operatingsystems. Apple has not allowed Adobe to create a Flash player for the iPhoneoperating system, which has created a feud between the two companies. HTML5 isemerging as an open alternative to Flash.

framework — A software package that makes writingprograms easier by providing all the “plumbing” for a particulartype of task (like writing a web app), allowing programmers to just “fillin the blanks” with their own project-specific needs. For instance, Webdevelopment frameworks like Ruby on Rails (written in Ruby, meaning programmersuse Ruby to do the “fill in the blanks” tasks) and Django (writtenin Python), have easy-to-use, built-in support for common web developmenttasks, such as reading and writing to a database, writing content in html, andso forth.  Watch Django and Ruby creators discuss the merits of theirframeworks on DjangoProject.com.

Foursquare — One of many new mobile services, alongwith Gowalla, SCVNGR and others, that combines geolocation with game mechanics.Launched in 2009 at SXSW Interactive conference, Foursquare allows users to“check in” at locations (bars, restaurants, playgrounds and more)to inform people in their social networks of their whereabouts while earningbadges, collecting points and becoming the “mayor” of certainlocations. Despite a relatively modest user base at the beginning, Foursquarequickly attracted a lot of attention for its potential for marketing andcustomer brand loyalty.

geotag — A piece of information that goes with contentand contains geographically based information.  Commonly used on photosites such as Flickr or in conjunction with user-generated content, to showwhere a photo, video or article came from. There has been some discussion ofits increasing relevance with geographically connected social networking sites,such as Foursquare. Twitter has implemented geotagging, and Facebook hasannounced plans to do so.

Google AdSense — Google’s online advertisingnetwork that allows content publishers to embed a piece of code to displayGoogle ads on their sites. The ads are selected based on the content of thepage. Ad revenue is split between Google and the publisher in an undisclosedproportion, generally believed to be two-thirds to the publisher. (Note: ads onGoogle’s own sites are covered by Google AdWords, not AdSense.)

Google AdWords — Google’s text-based flagshipadvertising product, which provides the lion’s share of the companyrevenue. Ads are displayed on Google’s own sites based on search termsthat users type in, and advertisers pay only when the users click on them. Thesearch terms, called keywords, are purchased by advertisers; availability of agiven keyword is based in part on an auction system, and in part on theresponsiveness of the audience.

Google Buzz — Launched in February 2010, Buzz isGoogle’s attempt to counter Twitter and Facebook by leveraging the socialgraphs from users’ e-mail accounts. A more sophisticated version of Gmail“status updates,” Buzz allows users to post updates about what theyare doing, link to what they are reading and post their current locations. Theservice can integrate with other Google services, as well as feed intoTwitter.  Despite an initial burst of publicity, Google Buzz has notgained tremendous traction. It attracted criticism when Google automaticallyand publicly connected users with people they had e-mailed most often in thepast, making private information unexpectedly available. Google releasedenhanced privacy controls after the controversy.
Google Docs — A free online service offered by Google,comprising word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and other software, allof which is “in the cloud.” Users can work collaboratively ondocuments, editing them simultaneously. The service is increasingly being seenas eroding Microsoft Office’s market share. The glossary you’rereading right now was collaboratively created in Google Docs.

Google Wave — An online collaborative space introducedby Google in which people can communicate and work together in real time; itresembles a “souped up Instant Messenger.” Participants can addrich text, images, attachments, videos and maps to create a multimediacollaboration. A playback option allows new users to get up to speed onprojects and creates an environment that is both real-time and asynchronous.Despite a massive amount of attention, Google Wave has not gotten muchtraction. It is, as some people have said, “a technological solution insearch of a problem.”

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) — The dominantformatting language used on the World Wide Web to publish text, images andother elements. Invented by Tim Berners Lee in the early 1990s, HTML uses pairsof opening and closing tags (also known as elements), such as <title> and</title>; each pair assigns meaning to the text that appears betweenthem. HTML can be considered code, but it is not a programming language;it’s a markup language, which is a separate beast. The latest standard ofHTML is HTML5, which adds powerful interactive functionality.

HTML5 — The upcoming, powerful standard of HypertextMarkup Language, which has added advanced interactive features, such asallowing video to be embedded on a web page. It is gaining in popularitycompared to proprietary standards, like Adobe Flash, because it is an openstandard and does not require third-party plugins. Using HTML5 will allow webpages to work more like desktop applications. The latest releases of mostbrowsers support HTML5 to varying degrees.  HTML5 does not cover CSS andJavaScript, but often when people refer to HTML5, they often are using it as ablanket term, applying not only to changes to the HTML, but also to changes inCSS and JavaScript.

iframe — An HTML tag that allows for one web page tobe wholly included inside another; it is a popular way to create embeddableinteractive features.  Iframes are usually constructed via JavaScript as away around web browsers’ security features, which try to preventJavaScript on one page from quickly talking to JavaScript on an external page.Many security breaches have been designed using iframes.

iPad — Released in April 2010, the iPad isApple’s tablet computing device, akin to a large iPod Touch; it uses thesame operating system and development tools as the iPhone. It features amultitouch screen and comes in 3G and wifi versions. Some news organizations,including The New York Times, Wired and National Geographic, have createdspecial applications designed for the iPad. Some have hoped that it would be the“Jesus” tablet that would breathe new life into legacy printpublications. Upon its announcement in January 2010, many noted its name wasreminiscent of feminine hygiene products.

iPhone — Apple’s smart phone has sold more than50 million units worldwide since it launched in 2007. The first smartphone tointroduce multitouch screen capability, it is considered in the same verticalas the Blackberry, Google’s Android and Palm Pre. The critical mass ofiPhones, along with Apple’s pre-existing iTunes infrastructure, allowedApple to launch the first truly robust marketplace for mobile applications,creating a whole new microeconomy for innovation.
iPod Touch — Essentially an iPhone without the phone.Slimmer than the iPhone, the iPod touch can play music and run iPhone apps. Itconnects to the Internet via wifi.

JavaScript — A Web scripting language used to enhancewebsites; it can make them more interactive without requiring a browser plugin.JavaScript is interpreted by your browser instead of by a web server, otherwiseknown as a client-side scripting language. JavaScript files generally end in.js. Despite its name, it is not related to the Java language.

Joomla — A free, open-source content management builtin PHP. It is more powerful than WordPress but not as powerful as Drupal.However it is known for its extensive design options. The name Joomla means“all together” in Swahili.

jQuery — A incredibly popular open source JavaScriptlibrary designed for manipulating HTML pages and handling events. Released in 2006, jQuery quickly gained widespread adoption because of itsefficiency and elegance. The definitive feature of jQuery is its support for“chaining” operations together to simplify otherwise complicatedtasks. It is the most popular JavaScript library.

JSON (JavaScript Object-Notation) — A Web data publishingformat that is designed to be both easily human — and machine —readable. It is an alternative to XML that is more concise because, unlike XML,it is not a markup language that requires open and close tags.

Key/value store — A simpler way of storing data than arelational or document database. Key-value stores have a simple structure,matching values to accessible “keys,” or indices. In Webdevelopment, key/value stores are often (though not always) used foroptimization.

LAMP — An acronym referring to a bundle of freeopen-source Web technologies that have become incredibly popular as a methodfor building websites. The letters stand for the Linux operating system, Apacheweb server, MySQL database, and either PHP, Perl or Python. This is often referredto as a “LAMP stack.” A rival alternative would be a bundle ofMicrosoft products. Serverwatch.com has a good explanation.

legacy media — An umbrella term to describe thecentralized media institutions that were dominant during the second half of the20th century, including — but not limited to — television, radio,newspapers and magazines, all which generally had a uni-directionaldistribution model. Sometimes “legacy media” is usedinterchangeably with “MSM,” for “Mainstream Media.”Legacy media sits in contrast with social media, where the production andsharing is of equal weight to the consumption.

library — In the context of programming, this containscode that can be accessed for software and Web development, enabling one toperform common tasks without writing new code every time. Many libraries arefreely shared. One well-known library is jQuery, released in 2006 and now themost popular JavaScript library, which boasts that it allows coders to“write less, do more.”

location-based services — A service, usually in amobile Web or mobile device application, that uses your location in order toperform a certain task, such as finding nearby restaurants, giving youdirections, or locating your friends. Foursquare and Gowalla are location-basedservices.

mashup — A combination of data from multiple sources,usually through the use of APIs. An example of a mashup would be an app thatshows the locations of all the movie theaters in a particular town on a Googlemap. It is mashing up one data source (the addresses of movie theaters) withanother data source (the geographic location of those addresses on a map).

metadata — Data about data. Examples of metadatainclude descriptors indicating when information was created, by whom and inwhat format. Metadata helps to organize information online and make itmachine-readable. HTML is an example of metadata — it organizes the datain a web page so browsers can display it sensibly. Web pages often have hiddenmetadata that helps with their search engine ranks. Photos uploaded to Flickrcarry metadata such as time taken, camera model and shutter speed.  MP3shave metadata such as the artist name, track title, album name and so on.

Microsoft Silverlight — Microsoft’s answer toAdobe Flash, allowing the integration of multimedia, graphics, animations, andinteractivity into web pages. It was initially released in 2007 and isoccasionally spotted on the web.

mobile — An umbrella term in technology that was longsynonymous with cellular phones but has since grown to encompass tabletcomputing (the iPad) and even netbooks. In retrospect, an early mobiletechnology was the pager. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with“wireless.” It generally refers to untethered computing devicesthat can access the Internet over radiofrequency waves, though sometimes alsovia wi-fi. Mobile technology usually demands a different set of standards— design and otherwise — than desktop computers, and has opened upan entirely new area for geo-aware applications.

MySQL — The dominant open-source database managementsystem on the Internet. It is popular because it is a free and flexiblealternative to expensive systems like Oracle. Projects that use MySQL includeFacebook and Wikipedia. The SQL stands for “Structured Query Language”and “My” is the name of the inventor’s daughter. It isofficially pronounced My-S-Q-L, but you will often hear it referred to as“My Sequel.” MySQL is a relational database management system, nota document-oriented database system. (Also see document-oriented database)

OAuth — A new method that allows users to shareinformation stored on one site with another site. For example, some web-basedTwitter clients will use OAuth to connect to your account, instead of requiringyou to provide your password directly to that third-party site. It is similarto Facebook Connect. This allows sites to validate users’ identitieswithout having full access to their personal accounts.

ontology — A classification system with nodes orentities, that allows non-hierarchical relationships, in contrast to ataxonomy, which is hierarchical. Taxonomies and ontologies are important incontent to help related articles or topics pages. (Also see taxonomy)

Open ID — An open standard that lets users log in tomultiple web sites using the same identity through a third party. It issupported by numerous sites, including LiveJournal, Yahoo!, and WordPress.While Open ID has seen adoption among technical communities, its authenticationmethod is not particularly intuitive, and it has not gained wide consumeracceptance.

open source — Open source refers to a philosophy and ameans of developing and licensing software and other copyrighted works so thatothers are free to inspect, use and adapt the original source material. Thereare many open source licenses. Some licenses are considered permissive (e.g.MIT and BSD), allowing inclusion in proprietary works, while others (e.g. GNUGPL) require that the resulting derivative works remain under the same licenseif distributed. While the term originally stemmed from software practices, theconcept has now been incorporated into other fields such as medicine andagriculture. Many of the most popular technologies used in contentdistribution, including languages and publishing platforms, are open source.The glossary you are reading was developed using open source methodology and isavailable under a Creative Commons license.

operating system — A basic layer of software thatcontrols computer hardware, allowing other applications to be built onit.  The most popular operating systems today for desktop computers arethe various versions of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and the open-sourceLinux.  Smart phones also have operating systems. The Palm Pre uses webOS,numerous phones use Google’s Android operating system, and the iPhoneuses iOS (formerly known as iPhone OS).

Palm Pre — A smart phone introduced in 2009 by Palmwhich uses webOS and allows for multitasking, unlike the iPhone. Despite ravereviews, the product is generally acknowledged to have come out too late togain meaningful traction against the iPhone or Google’s Android operatingsystem.  HP recently announced that it would acquire Palm, which was oncethe leading smart phone company.

peer-to-peer (P2P)  — A network architecture inwhich users share resources on their own computers directly with others. Oftenused to speed up videos and large multimedia pieces that can take a long timeto download. Napster was an early example of a popular use of peer-to-peerarchitecture, although it was not fully peer-to-peer. Today, Skype andBitTorrent are based on peer-to-peer technologies.

Perl — A dynamic language that is often used to parseand sort information because of its powerful abilities in manipulating text.Perl can be used to pull large quantities of data down from websites andstandardize and replace information in batch. Perl was more popular in pastyears, especially in the computer-assisted reporting community, but it has beenovertaken in popularity by languages such as Python and Ruby. Perl still has anactive development community and is noted for the scope of its freely availablelibraries, which simplify development.

PHP — A popular web scripting language to generate webpages that was first developed in 1995, when it stood for “Personal Home Page.”(It is now a recursive acronym, standing for “PHP: HypertextPreprocessor.”) Popular websites that are written in PHP are Wikipedia,Facebook and WordPress. It is criticized as being slow because it generates webpages on request. However, Facebook recently released its internally developedversion of HipHop for PHP, which is designed to make the language dramaticallymore efficient.

platform — In the technology world, platform refers tothe hardware or software that other applications are built upon. Computing platforms include Windows PC and Macintosh. Mobile platforms includeAndroid, iPhone and Palm’s webOS. More recently, in an extension of itscommonly used definition, Facebook has created a “platform,”allowing developers to build applications on top of it.

Posterous — A blogging and publishing platform towhich users can submit via e-mail. Through APIs, it can push the content toother sites such as Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. It is a for-profit companybased in San Francisco that came out of the YCombinator seed start-up program.

PostgreSQL - An alternative to MySQL, another free andopen-source relational database management system on the Internet. PostgreSQLis preferred by some in the technology community for its ability to operate asa spatial database, using PostGIS extensions. This enables developers to createapplications that sort information based on geography, which can mean sortingby whether various places are within a certain county or pointing out theplaces that are geographically closest to the user.

programming language — A special type of language usedto unambiguously instruct a computer how to perform tasks. Programminglanguages are used by software developers to create applications, includingthose for the web, for mobile phones, and for desktop operating systems. C,C++, Objective C, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby are examples ofprogramming languages. HTML and XML are not programming languages, they aremarkup languages.

Python — A sophisticated computer language that iscommonly used for Internet applications. Designed to be a very readablelanguage, it is named after Monty Python. It first appeared in 1991 and wasoriginally created by Guido van Rossum, a Dutch computer programmer who nowworks at Google. Python files generally end in .py.

relational database — A piece of software that storesdata in a series of tables, with relationships defined between them. A newsstory might have columns for a headline, date, text and author, where authorpoints to another table containing the author’s first name, last name andemail address. Information must be structured, but this allows for powerfulqueries. Examples include MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and SQLite. Most modernwebsites use some kind of relational database to store content.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) — A standard forwebsites to push their content to readers through Web formats to create regularupdates through a “feed reader” or “RSS Reader.” Thesymbol is generally a orange square with radiating white quarter circles. (Alsosee Atom)

Ruby — An increasingly popular programming languageknown for being powerful yet easy to write with. Originally introduced in 1995by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, Ruby has gained increasing tractionsince 2005 because of the Ruby on Rails development framework, which can createwebsites quickly. Ruby is open source and is very popular for content-basedsites.

Ruby on Rails — A popular Web framework based on theRuby programming language that makes common development tasks easier “outof the box.” The power of Ruby on Rails, which was developed by theChicago-based firm 37 Signals, comes from how quickly it can be used to createa basic website.

S3 — An online storage system run by Amazonthat’s often used as a cheap way to store (and serve) photos and videosused on websites. It is short for Simple Storage Service. Its fees are oftenpennies per month per gigabyte, depending on location and bulk discount. Theservice is often used in conjunction with other Amazon Web Services, such asEC2, to allow customers to process large amounts of data with low capitalinvestment. The New York Times used S3 with EC2 in this way to process itsarchives.

SaaS (Software as a Service) — A pricing strategy andbusiness model, where companies build a software solution, usuallybusiness-to-business, and charge a fixed monthly rate to access it on theInternet. It is a type of cloud computing. Salesforce.com is the best example,but other notables include Mailchimp and even Amazon Web Services.

Scribd — A document-sharing site that is oftendescribed as a “YouTube for documents” because it allows othersites to embed its content. It allows people to upload files and others todownload in various formats. Recently Scribd, which is based in San Francisco,moved from Flash-based technology to HTML5 standards.

scripting language — A programming language designedto be easy to use for everyday or administrative tasks. It may involvetrade-offs such as sacrificing some performance for ease of programming.Popular scripting languages include PHP, Perl, Python and Ruby.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — A suite oftechniques for improving how a website ranks on search engines such as Google.SEO is often divided into “white hat” techniques, which (tosimplify) try to boost ranking by improving the quality of a website, and“black hat” techniques, which try to trick search engines intothinking a page is of higher quality than it actually is. SEO can also refer toindividuals and companies that offer to provide search engine optimization forwebsites.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) — A type of marketingthat involves raising a company or product’s visibility in search enginesby paying to have it appear in search results for a given word.

semantic web — A vision of the web that is almostentirely machine readable, in which documents are published in languages thatare designed specifically for data. It was first articulated by Tim Berners-Leein 2001. In many implementations, tags would identify the information, such as <ADDRESS>or <DATE>. While there has been progress toward this front, many say thisvision remains largely unrealized.

server-side — Referring to when network software runsin a central location, the server, rather than on the user’s computer,often known as the client. (Also see client side).

Sinatra - A lightweight framework written in Ruby that canbe used to set up web services, APIs and small sites at lightning speed.

social graph — A mapping of the connections betweenpeople and the things they care about that could provide useful insights. Theterm originally promoted by Facebook and is now gaining broader usage.

social media —  A broad term referring to thewide swath of content creation and consumption that is enabled by themany-to-many distributed infrastructure of the Internet. Unlike legacy media,where the audience is usually on the receiving end of content creation, socialmedia generally allows three stages of interaction with content: 1) producing,2) consuming and 3) sharing. Social media is incredibly broad and refers toblogging, wikis, video-sharing sites like YouTube, photo-sharing sites likeFlickr and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

structured thesaurus — A group of preferred termscreated for editorial use to normalize and more effectively classify content.For example, the AP Stylebook is similar to (but includes more rules than) astructured thesaurus in that it gives writers preferred terms to use andstandards to follow, so everyone following AP Style writes the word“website” the same way.


tag — A common type of metadata used to describe apiece of content that associates it with other content that has the sametag.  Tags can be specific terms, people, locations, etc. used in thecontent it is describing, or more general terms that may not be explicitlystated, such as themes. The term “tag” is also used in the contextof markup languages, such as <title> identifying the name of the webpage. In HTML, tags usually come in sets of open and closed, with the closedtag containing an extra slash (“/”) inside. For example:<title>This is the Title.</title>.

taxonomy — A hierarchical classification system. Inthe world of content, this can be a hierarchy of terms (generally called nodesor entities) that are used to classify the category or subject content belongsto as well as terms that are included in the content. In many cases, websitenavigation systems appear taxonomical in that users narrow down from broadtop-level categories to the granular feature they want to see. An ontology issimilar to a taxonomy in that it is also a classification system with nodes orentities, but it is more complex and flexible because ontologies allow fornon-hierarchical relationships. While in a taxonomy a node can be either abroader term or narrower term, in an ontology nodes can be related in any way.


Tumblr — A free short-form blogging platform thatallows users to post images, video, links, quotes and audio. The company isbased in New York City and competes with Posterous.

transparency — In the context of news and information,a term describing openness about information that has become increasinglypopular.  In many cases it is used to refer to the transparency ofgovernment releasing data to journalists and to the public. It is often used inthe context of journalists being open about their reporting process andmaterial by sharing with their readers before the final project emerges or providingmore context in addition to the final product.

Twitter — A microblogging and social media servicewhere users can send out messages limited to 14o characters. Launched in 2007,Twitter became popular in part because it had a set of APIs that allowed otherdevelopers to build tools on top if it. Twitter users came up with their ownconventions, including the @ symbol to denote user names (@nytimes), and #, thehashtag, to denote subjects (#sxsw). Twitter computes Trending Topics, whichgive a real-time view into the most talked about topics on the service.

UI (User Interface) — The part of a softwareapplication or website that users see and interact with, which takes intoaccount the visual design and the structure of the program. While graphicdesign is an element of user interface design, it is only a portion of theconsideration.

URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) — The way toidentify the location for something on the Internet. It is most familiarly in“http:” form, but also encompasses “ftp:” or “mailto:”

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) — Often usedinterchangeably with the “address” of a web page, such ashttp://hackshackers.com. All URLs are URIs, but not vice versa. While humansare familar with URLs as a way to see web pages, computer programs often useURLs to pass each other machine-readable content, such as RSS feeds or Twitterinformation. In addition, words that appear in URLs often help boost searchrankings, which is why many content sites are now shifting to URLs withheadlines as opposed to data strings.

UX (User Experience) — Generally referring to the areaof design that involves the holistic interaction a user has with a product or aservice. It incorporates many disciplines, including engineering, graphicdesign, content creation and psychology. User interface is one element of userexperience.

Web 2.0 — Referring to the generation of Internettechnologies that allow for interactivity and collaboration on websites. Incontrast to Web 1.0 (roughly the first decade of the World Wide Web) wherestatic content was downloaded into the browser and read, Web 2.0 uses theInternet as the platform. Technologies such as Ajax, which allow for rapidcommunication between the browser and the web server, underlie many Web 2.0sites. The term was popularized by a 2004 conference, held by O’ReillyMedia and MediaLive, called Web 2.0. (Also see Ajax)

Web 3.0 — Sometimes used to refer to the semantic web.(Also see semantic web)

webOS — Operating system used on the latest generationof Palm smart phones, including the Pre and the Pixi. Apps for webOS aredeveloped using web standards (HTML, Javascript and CSS), which means there isa low barrier to entry for web developers to create mobile apps for webOS ascompared to other mobile platforms. It allows for having several applicationsopen at the same time, unlike the current iPhone.

widget — In a web context, this refers to a portableapplication that can be embedded into a third-party site by cutting and pastingsnippets of code. Common web widgets include a Twitter box that can sit on ablog, or a small Google Map that sits within an invitation. Desktop widgets,such as ones offered for the Macintosh Dashboard or by Yahoo!, can be placed onthe desktop of a computer, such as for weather or stocks. Similarly, Androidoffers the ability to add widgets to the home screens.

wiki — A web site with pages that can be easily editedby visitors using their web browser, but generally now gaining acceptance as aprefix to mean “collaborative.” Ward Cunningham created the firstwiki, naming it WikiWikiWeb after the Hawaiian word for “quick.” Awiki enables the audience to contribute to a knowledge base on a topic or shareinformation within an organization, like a newsroom. The best-known wiki inexistence is Wikipedia, which burst onto the scene around 2000 as one of thefirst examples of mass collaborative information aggregation. Other sites thathave been branded “wiki” include Wikinews, Wikitravel, andWikiLeaks (which was originally but is no longer a wiki).

WordPress — The most popular blogging software in usetoday, in large part because it is free and relatively powerful, yet easy touse. First released by Matt Mullenweg in 2003, WordPress attracts contributionsfrom a large community of programmers and designers who give it additionalfunctionality and visual themes. Sites that use WordPress include the New YorkTimes blogs, CNN and the LOLCats network. It has been criticized for securityflaws.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) —A set of rules forencoding documents and data that goes beyond HTML capacities. Whereas HTML is generallyconcerned with the semantic structure of documents, XML allows otherinformation to be defined and passed such as <vehicle>, <make>,<model>, <year>, <color> for a car. It is the parent languageof many XML-based languages such as RSS, Atom, and others. It gained furtherpopularity with the emergence of Ajax as a way to send back data from webservices, but has since lost ground to JSON, another data encoding format,which is seen as easier to work with.

Yahoo! Pipes — An online service from Yahoo! thatprovides a drag-and-drop visual interface to create interesting combinations ofdata.  This is stuff you would otherwise need to know how to program todo. Instead, inputs, operators and chunks of logic are represented visually— as consoles connected by pipes — with information flowing fromsources to output. It can import and out put in almost any common data format,including RSS, CSV, and JSON. Yahoo Pipes is an excellent resources fortech-minded, non-programming journalists.

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