To choose a system

One important decision you take in the early stages of a website is which CMS – content management system – you will use.

I have chosen WordPress for for several reasons:

Actually I started out building the first prototype of the site on Drupal, but since I see much of the same functionality in WordPress, and I already have experience in working with WordPress I decided to uninstall Drupal and start building the site on WordPress.

I haven’t regret that.

WordPress must be the most popular self-hosted blogging-system as it is right now – that means tons of different themes to chose from, an effective debug-proces and good support in several forums about.

It’s easy to configure and customize – and at one time i needed to move the content from one server to another because i bought a new domain – and it was as easy as about ten clicks on the mouse.

Besides Drupal and WordPress there is also Typepad, which among others uses.

And a lot more.

Data on a map

We participated in the Hacks/hackers Meetup workshop on Google Fusion.

Kathryn Hurley leaded us through some of the basic functions Google Fusion – I must admit that I couldn’t follow along all the way, but she showed us some great ways to use it, and it is a very simple way to illustrate a big sets of date – the problem though is there can be a lot of work to clean the data-sets to use it in Google Fusion.

One project I remember very well from before I came to New York was when the Danish Tabloid Ekstra Bladet used Google Fusion to visualize all the data from the leaked documents about Afghanistan on a map:

On it might be useful with Google Fusion. Among other things I think it could be quite good project to visualize where all the farmsubsidies goes on a map. The data i can get from this site:

The rise of a (partly) new language

HTML5 is a new standard for programming in HTML.

With HTML5 you don’t need so many external plugins like Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight and Java.

It’s becoming popular among other things because Apple will not allow Adobe Flash elements on the iPad.

One of the projects with HTML5 is also to simplify some of the coding.

It takes a lot of years to progress a new revision of the old basic programming language, HTML.

Like in CSS HTML is also under webstandards set by W3, an there is a lot of work before they accept a revision of the language.

Every site on the web is more or less build around HTML, which gives simple instructions to the browser about how to show a code. HTML can’t take data from visitors on a website – to do that you have to combine it with a serverside language like PHP or ASP.

A HTML site is basically diveded into to sections – one you really don’t see in the browser – and on you do see.

The first is the <head>-section, and the other is the <body>-section. This is also good to know when you are making small customizations on your WordPress template.

The language of appearance

CSS – cascading style sheets – is a programming language you use to define how things should look like.

It’s pretty basic in all web-development, but still very powerfull. If you have to choose one language to learn this would be a good start – maybe after HTML.

With CSS you can define how all the headlines on your website should look like, how the text should look in all your articles and if the links on your website should be black, blue, white or gray (or any other color).

I’m building in WordPress, and here it is extremely helpful to be able to do some CSS. I can a little bit, and now the basics.

Basically you can change all the look of your WordPress by knowing some CSS. In every theme made for WordPress there is a CSS-page, where you can change the standard appearance of your website. This CSS-file is included on every other pages. This means that you don’t have to make changes on every little file on your website if you – for example want a bigger headline on your stories.

To ensure some standards in this coding language their is a community called W3. They have made some standards in CSS, to be sure that if you follow them, your website will be showed exactly as want it regardless what browser your visitors are using.

You can read a bit more about W3 on this website:

Here is our data

API – Apllication Programming Interface – is basically a way to release a set of data or a structure for others to work further with.

One of the most obvious examples is the Twitter API. Whether you have a Twitter client on your desktop, show the latest tweets on your website or make a Storify on your blog with tweets you use the Twitter API.

Twitter has made some restrictions in the use of their API to ensure it will not be overloaded, and to keep to core product for themself. If you don’t follow these restrictions they can exclude you from using their API.

Many publish their API’s to get their product spread or to se what else the core data that a website has can be used for.

For it’s interesting with API’s because it is also a way to illustrate the enormous sets of data already online about The European Union.

Most recently the API for all the european legislature documents has been released, and this have already given us some new illustrations of the EU lawmaking that are interesting.

Here you can se some examples of what the EU legislature API have been used for:


Different types of hosting

I don’t care where I live, how big my apartment is, if I’m going to share it with others, if there is a lock on the door or an insurance if everything burns down.

Very few would probably agree with the statement, but when it comes to web-hosting quite a few does it.

You can get web-hosting really cheap these days, but it will have consequences of the quality of your web-host.

Example – I bought my web-hotel from a company in Europe that I trust. It works fine as long as your homepage is just a little one without much traffic, and without much at stake if something goes wrong. But as my trafficnumbers raises it get’s slower, because it is shared hosting.

But for a web-company a secure web-host is critical. If you once experience a website that don’t load, the odds that you will revisit it is very low.

Here are some different types of web-hosting:

Shared hosting: Cheap. You share a server with other websites. There is a lot of “doors” in it, so the security is much lower. If some of the other websites on your server get a lot of traffic it will affect the speed of your website.

Dedicated server: You can host a website yourself if you have a computer you can have online all the time – or you can buy the service from a hosting-company. With a dedicated server it is only your site on it. This an expensive solution but still the most trusted.

Colocation: You can setup your own server and send it to a hosting company. You design the server all by yourself, from software to hardware. You are basically buying the room in an server environment. This is a bit cheaper than a dedicated server, but it is at your own risk if something goes wrong, because the hosting-company can’t know all the customized servers. You need to be pretty technical smart if you choose this solution.
Cloud: With cloud-hosting you only use what you need, when you need it. This a cloud of computers, where you can easily scale op and down as you need it because your computer space it hosted on several computers instead of just one server. You can see this video for an easy introduction to cloud-hosting:

A few thoughts on newsgames

Recently we had a lecture by Nick Diakopoulos who is a phd in computer science and is very focused on the development of News Games. You can read more about this guy on his website.

He showed some examples of newsgaming – both good and not so good. I noticed especially two games that I thought were very cool.

First one is Budget Hero made by National Public Radio. The game is about how to use taxpayers money in USA. That’s a good way to show how complex government budgetting is, and by playing it you can get a good sense of how it works.

The other news game that I remember is one with a little more opinion in it. The game is about bombing terrorist, and I don’t think it is possible to win this game. Everytime you bomb one terrorist you’ll end up bombing civilist as well… and that leads to more terrorist. The game is called September 12, and can be found here:

As far as I could understand the experiments with newsgaming hasn’t really paid of yet. It’s very low traffic compared to “normal” news-delivering, but it’s a fascinating thought to make news more entertaining and interactive.

The problem is that development of newsgames takes a lot of time and ressources and is very hard to do on breaking news.

In my project though I think there could be some good opportunities to experiment with news-gaming. I want to build a news-site about European Union politics, and it’s a very complex institution, but if you could make it more understandable and entertaining by a newsgame that would be awesome.

It isn’t on top of my to-do-list because of the high expenses, but certainly it would be funny to play with in the future.

Does viral videos need to be expensive?

One important lesson to take away from Bob Sacha’s class about webvideo at Entrepreneurial Journalism is that it might not nescessary be very costful to produce a promotional video to make your online startup to go viral.

He used some examples in class, but it made me think about a video that I just recently have seen mad from a couple of guys in my homecountry, Denmark, next-biggest town Aarhus.

They simply used a webcam, and a song, and now they have already got 4 million viewers on this very simple, but funny video:

They had a good idea, a good story, and they executed it and went viral – and the cost in money was close to nothing.

They didn’t use it to promote anything, but if you can use the same humor and feelings in a promotional video this could be a very good way to go for a startup to get some audience.

The fine art of saying no

In some odd way the reading of “What Is Strategy” by Michael E. Porter reminded me of the program “Ramsey’s kitchen nightmare“, where the celebrity chief Gordon Ramsey visits failing restaurants.

I’ve seen this program a couple of times – is really entertaining – but the first advice he nearly every time gave was that the restaurant needed to shorten their menu to maybe 3-4 main dishes.

And in reading “What Is Strategy” I found out that’s what you call strategy in Business lingo: The capability of saying no or make trade-offs.

The text have several examples of businesses failing in saying no through the 80’s and 90’s.

One of them is when Continental decided to try to comped with Southwest with their cheap-flights Continental Light.

Michael E. Porter writes this as a Failure to Choose:

“Taught by popular management thinkers that they do not have to make trade-offs, managers have acquired a macho sense that to do so is a sign of weakness”.

As I read the text, Michael E. Porter, means there is sources of choosing a strategic position:

– Variety-based positioning: This is based on the choice of product or service varietes rather than customer segments. Example: Jiffy Lube International is specialized only in automotive lubricants. That’s it.

– Needs-based positioning: Targeting of a customer segment. Example: Ikea. They seek to meet all the furnishing needs of its target customers, not just a subset of them. More traditionally way of thinking, Porter writes.

– Acces-based positioning: This is less common than the others. Acces-based positioning is about reaching customers in the best way by example their geography or the scale. Example is Carmike Cinemas. They are specialized in operating movie-theaters in towns with a population under 200,000.