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January 23 2012

20:26

Introducing ICE: Writing for the Web First

ICE is a customizable JavaScript library that will allow you to track changes in any element that is contenteditable, or in a TinyMCE or Wordpress text editor. At this early stage, ICE has some limitations, but we think it is a very useful tool and hope that others will help us expand the project. Patches and forks are welcome at our repository, https://github.com/nytd/ice/. An ICE demo is at http://nytd.github.com/ice/demo/.

October 07 2011

17:46

TimesOpen full-length videos

Full-length videos from the first two TimesOpen events, HTML5 and Beyond, and Innovating Developer Culture, are now available.

May 12 2011

14:16

Meta research on online journalism

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

14:16

Meta research on online journalism

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

Usually I do not write about research here, but a new publication prompts me to note that now — almost 20 years after the first “online newspapers” made their debut — some research is beginning to appear about the research that has been done to date.

This is great news, because it lays a foundation for better and more focused research in the future.

The most recent article appeared in Journalism Studies 12(3): Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology, by Steen Steensen (DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2010.501151). He looked at how “technological assets,” including interactivity, multimedia and hypertext, have been discussed and examined in the scholarly literature about online journalism.

Steensen points out that definitions are murky and imprecise — what one study defines as “hypertext,” another study defines as “interactivity.” (This has annoyed me for many years!) This presents quite a challenge to anyone who tries to aggregate the findings of several studies.

What will be VERY useful for future scholars is the way Steensen has broken down his examination into sub-categories under interactivity, multimedia and hypertext: content analysis; surveys, interviews and experiments; reception studies; summary.

In the end, Steensen suggests that we need to figure out how research can do a better job at discovering “why online journalism develops as it does” (p. 321). He wants to know more about why journalism organizations don’t do a better job with all the technology tools at their disposal.

I think that’s the wrong question.

Newsrooms of all kinds are constrained in a multitude of ways, and looking at why people working in those newsrooms can’t engage an audience effectively probably is not going to be helpful. What will be more useful to the journalism field — and to journalism’s mission of serving the public and informing people of things they need to know — are studies of how and why people interact with news, or why they do not.

Add to that: Studies of engagement and attention.

In recent conversations with other college educators, I’ve found I’m not alone in thinking the current crop of university students is different. I mean really different. The way they learn is different. The way they process and retain information is different. They are engaged with Facebook and other media all day long — and yet many of them are shockingly uninformed (because they only know what their friends see fit to “share”).

What story formats and information styles will get through to these young people?

What will engage them? What will educate them? What will expand their horizons so that they are fit to run the world when they become the ones in charge?

January 12 2011

16:30

Haiti, before/after/now: Google images tell the tale

It’s been a year since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, and news organizations have been finding creative and commendable ways to mark the sad anniversary. Some are going local, finding stories within their communities that bring the tragedy home; some are going meta, examining big-picture issues like technology and foreign aid as they relate to the crisis. And others are going back — to Haiti itself, to the scene of the quake, to paint a picture of how far the country’s come and how far it still needs to go.

Of this last group, The New York Times’s coverage stands out: The paper’s interactive team put together a fantastic interactive map of the devastation, allowing users to experiment with satellite images of Haiti before the quake, immediately after, and now.

The feature’s general awesomeness isn’t a surprise: Fairly or not, excellence from the team is pretty much an expectation at this point. What’s more remarkable than the graphic’s quality is its source: The interactive uses images from Google Earth and the earth imagery outfit GeoEye. And those images were offered by Google itself.

In advance of today’s anniversary, a rep from Google Maps and Earth reached out to news organizations, offering a downloadable, high-res photo album; before-and-after stills, hosted by a third party, of tent villages; and videos of before-and-after scenes, including Port-au-Prince’s Pétionville Golf Course-turned-tent camp (on both Quicktime HD and YouTube) and Haiti’s National Palace (Quicktime HD, YouTube). It also provided raw footage — of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (July ‘09, January ‘10, November ‘10), Haiti’s airport (July ‘09, January ‘10), its National Palace (August ‘09, November ‘10), and Pétionville (August ‘09, November ‘10) — and contextual info in the form of a collection of Lat Long blog posts describing the mapping efforts the outfit undertook throughout 2010.

On its own, none of that — Google’s provision of images and video, a news organization’s use of it — is a huge deal: News outlets regularly make good use of Google’s trove of information, for stories big and small. But, as an experiment in collaboration, the Times’s Google-fied cross-pollination is a small reminder of the benefit that can come when news organizations take advantage of resources that lay beyond the walls of their own newsrooms — finding ways of getting there without actually going there. As Sean Carlson, Google’s manager of news industry relations, explained to me: “We’ve heard that Google Earth and Google Maps can be like helicopters in the hands of any news organization.”

The images, videos, and background info are all still available for any news outfit that wants to use them. A good thing, because, today’s 365-day news peg notwithstanding, the story of Haiti’s devastation isn’t over. The quake created 20 million cubic feet of debris. A year later, only 5 percent of that has been cleared.

December 07 2010

18:52

Designing Election Results on the iPad

The 2010 elections provided a chance to develop a custom version of our election results site, specifically for the iPad. In building it, we learned a lot about designing for a new class of computing devices, as well as how to leverage several HTML5 technologies.

September 16 2010

18:33

What I read today…

August 24 2010

14:14

New York Times seeks multimedia journalism interns

Poking around in The New York Times’s job listings, I found this description of three distinct internships “in the Web Newsroom of The New York Times”:

  • Front-end Interactive Designer: full skill-set of client-side technologies including HTML, CSS and JavaScript/Prototype. Experience with Ruby on Rails is a plus.
  • Motion Design Storyteller: working knowledge of AfterEffects and Photoshop in producing motiongraphics. Final Cut a plus. We are looking for someone to help grow the motion design side of storytelling. So applicant must have a strong sense of timing and narrative and have the ability to implement a variety of creative styles.
  • Interactive Flash Journalist: Advanced programming knowledge and experience in Flash and ActionScript 3. Experience with Photoshop and Illustrator is a plus.

When I tell journalists and journalism students that skills such as these are important to the future of their career, I catch a lot of flak. Frankly, I’m a little tired of hearing that there is no need for journalists to learn these skills. This is storytelling. This is what the ability to type on a typewriter was in 1970.

As Ann Landers used to write in her advice column: Wake up and smell the coffee!

Update (10:30 a.m.): Then I found an ad for a reporter at The Times-News of Hendersonville, N.C., “a New York Times-owned media company” that describes itself as “a print and 24/7 online newsroom that produces a 14,000 circulation daily newspaper and a website with about 2 million pageviews a month”:

Our reporters cover beats, work on enterprise projects, post stories to the Web and shoot video. Our staff works as a team and reporters are often asked to cover other beats as well as breaking news. The right candidate will have a passion for journalism and multimedia, a strong sense of community journalism and the ability to develop sources and go beyond routine meeting coverage.

August 18 2010

10:19

BBC Dimensions: Making the news more geographically relevant

The BBC has launched ‘Dimensions’ – an interactive map prototype which aims to ignite a public interest in history and the news by making it geographically relevant to an individual.

The technology uses the address of a user to show the scale of an event in history, such as the recent oil spill in the Gulf, and applies it to a map of the user’s home and vicinity.

Discussing the technology, which currently “sits by itself”, BBC commissioning executive Max Gadney says the tools are being considered for use on BBC History and News pages.

When I took over the online History commissioning job, I knew that we would need a mix of traditional, trusted BBC content with some attention-grabbing digital stuff to get people to it.

It’s easier said than done. Many technologists and designers are not really interested in history. Like much of the audience they were turned off by dull lessons at school. Our challenge was to make it relevant to audiences.

See his full post here…Similar Posts:



April 09 2010

15:37

7 examples of exceptional Flash packages

These come from USA Today, The Washington Post, the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster), Reuters, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Seven examples, seven news organizations. Yes, they are all large news organizations. But I’d like to make the point that (contrary to what some Flash detractors have said) it’s not only The New York Times that is doing outstanding work in Flash online.

I chose these examples to show to journalism students who are near the end of their 10 weeks of instruction in designing and producing multimedia news packages.

Haiti earthquake: An expandable package that was updated with new photos, videos and audio throughout the 10 days following the earthquake. Note the added audio in the lower right corner — not every photo had this, so it was optional to include it. Videos appear seamlessly within the same interface (in the location of the still photo). Each photo has a headline, and that headline text appears at the top when you roll over the squares representing individual segments. A very classy package with a clear design and clean functionality. Exceptional: Highly adaptable to future breaking news or retrospectives. See an earlier version of the same interface: Decade in Review.

Local fashion videos: Outstanding interviews, still photos and editing make these short videos exceptional. The choice of more than a dozen well-known locations around Washington, D.C. (e.g., Eastern Market, Union Station) situates each story in a place that has a recognizable flavor and style. To bundle these first-rate stories in a clean, easy-to-use interface that encourages browsing — and includes a map — was brilliant. Bummer: No way to bookmark or e-mail link to an individual video. Bonus: Easy-to-use link list of all videos. (New ones are still being added.) Overkill: Too-elaborate Flash-based comments segment.

Black Saturday: Coverage of the worst bush fires in the history of Australia, in which 173 people died and more than 4,500 sq. km. of land burned — organized by both time and location in a manner that encourages browsing and also conveys the huge scope of the disaster. Exceptional: Use of embedded anchor points, which allow you to bookmark any segment, or e-mail a direct link to someone (see example). Exceptional: Integration of Google Earth mapping (see example). See also the amazing map locator that appears below the grid.

Economic crisis: A timeline starting with August 2007 and ending with September 2009 documents “The Year of Global Change” with text, photos and videos in an expandable interface that provides easy switching between detail view (individual items) and the overview grid. The detail you viewed last appears in the leftmost column when you return to the grid view. Bonus: Very easy to step forward and back from within the detail view. Bummer: There is no bookmarking (no embedded anchor points).

Piano Jazz: Highlighting 30 hand-picked examples of jazz musicians performing on the radio program Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, this 6 x 5 grid opens up 30 overlay segments that include an audio player, a photo of the artist, and a short text. Although this package might appear complex to the uninitiated, it is actually very straightforward. My students are fully capable of building this package right now, with a combination of XML and sound controls. Notable: Clean, appealing design, ease of use, restraint. I love it that the audio was edited down from the full-length program to feature one song performed by the guest.

Afghanistan map: This map has been updated, often daily, since February 2009. Look at the calendar selector on the left side; select any day to see all reported events on that day. Each event is located on the map with an icon that indicates its type, e.g., bomb, fighting, offensive, air attack. Roll over the icon to read a summary of the event. Exceptional: Use of external data to update (frequently!) a long-term continuing story. Bonus: Great icon design and a very clear legend box.

End of the Line: I’ve chosen this from the many great examples at The New York Times for two reasons. First, it demonstrates a versatile loaded overlay (see screen capture below): Some of the segments include video, most do not, and many include multiple still photos (some include only one photo). The navigation interface at the top of each segment (Previous and Next buttons, plus numbered buttons that indicate exactly how many photos the segment includes) is an exceptionally friendly way to present varied photo sets. Second, the two views of the intro (Map and Thumbnail) add immensely to the appeal of the package. As a former New Yorker, I am drawn in by the Map view, but I would guess that lovers of photography find the Thumbnail view more enticing.

March 11 2010

03:25

21 examples of Flash journalism

These are interactive news packages I’ve selected to show to journalism students as we discuss some of the capabilities of Adobe Flash. Many are very recent.

1. Motion

The first thing students learn to do in Flash is animation. Although a lot of animation is merely eye candy, it can help to tell the story more effectively.

The motion in Super Stadium (2010) is window dressing, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In this segment, there’s a zoom on each level of the stadium as it flies out. In other segments, we see an alpha fade. These animation effects are easy to do on the Flash Timeline.

In Last Minutes of Flight 3407 (2009), a 3-D plane rotation illustrates what happened in the air. Other animation in this graphic traces the plane’s path on a map; the map then zooms in close to indicate where the plane went down.

An extraordinary feat of reporting: What happened: Death of Jean Charles de Menezes (2007) shows in 25 steps how London police pursued and killed an innocent man. With this level of detail, it’s essential to make sure the motion is fully accurate. The story is enhanced by inset videos taken from closed-circuit cameras throughout the city.

Manufacturing Chocolate from Seed to Sweet (2007) presents a step-by-step explanation of a process, with animations (such as milk pouring from a bottle) that are initiated by the user.

Four years ago, every winter sport was explained in these detailed animated graphics: Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games. They offer particularly good examples of motion used strategically to explain. Even if you don’t know a word of Spanish, you can learn from watching these.

2. Button symbols

To add interactivity to a Flash graphic or animation, you’ll need to master buttons — and that means dipping into ActionScript. It’s well worth the effort, as I hope these examples will show.

The rollover buttons in Damage in Haiti (2010) cause pop-up panels to appear. It’s possible for relative beginners at Flash to create this kind of typical map effect.

Black Tides: A Timeline (2005?) offers a more complex map interface, but the circles on the world map and on the timeline bar at bottom are buttons. Not shown: A vertical stack of buttons on the left side of the graphic. (Unfortunately, the photos that used to be in this package have now all gone missing.)

The Mekong: A River and a Region Transformed (2010): This beautiful interface, integrated loosely with a map, uses a photo button and a separate text button to open a slideshow; a separate text button takes you to a story page with audio.

In The Debt Trap (2008), a sequence of 10 invisible buttons display information about each year in the selected decade slice — a great data graphic. (To see this segment, select Start, then go to Lifetime/Explore.)

TKTS – A House of Glass (2008) uses the Times’s standard button bar with numerals + NEXT. I think the first time they deployed this button bar was in Small Plane Hits Building in Manhattan (2006).

3. Movie clip symbols

After a student masters simple interactivity with buttons, it’s time to tackle the real power of Flash — and that means movie clips. Movie clips make possible a lot of functionality that can’t be accomplished with basic Timeline animation.

What causes earthquakes? (To see this cutaway diagram, click the second tab at the top.) The moving red arrows and the radiating circles are movie clips.

Slot machine (2009): The rolling sections inside the machine and the light on top are movie clips.

Budget Forecasts, Compared with Reality (2010): The drag slider at the bottom and the rollovers on the fever chart are movie clips.

In Scenes from a Ruined Boulevard (2010), a different kind of slider movie clip (bottom center) drags across a long panorama to show the destruction of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Four pop-up text panels distinguish this design from the typical 360-degree panorama.

Produced for the U.S. Library of Congress in 2001, Churchill and the Great Republic remains one of the great digital information packages (select the “Timeline” option to see this view). The way the timeline bars (lower portion of the screen) work in concert with the main display area is typical of movie clip functionality.

4. Maps and Data

Three of these examples are data-driven maps. Now you’re looking at the hard stuff — the integration of large data sets tied to dynamically generated objects.

Visualizing the U.S. Electric Grid (2009): Both of the maps above come from the same package. Users have a lot of opportunities to explore and view the data that interests them.

Haiti, territorio devastado (2010): This beautiful 3-D map of Haiti allows the user to select various kinds of information to display as overlays. (There’s also an animated cutaway that shows earthquake activity beneath the surface.)

Top: Geography of a Recession (2009) provides data for each county in the United States. Compare that with the map below it — Immigration Explorer (2009) — and you’ll see how much sense it makes to build interactive graphics that use external data sources. Once you’ve got a map like this working the first time, you can swap out the data set and tweak it to serve a wholly different story.

Gay marriage chronology (2009): This map interacts with the timeline below it to show how states have changed their laws to allow or prohibit gay marriages.

Although it’s simpler than the preceding map examples, History of Religion tells a story efficiently and clearly with the help of color and motion, with a minimum of text.

If you have other examples to suggest, I’d be happy to see the links!

March 10 2010

18:58

Meet the NetSquared team at SXSWi

SXSWStarting this Friday, the NetSquared team will be at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. The SXSWi conference is an opportunity for online media experts to get together for in-person networking and learning. If you're going to be there, we'd love for you to get in touch. Here's what we'll be up to:

read more

February 28 2010

21:02

Spending time with Los Angeles homicides

Have you seen the L.A. Times homicides map? I’m sure you’ve marveled at the New York Times homicides map, and perhaps you have also admired the Boston Globe homicides map. The L.A. map, however, has a lot (a lot!) of fine features that the others lack.

One of my students wrote a critique of the L.A. map for an assignment, and that led me to go deeper into it than I had before. Turns out that it’s probably the best implementation I’ve ever seen of Adrian Holovaty’s 2006 call to action, A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change.

I’m particularly impressed by the article level of the data — the story — for each and every victim of homicide (see here and here and here, for example). Check out The Homicide Report blog too.

(Props to Ken Schwencke, a Gator journalism grad, whose love of data and code is all over this thing.)

January 20 2010

16:01

Updating Flash Journalism (Part 2)

The other day I received an e-mail from someone with a programming background who’s interested in learning how to build journalism packages in Flash. He asked how to get started and whether I was planning to release a new edition of my 2005 book Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages.

First I directed him to my December 2009 post about why I will not be updating my book.

I am recommending Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book. It’s not directed specifically at journalists or news graphics reporters, but it’s easy to follow for the most part.

Then I gave him this outline of what he needs to learn:

  1. Button scripting (for navigation through the package): Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 6; see also AS3 Buttons Tutorial
  2. Loading external content dynamically: Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 9
  3. How to optimize images in Flash (Bitmap Properties):  Imported Bitmaps
  4. How to load and control external MP3s: Using Sound in ActionScript 3
  5. How to load and control video: Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 7 (starting on page 252)
  6. ActionScript 3 and XML loading/controls (XML works awesomely well with AS3): I have built a tutorial for this that is meant to be used in conjunction with the files and the exercise in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 8 (download the files; 234 KB). Please note that the exercise will not make sense without the book!

Now, after you’ve got all that under your belt, you will need to spend some time learning how to use the Bandwidth Profiler (Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Classroom in a Book, Lesson 10) to make sure no one can accuse you of building heavy (overly large) Flash files. Heavy Flash files are NOT an indicator that Flash is bad; they simply show that the person who built the files didn’t know how to do it right!

If someone tells you that Flash graphics do not show up in Google or Yahoo! searches — that is incorrect.

If someone tells you that SWF is a proprietary file format, or that SWFs can be created only with Adobe software applications, that is also incorrect.

You should also learn how to use SWFObject to embed your Flash files (SWFs) in regular Web pages.

January 14 2010

15:50

Destruction in Haiti interactive

This feature from nytimes.com lets users zoom in on the images and examine up close some of the damage caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Simple but smart idea.

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