Old Bones Daily


Shawn Graham
Kate Ellenberger


“Old Bones Daily” procedurally generates texts from the ‘bones’ of generative grammar. The structure of the grammar used to generate the piece explores arguments often made about human bones, extending these into the digital and creative space. Have a look below for examples, and follow the links provided to explore “Old Bones Daily” for yourself!

This piece was awarded first place in our online, team category as well as the judge’s choice award from Zsolt Sándor. Read below for more information on this fabulous project and to engage with the judges comments that explore the merits of this piece. Be sure to check out the paradata and have a play with the source which has been provided so that you can also have a go at creating your own fabulous visualizations!


Instructions for access:

•           Visit online at http://shawngraham.github.io/hj2017

•           Make your browser full-screen for best effect

•           Fully responsive so can be read equally well on mobile

•           Reload the page for the latest headlines and stories and photos



Source Files

To replicate this newspaper for your own amusement, consult the file, newsgrammar.js and insert new values in the keys. To alter the layout and placement of these elements on the newspaper, create new var and associated div in the js\app.js file. Place the div in the appropriate location in the main index.html file. Extra css or html for a particular chunk of text should be wrapped inside the values in the newsgrammar.js file. For a tutorial on how Tracery functions, see Shawn Graham’s tutorial at The Programming Historian. Tracery can power webpages, games, and twitterbots. What would be the effect of ‘Old Bones Daily’ if it were translated into the new news medium of Twitter?


The original CSS for the newspaper layout is MIT Licensed by user Silkine on codepen.io

The Tracery generative grammar is released by Kate Compton under Apache License Version 2.0, January 2004

Images obtained via the British Library’s Flickr stream are all public domain works

We assert that our use of the original source newspapers is fair use

We release the code in the source repository into the wild, such parts of it that are uniquely ours, under CC BY.

Judges’ Comments

The entire juding panel thoroughly commended the technical merits and innovative use of paradata within the piece. Paul Backhouse commented that it was “beautifully presented and laid out.” and that he loved “the way the Paradata is folded into the virtual newspaper.” 

Matthew Tyler-Jones quipped that it was an excellent example of Tracery” that he “could play with it for hours. (And did, for too long.)” 

Izzy Bartley expanded that she “really likes the idea of this being a kind of ‘potluck’ experience, never knowing what you’re going to get next. I can envisage people signing up to receive an ‘Old Bones Daily’ email in their inbox.” She also really liked “the way it is all based on real, historic news stories.”

For constructive critique Izzy Bartley commented that “the paradata is robust, but difficult to understand if you are not familiar with coding or what Tracery grammar is.”

This visualization shows incredible technical merit and tackles the theme in an innovative way – our team was inspired and left wanting to play with it more!

When selecting this for his judge’s choice award Zsolt Sándor said: “This was a really playful and clever interpretation of the theme, using technology in a novel and interesting way to bring us closer to the past in an informative, yet entertaining fashion. Well presented, too.”

© 2022. CC BY the authors of their respective works. All Rights Reserved.