We Are What We’ve Built
Journalist and programmer Chris Amico on the difference between building a platform to present content and building a site to present a news brand.
“Python for Informatics” Open Textbook Remixed in 11 Days
This book is a data-focused remix of “Think Python: How to Think like a Computer Scientist,” the book Adrian Holovaty often recommends to journalists who want to get started with Django.
From Journalism to Django, Part One: Prerequisites
Chris Amico is writing a bit of a guide for journalists looking to get started with Django.
Tokyo | Cairo: Comparing Obama’s Foreign Policy Speeches
Like Wordle? Check out this improvement on the concept, comparing two speeches, or two stories, and mapping the common vocabulary in each. This was done with Processing. (Spotted via infosthetics.com)
13 Tools for Building Your Own iPhone App
So, your news organization wants an iPhone app of its own, but doesn’t want to shell out for a developer with the skills to make it slick? Here’s a list of approaches that don’t require as much programming knowledge to put together a finished app.
Learning to think like a programmer – Infovore
Incredibly important notes for journalists not so much on how to program, but on how to identify which information gathering and processing tasks could be better accomplished by a computer. (via Tim D’Avis)
Why train programmers as journalists?
Over at IdeaLab, Rich Gordon shares his exit interview with Brian Boyer and Ryan Mark, the first two programmers to earn a Master’s degree through Medill’s Knight News Challenge-funded scholarship.
Because it’s fucking important.
Thanks to the News Challenge, I’ve had the chance to meet Brian and Ryan and hang out with them a bit. Frankly, they’re excellent at what they do, and they have the ideals to match. So, who will have the vision to hire these guys? A major metro in Chicago? (And should they take a job at a major metro?) Non-profits digging through public data like the Sunlight Foundation? (Gordon reports that Boyer has a temporary gig at ProPublica for starters.)
Gordon asked the two graduates the important question that other programmers/coders/developers should consider:
“Why should someone with solid programming skills consider a master’s degree in journalism?
Mark: Because journalism needs them. There are so many tech-capable people in journalism, but few who have logged the time to understand computer science and software development. A person who does not want to just write code for whoever pays them, and actually come up with and execute interesting software projects, the journalism experience will help you. This program got me out of my element and gave me first hand experience that will help me relate to others in the field when i’m not elbow deep in code.
Boyer: Because it’s fucking important. Cable television and the Web disrupted the business models of the big, important journalism organizations: newspapers. Now, the importance of a daily paper is debatable, but that democracy requires journalism to function is not. And so, for the sake of democracy itself, it is imperative that more nerds join the fight to save the news. We need to invent new business models, reinvent the newspaper, and create new forms of media. Plus, an all-expense-paid trip to graduate school in sunny Chicago, Illinois, is also a very nice way to weather a recession. And the smart, passionate classmates make for some pretty good parties and great conversation.”
I’m psyched to follow where these two land, and what the next group of programmer/journalist grad students builds.
Think you’ve got the chops to help save journalism? Apply.
[I posted pieces of this as a shared Google Reader item last night when I saw Rich’s post. You can see all my shared stuff and notes about it over on FriendFeed if that’s what you’re into.]
I forget useful code, but Snipt remembers.
If you’re anything like me, you’re not really a Web developer by trade, but you push around a little bit of code on an extremely regular basis. And often, it’s the same little bits of code over and over again. And every time you need to use it, you go flipping through text files, Google searches, Delicious bookmarks, and oh, there it was.
Or there’s Snipt:
- Sign up.
- Save your snippet of useful, reusable code.
- Give it a logical name.
- Add some tags.
- Find what you need later, quickly, just the way you like it.
Snipt is another fine little piece of usefulness from my friends (and co-workers) who go by the name of Lion Burger.
Sometimes, robots just aren’t enough
TechMeme adds a human editor to make adjustments when the algorithm fails:
“Any competent developer who tries to automate the selection of news headlines will inevitably discover that this approach always comes up a bit short. Automation does indeed bring a lot to the table — humans can’t possibly discover and organize news as fast as computers can. But too often the lack of real intelligence leads to really unintelligent results. Only an algorithm would feature news about Anna Nicole Smith’s hospitalization after she’s already been declared dead, as our automated celeb news site WeSmirch did last year“
Would Google News add humans to the mix to craft a more up-to-date, relevant news site? I doubt it.
But I’d be interested to see further variations of the algorithms that run Google News, TechMeme, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Digg or Reddit, to see what else is possible when it comes to translating the logic of linking behavior into actual prioritization of “importance,” if that’s still a relevant metric.