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October 05 2011

12:05

3 Key Reflections From Knight-Mozilla's Hacktoberfest in Berlin

Last week, the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership invited 20 developers, designers, and journalists to take part in a week of hacking and making in Berlin. I forget at what point in the planning one of the participants jokingly called it "Hacktoberfest," but the name stuck. And so now that the jet lag has worn off for the most part, I thought I'd reflect on three of my standout moments of Hacktoberfest and how they're influencing my thinking moving forward on the Knight-Mozilla project.

Working in the open

Sitting in a meeting with our news partners, I got to witness a great moment. At the start of that meeting, a discussion cropped up around the Partnership's core belief that code produced by Knight-Mozilla fellows should be open-sourced. There was hesitation on the part of some partners, worried that open-source code would reveal too much. An hour or so later, there was a discussion about possible collaborations among partners' newsrooms, but it wasn't making much headway, as collaboration with possible competitors is not the normal order of business.

But then it dawned on everyone: Open source made that a non-issue. By working in the open, fellows won't simply be producing things for their host organizations, but for any news organization that wants to use the code. You could see people linking back to the earlier conversation about open source and realizing that it meant far more than just code -- it meant a new way of working, of embracing collaboration, and of blazing a real way forward.

Quit yakking and start hacking

Sitting in the back of our main hackspace at Betahaus, watching team after team get up and present their work, it dawned on me how awesome it was to spend four days seeing people with disparate skill sets truly collaborate around building something.

Too often we orient getting people together around having a drink or listening to a speaker. "Quit yakking and start hacking" was the order of the day, and it worked. Multiple projects went from just an idea to a functioning demo in a matter of days. It's gratifying to me that there is a GitHub repo full of code from the week. Even more so that it was built through open collaboration among so many different types of people.

hacktoberfest.jpg

A new community

After dinner one evening, we took both the Hacktoberfest participants and representatives from our news partners to Cbase, a storied (and slightly ramshackle) hacker space in Berlin. Standing at the bar next to a guy with a huge beard and a leather kilt, I looked out over the main room and was genuinely moved as I watched many from our group moving a table strewn with their laptops over to join in with a table full of German hackers. My eyes adjusted to the blacklight, and I saw hackers, journalists, developers and news partners all sitting around together, socializing and drinking and making. It was awesome -- a real lasting image of a new community built in Berlin.

So what does all this mean for the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership moving forward? Well, in the short term, Hacktoberfest was the last step in a lengthy process to arrive at our 2011 fellows -- expect an announcement in a few weeks. But longer term, I think there are some real lessons to be learned from the event in Berlin, and some real ways those lessons will help to shape the Partnership in 2012:

  • I think the news partners really enjoyed feeling a part of the process, of meeting people and being engaged in the ideas being bandied about. Definitely getting the news partners to be partners throughout the year, instead of simply hosts for fellows at the end is a key step.
  • Additionally great: More opportunities to make code. The paths blazed by the Partnership in 2011 centered around design challenges and learning labs, which I think were both successful and should be replicated, but there wasn't anywhere near enough hacking going on, so more code in 2012 I think is a great goal.
  • Finally, building community is important. It's easy to get focused on process and look inwardly for community, but figuring out ways to intersect with the community around news innovation and making, as well as with the many other developer, design and open gov communities and others that very much intersect with journalism, is crucial.

Three moments, three lessons learned. Let's hear it for a successful Hacktoberfest!

A version of this story first appeared here.

July 04 2011

18:48

We Eat Data – ScraperWiki talk at Open Knowledge Conference 2011

Our tamed computer programmer, ‘The Julian’, recently gave a rare appearance at the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin (if you want an appearance pay us or ask us!). The spectacle of such scraping royalty drew more people than the room could accommodate (‘The Julian’ is not related to any royals living or deceased). As such I have included the slides here:

We were honoured to be amongst an outstanding line-up of speakers. We also ran a workshop the week of the conference and you can see the German data we scraped into ScraperWiki on the OKCon2011 tag.

What was most interesting about the workshop is that we see the same types of data needed for similar projects wherever we go. Tobias Escher wants to do something similar to AlphaGov for Germany called Meine Demokratie. A lot of very simple little scrapers can go a long way and if there’s anyone looking to play around with scraping and ScraperWiki, or who would like to lend a coding hand to a worthy cause please to click the above link.

‘The Julian’ was also looking for a scraping challenge and the workshop gnomes found Berlin schools data. I showed those in attendance one of my favourite sites made from scrapers:  Schooloscope. So Julian is scraping the data for Berlin schools in various stages and the hope is to get all the data for schools in Germany to make a German schooloscope.

We have one lovely lady very interested in getting this project on its way so if you are willing, if you speak German and if you know where to find them maybe you can scrape German schools data.

So watch out useful things to know in Germany including schools – you’re being ScraperWikied!

(As ScraperWiki is being used for better and better things, this will just get harder for me…)


February 05 2010

11:05

OUR FIRST INNOVATIONS IN MAGAZINES GLOBAL REPORT IS ALMOST READY

MAGAZINES 2010 COVER

Our first annual world report about INNOVATIONS IN MAGAZINES is almost ready to go to the printer.

Like the INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS Global Report that we have done since 1999 for the World Association of Newspapers, this new one was requested by the International Federation of Periodical Publications (FIPP) in London.

INNOVATION’s John Wilpers and Juan Senor are the co-editors of this new report that will be presented in Berlin at the third FIPP Digital Magazine Media Conference, the Digital Innovators Summit, that will take place at the Deutsche Telekom Conference Center in Berlin, Germany, on 1-2 March 2010.

The conference is hosted by FIPP along with the association of German magazine publishers, VDZ.

The 100-page report will be available in print and pdf versions after the conference in our website.

Thomaz Souto Correa and Juan Caño, INNOVATION directors and very well known magazine-gurus were the main contributing editors of this new project.

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