NICAR13 Day 3, Saturday 2/3

bildIt’s the last day of the NICAR13 conference. Today I’ve been watching Matt Waite tell the story about the Pullitzer prize winning site Politifact. Matt was very keen on structure. Because everything has structure, especially stories. If you can find the structure and think of it on a higher level, you can build systems (like Politifact). Another aspect of building something that overlaps journalism and IT is cultural resistance. Freaked out reporters and reluctant developers, not to mention clueless management. “Build shit, don’t talk shit” – i.e build a prototype to have conversations around. “Your mission might be a very small defined thing”, says Matt. If you can describe your thing with a single short declarative sentence, then you have a chance – you can pitch things. Guard your ONE THING zealously. Having a structure makes it possible to say NO to things. The core question: What is the atomic unit of this?

Another sesson I went to was on how to develop reusable visualization components using D3 and Backbone, with Alastair Dant who works with development at the Guardian. The Javascript library D3 really stands out as everyone’s favorite at this conference. Alastair is a fun guy, and it was a joy listening to him. I could feel part of the audience zoning out (this isn’t primarily a developer conference after all) during his walkthrough of the code. I truly enjoyed it though. The example code can be found on github. Also check out R2D3 if you are required to support IE 7 and 8.

The “Swedish Contingent” at the conference had booked a lunch session. To be honest, this was nothing I was looking forward to in particular. I think the organizers of this conference put in a 2 hour lunch break for a reason. But I was very happy to see Matt Waite again. This time flying around with a microscopic quadrotor drone. And I learned that there’s a drone journalism lab somewhere at the University of Nebraska. How satisfying for the nerd in me to hear Matt speak about hardware hacking, Arduino programming, drones and mesh networks. Where is journalism going? 😉

People have shown amazing stuff here, and we can all do amazing stuff back home – by crossbreeding ideas and competences. And a little bit of coding 😉