daniel sinker

Jul 18

OpenNews: Why Develop in the Newsroom 2015 (part two)

This week, as part of our search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows, who spend 10 months writing open code in the newsroom, we have asked others that develop in the newsroom why they do what they do.

The answers—we highlighted a couple on Wednesday—are still flowing in, but wanted to touch on two great ones, both from members of the team at Vox Media.

Lauren Rabaino, a product manager at Vox, outlines ten compelling reasons to write code in journalism. One hits on the fact that, in journalism, you’re constantly having to learn new things:

In order to execute on products that work, you have to force yourself to learn about processes and history and key players for topics you previously knew nothing about. Working in a newsroom with journalists is like going back to school, but more fun (there’s often a lot more cursing and whiskey and no tests except whether you’ve met the user’s needs).

Another of Lauren’s reasons hits hard at why *I* do this work: the ability to solve new problems:

The information industry has come far in recent years in evolving how we do storytelling in a digital world, but there’s still so much more to do, so much more progress to make, so many more problems to solve. This is a world that has immense and ever-growing potential at building the kinds of information solutions that help people live richer, more informed lives. And you can be a part of that. You can shape that. You can lead that. We need more leaders in this space.

For Ryan Mark, who recently joined the Vox team after a long stint developing at the Chicago Tribune, coding in journalism is personal:

I build for news because I’m building for myself. News and information, learning and knowledge is an extremely important part of my life. The free flow of knowledge that the internet has made possible has brought me happiness, wonder and purpose. I couldn’t imagine not being a part of it.

The application to apply to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow is open until August 16. If you love to code, want to learn new things, challenge yourself, and help make information more open, you should apply today.

Jul 16

OpenNews: Why Develop in the Newsroom? 2015 Remix.

One month from today, August 16, the search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows will come to a close. Knight-Mozilla Fellows do amazing work—they spend 10 months embedded in newsrooms writing code to help solve journalistic problems—but they don’t do that work alone. When you become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow, you join two communities: a community of fellows (both your peers and alumn from the program), and a community of developers working in the newsroom.

To mark this final month of our 2015 Fellowship search, we’ve invited a lot of voices to talk about their experiences coding in the newsroom. Later in the month you’ll hear from our fellows (both current and past) and our news parnters as well. But this week we’re going to hear from the community of developers currently doing this work in newsrooms big and small around the world.

The developer community in journalism is a dynamic one, and there isn’t one single reason anyone decides to start coding in a newsroom instead of a startup or in the enterprise. Instead, developers start coding in newsrooms for all sorts of reasons.

This week (as we’ve done in the past), we’ve asked developers to share their reasons and experiences with you. These stories—we’ll share a few a day—are wonderful; each one a unique argument to join a singular community.

For Jeremy Bowers, a developer at the New York Times, journalism offers something different than traditional coding jobs. He explains:

We’ve got soul.

We’ve got a mission.

We’re self-critical.

We’ve got stacks of interesting structured data aching to be investigated and summarized. Our reporters are staring down the federal government, tracking people who are otherwise invisible and watching the epidemics most people don’t even know about.

Aaron Williams, who codes at the Center for Investigative Reporting, echoes Bowers when he says that, in traditional programming, “it’s not often the code you write influences the politics of the community.” But, Williams also adds:

I develop in a newsroom because, honestly, it’s just plain fun.

On any given day you may have to write a web crawler to harvest crime logs from your local law enforcement agency or use Mechanical Turk to crowdsource analysis of PDFs you received from a public records request.

On other days you’ll need a better map than Google offers and end up making creating your own slippy map tile set. Or you may start picking up libraries like pandas and SPSS to do some serious data analysis on a 25 GB data dump you’re trying to clean in another Terminal window.

Needless to say, you’ll stay busy and you’ll become a better developer than you ever thought.

Have fun and change the world while you do it: Become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow by applying today.

PS. if you’re a developer in the newsroom and want to contribute your voice to this collection as well, just let me know.

Jul 01


Jun 27


Jun 19

OpenNews: Building New Communities with the New York Times and the Washington Post

Community is at the core of what we do at Knight-Mozilla OpenNews—helping to build and strengthen the community of people writing code in journalism. And community is a big part of what has made Mozilla successful—the global community of contributors that has helped to build the Firefox web browser.

Community is also at the core of journalism: whether it’s geographic communities that form the bedrock of local news or the communities of interest that form around subjects as broad as basketball and politics, journalism has always had community at its core.

Which is why it’s exciting to announce that today, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are joining forces to create a next-generation community platform for journalism. The web offers all sorts of new and exciting ways of engaging with communities far beyond the ubiquitous (and often terrible) comments sections at the bottom of articles. We’re looking forward to writing code together to enable them.

We don’t see this project as a single product, but instead as building blocks for engaging communities throughout the web. Open source at its core, and focused on giving users unprecedented control over their identity and contributions, this is a project we believe in.

It’s also a unique collaboration between two of the largest and most respected news organizations in the world. Enabling that kind of collaboration is something that we’ve worked on for from the beginning at OpenNews. While this is a huge project—the grant is equal to the one that enables us to do our core work at OpenNews—it also feels like a natural extension of what we do.

Finally, this is a project that has the opportunity not only to improve community engagement in journalism, but to strengthen the web itself. Technologies like Backbone.js, D3, and Django have all been forged and tested in the demanding environment of the newsroom, and then gone on to transform the way people build on the web. We don’t know that there’s a Backbone lurking inside this project, but we’re sure as hell going to find out.

There’s much more to come, and we’ll be getting down to work soon. But for now, here’s to new experiments, to thinking big, and to communities, new and old—and all the the things we can accomplish, together.

Jun 18


Jun 16

OpenNews: Apply to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow

I’m excited to announce that starting today, applications to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow are open. The Fellowships offer an opportunity for people that love to code to get paid to spend ten months building new things in collaboration with some of the best news organizations in the world. Fellows spend their time following their passions, working in the open, sharing ideas, traveling the world, and writing transformative code.

2015 marks our fourth year of the fellowship program, and we’re going strong with seven incredible news organizations:

Our news partners offer a home base for each fellow, colleagues to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with, and plenty of problem-sets to work with. Knight-Mozilla fellows are in the newsroom when news breaks and gets to feel the electricity in the air as the world changes.

This year’s partners represent some of the best we’ve yet assembled, pushing new boundaries in reporting, in visualizations, in presentation, and in the news product itself. From Argentina to England, from New York to the San Francisco Bay, our 2015 News Partners are trying new things and breaking new ground—and *you* can join them.

The Knight-Mozilla Fellowship year is an amazing chance for a creative coder, civic hacker, data geek, engineer, or technologist to challenge herself, to write amazing code, and to help journalism transform on the open web. This is a golden age of web-native journalism, and you can be on the cutting edge of it.

If you’re up for the challenge (and you should be), you have until August 16th to apply. We’ve made the application fast: just a few quick questions and links to your best stuff. You have a couple months, but should apply today.

May 30

(Source: typicalhope, via kenyatta)


Apr 11

My kind of Magic: The Gathering card.

My kind of Magic: The Gathering card.

Feb 19

OpenNews: Announcing Source Jobs

As journalism continues to break new ground on the web, news organizations large and small are hiring developers, designers, and others who bring new skills and ideas to journalism. Growing the community of talented developers working in news is one of the things we try to do at OpenNews. Our Fellowship program, our sponsorship of hack days, our website Source—it’s all part of trying to build the community of folks coding in news. Today we’re taking a very direct path to that: We’re launching a new section on Source that will list the latest journalism-code jobs.

Source is designed (from the database up) around the people building journalism on the web. Jobs is a natural compliment to the project breakdowns, behind-the-scenes articles, Q&As, and learning pieces that we feature on Source: you can learn how it’s done, and then you can go and do it in some of the best newsrooms around the world.

The listings are lightweight: a one-sentence job descriptions and a link to the full listing on an external site. They’re also self-serve. Today we’ve also opened up an organizational backend on Source so news orgs can list their own jobs. Erin Kissane explains how to get the keys to your organization page on the official announcement.

This is an exciting time for journalism and an exciting time to code in news. We’re thrilled to be able to play a small part in helping to bring talent into newsrooms. And we can’t wait to see the code all these new jobs produce!

Source Jobs is the first of many new features to come on Source, all possible thanks to our renewed grant that puts additional emphasis on community building and Source in particular. Expect much more to come soon—including dates and a location for the SRCCON conference, which we’ll be announcing at the NICAR conference next week.


Rolling Meadows Orchard and Farm


Rolling Meadows Orchard and Farm


Golden Polish Hen by Newleaf on Flickr.Disappointed in you.


Golden Polish Hen by Newleaf on Flickr.

Disappointed in you.

Dec 30

OpenNews: Kicking 2014 Off Early

2013 was an incredible year for OpenNews. Our Knight-Mozilla Fellows did fantastic work; Source continued to grow as a hub for the incredible work done by the news nerd community; we helped to sponsor more than 50 news hack days around the world, and much much more. But 2013 is almost over and, in these waning days of it, I wanted to tell you about some amazing stuff that’s happening right out of the gate in 2014:

Surprise Sixth Fellow!

When we announced our 2014 Fellows at the Mozilla Festival in London this year, our friends at the Knight Foundation approached us about adding a sixth fellow, to be hosted by the team doing great work at the Washington Post. We jumped at the opportunity, in part because we received so many stunning applicants for our original fellowship search we were excited to revisit the list and find someone amazing to work with. And today, I’m thrilled to announce our sixth 2014 fellow:

Ben Chartoff designs and creates data visualizations. He is committed to building data literacy and numeracy through viscerally clear and compelling visuals. At the Sunlight Foundation in Washington, DC, Ben worked to demonstrate the value of open government and open data as essential elements in a democracy. He has a background in both the arts and sciences, and strives to bring both beauty and rigor to every project. He is passionate about most things, including food and backpacking.

Ben will be joining our five other fantastic 2014 Knight-Mozilla Fellows at our Fellowship Onboarding event in San Francisco in mid-January. We’re so excited!

We’re growing in 2014!

One of the most exciting aspects of our new grant is the ability to add some staff to OpenNews. And today I’m so excited to announce that in 2014, Erin Kissane will be joining us as Director of Content and Ryan Pitts will be joining us as Director of Code. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Erin and Ryan extensively on the Source project, but starting in 2014 (Erin immediately, Ryan a little later in the year), they’ll be joining as full-time partners in OpenNews. We’re *thrilled* to have them on board and excited about what that’ll mean for everything we can accomplish together.

And much more to come

In early December, Erin, Ryan, Erika Owens, Kio Stark, and myself got together in New York City for two days of building a calendar and a plan for 2014. There is so much to come this year, from SRCCON (our maker-heavy Source conference for the journalism-code community) mid-year, to two Code Convenings that will bring news developers together to open-source code, to learning and hacking events around the world, and much, much more. 2014 is going to be an incredible year.

Here’s a quick look at our whiteboarded calendar, with much much more to come:

Get ready for maximum OpenNews ass-kickery in 2014!

Dec 29


Moon model at the Chicago Field Museum prepared by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt in Germany (1898).


Moon model at the Chicago Field Museum prepared by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt in Germany (1898).

(via kenyatta)