It has been exciting to be both a witness to and a participant in the growing movement towards open web development in journalism. 2011 is one of those years that it’s amazing to sit back, here on one of its last days, and look back at just how much has been accomplished.
There was incredible work happening among news apps teams and individual developers around the internet that it’s impossible to capture it all here. Here are a few standouts from both myself and from a callout I put on Twitter:
- The Guardian did unbelievable work sifting through 2.6 million London Riot-related tweets to create both compelling reporting and some jaw-dropping big-data visualizations.
- My hometown pride, the Chicago Tribune News Apps team, did incredible work on maps this year. Team member emeritus Christopher Groskopf put it well when he said "I find it hard to talk about the last year without talking about maps. This was the year cartography arrived on the internet." Among all the great tools they released, to me most notable is the team’s incredible six-part tutorial for rolling your own—the kind of hyper-useful knowledge sharing that this team really excels in.
- The Boston Globe released their beautiful HTML5-native BostonGlobe.com webapp, a gorgeous example of responsive web design (load up their page and resize your browser screen to see it in action). My favorite part though: to ensure that their design worked seamlessly on multiple devices, the team developed an amazing tool called Shim that syncs browsing across devices for testing. It is nerd-tastic.
- Speaking of nerds, the proud ones at ProPublica did incredible work this year, both sharing the code to incredibly useful tools like Timeline Setter and using their development chops to do great reporting on projects like their "Opportunity Gap" schools explorer, and their amazing new "explore sources" tool.
- The New York Times has always had one of the best news apps teams, and this year was no exception. I could fill this entire blog post with examples of their stuff. But I want to highlight something they’re doing that doesn’t reside in github: They’re doing an incredible job of embracing developer events and hack days to help spread the gospel of news apps development (and, of course, their own excellent open code). More of these from all corners in 2012, please.
- Also in New York, WNYC’s John Keefe has been cranking out awesome maps all year long—and going through a very public learning process as he taught himself how to code. He’s not at the scale of a full dev-team, but his wins this year have been amazing—including producing a map for the Hurricane Irene evacuation of the city that saw a 57x increase in traffic to their site. He’s been so successful that he’s now building out a dev team for WNYC. Yes!
- I was incredibly inspired by the coming together of app developers from the Tribune, the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Spokesman-Review, and others to create the incredible Census.Ire.org, an incredible census explorer built in partnership with the Investigative Reporters & Editors’ National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. A great example of how working in the open and collaboration can move the entire industry forward. (Census data was a great place to be hacking this year, as the New York Times and Spokesman-Review's own explorers show.)
- And of course I can’t not call out the work that we’re doing with the Knight-Mozilla Partnership in 2011—hosting more than a dozen design and hack events that produced 300+ prototypes, an online learning lab about news innovation, the "hacktoberfest" hackfest in Berlin, and of course the announcement of our five 2011/12 fellows at the Mozilla Festival in London. It’s been a crazy busy year on that front.
But perhaps the biggest thing to affect journalism development was the embracing of the credo of “show your work,” first exemplified in a blog post by the Tribune’s Christopher Groskopf and later picked up on a panel I hosted at ONA, and it has rapidly spun from there.
It’s spun so fast, in fact—the philosophy of working in the open and the realization that Code Matters in journalism—that there’s now an entire site devoted to listing the journalism coding jobs available. A development so important that ProPublica’s Scott Klein calls it the "story of the year."
It’s for all these reasons and many, many more that, from where I’m sitting (my inlaws’ basement, with Happy Feet playing on the TV across the room), 2011 is just a preamble. 2012 is going to be incredible—the year that journalism code really starts to scale and where you begin to see impact throughout the industry. I’m going all-in. You should too. Let’s do this.
PS. Thanks to Zach Seward, Jeff Jarvis, Al Shaw, Matt Waite, Christopher Groskopf, Josh Stearns, Scott Klein, Chrys Wu, and many many others for helping out on Twitter. There were a bazillion incredible examples not cited in this blog post. If I had the time, I’d collect the last 45 minutes of Tweets, but Happy Feet is (mercifully) coming to an end.
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