First ever global Hacks/Hackers conference call on Sept. 1

Greetings from Buenos Aires!

I’ve spent the last few days at the Media Party that Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires has put on for the fourth year in a row, bringing hundreds of people to be inspired, collaborate and hack together. It’s an amazing event that shows the potential of what we can do if we work together on a broader level.

With Hacks/Hackers organizers from around the world present, we held a workshop to talk about how we as the global Hacks/Hackers movement can collaborate more across geographic boundaries. One clear thing that came out from the discussion was a need for more transparency at all levels of the organization. That led to a proposal for a regular conference call for Hacks/Hackers organizers and members to share what’s we’re all doing and talk about where we are going.

We’re planning to do these calls on the FIRST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH. I know it’s short notice, but we’re going ahead with the first call THIS TUESDAY, SEPT. 1 at 1500 GMT — which is:

0800 in San Francisco
1100 in New York
1200 in Buenos Aires
1700 in Johannesburg
2030 in New Delhi
2300 in Hong Kong

(It’s not easy to find a time that works across the world, but for now this is the best option.)

I’ll be sharing more details on the call-in number and agenda ahead of the call.

We look forward to hearing from you Tuesday and on future calls.

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Hacks/Hackers launches Connect series in Berlin

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About the Hacks/Hackers site

A few weeks ago, we launched an exciting initiative (in partnership with Google) to support media entrepreneurship, an event series we call Connect. As part of the launch, we decided to replace the main Hacks/Hackers site with an information and signup page for Connect.

At the time, that seemed to make sense. The old site was years out of date, filled with months-old content and daily traffic had fallen to the single-digits. It seemed logical to put the newest thing front-and-center while we figured out how to revamp the old site.

In retrospect, that wasn’t a good decision. We heard from a number of people in the community who expressed concern about the switch, wondering what happened to the old site. The site badly needs an overhaul and replacing the homepage was meant as a transitional step on the way to doing that. We should have made that more clear.

So today, we’re doing what we should have done in the first place and moving the Connect site to its own subdomain at, and restoring the old Hacks/Hackers site to the main domain.

We’d welcome any feedback and thoughts on how to make a new website that embodies the vibrancy of the Hacks/Hackers community. Email us at site [at]

-Aron Pilhofer, Burt Herman, Chrys Wu, Jenny 8. Lee and Rich Gordon

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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Tyler Fisher, NPR Visuals

Tyler Fisher of NPR Visuals joined us on Nov. 11 at the Statesman to talk about his team and their election coverage. Tyler is a recent graduate from Northwestern University with a major in Journalism. But Tyler has directed his career toward Web development and news applications.

In his talk, Tyler provided background on his team and the history of their election coverage. He provided a good dose of tech for the developers in the crowd, but handled the “how” and “why” questions for those who were interested in concepts and strategy. He discussed the strategy around creating a separate Chromecast application for elections, as well. His presentation can be found at

Tyler’s visit and snacks for this meetup were provided by Texas State University as part of the TexasMusicViz project that was funded by the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, funded by Online News Association, Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation.

Stay tuned for our next event, the Austin Holiday Web Bash, where we’ll join up with other meetup groups across town. Thanks to everyone for attending.


Hacks/Hackers Austin: Google News

The Hacks/Hackers Austin chapter was pleased to host a meetup featuring Google News. On October 20, Stacie Chan, a community manager at Google News, dropped by the Statesman to discuss various tools that journalists and journalism students can use. She also talked about the role of the Google News platform and how publishers can participate. Chan was in town for Texas State University’s Mass Comm Week.


How Twitter does data journalism: San Francisco Hacks/Hackers goes inside the nest

More than 150 hacks and hackers gathered Wednesday at Twitter’s main headquarters in San Francisco to hear the company’s Data Editor Simon Rogers talk about data’s increasingly important role in journalism and how Twitter makes sense of the hundreds of millions of tweets passing through its platform every day.

From mapping the patterns of disadvantage that contributed to the UK riots, to data visualizations of Oscars tweets, Rogers helped demystify the collection strategies and tools required for top-class data analysis and visualization.

His colleague, data visualization scientist Krist Wongsuphasawat followed with more explanation of the data science behind beautiful dataviz, including an animation of the world’s reaction to goals in the World Cup this year.

Below is a Storify story contributed by Lyndal Cairns with presentations, images and quotes from the event:

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How Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires became the world’s biggest HH chapter, or the role of the “Maradona theory” applied to community-building

While we were organizing the latest Media Party, the media gathering that we created three years ago, Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires became the world’s largest chapter of the Hacks/Hackers network. With over 3800 members, about 40 events in three years and a strong community of volunteers, we beat New York, London, San Francisco, and many other chapters. #Hhba has had a big impact on media, civil society organizations, the government, the startup and the developer community. How did we do it? There is a number of possible explanations, but the most interesting one is the “Maradona theory.”

During the ‘86 World Cup, Diego Maradona made -against England- the two most memorable goals in the history of soccer, at least for Argentina. Let’s start with the perfect goal, the second one: Maradona faces five players from the center of the soccer field, and instead of going sideways, he ran in a straight line. How can someone get rid of five opponents if he runs toward them? Simply: Maradona played keeping in mind other people’s expectations. As his rivals expected him to move to the left or the right, he could keep moving directly toward the opponents’ goal post. Of course, he was Maradona.

Later on, that play was used in economics theory, and by writing this post we are applying it to community-generation theory. In 2005, Mervyn King from the Bank of England used Maradona’s incredible moves to explain the behavior of market expectations and interest rates control without official intervention.

The truth is that we weren’t thinking of Maradona when we created Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires in April 2011 and got together around 120 people in a couple of weeks, neither when we started to plan the future of the network. But part of the “Maradona theory” has to do with the growth of this network that brings together journalists and technologists around the world to accelerate innovation and reached its peak in Buenos Aires. We built Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires always moving forward, focused on clear objectives, issues and actions; playing with other people’s expectations: unexpectedly, we always jumped to the center.

When many expected us to be only a networking organization we became productive, creating apps and technology; when we became very productive (we had too many hackathons at times), we decided to return to networking; when we got bored of hackathons and networking we started organizing workshops. Neither journalists nor programmers or designers: we created links in between, focusing efforts in solving technology problems, rather than on specific topics; and we showed the benefits of working together in a highly competitive environment.

And as Maradona’s first goal against England, when nobody expected it, the Media Party happened. Here is where the historical goal by the “hand of God” ties into the story: in the same match against England, Maradona jumped over the goalkeeper, it looked like he was going to do a head hit but ended up pushing the ball with his little left hand that seemed to appear from nowhere. He beats Peter Shilton, the English goalkeeper, who jumped with both hands forward. “’Maradona’s hand of God’ goal [can be compared] to central banks’ old philosophy of ‘mystery and mystique.’ His action was unexpected, out of context and against the rules. He was lucky to get away with it,” said the director of the Bank of England Mervyn King.

The Media Party is to Hacks/Hackers what Maradona’s hand goal is to the English: an unexpected event, out of context and against the then-established rules of the Latin America media circuit. It was not cheating; it was smartness.

Each Media Party allowed us to increase in hundreds the number of members who remain engaged in a continuous loop of innovation. We put Buenos Aires on the global media map, and many are still scratching their heads trying to understand how all of this became possible.

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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Tableau for Mac

On July 28, Jewel Loree, senior data analyst for Tableau, demonstrated the new Tableau for Mac. Tableau continues to make their tools more accessible and available, so that all journalists can add data visualization to their storytelling. Participants were able to check out new features and ask questions.


Hacks/Hackers Denmark: Hackathon produces eight great projects

Hacks/Hackers Denmark had their first hackathon on reinventing journalism in May 2014. We were lucky to be hosted by CCI in Aarhus, Denmark.

Take a look a what happened during the weekend.

Get ideas, code and presentations from the eight projects developed at the Media Hack Days.

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How Hacks/Hackers Rosario Made Its Map of Intentional Homicides of Rosario City

The Rosario Intentional Homicides Map 2013 is the first digital data journalism platform developed especially for publication in Rosario, Argentina, media. The platform and the map are the result of several months of intense work, exchange of ideas, information and building mutual trust between a team of journalists, designers and programmers from Hacks/Hackers Rosario (HHROS) and members from La Capital newspaper.

As with all firsts, there is a story behind those who were involved and Hacks/Hackers Rosario wanted to share it with all the Hacks/Hackers community.

The Rosario group launched in April 2013. Currently, it has 133 active members and has already held ​​seven meetups. Community activities have ranged from discussions about what data journalism means; workshops with D3.js data visualization, digital security seminars, social events, crash courses and proposed project presentations for future hackathons.

The idea of ​​making a map of intentional homicides arose from the concerns of the HHROS co-organizers during one of the usual rounds of project presentation. The purpose of the whole enterprise was to create a platform that would help to demonstrate, through data visualization, the increase in the number of social violence across the city: 214 intentional homicides in 2013 (the city average is 21 murders per 100,000 inhabitants; the national average is 5.5 per 100,000).

The data for the platform came from the Ministry of Justice in Santa Fe, through the police beat reporters of the newspaper La Capital. This information was used to create the dataset of points and geolocation on the map corresponding to each of the casualties. The data related to context was obtained from reading all the daily chronicles published in 2013.

The team that developed the platform was just two unpaid people: a programmer and a journalist. Among both devised its design and objectives in the short and medium term.

Platform development and design adjustments were by Pablo Cuadrado; Ezequiel Clerici normalized the dataset and fact checked information shown on the map. The newspaper La Capital, represented by Hernán Lascano (police beat editor), brought the original database and oversaw contextualization of events.

Our Process

Because each report and location had to be manually confirmed, we decided to limit the mapping of intentional homicides to the city of Rosario. This meant places like Villa Gobernador Gálvez, Baigorria Pérez, Ibarlucea and Funes, which are part of the Rosario Department (greater metro area), were left out. Our decision reduced the number of homicides appearing on the map from 264 for the entire department to 214 just for the city.

The purpose of this decision was to reduce the amount of standardization work on the dataset provided by La Capital, since we had a small team of people and limited time available to work on the project.

With respect to the dataset the first thing we did was remove all homicides that did not correspond to the city of Rosario. Then we searched through La Capital’s digital archive of every chronicled homicide to obtain each article link to include on the map.

The links to the chronicles were essential information for georeferencing every fact in the map. The stories were also useful for corroborating ages, full names, police stations, courts and addresses.

To avoid headaches, it was necessary to obtain accurate directions. The problem was that a significant number were referring to the intersection of two streets (“Ezeiza and Filiberto”, “Rueda and Pascual Roses”, etc.), recreational spaces (“Pools of Saladillo”) or parks (“Independence Park”). This made precise location impossible, so in many cases it was necessary to go to the news reports and do a quick reading looking for further details. This craftsmanship allowed accurate geolocation in most cases, and approximations otherwise.

Despite these precautions, we had to add new columns of information to the original dataset to achieve each fact georeference smoothly. The original Excel file had 8 columns: number of homicides, date of death, the victim’s name, age, approximate address, type of weapon and motive, police station, and in some cases the competent court. To those columns were joined three new: exact address; city, state, country; and district. With this change, the problem of georeferencing was corrected and we were able to map the 214 events smoothly.

At first, we used the free version of CartoDB to georeference the killings. It allowed work on five tables and drew polygons quickly and easily. Then — due to free version’s monthly view limits, plus the response time between multiple filters &mdash we exported our platform with its contents (police stations, districts, timeline, milestones, etc.) to D3.js and left CartoDB for Open Street Map (Leaflet) and increase the speed of response demanded by users.


The publication of the map made ​​a big impact since it allowed to put into focus a range of issues that go beyond just the high number of homicides. And this, in part, was made possible by the perspective to analyze the facts that data visualization provides journalism.

The platform and the project were submitted to the Global Editors Network Data Journalism Awards 2014 and will soon by submitted to the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI) Gabriel Garcia Marquez journalism awards. Also, as a result of this work, the team formed around Hacks/Hackers Rosario was invited to speak to the Media Party 2014 (CABA, Argentina).

This work has given way to the creation of VisPress, a startup that seeks to focus on the development of platforms and tools that work starting from visualization and data analysis.

The aim of the VisPress founders is to provide data visualization services to​ local and international media, as well as to public and private sector companies that are handling large volumes of data and are interested in giving productive use and thereby improving their decision processes and achieving higher efficiency.

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