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Hacks Hackers Austin: Post SXSW/NICAR Meetup

The gang from the Hacks Hackers Austin chapter got together with the Online News Association local on March 31 to discuss trends that emerged from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and SXSW Interactive conferences. And, it was just a great excuse to get everyone together for some social interaction. Meeting at the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex, the conversation included talk of data, sensors and wearables and technology skills needed to succeed in journalism.

Stay tuned for upcoming meetups in the near future!

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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Code With Me Workshop

Hacks/Hackers Austin was one of several organizations that helped bring the Code With Me Workshop to the Texas capital city on May 18-19. Along with the local Online News Association and the Austin American-Statesman, with generous funding from the Knight-Mozilla Open News project and Texas State University, Code With Me provided of HTML, CSS and JavaScript skills for journalists. The workshop is the brainchild of Sisi Wei of Propublica and Tom Giratikanon of The New York Times. The Austin event was the fourth they have done across the country, after D.C., Miami and Portland.

Using a combination of presentations and exercises, Code With Me is able to introduce a broad range of material in a short time. Their unique approach pairs groups of 2 students with a professional mentor to help them through each lesson. Mentors came from Texas State University, Austin American-Statesman, Texas Tribune and more. The workshop culminated with lots of focused work time and discussion of projects and future plans. Students worked on photo slideshows, data visualizations, FAQ sites and interactive games.

Check out the site for the Austin Workshop, which includes presentations and exercises. Additional photos, provided by Pete Karl can be found on Flickr and from Cindy Royal on Thanks to Christian McDonald of the Statesman who provided the venue for this event. And a special thanks to Sisi and Tom for putting together such an engaging program.

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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Tableau Public

On April 1, Hacks/Hackers ATX (in conjunction with ONA Austin) hosted Ben Jones and Jewell Loree of Tableau Public. The pair went through the comprehensive offering that Tableau provides for data visualization.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Harsh Patel of MakerSquare, a new organization providing Web development training in the Austin area.

Many thanks to Christian McDonald for arranging this event with refreshments sponsored by Tableau Public. And we are always grateful for the usage of space at The Austin American-Statesman.


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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Innovation in Media

Tim Lott, vice president of disruptive innovation of Cox Media Group, met with Hacks/Hackers Austin in a joint meetup with Online News Association on Jan. 28 at the Statesman to discuss the activities of his team. They are working on TwelveApp, but are also pioneering in new ways to approach innovation. During the talk, Tim discussed the lean startup process, working to develop a minimum viable product (MVP), that can be implemented and tested quickly. This process relies on iterative development and quick prototyping. Tim was joined by other members of his team, Zach McGhee and Rocky Medure.

There were several questions. Rob Quigley of The University of Texas asked what students should be doing to stay on top of innovation. Tim said students should “read a lot and practice creative confidence.” He went on to explain that a focus on making things that allow people to communicate and solve problems will be critical.

Another question had to do with risk around the sharing of ideas, with concerns that an idea could be “stolen.” Medure said, “There is enormous value in sharing ideas. It synthesizes new ideas.” It is unlikely that someone has the passion, commitment and resources to execute your idea, but your likelihood of success is much greater if you talk to more people.

Refreshments were sponsored by the Austin American-Statesman. Stay tuned for details on a February Hackathon. We appreciate the time that Tim, Zach and Rocky spent with us!

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Hacks/Hackers Austin: Intro to Programming for Communicators

Twenty-four members of Hacks/Hackers and the Online News Association community in Austin attended Cindy Royal’s workshop on Dec. 3 at Austin American-Statesman:  Intro to Programming for Communicators. This 2-hour workshop was meant for people with no experience, to introduce them to the most basic concepts of programming. Royal used JavaScript as the platform, but emphasized the concepts that were common amongst most programming languages.

Topics covered included:

  • Why do I need to learn to program?
  • Programming languages
  • The Document Object Model
  • Strings and numbers
  • What’s a variable?
  • Math and concatenation
  • Methods
  • Alerts and prompts
  • Booleans – true or false
  • If Statements and Loops
  • Functions
  • Arrays
  • Events
  • HTML integration – getElementById()

Check out the presentation above and the handout below.

Cindy Royal is an associate professor at Texas State University in San Marcos, just south of Austin. She has been teaching Web design and digital media concepts for more than a decade.


Hacks/Hackers ATX: Music and Racing

The September and October meetings of Hacks/Hackers ATX (in conjunction with the Online News Association local), focused on topics around important parts of Austin culture. In September, the group talked about Music Apps and Blogging, featuring Daniel Senyard and Shannon Delaney of Vivogig and Ian Morales and AJ Miranda of Red River Noise and Austin Vida. Vivogig is a photo-sharing app focused on concert experiences and Red River Noise and Austin Vida are music blogs covering important aspects of the diverse music scene. Maira Garcia, formerly of Austin American-Statesman but now at The New York Times, organized the panel and moderated.


The October meetup focused on Covering the Circuit of the Americas. This is a new event for Austin. Taking place Nov. 16-18, the international crowd that enjoys Formula One racing will descend on our city. It is expected to draw 200,000 race fans and onlookers, bigger than both SXSW and Austin City Limits Festival. Kevin and Kerri Olsen of the blog Austin Grand Prix and Dave Doolittle of Austin American-Statesman discussed their plans for covering the inaugural event.

Both talks were held at the Austin American-Statesman, with the Statesman sponsoring the September meetup and the UT School of Journalism sponsoring October.

Stay tuned for our last meetup of 2012, Intro to Programming for Communicators.


Hacks/Hackers Austin: Innovation at the Texas Tribune

On August 20, Hacks/Hackers ATX, along with the local ONA group, got together at the Texas Tribune to discuss innovation. Rodney Gibbs, Chief Innovation Officer, and developer Noah Seger discussed the progression of Texas Tribune since it’s inception in 2009. Over the past three years, the organization has developed some of the most popular and heavily visited data projects including the state government salaries database and most recently, the Public Schools Explorer. It was a great group of professionals and students, and a lively discussion ensued.

Refreshments were sponsored by longtime member and UT Ph.D. student Lewis Knight. Thanks Lewis!

We’re working on some interesting topics (music-themed and Formula 1) for the next couple meetings with ONA. Stayed tuned to the meetup site for more info.

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Hacks/Hackers Austin – Student Innovations in Data Journalism

On May 21st, Hacks/Hackers Austin, along with the local Online News Association group, met to discuss student projects practicing data journalism. Jake Batsell of SMU joined us, along with one of his students, Natalie Posgate, to discuss their award-winning Campus Crime project associated with the Light of Day project. Ryan Murphy of Texas Tribune also participated in the presentation, as he and Matt Stiles (now with NPR) assisted the SMU group at the outset of the project. Watch the video below and check out the links from Jake’s presentation.

Afterward, Cindy Royal and several of her students presented the results of their Texas State of Change project. The project was funded by a grant provided by AEJMC and the Knight Foundation. The students worked with the VIDI Drupal modules developed by the Jefferson Institute, among other tools including Google Charts, JQuery,, ManyEyes and others, to create a site telling the story of Texas State University’s recent designation as Hispanic Serving Institution. The students who attended – Sara Peralta, Shannon Delaney, Ashley Hebler and Joe Vasquez – discussed their roles and impressions of the project. You also read about the course and grant activities at Video of the presentation is below.

Both groups of students had memorable and valuable experiences in working with data and have great skills with which to enter the working world!

Many thanks to the Statesman for letting us use their facility once again. And thank you to Jacie Yang of Texas State for shooting video and taking photos at the event.

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Busy Spring for Hacks/Hackers Austin

The Spring of 2012 has been a busy one for Hacks/Hackers ATX. Here’s a rundown of the past three events. With a new collaboration with the local Online News Association group, we have broadened some of the topics we are able to present. In February, we hosted a panel on Twitter and TV News featuring Sara Talbert, a reporter for Fox Austin; Michael Spurlin, a producer for; Rebekah Hood, the web editor for; Nick Blackhall, a web editor for Rob Quigley of UT moderated.


In March, Austin is the place to be, with SXSW bringing thousands of tech, music and film enthusiasts to town. Hacks/Hackers, along with Online News Association and several other organizations, sponsored a big event at Palm Door, the return of the Awesomest Journalism Party. Ever.

TXST students took a break from the coverage to enjoy the party.

Jeff Elder and Xavier Damman of Storify at the Awesomest Journalism party.

For the April meeting, once again in conjunction with ONA, the topic was Producing Great Video for the Web. It featured Jorge Sanhueza Lyon of KUT-Austin (formerly of Austin American-Statesman) and Burnie Burns, the founder of Rooster Teeth Productions, the company that makes the web series Red vs. Blue. See video excerpts (not great video – sorry for the poor lighting) of their presentations below.

See Storify of the event done by UT student Gerald Rich.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon

Burnie Burns

Stay tuned for the announcement of the May meeting. What we are planning is a presentation of student data journalism projects. More to come.


Hacks/Hackers ATX Teams Up with ONA Local

Happy New Year! Exciting changes are in the works for Hacks/Hackers ATX in 2012, joining up with a newly formed Online News Association local group. The two organizations hosted a debut meetup at Opal Divine’s Penn Field on January 5 to kick off the collaboration. The plan is to broaden the scope that was originated by Hacks/Hackers ATX since September 2010, but adding content that addresses general online news issues, while retaining the Hacks/Hackers presence in data, programming and user experiences.

The organizing group includes people from Texas State University, The University of Texas, Austin American-Statesman, Texas Tribune, local television stations and bloggers. Above, Rob Quigley, senior lecturer at UT, kicks off the event. Plans are to hold meetings on the fourth Monday of each month, with the first planned for Feb. 27. Details and location to come. For more information, join the ONA Austin Meetup group, follow on Twitter or Facebook. All meetings and events will also be posted on the Hacks/Hackers links (Meetup, Twitter, Facebook).

With more than 60 people attending the debut meetup, the joint group is off to a great start!


In other news, Hacks/Hackers ATX enjoyed co-hosting the Austin Holiday Web Bash, along with 18 other local meetup groups, at Buffalo Billiards on Dec. 13. The event, which collected food and donations for the Capital Area Food Bank, was attended by more than 500 area programmers, developers, designers, instructors and overall Web enthusiasts. It was a great time and a great success.

Holiday Web Bash Photo by Damon Clinkscales