Tag Archives: mapping

Hacks/Hackers Amman Supports Jordanian Journalists

UNESCO’s Amman office was home to the technical day organized by Hacks/Hackers Amman Chapter with the objective to provide technology solution to different issues Jordanian journalists face.

Participants included a wide range of ‘hackers’, organizations and figures in the Ammani vibrant and dynamic tech scene, including Hacks/Hackers members, the Jordan Open Source Association and different prominent local IT companies and programmers. On the other hand, journalists and professionals from media organizations like ARIJ, Alghad daily and the Amman-based private TV station Roya, fully participated at the day by expressing some of the IT-related challenges they face and by understanding how technology can be an important, even critical, part of any media strategy to be taken into account.

The tech day was opened by a speech of ARIJ’s Director of Investigative Journalism, Saad Hattar, who stressed the importance of innovative tools on journalism, generally, and investigative journalism in the specific.

Ayman Salah, Knight International Journalism Fellow in the Middle East, explained how the use of some phone-based tools could be advantageous in remote areas where different communication channels are almost nonexistent, citing CGNet Swara, that allowed people in India to use mobile phones to send and receive reports in their local language, another use mentioned, was Swara’s previous utilization in Egypt; the two-way communication of the tool allowed people to listen to pre-recorded news reports from a newsroom, as well as allowing citizens to record audio news reports themselves by the only use of phones.

Similarly, Salah explained to participants how SMS tools can be used to send and receive reports in several fields, a good example he gave was the use of Frontline SMS to help fishermen in Ghana to be informed about better locations to sell their fish, as well as best stock prices for their catch and which species do offer a better profit margin.

Several journalists expressed their concerns about the authenticity of data collected in such ways, opening a fruitful discussion on how to make this citizen-reported pieces of news verifiable and how to adopt tools and methodologies to keep data collected by non-journalists reliable.

Later, Drupalist and JOSA member Mohammad Khamash, had a short introduction on open source technologies and how they help (and helped) different media organizations. Stressing on points like cost effectiveness and vendor lock-in, different media organizations realized the several benefits of open source software as they expressed their willing to better adopt these technologies in their workspaces.

Khamash discussed how the Jordan Open Source Association helped the local radio station, Radio Al-Balad, to switch to Linux operating system from a proprietary one, stressing how this move helped to cut expenses and, at the same time, keeping the organization’s workflow unaltered.

The Jordan Open Source Association, according to Khamash, used Drupal, an open source content management system (CMS), to create different web applications and web based tools relevant to several civil sections, he mentioned, as well, an array of examples of how Drupal has been used worldwide in the journalism sector.

Other open source CMSs, specifically WordPress, was seen to be well-known and of interest by the journalists participating in the day. IT professional, Zamil Safwan, suggested JOSA to hold training sessions about WordPress and basic programming, a suggestion well appreciated by JOSA’s vice president and Hacks/Hackers member, Mahmoud Aldwairi, who expressed intention to organize these sessions the sooner.

Khamash also mentioned a Citizen Journalism mobile app, developed by JOSA under Hacks/Hackers Amman Chapter, to allow smartphone holders to take and upload photos and videos taken by their handsets. Additionally, the app allows the transmission of text-based reports and is currently open to include new functionalities, like geo-tagging and better management by media organizations using the tool. A customized version of the app is going to be deployed at Community Media Network soon.

The day concluded with an open discussion about other several technologies that can push journalistic work ahead, the participants finally suggested the organization of other similar events to raise awareness about IT solutions and to push the overall advancement of media technologies in the Arab World.

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Hacks/Hackers Bogota Develops New Digital Map: Mi Bogotá Verde

Participants of the first Hacks/Hackers Bogotá hackathon gather for a group photo.

Mi Bogotá Verde, a new, crowdsourced digital map that will track solid waste disposal and other garbage concerns is just a few weeks away from going online in Bogotá.

Hacks/Hackers Bogotá developed this map during its first hackathon Aug. 11.

We got together with the idea of putting together a general environmental map, but as is often the case with a hackathon, what comes in is not necessarily what comes out.

However, we stayed on topic, and ended up with a digital map that will seek citizen input to monitor garbage problems in this city of more than 8 million people.

A screenshot of the map in development.

What is going to make this map stand out is our thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach to the solid waste problem, even in this first phase.

We are kicking off with just three main categories — good practices for dealing with solid waste, bad practices and verified reports. With time, the map will expand to include other urban environmental concerns.

In other words, rather than treating this as a crisis map around solid waste concerns, we will also show where and when something is done right. And we are using the open-source Ushahidi mapping platform to achieve this goal.

The slogan for the map, “Entre todos lo lograremos” also applies to the 20 plus people who showed up for the hackathon. We think it’s a terrific start for a chapter that just came into being in April 2012.

The mapping project was decided upon by a vote at the second Hacks/Hackers Bogotá meeting in late May. A volunteer organizing committee met periodically in June and July to get things going and keep the momentum up.

And when we all got together, the momentum was definitely there, first through our brainstorming and then with our get-down-to-it attitude from all who were there — a mix of journalists, entrepreneurs, designers, developers and engineers.

Brainstorming a strategic planThe group works up outreach strategy and more shares thoughts.

We divided into three groups to get our work done — communications, strategy and technology.
“I love the topic,” said Diana Salazar, who works in strategic digital communications. “And I think this interdisciplinary approach is important to generate optimum results.”

We had lots of help. HubBOG, which fosters co-working and entrepreneurship, opened up one of their workspaces. There was participant spillover from the members and organizers of Bogodev, a meetup group of Web and mobile developers and Bogotech, an organization of entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts.

Technology TeamLuis Hernando Aguilar, standing, explains a point to other members of the technology team at the Hacks/Hackers Bogota hackathon.

The International Center for Journalists, through its Knight International Journalism Fellow in Colombia, Hacks/Hackers co-organizer, Ronnie Lovler provided snacks. Co-organizer Renata Cabrales, social media editor at El Tiempo, got us some great pre-hackathon coverage.

As an added bonus, we were able to be part of the hemispheric initiative, #hacklatam, that connected us and another Bogota group with Miami, Buenos Aires and Santiago in a first effort at virtual regional collaboration.

But even though our first hackathon is over, the work goes on through our Google group. Other chapter members who could not attend the hackathon are contacting us to get involved.

With the commitment of hackathon participants and the growing interest of other chapter members who want to get on board, we expect Mi Bogota Verde, to be up and running before the end of the month. For now, you can also follow us on Twitter at #BogmapaAmbiental.

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How we made our maps | Hacks/Hackers NYC

When a story is best told through a visual representation of geography, maps are often the best way of telling it. Three journalists joined Hacks/Hackers NYC to explain how they approached mapmaking for their recent projects. Slides and code from their presentations are available in this link bundle.

John Keefe, Albert Sun and Jeff Larson explain how they made their maps at Hacks/Hackers NYC

While New York was preparing for Hurricane Irene, John Keefe, WNYC’s senior executive producer for news, decided to create a hurricane evacuation map so people could see whether or not they needed to leave their homes.

He used Google Fusion Tables to make what became one of WNYC’s most viral news application. The process was simple and fast, he said. John uploaded shapefiles of the evacuation zone found in the NYC Datamine to Google FusionTables using Shape to Fusion. He then customized his map with FusionTablesLayer Builder and added JavaScript to create a search box so users could see if they needed to evacuate. The final map:

Learn more about John’s process on his blog.

Albert Sun from The Wall Street Journal gave insight to how he made his Census Map Maker. Inspired by sites like the Redistricting Game and the Public Mapping Project, Albert set out to make his own map which would allow users to draw their own maps and find census information for the areas they marked. He used a JavaScript overlay on Google Maps and coded the map with GeoDjango.

Albert has open-sourced his code and posted it to Github.

ProPublica’s Jeff Larson spoke about two interactive maps he the produced for ProPublica’s investigation into corporate influence in the redistricting process. In his maps, Larson combined census data with district maps to show how voter districts were segregated in ways that would favor certain candidates or keep ethnic groups together in a voting bloc. (Watch a video about the complicated issue.)

Each map is dynamically generated from over 2GB of data through a new mapping library ProPublica wrote in-house with C, API and Ruby.

Watch all three presentations in the video below:


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