Dublin (and others) traverse the digital frontier

Greetings, hacks and hackers. By the time you read this next newsletter, the American president will have been chosen (finally), so let’s take a look at what other countries are up to in the meantime.

Hacks/Hackers Dublin is promoting the Investigative Journalism on the Digital Frontier Conference taking place in Ireland, but they’re not the only ones pushing digital boundaries this weekend. Buenos Aires, a veritable hotbed of hackathons, is holding its first hackathon on “institutional violence,” a threat to human rights in Latin America and everywhere.

The week ahead:

  • Singapore is taking on 3D graphics
  • Dublin is attending the Investigative Journalism on the Digital Frontier Conference
  • Buenos Aires is hosting its first hackathon on institutional violence
  • Miami is holding its regular OpenHack Miami
  • IRE in Missouri is holding its weekly meeting
  • South Wales is holding its first event

Chapter spotlight:

Taipei went a pretty ambitious route with its very first meetup last month: they held a QGIS workshop with two instructors and a pretty full turnout

Hacks/Hackers groups are always striving to find the best way to communicate with members and organize events. For their part, co-organizers Silva Shih and Kirby Wu made a variety of online homes for the group, including a Twitter, website and Github. Future months will hopefull indicate which are the most useful and popular.

Worth a read:

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:


Lessons from Media Party Africa

It’s almost election time in the U.S., hacks and hackers! Please join us next Wednesday as reporters catch up after Media Party Africa and batten down the hatches for the American election. The global open call will take place at 1500 UTC (find your local time here).

The week ahead:

  • The Hacks/Hackers global call takes place on Wednesday
  • Helsinki is meeting to discuss a media innovation contest
  • Miami is holding its regular OpenHack Miami
  • IRE in Missouri is holding its weekly meeting

Chapter spotlight:

London held its October meetup last week, inviting speakers from Bloomber, the Wall Street Journal and the BBC to talk about their latest projects. London has been a steadily moving machine for years when it comes to meetups like this, and organizer Joanna Geary said one advantage is to have the leadership in tightly organized roles.

“To make sure everything we do is ploughed back into the community Hacks/Hackers London is registered as a Community Interest Company, with our organisers (Joanna, Pete, Sarah, Cassie and Jeremy) as named directors.

Whilst this took some upfront paperwork from us, it protects us from personal liability if something goes wrong at an event and, more importantly, provides a structure that means we can move on, but Hacks/Hackers London stays to serve the community.”

Not every Hacks/Hackers chapter needs or wants a formalized system like this. But the London group also shared their Roles & Responsibilities template and task assignment spreadsheet, which help them manage an enormous amount of work and responsibility among five organizers.

Worth a read:

  • H/H Johannesburg member Siyabonga Africa put together a comprehensive list of the tools and presentations shared at Media Party Africa last week (SABC News)
  • Sites like Twitter and the NYT went down last week, affected by a massive DDOS attack that is noteworthy because it originated from real-world objects connected to the Internet of Things (Wired)
  • On a related note, Bloomberg is transitioning its sites to HTTPS, while a surprising number of media outlets are still using the much less secure HTTP (Bloomberg)
  • The New York Times bought a tech review site called Wirecutter, a news site that was funded not by ad revenue but Amazon affiliate links (Medium)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:

Hacks/Hackers Media Parties now on three continents

This weekend, a third Hacks/Hackers group held its own Media Party, this time in South Africa. The sold-out event is bringing 350 attendees plus speakers from around the world to Cape Town to discuss African media innovation and civic technology. Miami held its second Media Party in April, and of course Buenos Aires holds the trophy for the original Media Party, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year in Argentina.

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

Earlier this month, Montreal met to talk about cloud-based services for journalists. Speaker and co-organizer Roberto Rocha said the group has been promoting themselves by finding new members and new venues though other local meetups.

“We’re still figuring out the best way to organize events, if it’s by delegating tasks, or letting organizers do things their way. We’re also experimenting with the format: short presentations followed by networking time, or workshops/demos.”

Worth a read:

  • Cedric Sam, who recently relocated to New York, wrote a goodbye to Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong (Hacks/Hackers)
  • News startups are always trying out new business models, and The Lens in New Orleans, Louisiana, has struck upon a modestly successful, but interesting, one: charging speaking fees for reporters speaking at local events or programs (NiemanLab)
  • Code for South Africa began teaching code to journalists, and shared some of their early findings (IJNet)
  • The New York Times is embracing a global audience with its one edition, rather than separating into an International edition (NiemanLab)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:

Saying goodbye to Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong

by Cedric Sam

Hello hacks and hackers! I’ve had a grand time organizing Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong with my co-organizers Jane, Olivia, and Darcy, since we founded the chapter in 2013. (Shout-out to Yolanda, who first got in touch with the organization, and all of our participants throughout the years, including super-dedicated Isao, who flew in three times from Nagoya to attend!)

It’s been a fun ride, but I’ve now moved to New York. So if you want to be the next Hacks/Hackers convenor in Hong Kong, feel free to email me at cedricsam@gmail.com, or to get in touch directly with the Hacks/Hackers organizers!

Hong Kong is Asia’s biggest financial center and the regional hub for many international media, and home to a thriving and innovative local media. Our journalism schools are full of talented and motivated students ready to push the limits of technology to tell stories. We just hosted an event on last month at Bloomberg’s office in Hong Kong. It was only the second event of 2016, but boy was it packed! For the occasion, we featured four speakers over the span of two hours:

Marc Lajoie, China Daily Asia

bhumika

When I met Marc in a Hacks/Hackers event in Montreal, around three years ago, he was just back from China with a master’s degree in multimedia journalism. Since then, he went on to work with a budding team of coder-journos at the WSJ in Hong Kong, and in early 2016, he joined China Daily Asia as senior multimedia reporter, in charge of building special projects branded “Red-Letter Projects”.

Marc’s new project “Bhumika Can Speak For Herself” on Bhumika Shrestha, a prominent transgender activist from Nepal, just came out the day of the event. His highly innovative project combines artificial intelligence, natural-language processing services to create a seamless experience where an interviewee listens to your questions and tries to answer the best she can.

In July, Marc travelled to Nepal to meet with Bhumika, shooting interviews with her. Back in Hong Kong, he cut the interview into short video segments. Marc trained an AI to select the segments that best answer the user’s question (asked in spoken English). The video segments are then combined on-the-fly into an answer and played. The projects uses IBM’s inexpensive Watson Services to parse and classify user questions. The end experience is the most clever news multimedia project I’ve seen coming out of the region, combining available technologies to serve the story.

Daniel Moss, South China Morning Post

chungking

Dan is a Digital Producer in the interactive team at South China Morning Post (SCMP). We overlapped for a few months at the SCMP when he had just moved from Australia, working in news for Fairfax Media and start-up news organizations.

The work from Dan and his team of journalists and coders appeared on our radar as we were organizing this event, and it was impossible not to invite members of the SCMP to come tell how they did it. The main piece is a multimedia experience on Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. The longform combined text, graphics, moving images and full-on video, and the work of a dozen people within the organization.

Partly playing the role of the “glue” that puts things together (it’s more than that), Dan was also interested in discussing how he worked with different parts of the newsroom to create such project — how things came about a couple of months ago and how the parts coalesced together into a coherent story told online, but also in the pages of the SCMP broadsheet.

He also talked about Legco Widgets, a project made for one of Hong Kong’s major electoral event. It was one of their team’s experimentations with interactive widgets that they insert into stories (and the challenges of getting editors to remember to insert them).

Muyueh Lee, a builder of data visualisations

muyueh

I met Muyueh around two years ago, when he was travelling to Hong Kong from his native Taiwan. Muyueh comes from a business administration background, but he is definitely one of the most talented creative coders in the region. One of his most well-known pieces of work is Green Honey, a scrolly visual comparison of how colours are named in the English and Chinese languages.

Muyueh’s work focuses on building data dashboards for major corporations in Taiwan, including banks and presidential election campaigns (like that of Tsai Ing-wen). During his talk, Muyueh talked about the important distinction between visualising for analysis and visualising for storytelling:

After talking about Muyueh’s tremendous work, we segued into open data and the vibrant community in Taiwan, one of the largest in the world, led by community organizations such as g0v.tw. Democracy (and unpopular governments) might have led politicians and people in power to give back more useful data to the people, who in turn have built important applications for the citizenry.

Taipei will soon have a new Hacks/Hackers chapter, led by Silva Shih of the FT and Kirby Wu. Their first event is about QGIS on October 16 and the speakers will be Jeremy C.F. Lin and Mimi Chen.

Robin Kwong, Financial Times

jets

Robin now runs special projects at the FT in London. But who would have thought, for someone who started off as a political reporter at the South China Morning Post in the mid-2000s? Somehow, one thing led to another and he relocated to Taiwan with the FT, eventually became the FT’s tech editor, and became an interactive data journalist in 2014-16. He coordinated some projects, and even coded his own.

We were lucky to have him, as we just found out that his company had posted him in his hometown of Hong Kong for a month, and that that would overlap with our event.

In a conversation prior to the event, we both expressed our interest in the intricacies of production and putting the right people together to create innovation. When the workflow is or was aimed towards paper or the traditional methods of news production, how to extirpate your resources to make something new? “Often the biggest barriers to doing useful and cool things (especially in a big news org) is not a lack of technical skill, but how digital teams are organized and integrated into the newsroom”, Robin says.

Robin adds: “No one wants to be a ‘service desk’, and it’s tempting to try to avoid that fate by carving out your own space and essentially to become a standalone silo within the newsroom, but I argue that much greater gains could be made if we could build bridges rather than walls. For that to happen you need people with credibility within the wider newsroom to champion the digital team and to help captain projects that involve both digital and ‘traditional’ journalists.”

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Hacks/Hackers Caracas and Taipei hold their first events

Greetings, hacks and hackers! There’s been significant interest in starting new Hacks/Hackers chapters from North America to Latin America to Asia over the past few months. One of the newest members of the family, Caracas, held their first event last weekend: #DataYTequeños (cheesy sticks):

The next to get started is Taipei, so if you know anyone in Taiwan, spread the word!

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

The brand new chapter in Caracas, Venezuela, got off to a booming start last weekend. More than 40 people showed up to a casual celebration of data and tequeños – Venezuelan cheesy bread sticks. Organizer Katherine Pennacchio had a hard time estimating how many people would attend, and said picking a venue to fit the crowd was important.

“And try to find an sponsor to be able to get free drinks or snacks. If not, give the option to buy drinks or food. Informality sometimes is good.”

Worth a read:

  • Some are asking if Gannett’s predicted purchase of tronc will lead to an increase in grassroots journalism (Poynter)
  • Wikileaks is seeing criticism from some of its most devoted followers thanks to its failure to reveal wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton (Bloomberg)
  • ProPublica is expanding its data store to utilize the data collection and reporting it does for its investigations (NiemanLab)
  • Poll weighting – the practice of making poll respondents count for more than just their one voice – is making one poll an outlier in the American election (NYTimes)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:


Investigative journalists gather in Asia, Africa, Middle East

Welcome to October, hacks and hackers! The Investigating Asia conference took place in Kathmandu last week, as did digital journalism convenings on practically every other continent.

While we’re still digesting the tips and tools from those events, investigative journalism conferences in Africa and the Middle East have already been announced for the upcoming months.

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

Zurich took a peek at Switzerland’s brand new open data portal, opendata.swiss. Zurich has had success with holding meetups every other month or so, rather than every month. “It’s good to know some dates in advance so you can tease the next meetup at the current one,” organizer Timo Grossenbacher said.

“Do less better” is a tip that other organizers have offered before. Check out the guide on the Hacks/Hackers website.

Worth a read:

  • GIJN released a swath of tutorials and tipsheets from the Investigating Asia conference (GIJN)
  • FiveThrityEight is combining data analysis, political polls, podcasts and a live audience (CJR)
  • The New York Times was balancing conflicting interests of press freedom, public interest and privacy laws when it published some of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s tax returns (Washington Post)
  • NYT tech reporter Farhad Manjoo took a look at MailChimp, a startup that found success without Silicon Valley, venture capitalists or IPO hype (NYT)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:

Welcome a thousand hacks and hackers on the phone next week

Hello, new hacks and hackers! As of last week, he have 1,000 subscribers on this newsletter. So if you haven’t already heard, we hold global open calls for the entire Hacks/Hackers community on the first Wednesday of every month. Please join us next Wednesday, October 5!

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

Hong Kong held a show-and-tell with media leaders earlier this week, and sadly it was the city’s last meetup for a while. Organizer Cedric Sam is moving on to New York, and is still looking for someone to pass the torch.

“Hong Kong has many news hacker jobs in both local and foreign media, and is often on par with New York and London as regional hub for international media,” Sam said. “So I don’t see why the pool wouldn’t be large enough to accommodate a vibrant Hacks/Hackers community!”

If you’re interested in helping to organize Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong, or know someone who is, get in touch!

Worth a read:

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:


Hacks/Hackers Connect takes Toronto

Greetings, hacks and hackers! Toronto just wrapped up a maximum-capacity Connect event:

At the same time, the Jakarta hosted the Global Forum for Media Development, the NYC Media Lab held its Annual Summit in New York, Y Combinator’s Startup Conference took place in New Delhi, and the Asian Investigative Journalism Conference happened in Kathmandu. It was a big weekend for media innovation all over the world.

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

Birmingham, UK, recently rebooted after a few months off, and co-organizer Maria Crosas is tyring to introduce a variety of advanced and beginner concepts in a variety of meetup types. Just last week they tackled text analysis, Tableau and Telegram in a series of lightning talks.

“If you are tackling a topic that requires some level from the attendees, make it clear on the meetup page,” Crosas said. “However, if you are bringing a particular speaker because of their background, try to bring new and different approaches that would suit the interest of the attendees and will not bore or overwhelm them.”

Worth a read:

  • The NYT broke with tradition by running a “news analysis,” rather than a “news story” on its front page, accusing Donald Trump of years of lies (Atlantic)
  • An app for sharing news tips won the Gannett award for innovation in the service of digital journalism (ONA)
  • The Columbia Journalism Review published a guide to covering terrorism in an era of social networks (CJR)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:


Hacks/Hackers raise a glass at ONA; Connect Toronto hits capacity

The Online Journalism Association held its yearly conference this weekend in Denver, Colorado, and Hacks/Hackers was there to celebrate. Abigail Edge has managed to drum up significant interest – including sponsors! – for the relatively new Colorado chapter by holding happy hours during national events like NICAR.

The week ahead:

  • London is discussing “interactive imagery” for its September meetup
  • Birmingham is hosting a series of lightning talks
  • Miami is holding its regular OpenHack Miami
  • IRE in Missouri is holding its weekly meeting

Chapter spotlight:

We’ve spot-lit London before, because they churn out mini-conferences in the time it takes a lot of meetup groups plan a happy hour. In the last year or so, they’ve started transitioning away from Meetup to Eventbrite, to better handle their more than 4,000 members and 200 monthly attendees.

“We’re also overhauling our monthly meetups – changing our focus from growing the number of attendees to securing higher-quality speakers on interesting and controversial topics,” Joanna Geary wrote. “We are also doing extensive work to change how we organise and communicate between ourselves and with our community.”

London is featuring an “interactive imagery specialist” for its September meetup this week. You can follow their exploits at #HHldn.

Worth a read:

Job openings:

Other upcoming events:

Media Party inspires new Hacks/Hackers groups in Latin America

Welcome to another week, hacks and hackers. The Media Party last month saw the creation of several new exciting Meetup groups, like Caracas, Venezuela, and Quito, Ecuador. Spread the word to your friends in the LatAm community!

The week ahead:

Chapter spotlight:

Birmingham, in the UK, held an R meetup last week, inviting people to come learn new skills or get a refresher on the R programming language. Maria Crosas, who put it together, said this was the first event she’d organized.

“Looking for a place that had free Wifi, a projector, and a function room at a pub in a week was not easy.”

Next week, Birmingham is already off and running to its second rebooted event, a series of lightning talks on bots, Tableau, text mining with R and scraping with Python.

Worth a read:

  • Erika Owens at Mozilla’s OpenNews published a list of tips for Hacks/Hackers organizers on her blog (Erika Owens)
  • A worldwide survey of millennials found that they believed corruption and lack of transparency to be the biggest issues their countries are facing (GIJN)
  • Last month, the NYT and Washington Post had larger digital audiences than BuzzFeed, for the first time in years (Politico)
  • On the flip side of the print-digital divide, the Newspaper Association of America is dropping “paper” from its name (Poynter)
  • One in three Americans listen to podcasts, and the NYT is upping its podcast game both in terms of production and technology (Politico)

Job openings:

Other upcoming events: