Code curiosity: Scala, AngularJS and staying up-to-date

August 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The newsroom developer team, of which I am a former member, is using Scala for one of its new systems. So last night curiosity got the best of me — I don’t remember the precise reason — and I started reading a tutorial (the site is currently down; cached version here).

Then tonight I explored AngularJS after reading about one recent use for a collaborative writing system. That article also led me to read about Scala’s Play framework:

Although my day-to-day work doesn’t usually involve writing code anymore (or, if it does, it’s usually updating previously-built Django apps), my fascination with programming and coding concepts continues.

In this case, I’d previously heard of both Scala and AngularJS and briefly glanced at the latter’s site. But I didn’t know why exactly they were useful and how they’re distinguished from other tools. Now I do and that knowledge will help in my role as a project manager, teacher, presenter or if I roll up my sleeves and start a new code project for work.

Overall, just a good reminder to stay fresh and be aware of what tools are out there and what they do.

Bonus: While we’re at it, this little lesson reminds of a nugget from a 2010 post I wrote about computational thinking:

Learning different programming languages: On the bus back from Philly, I listened to a tech podcast on which Kevlin Henney, author of 97 Things Every Programmer Should know, asserted that programmers should learn other languages to inform and improve how they write their primary language. …

And why is that post fresh in my mind? Because of this:

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“Why develop in the newsroom?” Opportunities abound!

July 18th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

“Why develop in the newsroom?” asks Dan Sinker. In short, I’d say because you have near limitless opportunities to solve interesting problems. For example:

  • How can we find better ways to tell stories?
  • How do we uncover new information and find meaning in it?
  • How do we properly inform people about their communities?
  • How do we foster and contribute to important conversations?
  • How do we hold public officials and powerful figures to account?
  • How do we increase understanding of complex issues?

In The Washington Post‘s newsroom, where I work, developers are a highly valued bunch. There are far more ideas and a far greater desire to collaborate with developers than we have time or resources for — and we probably have more coders than many newsrooms.

Developing in a newsroom is not about “IT” or support — it’s about building things. Things that our audience and others across the newsroom use. We have folks who do a mix of the following:

  • analyze data
  • create visuzalizations
  • build interactives
  • develop news applications
  • create platforms and services
  • build APIs

These individuals work in different areas — from graphics to digital design to the embedded developer team. Personally, I coordinate data and technology projects for a specific desk — local — and occasionally use code. I previously did a six-month stint on the embed team after starting at the Post as a producer.

“Six-month stint?” What does that mean? It means my newsroom gave me half a year to improve my self-taught code skills and build projects alongside full-time developers. How awesome is that? I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to level-up my coding abilities, build strong relationship on that team and better manage projects because of those two things.

Another example of the value our organization places on fostering and recruiting developers is evident in this excerpt from Miranda Mulligan’s response to the “Why develop in the newsroom?” question:

Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at richgor@northwestern.edu.

Opportunities abound. Whether they’re hard journalistic problems or even hard computer science problems, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a wide range of projects. Bring other domain knowledge or expertise — science, business, sports, politics, whatever. I’m ridiculously excited just thinking of all the possibilities.

Join a newsroom! Apply for the 2014 Open News Fellowship! Apply for the Medill program!

Also, be sure to read the other excellent responses to Dan’s question:

SPJ #journcamp in DC: code for journalists session

June 22nd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Highlights from “Talking Tech: Learning the Language(s) of Web Developers — and Then Some Code” session I led at SPJ’s #jourcamp today.


View on Storify

Teaching a new Web Development for Media class at Georgetown this summer

May 21st, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

I’m very excited to be teaching a new course at Georgetown University this summer called Web Development for Media, which begins tonight in Clarendon. The class includes 10 journalism and five public relations graduate students in the School of Continuing Studies.

The course assumes no prior knowledge of code or web development and will be akin to a practical survey class — intended to guide students through understanding and using some key tools. With fundamental understanding and hands-on practice, they’ll be able to dive deeper and teach themselves more after the 12 weeks. Here’s the official description:

Merely using the web and digital tools is no longer enough for today’s media professionals. Journalists and communicators alike need to have a strong foundational and practical understanding of how websites and applications are built and how to troubleshoot when problems arise. This class does not aim to make you hard-core coders or require any web development experience, but we do want you to come away with some coding skills. You’ll also be able to more effectively collaborate with web developers and continue learning on your own.

Students will learn about the various phases of web development and the fundamental technologies used to code and design web pages by diving into HTML and CSS, plus some basic JavaScript, jQuery and PHP. Students set up their own self-hosted website using WordPress. Readings, guest speakers and hands-on learning activities and assignments will be the basis for instruction.

Follow along on the course site, check out the syllabus and let me know in the comments below what you think.

Manipulated music mirroring Möbius-mannered movie

May 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Inception Music Comparison (by Cameron Whitehouse)

It’s been a while since I first saw this video comparing the most recognizable part of the Inception soundtrack with Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” But this time I did a quick search after watching and found an L.A. Times post with the following quote (emphasis in bold is mine):

“If you were to see this movie a second time,” Zimmer said, “you realize the last note you hear in the movie is the first note in the movie. It’s a Möbius band. But the next thing you hear over the logos is actually telling a story. You realize that the elements that we’ve extracted from the Piaf song are the way you get from one dream level to the next. When the movie starts, some action has already happened.”

From another LAT post:

Pieces of Piaf’s interpretation of the song were stretched, manipulated and woven into Zimmer’s score.

Möbius on my mind? Probably. I wonder what Hofstadter would have to say about this…

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