Since I’ll be in the country this time around, I’m hoping to attend my first SRCCON this summer in Portland. Here’s a brief description from the organizers, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews:
SRCCON is a hands-on conference focused on the practical challenges news technology and data teams encounter every day. We work to make it an inclusive and welcoming event where people can feel comfortable digging into complex problems.
Teams within an organization are usually pretty structured. One group might share a common focus, office space and manager. But communities are a much more fluid–they move beyond the designated org chart lines and boundaries drawn by the company. Some of the best collaboration in news and tech comes when different specialities mix. Whether you’re a lonely coder or on a large news app team, how do you build and sustain a community of data- and tech-oriented journalists within your organization? What kind of obstacles does this internal community face?
How do you help everyone level-up, including yourself?
How do you make sure knowledge and skills aren’t concentrated among a small group–or just one person?
How do you get management buy-in for cross-pollination type training push back against training bc of timing on both sides?
How do you handle tension between a dedicated team and individuals doing similar work/working on a different part of the project?
How do you maintain momentum if there’s no institutional structure or the structure changes?
Can we come up with some solutions to these problems? We want to hear your experience and advice for internal community-building, even if it’s not directly related to data and tech. We’ll discuss all these topics, then break into small groups. Each group will have one item to expand on and contribute back to the session transcript. In the end, we’ll have an internal community-building guide to share.
“If [people] were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists?” Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media. Should we all become artists? I seriously thought about it last year. Here’s why: Whether we use text, images, graphics or code to tell stories, we deal with symbols, images, abstractions and interpretations every day. Journalism’s history is basically one of integrating new disciplines, techniques and technologies to more effectively tell stories. Lately, and especially for the data/tech community in news, that’s involved stats, social science, computer science and other quantitative- or science-oriented fields. Although we should continue to do this vigorously, we equally need to embrace the arts. And not just from a visual or design standpoint, but the ideas that underlie and advance art. In doing this, we can also see how seemingly disparate things correspond: cubism and physics, concrete poetry and GUIs, conceptual art and algorithms. We’ll explore these and other ways the analog humanities can help us think about digital media from technical and humanistic perspectives–going everywhere from abstraction and to Afrofuturism.
We live in a society that is increasingly dependent on data and computation, a dependence that often evolves invisibly, without substantial critical assessment or accountability. Far from virtual, inert quantities, data and computation exert real forces in the physical world, shaping and defining systems of power that will play larger and larger roles in people’s lives.
It’s almost time for the ONA14 conference (yeah!) and that means another board election approaches.
My first term on the board is almost complete and I’m running for re-election. It’s been an honor to serve on the board with such a wonderful and talented group of journalists. ONA continues to make great progress and I’d love to continue serving the members and the organization. If you’re a member (or not yet a member, you should join) — I’d greatly appreciate your vote.
Here are some highlights from my candidate page. I also want to know what you would like from ONA going forward, so please drop me a line in the comments below, on Twitter or privately here:
Vision for ONA and skills I would bring to the board
ONA members include every type of journalists in every type of news outlet. As an organization we deal with subjects that affect a wide spectrum of the industry — such as leadership, ethics and diversity — and more specific topics — like how to protect sources, use a new tool or adopt new reporting methods.
In order to best serve our members and take advantage of ONA as platform (see http://bit.ly/GLonaboard12), we need to include more voices.
We need more members and participants who are in business, advertising, sales. They also work in the news business and are a notably absent group in our conversations about the present and future.
We similarly need to expand our community to include others outside of news — professionals and academics whose fields share similar fundamentals, themes and practices or who have methods we could learn from and apply to journalism. We should recruit them as associate members.
Artists and architects. Biologists and book-creators. Filmmakers and forensic accountants. Game animators and geographers. Industrial designers and improv actors. Linguists and librarians. Mathematicians and musicians. Poets and philosophers. Sociologists and screenwriters.
We have so much to learn from our peers and colleagues. But, beyond learning from each other, we have even more to learn from those outside our field — the subject-matter experts and specialists.
What are their processes? How do they solve problems? How have they been disrupted? How have they adjusted their business models? What have they made? How have they spearheaded change?
It’s like you’re writing a story. You have the seed of an idea, so you ask a reporter in the next pod if it sounds worth checking. Then you start contacting sources, asking them for other experts and broadening the scope of what you know.
That’s the same kind of expansion we need.
Invite them to local meetups. Ask them to speak at annual conferences. Include them in dCamps and leaderships breakfasts. Appeal to them for guest posts on journalists.org.
What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.
What if we built a block chain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by block chains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)
How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.
The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:
Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.
Think of these two key terms he uses.
In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.
The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?
Not methods. Instruments.
All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.
Neither GitHub for News nor Block Chains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:
as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.
So, where should we start?
UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…
@spetulla This would have nothing to do with funding, actually. It’s just applying the same fundamentals of the Bitcoin protocol to news.
Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.