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coding

The Guardian Already Has An In-House Tool for “Attention Analytics.” Do You?

orphanWhile Upworthy was busy writing their “down with the pageview” manifesto yesterday, it turns out that the Guardian’s been using attention analytics it since an in-house hack day, when web architect Graham Tackley and digital audience manager Chris Moran decided that they wanted to see real time data to help manage the SEO for The Guardian’s ”400 pieces of content” a day, according to this piece by Ciara Byrne on Fast Company.

Here’s how it evolved from a took on one man’s desktop, to a newsroom-wide tool called Orphan, according to Byrne’s piece:

[Tackley] tailed the logs on to a couple of servers, pushed it to a messaging queue, and created a Scala Play Framework app to consume and display the data on a dashboard…Word got around and more and more Guardian employees started to use Tackley’s dashboard, now named Ophan. Tackley decided to upgrade it to capture the Guardian’s entire click stream, which generates between 15 million and 25 million events a day and store the data for seven days. This meant moving from his desktop to Amazon Web Services…A JavaScript hidden pixel on the website now records every event instead of retrieving it from the logs and places it in a message queue. Since there were now too many events to hold in-memory, an app called Serf takes the message queue, extracts what was needed, and inserts it into an ElasticSearch cluster. The dashboard asks the same questions of ElasticSearch, a real-time search and analytics engine, that it had previously posed to the in-memory event list

There are a few lessons to be gleaned from this: Read more

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Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund Announces 24 New Projects

Photo courtesy of Knight Foundation

Photo courtesy of Knight Foundation


Earlier this week, the Knight Foundation announced funding for 24 new projects as part of its Prototype Fund. The fund allows innovators to move from idea to demo with $35,000 in funding.

A spokesperson for the fund says there are several noteworthy elements particular to the current round of funded projects. Read more

‘For Journalism’ Wants to Help You Build News Apps, Learn to Code

photo-mainIn the spirit of the animated, multi-faceted debate going on about whether or not journalists should learn how to code, it seems like a good time to help introduce For Journalism, a startup seeking to offer data journalism and programming skills to the journalist of the future.

It’s safe to say which side of the fence For Journalism is on when it comes to the topic of how much technical knowledge writers and reporters should have — they say explicitly that we’re suffering from a “pipeline problem for people with data and programming skills for journalism.”

The project, spearheaded by Dave Stanton, a developer and Poynter technology fellow, provides journalists with curriculum on everything from Ruby on Rails (an open-source coding and programming resource) and Django, to creating meaningful pieces of data for accompanying journalistic work. Courses cost $20 and include an informational e-book, screencasts, code repositories and forums.

Read more

The Debate Rages On: Do Journalists Need To Code?

Do journalists need to know HTML? What about CSS? Javascript? … Python?

The debate rages on, with the flame fueled again this week by journalist Olga Khazan writing about how she resented the time she spent learning how to write bad code in journalism school instead of doing something more in-line with her specific career goal of writing. Her article for The Atlantic led to Twitter debates for and against. The merry go round of yes, no, maybe goes round and round and round.

hernandezquoteI’d join the fray (beyond my comments on Twitter earlier this week) except that I think Robert Hernandez, an accomplished web journalist who actually also teaches at the j-school that writer attended, does a great job explaining why learning code (or at least exposure to it) matters for journalists. As he writes: I’ve had an incredible career because I learn the power behind the phrase “Hello World.” Or as he says later in the post in reference to j-school students who don’t want to learn, “It’s 2013 — are you really arguing against learning technology?” Read more

Data Visualizations in the Newsroom

If you consume any political news or watch late night television, Congress has become the punchline of many an editorial or frustrated monologue. But does Congress really suck?

With a data visualization, Nikanth Patel, an Editorial Production Associate at The New Yorker, hopes to help people answer that question. Created in his time away from the office, Patel entered his latest data visualization project “Does Congress Really Suck?” in the BiCoastal Datafest sponsored by Columbia and Stanford Universities, where it won the “Best in Insight” prize.

By aggregating public data into a sleek and interactive interface, Patel’s project allows users to judge Congress through comparisons to past sessions, by following the money trail, and a real-time view of the public’s opinion of Congress on social media.

Why data visualizations? For starters, it makes information easier to consume. Since we have the technology to make data look sleek, even artful, and let readers interact with it, why not? Patel sees data visualizations as just another step in the evolution of the image. Reporters have used pictures, then video, to help tell their story. Why not data visualizations? As long as it’s in context, of course. Read more

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