NICAR 2011 wrapup

Just came back from an inspiring week at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting in Raleigh, NC. Of all the journalism conferences I’ve been to, this one had the most to learn from and the most attendees excited to learn. There was real discussion about news apps being its own form of story-telling and art and not just uploading a bunch of numbers as HTML.

Chrys Wu has a compilation of the tipsheets and the highly technical tutorials. It’s a great trove for anyone – journalists or not – wanting to learn how to collect and process data and build powerful news applications. Some of my favorites, for their step-by-step nature: Jacob Fenton’s R tutorial, David Huynh’s detailed guide on his Google Refine, Andy Boyle’s on setting up Varnish, and Timothy Barmann’s walkthrough of Javascript mapping. My colleague Jeff Larson shows off his own Javascript skills with this MVC framework.

I led a couple of sessions. One boiled down to basically, use Firebug, which you can pretty much glean from a tutorial I wrote for ProPublica on how I grabbed the data from drugmaker Cephalon’s Flash site. I wrote another Ruby tutorial, starting from “Hello World” to building a Foursquare/Google Maps mashup…that was almost doable in an hour-session had I been better prepared with presentation materials.

One reason to try learning how to code now is that the number of teaching resources has never been more abundant. The NICAR resources collected on Chrys’s blog is more proof of this.

I'm a programmer, data journalist, and photographer in New York City. I'm the author of three in-progress books: The Bastards Books of Ruby, Photography, and Regular Expressions.