At the beginning of the month, most of the Knight Lab team participated in the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual computer-assisted reporting conference, NICAR, in Louisville, Feb. 28 - March 3. In its twentieth year, this conference educates journalists on tools and skills for digging deeper into stories and online publishing.
Throughout the conference, the team participated in a bunch of sessions. Rich Gordon and Larry Birnbaum reviewed open source licenses and talked with DocumentCloud's Ted Han about how we can get the widest impact out of the technology that we build for journalism.
My friend, and Upstatement developer, Pete Karl and I led a discussion on how difficult it is to design data visualizations for mobile and small browser viewports. Be sure to check out his beautiful Flickr set of photos from his conference experience.
Ryan Graff turned around a quite popular blog post the same day as the session, which included some highlights from the Year in CAR session by Mark Horvit and Megan Luther, which reviewed investigative work, visualizations and interactive presentations of note from of the past year.
One of our undergraduate student fellows, Tyler Fisher, wrote up a great posts about the resurgence of the spreadsheet, calling it out as this year's inspiration for a conference theme. In his reflection on this being his first NICAR, he said:
"Among the conference’s variance has been a certain divide between beginner-focused sessions focused on training and expert-level theoretical sessions focused on thinking and solving the problems that have arisen from news apps. As a developing developer, I found myself splitting time between both extremes, trying to gather new skills as well as enrich my already established skills."
A couple other of our undergraduate student fellows, Rebecca Lai and Dhrumil Mehta pulled together a couple of posts as well, with Rebecca's round-up post on this year's lightning talks and Dhrumil's thoughts about what it was like for him as a self-identifying computer scientist at a journalism conference. A particular insight of note from him:
My biggest takeaway from NICAR was the power of data and technology literacy. I feel that technology literacy means much more than simply knowing our way around Facebook and Twitter or putting up blog. Even once we put content online, a general understanding of the workings of the web is vital to bringing traffic to it. A knowledge of data science is key to making sure readers understand the scale of the problems we highlight. An understanding of web-development helps to visualize it not just in the most appealing way, but more importantly in the most impactful way. Data science is not just for journalists.
We had a great time this year, learned a lot and we’re starting to begin our plans to participate in NICAR 2014.