Another week, another event, another lesson

BBC Connected Studios

Every week, I put together an events listing for Source. All over the world, people organize hack days and conferences and workshops and meetups to discuss, invent, gripe, and marvel at journalism and technology. There are a lot of events. I get to attend some of them. OpenNews sponsors many.

Already this year, OpenNews has sponsored an array of events. Beyond trainings, OpenNews has supported:

  • Hack Jersey, the first news hackathon in New Jersey. It took place on a college campus and a great mix of college students and old-school reporters participated. Look out for a Q&A soon with Tom Meagher about lessons from organizing your first hackathon.

  • From Local Solutions to National Systems, an event organized by Digital Democracy in Haiti. The hackathon focused on developing tools to support the work of organizations helping survivors of rape and gender-based violence.

  • The Mozilla London office hosted the "build studio" for the BBC Connected Studio focused on news. This event is part of a project development process that involves BBC staff and external developers. The end goal is to have pilot projects that actually make it to the BBC news site.

  • Investigative News Iconathon hosted by The Noun Project brought together folks from Hacks/Hackers New York, ProPublica, the New York Times, and OpenNews to develop icons that represent investigative news related nouns.

Typically, hack events are way better at building connections between people than building actual stuff. But I was struck by how BBC Connected Studio was designed differently because it has pilot projects as the goal. After two days of a build studio, teams had demos to show off. Actual stuff! It was great to see how that model built in the time and feedback necessary to support teams in building functional demos.

A week later, and back across the pond, I attended TechCamp Philadelphia, the first TechCamp in the U.S. And it was an entirely different format. It focused on designing well thought out problem statements, while also having an exceptionally successful social component: many of the educators and technologists at the event hadn't met before. Over and over, people expressed their appreciation for having a space to get together with folks who often work in silos -- a common refrain from more traditional hack days as well.

I'm learning a lot from attending these events and I am working on fashioning some documentation to help people organize and clarify what they want to do with events. And, of course, OpenNews wants to sponsor more hack days. We're in talks to sponsor events covering new topics and taking place in countries (and a continent!) where we haven't been before.

Are you planning an event? Tell us about it and how we might be able to help. Are you curious about what's happening in journalism and technology? Join our commnity call Wednesday or say hi at NICAR. April is currently looking a little quiet, but I'm sure it won't stay that way for long.