ProPublica, already a leader in investigative nonprofit news, announced the News Applications Fellowship today. This is huge. It is specifically targeted at journalists with an interest in, and facility for, becoming app developers. ProPublica will mentor the fellow and teach him/her how to build apps as a way of testing a hypothesis: "Can a smart, technical journalist with excellent and proven skills in other nerdy newsroom disciplines like graphics and CAR become a news app developer?" I can't think of another opportunity like this, which is targeted at the journalist side of the hacker-journalist hybrid.
Something that comes up a lot at techie meetups is that it can be difficult for beginners to get a real start in web development.
Once people learn the basics, there are few ways to get over the intermediate hump after the tutorials and introductory classes end, and even fewer opportunities to take programming from a hobby to a career. The Philadelphia Python Users Group is holding its first project night this month to try to help people through that intermediate stage. I'm hopeful that if the project night becomes a regular activity, it'll be a chance for people to collaborate, learn from one another, and have regular mentoring opportunities that will make it more feasible to get hired as an apprentice or junior developer.
Codeacademy Code Year officially started today. Got my first lesson, and I'm enjoying the super usable in-browser terminal. Half a million people have signed up so far, which is both amazing and not so far-fetched given that it seemed like all of Twitter registered. A public, paced course is a great way to help people build programming skills, and support their friends who are doing the same.
It's been exciting to see all of these learning opportunities develop over the past year, and in Philly in particular, groups and classes aimed at women have really thrived. I'm grateful to have been involved in these groups, and to see new connections develop.
ProPublica is committed to the "show your work" ethos, and I'm sure documenting the News Apps Fellowship experiment will be no different. Smart newsrooms will starting thinking now about what they can learn from this model. I'm confident that this approach that starts with a skilled journalist will be a success, and will prove to be an effective way to develop enthusiastic, tenacious talent.