Why Journalists Need to Think Like Geeks

Loose notes from the SXSW2011 session Why Journalists Need to Think Like Geeks

Many print journalists, even those who resisted change, are trying to embrace the digital future. Twenty-year veterans take up social media after taking a buyout, and journalism programs now give aspiring reporters basic multimedia skills. But a facility with Twitter or Soundslides combined with an occupational knack for asking questions won’t always add up to the skills necessary to redesign a Web site or create an app. The truth is, journalists and programmers think in fundamentally different ways—words vs. code; stories vs. systems—and often have a hard time communicating and collaborating. And the problem is asymmetrical; most programmers can quickly grasp enough about journalism to work with journalists, but it’s much harder to get, say, a midlevel editor to understand the basics of software development or database design. I often find myself wishing I could recommend a course to that colleague or to an unemployed journalist that would teach them how the other half thinks. Most of us have had to muddle through on our own, until we have a road to Damascus moment. But there’s got to be a better way. How can we teach journalists to think about technology?

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Keynote: Christopher Poole of 4chan

Loose notes from the SXSW 2011 session: Christopher Poole of 4chan

Christopher “moot” Poole is the founder of 4chan.org, a simple image-based bulletin board, which has grown from a niche site targeting anime fans to one of the most influential communities on the ‘Net. With over 12 million unique visitors per month, many popular viral videos, Internet phenomena, and memes get their start on 4chan. In 2010 Poole was a featured speaker at the TED Conference, and he has been profiled by TIME, CNN, The Washington Post, and Technology Review. Recently he started a new project called Canvas, which is working on new and better ways for people to hang out and collaborate online. In addition to 4chan and Canvas, Chris advises Lerer Ventures, a seed stage venture capital fund, and hackNY, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening the New York student hacker scene. He is also a member of the Free Art and Technology Lab.

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Designing iPad Interfaces – New Navigation Schemas

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Designing iPad Interfaces – New Navigation Schemas

With every new “form factor” comes a unique set of design conventions and interaction paradigms. The emergence of tablet interfaces such as the iPad marks a new chapter in digital design. How much of web navigation or smartphone conventions persist in this new world? And what are we seeing that’s new? Are there specific wayfinding and browsing mechanisms that make for a satisfying and productive iPad user experience? Based on an assessment of 50+ iPad applications that run the gamut from utility/transactional interfaces to comic readers and other publishing apps, this presentation provides a focused analysis and assessment of navigation methods in a distilled format. Navigation schemas will be explored by interaction design themes, supported by examples, and recommendations on when best to employ them.

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One Codebase, Endless Possibilities: Real HTML5 Hacking

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: One Codebase, Endless Possibilities: Real HTML5 Hacking

HTML5 is no question the “buzzword du jour” in tech nowadays, but looking past the vernacular cruft one will discover that the HTML5 technology STACK is actually an incredibly powerful & useful framework for apps well beyond the traditional web browser. Massive companies like Google and Hewlett Packard are placing huge bets on the future of “HTML5 App development”. From HP/Palm’s WebOS to be used in their mobility products to Google’s Chrome OS, HTML5 is not simply another buzzword that can be treated as a mere passing trend, but should actually be taken seriously for app development. But what makes up the HTML5 stack and how will it truly be the future of software? What are the benefits & risks associated with using the HTML5 stack? Prove to me it works. All of these questions & demands will be answered & showcased in the presentation including important issues such as: What constitutes the HTML5 stack Benefits of using the HTML5 stack Use a single codebase Rapidly prototype an app targetting multiple devices including: iPhone, iPad, Android Devices, Chrome OS Devices, Mobile Webkit Browsers, Desktop Browsers Target thousands of developers for extensibility & community development .

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Putting the Public Back in Public Media

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Putting the Public Back in Public Media (partial)

Think NPR and PBS are just broadcasters? Think again. Public media is no longer just a one-way street. In many towns, NPR and PBS stations are the only locally-owned broadcasters, and their mission to serve the public demands that they develop new ways of engaging and strengthening those communities. They’re convening Barcamp-like unconferences called PubCamps all over the country, allowing local techies and citizen journalists to forge collaborative projects with NPR and PBS stations, both online and offline. Public media staff work with volunteer coders, creating software for public media organizations that otherwise lack the capacity to develop it on their own. Public media engages communities in new ways that go beyond those annual pledge drives, challenging them to work together for the common good. They’re putting the public back in public media – right where it should be. This ain’t your father’s public broadcasting. Come learn how people are plugging into public media – and how you can get involved.

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All These Worlds Are Yours: Visualizing Space Data

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: All These Worlds Are Yours: Visualizing Space Data

At the intersection of video gaming technology, open government and citizen science are new applications making it easier and more fun for the public to explore space data. Get an inside look at virtual environments incorporating real-time spacecraft data and images. Become an armchair astronaut and travel through the cosmos from your personal computer. Ride along with NASA spacecraft, hazardous asteroids and distant planets, or just experience the vastness and beauty of space. All these worlds are yours… including Europa.

A truly awesome session, featuring members of NASA and the JPL, on all of the amazing data being gathered by earth’s orbiting satellites, and the powerful ways that data can be visualized, in many cases illuminating surprising realities about earth’s climate and overall health. The tools for public education coming out of this team are nothing short of stunning.
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Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

Jane McGonigal
Creative Dir
Social Chocolate

One of my favorite sessions of the week – McGonigal turns everything you thought you knew about the healthiness and benefits / downsides of video games on its head. By the end of the hour, we walked away convinced that basing our educational system more on the models of video games could be a great move for our children.
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Ordering Disorder: Grid Design for the New World

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Ordering Disorder: Grid Design for the New World

Khoi Vinh, Design Director, NY Times. Wrote book of same name.

Everyone’s using grids, and grid tools and frameworks are everywhere. But do you truly understand the ins and outs of this powerful design principle, and how it’s changing along with new media and platforms? Chances are most digital designers have only a cursory knowledge of the grid’s concepts and best practices, overlooking the tremendous value that truly smart grid usage brings. In this expansive sequel to his famous 2006 SXSWi talk “Grids Are Good,” designer and grid expert Khoi Vinh (NYTimes.com, Subtraction.com) will give a bracing tour of the many ideas packed into his new book “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design.” This solo talk will span the history of grids, take a brass-tacks tour of best practices, and look ahead at some of the most enlightening and innovative thinking that’s shaping grid thinking in the future.

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Believe Me or Your Own Eyes: Eye-Tracking Entertainment

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Believe Me or Your Own Eyes: Eye-Tracking Entertainment

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes” said Groucho Marx or as the wikiquote page for Groucho tells us, the line was actually spoken by Chico Marx. This panel discussion will focus on the usage of eye-tracking to get quantifiable data to support what users see and what they don’t when they visit entertainment sites (e.g. sports, games, news, or book sites). While many entertainment sites use analytics to get information about user behavior, there is no way to measure the effectiveness of the visual aspect of their site. Users cannot rationally describe what they feel and what makes certain visual elements desirable; eye-tracking can help you measure such metrics. This panel will bring in user experience managers, directors, and/or vice presidents who have an eye-tracking lab or have used eye-tracking consultancies to get data to support the value of photography and video on their site.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish (partial)

Will 2011 be the year of the Universal Translator? As this science fiction dream teeters over the horizon, what can and should we do now to prepare for a time when the translation robot, not the search engine, becomes the single most important audience for your site? Will SEO give way to TEO? Does language need its own subtext markup? And when on Earth is Microsoft Word going to replace its ‘Bold’ button with a ‘Strong’ one? Lay aside your Google Goggles and iLingual apps (just for 60 minutes or so), and enjoy a session that’s packed full of accessible translation theory, insight into the working processes of web copywriters, and more than the occasional riff on Douglas Adams.

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