“Why develop in the newsroom?” That’s the question doing the rounds of the news-developer community just now, partly because it’s that time of year where the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews program makes its final push to attract fellows for 2014.
I’ve been asked to chime in and I wanted to focus on something that I found very exciting as one of the initial group of OpenNews fellows, way back in 2012.
In their lifetimes most designers and developers will get an opportunity to have their work seen or used by thousands of people. I have to admit I’m one of those developers who gets a kick out of that. I suppose it’s the desire to be useful or make useful things that drives me the most.
However there are relatively few developers who will work on a site big enough to have their work seen by thousands, perhaps millions – in one day! This is a big part of the reason why developing in the newsroom is exciting.
In his post “Code, the newsroom, and self-doubt” 2013 OpenNews fellow with the BBC, Noah Veltman opens “I can pinpoint the exact moment when the awesome craziness of my OpenNews fellowship sank in. I was on my way home after my first day at BBC headquarters, looking around the subway car, and I realized that fully half of the passengers were reading BBC News on their phones. Whoa.”
If you are one of the millions that reads the news online, you’ve probably noticed that news articles — or at least a significant number of them — are becoming increasingly interactive. Good ‘interactives’ are the balance of medium and message. The message is all important of course but the way we get the message across, let’s just say, is one of life’s challenges.
I was lucky enough to be given several opportunities by Al Jazeera (my OpenNews partner) to create interactives for aljazeera.com and I was both excited and terrified about being given the chance to succeed or fail in public. Thankfully, it was always a team effort - ideas were discussed, feasibility assessed, minimal viable products presented and that all important deadline established and we were off to the races!
The most amazing thing though, was that I got to have a real say. If there was a certain type of medium I wanted to try out – I could try it. And the very best thing was that I could try it out on thousands of people.
It’s hard to imagine the adrenalin rush you get when your interactive goes live in front of the world, a world that is actually watching, but it makes you want to do it over and over again. In the periods of calm you can assess what the world made of your work – I’ve found it’s best to do this in an ego-less way, after all negative feedback can be the most constructive.
Personally, I got to try out a loose concept called Hyperaudio which links text to the spoken part of media. Since then we’ve set up Hyperaudio Incorporated as a nonprofit - and now I’m happy to say that we have attracted funding and that’s in no small part due to the technology being used and proven in the wild.
So why develop in the newsroom? Because you get to try new things out on the world stage and find out how people feel about them. Then you get to do it again, but better!