Once again, welcome to my latest post for #JCarn.

The Carnival of Journalism is a loose collection of journalism thinkers (and people like me) who get together to post on their blogs with their reflections on a given prompt.

This month The Guardian Developer blog gets into the holiday spirit to step in and ask: If you are a journalist, what would be the best present from programmers and developers that Santa Claus could leave under your Christmas tree?

If you’d like to participate next time head on over and sign up for the next prompt.

Seeing as we’ve been asked to get into the holiday spirit with our Journalism wishes, what better way then to go to the source of gifting himself.


Salutations your most honorable Senor Nicholas,

Reading this may come as a shock. Right now you’re picking your belly lint, looking outside the window and seeing the polar bears in their skivvies doing cannon balls with the slushy remains of Frosty while chugging down black sugar water in a wavy glass bottle and thinking it’s that time of year already?

I’m afraid so sir.

I hope you’re well and I’m very sorry about last year’s incident with Rudolph. I honestly though it was fake. I hope his nose grew back. No hard feeling I hope.

So this letter is really for your web team, I hear there are a couple of Brits over there interested in knowing what journalist like myself would consider an awesome gift from programmers and developers.


My one big wish

I want an journalism lab in every newsroom and I want it to be part of their mission to be to fail. Only by having this freedom to experiment will newspapers go from a holding pattern of trying to use chemo to stop the cancer from spreading to taking the risk that will lead to a cure.

Imagine small groups of teams working togetehr to kick ass, we see it out side the newsroom already; I saw it at my first Hack/Hackers meet up in NYC and I saw it in Berlin when I was invited to join in on a hackathon by Mozzila and the Knight Foundation, but it’s not enough. Many of these efforts are confined to a small window, I want to see this happen 365 in every newsroom where reporters and developers are allowed to meet up, share ideas and has it as one of their job duties to work on a project together every month or so.

We need to stop treating each other like like service departmetns and more like journalist with a common goal- informing the public in innovative ways.

The simple truth is newspapers in there current form is not where the public wants to get its information from, but it does want the information. Journalism isn’t dying, it’s evolving and the moment we charge our attitude about it is the moment we start building the “newspaper” of tomorrow.

However, I know that these decision aren’t made by the developers in the trenches and since we’re asking what they can do to help journalist like myself, I’ve got a request for you.

I want developers to come out of the silo and into the newsroom.

When I worked at xxxx I was excited when the web team was put in the same room as my department and suddenly we were able to talk to each other. We were asking each other questions, brainstorming projects, they would ask for photo tips and we in kind would ask for coding and design tips. It was a great era of creativity and for a moment we both felt we could help steer our papers fate to greener pastures.

It was short lived.

The brass decided it was best to build a new wall between our departments and soon they were behind their door and I was behind mine and we never spoke with the same excitement, or walked out to get lunch or just bounced an idea of the wall to see what sticks… that’s sad and it’s why we are where we are.

So developers, where ever you are, big newsrooms, small newsrooms, a community newsletter I don’t care, here’s what your gift to me will be. Call up a photographer and a reporter, go to lunch. That’s it. Just do that and if you’re so inclined, please drop me a line or post a comment and tell me how it went.


Top 5 Side Dishes

1. I want semantic web metadata because knowing that this [mayor] hit this [person] in [your city] while doing this [thing] with that [person] on a [saturday] on [some street] on the way to vote [no] on the [school funding bill] matters not just in the story but to all past and future stories and to the web at large. With this type of structure in place, suddenly it’s possible to have computers find links and connections and group data together for journalist.

2. Speaking of finding links in news stories, I want  a way to dig into the archive of ancient web media to find historical, contextual and tangental links between stories which could lead to better understanding and future stories.

It’s estimated there are 600 new videos on YouTube, 98,000 tweets, 60 blog entries and 6,500 new pictures on Flickr ever minute. That’s a lot of data out there to mine.

There’s a wealth of information being created every day and just as quickly as it’s published to the web, it’s forgotten and we move on to the next one: Facebook messages from 2006, Twitter notes from six months ago, AngleFire websites, long abandoned MySpace blog posts, forgotten virtual pets, AIM chats from 1997 and more.

I’m sure that’s one of the chief rational behind Facebook’s timeline, to tap into the past and bring a richer impression of a person’s life to the surface.

If journalist were able to tap into this treasure trove in a simple manner, it could turn out to be a powerful investigative tool. Or at the very least an easy way to trace the origin of breaking news, social trends or memes and identify potential sources.

Or it could be a total bust and just used by Chime.in users to track down LOLCats. Which isn’t really a bust if you think about it.

3. Ideally I really wish Google would open the API for Google Voice to the open source community, but if not them, perhaps some intrepid group of developers and journalist (moi included) could create our own?

4. I want the Meta Meta Project to succeed. Earlier this year I was invited to Berlin for the first Mozilla-Knight Foundation Hackathon and along with 24 other people we spent a week brainstorming and coming up with new tools to make journalism better. One of the issues we tried to tackle was meta data for media, such as video, audio, pictures, stories and such. The open source Meta Meta Project was born and we’ve slowly hacked away at it since leaving Berlin. I’m hoping in the next year we’ll make even more progress.

5. A pony, chicks dig ponies.

Lost in space

Okay, so here is where this turns from an orbit around an idea into objects flying tangentially through space. I’ve tried to remain coherent and make well-thought rational arguments above, however below is the junk food thoughts that my friends have come to look froward to as “a rant.”

Dear Santa, while I have your ear,


It’s 2011, how about a standard file format for cell phones with online back up and easy to transfer accounts between different phone vendors. It is just stupid preposterous that I have to swap sim card three times to copy over my address book and then go in and retype spaces between first and last names. Make the phone venders cut the BS Kringle! And don’t you suggest I just hop on the iPhone bandwagon with some sync flavor, I can’t afford that.

Speaking of cash money, I’d like a job or more freelance gigs. (Or a job?)

I want us as an industry to get way from the shinny toys and think about storytelling. It should be that simple.

So less of this:

More of this:


I want us to take more chances and I want the companies who are cutting back on staff, wages and adding up on executive perks like free iPads and bonuses to go under and in their place I want honest caring business with heart. I want to cut out the spreadsheets and bring back the human touch. I want us to do a better job of telling people what we do and not acting like we’re noble because we work holidays for peanuts. I want more papers to have community meeting and cafes where the public can come in and meet the reporters. I want people to walk their beat again and meet the faces of their readers. I want to put the community back in community newspaper.

And to beat an old chestnut, I want more investigative reports at the everyday newspapers and not just the non-profits. And I want newspaper brass when asking for more reporting to also give reporters and photographers time to research and report and not just feed the machine.

And this last one is insane, I’m aware of that, but I want newspaper companies to launch new papers as an experiment with young reporters free to pursue their stories and give the established something to worry about. The next time I visit a the Bay Area, I would like nothing more than a two newspaper town which competes and makes each other better.

And scratch the pony, I travel too much.