Tag Archives: programming

Episode 43: Encyclopedia Littau

We’re back after a few illnesses.

We promise not to get you sick.

We have a lively discussion about whether or not everyone should learn to code. And should computer science be a required part of the K-12 curriculum?

We also discuss how CNN, Fox News and other outlets botched the Affordable Care Act decision. What’s the value in being first and wrong?

We also have a tribute to one of Jeremy’s favorite authors, Donald J. Sobol, creator of Encyclopedia Brown, who just passed away.

Listen to this week’s show:


Download the MP3

Show notes:

Etsy offering female programmers $5,000 grants to attend Hacker School

This whole program sounds pretty cool. Three months of full-time, intensive hacking school:

Hacker School is a three-month, full-time school in New York for becoming a better programmer. We’re free as in beer, and provide space, a little structure, time to focus, and a friendly community of smart builders dedicated to self-improvement.

Unlike most schools, there are no grades, teachers, or formal curricula. Instead, Hacker School is entirely project-based.

We have a morning check-in at the start of each day. During this time we close our laptops and share what we worked on the previous day, what we plan to do that day, and where we’re stuck or need help. This social pressure keeps everyone focused and accomplishing what they say they will. It also fights scope creep, because someone in the group will surely notice when your spell-checker starts turning into an OS.

There are no formal instructors at Hacker School. Rather, everyone is a de facto teacher, which works because everyone enters Hacker School at different levels of development. Some people are much more advanced than others, but everyone has something to share. The primary expectations are that people start with at least a general programming proficiency and finish much better than they started.

While Hacker School is itself free, living in New York for three months without a full-time job isn’t. These hacker grants are going towards making it possible for women without means to attend the school. Etsy is a site that attracts a large female audience, and it makes sense that Etsy would want to help train more female hackers, as theywould probably love more female programmers to help design features that appeal to their core audience.

This application period is over, and there are no more grants to be had. I’ll be interested to see if this lead to more female programmers at Hacking School this summer.

Some people (see the comments) are upset that these grants are female only. I don’t have an issue with that. The lack of female programmers is a real issue.

More female programmers means more good programmers, and we all benefit from that. Beyond that, too much of what gets built is male-centric or comes from companies and teams that are narrowly built. Who knows what kinds of applications could be built with more female programmers. And getting more mixed-sex teams working together on projects could have a significant impact on what is created.

#jcarn: Journalism needs more journalists that appreciate programming and technology

This is my blog post for this month’s Carnival of Journalism.

Journalism needs programmers.

Journalism needs journalists who know how to program.

Journalism needs journalists that appreciate programming.

The best gift that journalists — and by extension journalism — could get from programmers and developers doesn’t come from programmers and developers but from journalists and especially top editors. What journalism needs more of is a respect for technology and technologists. Journalism organizations need to hire more people with tech skills and to have a greater appreciation for people with tech skills. Journalism organizations especially need to hire more people with traditional journalism skills and technology skills.

But a word of caution: An appreciation for tech skills and developers doesn’t mean chasing the latest buzzwords. In fact, watching many news organizations chasing trends instead of meaningful innovation leads me to believe that there isn’t a healthy enough appreciation for technology in newsroom. There simply aren’t enough people in newsrooms with the skills to know what is worth pursuing and what isn’t.

Sometimes the best thing you build is the thing you don’t build. There are quite a few iPad news applications that come to mind.

Having an appreciation for tech skills does not mean having a team of developers in a corner of the newsroom or somewhere else in the building. It means having developers work on stories and be integral part of the action. It also means that more journalists need tech skills. These journalists don’t need computer science degrees, but it would be good if they knew some HTML, CSS and programming. It would also be good if more writers understood visual storytelling and vice versa.

Part of the issue isn’t just that newsrooms don’t have enough technologists, despite the Web being the dominant journalism platform, it’s that too many journalists don’t understand technology. Even as a writer or editor, you can work much better with a developer if you understand a little code — if you know what’s possible. Same with photography and videography. If you know how those components can compliment a story, you can work with others in your newsroom to put together better story and feature packages.

Knowing what’s possible is what newsrooms need more of. If I were to start a newsroom from the ground up, everyone would have multiple skills. All of my beatbloggers would know how to write, take photos, shoot video and do some programming. The developers would be good enough writers to write blog posts to go along with their applications. And I would want all of my employees to constantly be curious, looking for ways to make better journalism and be able to deliver it appropriately on the platforms that users want.

Training budgets are tight. I get that. That’s why I have a list of free tools and websites that journalists can use to gain a greater appreciation for programming and what developers do:

  • W3C Schools — Your first stop to learn about HTML, CSS and other Web technologies.
  • CodeAcademy — A simple website with exercises to teach you the basics of programming, programming logic and JavaScript.
  • Mozilla’s JavaScript guide — Continue your education on JavaScript.
  • HTML Boilerplate — Once you learn the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, you can use this default HTML 5 template to start building websites.
  • Computer Science 101 at Stanford — Stanford offers this class for free and the next session starts in February. Follow along and learn with others around the world. I’ve taken a few college-level computer science classes, but I’m going to test this course out and tell you what I think. It has lecture videos and quizzes. It sounds like it should be pretty good.
  • Django — Once you learn some programming, learning a framework is good idea. Think of it as programming on rails and a way to allow you to build applications and websites faster. Django and Ruby on Rails are the two popular frameworks out there. Django is probably more popular in the journalism world, while Rails is more popular overall. I’m personally working to learn Django.
All you need to get started is a good, free text editor. On OS X, I recommend TextWrangler. Eventually you may want something with more power, but that’s fine to get started. Good luck!