One of the standing features of Knight’s Future of News and Civic Media conference is an award for collaborations that arise during the conference. And one winner this year was Hacks/Hackers — the journalists-and-programmers Meetup-group-turned-veritable-movement — and Mozilla, the open-source-oriented nonprofit. Together, the two groups will create a course through Peer-to-Peer University, with the aim of collective eduction: the hackers teaching the journos, and vice versa.
“We thought this was a perfect fit with Hacks and Hackers,” says Burt Herman, the group’s founder. “We have journalists teaching technology people about what that is, and the technology people teaching journalists.” The class furthers that mission, he told me. “I think everybody is coming more and more to the realization that you need both sides of this to make something that works. It’s about great reporting, great writing, photos, video, content — coupled with amazing technology and innovation to help reporting and to present this to audiences.”
The class will be a six-week commitment, with one hour a week of lectures and one project. It will cover a broad range of topics, and instructors will (tentatively) include NYT interactive guru and Hacks/Hackers honcho Aron Pilhofer, Amanda Hickman (teaching about mapping), and David Cohn (instructing students on online collaboration). “And we’ve talked to a bunch of other Knight News Challenge winners about doing classes each week on data journalism, on online collaboration, on new business models for news,” Herman says. So “we’re looking forward to getting some interesting people…doing some training. Which people have definitely asked for — on both sides.”
So what’s the ultimate goal — of the course, and of Hacks/Hackers more broadly? “The vision for Hacks and Hackers is to go beyond just Meetups, and to have people collaborating and doing things,” Herman says. (See, for example, last month’s KQED Hackathon, through which developer/journo teams built 12 new iPad apps in a period of 48 hours.) “Maybe people start companies out of these collaborations, maybe this is where new news organizations are born, or ideas that can help feed innovation,” Herman says. “Because it’s sort of outside any one news organization, that means we have the freedom to do what we want to — and that’s really what you need to innovate.”