Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Serial meets The X-Files in Limetown, a fictional podcast drawing raves after just one episode
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 24, 2012, 11 a.m.
Reporting & Production

Context, code, and community: Source is one-stop shopping for newsroom developers

The website finally centralizes a loose but vibrant community of news coders.

A lot of newsroom developers are doing good work, and part of that good work is talking about their work. See ProPublica, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and the Chicago Tribune for a few examples.

Source logoThere is a loose community of code-savvy journalists sharing code, working through problems over Twitter, and meeting up at at meetups. “What there isn’t, right now, is a place for people to look at all of those code projects next to each other,” said Erin Kissane, who is part of the team running the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project.

“There’s not really a central place for…journo-coders to go into really geeky details about the projects they’re working on, outside of the handful of journo-code blogs,” she told me.

Erin KissaneThe remedy is Source, a new site meant to bring these wandering journonerds together under one roof. Kissane, the editor, has unveiled a development version of Source, with plans for a full launch in a month or so. She hopes people will begin contributing code samples, tutorials, and instructive articles about their own projects. Ryan Pitts, a developer at The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review built the site.

“Context, code, and community” is how Dan Sinker, the OpenNews director, describes the project. He and Kissane met with developers in newsrooms to understand what they yearn for most. The biggest request was for an index of code repositories, like a specialized GitHub for journalism. You’ll find a Ruby client for interacting with The New York Times’ Campaign Finance API; a JavaScript library from The Guardian that helps manage the datasets behind visualizations; and TimelineSetter, a ProPublica app that turns ugly spreadsheets into pretty timelines.

The site pulls live data from GitHub repositories, displaying who’s working on which projects and what’s changed. You’ll be able to search for all projects by a particular person, organization, or topic (say, campaign finance or crime tracking). The plan is to be able to add repositories from other networks, too.

Source is a full embrace of the “show your work” ethos — second-nature for open-source software makers, but novel for newsrooms. The whole idea is to get news organizations sharing their code and make it easy for others — even competitors — to steal that code and make it better.

“I think that there’s real work to be done in advocating for, shining a spotlight on, and helping to generate community around the code that’s being written in journalism,” Sinker wrote in first describing his idea last year. “Because the more community that can be built, the better the code is and the better off journalism is because of it.”

Kissane said being open source is not a requirement for inclusion in the Source database, however. Developers are also welcome to post portions of otherwise closed-source projects to the site.

POSTED     July 24, 2012, 11 a.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Serial meets The X-Files in Limetown, a fictional podcast drawing raves after just one episode
“Serial had to stay nonfictional. At the end of the show, it didn’t necessarily mean that it had a conclusion. That’s the biggest advantage we have: We’re making it up. So we can give you an ending.”
The Atlantic is returning to blogging
“We missed the kind of writing it represents. We missed the kind of audience engagement it represents.”
The mourning of AJR is less about a decline in press criticism than the loss of an institution
Like the media it covers, journalism criticism has moved from the work of a few established institutions to something more diffuse.
What to read next
2351
tweets
The New York Times built a Slack bot to help decide which stories to post to social media
The bot, named Blossom, helps predict how stories will do on social and also suggests which stories editors should promote.
1287Jo Ellen Green Kaiser: Do independent news outlets have a blind spot when it comes to ethnic media?
The head of the Media Consortium argues that, by defining themselves in opposition to mainstream media, independent progressive outlets miss out on the power of ethnic and community journalism.
1029Newsonomics: 10 numbers on The New York Times’ 1 million digital-subscriber milestone
Digital subscribers are proving to be the bedrock of the Times’ business model going forward. How much more room is there for growth — and at what price points?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Windy Citizen
Foreign Policy
Las Vegas Sun
The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
CBS News
Dallas Morning News
Byliner
The Awl
Twitter
News Corp
West Seattle Blog