“The Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership is all about producing kick-ass open-source code, recipes, and ideas to solve real problems, in real newsrooms, with real teams. We do this by tapping into communities of journalists and developers, and getting them to design, invent, and learn with us. And also by deploying fellows into news organizations that have a culture of innovation and resonance in their space.” — Dan Sinker, Knight-Mozilla Partnership program lead
Twenty #MozNewsLab graduates are arriving in Berlin this week to take part in a four-day event that we’re calling #Hacktoberfest. This is the third stage of a search for the five individuals who will become the first Knight-Mozilla fellows.
The search started with an open innovation challenge that was taken up by more than 200 people. Sixty challenge entrants were invited to the #MozNewsLab — an experimental online learning lab that engaged luminaries from both journalism and software development. Twenty individuals from the lab were invited to come together in Berlin this week, and five of them will head into newsrooms this fall on a one-year fellowship.
The four-day code sprint in Berlin comes on the heels of a successful hack day in Boston, which was part of the Online News Association’s annual conference. The six-hour hack day — organized primarily by Matt Carroll from the Boston Globe (who’s also organizing the Boston chapter of Hacks/Hackers) and Chrys Wu, the self-described “Hacks/Hackers global coordinator” — was attended by 50 participants. The only direction provided to the Boston hack day participants was “solve a news challenge in six hours using software.”
If the event itself was only judged on the output produced in those six short hours, it’s safe to say that it was a success. Several teams presented to a panel of judges, and four winners were selected based on the criteria “Most Practical,” “Most Intriguing,” “Most Visually Appealing,” and “Most Clever/Original.” The projects ranged from practical tools for reporters like Matt Perry’s PDFSpy (a tool that monitors government websites for changes in documents) and the Interactive Bar Chart Generator, to visual representations of large datasets like Andy Carvin’s tweet archive and historic gasoline purchases for the country of Argentina. (You can watch a short video summary of the event here).
How you can plug in
These two models — learning by making and making at the core of learning — are at the center of the idea of “Mozillians as inventors.” They are proving successful to the point that they’ve weaved their way into the fabric of the upcoming Mozilla Festival. The festival will feature a series of design jams, learning labs, and Human APIs at the core of its Maker-Hacker-focused agenda.
Mozilla is going to take yet another shot at refining the format — specifically, in-person events focused on “solving news challenges” — by running a hack day with the Online Association of Publishers UK in mid-October that will explore how HTML5 can create better on-screen reading experiences.
All that to say: If you’re passionate about the intersection of journalism, technology, and maker-culture, Mozilla wants you to plug into these experiments. We also want to plug into your events and communities to inject a healthy dose of hands-on making and building.
To get plugged in, consider coming to the Mozilla Festival in London (Nov. 4-6), or the AOP UK hack day, Oct. 13-14, or — at minimum — join the MoJo mailing list for updates on future events and opportunities to get involved.
You can also follow along with the #Hacktoberfest — Sept. 26-29 — on Twitter.