— words and things

opening die zeit online

WHOOOOAAAA! I need to put my foot on the “digital brake” for a second to slow down enough to write up a synopsis of the past 6 months ( mostly because the resilient Dan Sinker is forcing me too, it is much needed either way ). Since I last posted here I have been around the world ( thrice ) and back. I have had the privilege to have hacked along side some genius at the New York Times Open Hack at the NYTimes Headquarters, The Living Docs Hack Day in San Fransisco at the Mozilla Offices ( which has one of the best views [ fast forward to minute one if you want to see it ] I have ever seen at an office ), Hacktoberfest In Berlin and the  Mozilla Festival in London. I want to recap a little bit of what I have been up to since I made the move from my away from IBM family back in Raleigh, North Carolina — where some really cool server technology is being created by some of the smartest people I have ever met as part of IBM’s smarter planet initiative focused on networking and the cloud.

As much as I want to tell you about my moving experience ( you can read more about my first day in Berlin if you wish ) and the crazy fun nights I have had in the city so far ( omg! berlin! ), I am going to skip all of that and give you an overview of my experience ( so far ) with the news partner Zeit Online and how excited I am to be working along side their futurist media visionaries over the next 10 months. It did not take long for them to summon me to their offices. Officially I do not start working with them until March 1, but unofficially I was working with them 48 hours after I hit the ground in Berlin.

They have had a very long time to plan and to brain storm internally, so they were very very prepared. Luckily I had been prepared to counter their preparedness. Armed with multiple machines, iPods, iPads and an extreme amount of awesome code within them all as well as extreme ideas. I was ready to blow their minds with what I planned to bring to their organization. The cool thing about this fellowship is that there is no command structure really when it comes to what can  or must be done. The knight foundation and mozilla are just putting faith in all the news fellows to do whatever it is needs to be done to make the future of journalism. I am coming in with my ideas, merging them with the news partners and then building everything in the open on github. I had someone ask me “Who is your boss?” I replied with “No one and nothing more than inspiration, focus flow and the mighty unyielding wrath of Dan Sinker’s beard.” ( imagine the looks that response invoked ). The even cooler thing about this fellowship is that we are all in it together, openly, on the same level working along side one another to help each other reach what we decide are our mutual goals and we do that the best we can with the tools we have or the tools that we create. It does not matter if you are the editor in chief or the intern, if you have big ideas then bring it and lets take it from idea to prototype as fast and efficient as possible.

Not only do we have plans to build tools that the news arena has never seen before, we plan to open source them all so every other news organization can take advantage of the blood sweat and beers we have put into them. We are basing the majority of these tools around the social media atmosphere and putting the consumers first, giving them full control of what they see and share. We are also building tools to redefine how news organizations understand comments internally to help better understand what people are talking about within their site. We want to help users of news media not only better understand what is happening from a news perspective but also how the users can have a massive impact on how that news gets shared. When we as consumers share news from places like Zeit, the BBC or the Guardian — we are sharing it exclusively with our network. A network that we ( from a news organiztion as well as user perspective ) may not understand fully. Over the next few months we are going to help news publishers as well as news consumers better understand the networks that are reading and sharing media worldwide. We will do this by diving head first into these networks and analyzing them for many things.

I have given you a very high level view of what we have been discussing, drawing on the white boards and building in our Berlin offices. I understand — Talk is cheap. I am currently in Hamburg at the other Zeit offices meeting all the brains behind the front and back end development. Soon ( and very soon ) you will have working code that you can fork, manipulate and use as your own within your news company. I am going into this with the idea that these tools cannot be built exclusively for Zeit Online, they must be scalable for all institutions. They tools I am working on will be very well commented and as generic as possible to allow for optimal merge and simple manipulation. This means more work on my end, but the reward will be multiplied by the hard work and focus that I have already started capitalizing on. The energy that is being produced by the merging of ideas here at Zeit Online is awe inspiring and will be enough to keep anyone excited about what we are forging here. Stay tuned to the openNews blogs ( if you do not have us in your RSS feed you are already falling behind ) as well as my counterpart fellows through out news rooms all over the world. Also hop in the bi-monthly open news calls where we discuss what is going down in own news rooms. You do not want to miss what we are doing because I believe that it is going to make a huge difference and help to shape the future of the news media not only within Germany but all around the world.

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