— words and things


I find myself in this position often these days. Stuck in a new city with no real sense of where I am. I think this is due to the fact that I still have yet to purchase a smart device to navigate me throughout these cities. This is going to change as soon as I get back to Berlin. I was scheduled to give a talk at BBC at 1300 yesterday but after I had taken the tube the wrong way I knew that I was not going to be able to make it since I was now halfway up the northern line going the wrong direction. Thankfully Andrew from the BBC is awesome and let me reschedule for later in the year.

Right about the time I informed him I was not going to make it Nicola Hughes sent me a chat and said “You should come talk at the guardian today”. I gladly accepted and off I was southbound on the northern line. I made it to kings cross which is the closest stop I could find on the tube map ( which is a beautiful piece of graphic design ) and headed north toward to guardians building. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that this place is HUGE. I came from IBM which is a massive corporation globally, but thankfully I was in a building off of the main campus and it was just a core group of about 15 of us working together. At the guardian it is just one massive open working space on three different floors. I am not convinced that I would be very productive in that type of environment due to the large about of people and distractions moving around but it was fascinating to see everyone in this huge work space.

So after having less that an hour to prepare for this talk, there I was infront of 20+ developers who were waiting for me to share something cool with them. I decided that it would be best for me to just give as many super fast lightning talks as I could introducing them to new tech or even just things I had worked on in the past. So this is an attempt to run down what I talked about in a blog post so others could hopefully find some new content or ideas from which to be inspired.

I started off talking about Mozilla’s partnership with The Living Docs Project by showing two of the projects from the original hack day I took part in at Mozilla’s offices in San Francisco that sort of proved this type of collaboration could really work. You should also checkout the Wired.com blog because they did a really great post on the hack day. During this demonstration one of the main points I wanted to get across what that all of this is so new and that most people are still not really sure how they can make video interactive or if they even want to do this. To me it is a totally new exciting way of dealing with video on the web but to some film makers it is frightening because they do not want to take away from the art of their film making. One thing I really wish to communicate to all film makers is that this type of work and collaboration between hackers and film makers is only going to add quality to the story you are trying to tell. Working with technologists is going to let you tell the story you want, while at the same time giving the user / listener / watcher ways to discover so much more related to your story or cause.

The next thing I gave a quick over view of was the work we are starting to do at Zeit Online. The thing I love most about Zeit Online is that their are no limits to what we can do. At somewhere like the BBC or The Guardian, while these are great news organizations they are massive and a bit controlled by the politics that is a reality within every day life of such a large organization. It seems to be that this is holding back the true potential of what it means to be an OpenNews fellow. I did not realize until I walked around The Guardian yesterday how lucky I am to be at a place like Zeit Online. It is not yet reached this massive scale and I get to work a long side the Editor In Chief and his posse to help them realize their vision. This is golden and it is just beginning. I am really interested to see the progress of each of the fellows at the end of this year and how much of it was truly open. With that said I was really impressed about how the Guardian is putting a lot of their development out in the open now. They have some really really smart people there doing some really amazing things. However in order to get the chance to do this work in the open they had to really push their cause to the upper management to let them do this. In the end it is just code that they are putting out. Tthey are not releasing the brains behind the code because this is where the real power lies. Code is just code and it is not the ability to solve really hard problems, more organizations should realize this and know that releasing this code is going to help others not only learn but innovate.

The next thing I talked about was the twitter streaming API and the awesome maps that being being built on top of it. I gave a demonstration of the Twittermap I worked on with one of the smartest developers I know Nate Hunzacker he uses his own version of NLP called Speakeasy to calculate the sentiment of tweets any given place in the world. In other words it is pretty freaking awesome.

After that I went on a social media rant about the google+ api but it turns out that no one at the guardian or even in all of london think that google+ is relevant to sharing data and if they do then they are in an overwhelming majority. This is not so much the case in Berlin. I see most of my colleagues at Zeit Online posting data constantly about the news in Germany. I am interested to see how this battle plays out in the coming years. Will google+ be the next google wave? They are trying to hard but failing. I had an interesting chat with a developer at the guardian yesterday who told me that they are now seeing more traffic coming from facebook shares than they are from any google search or service. The only thing I really love about google+ is the hangouts. I taught my grandma and sister how to use them so I could hang out with them back from North Carolina from Europe.

I took a few questions and that was pretty much the end of my day at the guardian. Then I went to the awesome Mozilla offices in London for our Mozilla London Office party!!!

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