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Task Discussion

  • John Bell   July 10, 2011, 11:37 a.m.

    Hi everybody!  I'm John Bell, a programmer/artist/teacher from almost-Canada (aka Maine, USA).  I've now spent a bit over half of my life as a primarily-online developer, going back to the days of NCSA Mosiac on Unix.  These days, though, I tend to look more at systems and knowledge than code or presentation.

    That shift in focus has led my thinking into the ideas surrounding the Learning Lab.  As I've watched people's minds get hijacked by misinformation–from many different sides–I keep thinking that there must be a way to use technology combat the GIGO problem in democracy.  I was one of those that bought into the early-Internet era ideals of freeing people by freeing information.  The network may have developed in ways that don't always hold up to those ideals, but I still believe it can help with the right combination of application and community design.

    My first real shot at working on this problem (in 2005) was Re:Poste, my submission to the contest.  It failed because I couldn't build the community it needed to be effective.  I'm hoping the Learning Lab will help me find ways to build apps that have the kind of following necessary to make an impact on the wider world instead of ending up as just another beautiful ghost town, like so many empty online communities.  I'm also hoping that some of what I learn can be folded back into the Innovative Communication Design graduate program I'm in the middle of developing so that the goals of the lab can be passed on to more students in the future.

  • Daniel Walmsley   July 10, 2011, 10:21 a.m.

    Hi everyone. My name is Dan Walmsley, and I'm an Australian currently living in New York, though I tend to travel a lot - next month is Lake Tahoe and then 9 months after that is Madison, WI (with a month in Australia in the middle).

    My sordid history is too twisted and disturbing to repeat in any kind of detail here, so I'll just try to repeat the bits that make me sound competent:

    • I have been a comedian in various guises and formats for 15 years, including a stint writing & producing my own TV show, "Planet Nerd", and was also trained by Al Gore to present "An Inconvenient Truth" in comedic formats.
    • I have been a software developer since I was 7 [C64 FTW!], writing software for meteorology, finance, pharma, and finally social entrepreneurship.
    • I spent a few years doing R&D on natural language systems for applying automated geographic and topic-clustering to news stories - probably my most relevant bit of experience.
    • I founded an online video agency called "Agent Blank", where I was the instigator and developer of, a successful online/offline community producing youth media.
    • I am currently lead developer at Purpose, building online tools for progressive causes, and next month I start a similar role on a larger scale at

    The main journalism-related areas I'm interested in as of 10:13am this morning are:

    • How to create fair and democratic content ranking/discovery systems that allow the "best" journalism to find its way to a user - beyond page-rank - things like veracity, correlation/uniqueness, readability, terseness, etc.
    • Rich user interfaces for creating and annotating media
    • How we can fairly compensate people for creating content that genuinely advances the common discourse on an issue.

    I'm interested in learning most about "real" journalism and how the web can help further its goals and revitalise the industry. 

  • Stijn Debrouwere   July 10, 2011, 9:20 a.m.

    Hi chaps! I hail from not-so-sunny Belgium, where I work as a freelance information architect. For me, that means that I try to be something in between a designer, a web developer and a business analyst.

    I'm most fascinated by some of the big, fundamental challenges of modern-day news publishing: 

    • We have print, the web, tablets, mobile, email, broadcast... all different platforms with their own strengths and weaknesses. What strategies can we use to get the most out of each?
    • The future of context and the read-state problem: how can we make sure people actually understand the stuff we're writing, provide the necessary background and introductionary material so nobody feels overwhelmed by the huge influx of information... without boring and annoying the people who have been following a story all along.
    • How can we do a better job of informing communities, and reinvigorate local journalism?
    • How do you make news websites with great findability, where you just keep on clicking and reading for hours on end, because you keep finding fascinating new stuff you just have to read. In a way, how can news sites be more like Wikipedia?

    Kind of as a counterpoint to those broad and sweeping long game concerns, lately I've become interested in finding lo-fi solutions to technical problems: how can journalists and web producers use off-the-shelf tools like Google Reader or Docs in cool news ways — perhaps with a bit of tinkering here and there to glue things together, but without having to spend months on end creating an ideal piece of software.

    You can find my open-source contributions at GitHub. I'm especially proud of Extendables, a framework for coding in Adobe InDesign.

    My main hope is that talking with and listening to so many people at the Learning Lab will give me a broader perspective on how different people think about where journalism is today, where it's headed and how we can help steer it in the right direction. Aside from that: let's just take things as they come!

  • Laura Hilliger   July 10, 2011, 7:04 a.m.

    I'm Laura, an American living in the Valley of the Uninformed (Dresden, Germany). I'm a jack of all trades (master of being a jack of all trades). I learn quickly and dabble in whatever interests me on a particular day. But what interests me every day is web stuff. I love the Internet (I'm sure you do too). I studied art then started doing design, animation and illustration, followed by UX which evolved into programming and am now doing a mismash of design, programming (front end, but I can break and fix databases too!), consulting, management and educational stuff. I see things slightly differently than most people, therefore people like hearing my opinion. I like to talk too, so that's helpful.

    I don't do work that doesn't matter to me (read as: 98% of the projects I've ever been involved in have been social justice or educational in nature. The other 2% was because I was broke.)  I am a Mozilla and Open Source contributor. And I've become somewhat of a hacktivist/community activist/edupunk - whatever buzzword you want to use.

    I want to help people understand the power of the web. I want to help people get active in the world and am of the opinion that digital literacy is the first step towards activism. Just like the printing press shifted the social fabric and literally changed our world, so can the Web.

    I'm hoping that this learning lab will better equip me (I'm pretty sure it will, have you guys seen the lineup!?) I hope that we, collaboratively, can find a way to change the way people engage with news to change passive consumption to active involvement. I hope that we can create tools that get those masses engaged:

    Civilization exists precisely so that there may be no masses but rather men alert enough never to constitute masses. Georges Bernanos

    I work open. I am open. You can read a bunch of other ramblings at

  • Laurian Gridinoc   July 10, 2011, 6:26 a.m.

    Hello, my name is Laurian Gridinoc. I'm a fast learning generalist, I do now mostly UX work and front-end development, but I'm confortable doing backend too.

    In 1998–1999 I worked as a webmaster for big newspaper chain in Romania (covering several counties in the Moldavia area of Romania and two in Transylvania, with regionals newspapers). 
    In 1999 I co-founded which became one of the top branding and interactive agencies in Romania.
    After I did a master in computational linguistics (natural language processing), in 2006 I moved to the UK, where I did two years of research in semantic web area (on ontology selection for semantic navigation) at Knowledge Media Institute (The Open University). Then I worked for one year and a half for their iTunes U and podcasting implementation.
    Now I'm at, in the education division, creating web applications that use their platform based on semantic web technologies.
    I volunteer for Mozilla as a Jetpack ambassador, and I regularly speak about creating Firefox extensions with the Mozilla Add-ons SDK (Jetpack) at various events in the UK.
    I'm interested in overlay networks over the web (especially semantic overlays); you may regard all the interlinking, commenting and remixing activities done through social networks as such overlays.
    My submissions to the contest were:
    1. The Perplex & Other Stories
    2. Video with granular addressability: segments that can be recombined, reused, skipped…
  • Miguel Angel García Ramírez   July 10, 2011, 2:52 a.m.


    I'm Miguel from Mexico and I have been a software engineer for more than ten years.

    From my point of view, news are very important because we need to be well informed in order to make good decisions; like buy a product or vote for a law or a person.

    My interests are Architecture and Implementation of a solution that can:

    • Be extensible/flexible to obtain information from different CMS used in different newsrooms.
    • Be social letting users interact not just by commenting news.
    • Let users propose news, establish relationships among events, propose facts corrections, and obtain information from different news sources.
    • Be extensible to allow display of information in different ways.

    Of course, something like this could integrate other proposals or be the foundation of them.

    I know it is going to be a great experience where we all will learn a lot, and eventually something very useful will be created

  • Jacob Caggiano   July 9, 2011, 7:56 p.m.
  • Regnard Raquedan   July 9, 2011, 7:48 p.m.


    I'm Regnard Raquedan from the Philippines, the land of awesome beaches, warm people and Manny Pacquiao.

    I'm a consultant doing user experience and online strategy (internet marketing & social media). I started as a web designer/developer and gradually moved to the UX and business side of the web-- taking my problems from design-related to people-related.

    I'm also a Mozilla volunteer and I lead the Philippine community.

    I'm doing my doctoral studies in Communications (part-time) and I'm focusing my research on online media. Hopefully, my learnings here would spur some ideas in my own research and work.

    To know more about me, you can visit my blog. I'd welcome the website traffic. :)

    I'm very optimistic that my interactions with you will be enriching and meaningful.

  • Marian Liu   July 9, 2011, 6:56 p.m.

    Hi! This is Marian Liu from Seattle, Washington. Actually, this week I'm on holiday in Barcelona, so I attempted a little video (via Flip) to introduce myself. 

    I've spent the last 10 years in various newspapers and just finished my Executive MBA - so I'm looking for ways to generate revenue for newspapers utilizing technology.

    I also direct a multimedia fellowship for college and graduate students called Voices - training professionals and students in the future of journalism.

    I look forward to meeting and learning from all of you!

  • Nicola Hughes   July 9, 2011, 4:22 p.m.

    Hello.  I’m Nicola Hughes but my online presence is DataMinerUK.  I blog and tweet about all things data journalism and am passionate about the opendata/opengov movement. I’ve studied Theoretical Physics, Zoology, Anthropology and Broadcast Journalism. I’m a recent graduate (2009). I left the warm bosom of student life kicking and screaming only to find myself looking for work during the worst recession in modern times!

    I started work at CNN International in London turning the dial of the autocue (part-time!) then last year I was made a Digital Producer by the VP, Katherine Green. In the summer of the same year I started blogging and tweeting under the DataMinerUK alias. Through it I found HacksHackers and ScraperWiki locally, and the wider global community of data diggers. At HacksHackers London the organizer, Joanna Geary from the Times, talked about how they paired a journalist and developer to work together. I decided that this is what I wanted, but when I realized this was not going to be possible at CNN, I approached ScraperWiki to ask them to teach me to code. They said yes.

    Now I liken learning to code with ScraperWiki to learning Kung Fu by going to a Buddhist temple in Nepal. In fact it’s not far off (I went from London to Liverpool!). The programmers at ScraperWiki have a pedigree in open civic data projects. Our CEO is one of the founders of MySociety. Our CTO scraped Hansard to make The Public Whip. Together they built TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow. I’m learning to scrape in order to liberate, investigate and crowdsource open data. It’s very intimidating working with such advanced programmers but I have a funny feeling it’s going to be pretty much the same here. I’ve been looking at some of your profiles then had to stop. It was just too frightening! crying

  • Charlie Pinder   July 9, 2011, 3:56 p.m.

    Hi, I'm Charlie, a developer/product manager/content managery type person. I'm techie (I've got an MSc in Computer Science), but I've also done some content/journo things. 

    bye bye sucker I've worked in new media since 1998 when I taught myself HTML & JavaScript, but have tended to focus on back end stuff since then, so I haven't got my hands dirty with JS since it got trendy or with HTML5 yet, but expect that to change in the next few weeks :).

    I've worked for the BBC on the content/editorial side (local sites), on development sides (content management systems) and in more strategic roles (multiple site management, tech refresh projects) and on a couple of research projects at Universities: a project delivering a selection of context aware apps, and a project looking at the semi-automation of multimedia annotation for news journalists.

    brum eiffel I live in slap bang in the middle of the UK in a city called Birmingham, which isn't as grim as the rest of the UK believes.

    I'm really looking forward to the course, especially to explore the capabilities of HTML5 in delivering RIAs (including delivery on mobile devices), and to examine issues of trust and reputation in news organisations in the context of  reusing user content: trust is a particularly hot topic for the media in the UK at the moment ...

    *EDIT* Oh, and my submissions to the contest were:

    1. Video Equaliser
    2. Newspool
    3. Newsbubble
  • Lucas Cioffi   July 8, 2011, 10:38 p.m.

    Hello, my name is Lucas Cioffi and I live in Washington, DC.  I'm a civic entrepreneur and on a team that is building software in the area of open government and citizen participation.

    I'm interested in hearing tips and tricks about how to create and sustain a culture of open innovation in large organizations.

    Update: I see Jacob's comment below, but I don't see a reply button (do any other non-admins see a reply button?).  Response: "Thanks for the suggestion, Jacob; I think we'll set up an instance of the software for a journalism use case as part of the learning lab.  During the submission process, several folks called for collective mind-mapping by readers as one way to move beyond commenting on news websites, so we should definitely give it a shot."

  • Jacob Caggiano   July 9, 2011, 8:50 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lucas Cioffi   July 8, 2011, 10:38 p.m.

    Welcome Lucas! Sounds groovy, need any testers?

  • Chris Keller   July 8, 2011, 10:11 p.m.

    Hi - I'm Chris K and am really excited for Monday to roll around.

    Some three years ago I left the cozy world of being a news assignment editor and found myself in the world of online content development where I knew nothing. So to arrive here feels quite satisfying. However, as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "...for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."

    Right now I work in the online department for, and am learning the role of digital audience development, and also how to map data. This has been a fantastic learning experience thus far. There is so much data and information out there that we can put in front of news consumers. It's daunting, but it's been a fun experience thus far.

    The mapping has taught me how to use javascript in a practical manner, and reinforced the programming as "three-chord" guitar song method. I'd like to learn more more practical exercises with a scripting languages like python/django and how to get a development stack up and running that takes advantage of the wonderful modules and apps that have been developed around data.

    I guess everything I've learned over the past few years has led me to here, and now I look forward to learning from all of you as a new journey begins that can only help me grow further.

    Chris K.

  • Jacob Caggiano   July 9, 2011, 8:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chris Keller   July 8, 2011, 10:11 p.m.

    Welcome Chris!

    Your intro inspired me to come up with a 3-chord song just for you all :P

    I know a bit about the deploying a 3-chord strategy when writing music, but am curious how the analogy applies to writing code?