Just… Holy shit. This place is awesome. I don’t really know how else to describe the awesomicity [new word I just made up to mean the scale of awesomeness] of the 2013 NICAR conference.
And I truly mean awe-inspiring, not just the filler adjective that my generation uses when they can’t think of something else to say.
Where to begin?
For the past few years I have struggled to reconcile my various interests: journalism (specifically visual journalism), computer science and entrepreneurship. Here, they all come together into a beautiful mess of traditional journalists looking to go digital, coders who like telling stories and innovators looking for someone to listen. It really is beautiful to see the breadth of ideas and inspiration that currently surround me.
We (Ali, Ryan and myself) got in a few days ago and have been staying at the Econo Lodge (you’re welcome JMC). Kat and Fish (our T.A. and professor) got in the same day but have been doing their own things. The conference kicked off on Thursday and boy, what fun it’s been.
Right off the bat I got a swift kick in the ass from Chase Davis on what computer-assisted reporting (CAR) really is. He spoke on algorithms and programs I had never even heard of. R and Tableau and D3 and this and that.
While the methods may have escaped me the over-arching concepts stuck. One has to converse with the data because data waste sucks. So often we pull little bits and pieces and miss the bigger picture, which is why data visualization is so important.
I learned all about free and cheap data viz tools from simple infogr.am to cascading tree sheets.
Yesterday I learned about SQLite and databases. By the end of the day I had Sequel Pro installed on my laptop and I was in search of some CSVs.
And the lightning talks, oh the lightning talks. The five minute pitches to try and spread an idea were hilarious and thoughtful all at one time.
Today I spent time talking about how baseball stats can apply to banking and how drones will change the face of sports (Thanks Matt Waite)
I just got back from a lunch with Andy Boyle that really deserves it’s own blog post, but I was afraid that might be a little too much. Boyle is a News Applications Developer at the Chicago Tribune. No big deal.
“I get to solve cool problems all day,” Boyle said in regards to his job. “And people think I’m a wizard.”
The bearded Nebraska-native clarified a lot in the realm of databases and CAR, as well as triggering numerous ideas for the CU Independent.
One thing he said was that, right now, our taste is better than our talent. By that, he meant that we know what looks good and we want to do work like that but we don’t have the skills to do so, at least right now.
The solution? “Just make shit.”
The only way we would be able to grow as CARers is to just start doing stuff. That’s also how we get jobs.
I would be remiss to not mention some new-found friends from Ohio University. They were the ones who invited us to lunch with Boyle. Good folks.
Ah, but now I have to run to some of the final sessions of the conference. There is still one night left but tomorrow morning I’ll be on my way back to Colorado.
Many thanks to JMC and Fish for allowing me the opportunity to come out and participate. I’ve had a swell time.