Sep. 25, 2011

ONA11 conference: I am not alone

If I had to summarize one experience from ONA11, it'd be: I am not alone.

Some of the work things I have done in the past years seemed weird and unnatural; for example, I was a developer running a server. I did quite well, akshully, but the IT guys freaked out at the notion and balked at having to support it, if it ever took off.  Miranda Mulligan from the Boston Globe essentially said "show IT guys no mercy," suggesting that function comes before all politics. Next day, a guy from Tribune Digital said they carved out a new name for that: devops. Apparently, we had been doin it rite all along.

Secondly, what was I? A programmer, journalist, developer, data geek, PHP ninja, information maester (or my favorite, infonaut?)  My official job title stated "Web Developer" but at ONA11, I realized that there were others like me who struggled with the identity.  Final answer: we're journalists who aren't afraid of computers, information and complexity. I.E.: critical thinkers.

These limited experiences are important because they suggest there is plenty of evidence that there is a natural organic order to what we journalist-developers are, what we do, and how we do it.

One of my favorite conference sessions was an renegade Django session held on a carpeted floor by Michelle Minkoff and Heather Billings.  Thinking myself so clever, I wanted to put them to the question: why would I bother using Django  Instead, within the first three minutes they had forced me to scratch that question - and ask "Why wouldn't I bother using Django?"  (Appeal that converted me was that you can involve rest of the newsroom more easily into various projects.)

Our next big thing will be done in Django. Whether that's a good decision, time will tell.

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