All the fun stuff we’ve been up to at the Trib

The blog has been a bit quiet lately (to the disappointment of very few, I’m sure) — but we’ve been releasing apps and blogging furiously over at our team site. Here’s a roundup of our recent posts:

Tools we love to use

Development techniques and best practices we’ve discovered

Sharing our infrastructure

For links to our recent projects, and to keep up on our work, visit apps.chicagotribune.com!

We’re hiring: A UX/IA expert *and* a web designer/developer

Cross-posted from the Chicago Tribune news apps team blog

Join our team!

Requirements:

  • A passion for the news
  • An understanding of the inner workings of the web
  • Attention to detail and hatred for inaccuracy
  • A genuine and friendly disposition

Position one: User experience designer / information architect

Our team is in need of someone who will lead the design conversation. Someone who will interview stakeholders, develop personas, intuit features, arrange information, draw mockups, and everything else necessary to design a web site. You will work fast and agile, in tight iterations, and in close contact with our stakeholders — the editors and reporters of the Chicago Tribune.

You should also be ready to close the loop and put our work in front of users, take their feedback, and redesign it all — cuz that’s what you gotta do when you’re agile.

You must care deeply about usability and grok the web.

Extra points if you love to sketch, didn’t have to google ‘grok’, and don’t need an education on agile development practices.

Position two: Web designer / developer

We are also in need of a creative web designer. Someone who cuts tight, valid and semantic HTML/CSS and makes it look *hot*. Graphic design skills are a must, but we also require the ability to implement those designs. We need more than a photoshop jock. You will work fast and agile, in tight iterations, and in close contact with our stakeholders — the editors and reporters of the Chicago Tribune.

(If you’re a print designer, you’re probably not who we’re looking for, but we’ll do our best to not be prejudiced. Show us you’ve got serious web chops, and we’ll talk.)

Extra points if you have worked with Django (we’ll welcome Rails skillz too, they translate) and have built many beautiful websites.

Even more points (for both positions) if you know a thing or two about:

  • Data science (statistics, exploratory data analysis, R)
  • Information design (beautiful charts, graphs and other Tufte-geekery)
  • Building and gardening social media or crowdsourcing applications

Some days we’ll huddle and sketch with reporters, imagining ways to present information and tell their story on the web — and we might turn that story around in a day, a week or a month. Other days, we’ll develop news products that’ll take months to realize.

Either way, we work fast and lean, relying heavily on frameworks, and following agile best practices. It’s fun.

Things we’ve built lately:

Gear you’ll get:

  • One shiny, new MacBook Pro (or an iMac, if you’d prefer)
  • One CDM (Cheap Dell Monitor)
  • One comfy Aeron chair
  • …all at a desk somewhere in the Tribune newsroom, where you’ll be surrounded by reporters arguing with the cops, yelling about the ball game, telling crazy stories, and otherwise practicing their trade.

There is no free pop, pinball or posh cafeteria.

But, you’ll like what you do. You’ll come to work energized, and leave satisfied that you’ve done something that will make your mom proud. You’ll have held our government accountable, spoken truth to power, given voice to the voiceless, and contributed to the public good.

Beat that, Google.

Interested? Email your info to newsapps@tribune.com. Thanks!

Hacker wanted: Code in the public interest, save journalism, in sunny Chicago, Illinois

UPDATE: We’ve filled the position, but may be hiring more soon.
If this looks like your dream job, please send an email anyway. :)

Cross-posted from our new team blog:

We’re looking for a great hacker to join our team at the Chicago Tribune.

Requirements:

  • A passion for the news
  • An understanding of the inner workings of the web
  • Attention to detail and hatred for inaccuracy
  • A genuine and friendly disposition

And, of course…

  • Bad-ass programming skills and a love for the craft of making software

Tools we use (and thus, tools we hope you might know a thing or two about — if you don’t, that’s okay, but please explain yourself):

  • HTML/CSS
  • Python
  • Django
  • PostgreSQL
  • PostGIS
  • Ubuntu Linux + Amazon EC2

Our team is composed of generalists: We all write GUI code, mine data and manage servers. You ought to be equally comfortable wearing many hats. That said, we’ve all got our specialities, and would love to find a team member with a superpower which none of us already possess. Something like…

  • Data science (statistics, exploratory data analysis, R)
  • Information design (beautiful charts, graphs and other Tufte-geekery)
  • Maintaining high-performance web sites (cuz we’re gonna get serious traffic)
  • Building and gardening social media or crowdsourcing applications

You’ll work closely with reporters on the investigative and city desks, helping them research and present their work. Sometimes you’ll be screen scraping, mucking with data, visualizing and exploring information, and seeking truth. Other days, we’ll huddle and sketch with reporters, imagining ways to present information and tell stories on the web.

Sometimes we’ll knock out an application in a day, other times it’ll take a few weeks. Either way, we work fast and lean, relying heavily on frameworks, and following agile best practices. It’s fun.

Things we’ve built lately:

Folks you’ll work with:

Gear you’ll get:

  • One shiny, new MacBook Pro
  • One CDM (Cheap Dell Monitor)
  • One comfy Aeron chair
  • …all at a desk somewhere in the Tribune newsroom, where you’ll be surrounded by reporters arguing with the cops, yelling about the ball game, telling crazy stories, and otherwise practicing their trade.

There is no free pop, pinball or posh cafeteria.

But, you’ll like what you do. You’ll come to work energized, and leave satisfied that you’ve done something that will make your mom proud. You’ll have held our government accountable, spoken truth to power, given voice to the voiceless, and contributed to the public good.

Beat that, Google.

Interested? Email your info to newsapps@tribune.com. Thanks!

Sex offenders: Your tweets (and LinkedIn and TimesPeople) are now a felony

Required qualifying statement: if you’re a sex offender, you’ve likelypossibly (as pointed out by Asim, a recent piece in The Economist suggests that sex criminals in the U.S. are often victims of our screwed-up laws) done something very bad, and of which I do not, in any way, approve. That said, I’m pretty sure you still have a few rights…

As reported in the Chicago Tribune today, social networking is now a felony for many Illinois residents:

One law taking effect Jan. 1 makes it a felony for registered sex offenders to use social networking sites, a move aimed at taking another step toward shutting down an avenue of contact between an offender and victim.


The bill
defines social networking as such:

13 		    (h) "Social networking website" means an Internet website
14 		containing profile web pages of the members of the website that
15 		include the names or nicknames of such members, photographs
16 		placed on the profile web pages by such members, or any other
17 		personal or personally identifying information about such
18 		members and links to other profile web pages on social
19 		networking websites of friends or associates of such members
20 		that can be accessed by other members or visitors to the
21 		website. A social networking website provides members of or
22 		visitors to such website the ability to leave messages or
23 		comments on the profile web page that are visible to all or
24 		some visitors to the profile web page and may also include a
25 		form of electronic mail for members of the social networking
26 		website.

Sure, it seems right to stop violent criminal perverts from poking around MySpace, but every damned site on the web is integrating social networking features nowadays. Is it offensive to the public interest if a sex offender shares an article on TimesPeople? What about LinkedIn? Do sex offenders not deserve a place to post their resume?

Or, what about a social network devoted to sex offenders trying to rehabilitate? If there isn’t a Ning for this already, there sure oughta be.

This is bad legislation. Sex criminals have rights too, and this law effectively bans them from the Web.

Old friends! Ripoffs! Hateful comments! — A media blitz roundup

Invisible airwaves, crackle with life…

I don’t write about it much here, but I love the radio. NPR is my primary daily news source. So, I was totally geeked when Here and Now asked me to be on their program. And through the magic of editing, I think I managed to sound pretty alright!

(You know how, when someone gets under your skin, but you’re so worked up all you can say is “Oh yeah? Well, your momma!”? And then later, when the moment is gone forever, your brain catches up and comes up with all sorts of erudite, polysyllabic arguments? Radio is like that.)

Best part about the radio bit? All the old friends who emailed me after they heard the program, including one of my favorite high school English teachers. Dunno if/when the web will have that kind of reach. Love.

“…part of a hegemonic institutional perspective that is glaringly…”

Back online, my Hackers wanted! bit on O’Reilly Radar got a lot of attention, mostly hating on journalism and grumbling about needing a bachelors degree before pursuing a masters degree. But I’m hopeful that the message got through to a few programmers who want to make the world a better place.

In retrospect, I should have probably explained the importance of journalism in a democratic society, and ceded that yes, journalism is mostly broken right now, but this is our opportunity to fix it. Hindsight. Le sigh. If you’re into it, check the comment threads on the original post, and the nerdy aggregators that picked it up:

S’pose if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re doing it wrong. Right?

Rich Gordon, the fella who decided it was a good idea to bring coders to J-school, wrote a response on Idea Lab including an interview with my new boss, Digital Editor at the Chicago Tribune, Bill Adee.

I even got ripped off completely by Tech Crunch, where fellow Medill alum Leena Rao summarized my post and completely failed to mention where she got the brilliant idea — eliciting 85 comments. Thanks for not linking!! Love!

Got a job

Next week, my internship at ProPublica will end. The chance to work here was an extraordinarily lucky break, and I can say without reservation that this is the best job I’ve ever had. Never before have I worked with so many brilliant, interesting, and damn nice people.

I love living in New York, and am disappointed to be leaving so soon. The Grand Army Plaza green market just turned from great to brilliant, and I only had my first, proper NYC pastrami on rye this week.

So it’s somewhat bittersweet to announce that in a couple of weeks, I’ll be leaving NYC and returning to my adopted hometown, sunny Chicago, Illinois.

The World’s Greatest Newspaper

In June I’ll start my first full-time journalism gig, as the News Applications Editor at the Chicago Tribune. The team I’ll be leading will be a new one, composed of programmers and investigative journalists, and we’ll be building news applications in conjunction with the Trib’s fantastic investigative team.

Specifically what we’ll make, I don’t know, but I anticipate building a wide variety of data-driven web applications to visualize data and present investigative stories online. (If only the PolitiFact crew hadn’t set the bar so high…)

For the nerds in the audience

What I do know is that we’ll be using Python, Django and lots of other open-source tools. Chicago has quietly become a very important place in the open-source world — the Second City is home to both Django and Ruby on Rails, the two hottest web frameworks — and I’m committed to making the Chicago Tribune a contributing member of the community.

If you haven’t figured it out yet — I’m geeked. This’ll be fun.

So, adios, City That Never Sleeps. The City That Works is calling me home.