Ryan Sholin, of ReportingOn and WiredJournalists, shares five tips on the Knight News Challenge blog: “How to hire developers and make technology decisions without even trying in five easy steps.”
Back in February last year, Journalism.co.uk caught up with Ryan Sholin, director of News Innovation at Publish2, about his project ReportingOn, which had received funding from the Knight News Challenge.
“I call ReportingOn ‘the backchannel for your beat,” Sholin told us.
“This isn’t about the craft of journalism – this is about the nuts and bolts of finding angles, sources, and data to bolster local news reporting.”
Today the funding from the initiative comes to an end, but that doesn’t mean ReportingOn will – in fact Sholin is gearing up for the launch of version 2.0, which will see the base of the platform, built using Django, go OpenSource
What changes are being made that will affect the user?
[Sholin] It’s an absolute re-imagining of the network. The first time out, I built it to be quite Twitter-esque in the hopes that journalists would use it like Twitter, asking questions of their followers and sharing ideas about stories they were working on. That didn’t happen organically, or if it was going to, it was going to take years.
So, with the help of a professional development and design team, we’ve rebuilt the site from the ground up, framed around the act of asking and answering questions. There’s no 140-character limit, but what you will find are lots of basic features that make sense in this sort of social network. You can ‘watch’ users, beats, or a particular question, viewing everything in an activity feed that brings you the latest questions and answers from the journalists, topics, and particular issues you’re interested in. [See Sholin’s demo of the service as it stood on June 17 below]
Why was it necessary to make these changes?
Although the first version of ReportingOn was a great proof of concept, a fun experiment, and a solid first iteration of the network, doing all the development myself didn’t produce a feature-complete, extensible codebase that I could open-source and let the community build on. I wanted to take the next step to develop a backchannel for beat reporters that could be used as is, or reproduced as a question & answer tool for any purpose, especially by a news organization.
Has this involved significant amounts of back-end work/technological change?
Most definitely. The site has been completely rebuilt. It’s still built on the Django platform, but rather than me teaching myself this style of programming in the middle of the night and at the crack of dawn to demonstrate what one curious journalist might be capable of, it was built by the professional team at Lion Burger, who are also responsible for tools like Snipt.net and recently built afeedapart.com for the popular ‘An Event Apart’ series of Web design conferences in the US.