Mark Boas, Cole Gillespie, Nicola Hughes, Dan Schultz, and Laurian Gridinoc on the deck of the MIT Media Lab, June 2012
This week, each of the 2012 Knight-Mozilla Fellows told stories of what they’ve been up to during their time as Fellows. Each story captures both the unique experiences of each Fellow, but also captures their singular personality. And each story is a captivating reason for why you, with just a week to apply, should join their ranks as a 2013 Knight-Mozilla Fellow.
For Mark Boas, who has been working with Al Jazeera English, he writes that his time as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow has meant getting his work in front of new audiences and for leaning the discipline that comes with deadline-based development:
There is great opportunity to innovate and see your experiments incarnate on websites that get very many eye-balls and of course get all that lovely feedback. And when I say lovely I don’t mean complimentary I just mean that all feedback is lovely even when it is negative and the more you get – the better. In fact, I think one of the most important things you can do when publishing to a site like AlJazeera.com is measure the usage in as much detail as possible. Certainly for me it’s not often that I will be able to collect so many stats on things that I have had a hand in making.
The unpredictable and somewhat transient nature of current affairs also presents tremendous opportunities. One of the projects I’m working on is an interactive slide-show that displays a series of slowly zoomed images to a YouTube soundtrack. I had just got a rough proof of concept together when my colleague mentioned they had some fresh photos and an audio soundtrack from Syria and that they wanted to create an audio-slide show from it to go live the next day. Frantic hacking of code and content ensued but we got it out in time. I wrote in my last post that situations like these are an opportunity to hone your shipping skills and a good exercise in delivering the minimum viable product.
Nicola Hughes, who has been embedded with the Guardian’s Interactive News team, writes of the boundaries she’s pushed and the distance she’s come as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow:
So what have I got to say? A young woman of colour, trained in broadcast journalism, who had never used the command line until this year. From the very beginning I felt I had the least to offer the OpenNews programme. I never thought I would get it. I was enticed to participate by the various rounds in the competition. As a fledgling programmer, I loved hackdays. Being able to connect with those at the edge of digital journalism and those interested in the field was reward enough.
But I did win and here I am. So what have I done? I have advanced my skills beyond what I could have done on my own. I am more comfortable with the strategies of data digging and programming. I know what skills I want to add. But most of all I know I should be here and I deserve to be here. Not as Nicola Hughes or DataMinerUK but as an OpenNews fellow. And by ‘here’ I don’t mean The Guardian or the OpenNews programme. ‘Here’ is web-making, data-digging and story-building in the open.
A big part of this resolution to create, innovate and take news beyond the written word is my fellow fellows. I feel truly blessed to know such creative, talented and forward-thinking individuals. This has been a big benefit to me and one I will take beyond the fellowship.
Cole Gillespie, who moved to Berlin from North Carolina to be a fellow at Zeit Online, punctuates his reflection with photos from “the best year of my life,” as he writes: