NICAR 2016 banner
The short link to this list is (case sensitive).

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Presentations & Tutorials

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Software & Tools

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

References & Other Resources from NICARians

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Lighting Talks

  • I Improved My Math Fluency, And So Can You slides (Ryann Grochowski Jones)
  • Solve Every Statistics Problem with One Weird Trick slides (Jonathan Stray)
  • Let lookup save you from the boring, repetitive work you’ve forgotten you’re even doing slides (Chris Groskopf)
  • Automation in the newsroom slides (Ariana Giorgi)
  • Regular Regular Expression Exercises for Regular People slides (Dan Nguyen)
  • Map tiles are dead; Long live (vector) tiles! slides (Ken Schwencke)
  • How to read 52 books in 52 weeks slides (Nicole Zhu)
  • What I learned working on Failure Factories slides (Adam Playford)
  • Let’s Talk About the Future of Interactive News Content slides (Gregor Aisch)
  • Cats and Stats slides (Jennifer LaFleur)

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Work Samples

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

For previous years’ tutorials, videos, presentations and tips see the lists from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

NICAR 2015 banner
The short link to this list is (case sensitive).

Consider donating to IRE
Investigative Reporters and Editors logoThis is the fifth anniversary of my NICAR Links List! If you’ve found the lists helpful, consider donating some money to IRE to help them continue training people and bringing NICAR to you. Donate today. You know you want to.

And now, on to business…
It’s back! The annual collection of presentations, tutorials, and resources from IRE’s CAR conference. This year’s event comes to you from Atlanta, March 5 – 8. Keep up with the chatter on Twitter at #NICAR15.

For attendees, IRE has created an schedule in The Guidebook app (iOS, Android & Web). Very helpful for planning the tactical mission known as “managing your time.”

Jeremy Singer-Vine also created CSV & JSON outputs of the schedule, along with the Python scraper to DIY. And there’s a Google spreadsheet with all the sessions. Awesome.

If you’re presenting at NICAR and would like this list to include your resource (presentation, tutorial repo, etc.), please send it using this form, or ping me on Twitter @MacDiva.

If you’re looking for a job, IRE keeps a list of open positions as does Knight-Mozilla OpenNews at Source Jobs. If you’re specifically interested in data visualization jobs, look here.

California Code Rush 2015And finally, NICAR in the Peach State will see its first California Code Rush. The Golden State’s campaign finance and lobbying database is online, and the California Code Rush aims to make the data easier to download, review and republish. It’s an open source project with lots of opportunities to help.

For previous years’ tutorials, videos, presentations and tips see the lists from 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Presentations & Tutorials

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Software & Tools

  • Tarbell – Google spreadsheets-based website publishing tool
  • Landsat-ul: A utility to search, download and process Landsat 8 satellite imagery
  • JPL’s SMAP Viewer (SMAP is “Soil Moisture Active Passive” satellite imaging)
  • Plotly – graph and share your data
  • Plug Tableau into Excel with Tableau’s Reshaper
  • Bokeh Python interactive visualization library
  • markdowneyjr turns Markdown into JSON for slightly easier copyediting of data files
  • tracks website page changes and notifies you.
  • The New York Times graphics desk’s ai2html changes Adobe Illustrator files into HTML & CSS | example output
  • The New York Times graphics desk’s ArchieML – a structured text format optimized for human writability
  • Minezy email exploration tool (prototype by T. Christian Miller)
  • TimelineCurator works with TimelineJS to extract temporal references in freeform text to generate a visual timeline
  • The Upshot’s Bedfellows command-line tool for exploring the PAC donor-recipient relationship

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

References & Other Resources from NICARians

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Lighting Talks

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Work Samples

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References & Additional Resources | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Photo by Cory M. GrenierLast week, PBS MediaShift invited me to answer some questions about teaching visualization for its #EdShift Twitter chat. I was part of a virtual panel that included Meredith Broussard (Temple University), Alberto Cairo (University of Miami), Hannah Fairfield (The New York Times), Susan McGregor (Columbia University) and Molly Steenson (University of Wisconsin-Madison; Go Badgers). Katy Culver, MediaShift’s education curator, moderated.

The compiled Q&A is on MediaShift’s website. Some of my tweeted answers were a bit longer than what was captured, so I’m putting them in paragraph form here, lightly edited for typos and readability. My answers may be a bit stilted due to the constraints of tweeting in 140-character bursts.

We should teach dataviz in J-schools (and other schools as well) because it’s a valuable way to tell people information. Dataviz is most powerful when it elicits emotion and understanding, and makes people remember information.

When first starting out, I think the challenge is getting data that’s relatively clean and easy to understand, so students can focus on the examination/inquiry tasks of data visualization.

Lots of universities collect cleanish datasets, e.g.: University of Edinburgh School of Informatics, Stanford Network Analysis Project (SNAP), and the Open Science Data Cloud public datasets. And one of my favorite data scientists, Hilary Mason, has a collection of research-quality datasets.

For students/dataviz novices, I’d suggest using datasets for things students are already familiar with. Familiar datasets let students dive into analysis and examination without having to climb a high hurdle of subject expertise they don’t yet have. As the analysis and examination techniques become more familiar, start using less familiar and dirtier (messed up, error-laden, not normalized) datasets.

I love museums & I find museum datasets interesting. Do a web search for “museum collection dataset” & you’ll find things like Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum science and design dataset and the Canadian Museum of Nature collection data. There are many more museum APIs and datasets on this wiki.

With regard to data visualization tools… Honestly? OpenRefine and Microsoft Excel. They’re not flashy, but OpenRefine is the most useful tool available for cleaning and exploration. And Excel a workhorse. Can’t afford an Excel license? LibreOffice will serve you well.

Hannah Fairfield recommended this New York Times lesson plan by Shannon Doyne, Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Katherine Schulten, and I do to. It’s a great resource.

I’d also suggest looking at WTF Visualizations and asking students to point out what’s wrong.

The biggest mistake? Assuming everything you need to know is held within the dataset itself.

It’s important to remember that data collection is often skewed in some way. Sometimes it’s maliciously. More often not. Regardless, always ask yourself questions not just about the data, but who gathered it, how it was gathered, why it was gathered, and what other data or information might complement, enhance or refute the dataset you have.

(Question 7 was directed to Alberto, so we move on to question 8…)

You could look at the “should it be interactive” or not question a few ways:

1) “Should it move?”
Things that move tend to get a lot of attention. But are you making things move for movement’s sake? Don’t bother.

2) “Does it serve the story well to be presented as a slow reveal?”
Perhaps. For example, look at “Riding the New Silk Road,” which allows the reader to concentrate on the story, be pulled through the narrative, and understand geographic location all at once.
Riding the New Silk Road

3) “Does the dataviz have something ‘about me’ in it that’s important to discover?”
If it does, then yes, make it interactive. Take for example, this piece on “The Jobless Rate for People Like You.
The Jobless Rate for People Like You

I’d highly recommend that people interested in data vizualization also work through John Foreman’s “Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight.” It’s readable and practical, and will teach you great techniques for analyzing data. John is Mailchimp’s chief data scientist.

(Photo: Cory M. Grenier/Flickr)

NICAR14 The short link to this list is (case sensitive).

Almost 1,000 people registered for the annual Computer Assisted Reporting conference this year, making it the biggest NICAR ever. Thanks again to Stephen Stirling and Frederick Kaimann of the New Jersey Star-Ledger for creating NICAR bingo with code lent by WNYC.

Make note: NICAR 2015 will be March 5–8 in Atlanta.

This is a collection of all the practical knowledge journalists specializing in investigative reporting shared in four days. It is a lot and deep learning takes time, so consider this your archive.

If you went to the conference, Matt Waite has some good advice for how to make the most of the enthusiasm and frenzied exhaustion you’re feeling immediately after coming home. I strongly suggest you not only read it, but take it to heart. Especially the kicker.

Have session materials? Send me email or ping me on Twitter @MacDiva and I’ll add them to this list.

If you’re looking for a job, IRE keeps a list of open positions and OpenNews Source just launched their jobs list. If you’re specifically interested in data visualization jobs, look here.

For previous years’ tutorials, videos, presentations and tips see the lists from 2013, 2012 and 2011.

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Presentations & Tutorials

Make your first news app (from Ben Welsh)
Build maps with leaflet and mapbox.js (from Becca Aaronson)
Creating maps: principles, mistakes, and potential (from Noah Veltman & Tom MacWright)
• Excel Magic class handout and Excel data (from MaryJo Webster)
• 50 ideas 50 minutes handout (from MaryJo Webster)
Maps and Charts in R: Real Newsroom Examples (from Matt Waite)
Intro to MySQL tutorial materials (from Liz Lucas)
PostGIS + CartoDB (from Michael Keller & Andrew Hill)
Demystifying D3, an intro to the grammar of graphics (from Alastair Dant)
Introduction to D3.js (from Irene Ros)
Demystifying d3.js Workshop (from Irene Ros)
Everyday Scripting (from Agustin Armendariz)
Amazon Cloud Basics (from Scott Klein)
• Grabbing Data from Websites: tips & tricks (from Scott Klein)
Intro to Tableau (from Jewel Loree)
• SQLite from the Command Line slides & GitHub repo (from Matt Kiefer)
Working with NPR’s Apps Template (from Tyler Fisher)
Insight and Enlightenment and an expansion on data, patternicity and biases (from Alberto Cairo)
• Notes from The Data-Driven Story (from Stephen Suen)
• Data-Driven Story: Putting the Package Together slides (from Maud Beelman)
Love Your Life, Retire Your Servers (from Andy Boyle & Tasneem Raja
Getting Started with Excel (from Helena Bengtsson)
NodeXL for Network Analysis (from Peter Aldhous)
• Investigating Racial Inequality in Your Region Presentation | Tipsheet (from Lawrence Lanahan)
Mapping 1: displaying geographical data with QGISHands (from Peter Aldhous)
Mapping 2: Manipulating geographical data with QGIS (from Peter Aldhous)
Counting and Summing with SQL (from Andrea Fuller)
Digging online for global data (from Jonathan Stoneman)
Mining the Census for Every Beat (from Ronald Campbell)
• Census I: Must-have data for every beat slides & handout (from Paul Overberg)
• Census I: Crunching Census Commuting Data handout (from Mike Maciag)
• Census II: slides (from Paul Overberg)
• Data Deep Dive I handout (from Paul Overberg)
Free CAR Tools (from Matt Wynn & Martin Burch)
• Harnessing the Power of the Crowd presentation (from Robert Benincasa) | notes (from Stephen Suen)
What to Consider Before Scraping (from Isaac Wolf)
• Tools for cracking PDFs panelist notes (from Jeremy Merrill) | Notes (from Justin Myers)
• The customized Census: How to use microdata when you just can’t find the right table slides (from Robert Gebeloff) | notes (from Justin Myers)
• Justin Myers’s Dig into business with data investigations notes
• Justin Myers’s Enhance your stories with statistics notes
Mining Health Care Data (from Peter Eisler)
How to make a story map with photos, text and ArcGIS (from Sharon Machlis)
Intro to R & Beginners’ Guide to R (from Sharon Machlis)
A few of my favorite (health data) things (from Charles Ornstein)
How ProPublica’s Prescriber Checkup Came Together (from Charles Ornstein)
Intro to GitHub (from Jordan McCullough)
Collaborative Reporting with GitHub (from Ben Balter)
Mining Nonprofit Data (from Kendall Taggart)
Complaints: A road map for killer investigations & State Consumer Complaint Contacts (from Tisha Thompson & Jill Reipenhoff)
A Reporter’s Guide to Unleashing E-Docs (from Deborah Nelson)
• Learn how to use Census Microdata (from Katie Genadek)
Dataviz for Everyone slides (from Chris Amico, Lena Groeger & Ryan Pitts)
Keeping tabs on crime slides (from Laura Norton Amico)
How to Feel Like You’re Hacking Without Really Doing It (from Samantha Sunne)
Campaign Finance I: Mining FEC Data ZIP file of slides & tipsheet (from Chris Schnaars)
• Storytelling as Presentation Tool Slides (from Chrys Wu, Helene Sears, Aron Pilhofer & Alyson Hurt) | Notes (from Stephen Suen)
Cooking With Hardware (from Team Blinky)
Intro to Ruby (from Al Shaw)
When to Scrape (from Nils Mulvad)
Build a police scanner for $20 (from Ken Schwencke & Jon Keegan)
How Panda Works (from Christopher Groskopf)
• Weathering the Storm presentation & tipsheet (from Stephen Stirling & Ian Livingston)
Make Dirty Day Shine with OpenRefine (from Frederick Kaimann)
• Threat Modeling: Planning Digital Security for your Story video and slides (from Jonathan Stray)
• The Wall Street Journal Encrypted Chat installation instructions
PyCAR Python mini-bootcamp (from Tom Meagher)
Getting Started With Python (from Anthony DeBarros)
• Intermediate Python: Refactoring 101 Documentation | GitHub repo and a well-commented example (from Jeremy Bowers, Serdar Tumgoren & Katie Park)
What is a Data Desk (from Ben Welsh)
• Crossing the language boundaries across your newsroom: journo to dev and back notes (from Stephen Suen)
Intro to Google Earth Engine (from Vanessa Schneider)
• Deep Data Dives notes (Team Al Jazeera US & friends)
Learn Regex (from Amanda Hickman)
Rifling Through the Mapping Toolbox (from Michael Corey & Ryan McNeill)
Census III: mapping & presentation (from John Keefe & Chris Amico)
• How to remove water from census shape files (from John Keefe)
• PDF Scraping With Tabula, including an explanation of its algorithms (from Jeremy Merrill)
• Tracking Hazardous Waste (from Ben Poston)
• Social Media for Investigation tools handout (from Mandy Jenkins & Robert Hernandez)
• Build your Twitter bot army – Notes (from Stephen Suen)
• Connecting Charts to Live Data slides & spreadsheet (from Timothy Barrmann)
• Tips for Covering Money in Politics stories (from Jack Gillum)

Pre-NICAR Events
• Reynolds Center Detecting Corporate Fraud workshop slides & handouts | Joanna S. Kao’s notes
Why Does Fraud Happen? (audio from Theo Francis)
Going through SEC’s 10-Ks, 10-Qs and more (audio from Theo Francis)
Don’t be intimidated (audio from Theo Francis & Roddy Boyd)
• TechRaking 5-ish (CIR) – Bootstrapping the News

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Software & Tools

Campaign Finance Tools (from Aaron Bycoffe)
Computational Journalism on a Stick (from M. Edward Borasky)
FOIA Machine
• What Do They Know (UK FOI), Web-based Python data analysis
Oatmeal geocoded
Kartograph framework for building interactive map apps
OpenRefine for data cleaning
The Miso Project for interactive storytelling and data visualization
D3.chart from The Miso Project for building reusable charts with d3.js
TextQL – execute SQL against structured text like CSV or TSV
Rank and Filed – search SEC filings for free
CometDocs (free for IRE members) transforms websites into structured data or an API
Investigative Dashboard – helps expose illicit ties that cross country borders
Captricity can extract handwriting from paper forms and PDFs
Tableau plug-in for Excel
Panopticlick shows how unique your browser is. You may not be as private or hidden as you think. – wifi hardware to DIY
• Use GPGTools to encrypt email and manage OpenPGP keys
Google 2-step Verification
• Make a calculator with Equation by Sisi Wei & Steven Melendez
Stacked Up – check that Philadelphia neighborhood schools have all of the required instructional materials before school resumes in fall
Shut That Down – see who’s funding hate in your state
Sunlight Foundation APIs
Census Reporter
IPUMS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) offers complete-count data from 1800s censuses of Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden and the U.S.
• Brown University’s US2010 census project
Website Watcher tracks site changes
• Find phone numbers with AnyWho (U.S.) | Worldwide: Infobel & Numberway
Snap Bird searches your tweets & DMs and friends’ tweets Twitter analytics
• Twitter’s own analytics tools
Tweetbeep Twitter analytics
DownloadThemAll browser plugin
• NPR’s Apps Template
• Chicago Tribune’s Tarbell (Google Spreadsheets + AWS)
Vega visualization grammar
Lyra visualization design environment
Overview Project
Open Source Alternatives a.k.a. OSALT
Tineye reverse image search
• Falcon Google Chrome extension for people search
• Cryptocat private chat for Web browsers and iPhone
• Tor Project prevents traffic analysis
Freze saves screenshot + website source code
• Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples


• The IRE-NICAR Database Library
• Alberto Cairo’s blog, The Functional Art
• Mike Bostock’s Let’s Make a Map tutorial
• “How Designers Destroyed the World” by Mike Monteiro
• “The Grammar of Graphics (Statistics and Computing)” by Leland Wilkinson et al.
How to Read Histograms and Use Them in R
What statistical analysis should I use? (from UCLA — Go Bruins!)
Econometrics lectures by Mark Thomas, University of Oregon
Fracking tipsheet (from Mike Soraghan)
• Make Tidy Data from start to finish by Hadley Wickham
Easing Functions Cheat Sheet by Andrey Sitnik
Mapmakers Cheat Sheet by Tom MacWright
• Information on the sustainability of digital formats from the Library of Congress
• Scott Murray’s D3.js tutorials
Data Resources for Dams, Impoundments and Levees from Society of Environmental Journalists
ArcGIS Gallery of maps, maps, maps
Causes of Death in the World (1990, 2005, 2010) from Health Intelligence
• The Pew Research Center Data Feed
New Directions in Cryptography (PDF) by Whitfield Diffie & Martin E. Hellman
Best practices for FOIA & government information requests (from Office of Government Information Services)
FERPA Fact fact-checks the use of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act when denying access to public records. A Student Press Law Center project.
• Edward Tufte’s Sparkline theory and practice
A Map That Wasn’t a Map – Mother Jones case study
VINELink – find out if someone is incarcerated
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
• Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator
Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), St. Louis Federal Reserve
Algorithmic Accountability Reporting paper by Nick Diakopoulus
PythonJournos Google Group
National Historical Geographic Information System – the U.S. government’s open data repository
How to Mail Merge in Microsoft Word
• Easy maps with Ari Lamstein’s choroplethr
Six Provocations for Big Data by danah boyd & Kate Crawford
• Noah Veltman’s explanation of static vs. dynamic websites
• “Building Data Science Teams” by DJ Patil
• The ultimate in user testing (seriously): Test your mobile app on drunk users
• How to set up your laptop to develop news apps the NPR way
• “Multiliteracies for a Digital Age” by Stuart A. Selber (library lookup | Amazon | Southern Illinois University Press)
• Noah Veltman’s Learning Lunches – an effort to demystify technical topics that come up often in newsroom development
• “Reverse Engineering Chinese Censorship through Randomized Experimentation and Participant Observation” by Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret E. Roberts
• Political Framing Blog uses machine learning to find trends in congressional rhetoric

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Lighting Talks

• Refactoring; or Why Your Code Sucks and How to Fix ItChristopher Groskopf
• A Few of My Favorite Wee ThingsLena Groeger
Natural Language Processing in the kitchenAnthony Pesce
• Five (more) algorithms in five (more) minutes GitHub repo | VideoChase Davis
• What we can learn from terrible data viz (slides | Video) – Katie Park
Practical CalculusSteven Rich
• Detecting What Isn’t There – Sisi Wei
• The whole internet in 5 minutes! (Slides | GitHub repo | Video) – Jeremy Bowers
How to Raise an ArmyTyler Fisher
• You Must Learn (Slides | Video) – Ben Welsh

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

Work Samples

• Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt (NPR)
The GitHub repo for Planet Money’s T-Shirt Project (NPR)
• BBC News Interactives & Graphics
Visualizing Buffy (data visualization, made with d3.js)
Timeline: Shots fired at LAX Terminal 3 checkpoint (KPCC)
Timeline: The search for Christopher Dorner” (KPCC)
Fire Tracker (KPCC)
Confira a evolução da população do mundo desde 1950 (Epoca)
50 Years of Change tracking LGBT civil rights (University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography, multiple representations of the same dataset for clear explanation, recommended by Alberto Cairo) Explorer (WSJ)
Russia’s Dubius Vote (WSJ – histograms example)
Portraits of the Hundreds of Children Killed by Guns Since Newtown (Mother Jones)
Playgrounds for Everyone (NPR)
Behind the Bloodshed: The Untold Story of America’s Mass Killings (USA Today)
A Special Report on the Rise of Mass Shootings in America (Mother Jones)
Secrecy 101 (The Columbus Dispatch)
Washington: A World Apart (The Washington Post)
NHS Winter Accident & Emergency tracker (BBC News)
The Child Exchange: Inside America’s underground market for adopted children (Reuters Investigates)
Chicago Under the Gun (The Chicago Tribune)
Deadly Delays (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Twisters: Road to Larissa (Adam Pearce)
News Nerd First Projects – “It’s okay. We all sucked once.”

Jump to
Presentations & Tutorials | Software & Tools | References | Lightning Talks | Work Samples

PBS Off Book wanted to know: “Is code the most important language in the world?” They asked Adda Birnir of Skillcrush, Edd Dumbill of Silicon Valley Data Science, Evan Korth of of NYU and me to weigh in.

(This just happened to me, so in case it happens to you, I leave this here.)

Let’s assume you unpaired your Apple magic mouse/wireless mouse and you have no USB mouse, but you do have a keyboard that talks to your computer.

Go to your preferred Terminal application. If you’re not there already, press SHIFT-CMD-A to open the Applications folder. Press Tab on your keyboard to go into the Applications window. Start typing the name of your terminal application. Once it’s highlighted, press CMD-O to open the application. And then…

The command line becomes your friend:
open /System/Library/CoreServices/Bluetooth\ Setup\

That should pop open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.

Make sure your mouse has power and that it’s turned on. The Setup Assistant should find the mouse. Click “Continue” and the OS will pair with your mouse. Voilà.

If you’ve never used your keyboard to navigate through your system, first, congratulations for somehow making it to this post. Then:

From the mouseless computer, CMD+Space to get to Spotlight, then type Terminal.

From Terminal, type:
open /System/Library/CoreServices/Bluetooth\ Setup\

Then connect as above. This will work for any Bluetooth device recognized by the Apple OS.

Team Delicious Cake in action
TL;DNR: Sign up now for the TimesOpen Hack Day at The New York Times on Nov. 16. Why? Because talking is good; making is better. It’ll be fun. You’ll learn things. And meet interesting people.

My very first hackathon was in 2009, when Yahoo rode into town with what is still the splashiest of all hack events I’ve ever been to, Open Hack Day NYC.

There must have been at least 500 people in attendance. I decided to go because I wanted to meet other people and try to make something. Yahoo had brought a bunch of their YUI and Brickhouse incubator engineers, whose job it was to help attendees during the hackathon. Any code-related question was OK, and the organizers and engineers themselves would remind you they were around to help.

At first, I was nervous about asking for assistance. After all, the people surrounding me — mostly men — appeared far more confident about their code skills than I felt about mine. If I asked for help, wasn’t I just perpetuating the stereotype that “girls can’t code”?

Eventually, I said “Screw it.” I was a code novice. And I was going to get better by learning from people who were right there offering to explain things to me. Those who helped me weren’t just nice about it, they taught me more about SQL and PHP (at the time, my hack language of choice).

The photo above shows part of the 4-person team who called themselves Cake. They tied for Best Food/Hardware Hack. One of the team members was data scientist Hilary Mason. When she talks about that hack day — and she still does — she talks about it being really fun.

Participating in a hackathon is often about winning, but winning isn’t everything. Take advantage of the opportunity to push yourself, enjoy yourself, learn from others and meet people. Join me at the TimesOpen Hack Day.

Over the last few years, I have walked into The New York Times building so often, the security guards know me by name. Today, though, will be the first time I walk in to pick up an official badge.

When the elevator doors open after the ride up Times Tower, I won’t be walking into the newsroom. I’ll be a few floors up with a new title: Developer Advocate for The New York Times.

New York Times Developers

It’s a public-facing role and an extension of the work I’ve been doing to bring people together at the various intersections of code, design and journalism. Among other things, you’ll see me at Times Developer events, like the one this Thursday. (You should sign up if you’re in town. It’s free.) You might see a few posts from me on the New York Times Open blog. And I may be pushing code to NYT GitHub repos.

Some things won’t change. You’ll still hear about me organizing Ruby Women and Hacks/Hackers NYC. I’ll still be helping other Hacks/Hackers chapters launch around the world and advising GORUCO. And I’ll still take on occasional consulting projects.

You’ll still see me giving talks and working on conferences like Write/Speak/Code, ONA13 and Strata + Hadoop World. With any luck (or maybe to your horror), you might even see me emceeing again at Visualized 2014.

Today is both the start of a new adventure and an extension of what I’ve always done to help others: solve problems, connect people, and create situations that allow for spontaneous awesome.

I’m looking forward to talking with you.

The Broad ExperienceJournalist Ashley Milne-Tyte reports on women in the workplace and success in a podcast called “The Broad Experience.”

Back in August, she published a show about Write/Speak/Code, and more broadly (ha) about some of the hurdles women face when finding themselves in the spotlight and what they are doing about it. Ashley spoke with developer and Write/Speak/Code founder Rebecca Miller-Webster, developer and participant Aimee Simone, and me (one of the conference co-founders).

Read the full transcript of the show, and listen to the podcast below.