Facing interactivity, a personal reflection: what is next?

During the last few weeks I focused on the interactive practices on the Media. I wanted to know what is happening at this moment, and which tools are popular among journalists.

With the aim of grabbing some ideas and increasing my knowledge on this field, I followed those people and companies who are working on interactivity throughout Twitter and websites.



I also tested some tools by myself: CartoDB, StoryMap JS etc. Some time ago, getting interactivity was something extremely hard for those who were not ‘hackers’ (programmers).

Thanks god, a lot of good samaritans have created powerful and efficient apps which make it much easier than it was.

Despite all these miraculous things, we cannot forget the fundamentals: HTML, CSS and Javascript. Journalists cannot avoid to learn some coding as professor Jeremy Rue said before.

I have checked out some handbooks and websites which let you learn a little bit of this huge universe.

Learning to use space and time in an interactive way

One of the biggest problems as researcher is to know what you are looking for. A lot of things nowadays are considered as “interactive”: social media, feedback, animations, maps, timelines or quizzes are all different aspects of engaging people.

From my perspective, I was not sure about what things I should focus on. So I started with those contents that people normally see on digital newspapers today: maps and timelines.

I started having a look to journalist Alex Gamela’s blog in which I have found some interesting things related to interactivity, but also extra information about timelines. Alex, who is a former student of online journalism at Birmingham City University, had runned a project on timelines in 2010.

He commented some of the main editing tools who were in use at that time. This reading inspired me to figure out which apps are the most popular in 2015.

After publishing the post, I initiated a debate in Twitter to know if journalists normally use the same tools I had mentioned.I did the same with those tools to create maps. At this point, I realised that I would need some extra knowledge on Javascripts and geolocation. With the video below, I tried to explain a bit of this process.

Therefore, I used Open refine, which helps to clean data, in order to use Google Fusion Tables or Carto DB.

Code is unavoidable, but I found JQuery better than Javascript

Prior to this project, I had already had some knowledge on HTML and CSS languages, but I really did not know anything about Javascript. It was the next level.

First at all, I started to check out books like “Javascript in 24 hours” or “Javascript: the definitive guide”, and also doing some free courses on Code School and Code Academy, following journalist Jeremy Rue’s tips:

“Many people often fail to advanced past this point because they find difficulty in applying the lessons to real-world projects. It’s important to have something tangible to build and working toward that goal — and Googling questions often.”

This language is always a challenge. That is the reason I also tried JQuery, whereby I could aproach to coding in a easier way. According to Wikipedia, JQuery works as a “library of pre-written JavaScript which allows for easier development of JavaScript-based applications.”

 Upcoming project: Birmingham24, 24 issues in 24 hours

The good practises I have checked out encourage me to build an interactive story with multimedia contents in which I could put the theory unto practice. Honestly, there are many things related to code I still have to learn. After the first steps on the field, it is time to go further and try to do more complex things.

As my MA award leader Paul Bradshaw suggested, the upcoming elections are a very good opportunity to explore and do something great. In this case, young voters (18-24 years old) could be the perfect public, trying to create a story through 24 issues related to futures policies which will affect youngsters.





“All Journalists Should All Know the Difference between HTML and CSS” says expert Jeremy Rue

Jeremy Rue, lecturer of New Media at the University of California (UC) Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, told this blog:

Not all journalists will need to learn to code. But all journalists should all know how the web functions; the difference between HTML and CSS and the philosophies behind those forms.”

“The web is not just a technology, but an entire ecosystem of ideals and ethos that have imbued many of the thinkers who made the web possible.”

The experienced journalist and web developer, who has been involved for years in workshops on multimedia storytelling techniques, believes in the importance of a basic literacy of the web in terms of “understanding its nomenclature, its function, and the philosophy on which it’s built.”

From Googling tutorials to real-world projects

For those who want to learn how to code, he recommends online tutorials like Code School, Lynda.com and Code.org. He added:

“Many people often fail to advanced past this point because they find difficulty in applying the lessons to real-world projects. It’s important to have something tangible to build and working toward that goal — and Googling questions often.”

Numbers VS Journalists

Regardless of many journalists hate coding, Rue still believes that knowing a little HTML and CSS as background is necessary:

“There are some journalists who hate coding, and that’s fair. I still feel they should know a little HTML and CSS as background. Those who find it stimulating and challenging might enjoy it more.”

He shares these articles some journalists have written about their learning processes:

Interactivity: begginning of a new era

Although big organisations like The New York Times and ProPublica have launched interactive stories, it seems that this trend is going on slower among the little ones. According to Rue, the same thing happened when TV was invented:

“It required an enormous investment in equipment and people with the skills to produce video. It took a few decades for TV to really find its form through the 50s and 60s. I suspect this will be less and less of an issue in the coming decade.”