Eyes East

feed icon Subscribe / Latest posts / Latest links / Get in touch / About

Why Django

January 12, 2010 at 10:37 p.m.

As of this month, I'll have been using Django for two years, and using it professionally for a year. That's a strange thing to think about, because I still have a hard time calling myself a "programmer" (though "web developer" feels easier, for some reason). I am, after all, a politics major with zero formal training in computer science. Yet here we are.

Over the past few months, friends have started asking me about my favorite framework: How'd I get started? Is it as good as the hype? Can I, or should I, learn it?


Why ...


Building a Better Ecosystem for Transparency

December 9, 2009 at 10:23 p.m.

Transparency is an ecosystem. Each part--government, journalists, activists--interact to create an environment where information flows, or doesn't. It's up to each part to ensure the continued growth of a healthy transparency ecosystem.


Lessons from Gov2.0, and How I liveblogged it

September 19, 2009 at 11:51 a.m.

For three days last week, I attended the Gov2.0 Expo Showcase and Gov2.0 Summit, liveblogging the entire thing here and cross posting to Twitter. Between Tuesday and Thursday, I posted nine entries and 550 updates. After the conference, I dumped the entries and updates into one document, amounting to 66 printed pages and 19,815 words, plus another page of notes from the event's press conference and two video interviews with Tim O'Reilly and Santa Cruz's Peter Koht.

This was, in effect, just my usual notes, except more thorough and done entirely in public. Doing ...


Be organized. Or be mush.

August 25, 2009 at 8:01 p.m.

Talking to my colleague Dante Chinni today, he summed up my thinking on frameworks for reporting far better than I've been able to:

Without an organizing principal, all we're doing is throwing things out into the ether. It all becomes mush.

That's not an exact quote. We were in the middle of a long brainstorm and I wasn't keeping notes. But it's close enough.

Dante has been working on Patchwork Nation since its inception--it's all he does--and it shapes much of the way he looks at the news. It's his lens. When we ...


Mapmaking Update: ZeeMaps allows Google CSVs

August 3, 2009 at 5:30 p.m.

My post last week on simple ways for journalists to make maps seems to have done some good.

Pankaj K Garg, of ZeeMaps left a comment noting that after reading my post, he decided to add a long-desired feature to the application: direct CSV import from Google Docs:

Now, you can select Additions -> Upload CSV file and just click on "Use Google Spreadsheet" to upload your data from a Google Spreadsheet.

The requirements are: (1) the spreadsheet must be named ZeeMap-map-number, where map-number is the number for your map, and (2) you must allow zeemaps at gmail dot com view ...


A lesson from Patchwork Nation: Frameworks for Reporting

July 28, 2009 at 9:46 p.m.

In programming, frameworks help speed development by abstracting common tasks and letting us focus on things that matter. They make what's important interesting.

We can apply this approach to reporting as well, especially when we're collecting structured data and treating news as data points. Doing this means we don't have to start over with each new set of figures.

A few lessons learned from Patchwork Nation and other projects.



July 26, 2009 at 6:56 p.m.

Should have mentioned this earlier, but when I switched this blog over to Django, the site got a new batch of feed URLs.

If you subscribed using Feedburner, nothing should have changed. However, if you were using the underlying Wordpress feed, you'll need to switch over to the these:

In addition, there is a feed for each blog category, in the following format:


So if you wanted the latest posts from the Projects category, use http://chrisamico.com/feeds/blog/projects.

More feeds are in the ...


How to make a map

July 25, 2009 at 2:57 p.m.

Note: I wrote this up to help out a few colleagues a few months ago, and I thought it might be useful to more people. It's aimed at regular, non-programmer journalists who may at some point need to throw a quick map alongside a story (or by itself, that's cool, too). Obviously, this is in no way comprehensive.

Also, this is a snapshot version of a document being maintained in Google Docs. Check here for the latest.

In all cases, start with a spreadsheet (preferably using Google Docs ). This will ultimately make your life easier, even if you ...


Do something.

June 16, 2009 at 4:28 p.m.

Alex said this in a recent email, and it's worth repeating:

In the end, I think, doing something is what's really important. There can be a lot of wanking over platforms, implementation, topics or whatever. But doing something, and including people, being open in approach, is probably the most important thing to do, I think, and once the ball's rolling, let it roll in they way it wants to.

Remember that when meetings multiply, when platform wars become software crusades, when your computer does things that cause you to swear in Portuguese and Chinese and Italian.

Doing ...


Beyond publishing

June 1, 2009 at 9:26 p.m.

Rebuilding my blog in Django means I can do more than just publish posts.


Tools for News teams up with SND

February 2, 2009 at 4:36 p.m.

The toolkit for online journalists has moved to a new home with the Society for News Design.

Shortly after I launched Tools for News in late December, Tyson Evans from SND emailed me about teaming up on the project. Matt Mansfield helped convince me to come on board. Chrys Wu has more on the hackathon that got it all migrated.

The toolkit is now part of a growing network of apps and sites under SND's banner. Expect development to pick up and the overall look and feel of the site to improve.

Everyone's login should still work. If ...


New tool: TwitBlog for LiveBlogging with Twitter

January 15, 2009 at 10:39 p.m.

Let's say you want to live-blog something. Let's say you like Twitter. Twitter is great for immediacy, but what if you want to round up all your tweets at the end of the day and put them in a blog post? You'd have to copy each one, reformat it, then put the whole list in chronological order.

Now you don't have to.


Production notes:

I put this little app together yesterday after thinking about it a lot longer. It's a simple Django-powered tool that converts a feed from Twitter Search into plain text or ...


Stuff to learn in 2009

January 7, 2009 at 1:20 a.m.

Just going to write all this down so I don't forget. Could call it "resolutions" but that whole mindset seems designed to produce regret come December. Let's just make this a to-learn/to-do list:


With Tools for News up and running and RedFence 2.0 almost there, I feel like I've got a good enough grasp of Django to try out the GIS branch. I've got a subdomain for it set up and a couple project ideas to play with. No promises that anything interesting will happen there, but it's there.


I have ...


Blueprint CSS. Yes.

December 31, 2008 at 9:37 p.m.

Why, or why, did it take me so long to discover Blueprint CSS?

Because I wasn't looking, clearly.

I am not a designer. Designers are people with style, and my sister, my girlfriend and my housemate have all made it very clear that I'm lacking in that department. More than that, CSS fits into the large category of things I'd much rather outsource to a competent professional. I'll stick to Python and prose.

Clever readers of yesterday's post announcing the beta launch of Tools for News may have noticed the line about building the core ...


New tools for new news

December 30, 2008 at 3:28 a.m.

Journalists need new tools to work online. In the last year, I've used more that I can count, most of them free, to find and tell better stories on the Web.

Back in October, I started building an online database of such tools as a personal project, just a way to keep track of everything I was using. It has since grown into something I think others will find useful, so I'm releasing it into the wild.

Tools for News

The site is in public beta for now. Eventually, I hope to move it to its own domain ...