Phillip Smith

Re-booting Hacks/Hackers Vancouver for 2015

Tech-interested journos & journalism-interested techies collide

Last Thursday night, the back of an underground Australian pub quickly filled with an eclectic crowd of reporters, editors, journalism students and teachers, as well as a good smattering of “news nerds.” Also in attendance were the Vancouver outposts of some very interesting journalism-meets-technology start-ups, like Meedan’s Checkdesk, Axiom Zen’s Timeline, and Invoke Lab’s Slowly our motley crew took over the room: table after table engaged in rapt discussion of the future of news.

The event that brought these folks together was the re-boot of the Vancouver chapter of Hacks/Hackers. As you may already know if you’ve read posts on this site before, the Hacks/Hackers movement has been an obsession of mine for several years now – at one point leading to the launch of a chapter in Toronto (which has recently started having regular meetings again).

At Hacks/Hackers Toronto, we profiled the work of local data journalists, news-connected start-ups like Scribble Live and CoverItLive – long before they were being bought and sold – and endeavoured to bring people together, to explore ideas, and encourage collaborations.

So what are we hoping to do here in Vancouver? Start small, see where the individuals who came out last week would like to take it.

To help figure it out, we’ve recruited Langara journalism prof, Alexandra Samur, and we’re looking for more co-organizers: individuals who are passionate about the nexus of journalism and technology, ideally who are well connected in their community and can hustle to get people out to events, as well as help to guide this group going forward.

That said, here are some of my personal goals for Hacks/Hackers Vancouver in 2015:

  • Expose people to new ideas
  • Present exemplary case studies (see inside the tent)
  • Understand how newsrooms are using new technologies
  • Find mentors / find opportunities to mentor
  • Encourage younger reporters and journalism students to start thinking about how their work is changing

On Thursday night, I saw tables mixing up journalism students, PhD candidates at UBC’s InfoVis group, and beat reporters. I heard stories of how reporters had recently attended Chad Skelton’s data journalism workshop, and had already started putting those ideas into practice. I overheard GIS whiz Hugh Stimson point people to his upcoming workshop to dive deep on mapping projects. I saw people hungry for more information and opportunities to collaborate.

This is a unique group of people, working on ambitious ideas, and I’m excited to bring them together again.

Have ideas for our next meet-up? Keen to get more involved? Want to try out being a co-organizer? Drop a note in the comments here, send me a quick e-mail, or find me on Twitter.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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