CrowData Grows Up

Hacking Together Open-Source Tools at La Nación

From the Hackathon (Florencia Coelho)

A hackathon or hack day is a gathering of programmers and experts trying to find technological solutions to a variety of problems. It can help research prototype ideas for products that will go out into the market, or solutions for social problems. Companies hold their own hackathons to research products, and historically, many of the traditional free software projects, like Debian or Red Hat, have put together encounters known as “bug-squashing parties” that take place online or at a physical location. During these meetings, programmers have a list of programming or documenting tasks that need to be done. People usually participate in these hack days to support a project, learn about it, begin to participate as a developer or as the person in charge of documenting, or just to eat pizza.

Our project, CrowData, was born from the implementation of VozData in Argentina’s newspaper La Nación, with the help of OpenNews. All the functionality already implemented or in the project’s to-do list had been established by the newsroom: journalists, data miners, and platform users.

CrowData is our open-source version of the code behind VozData

Last month, taking advantage of the momentum created by the Buenos Aires media party, we wanted make people aware of the platform and work on some of its features. In preparation for the hackday, we reserved a room equipped with a projector at La Nación. We also made sure to have coffee, breakfast, and lunch for that day. All of us in the group following the project met to discuss its functionalities and priorities. We submitted the list of what we wanted for the project, highlighted its priorities, and what we wanted to include in the hackday to-do list.

Our issues as of now

For the event, we printed the database outline, the functionalities list, and the basic instructions on how to proceed with the CrowData installation.

During the hackday, we worked on the following areas:

  • design for the main site
  • a Docker recipe for simple installation
  • internationalization
  • documentation
  • editing capabilities in the admin
  • rankings search

The last two functionalities will be transferred back into the main VozData project, since they were the top priorities for the La Nación team. On the hack day, we worked in project forks, and at the end of the event, created pull requests to merge our work.

Gabriella Rodriguez and Harlo Holmes at work

We are still missing a very important piece of functionality: an authorization system and project roles for CrowData. There are more needed features that can be found in the GitHub issues as well, including features to enhance the engagement and accountability of universities and NGOs—this is just a beginning. Ultimately, we want CrowData to be able to be easily installed in any newsroom that wants it, and for more people to contribute to its development.

To collaborate, you can create a fork in the GitHub archive/repository, use it, change it, and create pull requests for what you think appropriate to give back to the project. And if you don’t code, you can still contribute: we also need plenty of documentation explaining how to use the platform, as well as how to install it on other systems.



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