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Programming for Pizza
t was a Friday night cocktail
party with a gregarious host.
Chris Wink pumped up a lobby
full of computer programmers as well as
anyone can expect of, well, computer pro-
grammers. The lobby was in the building
that houses Philadelphia’s public radio
Wink is a co-founder and editor of
Technical.ly a Philadelphia-area technol-
ogy news network. His company con-
nects organizations and people through
news, events and services. Their role this
weekend was to connect Local Media
Association with local programmers for
our inaugural local media hackathon on
the weekend just before the start of the Local Media
For the uninitiated, a hackathon is an event (usu-
ally a weekend) in which computer programmers
collaborate on software to come up with solutions
for a goal. In this case, the goal was to offer applica-
tions or software solutions for local media compa-
A new experience for me, the vibe was punky and
fun as Wink got things rolling amidst a respectable
supply of local Philly beer and large platters of gour-
met sandwiches that definitely helped fuel the brain-
storming party. Armed with two very large white-
boards, Wink jotted away as the ideas sprouted. On
hand was a mix of local media company sponsors
(Calkins, Metroland & Swift) to help the program-
mers shape their ideas.
Saturday morning the boards took
up the head of a large room as Wink
stood by and whittled down the ideas
to a Top 10 of solid goals.
The 30 programmers in the room
and the media sponsors then selected
which ideas they wanted to work on.
Teams were organized, final projects
selected and the six teams were off and
running. For two full days they toiled,
tried, experimented and at the end of
the Sunday session the programmers
shared the fruits of their labor. An
panel of independent industry judges,
including LMA President Nancy Lane,
listened, asked questions and ultimate-
ly judged the top three.
A main theme of all these projects – even with
the sponsor’s instructions of collaboration between
business units and content units – was to be a focus
on the media company audience. Common themes
that were highlighted were:
1. We don’t know enough about our audience
2. We have data available but we’re not connect-
ing the dots
3. We need to start with what we have and work
toward the goal (starting now is better than not act-
The top three went on to present their projects
and solutions at the Local Media Innovation Confer-
ence hackathon session. The Data Punks impressed
the room of local media attendees as their large geo-
graphic unfolded across the screen.
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The top three:
THIRD PLACE – A team from Calkins Media, and pro-
grammers, focused on using data-driven decisions across
the enterprise including analyzing what content the news-
room should produce.
SECOND PLACE – The team of Swift, Metroland, and
programmers, focused on solving everything every
publisher and editor has said at least once – “how do I get
my sales team to read the product?” It used multiple data
feeds to alert sales reps when clients are mentioned online
to ensure sales teams are aware of mentions and can then
act on these mentions.
FIRST PLACE – A non-media members’ team of pro-
grammers known as the Data Punks created a simple tool
that allows readers to rate an article by positive, neutral
or negative (actually Like, Meh or Hated It!). It differs
from Facebook likes and story comments and it provided
these ratings via
mapped out on
It enables an
editor to figure
out what stories
are rated highly
Data Punks Prevail! Get a taste of what the hackathon
winners created at http://nims.servermill.org
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