Not Invented Here syndrome (NIH) is the guilty pleasure that tempts engineering teams into creating bespoke approaches to problems that have already been solved. Even having your eyes opened to the temptation doesn’t immunize you from it. So, how do you know whether a bespoke solution warrants the effort or if it’s just plain hubris?
Pattie Reaves and Josh Kadis in Portland, Oregon during SRCCON
The Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project focuses on strengthening developers, designers, and data reporters who build news sites for the open web. Their premiere event is SRCCON (pronounced Source-con), an annual gathering in Portland, Oregon, where attendees can share their ideas, experience, and expertise with each other. A relative newcomer on the tech and news scene, SRCCON brings together a small but very talented group of attendees in a uniquely open and collaborative atmosphere. For the second year, Alley was proud to support SRCCON as a sponsor and participant in the community. We were represented in Portland by user experience developer Pattie Reaves and Director of Product Development Josh Kadis, who shared their thoughts:
What did you find most interesting at SRCCON?
Pattie: I’ve attended dozens of journalism and/or tech conferences but SRCCON is different. I’m used to being the only woman in a discussion group in most developer-oriented talks, but that was not the case at SRCCON. Not only were women and minorities much better represented in the attendee list, but organizers went a long way to make everyone feel welcome by doing things like offering childcare, gender-preference pins, and a simple-yet-clear code of conduct.
Josh: When I started attending these conferences, it seemed like very few folks in editorial were interested in the business side of their organizations. But at SRCCON this year, the biggest topic of conversation was content distribution through platforms like Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles. Journalists are taking responsibility not only for the content of their stories, but also for how they’re delivered to readers.
What were your favorite sessions?
Pattie: One session, the cutesy-named Let’s all be Terrible at Things Together, was like small-group therapy to get comfortable with failure in an industry where failure can be very public, yet key to growing as a developer. Another, Open Source and You, deconstructed all the arguments against open-sourcing tools you’ve built. It was reassuring to hear so many people held back by the same things, like “this software solves a problem no one else has,” or “I don’t know how to pick a license.” Also, shameless plug, the one about remote work, because it showed me that Alley gets a lot of things right.
Josh: I really enjoyed this session about illustration techniques. Of all the sessions I attended, it was farthest from the scope of what I normally work on. Learning some of the theory behind different levels of abstraction and getting to do some (terrible) drawing was fun. Sometimes I Sit and Think About Evergreen Content and Sometimes I Just Sit — which was really about how to maintain sprawling archives of historical content without a single unifying data structure — was interesting as well. Open Source and You underscored the importance of open source software for organizations like Alley; it was also one of the only sessions that Pattie and I both attended, which speaks to the variety of topics that SRCCON covered.
What did you learn from the community?
Pattie: It’s hard to get a ticket to SRCCON — last year tickets sold out in 3 minutes. This year there was a lottery. Clearly there is a desire in the journalism community for technology-oriented journalism conferences like these. After attending, I understand why organizers keep it small: SRCCON is as much about working on newsroom technology culture as it is about learning and sharing ideas to common problems. And because SRCCON’s organizers went to such great lengths to make the conference feel like an inclusive community, it helped its attendees feel more comfortable about the concept of working out in the open — sharing our failures as well as our successes.
Josh: Creating an inclusive environment that made everyone feel welcome and empowered takes careful planning and a lot of effort. I think we do a great job of this at Alley but SRCCON really sets a standard that every organization can aspire to. It was pretty inspiring to be a part of it.