Blog - BS Data, hackery, stories

First week at the BBC: knowing where to begin

It's been a hell of a week.

I just started working for the BBC News Lab last Tuesday, and spent three days in its Euston offices, but boy it was a nice week.
After I was introduced to the team members we ran into in the elevator and at the coffee machine, Matt quickly got me to work by presenting me the main ideas of the project and my starting points. It did not take long, and only a few hours after arriving at the 5th floor, I was powering my laptop.

Matt gives me an extraordinary level of freedom and innovation for pursuing its original idea, and let me tell you that only a few months after coming to the UK to become a journalist, it feels incredibly nice. I can't tell much about the project itself, first because I don't know what I am allowed to reveal, second because I am still trying to grasp what it is. But let's just say that I need to create a tool that could be of some interest for the journos in the newsroom, based on a huge amount of data sources, feeds and information.
Despite this exciting freedom, I can't help but feel the challenge on my shoulders. I set myself a deadline at the beginning of March to come up with something, before Matt assembles a team to work on the baby.

But the real pressure comes from what I am being asked.

Sure, I can do a couple of things with a computer and a text-editor. Obviously, I made some progress these last months, I feel capable to actually do stuff, and I want to work in this field of computer-assisted reporting, bridging between journos, devs and designers.
Still, when put face to face to an unknown mountain, it is bloody hard to know where to start the climbing. I'm lucky to have my good friends Paul, Clement and Martin to give me a hand where I don't even know what keyword will unlock the Google search magic, or when I can't see that I forgot the capital in Javascript's method appendChild.

The good thing is that I learn a lot, every hour I spend in this open-space, for I've got no choice but to find solutions to my own problems. Or to find a way around them. Because let's face it, if I can hardly handle Javascript, I'm not going to learn data-mining and machine learning algorithms in a couple of weeks, however useful they could be.

Let's see how things go, but I bet that my way of thinking as a journalist, my research capacities and my basic understanding of all that code stuff are the reasons I'm in this office right now.