A month ago we held the first European Data and Computational Journalism Conference in Dublin, Ireland. This is a long overdue post about that event.
The conference idea started as all good ideas do, in the pub and with a tweet. It was at a social event during ICWSM '16 where I was first introduced to Bahareh Heravi, a data journalism lecturer from UCD. We talked briefly about the things we're doing in Cardiff with the CompDJ MSc, and she spoke about her plans to introduce something similar in Dublin. A long time passed, and she got in touch over Twitter to ask if I was interested in organising a conference with her, to cover Data and Computational Journalism. Always keen to say yes to things that aren't technically part of my day-to-day job and that will cause me a lot of work, I jumped straight in, dragging m'colleague Glyn along for the ride.
We spent several weeks having Skype calls to discuss and plan the conference, getting a website together, releasing the call for papers, organising the programme committee, managing the reviews, selecting talks, creating the programme, and then getting tickets on sale for the conference. It was a bit of a mad rush, but by June we were starting to see tickets sold, and had an excellent line up of speakers for the day. All I had to do then was sit back and wait to see if people turned up. Bahareh had less of an easy time, as she was hosting the thing, so spent many hundreds of hours organising the logistics of the event, the catering, lanyards, bags, souvenirs and all the other things that go into making a successful conference - a huge amount of work for which we are truly grateful!
When we initially spoke about the conference, we wanted to make sure we had a mix of industry and academia, and that it really was a mix. Bahareh had had a disappointing time at another DataJ conference where an academic track was included, but kept totally separate from the industry track, which resulted in a lack of discussion between the two groups of participants. This was something we were determined to avoid at all costs. We were also unsure about whether there was an appetite for this sort of conference. Our initial aim was that if we had about 50 people turn up, we'd count it as a success. In the end, we had just over 100 people through the doors, which was amazing, and there was a real mix of people from academia and industry. There was a diverse set of talks, on a range of topics, and it was really nice to see industry types asking questions of the academics, and vice versa. We also avoided the dreaded 'all-male' lineup, with a majority of talks being given by females. The proceedings from the conference are now available, if you're interested.
The conference was followed by a couple of half-day workshops: an introduction to Data Journalism, and an Unconference, both of which were received very well.
All in all, a really successful event. I met a lot of interesting people and made some good contacts for the future. There were a lot of interesting discussions and I came home full of ideas for things to introduce within our teaching and research.
It was such a good time, we're doing it all over again. DataJConf 2018 will be held here in Cardiff. So I guess this time it'll be Glyn's turn to do all the running around organising things...