Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crime does pay! - but in a good way

Adrian Holavaty, one of the creators of Django 1 and the mind behind ChicagoCrime.org and many wonderful creations at Lawrence.com and the Washington Post, was just awarded a grant from the Knight News Challenge to build some really cool, participatory, civic-minded sites - something this country really needs. Adrian's new startup, EveryBlock, will be something to keep an eye on in the coming months.

I've been following Adrian's work ever since I heard a phenomenal podcast by his former boss Rob Curley about their work at Lawrence.com and World Online. It was like the Xerox PARC of online journalism. These guys really did some wonderful stuff and innovated every day.

As a freelance Web developer 2 and as someone who majored in politics 3 and came fickled-finger-of-fate-close to going back to school for a masters in journalism, I've been toying with some ideas of my own about how to use the Web to give this country and the neighborhoods back to the citizens who should truly own them and bring participatory democracy back to this nation.

That's why another grant awarded by the Knight News Challenge to Northwestern University for nine scholarships to developers interested in journalism is so very tempting to me - despite the chill factor of Chicago 4. There's still that nagging twinge of "the road not taken" that pinches the back of my noggin' every so often. And with the many recent failures of our media to challenge the powers-that-be and hold them accountable to the truth, the siren call to take the news back from the sophists and profiteers is getting that much louder.

Delusions of grandeur? Maybe. But check in with Adrian in a year or two and you might be surprised. Oh, and the dude is only only 26.

1 - As someone who's currently working in Ruby on Rails, I may be labeled a heretic by saying this but I think Django is really excellent project with a lot to teach Rails. In fact, these two projects could learn a lot from each other if there was less Ruby vs. Python machismo in both camps (yeah shut up already, you know who you are).
2 - Yes, I've left GE Healthcare for those who haven't heard. Been so busy I haven't even gotten my own shingle up.
3 - Irvine (go Anteaters!) and Indiana (go Hoosiers!)
4 - I spent a couple of years of my youth living in the burbs outside Chicago and I have the frostbite scars to prove it.

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