Or when I took a knife to a gunfight

- I didn't have the tools or skills to join in

As part of my MA in Online Journalism, (it now has a new name) I had to ‘build knowledge and contacts in a certain field, as well as building expertise, while also building your reputation‘.

I’ve been in travel since 2004 and my goal is (was) to be a travel journalist, so I automatically opted to stick to with what I know. My first effort can be found here.

But what’s the point of always sticking with what you know?

I quickly found that most of the groups I found weren’t that chatty. I did manage to book an interview with the Aviation Environment Federation, but that was it.

My assignment was either going to be very brief, or I would have to change my plans.

There is no point doing an MA while staying in your comfort zone. So I decided to try to join data journalist and programming groups.

Unfortunately, the combination of meetings, active groups and work commitments meant that I still had limited options. Especially when my LinkedIn group requests went unanswered.

No programming experience required!

Journocoders was the first meeting I could attend. On 9th February, I popped south of the river to learn about

“how to work with geographical data. We will be covering how to manipulate it in the terminal, how to merge it with other datasets, creating a reproducible workflow, and then building a mobile-ready interactive visualisation displaying the results.”

My programming knowledge is limited to BBC BASIC and the command lines used when completing my CCNA. I was attracted to the meeting as it did say that a lack of programming experience wasn’t a problem.

I’m lost (more than once that night)

I made the mistake of using the map provided by Meetup to workout how I was going to get to the meeting. Ironically, the map for the ‘Working with geographical data’ event was wrong.

It looked like the meeting was halfway between Elephant and Castle and Borough stations.

It wasn’t – it was outside London Bridge. I should have cut my loses then, and not route marched to the right place.

Your name isn’t on the list

I finally reached News UK and tried to get in. The security is tight here, it was like trying to get into HMP Whitemoor, only with less smiles. I got past the x-ray and body scanner only to find that my name wasn’t on the list of attendees.

I was on the waitlist and only got the invite that morning. It seems that the organisers use the latest IT, but don’t print off up-to-date guest lists.

I was given the benefit of the doubt and I was in.

“choco install cygwin nodejs make curl unzip”

There was some prep before the meeting, I had to install something called Node onto my laptop. I managed this ok.

The first step in the meeting (after getting the Wi-Fi password) was to open up the Power Shell (I didn’t know I had it), set up some permissions and then enter

choco install cygwin nodejs make curl unzip

This is where my participation in the evening’s event ended. My computer would not run the command. I was one of a few that attended with a Windows machine, and it appears the only one with a basic netbook.

The computer was very definitely saying ‘no’.

How many Apple users does it take to solve a Windows problem?

I asked the guy next to me if he had any advice. He was a programmer of some vintage (it is so nice not being the oldest in a room for a change), but he could help.

The organisers couldn’t help. My participation was over.

The guy next to me (who didn’t respond to my Meetup ‘nice to meet you’ ) did manage to get a result of sorts. Although he did ignore the tutorial and used the data in his own way.

The exercise was to source, modify and merge data to produce a map of the London boroughs which showed the average income depending on the borough selected.

Although in my case, I just looked at a blinking cursor.