Goodbye News Labs; Hello Word

My year in review and what’s next in 2016

Looking back it seems I spent much of 2015 too buried in work to notice, but it was an amazing ride.


It began with Jacqui Maher and Conor Dogberst making the leap across the pond to live with me.

Conor Dogberst enjoying breakfast

This was promptly followed by me swanning off to Kenya to be on hand for the BBC News Labs + Connected Studio #newsHACK in Nairobi, in what would prove to be my 4th and final #newsHACK.

#newsHACK - Nairobi Garage, Kenya

The event was a huge success, resulting in the World Service commissioning two separate news service pilots to be developed in Kenya.

The trip also resulted in me being mysteriously ill for several months and in repeat visits to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases (we never did get to the root of it) but I’d still do it all again just for the trip to Lake Nakuru.

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

The next thing I remember I was in Perugia, Italy for the International Journalism Festival, which is not only a great conference in a beautiful setting but one at which several of our friends were speaking.

Perugia, Italy — home of the International Journalism Festival

IJF is now a permanent fixture on our calendar, I can’t recommend it enough. I’m excited to be heading there again this year.

Back home, we kept in touch with news teams from around the world by giving tours of the Labs, going on location and at #newsHACK events in London.

Sky News at the top of the hour — covering a breaking story about an arson attack

Jacqui, Conor and I took the sleeper train all the way up to Scotland in what would be my last trip to Scotland to see my mum - thankfully for happy reasons as she has since moved much closer to us and is now only 90 minutes away by train.

Conor on the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Aberdeen

At some point in between all this I apparently managed to fit in some coding in the first half of the year and even came up with at least a couple of interesting hacks.

I got to explore VR storytelling with the BBC Academy’s College of Journalism, to participate in reviewing entries for the Online Journalism Awards (and discover some incredibly innovative coverage in the process) and to take News Labs on the road to folks within the BBC as well as to the wider community at events like Moz Fest.

However most of my year would be consumed by the most interesting project I’ve ever undertaken; heading up development of News Rig from an early prototype to production.

In the first collaboration between News Labs and BBC World Service, we built a web based, machine assisted video translation service to deliver news content to new audiences around the globe.

Video translation with Node.js, AngularJS, ffmpeg, web based APIs and an indecent amount of JavaScript

Along the way I met some wonderful new friends, gained a few pounds, attended two weddings, saw The Pixies in Vermont, moved house, lost a few marbles and rounded it all off seeing in 2016 on Primrose Hill with Jacqui Maher and friends both new and old.


You should always end on a high note, or so I’m told.

In December, about a month after we went live with News Rig, I dropped the news to the team I would not be heading back to BBC News Labs in 2016.

Given how great the last couple of years in News Labs have been, with a successful new project launch, plenty of work still to do and wonderful colleagues on the team you might wonder why I’m leaving.

The short answer is, I want to do more — and more of what I enjoy.

I want to do more data journalism (something wrangling a single big project doesn’t afford the time for), to experiment with digital storytelling and interactive news, to leverage the huge wealth of public data on sites like and to explore data driven news.

I also want to continue to build new tools for journalists and create APIs with open data for data journalists but at a smaller scale and faster pace.

Data journalism, tools for journalists, open source software and open data

I intend to do all this via a new venture I’m starting called which you can read more about in the next post.

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