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On launching BIG projects — and gaining confidence

Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

Wow, another post where I point out that I haven’t written for months. A lot has been accomplished. I wanted a job where I learned. DONE.

I’ve been at The Associated Press for almost nine months now — I can’t believe it myself. I like to think I contribute in myriad ways, but two “things” I’m most proud of are our mapping systems, which I’ve had the fun of taking the lead on, as far as the development side goes. Everything is a very collaborative process, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this work without my teammates.

I’m pleased to be able to say here that we’ve created a US rollover map template system, which we’re getting solid use out of. A piece I like a lot is our gay marriage time slider map that our Phoenix producer is mostly responsible for.  It takes the system, and builds on it immensely. Technically, the marvelous Raphael.js vector drawing library is behind the magic. Yes, it’s responsive, and for that, we like ScaleRaphael a lot.

But today, it’s an even bigger day. We launch our OWN CUSTOM HTML ZOOMABLE MAP FOR THE WHOLE WORLD, leaning heavily on the great Tilemill to create the mapping tiles, and the oh-so-slick Leaflet to make the JavaScripty magic happen.

My cartographic partner in crime,  Phil Holm in New York, has been absolutely ESSENTIAL, and deserves special mention, particularly for his work with doing much of the custom tile design in Tilemill.

Our first project with it locates all active nuclear sites, and the 50-mile evacuation zones around them, providing population data and plant information, etc. Check it out, I’ll wait!

I stand on the shoulders of giants, and now’s a good time to talk about one of the more important lessons current mentor Jonathan has taught me. You see, he’s not around quite as much anymore, but tons of other brilliant people are. And I know things, on my own.  And as I realize I can literally create the world in an interactive panel, I can do anything, given time and patience.

Every time I’m confronted with an issue, scary sentences about CSS specificity and styles and trailing commas and syntax errors and models and views roll off my tongue. Someone explains a problem, and I say, “We’ll get this.” That’s not a sentence I could have uttered before AP.

You see, the greatest gift I’ve been given is the confidence that I’m good at this stuff, and I can do this. Yeah, I’m faking it till I make it, but I’m making it.

And then, once in a while, I’ll be trying to explain some technique at a meeting, broadcasting from DC to people spanning the globe. And one of several familiar expert-coder voices comes across from New York, asking if that’s really how it works, or gently correcting me. And I realize yes, sure, I can function without the help, but it’s awfully nice when it’s there.

Yes, we stand on the shoulders of giants, but we also note that while we’re a little less tall, we’re capable of standing on our own two feet as well. Good to know. And at 5’1″, being vertically challenged has never caused a problem for me.

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