By Derek Willis
The first eight or 10 NICARs that I attended, I went heavy on the skills-based sessions, learning specific software from experienced users. As I've gravitated towards a (relatively) compact set of everyday tools, I find myself at more thematic sessions that dig deep into a specific problem or approach.
One of the things that I love to do when deciding one my NICAR conference schedule is to separate sessions into "new" and "new-to-me" categories. In the past several years NICAR has seen an explosion of sessions about topics that have barely been covered before, from natural language processing to cheap computing in the cloud. This year looks no different, and so I'll try to check out sessions like the one on local geodata and what data journalism can learn from sports.
There's a lot to choose from at CAR. So we asked a variety of journalists -- students, beat reporters, veteran data crunchers and programmers -- to tell us what they're excited about this year. Tomorrow, hear from Wendell Cochrane, senior editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University..
Just as valuable, though, are sessions anchored by true veterans in the field, so even if you work with Census data a lot, you will learn something new from Paul Overberg. The same applies for when my colleague Amanda Cox talks about building maps and charts.
It can be hard to find a balance between sessions that are about problems that I already have and problems that I don't even know about (yet). The best conferences are where I can mix the two well. So build on your strengths, but don't be afraid to seek out new ground.
Derek Willis is an interactive news developer for The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekwillis.