A.J. Feather

Journalist, Developer

I'm a Missouri native currently seeking a dual masters in computer science and journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Every week I also host an awesome podcast called "Integrate" with my friend Mikah, which you can find at Integrate.FM.

Before moving to New York, I obtained undergraduate degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In Columbia, I hosted a weekly show called "Talking Politics" for KBIA, the local NPR member station and produced, wrote and anchored video for Newsy.com way too early in the morning.

There has never been a political column I did not enjoy reading or an Apple product I did not enjoy using.

Open Source Everything

Online development is a fickle thing.  You think you know what to do.  You just learned HTML, Javascript and CSS.  You’re going to build your website from scratch.  Then a new platform is introduced.  Wordpress is common, but can it provide the type of scalability you need?  The type of customization you need?  Is Squarespace worth the money?  It eliminates the worry of scalability, but it also takes more work to customize. These are all questions that don’t have a clear answer.

In class Monday, Jay Tuten of NBC Universal spoke to us about modern website development.  He suggested the open-source platform Drupal was a great option he and the team at NBC Universal used.  I was sort of taken aback that a giant corporation like NBC would use an open source platform for web development.  It seemed risky at best.  What if a developer created an application that could be exploited and NBC embedded it into a site?  Though Tuten says it is very secure and he has used it for dozens of web projects.

Personally, I use Squarespace for this site.  I’ve used Wordpress in the past, but it just seems to put the user in a small box - a box everyone at my university very much likes to be in.  And that’s great.  I don’t have any issue with everyone using similar models when they are models that work.  There’s a reason so many people prefer to shop at Walmart across the country.  They know what they’re getting and it works for them.  (I pride myself on shopping at Walmart.  Sadly I haven’t seen one in New York.)

I’ve done some minor web development.  I put together a small website for a class project last semester, and I prided myself in middle school on the always awesome Myspace and Xanga layouts I could build by replacing links and changing colors.  (“oOOOo aAAAah”)

Tuten pointed out that several very large corporations have built their own Drupal platforms.  It’s amazing what open source software can do.  Though Firefox seems to have fallen behind, there are still countless examples of open source software taking the lead.  These examples of people working (generally without profit motive) can make an economist’s head explode.

So we’ll see.  Apple, Microsoft and Google seem to have a stranglehold on most software creation and distribution, but that could change.  Though it seems more likely open source will challenge these companies to become better rather than take over the companies’ market share anytime soon.