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Meet the open source newsroom pioneers coding Superdesk

Pioneers old and new in Cluj. Credit: Adam Thomas CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Pioneers old and new in Cluj. Credit: Adam Thomas CC BY-NC-SA 2.0(photo: Pioneers old and new in Cluj. Credit: Adam Thomas CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cluj-Napoca seems like the perfect birth place for Superdesk. Cluj (as most people call it) acts as headquarters for all of Transylvania's television networks, newspapers and radio stations. Not only this, but Cluj is rapidly becoming a technopolis.

Developers and technology companies are flocking to the second largest city in Romania to take advantage of local talent. Start-up co-working centres like Clujhub (who we'll be running a hackathon with in April), look set to become major centres of European innovation and technology in years to come.

Superdesk aims to blend these two worlds of technology and media into an open source tool that ensures media organisations are free to define their own type of newsroom structure, content delivery and business strategy.

Meet the hackers

Superdesk's six person team is headed up by Mugur Rus, who has spent the last decade building Newscoop, our open news content management system (CMS), and now Superdesk. As one of the longest-standing developers at Sourcefabric, his knowledge of the industry and programming history (Newscoop's first beta was in 1999!) act to guide his exciting young team and their varied personalities and ideas.

Gabriel Nistor is the Chief Software Architect and the brains behind Ally-Py, a Python framework that allows for the rapid development of apps, news-based or otherwise. This establishes the backbone and backend of Superdesk's structure. His talented brother Mihai Nistor joined the team over two years ago and they have been steadily building a tool for the future ever since.

In the past year the team has expanded further, complementing the group with a few more innovative minds and programming skillsets. Vlad Nicoara plays a vital role in new feature development and is an expert in web applications optimization, while Mihai Balaceanu (or Billy to his friends) has been developing JavaScript front-end frameworks and working with the final member of the team Ioan Pocol to build Live Desk, the first Superdesk plugin.

The community of local developers in Cluj is still small and close-knit, so the Superdesk team knew each one another before. As Vlad said, "the top frontend developers in Cluj all know each other either directly from working on projects together, or by word of mouth. As soon as I heard Mihai Nistor was on the team, that sealed the deal for me to join Sourcefabric."

Open code for open media

Their synergy is certainly fuelling their progress and recent accomplishments. GEN Live Desk, a liveblogging service built on Superdesk technology that allows news organisations to publish text, images, videos and social media output, was used to cover the recent US elections in partnership with the Huffington Post. The Global Editors Network and ICFJ invited over 50 international journalists to work with the tool and liveblog their perspectives.

In the year ahead Superdesk plans to initiate integral community strategies and will be developing a tool for citizen journalism with Mozambican news organisation @Verdade called Citizen Desk.

One of the motivations for this team of open source advocates is seeing their projects being deployed in the real world, to cover real news stories. They're also passionate about joining forces with developers from all sorts of projects to build frameworks, plugins and tools that benefit a wide range of people. We'll be unveiling our new community scheme soon, so whether you are a developer, coder or designer, stay tuned on how to join this band of pioneers in the very near future.