In a wide-ranging interview, veteran Microsoft Researcher, Dr. Steven Drucker talks about his work in data visualization, the importance of clear communication in a world of complex algorithms and big data, and the long, slow work of big breakthroughs. He also offers some pro-tips to aspiring researchers, and tells us why stand-up comedy is an important skill for computer scientists. Continue reading “Visualizing Data and Other Big Ideas with Dr. Steven Drucker”→
Mapping platforms like ARC online and Carto are good and useful reporting tools for analysis for journalists
By Franco Havenga, Khuselwa Anda Tembani and Wesley Ford
The use of mapping platforms can take your story to a whole new level says data editor at The Investigative Reporting Workshop Jennifer LaFleur.
At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, LaFleur led a session on creating maps from data, a technique called mapping which can improve the quality of investigative stories. She was assisted by Andy Lehren, an investigative reporter at NBC and the New York Times.
David McCandless, founder of the IiB awards, hosted the ceremony
MA Data Journalism students Carmen Aguilar Garcia and Victoria Oliveres attended the Information is Beautiful awards this week and spoke to some of the nominees and winners. In a guest post for OJB they give a rundown of the highlights, plus insights from data visualisation pioneers Nadieh Bremer, Duncan Clark and Alessandro Zotta.
Data Journalism—the skill of combining reporting with data—is becoming an increasingly important part of every journalist’s toolkit. That’s not just anecdotal: a recent study commissioned by the Google News Lab found that half of all news outlets have at least one dedicated data journalist.
A few weeks ago I posted a list of 9 great newsletters about data. The post generated so many suggestions of other newsletters that I thought I’d gather them together in a follow-up post. So, here are 9 more newsletters about data journalism, data science, and data visualisation.
Graphic Content is a regular email newsletter — and Tumblr blog — from the head of data and transparency at the Institute for Government, Gavin Freeguard.
The format is simple: a collection of lists to some of the most interesting data visualisation, data journalism and ‘meta data’ (other links about data) that day. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
Hacks/Hackers is a global network of meetups for journalists (hacks) and developers (hackers) interested in the potential of data for newsgathering and storytelling.
Rachel Schallom emailed to let me know about her weekly visual journalism newsletter Best in Visual Storytelling, “which isn’t 100% about data, but includes a ton of data-driven projects.” It arrives on Mondays. The sign-up form is here.
The first of four newsletters suggested by Jeremy Singer-Vine, whose newsletter Data Is Plural featured in the original post, Data Elixir is “a weekly newsletter of curated data science news and resources from around the web” on Tuesdays, from Lon Riesberg. It’s already passed 150 issues.
5. Data Science Weekly
Surpassing that, Data Science Weekly recently hit its 200th issue. It focuses on data science, with news, articles and jobs. The archive covers everything from predicting NFL plays to tutorials on creating a bar chart.
Data & Society is a research institute “focused on the social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development.”
If you’re interested in the more critical/academic side of data journalism, their newsletter provides updates on their research, events, and other useful links.
7. The Data Science Community newsletter
NYU’s Center for Data Sciencepublishes its own newsletter focused on the data science community and “featuring data science news delivered with humor & snark plus an always popular Tweet of the Week”. The emphasis here is on breadth with lots of detail on each link.
Gabriela Swider from data.world – a new platform for sharing and analysing data – got in touch to recommend their Data Digest, which highlights a few of the most interesting datasets on the platform every Friday. Subscribe here.
And rounding off the list on a high is Jason Norwood-Young’s newsletter Naked Data — recommended by Anastasia Valeeva. “Sign up for a weekly roundup of the best data journalism projects, news, tech and happenings from around the world,” promises the sign up page. There’s a lot here beyond the usual suspects, and it’s well curated.
If you know of any newsletters not mentioned here or in the previous post, please let me know!
Peter Kraker & Rainer Bachleitner make an introduction to Open Knowledge Maps
This tutorial introduces participants to an innovative discovery tool that is built on top of the open science infrastructure. It showcases the value of open for all stakeholders beyond open access to research outputs. Participants will go on a scientific scavenger hunt in an unknown research field that is intended to improve their own discovery process, including ample time for feedback and discussion.
What are the best ways to visually enhance online articles?
More and more journalists are finding ways of telling stories through visualisation and chart building platforms to enhance a story with visual content like infographics and interactive content.
Justin Arenstein, director of Code for Africa — the continent’s largest network of data journalists / civic technologists, says the organisation helps newsrooms adopt cutting-edge digital tools (by funding newsroom reporting projects, embedding technologists into newsrooms, and pioneering new technologies for newsrooms). “We believe that interactive visual communication helps decipher complex economic and financial concepts for audiences … and that digital interactives that are data-driven help journalists personalise the information in ways that makes the news / reportage more compelling and relevant to audiences,” he says.
Chart building tools offers slightly different solutions to everyday problems facing newsrooms and their audiences. “Some are designed for better resources / more sophisticated markets, where newsrooms have in-house designers / data analysts to help craft the chart or interactive,” Arenstein says. “Others, like DataWrapper and Atlas and HURUmap are designed for newsrooms with limited resources and where journalists have limited skills. These easy-to-use tools are designed to run off simple spreadsheets, to help simplify the backend requirements for newsrooms.”
We spoke to journalists about some of the chart building tools they use in their newsroom to enrich their stories.
Infogr.am, a web-based data visualisation platform, is one of the easiest infographic and chart making tool that can be used by any newsroom. Journalists are able to create fast charts and infographics that are interactive for the users, as well as web responsive so they work on mobile phones. The charts can either be embedded or downloaded for publication on any site or document. It offers a wide range of high quality templates, pre-set colours, allowing users to focus on the data, while Infogr.am takes care of the aesthetics.
SABC Digital News and Hacks/Hackers Johannesburg’s Siyabona Africa uses Infogr.am to meet the changing ways audiences consume news and information.
How do you use Infogr.am? I have used this tool to create interactive infographics and interactive charts that get embedded in stories or on our live blog.
The positives: The tool works on a freemium model (so you can access it and create a set number of infographics for free); Lots of palette choices when creating charts and infographics. You can upload data in a number of formats (CSV, JSON, Excel, even streaming APIs).
The Negatives: Most of the advanced features are only available to paying members. You can save your infographics/charts as PNGs/JPEGs if you’re not a paying member.
The major disadvantage is with its freemium model which limits the functionality for some users (mostly newsrooms/organizations that can’t afford the monthly fee in Dollars and Euros). While one won’t say that they shouldn’t raise money to pay to keep the lights on, it’s hard for newsrooms to fully take advantage of the platform.
Examples of how Infogr.am can be used: Most datasets can be turned into gorgeous infographics with Infogr.am i.e. election results, job numbers, even the Mayweather/McGregor fight in numbers.
Atlas is a free data visualisation and chart building platform . Quartz, the business news service, recently launched Atlas for Africa, which aims to grow a database of Africa-related data resources for storytelling and collaboration. Users are able to create and share charts that they would have made.
Every chart published on Atlas has its own page, making it easily accessible for other users to embed it elsewhere, to use it as an image or even download the underlying data.
Adam Oxford, a freelance journalist and also working with Code for Africa, which funded Atlas in Africa, may have a bit of bias but gives good insight on using the platform.
How do you use Atlas? Honestly — I generally haven’t in the past. I’ve used Chartbuilder on which it’s based an awful lot, though. The move to Atlas came with the need to register and host data on Quartz’s site, which I never quite got around to.
The positives: I do love looking at the Atlas feed — I find looking at charts other people are creating really inspirational for developing story ideas. And the benefits it’ll bring to accessible data in Africa are really strong, as newsrooms gather and share their stats using it.
The Negatives: You may not want to publish the data behind the chart, I guess, in which case Chartbuilder would be better for you. Also, even though a chart is easy to make in Atlas it doesn’t mean it’s the right chart — too often I see journalists include a chart because they’ve been told they should, but they haven’t been careful enough in selecting the data/scale/axes to tell the story clearly. Some numbers on a graph is not a story.
I also see people using inappropriate graphs a lot — particularly when there are three variables involved.
It’s great that Atlas steps up from Chartbuilder in encouraging journalists to share their data, but it can mean that there’s a danger of misleading people if they stumble on an out of context graph (i.e. if the journalist hasn’t linked to the story in the ‘This Chart Appears In’ box.
But on closer inspection there’s a lot of detail missing. What do the percentages on the left axis represent? Do the girls receiving “no social grant” receive other income or not? There’s a lot of assumptions I might accidentally make because the story seems so strong.
Examples of how Atlas can be used: Pictures tell a thousand words, and there’s no story that couldn’t include a chart if we thought hard enough about it. What Atlas is great for is that it only makes charts that are easy to read.
There are many more chart visualisation tools that you can use in the newsroom and this list is not exhaustive. Here are some applications and online tools you can use:
In an age of ubiquitous computing and high-bandwidth video streaming capabilities from our pockets, the fact that the humble GIF continues to thrive is a remarkable feat. But its success is testament to the 30-year-old file format’s continued support, and ability to convey information (and entertain) without requiring huge processing power.
Indeed, GIFs continue to be used for many purposes, which is why Google has launched the Data Gif Maker, a tool aimed at helping journalists and storytellers convey information visually through simple animations.
“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at the Google News Lab, in a blog post. “In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”
The Data GIF Maker is pretty simple to use, though it is fairly narrow in scope. It’s basically designed to help people show how two competing “things” compare to each other in terms of popularity, such as sales of a particular product, or the frequency of two items in search engines, and requires the user to manually enter the information and then download the GIF.
Above: Data GIF: Batman vs. Superman
The advent of the internet and big data has given birth to a number of businesses that serve to help people make sense of the deluge of information at their disposal and tell meaningful stories. For example, Latvian infographics and data visualization company Infogram offers a slick WYSIWYG editor that converts users’ data into infographics that can be published or embedded anywhere, and earlier this month it was acquired by Prezi.
Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex. In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.
Enter data gifs.
These animations can be used for a variety of sophisticated storytelling approaches among data journalists: one example is Lena Groeger, who has become *the* expert in working with data gifs.
Today we are releasing Data Gif Maker, a tool to help journalists make these visuals, which show share of search interest for two competing topics.
Data Gif Maker works like this:
1. Enter two data points
We typically use the tool to represent competing search interest, but it can show whatever you want it to—polling numbers, sales figures, movie ratings, etc. If you want to show search interest, you can compare two terms in the Google Trends explore tool, which will give you an average number (of search interest over time) for each term. Then input those two numbers in Data Gif Maker.
2. Add your text
3. Choose your colors
4. Choose your explanatory text
5. Hit “Launch Comparisons” and “Download as Gif”
And there you go—you’ve made your first animated data gif. Pro-tip #1: the high resolution download takes longer but it’s better quality for social sharing. Pro-tip #2: Leave the window open on your desktop while it’s creating the gifs as it will do so quicker.
If you want the visual, but not the gif, hit “Launch Comparisons” and it will open in your browser window. Just hit space to advance through the views (it’s set up to show five pieces of data, one after the other).
Find the tool useful? We’d love to see what you do with it. Email us at email@example.com.
But there’s another factor that probably plays into how deluged we seem to be with news: Every time something happens, major or minor, our phones vibrate with an update — often from multiple outlets. How often does that happen? The Post has been tracking those alerts from multiple outlets for some time. Save a data error earlier this month, this is what those alerts look like over the past 30 days.
Over 7,000 artists played in the New York City area in 2013. Only 21 of those later made it, really made it, headlining at a venue with an over 3,000-person capacity — among them, bigger names like Chance the Rapper, X Ambassadors, Sam Smith, and Sylvan Esso.
The Pudding is the home to high-touch, painstakingly crafted data visualizations — what the site calls “visual essays” — that are distinct in their obsessive complexity over points of cultural curiosity. Most pieces stand wholly apart from the U.S. news cycle; no anxiety-inducing interactives around budget, taxes, health care. Want to see everywhere jazz legend Miles Davis is mentioned across Wikipedia, and how he’s connected to other people, recordings, and places? Here you go.
Pudding is the newly partitioned off editorial arm of a three-person data visualizations company Polygraph (polygraph.cool!), started two years ago by Matt Daniels, a consultant with a digital marketing background. Daniels and his partners Russell Goldenberg and Ilia Blinderman publish sumptuous visualizations that scratch personal itches. The Pudding also works closely with freelancers on pretty much whatever questions they’re interested in exploring visually, as long as it’s based on data. Freelancers are paid a flat rate of $5,000 for each piece.
“We’re all over the map. But basically, every individual picks their idea, we vet it ourselves and make sure the data’s there, that it’s interesting, and we just go off and do it,” Goldenberg told me. (The ideas backlog for The Pudding is listed out in this public Google Doc.) “Our goal is for The Pudding to be a weekly journal. We specifically seek out stories that aren’t news related, because we don’t want to compete in that space. The Washington Post, The New York Times, FiveThirtyEight, lots of places are doing interactive graphics well, doing multiple data journalism pieces per day. That doesn’t jive with what we want to be.”
Goldenberg previously worked at The Boston Globe as an interactive news developer and Blinderman’s a science and culture writer who studied data journalism at Columbia. Despite journalistic credentials, The Pudding (and Polygraph) isn’t aiming to be a journalistic enterprise. The team might in the course of developing a visualization call up a few people to run questions by them, or have to create their own data source (this freelancer’s exploration of the Hamilton musical libretto, for instance), but most of the data it builds interactives on is already available (no FOIAing needed).
Work gets promoted on The Pudding site, and through the Polygraph and Pudding newsletters, which will eventually merge into one. Polygraph’s newsletter sharing the latest visualizations has about 10,000 subscribers; The Pudding’s has about 1,000 after launching this year. Otherwise, promotion is largely word of mouth — and some pieces have been able to spread widely that way. They’re definitely open to collaborating with “more visible partners,” Goldenberg told me, though “we’re not being aggressive about our outreach.”
(A similar project popped up last year called The Thrust, which wanted to serve as a home for data visualization projects that didn’t fit with traditional news organizations or into their news cycles. The creators left for full-time jobs at ProPublica and The New York Times and the site has stopped updating.)
The moneymaking side of Polygraph functions like a digital agency, with Daniels, Goldenberg, and Blinderman pushing out projects for large clients like YouTube, Google News Lab, and Kickstarter. Goldenberg wouldn’t disclose how much they charge for these sponsored pieces, but revenue generated from a handful of client projects funds the entire editorial side, including paying for freelancers pieces and the three current full-time staffers’ salaries.
“We try to take on client work to just support our staff and basically to sustain The Pudding, with about three to six freelancers each quarter — what we’re doing is maybe kind of backwards,” Goldenberg said. “The thing about our editorial work is that also essentially serves as marketing for us. Generally, when we publish a new project on The Pudding, we get a few business inquiries. It’s a nice symbiotic relationship.”
Polygraph is also hiring for two more full-time positions — a “maker” and an editor — both at competitive salaries, which suggests that its client-side business is going quite well. Its ambitions looking forward, though, are straightforward: publish more interesting data-driven visualizations.
“We want to push forward the craft of visual storytelling, and these are not things you do on a daily basis,” Goldenberg said. “We still want to take our time and spend a couple of weeks, maybe a month or more, on a project. Unless we have dozens of people working with us, we wouldn’t really be able to publish more than once a week or so. We’re mostly just trying to establish that rhythm, and keep pushing out good pieces.”