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June 03 2011

09:51

Speaker presentations: Session 2A – Developing the data story

Here are the presentations from Session 1A – ‘The data journalism toolkit’, at last week’s news:rewired conference.

The session featured:

With: Professor Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder, helpmeinvestigate.com; Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian; Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu; Conrad Quilty-Harper, data reporter, the Telegraph. Moderated by Simon Rogers; editor, Guardian datablog and datastore.

Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University, London


Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu

http://owni.eu/2011/05/25/a-map-to-freedom-the-internet-in-europe/
http://influencenetworks.org/
http://owni.fr/2011/04/18/carte-biens-mal-acquis-kadhafi-ben-ali/
http://wikileaks.owni.fr/
http://app.owni.fr/warlogs/
http://warlogs.owni.fr/
http://statelogs.owni.fr/
http://owni.eu/2011/03/04/app-fortress-europe-a-deadly-exodus/

Conrad Quilty-Harper, data mapping reporter, the Telegraph


Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian



See the full session on video

May 27 2011

15:23

#newsrw: Keep the audience interested with interactivity

The developing the data story session gave predictions for the future – that it will be lots of screens and HTML5 – and how the Guardian would like to lengthen the life span of the data journalism news story.

Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder of helpmeinvestigate.com used the principal of toys to give ideas on developing the data story and explained the importance of  “future proofing the information we are gathering”, saying “that’s one of the big commercial imperatives”.

Conrad Quilty-Harper, data mapping reporter at the Telegraph, explained how creating maps adds to a story by using the example of a map on bike sharing schemes he created (though did not publish) using “Google Fusion Tables and a bit of javascript”.

He recommends Google Maps and says the trailblazer of a news site using Google Fusion tables is the Texas Tribune.

One of the Telegraph’s examples Quilty-Harper gave was a map of what the UK would look like if the 2010 election was decided by people voting under the AV.

He said the Telegraph is moving away from Flash graphics, which is not supported by the iPad.

“My proudest example” was a live interactive Royal Wedding map which “worked brilliantly for three hours”.

It showed some of the best tweets and were geolocated on the map. “We’ve got the data and we’re gong to analyse it and do something with it in the future,” he said. “It tells you what people in specific locations were thinking”.

The Telegraph would like to use the technology in a crisis news story, such as an earthquake or conflict.

“There’s a lot of underused resource” in the UK when it comes to creating maps, Quilty-Harper explained, saying the US are ahead of the game.

He gave a tip that the Met office has an amazing resource of data on weather.

Federica Cocco is editor of OWNI.eu and demonstrated the power of bloggers, data journalists, activists and graphic designers working together.

OWNI considers itself a think tank and as describes what they do as “augmented journalism”.

She showed examples a map demonstrating internet freedom in Europe and this impressive interactive piece of data journalism of shale gas extraction, which in cases has contaminated drinking water supplies.

Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist at the Guardian, gave a run down of how news websites use interactive content.

He listed the use of photos, slideshows, the interactive timeline, maps, charts and graphics, open-ended systems or ‘games’, which are interactive and allow users to make choices about what should happen, for example.

In explaining how interactivity assists data visualisation, he used an example of captured Twitter traffic during the World Cup showing “data in motion”.

In the case of the Afghan war logs he said “we wanted to create film like experience” using the data.

His view of the future is one of “lots of screens” as people use phones and tablet devices and of HTML5, which provides cross browser compatibility, overcoming the current problem.

Dant’s three tips for making interactive content are:

1. Google Fusion Tables

2. Tableau

3. Dipity, which is for timelines.

A question on how interactivity affects the audience and visitor numbers resulted in Paul Bradshaw discussing how many interactive maps and graphics go viral.

“With interactivity you get engagement”, Bradshaw said, and people spend a lot more time on the page – five times longer in the case of the data store, Bradshaw said.

For the Telegraph the AV map was particularly popular with audiences.

Simon Rogers of the Guardian said the amount of work that goes in to many data stories warrants a greater lifespan and said that interactive posts may soon have a life beyond the news story, for example in Facebook, something being worked on at the paper.

11:58

LIVE: Session 2A – Developing the data story

We have Matt Caines and Ben Whitelaw from Wannabe Hacks liveblogging for us at news:rewired all day. You can follow session 2A ‘Developing the data story’, below.

Session 2A features: Professor Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder, helpmeinvestigate.com; Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian; Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu; Conrad Quilty-Harper, data reporter, the Telegraph. Moderated by  Simon Rogers; editor, Guardian datablog and datastore.

Click on the link below to access the liveblog:

February 01 2011

10:55

Why journalists should be lobbying over police.uk’s crime data

UK police crime maps

Conrad Quilty-Harper writes about the new crime data from the UK police force – and in the process adds another straw to the groaning camel’s back of the government’s so-called transparency agenda:

“It’s useless to residents wanting to find out what was going on at the house around the corner at 3am last night, and it’s useless to individuals who want to build mobile phone applications on top of the data (perhaps to get a chunk of that £6 billion industry open data is supposed to create).

“The site’s limitations are as follows:

  • No IDs for crimes: what if I want to check whether real life crimes have made it onto the map? Sorry.
  • Six crime categories: including “other crimes”, everything from drug dealing to bank robberies in one handy, impossible to understand category.
  • No live data: you mean I have to wait until the end of the next month to see this month’s criminality?!
  • No dates or times: funny how without dates and times I can’t tell which police manager was in charge.
  • Case status: the police know how many crimes go solved or unsolved, why not tell us this?”

This is why people are so concerned about the Public Data Corporation. This is why we need to be monitoring exactly what spending data councils release, and in what format. And this is why we need to continue to press for the expansion of FOI laws. This is what we should be doing. Are we?

October 04 2010

07:41

Where should an aspiring data journalist start?

In writing last week’s Guardian Data Blog piece on How to be a data journalist I asked various people involved in data journalism where they would recommend starting. The answers are so useful that I thought I’d publish them in full here.

The Telegraph’s Conrad Quilty-Harper:

Start reading:

http://www.google.com/reader/bundle/user%2F06076274130681848419%2Fbundle%2Fdatavizfeeds

Keep adding to your knowledge and follow other data journalists/people who work with data on Twitter.

Look for sources of data:

ONS stats release calendar is a good start http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/release-calendar/index.html Look at the Government data stores (Data.gov, Data.gov.uk, Data.london.gov.uk etc).

Check out What do they know, Freebase, Wikileaks, Manyeyes, Google Fusion charts.

Find out where hidden data is and try and get hold of it: private companies looking for publicity, under appreciated research departments, public bodies that release data but not in a granular form (e.g. Met Office).

Test out cleaning/visualisation tools:

You want to be able to collect data, clean it, visualise it and map it.

Obviously you need to know basic Excel skills (pivot tables are how journalists efficiently get headline numbers from big spreadsheets).

For publishing just use Google Spreadsheets graphs, or ManyEyes or Timetric. Google MyMaps coupled with http://batchgeo.com is a great beginner mapping combo.

Further on from that you want to try out Google Spreadsheets importURL service, Yahoo Pipes for cleaning data, Freebase Gridworks and Dabble DB.

More advanced stuff you want to figure out query language and be able to work with relational databases, Google BigQuery, Google Visualisation API (http://code.google.com/apis/charttools/), Google code playgrounds (http://code.google.com/apis/ajax/playground/?type=visualization#org_chart) and other Javascript tools. The advanced mapping equivalents are ArcGIS or GeoConcept, allowing you to query geographical data and find stories.

You could also learn some Ruby for building your own scrapers, or Python for ScraperWiki.

Get inspired:

Get the data behind some big data stories you admire, try and find a story, visualise it and blog about it. You’ll find that the whole process starts with the data, and your interpretation of it. That needs to be newsworthy/valuable.

Look to the past!

Edward Tufte’s work is very inspiring: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/ His favourite data visualisation is from 1869! Or what about John Snow’s Cholera map? http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/snow_map.htm

And for good luck here’s an assorted list of visualisation tutorials.

The Times’ Jonathan Richards

I’d say a couple of blogs.

Others that spring to mind are:

If people want more specific advice, tell them to come to the next London Hack/Hackers and track me down!

The Guardian’s Charles Arthur:

Obvious thing: find a story that will be best told through numbers. (I’m thinking about quizzing my local council about the effects of stopping free swimming for children. Obvious way forward: get numbers for number of children swimming before, during and after free swimming offer.)

If someone already has the skills for data journalism (which I’d put at (1) understanding statistics and relevance (2) understanding how to manipulate data (3) understanding how to make the data visual) the key, I’d say, is always being able to spot a story that can be told through data – and only makes sense that way, and where being able to manipulate the data is key to extracting the story. It’s like interviewing the data. Good interviewers know how to get what they want out from the conversation. Ditto good data journalists and their data.

The New York Times’ Aron Pilhofer:

I would start small, and start with something you already know and already do. And always, always, always remember that the goal here is journalism. There is a tendency to focus too much on the skills for the sake of skills, and not enough on how those skills help enable you to do better journalism. Be pragmatic about it, and resist the tendency to think you need to know everything about the techy stuff before you do anything — nothing could be further from the truth.

Less abstractly, I would start out learning some basic computer-assisted reporting skills and then moving from there as your interests/needs dictate. A lot of people see the programmer/journalism thing as distinct from computer-assisted reporting, but I don’t. I see it as a continuum. I see CAR as a “gateway drug” of sorts: Once you start working with small data sets using tools like Excel, Access, MySQL, etc., you’ll eventually hit limits of what you can do with macros and SQL.

Soon enough, you’ll want to be able to script certain things. You’ll want to get data from the web. You’ll want to do things you can only do using some kind of scripting language, and so it begins.

But again, the place to start isn’t thinking about all these technologies. The place to start is thinking about how these technologies can enable you to tell stories you otherwise would never be able to tell otherwise. And you should start small. Look for little things to start, and go from there.

July 22 2010

07:00

The New Online Journalists #6: Conrad Quilty-Harper

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, The Telegraph’s new Data Mapping Reporter Conrad Quilty-Harper talks about what got him the job, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job thanks to Twitter. Chris Brauer, head of online journalism at City University, was impressed by my tweets and my experience, and referred me to the Telegraph when they said they were looking for people to help build the UK Political database.

I spent six weeks working on the database, at first manually creating candidate entries, and later mocking up design elements and cleaning the data using Freebase Gridworks, Excel and Dabble DB. At the time the Telegraph was advertising for a “data juggler” role, and I interviewed for the job and was offered it.

My job involves three elements:

  • Working with reporters to add visualisations to stories based on numbers,
  • Covering the “open data” beat as a reporter, and
  • Creating original stories with visualisations based on data from FOI and other sources.

For my job I need to know how to select and scrape good data, clean it, pick out the stories and visualise it. (P.S. you may have noticed that I’m a “data is singular” kinda guy).

The “data” niche is greatly exciting to me. Feeding into this is the #opendata movement, the new Government’s plan to release more data and the understanding that data driven journalism as practised in the United States has to come here. There’s clearly a hunger for more data driven stories, a point well illustrated by a recent letter to the FT.

The mindset you need to have as an online journalist today is to become familiar with and proficient at using tools that make you better at your job. You have to be an early adopter. Get on the latest online service, get the latest gadget and get it before your colleagues and competitors. Find the value in those tools, integrate it into your work and go and find another tool.

When I blogged for Engadget our team had built an automated picture watermarker for liveblogging. I played with it for a few hours and made a new script that downloaded the pictures from a card, applied the watermark, uploaded the pictures and ejected the SD card. Engadget continues to try out new tools that enable them to do their job faster and better. There are endless innovations being churned out every day from the world of technology. Make time to play with them and make them work for you.

If you know of anyone else who should be featured in this series, let me know in the comments.

February 23 2010

09:36

Data.gov.uk and the ASBOrometer – video interview

Here’s a video interview by Conrad Quilty-Harper with the creator of the ASBOrometer app for iPhone and Android. The app pulls information available through Data.gov.uk, allowing you to see levels of antisocial behaviour (and other data) near you. More broadly he talks about the potential of data.gov.uk going forward. Obvious implications for local and hyperlocal journalism…

January 18 2010

10:15

OnlineJournalismBlog: NUJ ‘New Ways to Make Journalism Pay’ conference round-up

Journalism.co.uk was still recovering from last week’s news:rewired and didn’t make it to the NUJ conference on Saturday, but we’re enjoying the round-ups elsewhere. Conrad Quilty-Harper rounds up links and comments for the Online Journalism Blog:

The NUJ’s New Ways to Make Journalism Pay conference on Saturday brought together a group of journalists and entrepreneurs who are making money through online journalism in the UK. Many of the speakers had toiled to build brands online, and those that had were now running sustainable businesses. If the future of journalism is entrepreneurial, then these speakers are evidence of it.

…and freelance journalist Ian Wylie provides a thorough report at this link…

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