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August 02 2012

13:26

Stable at Last, PANDA Reaches 1.0!

Eleven months ago, we began prototyping PANDA. The PANDA project aims to make basic data analysis quick and easy for news organizations, and make data sharing simple. I hacked for a month on an experimental version, verified that our technology choices worked, and then threw it out and started over. Since that time, development has proceeded in steady, week-long iterations, checkpointed by numerous releases and two-day long PANDA team-planning sessions. We've implemented every feature from our "must have" list, a large chunk of our "want" list, and even one or two off our "not likely" list (in response to user feedback).

Today, I'm pleased to announce that we have reached the end of our road map: PANDA Version 1.0 is ready!

YOU CAN HAVE A PANDA NOW

thumbsuppanda.jpg

If you've been taking a wait-and-see approach to getting PANDA in your newsroom, now is the time to see. Version 1.0 is the most polished release we've ever done. Among the highlights:

  • New user-oriented documentation at pandaproject.net.
  • No more default user accounts. A setup mode allows you to configure an admin user after installation.
  • Search for data within categories.
  • Additional metadata for datasets, including "related links."
  • Many, many, many bug fixes.

To get started with PANDA now, head over to our installation docs.

I have one month left to keep working full-time on PANDA. That means you have a month to get personalized help with any issues you encounter while setting up. If you get started now, I'll be answering your emails, tracking your bugs, and logging your future development requests. If you wait, you may have to get in line.

Still not persuaded? Check out an awesome presentation from Nolan Hicks, San Antonio Express-News reporter and PANDA beta tester.

Every newsroom can be a data-friendly newsroom. Get started with PANDA now.

January 05 2012

15:20

Feed Your PANDA With New APIs and Excel Import

PANDA_reasonably_small.jpg

Last time I wrote it was to solicit ideas for PANDA's API. We've since implemented those ideas, and we've just released our third alpha, which includes a complete writable API, demo scripts showing how to import from three different data sources, and the ability to import data from Excel spreadsheets.

The PANDA project aims to make basic data analysis quick and easy for news organizations, and make data sharing simple.

Try Alpha 3 now.

Hello, Write API

Our new write API is designed to be as simple and consistent as possible. We've gone to great lengths to illustrate how it works in our new API documentation. We've also provided three example scripts showing how to populate PANDA with data from:

Using these scripts as a starting point, any programmer with a little bit of Python knowledge should be able to easily import data from an SQL database, local file or any other arcane data source they can conjure up in the newsroom.

Excel support

Also included in this release is support for importing from Excel .xls and .xlsx files. It's difficult to promise that this support will work for every Excel file anyone can find to throw at it, but we've had good results with files produced from both Windows and Mac versions of Excel, as well as from OpenOffice on Mac and Linux.

Our Alpha 4 release will be coming at the end of January, followed quickly by Beta 1 around the time of NICAR. To see what we have planned, check out our Release schedule.

August 26 2011

17:32

PANDA Aims to Make Data Analysis Easier for Journalists (And We'll Be at ONA!)

What's got rows and columns and sucks at data? Excel. Though to be fair, we misuse it. Excel was built for spreadsheets, but it's become most folks' go-to kit for poking at data. It's installed on your computer. It opens CSV files. It's what you know.

Of course, databases are great at data, but they're hard. Microsoft Access is limiting, and real databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL aren't the easiest things for a non-hacker to get up and running, let alone query. Learning a little SQL will make you a better reporter, but digging through many datasets from different sources can take more than "a little SQL."

Plus, it doesn't matter if you're an Excel maniac or a database jockey -- either way, the data is just sitting on your PC, invisible to your peers. Hidden data is sad data.

We live in a data-soaked sci-fi future. It's awesome. And in this future, every journalist must be a data journalist. But to get there, we need a better kit.

PANDA will help

We're trying do two things with PANDA: make basic data analysis quick and easy for news organizations, and make data sharing simple. I'll explain by example:

Let's say you've got an Excel spreadsheet of city employees with columns for first name, last name, department, position and salary. You visit your PANDA, upload the spreadsheet, give it a name, and tell PANDA it's a list of people. Once the data's in, you'll be able to search and sort and filter -- whatever you need.

Each news organization will have their own PANDA, so your data stays private while you work. And every time you add a new spreadsheet, you'll be building your newsroom's data library. So next time one of your peers is scrubbing a name, they'll be able to simultaneously search this and all the other lists of names your newsroom has collected.

That's just the baseline. We've got many more ideas, but we'd like to discuss them with you! So...

Hello, ONA!

The PANDA Gang is going to be at ONA 2011 in Boston in a few weeks, and we need to hear from you! We'll be roaming the halls, camping in the lobbies and crawling the bars -- furiously taking notes about your newsroom data needs.

Find us!

We'll be in the red PANDA T-shirts.

17:32

PANDA Aims to Make Data Analysis Easier for Journalists

Excel sucks. Though to be fair, we misuse it. Excel was built for spreadsheets, but it's become most folks' go-to kit for poking at data. It's installed on your computer. It opens CSV files. It's what you know.

Of course, databases are great at data, but they're hard. Microsoft Access is limiting, and real databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL aren't the easiest things for a non-hacker to get up and running, let alone query. Learning a little SQL will make you a better reporter, but digging through many datasets from different sources can take more than "a little SQL."

Plus, it doesn't matter if you're an Excel maniac or a database jockey -- either way, the data is just sitting on your PC, invisible to your peers. Hidden data is sad data.

We live in a data-soaked future. It's awesome. And in this future, every journalist must be a data journalist. But to get there, we need a better kit.

PANDA will help

With PANDA (which is a recursive acronym for "A News Data Application"), we're trying do two things: make basic data analysis quick and easy for news organizations, and make data sharing simple. I'll explain by example:

Let's say you've got an Excel spreadsheet of city employees with columns for first name, last name, department, position and salary. You visit your PANDA, upload the spreadsheet, give it a name, and tell PANDA it's a list of people. Once the data's in, you'll be able to search and sort and filter -- whatever you need.

Each news organization will have their own PANDA, so your data stays private while you work. And every time you add a new spreadsheet, you'll be building your newsroom's data library. So next time one of your peers is scrubbing a name, they'll be able to simultaneously search this and all the other lists of names your newsroom has collected.

That's just the baseline. We've got many more ideas, but we'd like to discuss them with you! So...

PANDA from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Hello, ONA!

The PANDA Gang is going to be at "ONA 2011 in Boston":http://ona11.journalists.org/ in a few weeks, and we need to hear from you! We'll be roaming the halls, camping in the lobbies and crawling the bars -- furiously taking notes about your newsroom data needs.

Find us!

We'll be in the red PANDA T-shirts.

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