A new way for data journalists to thwart newsroom...
One of my old jokes is that newsroom IT puts the No in Innovation, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to get around them. And I’ve been playing around with a good one: The Raspberry Pi. Unfamiliar with the Pi? The Model B Pi is a $35 computer that’s about the size of a deck of cards. It’s got an ethernet port, and you supply the hard drive in the form of an SD card,...
Finding Stories in the Structure of Data -... →
I’m here to argue that our vision of a story is too simple and wholly inadequate for the web.
How sensor journalism can help us create data,... →
Data journalism, meet sensor journalism. You two should talk.
Adventures in prototyping
Things we have done today in my office: Stolen two cups of dirt from a construction site. Made a pot of mud with one cup of dirt. Microwaved the second cup of dirt in the faculty lounge. Measured the the sensor output of totally dry dirt versus a soaking wet pot of mud. Used the point-slope form of linear algebra to determine the formula for the line between dry and wet. In a journalism...
Writing stories with code, part 2: conditional...
See part one here. Get the code, such as it is, here. When we last left off, we had a script that would loop through a list of data and write a news lead out of it. All that the script did was look at two numbers and decide if the crime rate went up or down and then wrote an appropriate sentence. Something like this: Lexington police reported more violent crime in 2010 compared to 2009,...
Writing stories with code
There’s a lof of interest and attention right now around the idea of computers writing stories from data. As newsrooms shrink and business models implode, managers are casting about for anything that can keep the pages filled/updates flowing. Stories about automated news all seem to ask the straw-man question: “Can software replace humans?” I have two thoughts about this: 1....
If you think about Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, the key thing about these new...– Joi Ito, head of MIT’s Media Lab, speaking truths news organizations still haven’t learned.
Force multipliers, failed military tech and the... →
This is a blog post I wrote for Scoopcamp, a future of media conference in Hamburg. I’ve become fascinated by a scrapped military project called the Future Force Warrior and how it could be applied to the networked, mobile and robotically aided reporter of the very near future.
Nothing is more striking in the way in which men judge newspaper criticism, than...– B. L. Godhin, Scribner’s magazine, July, 1890. A fascinating little read from 122 years ago in light of the ruckus going on right now over fact checking in media.
Knight News Challenge Round 2: The Internet of... →
This idea, in a slightly different form, did well in the first News Challenge. Here is is again retooled a bit. The more I think about it, the more we should all be uncomfortable with the government being the sole source of data journalism. newschallenge: 1. What do you propose to do? [20 words] To develop a wireless network of sensors to feed a data backend and visualizations for DIY data...
Reading the paper this morning, I was interested to read two stories. The first was about the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approving at 3.75 percent tuition increase. The second was about those same regents moving forward with cutting the number of credit hours to graduate. The two stories were separate, and in print were in different sections. Why am I interested in this? Because of...
Help me plan a hacker space/drone lab
I’ve got an opportunity to build a hacker/maker space + drone lab in a journalism college. I’ve been asked to come up with requirements for the room. Square footage, furniture, gear, storage, you name it. Does your university have a hacker space? What does it look like? Are there pictures of it online? Got a URL? Here’s what I’m thinking, broadly. Not going to get all...
If you were teaching a course in data...
… what would you include? I’m developing a course in data viz over the summer and am in the brainstorming phase now. Here’s what I’ve got. What would you do? Course Description A written narrative is not always the best way to convey information. Sometimes, you have to see the data in order to see the meaning in it. With more data available than any other time in our...
Knight News Challenge on networks - moving to the... →
My Sensors for News app made it to the second round. In all 51 of more than 1,000 apps made it to the second round. Excited to have a chance to push this forward. newschallenge: We just finished selecting the 51 proposals that will go to the next round of the Knight News Challenge on networks. (You can see 50 of them listed below; one was a closed entry we don’t have permission from the...
AJR: Learning to do it all →
Maybe I like the sermon so much because I’m in the choir, but if you care about journalism education, read this. Highlights: “Journalism schools are realizing that the old tracks don’t really work for students the way the journalism landscape works now,” Hernandez says. And: And if there’s one point on which those interviewed for this story agree, it’s...
Knight News Challenge: News Challenge Networks is... →
Noted: My sensor networks News Challenge app has a better chance of getting into Harvard than winning the grant. But, as famed philosopher and poet William Adama once said, sometimes you’ve got to roll the hard six. newschallenge: 2011 News Challenge entries on Tumblr Over the weekend, we stopped accepting entries in the Knight News Challenge on networks. The challenge closes with...
Toward a solution to the more tech in J-school...
First, lets state some general conditions and agree to them: There is a generally agreed upon need for tomorrow’s journalists — no matter what area of the craft they intend to go into — to have more technological skill and experience than their past counterparts. There is not a generally agreed upon way to accomplish this increase in technological skill within a j-school...
My Knight News Challenge entry: Sensor networks... →
I’ve been bouncing around ideas lately about physical computing, real-time data visualization and what is the technological answer to the bulls*** management line of “doing more with less.” And, out of that idea soup, came this: newschallenge: 1. What do you propose to do? [20 words] Develop a network of sensors distributed around a city to report data into a real-time...
Using Python to access tweets from the command...
Here at the Harvard of the Plains, I teach a class in digital product development I like to call Programming as an Act of Journalism. Lots of people ask me about it and I’m always a bit cagey about it because, to be frank, I’m still kind of making it up as I go. My course goals could actually fill an entire degree, so I spend a lot of time pushing and pulling against my wants and needs...
A completely arbitrary list of takeaways from two...
This past weekend, I attended Spark Camp: Data, an unconference in Austin focused on using data to tell stories, whatever they may be. A month before, I was at News Foo, an unconference at Arizona State University that brings technologists and journalists together to talk about … whatever they want to talk about regarding the future of news. Both conferences included a lot of chatter about...
A word of advice for Code Year participants
A whole herd of people are learning to program this year through free weekly lessons via email from Code Year. Some, like me, are interested in new lessons and approaches. Some people are starting from scratch. I have a word of advice to you, one I need to follow myself, as you get started on your Code Year. Unplug. Turn off Tweetdeck. Shut down IM. Turn off your email notifier. No one has liked...
Data journalism class description: your thoughts?
I’m teaching a data journalism/investigative reporting class for the first time this spring. I’ve got the class pretty well mapped out — I know what I’m going to teach — but I’m struggling with a course description. Here’s what I’ve got. Fellow data nerds, what say you? Every day, more of our lives is becoming digital and more of that life is...
Hacker-Journalism 2011: A year of "show your work"... →
sinker: It has been exciting to be both a witness to and a participant in the growing movement towards open web development in journalism. 2011 is one of those years that it’s amazing to sit back, here on one of its last days, and look back at just how much has been accomplished. There was incredible…
Thinking out loud: The management wisdom of...
I’m going to News Foo in Phoenix in a few weeks, and I’m thinking of proposing an Ignite talk there called the Management Wisdom of Battlestar Galactica. I’m a huge fan of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series that was on Syfy. Besides having lead a rag-tag fleet of the last humans left alive in a Cylon holocaust, I think Admiral William Adama would have been a pretty...
Are our systems for learning making the grade? →
sinker: The speed of change in the academy isn’t meeting the speed of innovation on the web.
For more than 10 years, I’ve been offering...
What made it click for me was programming in anger. Programming because I needed...– How do I learn to program? - (37signals)
Help me refine an incomplete idea
The McCormick Foundation and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies are funding specialized reporting institutes in 2012 and are taking applications now. I saw this and had an idea for one, but I’m not convinced it’s fully baked. Help me out by adding your suggestions in the comments below. The idea (the short version): Reporting for News Apps: Getting, Cleaning, Vetting, Analyzing...
Journalism students vs. tech-focused students
Here in my first semester on the faculty at the Harvard of the Plains, I get to work with students in both the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Raikes School for Computer Science and Management. With both groups of students, I’m working through problems that can be described as technology+journalism = ?? When confronted with a code challenge — HTML,...
News nerd rage: the trouble with conferences
I’ve been having somewhat of an existential crisis of late. I’ve been a speaker at multiple journalism conferences a year for more than a decade running now and I have started to wonder at the value of all that talking. Not that I feel all those sessions weren’t valuable — they were — but were they as valuable as they could have been? Could we have gotten a few more...
Me vs. 130 Journalism 101 students: The epic Q&A
A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Journalism 101 class taught by Professor Scott Winter and the dean of the college, Gary Kebbel. Thinking it was just a simple come, talk, answer questions and leave, I was surprised to find that they had all come with questions and, while I was talking, were texting...
The trouble with back-ends →
BusinessWeek, however, is just one egregious example of an ugly truth: There’s no such thing as a CMS success story. At least, successes are elusive, which is a problem for anyone in media, as content management systems—the software used by writers, editors, and producers to create digital content for websites—have become as essential as oxygen.
Take a few minutes and watch this and 1) tell me we’re not living in the motherflippin’ future and 2) this bad boy couldn’t be used for some very, very cool journalism. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods … you name it. Any kind of disaster where spatial extent is newsworthy.
Some very smart posts about killing your CMS
Since I wrote my opus hating on legacy CMSes, I have been kicking the idea around in my head here and there, pondering just what this thing would look like, from backend systems to code to the presentation layer. Never anything fully baked or worth writing down. In the past week, I’ve come across two posts that are just brilliant. And they dovetail nicely together. First, Stijn...
Facebook and social journalism: Notes from a... →
“If you’re piping in auto feeds (like your Twitter updates) to Facebook, you could be drawing in two to three times less engagement than if you jump in and update your Facebook page manually.”
Tracking pundit prognostications →
A group at Hamilton College tracked the predictions of pundits and rated them on a “Good, Bad and Ugly” scale. I would love to do this with NFL draft pundits. You could do multiple accuracy ratings too: straight up right and wrong, accurate to +/- 1 or accurate to +/- 3. Question: Who funds research like this?
What you’re looking for, ultimately, are stories. Statistics, to...– Nate Silver, the brains behind FiveThirtyEight, in a speech to the Columbia Journalism School (pdf of the speech).
The Cult of Done →
Done is the engine of more.
When politicians, from Barack Obama all the way down, talk about higher...– William Deresiewicz, writing in “Faulty Towers, The Crisis in Higher Education” in The Nation.
The bottom line: Failure is not bad. The sooner companies realize this, the...– Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business, in Why Failure Drives Innovation
Using drones for reporting →
I really want to do this. Really. Want. Check out the video. Question is can it be done cheap enough to actually cut costs? Or can it be done with GPS for data reporting? I think so, but need to actually do it
Reducing story costs through technology →
For any business, there’s revenue and there’s expense. Profit and loss are what you get when you subtract the two. To increase profit, or reduce loss, you need some combination of increasing revenue and decreasing costs. Basic, business 101 here. One of the criticisms of journalism is that it’s inefficient, that news gathering is messy and reporting is impossible to predict or...
What would you want out of a class taught by a...
You know journalism is in trouble when you know this: I’m being invited to teach a class at a respected journalism school. The fun part, and not a very surprising part given the state of the industry right now, is that neither they nor I have a really solid idea what the class is going to be. The class will start in the fall of 2010, so we have time to figure it out. Obviously, given what...
The key lesson I learned building PolitiFact:...
So there was a little news around here lately. PolitiFact won a Pulitzer Prize. To say I’m still in shock is an understatement. A week later, it doesn’t seem real. All week long, we’ve been talking about how PolitiFact started, how it all came together. It’s been fun remembering how it started out with Bill Adair having an idea and me having an idea on how we could pull it...
Telling the Google Bot no
On every web project I’ve worked, one of the key/top/vital priorities was to make sure that Google could index every single last word of the site so that if someone was searching for what we had, they’d find it. My most recent project turned that on its head. What if you don’t want Google to index everything? What if you only want Google to index this, but not that? The project...
Build something or STFU
This blog has been quiet of late because I’ve been working in every spare moment I have on a couple of projects that are going to launch soon, good lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Given that I’m sleep deprived, stressed and generally ground down to a nub, it’s a bad, bad time for me to read my media-heavy RSS feeds. Before I get myself into trouble, I just want to...
Twitter, marketing and the devil
Everything you need to know about using Twitter for marketing and PR is at this very descriptive url: http://www.howtousetwitterformarketingandpr.com/ That’s right: Don’t. Don’t use Twitter for marketing. Why? Let me draw a comparison for you: What would you call someone who uses a program to automatically send you an annoying volume of email? A spammer. So what makes you think that because...
Data = Content: Content = Data
Mark Potts had some nice things to say about the new version of PolitiFact that we recently launched. But one of the things he wrote I wanted to amplify: None of this really looks like traditional journalism. The Obameter doesn’t follow conventional story formats in any way, and is really a hybrid between data, reporting, news and information presentation. We need to see a lot more of this....
How not to be a Wordpress hero
* Note: This post came from a version of this blog that got lost in a server failure. It’s been restored from old RSS feeds, Google caches and other sources. As such, the comments, links and associated media have been lost. There’s a group of fellow journalists who are getting really sick of what we’re calling Wordpress Heroes. What is a Wordpress Hero? Back home, we’d...