Which state college systems offer the best “bang for the buck” when it comes to a student’s chance of graduating, and the amount of debt they will graduate with? With more and more students taking more than four years to graduate, it’s an important question — a question that a scatterplot can shed light on. A scatterplot shows you individual entities across two dimensions. Here’s an example showing you the relationship between the life expectancy of its country’s citizens and its Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP).  As you can see, countries with lower GDP tend to have lower life expectancies. Now let’s try it with a dataset of our own. First, we have to get a dataset. We’ll start[…]

ABSURDLY ILLUSTRATED TUTORIALS Mapping: The Absurdly Illustrated Guide To Your First Data-Driven TileMill Map Timelines/Tabletop.js: The Absurdly Illustrated Guide To Your First Data-Driven Timeline Data Tables/Tabletop.js: The Absurdly Illustrated Guide To Sortable, Searchable Online Data Tables Immersive Digital Storytelling The Absurdly Illustrated Guide To Immersive, Tablet-Friendly News Stories Comparing and Contrasting/Rawcharts/D3.js: The Absurdly Illustrated Guide To Making Scatterplots With Rawcharts and D3.js

This tutorial will show you how to take your material and transform it into a tablet-friendly, rich experience for readers.   We will use open-source software called sStory, created by EJ Fox. This tutorial was inspired by my Australian journalist friends, who came to a workshop I taught hosted by The Walkley Foundation.  (The Walkleys are also Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards, akin to what the Pulitzer Prizes are to American journalism).  The participants in the workshop were unfailingly bright and willing, and so we skipped through several data visualization lessons early and spent the last half of the last day of the workshop trying to pull together our work into a data-driven, immersive story. We didn’t quite get done,[…]

What basic coding/tech skills meet the following criteria? They are relatively easily required with no need for a 4 year CS degree; They provide journalistically relevant and useful results They are reusable in a journalistic context In my opinion, there are three skills that meet these criteria: Mapping.  Most news happens in a place.  Maps are ancient precisely because they are such an expressive and powerful form of data visualization. Grabbing.  Thousands of websites have data gateways called APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow you free access to some or all of that site’s data — as long as you can write a relatively simple program that can grab it and return it to you in a format you can[…]

Not too long ago I was able to attend a demo of the data visualization toolkit Weave.  The person giving the demo was Georges Grinstein, one of the tool’s creators.  Georges hails from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He showed a really amazing demo of foreclosure data from Lowell, MA.  For those of you who aren’t from Massachusetts, Lowell was one of America’s first industrial cities; massive textile mills once dominated the town.  The mill buildings are there — but the kind of jobs they once provided are long gone.  I have a lot of affection for Lowell because my grandmother lived there and my mother was raised there; my dad graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell[…]

  Photo Credit: scriptingnews via Compfight cc Last week I was lucky enough to meet with three folks who work in the newsroom of a daily newspaper.  That’s a big deal to me, because if my work isn’t useful to people who work in a newsroom, a mission-driven nonprofit, or doesn’t work for folks who want to change the world (or even just their little piece of it), I’m wasting my time. I asked them: “What should my next step-by-step tutorial be?  What would be really useful for a beat reporter who doesn’t think of themselves as a techie to pick up?”  Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that shooting video was considered a specialty task that print reporters[…]

Recently I searched for the name of my current project, “Data for Radicals,” and through that magic we know as Serendipity on the Internet, up popped: Ten Rules for Radicals by none other than Carl Malamud.  To be honest, before I read “Ten Rules for Radicals,” all I knew about Carl was that my friends who were investigative journalists — particularly those who did the deep data and document dives through FOIA and other means — talked about him in hushed tones of awe. Reading the title, I could not help but think that the essay, originally an address to the WWW2010 conference, represented one of those strange messages that happen between people of ideas, even if those people are[…]

Visual approaches to data are great — they can allow us to grasp complex issues at a glance, just the way this map from Clear Health Costs shows us the dramatic differences between what different hospitals charge for the same procedure. But sometimes a simple, sortable and searchable table of data is all that’s really needed.  Using  code written by Chris L. Keller, I was able to create this sortable, searchable table of law enforcement agencies in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, along with the populations they serve, and how many full-time officers per capita there are. As always, click on any image in this blog to see it full size.  I leave helpful annotations in the illustrations to these tutorials —[…]

  Sortable, searchable table of law enforcement agencies, Middlesex County, MA Tabletop.js is a Javascript library that lets you use Google spreadsheets as the data source for web apps.  It’s pretty neat — especially since we know there are so many simple but useful web and mobile apps we can create where setting up a full-on database is overkill.  What if you want to make a sortable, searchable list of craft breweries?  Or a schedule for a music festival?  Do you really have to bust out MySQL for that? Well, with Tabletop.js, you don’t.  The other great thing about using Tabletop.js is that a lot more people know how to use a Google spreadsheet than know how to enter records[…]

  [9/15/14: REPAIRED!  This tutorial was broken because a file used (tabletop.js) needed to be updated to the newest version.  It works now.  Enjoy! — LW] Gay marriage became legal today in Rhode Island, making marriage equality the law of the land in all of New England. The Providence Journal published a detailed timeline of GLBT history in the state — but it’s text-only.  On this happy day, what could we do to spiff things up a little?  I decided to give the Projo’s timeline a little celebratory finery by creating a vertical, interactive timeline using Timeline.js.  Check it out. Now I will show you how to do it!