I’m glad to announce that I will be presenting at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, June 20-23, 2013.   I will be teaching a hands-on data visualization workshop for absolute beginners.  Participants will learn how to build compelling maps, charts, graphs, and data visualizations, and get personalized recommendations for next steps based on their interests and skills. I’m thrilled to say that my son, Rowan Williams, who is 11, will also be presenting at AMC this year.  He will be presenting a session in the “Kids Create The World” track entitled “Build Your Own Video Games With Scratch.”  Here he is earlier today working on a game called SharkChomp.

[UPDATED! This tutorial is newly updated as of 1/28/17 with new geocoding instructions and now works again!]  TileMill is a free-to-download application for Windows and the Mac that will let you build beautiful, data driven maps.  If the bland sameness of Google maps is giving you ennui, TileMill might be a good alternative for you.   There are many beautiful stylesheets to make TileMill maps visually distinct, and you can control the colors, line widths, and much more about your map using Carto, a CSS-derived language.  Here’s a beautiful map of Montreal using a watercolor-like stylesheet:   What follows is a detailed, highly-illustrated guide to creating your first map in TileMill.  We will be using real data from the Rhode[…]

Today I will have the fabulous experience of presenting at the National Coalition for Media Reform conference with Catherine Bracy, Cheryl Contee, and Kimberly Bryant on the topic of women in the tech field.   Below, I’ll be putting links to stuff we covered in the session.  If you wrote about this session, or have questions, please feel free to get in touch with me, either by leaving a comment below or finding me on Twitter, where I am @lisawilliams. A bit more about the speakers: Catherine Bracy runs Code for America’s international programs. Previously she directed Obama for America’s San Francisco-based technology field office. She also served as the administrative director at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society[…]

Easter eggs have a long and storied history in computer programming.  Clever coders hide “easter eggs” in programs or video games that appear when a user knows the secret combination of keys or actions, or in some cases, the easter eggs just appear on certain days (often holidays). If you cut and paste this code into the Processing IDE and hit “Play,” you’ll get a simple Easter greeting.  Can you change the colors?  How about changing the color of each egg using a for loop? I’m using the 2.0b7 version of the Processing IDE — I haven’t been able to get 2.0 Beta 8 working on my machine. That’s the first one on the download page, so to get to[…]

I wanted to take TileMill for a spin, so I used this data from the RI Data Hub to create this intensity map of kids under the age of 3 enrolled in Early Intervention programs in Rhode Island. Mouseover the dots for more information. Here’s the spreadsheet I loaded into TileMill as a layer on this map. It’s a .CSV file. Here’s the code I plugged into the free TileMill app to get this to work: Here’s a post from the inimitable Brian Boyer, formerly of the Chicago Tribune News Apps team (and now of WaPo, I think): Make It Pretty With TileMill. I’d like to figure out how to label the counties I’ve now imported onto my map…but I[…]

If I had to teach three basic data/coding skills to folks in j-school I would choose these three: Map It.  There’s a reason that human beings have been making maps for millenia: they’re among the most powerful and expressive data visualizations.  Scrape It. Learn how to use simple scripts to liberate data from hard-to-navigate government websites or crappy PDFs Grab It.  Learn how to use simple scripts to “grab” data from one of the thousands of open APIs that allow you to use data for free. Today I’m going to work with some students of Michelle Johnson and John Bayard at Boston University’s j-school, and we’re going to do a code-along.  We’ll do at least one of these three skills[…]

Sometimes people ask me how to save journalism. I’m much more interested in saving journalists, not saving journalism; the individual is more meaningful, more evocative to me.  (See also: “Journalism Will Survive The Death Of Its Institutions“). So?  How do you save a journalist?  Incomplete list, pls add yours below: Give a journalist access to skills. I’m a big fan of ForJournalism, and of freely available educational resources on the Web.  More access to skills, in more ways.  (See also this post, a 14 minute talk to journalists on the three major technical skills that give the most “bang for the buck” journalistically speaking).  Create more opportunities for journalists (and journalism-adjacent folk like myself) to gather and work together, in[…]

Today Boston alt-weekly The Boston Phoenix announced that it was publishing its final edition. Here’s longtime former employee Dan Kennedy’s first take. I do not know what will happen to the paper’s website or archives.  Like Jason, I hope that they remove the tag on each page that prevents the Internet Archive from indexing their site and saving it for posterity. Hey @bostonphoenix – PLEASE remove your robots.txt so that @internetarchive can provide archives of your website to the world. — Jason Scott (@textfiles) March 14, 2013   Also, Reuters social media editor and journalist Matthew Keys was indicted on charges of allegedly conspiring with Anonymous to hack the website of the LA Times. As with Aaron Swartz, who committed[…]

When I was teaching a class on data visualization and we started tackling making visualizations using data from the NYT API, I created a simple bar chart visualization using Processing, using code I adapted from an exercise by Jer Thorpe in the book Beautiful Visualization. I thought, “Who are two newsworthy figures that will have lots of mentions?” And I chose Bill and Hillary Clinton, in the time period 2011-2012. Completely blew my mind that Bill Clinton appears to have gotten more NYT mentions during that time, considering that she was Secretary of State and he was not even in office at the time. Note: This example, as you’ll see below, does not use the NYT’s faceted search, which identifies[…]