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Using TableFu to Crack Those Tables

January 21, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.

Note: in lieu of other excuses: I have a carnival of journalism post coming soon. Consider this an unrelated holdover to remind you that I do, in fact, still occasionally use this blog.

For a while now, I've been toying with a side project called TableFu. If you follow me on Twitter or Github, you've probably seen it. It might already be in your toolkit (if, for example, you needed to organize a bunch of Youtube videos of Christmas carols).

The project started as a Python port of ProPublica's project of the same name, which is written ...


Amanda Cox, on Doing DataViz Right

December 2, 2010 at 11:23 a.m.

In a good graphic, "something surprising pops out," Amanda Cox says. "The interesting things in this data reveal themselves by the structure you've chosen."

If you work with data and news, listen to what Cox says. Then go look at the work she does. Cox is a graphics editor at the New York Times and one of the best there is at turning complex datasets into understandable stories and usable tools.

A few key points:

  • "The annotation layer is the most important thing we do." Data needs context.
  • Context isn't just change over time. Think about scale, background ...


"Data Is the New Soil"

August 31, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.

... and we are just learning how to till it on the web.

David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.

My favorite is the "mountains out of molehills" chart of unreasonable fears.

(via Flowing Data)


A lesson from Patchwork Nation: Frameworks for Reporting

July 28, 2009 at 9:46 p.m.

In programming, frameworks help speed development by abstracting common tasks and letting us focus on things that matter. They make what's important interesting.

We can apply this approach to reporting as well, especially when we're collecting structured data and treating news as data points. Doing this means we don't have to start over with each new set of figures.

A few lessons learned from Patchwork Nation and other projects.



January 28, 2009 at 9:09 a.m.

Steve Yelvington talks about being a local expert. This pushes farther a concept Jeff Jarvis advanced a few months back: The building block of journalism is no longer the article. Matt at Newsless describes this as systematic knowledge accumulation (he's talking about within journalism, in this case, but I think it's applicable here).

Let's think about what that might look like a bit. For a given topic or issue, I might want to pull together:

  • News articles
  • Blog posts
  • Forum topics
  • Links to other places talking about the issue
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Profiles of people who show up ...


The trouble with counting people in China

May 28, 2008 at 9:03 a.m.

A while back, I tried to answer a simple question people often asked me about Dalian: How many people live there?

Simple question, tough answer. Alex found a good dataset, which we put on DalianDalian. Well, the question has come back.

I'm writing a cover story on real estate in China's second-tier cities for an investment newsletter, and as part of the project, I've decided to compile a database of locales, most of which people outside of China have likely never heard (admittedly, there are some I couldn't have put on a map before starting this ...