Happy to see our Riot Rumours interactive honored at the self-proclaimed "Pulitzer of infographics" – Malofiej. NYT graphics (deservedly) scooped such a large haul of gold medals this year they'd give Michael Phelps a run for his money. Robert Kosara explains why on his Eager Eyes blog.
All this fuss about data journalism seems to forget the fact people have been tucked away in Computer Assisted Reporting teams for the last forty years, piecing together Pulitzer winning investigative pieces. It was nice to be asked to join a panel at the IRE's annual NICAR conference – an event that not only represents this heritage but also acts a gathering point for many of the news app teams that have been springing up around the world.
Earlier in the year, Mozilla came in to the Guardian to run a hack event as part of their search for MoJo News fellows. It was great hearing Mark Surman describe some of their current initiatives with such passion and enthusiasm. Consequently, I was really happy to be asked to put together a workshop at MozFest with Dan Sinker who runs the fellowship program (now in partnership with the Knight Foundation).
We got together the day before the conference to figure out a structure with our co-host – Bilal Randaree from Al Jazeera. This was made easier by the fact we were all over at Ravensbourne College to announce who'd been awarded the first round of fellowships. Congratulations to Nicola Hughes who'll be joining my team at the Guardian next year.
The workshop ended up focussed on Flow Media – the increasing presence of realtime content on news websites. We challenged our participants to come up with novel ways of merging content such as live blogs, comment threads and video streams. In the face of emerging events like the Arab Spring, this kind of coverage is becoming more and more important editorially. It's also a great opportunity to incorporate interactive interface ideas.
Elsewhere in the building, Liliana Bounegru and the OKFN team brought together a host of great people to write the first draft of something they're calling the Data Journalism Handbook. With contributions from folks like Scott Klein, Aron Pilhofer and Brian Boyer it's bound to be worth a read. I look forwards to getting involved as soon as I've got some time.
Ever since OSCON, O'Reilly have been doing a great job of finding interesting conference niches. Strata is their latest offering and caters for the ever-growing community of programmers, business analysts and stats gurus helping industry to make sense of the huge volumes of data now being recorded throughout the digital world.
It was interesting watching the collision currently occurring between the hip young data science community and folks who’ve been running analytics or data warehouse operations for years. Although journalism may seem a little sidelong to all that, I suspect the common ground is people's desire to see analytical insights arranged into narrative sequences. If we're not careful, data journalists may end up the Crystal Reports experts of our time
I am grateful to Chrys Wu and Jenny 8 Lee for finding me a slot at Hacks & Hackers the week I was in New York for Strata. Aside from meeting a bunch of extremely bright (and friendly) journo-develop-nologists, it gave me a chance to run through some of the material I planned to present a few days early
Hurtling across Manhattan in a taxi with super sidekick Alex Graul, I was daunted to discover the event had not only sold out but also acquired a secondary ticket market. In the end, the combination of a great venue (thanks CUNY), marvellous deli food (thanks Mile End), and the enthusiastic crowd was a real winner (thanks everyone). I was particularly taken aback to discover that 95% of attendees were attempting to hire news devs. New York will clearly be home to a lot of great work in the next few years…
The latter part of 2010 has been dominated by Wikileaks stories. Although the whole circus surrounding Julian Assange has started to resemble a bit of a pantomime, it was interesting to have played a part in such a major editorial project
Six months after Apple v Adobe first became headline news, I found myself in the basement of a pub explaining how the Guardian builds interactive news features. Although we've made heavy use of Flash in the past, we're currently evaluating the promise of standards-based authoring and I wanted to share some of our findings.
The intrepid London branch of Hacks/Hackers invited me to speak about creating interactive pieces in a newsroom. The audience was a mixture of coding types and journalists, so I wanted to discuss our process without getting too hung up on technical details. Since everyone seems to be singing the praises of HTML5, I wanted to take a practical view on whether it could be used to make some of the pieces we've produced recently at the Guardian.
Our existent workflow copes well with rapid authoring and that's helped a great deal by the tools we use. Creating interactives requires constant dialogue between designers and developers, and the ability to port Adobe Illustrator files into Flash makes this fairly seamless. While Adobe are starting to broaden their tools to encompass the new technology, it's still early days – and in the fast pace of the newsroom, speed and reliability are big factors.
On the plus side, vector drawing, animation, realtime image manipulation and 3D graphics are all there; good start. Features like web sockets and web workers bode well for the future. However, in its current state, the lack of cross-browser consistency and unpredictable performance means we'll have a hard time bringing people comparable experiences. Moving through a series of our more successful pieces, it seems that each one has one or two ingredients that are hard to replicate without Flash. For example, although HTML5 contains greatly improved audiovisual features, it would be difficult to reproduce April's sound map of Caledonian Road without more reliable audio synchronisation capabilities. That said, we look forwards to continued experiments in this area and would imagine that better tools are round the corner.
Another 2.5 week race to deadline, this project developed out of the collision between an editorial desire to create a “challenge the chancellor” style budget game and a prototype I put together for David McCandless to show him how treemaps might be a way to display his billion-dollar-grams programmatically.
This was a rewarding challenge to think through and build. The datablog team did a great job wrangling various oblique sources of government into a single spreadsheet. The graphics desk did an update of their fantastic atlas of public spending centre spread. It was nice to sit with Paul Scruton and figure out how to turn a treemap into a game. Above all, Mark McCormick's awesome color palette lent the piece its codename – Project Elmer!
I was happy be asked to present our World Cup Twitter replay at the BBC's Audio & Music departmental meeting earlier this month. It's not every day you get on stage at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. True to form for radio folks, everything was pretty tightly organized – the night before the event I discovered I needed to be much better prepared than normal to keep my talk in line with the quick fire schedule. The solution turned out to be delivering the talk over the top of one of the match replays. 90 seconds is far easier to pace when you know what's coming next!
If you're interested in finding out what else was presented, one of the organizers wrote up the event on her blog. Piccy by our illustrious intern, Mariana Santos.
What with the high hosting costs and no guarantee that readers will have sufficient bandwidth, our site hasn't published HD video in the past. Our systems team obligingly made an exception in this case, and I worked with designer Chris Fenn to build a full-screen interface onto the results
This piece won an award for News and Politics at the 2011 Webbys.
Upon finishing the election, we plunged straight into building a series of interactive features for the World Cup. Everyone's favourite was our animation of Twitter activity, a fast motion replay of each game in the tournament through the medium of flying balls. Having hatched the plan whilst away on holiday, I was lucky that a host of talented people came together to get things built under real time pressure. You can read the full write up of how we built it on our Inside Guardian blog.
Elections are a key responsibility for interactive news teams. In the run up to the event, polls and predictions tend to be popular features. On the night itself, sites see some of their highest traffic as readers search for realtime results. This leads to some late nights as newsrooms compete to build novel widgets and systems solid enough to cope with spiking web activity.
Earlier in the year, Guardian editorial requirements came to focus on three key items. I'm glad to be able to say we got them all built in time…
Our poll tracker showed new data each day from a series of key opinion polls. It allows readers to switch between an aggregate view and the results of each individual poll. We had fun working out how to animate smoothly between graphs:
The main focus for live results was a map drawn from a series of JSON files published throughout the night by Aristotle, our backend datastore that is updated automatically from Press Association feeds. We also built a “bento box” for our front page featured a series of live data widgets:
I first met Francesca Panetta at one of our hack days. It was great discovering she knew and liked the interactive maps I built as part of the Folksongs Project. Her production work such as the Hackney Podcast is quite unique – a multi-layered approach to audio that you seldom hear on the radio. I was thus really keen to build an interactive interface for her Caledonian Road audio tour. We put together a team featuring Chris Fenn's design talents and Jonny Reeves impeccable media programming skills.
Discussing the audio material, it became clear that the tour traversed the road from top to bottom and we could thus use the map itself to display progress through the program. Breaking the audio into chapters allowed a greater degree of non-linear access. It also presented the opportunity to give each chapter an accompanying slideshow, with each photo introduced at cue points specified by Fran.
It was the year Barack Obama took office, Britain entered recession, MPs' expenses were exposed to public scrutiny, Iranians protested after a flawed presidential election, Michael Jackson died and the Copenhagen climate summit ended in recriminations and a flawed deal.
From the hundreds of stories, galleries, videos, and comment pieces produced daily, our Guardian editors chose just one piece per day. I then worked with the picture desk to find a series of appropriate images and the graphics team to design a suitable interface. The result is this interactive, best viewed in full-screen mode to really get lost in all that's happened. Enjoy.
The Observer published its first Jane Bown photograph in December 1949, initiating a long-standing relationship between Britain's oldest Sunday paper and one of the country's best-loved photographers. To coincide with the publication of Bown's definitive collection, Exposures, and her London exhibition, we brought together all of Bown's work in this interactive guide.
This piece features seven decades of the artists work; restored, digitised and now viewable in full-screen format.
The Guardian produces hundreds of articles, reviews and videos about Glastonbury every year. For fans of the festival, one of the best ways to organise this information is according to time and location. This interactive map allows you to explore Glastonbury 2009 as it happened, with pictures, podcasts, videos and reviews appearing in the right place and time. You can drag the time slider at the bottom, and hover over icons as they appear.