Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cloud Watch

So I just read a portion of a book about data-driven journalism. And I have to say, it was difficult to follow and stay interested.

Though cute little acronyms were present throughout to help us remember, there were far too many complex acronyms to keep up with. XML? SQL? API? Who has time?

But to say this kind of information is useless is obviously ignorant, when projects like Matt Waite's PolitiFact have won Pulitzer prizes. Yeah, I wouldn't mind a Pulitzer or two.

But this kind of data collection has the potential for so much. It has news potential like Waite used it, but applications I personally enjoy like Foursquare are really just databases too.

One thing I was confused about was finding outliers within data. Other than using basic sort functions, I have no idea how I would go about finding anything that was out of the ordinary within sets of data.

Some of the databases mentioned in the chapter, such as The Beamer File or GasBuddy are very much niche based. But this is the trend journalism is going in, I've been told. Local news survives in many places entirely because it can't be gotten anywhere else.

Having a product you can't get anywhere else is essential for small-town newspapers to make the transition to online. Creating a tool that is unique and people go to for information will not only attract niche users, but niche advertisers.

Newspapers have a lot of duties. We're expected to be government watchdogs, interpret that which cannot be interpreted without excessive effort, to be the first to know about things, to communicate clearly, to write well, and perhaps the most important: to be dependable and the go-to source for information affecting you.

In order to be the go-to source, we have to give people what they want. Data provides more possibilities to do so.

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