01 Oct 2015
DJB-Logo-2015-Rectangle

Welcome to our new home. As you can see, we’ve redecorated the place.

I am excited to share with you the project that kept us busy for the past few months.

The new DJB is bolder, savvier, smarter, and packed with insights from the world of data journalism and innovative storytelling.

We have a lot of new content lined up for you: articles, reviews, how-to guides and interviews with experts from the fields of data visualisations, programming and investigative reporting. As well as a few specials.

« Data » is a big buzz word, it’s also a great way to tell stories we couldn’t tell before.

We hope to launch an array of compelling web projects in the near future that will inform our audience in an engaging way, while becoming the prime destination for knowledge on data journalism and innovative storytelling.

 

Hei-Da.org: a not-for-profit fostering data journalism and web innovation

So we have this great new look and lots of new content. But that’s not the only change that we’ve made. There’s more…

The DJB is now part of the Hei-Da social enterprise for data journalism and web innovation, and we are very excited about it. But what does it mean exactly?

Hei-Da is a not-for-profit organisation fostering the future of data journalism, open data and innovative storytelling.

Its mission is to nurture the future of its field by building an innovation hub dedicated to research in the field of data journalism and web innovation where experiments, training and conferences would take place, unlikely collaborations would blossom, and startups tackling technologies related to data journalism can get advice and support.

We believe it is important that knowledge, skills and ideas get shared and reflected upon. We also think that news is not the only place for data storytelling skills to be used. Many NGOs, charities, local communities, governments and other organisations have data at hands that could tell compelling stories, yet they rarely have the time nor expertise to produce them. Hei-Da was also created to help them harness that data and create interactive storytelling projects on the web that support their mission.

For this to happen, we will need to gather the partners, sponsors and funding necessary for such an ambitious project. If you think you can help, please get in touch.

 

The DJB at TechFugees

Today is the start of the TechFugees conference in London, an exciting, absolutely free and nonprofit event organised by TechCrunch editor at large Mike Butcher to find technology solutions to the refugee crisis.

The Data Journalism Blog supports this event and I will be talking at the conference about our initiative, how data journalism has been used to cover the refugee crisis, what challenges news organisations face to get data on the crisis and what technology solutions there could be to facilitate data gathering, publishing and storytelling on the ground.

We will be covering the conference on the Data Journalism Blog (you can already see an introductory post here) and Andrew Rininsland, senior developer at The Times and The Sunday Times, will tell us about his experience of the Techfugees Hackathon happening on Friday, October 2nd in London (if you want to join, tickets are still available here).

 

We’ve only just begun

The Data Journalism Blog is built for a global audience of journalists, designers, developers and other data enthusiasts. People who are interested in the emergence of open data, both experts and amateurs, and want to understand better how it could change the future of information. Or, people who really like fancy infographics and want to find more data visualisations from various sources. Part of the content is very specific and would require knowledge about data journalism, other parts are very broad and could suit more novice readers.

We will thrive to push innovation to the full and experiment new techniques for ourselves, team up with partners to create compelling and interactive storytelling projects as well as deliver news and insights from the industry here on the DJB. So sit back, let us know what you think and let’s enjoy the journey. This is only the beginning.

For more info on Hei-Da.org, go and check out the website.

I hope you enjoy the new look and would love to hear your views. Catch us on Facebook and Twitter.

marianne-bouchart
Marianne is the founder and director of Hei-Da.org, a not-for-profit organisation based in London, UK, that specialises in open data driven projects and innovative storytelling. She also created the Data Journalism Blog back in 2011 and used to work as the Web Producer EMEA, Graphics and Data Journalism Editor for Bloomberg News.
Passionate about innovative story telling, she teaches data journalism at the University of Westminster and University of the Arts, London.
01 Oct 2015
01102015-TechFugees2

Today is the day of the TechFugees conference in London, an exciting, absolutely free and nonprofit event organised by TechCrunch editor-at-large Mike Butcher to find technology solutions to the refugee crisis.

01102015-TechFugees1

 

“Moved by the plight of refugees in Europe, a number of technology industry people have formed a small voluntary team to create the free, non-profit, “Techfugees” conference and hackathon.” — Mike Butcher

In just a few weeks, the Techfugees Facebook Group and Twitter account have exploded. Over 700 people from the tech community signed up to the event proving there is clearly a huge desire amongst the tech community to get involved.
Tech engineers, entrepreneurs and startups together with NGOs and other agencies will gather at SkillsMatter HQ in London to address the crisis in ways where the technology world can bring its considerable firepower.
Hei-Da and the Data Journalism Blog support this event and I will be talking at the conference about our initiative, how data journalism has been used to cover the refugee crisis, what challenges news organisations face to get data on the crisis and what technology solutions there could be to facilitate data gathering, publishing and storytelling on the ground.
Andrew Rininsland, senior developer at The Times and Sunday Times, also contributor of the DJB, will also tell us about his experience of the Techfugees Hackathon happening on Friday, October 2nd in London (tickets still available here).

marianne-bouchart
Marianne is the founder and director of Hei-Da.org, a not-for-profit organisation based in London, UK, that specialises in open data driven projects and innovative storytelling. She also created the Data Journalism Blog back in 2011 and used to work as the Web Producer EMEA, Graphics and Data Journalism Editor for Bloomberg News.
Passionate about innovative story telling, she teaches data journalism at the University of Westminster and University of the Arts, London.
01 Oct 2015
Aendrew-Rininsland-profile-picture

1. Tell the reader what the data means

Tools like Tableau make it really easy to make exploratory visualisations, giving the user the ability to sift through the data and localise it to themselves. However, as tempting as this can be, the role of the data journalist it to tell the reader what the data means — if you have a dataset that includes the entire country but only a handful of locations are relevant to your story, an exploratory map isn’t the best approach. Aim for explanatory visualisations.

 

2. Simple is usually better

A quick glance through the examples page of d3js.org reveals a wealth of different and unusual ways to visualise data. While there are definitely occasions where an exotic visualisation method communicates the data more effectively than a simple line or pie chart, these are really rather rare. The Economist’s use of series charts to efficiently summarise an entire article in a tiny space demonstrates how effective the “classic” visualisation types are — there’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time (The Economist’s incredibly clear descriptions and simple writing style also really help here). Meanwhile, I don’t think I’ve ever gained any insights from a streamgraph, pretty as they are.

 

3. Code for quality

News moves really quickly, which can make it exceptionally difficult to code for quality over speed. Nevertheless, all aspects of your data visualisation need to work — a bug causing a minor element like a tooltip to not update or report the wrong data can at best reduce reader confidence, or at worst, taint a long and costly investigation, possibly even leading to libel proceedings. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that JavaScript is what’s referred to as a “weakly typed” language, meaning that variable types (strings, numbers, objects, et cetera) can mutate over the course of a script’s execution without throwing errors — for instance, `Number(a + b)` will either return the sum of `a` and `b` or the concatenated value of those two variables (e.g., `’1’ + ‘2’ = ‘12’`), depending on whether they’re strings or numbers to begin with. This can be incredibly difficult to discover and troubleshoot. Fortunately, projects like Flow and TypeScript seek to add type annotations to JavaScript, effectively solving this problem (My recent open source project, generator-strong-d3, makes it really easy to scaffold a D3 project using either of these). Another way to improve code quality is to provide automated tests, which are a bit more work at the outset but will prevent bugs from cropping up as you get frantic towards deadline. “Test-Driven Development” (TDD) is a good practise to get into as it encourages you to write tests at the very beginning and then develop until those pass. It’s also a lot faster than writing tests later (or not at all, i.e., “cowboy coding”) once you get the hang of it, as you can save a lot of time avoiding the “make a change, refresh, manually execute a behaviour, evaluate output, repeat” cycle.

 


 

Aendrew-Rininsland-profile-picture

Ændrew Rininsland is a senior newsroom developer at The Times and Sunday Times and all-around data visualisation enthusiast. In addition to Axis, he’s the lead developer for Doctop.js, generator-strong-d3, Github.js and a ludicrous number of other projects. His work has also been featured by The GuardianThe Economist and the Hackney Citizen, and he recently contributed a chapter to Data Journalism: Mapping the Future?, edited by John Mair and Damian Radcliffe and published by Abramis. Follow him on Twitter and GitHub at @aendrew.