“Big data” has arrived, but big insights have not. The challenge now is to solve new problems and gain new answers – without making the same old statistical mistakes on a grander scale than ever.
a good read in the Financial Times ($) on how we need to be cautious about big data and its pitfalls even as we try to maximise its benefits. by @TimHarford

Data: the good, the bad and the ugly

Thousands of words have been written about the role of data in journalism, after Nate Silver launched his FiveThirtyEight blog last week.

Silver, who became famous for his predictions during the run-up to the 2012 US presidential election, made a strong case for the central role of data in journalism and for having news that is a “little nerdier”.

Silver was criticised for appearing to dismiss opinions, beliefs and ideas. The Nieman Lab has done an excellent job in collecting all the various reactions to the launch of the blog and Silver’s manifesto, and it’s worth a read.

Personally, I’m all for more statistics in journalism. As a colleague pointed out to me this week, data journalism in itself is not new — we’ve all (especially business and sports journalists) have been using numbers and data to analyse situations and issues for a long time.

The difference I guess then is that today, there’s more data out there, we can all crunch numbers (not just scientists and other experts) because of the technology/software available to us, and also crunch them a lot faster.

The key takeaway, I think, is what we do with the new information we gain from crunching the data. Will it fundamentally change how we look at the world? Can we put the data to good use more than we already have? And so on.

On that note, I enjoyed this video from Hans Rosling, a Swedish international health professor, on the joys of statistics. (In particular, there’s a good quote in it: ”What correlations do not replace is human thought.” (So folks, you don’t have to have one or the other, ie. data or opinions, you can and should have both!)

Rosling has his own foundation that analyses data — the Gapminder — and it is also worth checking out.

At the same time, there was this informative podcast from the Freakonomics team, which showed as well how the collection of data in itself can be suspect and biased, and how that can also skew how we look at the world.

Use adjectives to make your meaning more precise and be cautious of those you find yourself using to make it more emphatic.
via @econstyleguide (great writing tip)
Interactives may be all the rage nowadays, but there’s nothing like good, clear infographics in print or online to explain what can be a complicated story. In particular, the current Ukraine, Crimea crisis is a great example of how maps and other related information can truly enhance the understanding of what’s at stake and why.
Here’s three great examples from @FT, @guardian (pictured and links back to this page: http://www.theguardian.com/world/graphic/2014/mar/03/russia-ukraine-military-imbalance-graphic) and @AFP:

Russia and #Ukraine: the military imbalance http://t.co/hm7UaGz5HD pic.twitter.com/cZ2bQcOaFy
— The Guardian (@guardian) March 3, 2014



FT graphic shows the large resources required if Russia wanted a war with Ukraine: http://t.co/G1swDVK6Vg pic.twitter.com/gaiYVWlOlW
— Joseph Stashko (@JosephStash) March 3, 2014



INFOGRAPHIC: Chronology of the latest events in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/eBtARGvNi8
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) March 2, 2014

Interactives may be all the rage nowadays, but there’s nothing like good, clear infographics in print or online to explain what can be a complicated story. In particular, the current Ukraine, Crimea crisis is a great example of how maps and other related information can truly enhance the understanding of what’s at stake and why.

Here’s three great examples from @FT, @guardian (pictured and links back to this page: http://www.theguardian.com/world/graphic/2014/mar/03/russia-ukraine-military-imbalance-graphic) and @AFP:

Making Sense of Data - Course

Can’t get enough of data? Here’s what looks to be a good course by Google, coming up in March, that will help you grapple with fusion tables (ekk) and find relationships in data (yey). (via @sambrook)

Invisible Child: Dasani'€™s Homeless Life

One of the joys of the festive season is the opportunity to spend some time catching up on reading. And I have to say the excellent reporting by Andrea Elliott in The New York Times on the plight of homeless children in New York was worth every minute.

It’s lengthy, detailed and uncompromising. It’s one of the best examples I saw in 2013 of strong local reporting and also of investigative work - telling the story of a side of New York that few know (or want to know). It reminds me of how a fantastic reporter like Elliott and the opportunity to pursue and publish such stories (NYT) can combine to create great journalism that can also hopefully lead to policy changes.

On the long walk that is life
A man discovers who he is
Each step must be the search for purpose
Not regret
Many roads will present themselves
He must often take the one few others would follow
And though he may wish to rest
When he is asked to stand
He must stand taller than he ever thought possible
For when the long walk is over
A man must be able to look back and say
I would not change a single footstep
This - www.mandelaswalk.com - is one of my favourite tributes to Nelson Mandela. It’s from The Economist magazine, and has a short but moving introductory video (with the words above) that sums up the inspiration that was Mr Mandela. The last frame of the video then transitions into the interactive. (link via @tomstandage)
I’ve just finished an excellent massive open online course (MOOC) by visual storyteller and journalism lecturer Alberto Cairo  - Infographics and Data Visualisation - at the Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas.
It was my first MOOC and I really liked that it provided heaps and heaps of reading material (there’s some recommended readings here), great instruction from Cairo, but also loads of interaction between the thousands of participants around the world.
There’s another data journalism MOOC coming up next year, this time at the European Journalism Centre, and it looks promising!
(Pictured: French engineer Charles Minard’s flow map of Napoleon’s march into Russia)

I’ve just finished an excellent massive open online course (MOOC) by visual storyteller and journalism lecturer Alberto Cairo  - Infographics and Data Visualisation - at the Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas.

It was my first MOOC and I really liked that it provided heaps and heaps of reading material (there’s some recommended readings here), great instruction from Cairo, but also loads of interaction between the thousands of participants around the world.

There’s another data journalism MOOC coming up next year, this time at the European Journalism Centre, and it looks promising!

(Pictured: French engineer Charles Minard’s flow map of Napoleon’s march into Russia)

I’m always excited about “news games” - online games built by journalists and programs to help illustrate the issues raised in a story. So it was good to read an interview with Fred di Giacomo, a Brazilian magazine editor on what topics are ideal for “news games”, how such games are developed and how successful such games are.
And if you want to try out a fun - and fairly instructive - news games, have a go at this excellent New York Times interactive on texting and gaming.

I’m always excited about “news games” - online games built by journalists and programs to help illustrate the issues raised in a story. So it was good to read an interview with Fred di Giacomo, a Brazilian magazine editor on what topics are ideal for “news games”, how such games are developed and how successful such games are.

And if you want to try out a fun - and fairly instructive - news games, have a go at this excellent New York Times interactive on texting and gaming.

0 plays

I’ve been thinking about this BBC documentary since I first heard it last year. It’s very moving and beautiful tribute to the people featured in one of London’s least known memorials for the day-to-day heroes who died as they tried to save someone else. If there’s one thing you listen to this month, make it this.

Here’s the blurb from the BBC:

Leigh Pitt was an ordinary man. One summer evening in June 2007, he jumped into a London canal to save a nine-year-old boy. The boy survived; Leigh drowned.

Two years later he became the first person in 78 years to be commemorated on the Memorial of Heroic Self Sacrifice - one of London’s least-known monuments. Hidden in Postman’s Park - a patch of green behind St Paul’s Cathedral - the Memorial was established in 1900 by the artist George Frederic Watts.

It recognises the bravery of individuals who die rescuing others, each of its plaques offering an insight into the dangers of Victorian life. 

I wonder what happened to the boy that Mr Pitt saved.