In the afternoon i was signed in for the Data Mashing session. I kinda expected it to be a bit technical, and i wasn’t wrong. You can’t learn how to create data visualizations and mashups in one hour, but you can get the logic and purpose of some applications to decide in the future if you’re going for this or that type of graph, or just to know that you can do this or that type of correlation between data sets. Data mashing is still a playground for those with a coder’s state of mind, and a nightmare for most of us mere wordsmiths.
So when Tony Hirst started his presentation the room was a bit caught off guard with the complexity of his work. Hirst started to explain that data tells stories, by using data visualizations reporters can look for anomalies, and find if that odd data means a story waiting to be told. He showed us some of the tools he uses in his projects with the Guardian’s Open Platform, like ManyEyes and YahooPipes, and how he geocodes that data with GeoCommons. It wasn’t a lecture for the faint of heart when it comes to coding and data geekery, but i can tell you i found it quite useful. Data mashing is one of the most important ways of getting those boring stories with loads of incomprehensible stats and figures into compelling, eye-catching visualizations. And they can also be a great tool in the research phase, when reporters are trying to look for the exception in the rule.
The next speaker showed us just that with his work with MySociety.org. Francis Irving uses data to make the powerful accountable and in the users reach. He proved that presenting the TheyWorkForYou website and the new WhatDoTheyKnow. Both these enterprises use open data to hold local and national goverment representatives responsible for their actions during their mandates. It was the “why” to the “how” that Tony Hirst showed us before.
David Dunkley Gyimah talks about video
Another speaker that i was looking forward to hear was David Dunkley Gyimah. I‘ve been following his blog since i started my own almost three years ago. He got me looking into multimedia, video journalism and online video narrative in a different way. The fact he is a fan of experimentation and he supports the creation of a unique voice for each professional instead following the exhausted television news model makes his views more interesting to follow. It is always more appealing to me hear about video using terms like cinema verité and documentary, and his style is more related to a more cinematic narrative that i feel more interesting to be used online than the 90 second pieces for night news.
He compared online video to blogs, saying it was a disruptive way to present the news, and that the online video journalist could work between the cracks of broadcast journalism. Either way, with all the visual culture that most internet users have, online video is a good place to experiment, and since it needs to be done fast and effectively, we can use the error in our favor. The weapons of choice are becoming more numerous than before, and go from a pro hd camera to a cell phone. It’s always the story and the skills of the videographer that make the final result good or bad. You can see a hectic David doing his presentation in the video below.