But there’s a bigger picture that extends beyond debating specific executions and business models. These things are about experimentation: necessary design and technical experimentation, something news organizations need to shine at if they want to thrive. That means stopping to shake out how they think about content, again and again.
In Portugal, the setting is pretty much the same as before: only a couple of media companies are regularly producing multimedia journalistic content. This year the major winners of the ObCiber awards were the same as in previous editions: Jornal de Notícias, Público and Rádio Renascença.
Some narrative devices are pretty much well established by now, but there’s still no norm. And that won’t be defined by the end product, but by the investment in production processes.
It was a nice trial and error process, and it didn’t took that long to finish it. The green pointers are the top 100 hundred, and the green dots go from the 101st to the 200th. I was going after a pattern, and I guess it shows one. It took me one CSI and a half to publish this.
This video was quite useful to grasp the basic concepts behind FusionTables, but it failed to explain what to do when we have several items in the same location. What I did was add a country column, and then merge it with the one that had the name of the school and the county, on Excel. With those three elements Google Maps was more accurate although the outcome is not perfect. There are a lot of misplaced markers but it’s something that could be corrected over a more careful analysis or dedicated slave work (I need an intern).
Last weekend’s floods in Madeira became a case study on the role of social media and common citizens in spreading news and data in case of disaster. I’ll be writing a few posts about some things I did to help cover the event, and how traditional media was left far behind in the stream of information. Again.
Saturday, 20th February. Madeira island is hit by a storm, raining more in two hours than in a whole month. Waves of mud drag rocks, houses and cars down the hills, ending up in downtown Funchal where the rivers meet, flooding buildings, and swallowing whoever failed to escape the fury of the waters. Twitter was hectic with accounts of destruction, questions about what was going on, and, maybe a sign to take in consideration, videos. The traditional media was slow to respond: besides a few breaking news stories in some news websites, there wasn’t much for the information starved users. If you wanted to know what was going on you had to follow the #tempmad hashtag, fed by descriptions of locals that witnessed tragedy unfold right on their doorstep.
Lots of links to YouTube started to appear in the timeline – there were NO photos available in the first hours, and pictures wouldn’t make any justice to the dimension of the disaster. Video was the first instinct for the majority of users – and there was constant retweeting of the scarce information available, most of it provided by one user, @lindamachado, that became the main figure in the eye of the Twitter storm. But besides Twitter, there were no news to be found anywhere else. Portuguese public cable news channel was the only main media trying to do a coverage of the events, resourcing to – guess what? – Twitter, my map (i’ll talk about it in a bit), YouTube videos, and phone interviews, that were hard to make because the storm disrupted the service in many parts of the island.
We have to look at the specific circumstance that allowed social networks to become the main source and channel for all the news about the flood: it was Saturday, shortly after lunch. People had free time, they didn’t have to go to work, and the newsrooms were in weekend mode, which means even more understaffed. To tell you the truth, for most televisions and newspapers, real coverage began on Monday. Until night news around dinner time, there was almost no new data about the tragedy in mainstream media, while was starting to gain unforeseen proportions.
Google maps and docs
When I saw the first tweets i immediately thought about creating a Google map to aggregate some information and videos, so people could see all the available information that was getting diluted in the Twitter stream (it’s the map above). All i had to do was to fish for YouTube links and relevant info, and asked users following #tempmad to contribute. Although in the beginning i didn’t have many contributions, the map generated lots of interest: it showed up and was referenced in the public national TV live coverage, and it was embedded in two major newspaperwebsites. In the first hours it had more than 10.000 views, reaching 30.000 in the first 48 hours. This proves how huge was the demand for information that traditional media weren’t able to provide.
Then i noticed there was a website created on Netvibes that was also trying to gather all the scattered information on twitter, other websites and forums. I joined efforts with the author of the website, a process i’ll explain in a different post, and added my map to the website. Recently, i added a few more features using mapping tools and google forms and docs.
Since there was a problem with the number of victims (bodies keep showing up but the numbers are going down) we decided to ask the community to report the deaths they knew. For that I built a small form, to cross-reference with the official data. It took 5 minutes to set up the form, and feed the results into the page. I also wanted to use a map for the official results, and i created a new one, based on a spreadsheet. Every time the number changes, all we have to do is to edit the spreadsheet, instead of a live edit on GoogleMaps. What i’ll try to do is to layer the different information in one single map, if you have any ideas to do that let me know.
Another novelty I read about yesterday and just had to use, was the Umapper feature that allows to get tweets from a specific location. I used it to show tweets with #tempmad from Madeira, as you can see below:
With the perspective of more rain for this weekend this map might come in handy to visualize the ongoing events.
This series will continue with the analysis of the work of an improvised team. Stay tuned.
This weekend i wanted to see how easy it would be to create a map using a spreadsheet. From the options i had i used Mapspread, which allows you to upload a .CSV file to generate a map in a matter of seconds. The main advantage is that Mapspread uses the location available in the spreadsheet, and places all the information in the right place by itself.
First i created the spreadsheet, the most time consuming part of the process, then just uploaded it, costumized, and voilá, map generated.
This map is about small aeroplanes that crashed in Portugal this year, and the data fields refer to date, place, injured, deaths, type of aircraft and other informations. It took about 30 minutes to generate it. If you keep a collaborative open spreadsheet in Google Docs, it is quite easy to update your map, using other people’s input.
I still have to sort some details out, but this seems to be a quite practical manner of creating a map out of a spreadsheet.
Do you know any other ways to do this? Share them in the comment box.
Este fim de semana queria ver até que ponto seria fácil criar um mapa usando um ficheiro Excel. Das opções que tinha escolhi o Mapspread,que permite fazer o upload de um ficheiro .CSV para gerar um mapa em segundos. A grande vantagem é que o Mapspread usa a localização disponível na tabela e coloca a informação nos sítios certos autimaticamente.
Primeiro criei a tabela, a parte que me levou mais tempo, depois foi fazer o upload, personalizar, e voilá, temos o mapa criado.
Este mapa refere-se às aeronaves ligeiras que cairam em Portugal este ano, e os campos de dados referem-se à data, local, feridos, mortos, tipo de aeronave e outras informações. Demorei cerca de 30 minutos a criar este mapa. Se tiverem uma tabela aberta à colaboração no Google Docs, é fácil fazer a actualização do mapa, com contribuições dos utilizadores.
Ainda tenho que resolver alguns detalhes, mas esta parece ser uma forma bastante prática de criar um mapa assim.
Conhecem outras formas de fazer isto? Partilhem-nas connosco nos comentários.