Tag Archives: Wordle

26 Feb

Who is my data idol?

There must be something in the water …. twice this week I have received emails from online journalism students asking for my thoughts on data journalism – and more specifically, my data idols.

The first was an email from Germany – or student Katarina Bons to be precise – asking for information about any studies into data journalism in the UK and who the key players were.

During the completion of my final MA Online Journalism project, during a desperate need to relieve tension, I pasted the text of my MA final dissertation into Wordle. Whilst I regrettably did not save the final image there were some surprising, and not so surprising results. Data, was of course – one of the most commonly used words (so much in fact that the A key on my laptop broke off and flew across the room).

Another word that cropped up, worryingly often, was McCandless.

Poster boy for the data generation, but not without his critics, David McCandless is definitely my data-crush – his simplistic yet visually stimulating work is a definite inspiration to me and – in times of creative drought – I have asked – “what would McCandless do?”. (to make the shortlist of an Information is Beautiful challenge was one of my personal highlights)

Then I received an email, a few days later, from BCU MA Online Journalism student Duarte Romero Varela asking for a recorded interview about data journalism.

Being an alumni of that particular course, and a self-confessed data geek, I was more than happy to hold forth.

Meeting in Cafe Blend in Birmingham, Duarte interviewed me for a podcast (listen here) covering a range of issues including:

  • Q: who is my data viz hero? (A: see above)
  • Q: what tools do I use? (A: Excel > Tableau > Illustrator)
  • Q: what is more important, how clear a viz is, or how it looks? (A: both – a clear ugly chart is like a badly written article – who’d want to publish it?)

This question was of particular interest to me – the tide does appear to be turning against data viz / infographics at the moment, thanks to the tsunami of terrible examples finding their way into web content, newspapers and onto billboards, bus stops and the side of coffee cups.  There are cases, and I am definitely guilty of this at times, of being seduced along a path of beauty, and forgetting about the practicalities and the journalism.

Here’s how I see it …

Journalism: what are you trying to convey? What is the story?

Clarity: it has to tell that story

Design: it has to look attractive for people to want to interact with it

 

It’s a shame that there are so bad examples out there, outweighing the good and giving the whole area a bad name.

There is a real need in some cases for highly complex information to be reworked into a visible format and it would be a shame if we threw the useful bar chart out with the overdesigned viz

22 Mar

Ian Huntley coverage (news and Twitter)

Following the news that Soham killer Ian Huntley was attacked in prison over the weekend, I decided to have a look at the reaction this story was getting online.

First, a quick look at how the story was handled in 2 very different newspapers.

Using the ManyEyes Word Tree visualization, I copied articles from The Guardian and The Daily Mail to see how the name Huntley was handled, and which words followed it in the articles.

Can YOU guess which visualization belongs to which newspaper?

Report 1 was The Daily Mail, report 2, The Guardian. The Soham Murders were a very “Daily Mail” story,  and highly emotive and accusatory language was used. The Guardian’s report was more factual.

I was also interested to assess the reaction to the story on the social networking site Twitter.

For sake of experiment, I created a spreadsheet of all the tweets mentioning “Huntley”. (I chose Huntley over “Ian Huntley” so the search would not be limited to the more formal tweets from news outlets etc. I hoped “Huntley” would give a more casual, public point of view.

  • I opened a new Google Spreadsheet
  • I inserted the following code in A1 – =importfeed(“http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=huntley”, “”, “”, 20)

This created a spreadsheet of the last 15 tweets containing the word Huntley.

I now have the option to use this spreadsheet in a variety of ways:

  • cut and paste the tweet contents into a web application
  • export the document as an Excel file
  • publish the spreadsheet
  • create an RSS feed from the spreadsheet

Now to visualise the text.

First, I decide to use Wordle – a site that created word clouds from inserted text, or an RSS feed.

I initially used the RSS feed from my published Google spreadsheet  – which created the following word cloud.

Unfortunately, this cloud was tainted with user names, and the subject of the true gist of the tweets were lost

(MTF)

  • Still trying to nail LIVE data ..
  • a quick news report (recorded and edited on Iphone)- probably from The Computers show on Wednesday night
  • a podcast
All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020