The latest in my series of FAQ posts follows on from the last one, in response to a question from an MA student at City University who posed the question “Do you think that an increase in algorithmic input is leading to a decline in human judgement?”. Here’s my response.
Does an increase in computation lead to a decline in human input?
Firstly, it’s important to emphasise that the vast majority of data journalism involves no algorithms or automation at all: it’s journalists making calculations, which historically they would have done manually.
You mention the possibility that “an increase in computation leads to a decline in human input”. An analogy would be to ask whether an increase in pencils leads to a decline in human input in art. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I announced that I was launching a new MA in Data Journalism, and promised that I would write more about the thinking behind it. Here, then, are some of the key ideas underpinning the new course — from coding and storytelling to security and relationships with industry — and how they have informed its development. Continue reading →
In a guest post for OJB, Livia Vieira rounds up some of the highlights of News:Rewired 2017, from best practices to deal with fake news and engagement with live videos, to newsroom automation, mobile data journalism and collaborative storytelling and groundbreaking initiatives in newsrooms.
1. Engagement and ethics in live social video
According to Alfred Joyner, head of video of IBT Media, 66% of the views on Facebook Live videos happen after they end, so it is important to re-package the content, giving it new meaning.
Alfred also emphasised that IBT trains its anchors and uses high quality equipment to ensure the quality of transmissions — although all speakers hit on the point that Facebook Live is not TV, and so does not need to have that ‘casted’ format. Continue reading →
2016 was the year of the bot in journalism. In this edited extract from the forthcoming second edition of the Online Journalism Handbook, I outline what bots are, how bots have been used by media organisations from early Twitter bots to the recent wave of ‘chatbots’, and some tips and tools for getting started with journalistic bots.
‘Bots’ are ‘robots’ – only on the internet. Without the mechanical body of their physical counterparts, all that leaves is a disembodied computer script, normally created to perform repetitive tasks.
This broad description takes in a whole range of activities, and so the term ‘bot’ is used to talk about very different things in different contexts:
In search you might talk about bots used to index webpages, such as the ‘Googlebot’.
In finance and commerce you might talk about bots used to monitor information online and respond to it by buying or selling things.
And in advertising and politics you might talk about bots being used for nefarious purposes: for example, to make it look like more people are viewing webpages, clicking on adverts, or arguing for a particular candidate.
This article isn’t about any of those.
In the context of journalism and publishing, the term ‘bot’ is normally used to refer to something which users can interact with. Examples include: Continue reading →
His interest lies largely in the “technological drama” of competing narratives and cultures – but along the way he identifies some developments and implications which appear in the minority of reports beyond those recurring stories of “augmentation or elimination” (of journalists’ jobs), but which may be more interesting. Continue reading →
Since Adrian Holovaty built ChicagoCrime.org in 2005 to automatically update a map with police crime statistics, automation has been an important element of data journalism. Few news organisations have guidelines on automation, but the BBC’s guidelines (2013) on video feeds do provide a framework. Continue reading →
I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time breaking down all the habits and hacks I’ve acquired over the years – so this month’s Carnival of Journalism question on ‘Hacking your journalism workflow’ gave me the perfect nudge.
Picking those habits apart is akin to an act of archaeology. What might on the surface look very complicated is simply the accumulation of small acts over several years. Those acts range from the habits themselves to creating simple shortcuts and automated systems, and learning from experience. So that’s how I’ve broken it down:
Shortcuts are such a basic part of my way of working that it’s easy to forget they’re there: bookmarks in the browser bar, for example. Or using the Chrome browser because its address bar also acts as a search bar for previous pages.
I realise I use Twitter lists as a shortcut of sorts – to zoom in on particular groups of people I’m interested in at a particular time, such as experts in a particular area, or a group of people I’m working with. Likewise, I use folders in Google Reader to periodically check on a particular field – such as data journalism – or group – such as UK journalists. Continue reading →
Now this is an example of what’s possible with open data and some very clever thinking. Chris Taggart blogs about a new tool on his OpenlyLocal platform that allows you to send a Freedom of Information (FOI) request based on a particular item of spending. “This further lowers the barriers to armchair auditors wanting to understand where the money goes, and the request even includes all the usual ‘boilerplate’ to help avoid specious refusals.”
It takes around a minute to generate an FOI request.
The function is limited to items of spending above £10,000. Cleverly, it’s also all linked so you can see if an FOI request has already been generated and answered.
There’s a lot of corporate/technical jargon on the website (“create solutions for web automation”), because, like some of the best web tools (e.g. Twitter), this can be used for so many things it’s hard to describe in a single sentence. But here are some of the headlines: Continue reading →