Tag Archives: automation

How I hacked my journalism workflow (#jcarn)

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:

1. Shortcuts

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

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Open data meets FOI via some nifty automation

OpenlyLocal generated FOI request

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.

Although the tool sits on OpenlyLocalFrancis Irving at WhatDoTheyKnow gets enormous credit for making their side of the operation work with it.

Once again you have to ask why a media organisation isn’t creating these sorts of tools to help generate journalism beyond the walls of its newsroom.

Something for the Weekend #4: scraping the web with iMacro

This week’s Something for the Weekend is a little different, as it’s a tool for newsgathering rather than publishing. But what a tool.

iMacro is a plugin for Firefox, with paid versions for Internet Explorer or standalone use.

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