Goodbye 2016, the year of The Boys Who Cried Wolf. Not just a year of ‘fake news’, but something more: a crisis in people’s ability to believe anything.
And in 2017 it’s likely to get worse.
To explain what I mean, you need to go back to 2003, when Salam Pax, the ‘Baghdad Blogger’, was posting updates in the middle of the Iraq War. While some questioned whether he was really based in Iraq, that debate was relatively limited by today’s standards. It was a manageable doubt.
The boys who cried wolf in Aleppo
Cut to Aleppo in 2016 and you see how things have changed. Bana Alabed is perhaps Aleppo’s ‘Baghdad Blogger’: a Twitter account about the experiences of a seven year old Syrian girl, maintained by her mother.
But she is not alone: the number of voices speaking from the ground has proliferated… Continue reading →
Data scientist David Robinson was behind one of the most striking data stories of this US election season, when his analysis of Donald Trump tweets appeared to confirm that Trump was posting the angriest comments on that account (jointly managed by his campaign staff). Barbara Maseda spoke to Robinson about the story behind that text analysis and what comes next.
It was August 9 when David Robinson published his analysis of Trump tweets on his blog. Robinson had used a series of libraries in the programming language R to collect, clean, process and visualise the data. The process took just 12 hours, from Saturday night through Tuesday morning.
In the following days, the piece would be re-posted and cited by multiple websites, including The Washington Post and Mashable. The original piece alone had hundreds of thousands of views in just a few days.
The result wasn’t just one election story, but one of the biggest indications yet of the potential of text analysis for journalists, with three takeaways in particular: Continue reading →