Analysing journalistic data with detective.io

detectiveioNo doubt, the power of the internet has changed profoundly the way in which journalists gather their information. To keep up with the growing amount of data digitally available, more and more tools for data-journalists are being developed. They help facing the challenge of handling vast amounts of data and the subsequent extraction of relevant information (here you can find our little collection of useful tools).

One powerful tool is detective.io, a platform that allows you to store and mine all the data you have collected on a precise topic. Developed by Journalism++, a Berlin- and Paris-based agency for data-journalism, it was launched one year ago.

By now, several investigations that used the tool have made headlines in Europe, amongst others The Belarus Network, an investigation about Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko and the country’s elite affairs by French news channel France24, and, most notably, The Migrants Files, a database on the more than 25,000 migrants who have died on their way to Europe since 2000. According to the developers at Journalism++, the applied methodology, measuring the actual casualty rate per migration route – has now been picked up by UNHCR and IOM. Another example is a still ongoing investigation on police violence, started by NU.nl, the main news website in the Netherlands.

What does detective.io do?

Basically, detective.io lets you upload and store your data and search relationships in it bywith a graph search using some network analyses. The tool, which is open source and still a beta version, structures and maps relationships between subjects of an investigation. This can be a vast number of entities such as organizations, countries, people and events.

In its basic version, the tool offers three generic data schemes that help structuring the data you have – for instance on a corporate network, the respective ownerships, branches, individuals involved and so on. To deal with more complex datasets, a customized data scheme is needed. There is no need for special skills to use detective.io but one needs to think hard about what elements of information are needed for the analysis before creating the data structure. However, such custom data schemes are not included in the basic version. The team at Detective.io offers several paid plans that include additional and/or customized data schemes and respective customer support.

There are special offers for NGOs and investigative journalists, too.

Open Steps Directory - Detective.io 2014-11-09 13-56-12One powerful asset of detective.io is that investigations can be shared with collaborators and/or made public. Here you can have a look at what our Open Knowledge Directory looks like on detective.io and explore the relations of organizations and individuals by using the graph search.

Currently, the developers at Journalism++ are working on a new GUI/frontend for detective.io that will allow every user to edit the data schemes by themselves.

Here you can request an account for the beta version and if you are interested to collaborate in the development of detective.io, you can find the tool’s GitHub here.

WikiAkademia and AdaCamp in Berlin!

I’ve been to a number of open source and technical conferences over the last few years, most of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But AdaCamp is a special kind of experience.

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia and other wiki-related projects, open knowledge and education, creative fan culture, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together over two days to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

Adacamp gave me the ability to see how a major conference’s code of conduct was deeply flawed and the confidence to approach them with suggestions for how to fix it.

It’s encouraged me to speak frankly about diversity in our communities and how to improve it.

It’s helped me to meet so many incredible women, to share experience and to learn a lot.

I finally met others Wikipedians from all over the world. I have a year that I am contributing for Wikipedia and I had never met anyone in person. That motivates me a lot and made me feel proud of my work with WikiAcademy Albania. I’ve created contacts that will lead to exciting and future workshops/events at our hacker space Open Labs.

One of the best things about AdaCamp was learning about imposter syndrome. That session was empowering. The belief that one’s work is inferior and one’s achievements and recognition are fraudulent — in open technology and culture endeavors where public scrutiny of their work is routine.

Workshop about clean code was so useful thanks to Franzi.The compliments corner was funny and inspiring as well. The discussion about femnisem, women in open culture, non-open culture, code, education, social events and everything else in there, made Adacamp the perfect place to be those two days.

Now I know that I want to reach out to other women that identify as “geek”, “feminist” or both. I realized that I was among not only amazingly smart women, but also very generous people.

If you’ve never been to a feminist conference, you’re missing out a lot.

If you’ve never found yourself surrounded by dozens of brilliant, empathetic, creative and determined women, you should consider giving it a try. If you’ve never gone from learning about how open source cloud computing platforms work straight to a discussion of microaggressions and how to deal with them, finishing things off by sharing your favorite feminist response gifs – well, maybe you should go to AdaCamp.
Writen By: Greta Doçi
All photos and posts are CC-BY SA

The value of sharing your know-how openly

In June 2010 I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Electronic Engineering and quickly embarked up on the typical academic career trajectory: I participated in conferences in the US and Asia, and took part in the race to publish papers in the best regarded academic journals in my field. Over time I achieved a respectable standing amongst my peers but I could not shake the feeling that there was more to be done to propel my career and give it a stronger aim.

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How I discovered academic papers are not the only solution to progress my career

Somewhere in the fall of 2012 I attended a workshop aimed at helping scientists to promote themselves called: “making the most of your Postdoc”. Amongst the various advices offered to us, one particularly stuck with me: “raise your profile by creating a profile”. The person leading the workshop gave the example of a fellow researcher who had created an “about me” profile page that stated his area of interest and listed some useful information such as past publications, presentations and grants he obtained.

A few days later I was wondering how I could best advertise some of my non-peer review and equally important practical knowhow such as “troubleshooting problems in order to keep my research equipment operational” or “knowing what every single wire does inside that hardware rack”. Actually I had acquired a vast amount of non-peer reviewed knowledge in order to successfully create my peer-reviewed output. The act of designing, building, re-designing, fixing and improving things had become so blasé I hardly noticed how impressive it was to the outsider until I started trying to explain what I was doing to my first PhD students. By the time my third PhD student had arrived, and I was explaining the same concepts and ideas, I realised my knowledge could well be extremely useful to others as well. And there it struck me: why not create a blog to share all those bits of knowledge with those who might find them useful? This ”Eureka!” moment led to the inception of my blog, which was inaugurated in November 2012 with my first series of knowhow posts.

Blogging allowed me to reach a whole new level of recognition among my peers

When I started http://faebianbastiman.wordpress.com/I had of course expected some interest from my fellow colleagues and PhD students. However, the positive reaction was truly a surprise to me: my visitors climbed steadily over the first few months and by mid-2013 I was getting 400 unique visitors per month. I also started to get comments on my posts as well as questions from other researchers from academia and industry.  I answered those questions dutifully and wrote a new series of articles to cover the missing content. It was not long before the first consulting requests reached my mailbox. It occurred to me that my knowledge was not only useful to others, that usefulness gave it an inherent value.

Now, not only am I able to direct a regular income from my consultation services but I am on the way of doubling my previous income as an academic researcher with consulting alone. Additionally, working with industry provides me with a pleasant break from my closeted research existence and the opportunity to meet many interesting new people who recognize me for my expertise.

Faebian Bastiman

Discussing the hottest topics of the decentralized web at GET-D

„If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” is a more than adequate motto chosen by GET-D‘s organisers to give character to this event, a conference aiming to explore the status, possibilities and challenges of the decentralized web. In its first edition, GET-D took place between the 17th and 19th of September in the amazing Agora Collective space in Berlin-Neukölln.

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Decentralized web is a relatively new topic for many, as it is my case, and completely unknown by the vast majority of the internet users. If you belong to the latter group, let me explain briefly what I understand behind this term: The internet that most of the people use today (let me call it mainstream web) is structured in a centralized manner and a huge percent of the information is stored in big data centres and routed through servers owned by gigantic corporations. This makes possible that we all enjoy great services such as our favourite social networks, search engines and cloud storage services but has several negative implications such as poor inter-operability between information sources and, as you might already be aware of, governments accessing your private data.

As an opposition to the current infrastructure, the decentralized web proposes a much more democratic approach, where logic and storage is more balanced across the nodes of the network. Going back to GET-D’s motto, this idea also supports strongly the principles of collaboration. Because, in order to make things work, every node needs to work with the others. Last but not least, the re-use of resources (being digital information or physical assets) is also one of the main benefits of this approach.

What can we expect from a new and decentralized web?

As part of GET-D’s programme, we had the opportunity to discover very interesting projects that bring a new perspective to aspects of our current digital lives. To mention just a few, we enjoyed the presence of the folks developing Mail Pile, a free, add-free and Open Source email client that you can run on your local machine or server so you actually have total control of your data. Or Leihbar, a platform that tries to shift our consumer society towards a sharing economy. Leihbar envisions a network of boxes spread through the cities, where users can have access to all kind of products for particular occasions: from a projector to watch a movie, through tools for fixing your bike to an inflatable boat to enjoy a day at the lake. This way, we do not need to buy stuff that we are going to use just from time to time, we share it with others.

Internet of things (IoT) is also a hot topic nowadays. We are seeing how all kind of devices are becoming connected to the internet. Cars, public infrastructure or even coffee machines are now capable of interacting with the digital world and between them, in a de-centralized manner. At GET-D, a couple of IoT-related projects were presented: Starting with RiotOS, a free LGPL-licensed operative system for those devices the IoT is being built upon, or Gatesense, a project which encourages the community to imagine and shape the future of this field. With such a vast amount of devices generating tons of information, initiatives are also being launched to help us managing it efficiently. It is the case of Jolocom, a distributed visualisation tool which helps users make sense of complex connections between persons, projects, sensors and devices from the Internet of Things.

Hackaton: After theory it comes coding

I personally enjoyed the hacking sessions. Parallel to a series of interesting presentations and hangouts with folks working on decentralized web projects around the globe, they shaped the 3 days we spent at GET-D. Together with other participants, I worked on a project I would like to introduce here. Portable Linked Profiles (PLP) are set of components which offer an easy way for users, organisations and venues to create their public data, and most important, host it wherever they want. Thanks to its modular design and its Open Source nature, developers can create applications on top of PLP. This applications (named Browsers) would be something like our Open Knowledge directory which aggregates and maps contact information of individuals and organisations working on Open Knowledge worldwide. Expect more details about this on our blog soon.

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Stay tuned for more GET-D

This first edition had already very good outcomes and the great thing is that there will be more to come. The topic of Decentralized web is still in a young state and more research, discussion and implementation is still needed. As we could experience, such an event offers a perfect environment for this and we are looking forward to attending next editions of GET-D.

Waiting for the new French Digital law

According to the last UN Survey on E-Government published this year, France proves to be at the top of the list of the countries embracing a high level of e-government development, reaching the 1st rank in Europe and the 4th worldwide. The study praises particularly the good integration of e-services through the online platform service-public initiated in 2005 which enables citizens, professionals and associations the access to administrative information (on their duties and legal texts among others), simplifies procedures and provides a large civil service directory. Not to forget Legifrance and vie-publique which both document legal and current affairs online. Let’s just say that efforts towards a transparent public administration have been the leitmotiv behind these initiatives.

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If we look at the Open Data side, we come to data.gouv.fr, the national Open Data platform launched in December 2011 which features nowadays its second version, this time developed with CKAN and without any fee so that the data gets indeed re-used. Those fees were one of the blackheads listed on the OKFN Index in 2013 which ranked France at the 16th position among 70 countries from all continents. Among the negative points are following the lack of relevant data like government spending or budget and the too low resolution of maps from the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information. Thus, if a national Open Data strategy has been embraced since 2011, there is still lots to be done. Above all a law (currently being drafted) is needed to push local and regional administrations to liberate their data on an open way, because the situation is strongly disparate.

Bildschirmfoto vom 2014-09-20 17:08:32Actually, the French OD movement took root at the local level. It started in the Western region of France, Brittany, where the city of Brest decided in March 2010 to release its geographical data and in Rennes, the main town, which launched at the same time an OD site dedicated to transport data and a couple of months later the first OD platform in France, multi-sectoral and containing various web and mobile apps besides the datasets. A similar site in Nantes then regional initiatives in Loire-Atlantique and Saône-et-Loire followed during autumn 2011. Today, the map of the local and regional OD movement in France made by LiberTIC shows the commitment of administrations at different levels (regions, cities and even villages as the one of Brocas with OpérationLibre) in different parts of the country and the creation of civil society groups too.

According to the current draft of the law on decentralization imposing French towns to release their data as open, only municipalities over 3500 habitants will be affected that means 92% of them are excluded. In addition, the obligation is limited to the data already electronically available and none format or standards has been specified. Never mind, the law has to be in compliance with the implementation of the European Directive 2013/37/EU on the re-use of public sector information, named PSI Directive, which strengthens the Open principles and has to be transposed into the different national laws by each EU member country until the 18th July 2015. In France, Etalab, a special committee created in 2011 and dedicated to the governmental OD strategy, is in charge of the implementation.

The French FOI law dates back to 1978. It was modified in 2005 by an order, according to the European Directive 2003/98/EC, the first legislative measure which shaped the European framework for Open Data and was amended by the Directive of 2013 above mentioned. Preparing the implementation of this last one with the law on decentralization and another on digital technology, France appears to be very active these last months and hopefully that is a good omen for the future. Etalab organised last April a national conference on Open Data and Open Government, inviting representatives of the private sector and the civil society. The future appointment of a Chief Data Officer was announced (still to be designated) as well as the participation of the French government in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and France will even join the OGP steering committee from 1st October. Last but not the least, the Senate published in June a report on the access to administrative documents and public data which supports the efforts made by the government since 2011 to release public data to the public domain but underlines that the results so far aren’t up to the actual challenges and don’t fulfil neither what has been expected by the civil society. Too often, the data is not complete or available in an unfriendly format, its quality varies depending on the administration, updates and meta-data are missing, revealing the lack of resources and reluctance to agree with the Open Data action. The report ends with 16 recommendations like the use of visualisations to make the data more comprehensible for the users which should be taken into consideration in the preparation of the both upcoming laws.

OKFest, Berlin, 15th-17th July

It has been a long time we didn’t post any news, not because there is nothing to document from Berlin where the Open Steps journey came to its end one month ago, but for the simple reason we were very busy preparing the next steps of our project. You should have heard about that if you happened to attend the OKFest last week. The OKFN had the great idea to organize its annual event in Berlin this year, and we were more than happy to be part of this international encounter, together with more than 1000 participants from all over the world. Of course, we met again numerous activists we got to know during these last 12 months in their home country. Seeing them at the other side of the world was a very warm feeling and simultaneously the best opportunity to follow up the latest status of their projects we documented on the way. But, as the list of OK related projects don’t stop there, we could discover many new faces of the community and are now eager to blog about them.

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The 3-days conference took place in the Kulturbrauerei, an old beer fabric made of red bricks in the Prenzlauer Berg district of the German capital. On the first day, an OK fair was scheduled and Open Steps was invited to have a stand. Perfectopportunity to present what we have learnt during the journey, discussing about the difficulties arising in Europe, India, Asia or South-America and sharing our overview on what have already been achieved. You can read our final report here. At the same time, we introduced the newest version of our directory, renamed Open Knowledge Directory which consists on mapping individuals and organisations from all over the world and actively supporting the Open Knowledge principles, what ever they are focusing on: Open Data, Open Government, Open Science, Open Source, Data journalism or other related fields. The tool directly responds to challenges we experienced on first hand by travelling: first, it has the goal to increase worldwide the visibility of OK projects, both inside and outside the OK community (because it is still difficult for an uninitiated public to have an overview on what is going on). Secondly, to facilitate the communication and collaboration across borders (it is obvious to say there is a big potential to share forces and know-how). If you haven’t taken a look on it yet, please check it now, fill out the 2-minutes form to be listed, and spread the word!

DSCF9003The programme of the rest of the festival was full of interesting sessions, which made very difficult to choose some of them, not speaking about the unconference which happened at itsside and the fact that we were volunteering during the 3 days, helping around in order to make such an amazing event possible and running from room to room. On the last day, Neelie Kroes, EU-Commissioner for Digital Agenda and Vice-President of the Commission, honoured us with her speech, encouraging all of us to keep working hard and promising good perspectives regarding the political support in Europe, starting an Erasmus for Open Data in September and granting funds through the programme Horizon 2020 and the FI-WARE initiative. Brilliant!

HackYourPhd: reporting on Open Science from the US @ Boca Raton/Paris, USA/France

carte-voyage-HYPhDUS_rev2A summer trip through the US to discover and document Open Science projects? When we first heard about HackYourPhd, we were excited to notice how similar is the concept of their research with our own. The idea was initiated last year by two young french researchers, Célya Gruson-Daniel & Guillaume Dumas, and “aims to bring more collaboration, transparency, and openness in the current practices of research.” Célya travelled during 3 months from Boca Raton (Florida) to Washington DC, gathering information and meeting people and groups active in the Open Science scene.

While this roundtrip in the US is now over, HackYourPhd is still active and has become an online community where the research continues. Read below the interview with the two persons behind this fantastic initiative and discover how the idea came to life, the insights of the trip and what is coming next.

1) Hi Célya & Guillaume, you both co-founded HackYourPhd, a community focused on Open Science which gave a globetrotter-initiative in the US last year. We are really curious how did you get this idea and to know more about it. Don’t forget to introduce yourself and the concept of Open Science too!

Hi Margo & Alex, thanks for this interview. We discovered a few months ago your great project. Now, we are much happy to help you since it is a lot related to what we tried to do last summer with “HackYourPhD aux States”. But before speaking about this Open Science tour across the USA, let’s us remind first the genesis and the aim of HackYourPhD in general. HackYourPhD is a community which gathers young researchers, PhD and master students, designers, social entrepreneurs, etc. around the issues raised by the Open Science movement. We co-founded this initiative a year ago. The idea of this community emerged from our mutual interest to research and its current practices. Guillaume is indeed postdoc in cognitive science and complex systems. He is also involved in art-science collaborative projects and scientific outreach. Célya is specialized in science communication. After two years as community manager for a scientific social network based on Open Access, she is now working in science communication for different projects related to MOOCs and higher education. We are both strong advocator for Open Science and that mainly why we came up with HackYourPhD. While Guillaume has tried to integrate Open Science in his practice, Célya wanted to explore the different facets with a PhD. But before, she wanted to meet the multiple actors behind this umbrella word. This is what motivated “HackYourPhD aux States,” the globetrotter-initiative per-see.

2) Why did it make sense especially in the US to follow and report Open Science projects? Could you imagine yourself doing it in other countries? What about France?

Because this was in the English speaking country that the Open Science movement has been started. That is thus also there that it is the most developed to date, from Open Access (e.g. PLoS) to the hackerspaces (e.g. noisebridge). There is also a big network of entrepreneurs in Open Science, which is specifically an aspect we were interested in. Célya thus decided to first look at the source of the movement and take time (three month) before doing a similar exploration in Europe with shorter missions (e.g. one week). Concerning France, we have still begun to monitor what is taking off, from citizen science to open data and open access. While we have certainly a better vision, the movement is still embryonic. But the movement will also take other forms and that is also what we are interested in. Célya is thinking to make her PhD in a research action mode, being observer and actor in this dynamical construction of the French Open Science movement.

3) From our experience, we could schedule our encounters and events both before starting the journey and on the way. Is that the same for you? How did you select your stops, the projects documented and persons interviewed? Is Open Science a widespread topic or it was actually difficult to find cases for your research?

Célya had already a blueprint of the big cities and the main path to follow. With the help of the HackYourPhD community, she gathered many contacts and constitute a first database of locations to visits and people to meet. Before starting, the first step—San Diego and the bay area—was almost scheduled. Then, the rest of the trip was set up on the way. Few important meetings were already scheduled of course (e.g. the Center for Open Science, the Mozilla Science Lab, etc.) but across the travel, new contact were given spontaneously by the people interviewed. Serendipity is your friend there! Regarding difficulties to find cases, this is quite function of the city. While San Francisco was really easy, Boston for example, which is full of nice projects, was nevertheless more challenging.

4) We know it is difficult to point out just one of them … but could you tell us what is your favourite or one of the most relevant Open Science initiatives you have discovered?

When Célya was in Cambridge, she visited the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. She met the director of the Data Science, Mercè Crosas and her team. Célya discovered the Dataverse Network project. It is one of the most relevant Open Science initiatives she discovered. Indeed, this project combines multiple facets of Open Science. It consists in building a platform allowing any researcher to archive, share and cite his data. It has many functionalities cleverly linking it to other aspects of Open Science (open access journal with OJS, citation, alt-metrics..). Here are the interview Mercè Crosas

5) As we discussed previously with Fiona Nielsen, sharing knowledge in the scientific domain has a positive impact. After your research, why does Open Science matter and how does it change the way scientists have been working till now?

Open Science provides many ways to increase efficiency in scientific practices. For example, Open Data allows research to better collaborate; while this solution seems obvious to many, it appears as a necessity when it comes to big science (e.g. CERN, ENCODE, Blue Brain, etc.) Open Data means also more transparency, which is critical to solve the lack of reproducibility or even frauds.

Open Access presents several advantages but the main one remains the guarantee to access scientific papers to everyone. As a journalist, Célya faced many times the issue of paywalls, and this is always frustrating. Last but not least, Open Science opens up new possibilities for collaboration between academia and other spheres (entrepreneurs, civil societies, NGO, etc.) Science is a social and collective endeavour, it thus needs contact with society and leave its ivory tower. The Open Science movement is profoundly going in that direction, and that why it matters.

6) As you know, Open Steps focuses on Open Data related projects. Quoting you, “In Seattle, I noticed a strong orientation of Open Science issues around Open Data.”, could you tell us more about this relation and the current situation in the US? Could you point us to any relevant Open Data initiative that we might want to document?

Open Data depends on scientific fields. Indeed, Seattle was a rich environment on that topic, but this is certainly caused by the software culture in the city (Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) The Open Data topic is related to Big Data. Thus, the key domains are genetics, neuroscience, and health in general. Lot of projects are interesting. We already mentioned the Dataverse Network, but you may also enjoy the Delsa Global Project (interview with Eugene Kolker) or Sage Bionetwork.

7) There are a lot of sponsors supporting you. Was it easy to convince them? Is that how you finance 100% of the project or do you have others sources of income?

All the sponsors were done thanks to the crowdfunding campaign on KissKissBankBank. This is not a question of convincing them, they just demonstrated the need of covering the topic of Open Science in France. Their financial help represents 36% of the total amount collected.

Their were no other source of income. The travel was not expensive since Célya used the collaborative economy solutions (couchsurfing, carpooling, etc.)

8) Now the trip is over …. but HackYourPhd still running. How does it go on now?

We are pursuing the daily collaborative curation, with almost a thousand people on our Facebook group. We are also organizing several events, mainly in Paris but with a growing network with other cities and even countries. The community is self-organized but needs some structure. We are currently thinking about this specific issue and hope 2014 will be a great year for the project!

Merci à vous deux!

Mapping Open Data with CartoDB @ Madrid/New York, Spain/USA

logos_full_cartodb_lightIf you have been following Open Steps, you know that a great part of the project consists on running a workshop on Open Data visualisation in the different cities visited. In these sessions, after going through some theory, we get hands on and teach how geo-referenced datasets can be represented on a map. We wanted to teach an easy but powerful tool that could be used by everyone, so we chose CartoDB. And it was a good choice!

Greatly based on Open Source software, this online platform has been conceived to serve journalists, designers, scientists and a large etcetera in the task of creating beautiful and informative interactive maps. The developers behind the tool had Open Data in mind since the first days and fact is that importing and visualizing datasets couldn’t be easier and faster. In addition, great features such as dynamic visualizations, support for your favourite Open Data formats and the endless possibilities of its Javascript API allow beginners but also big organisations (NASA, The Guardian, National Geographic among others) to tell stories with numbers.

Andrew Hill, member of the team, took some time and answered our questions about the creation and philosophy of the tool, its Open Source core and the importance of Open Data for educational, scientific and social development. We invite you to find out more about CartoDB here:

1) Hi Andrew, can you introduce yourself briefly and explain us what CartoDB is?

Hi, I’m the senior scientist at Vizzuality and CartoDB. CartoDB is our online mapping platform that we built to let people make beautiful interactive maps easily.

2) Your company, Vizzuality, is based between Madrid and New York. What is the story behind its creation? Besides CartoDB, are you working on other products or have other activities?

Vizzuality was created by our co founders, Sergio Alvarez and Javier de la Torre, both from Madrid. Our first office was in Madrid where we started to grow the company. It wasn’t until a couple years later that Javier and I moved to New York to start the office here. The idea was just to grow and explore new collaborations.

Right now, our biggest focus by far is CartoDB. There is a lot of innovation around maps on the web right now and we are really enjoying contributing to it. CartoDB has become more than we could ever have imagined and now we can see so many ways to keep making it more incredible, so I’m sure we’re going to be focused on it for some time to come.

3) Let’s focus on CartoDB, since it is the tool we are teaching on our workshop. Who is currently using it? Journalists, designers, developers? Can you point us to remarkable projects making use of all the possibilities the tool has to offer?

Yeah, all of those people, plus students, governments, city planners, nonprofits, you name it 🙂

Sure, I think one of the best places to find recent examples is our blog or on Twitter. Some highlights include:

http://illustreets.co.uk/

http://clearstreets.org/

http://here.com/livingcities/

Twitter has been using us for a lot of quick visualizations

http://projects.aljazeera.com/2013/syrias-refugees/index.html

http://sweeten.com/maps

and many more…

4) CartoDB, as the rest of your products, is based on open source software and its code is released to the public domain. What is your motivation behind this decision? For your company and the development of your products, what is the impact of choosing an Open Source license?

We have always been committed open source. Largely it has to do with our background as a scientific company, working with and interacting with scientific research it seemed obvious to us that science benefits greatly from open source. Not only does it benefit from it, it almost seems irresponsible to do anything else.

With the importance of maps in society, I feel it also seems irresponsible to rely on black boxes for mapping. CartoDB doesn’t hide anything from you, it is there for you to criticize, improve or change as you need.

5) As we know, Open Source does not necessary exclude commercial products. What is the business-model for your products?

We offer a lot of incentives on top of our hosted service. Including our caching, backups, uptime, maintenance, upgrades, etc. With paid hosting plans you also get dedicated support and access to the foremost experts of CartoDB to help you become a better mapper, data visualization expert, or GIS expert on our platform. So there is a lot of benefits that using our hosted platform can bring to businesses and individuals and we are seeing already that businesses are being built around that, it feels great.

6) Let’s talk about the community around CartoDB. Do you receive feedback from users or from developers to improve the tool? How important is for an Open Source-based product to count with such contributions?

We have received a lot of feedback from our users including feature requests. We also do our best to contribute to the open source libraries that are used by CartoDB, so it is very much a community effort and that community is what makes it all possible for sure.

7) On our workshop, we teach how to import and visualise Open Data with CartoDB. Is the tool specially thought to be used with Open Data? In your opinion, why does Open Data and its visualisation matter?

We think about open data when developing CartoDB all the time. I wouldn’t say that is the sole target of our tool development, a lot of private companies are using CartoDB to analyse and map data that is part of a business offering, so not open. However, we think that visualizing open data can be a very powerful method of educating and demonstrating it’s contents and importance. The title of a recent article about some maps I created shows that I’m not alone in thinking that.

8) We recently saw that you have released great new features (dynamic visualisation, live data feeds,…). How do you set the priorities of the features you are developing? What are the next features you are working on? And in general, how does the future for CartoDB look like?

I’d say we balance three things as best we can when going for new features in CartoDB: what users express they want or need, what we see as improvements that can be made in performance, simplicity or design, and functionality that we see as innovations that we hope users will love 🙂

Thanks Andrew!

 

Goteo.org: Crowdfunding platform for collective benefit @ Barcelona, Spain

Internet has been changing constantly the way things get done in many aspects of our life, one of these areas is how projects get funded. „Crowdfunding“ has been a hot topic in the past years and a handful of platforms are currently being chosen by many enterpreneurs and creative minds who want their ideas become reality without needing to get a loan from the bank.

PrintBut there is one, that in our opinion, represents the philosophy behind the words „Openness“ and „Sharing“ the best: Goteo.org. The main virtue of this platform for crowdfunding and distributed collaboration is that the collective return represents the principal output everytime a certain project gets succesfully funded, also promoting the commons, open code and/or free knowledge in the process.

Goteo.org was very smartly conceived. Taking in consideration the input of the creative community it is meant to serve even before a single line of code for the platform was written, it features intelligent design decisions such as the two crowdfunding rounds of 40+40 days or the possibility for backers to contribute through services, material resources and/or insfrastructure instead of only with money. These and other aspects differentiates Goteo.org in great way to the others.

Launched in November 2011, after its first year the platform registered impresive statistics: 15K+ registered users, around 150 open projects collecting in total more than 430,000 Euros, with an average of almost 40 Euros per cofunder and a campaign success rate of over 60%. We recommend you to watch the following video of the presentation one of it’s co-founders Olivier Schulbaum did at TEDxMadrid in 2012.

Bildschirmfoto 2013-12-21 um 12.52.30In the list of sucessfully funded projects we discover very interesting initiatives: two models of Do-It-Yourself shoes, a citizen-run network to measure and share pollution data collected by sensors called Smart Citizen or even the production of a music album released under creative commons license. Just browse their site and you will get automatically inspired but lots of good ideas. If you like them, support them! And make them become true.

Another great thing about Goteo.org is that the code of the platform is Open Source, that means anyone can get it and adapt it to their own needs. That is what two regional communities in Spain have already done; first it was Euskadi and then Andalucia which created its own “local node”, supporting innovation and development among its creative citizens. Currently, another one is being prepared for France!

Do you have a great idea for a project with social, cultural, scientific, educational, technological, or ecological objectives? Your budget is limited and you need help from the community? You didn’t know about Goteo.org yet? If you answered with are yes yes no to these three questions, that means this article probably made your day!

Interview with Journalism++ @ Paris/Berlin, France/Germany

logo_jppJournalism++ is a network of data-journalists and developers which has chapters in five cities across Europe. With the goal of promoting the use of data and its visualisation for journalistic purposes, they create Open Source tools, organise trainings and consult other organisations in this area.

We contacted Nicolas Kayser-Bril, one of its co-founders, and asked him to give us an inside view about his company and the concept of data-journalism. Covering the theory, how data is currently being used to enhance story-telling, and the advantages for journalists working with Open Source and Open Data, this interview exposes a topic we were eager to learn more about.

1) Hi Nico, many thanks for sharing time with us. Could you first introduce yourself and present briefly Journalism++? How does it come that you are represented in five different cities in Europe?

We started Journalism++ with Pierre Romera, a developer, in 2011. At the time, we were working together at OWNI as a team of journalist & developer. When we left, we asked several newsrooms if we could join, as a team, and do data-journalism. Most were eager to hire us but not one was ready to let us work together. In order to keep working together, we created Journalism++. The name is a nerdy joke, as the “++” sign is an increment in most programming languages. In effect, it means “journalism is now equal to journalism plus one”.

As the company grew, we offered other data-journalists in Europe to use the Journalism++ brand. The Journalism++ network is organized around these chapters, in something that resembles a franchise. Companies such as Subway or NGOs like Transparency International operate in much the same way. Today, 3 companies that operate independently from us use the brand in Stockholm, Amsterdam and Cologne. All we ask from chapters is that they adhere to the Journalism++ Manifesto and be financially sustainable.

2) What does it mean to be a data-journalist? How does it differ from traditional journalism? Is the use of Open Data and its visualisation what make that difference?

At its most basic, data-journalism means using numerical data to tell stories. Let’s say you have a database to work from. You’ll need to clean it, check its authenticity, interview the data using data-mining techniques, and finally communicate your results, sometimes using data visualisations or more complex interfaces. This process can be done by one-person operations using Google Spreadsheets. But sometimes, you’ll need much expert skills, like statistics, computer forensics, designers or developers. And project managers to hold everything together. The end product changes too. Where we had articles or video reports, we can now tell stories using evolving databases. Homicide watch in Washington, DC, is a good example: it compiles all data it can find on homicides in the town. It accomplishes a basic task of journalism in a totally new format.

From a simple thing (doing journalism with data) we end up with a totally new way of doing journalism, which is very close to traditional software development. That explains why small companies like ours are better equipped than big newsrooms to do data-journalism.

3) You have participated in many events and trainings around Europe, divulging the benefits of using Open Data applied to journalism. How is Open Data seen among the journalistic community? Is there a general movement towards using Open Data in journalism or is it still a new and almost undiscovered topic?

Data-driven is still very new to most newsrooms. There is an acknowledgement of what it can do and that it can help journalists overcoming some of the challenges they face. But there’s no movement towards using open data. The number of requests for open data in most EU countries (look at the reports from CADA in France or at tools like Frag den Staat in Germany and Austria) from journalists still range in the few hundreds per year. It’s getting better, but very slowly.

4) We have seen in your portfolio that some of your clients come from the public sector. Is the public administration specially demanding Open Data-based-tools nowadays?

We’re very proud to work for the ÃŽle-de-France region, Europe’s biggest region by GDP. They set up a data-driven communication strategy alongside their open data platform, which we help them implement. Many administrations, as well as NGOs and corporations, are realizing that they sit on very valuable data troves. Most are just starting to organizing them and are thinking of making them more open. They understand that more open data will make it easier for them to communicate on their action.

5) You already developed really interesting tools and civic apps (Cartolycées, e-diplomacy, Alertepolitique, Datawrapper, …). Where do all these ideas come from? Could you explain more about the conception process and its context?

Most of our projects start at the coffee table, within the company or with clients and partners. We then take these ideas from a drawing on a napkin to full-fledged products. We sometimes have to find funding in the process. Clients are very open to experimenting with new ideas. In the case of E-diplomacy, for instance, a visualisation of diplomats’ Twitter streams for Agence France Presse, the tool really emerged from a back-and-forth ideation process between us and AFP journalists.

6) We know it might be difficult to choose one, but can you pitch one of your projects in particular? Perhaps the one you consider the most useful?

I’ll take the latest project we released, called SpendingStories. We had this idea with the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF), which financed the project through a grant from the Knight Foundation. With its OpenSpending project, OKF collects a lot of data on budgets and spending throughout the world. But not many people know how to read, much less make sense of, this data. So we built a very simple interface that let people enter any amount, in any currency, and see how it compares to items in different budgets. We hope it’ll make it easier for journalists to put things into perspective when a politician announces a million or billion-euro plan, instead of resorting to meaningless comparisons such as “this is as much as the GDP of [insert country here]”. You can access the demo version of SpendingStories, which contains data about UK public spending, here: http://okf-spendingstories.herokuapp.com

7) You release most of your projects as Open Source. What is the motivation behind this? What are the benefits for a private company like yours in a market economy?

There are several reasons. One is practical: Open source projects are granted privileges by many companies eager to encourage openness. We don’t pay to host our code at Github and many APIs and other services are free for open source projects. It’s also a great way to showcase our work to other developers and make sure that we code in a clean manner. It’s great to ensure a high quality in our work.

So far, we haven’t coded anything that is worth protecting for its technical value. What we sell to clients is our expertise rather than our code proper. They know that we’ll develop an app or a variation of an app much faster than they would, so it makes a lot of sense for them to pay us rather than simply take the code and do it themselves.

8) Where do you find the data you are working with? Does this data already exist or does it have to be collected before? Is the data already open and available? Which are the Open Data platforms you are using the most?

There’s no fixed rule. Sometimes we’ll tell stories using open data. Sometimes we’ll do a Freedom of Information request. Sometimes we’ll scrape it. Sometimes we’ll obtain it though leaked documents. Sometimes we structure already available data. And if we still don’t find what we need, we crowdsource data collection.

As for open data platforms, the World Bank’s is certainly the most useable. It’s great to see institutions such as the IMF and Eurostat making their data available. But I’m not a fan of the newer brand of data catalogs, à la data.gov. Most of them simply aggregate data that was already published somewhere else and add little value in the process.

9) Let’s talk about what it’s still to come. In your opinion, how will data-journalism evolve in the upcoming years and what are the future steps for Journalism++?

We want to become the number one network of data-journalism companies worldwide: a dozen of financially independent companies operating in close cooperation, so as to be able to launch large-scale journalism projects at anytime and keep hacking things!