When journalists talk about data, they do it with the sort of sparkle in their eye that comes from finding a new way to tell a tough story. When civic-oriented programmers talk about journalism the sentiment, oddly, seems roughly the same.
At least that was the feeling in the air at the soon-to-be vacant Inquirer building as a crew of Inquirer and Daily News journalists and a few local programmers presented on how they’d manipulated data for the civic good at the second Philadelphia Hacks/Hackers meetup, dubbed Data and Demos.
“I hope that people have a greater awareness of the possibilities of technology and data to enhance and support great journalism,” said Hacks/Hackers organizer and Public School Notebook web editor Erika Owens. “It was great to have people who have been doing different types of “computer-assisted” reporting come together and learn from and share with one another.”
Last night’s event was the second full event for the local chapter of Hacks/Hackers, the grassroots national chapter-based organization that brings together journalists and technologists. The group launched locally last October.
Owens and fellow local organizer Azavea GIS analyst Dana Bauer teamed up with Philly.com Mobile Producer Dave Merrell to host the event at Philly.com headquarters. Philly.com editor Wendy Warren introduced the “hacks” — Bob Vetrone, Jr., Rose Ciotta, Dylan Purcell and Rob Kandel — while Owens introduced the hackers — Casey Thomas, Faye Anderson, and Jake Richter — all of whom had started their projects at previous hackathons.
“The projects from Random Hacks of Kindness have actually continued past the hackathon, which is uncommon with many hackathons where the projects often stop after the weekend,” Owens said. “These projects benefited from strong leaders who brought ideas to a brainstorming session at the Hacks/Hackers meetup in November, built teams before and during the hackathon, and have continued working on the projects since.”
Bob Vetrone Jr., a sports blogger for Philly.com affectionately known as Boop, talked about his love for sports data:
Rose Ciotta, Senior Editor for Digital/Print Projects, had an important message, “Keep Calm and Analyze Data.” She talked about how creating data visualization helps reporters tell better stories:
Dylan Purcell, a computer-assisted reporting reporter for the Inquirer, talked about how data enhances the stories he reports:
Rob Kandel, assistant multimedia projects editor for the Inquirer, discussed how Philly.com hosts its data and the programs it uses to create data visualizations. [Ed. note: We apologize for the vertically oriented video. We had a spot of technical difficulty]:
For the hackers:
Casey Thomas, a freelance web developer, presented Lobbying.ph, which took the prize at the Code for America Code Across America Civic Hackathon last Saturday, as Technically Philly reported. The site uses recently released lobbying data from the Philadelphia Board of Ethics to show who is lobbying in Philadelphia.
Faye Andersen, a passionate advocate for voter rights, presented a PowerPoint demo of Cost of Freedom, an app which helps voters without government-issued IDs obtain the proper identification required to vote. Andersen, along with a developer, started Cost of Freedom at Random Hacks of Kindness in December. Andersen started a campaign to raise funding at Start Some Good:
Jake Richter presented a PowerPoint demo of WhoPaid?, originally named CuiBono, which allows a user to input audio of campaign ad and find out how it was financed. Richter explained that the app is still in skeleton form because of obstacles to acquiring the necessary data. The app is something like a Shazam for campaign finance, as Purcell commented after the presentation. [Ed. Note: Again, we apologize for the vertically oriented video.]
As for the next Hacks/Hackers, Owens had some thoughts: