Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Stuff I've seen October 9th through to October 11th

Posted on 11th October 2010 by

These are my links for October 9th through October 11th:

  • Machine written sports reports Projects – Stats Monkey – By analyzing changes in Win Probability and Game Scores, the system can pick out the key plays and players from any baseball game. Second, the system includes a library of narrative arcs that describe the main dynamics of baseball games (as well as many other competitions): Was it a come-from-behind win? Back-and-forth the whole way? Did one team jump out in front at the beginning and then sit on its lead? The system uses a decision tree to select the appropriate narrative arc.
  • Too much money plays against government 2.0 – government 2.0 is more interesting – and useful – where the are scarce rather than abundant resources.
  • The Great Transition: what it means for Local Authorities « Nat Wei’s Blog – make cuts intelligently rather than in a knee jerk fashion, safeguarding effective and connective local community projects and other external suppliers rather than avoiding to make savings closer to home or spinning out functions as mutuals or social enterprises – at least until many of them have been able themselves to transition to a more diversified financial position.
  • Community Media Activist: The Spectre of Community and the Big Society – The Big Society, if there is such a thing, or spirit, or programme, will most likely emerge from the evolution of community, and community development, rather than the ideological urgency of a cutback-driven Little State.
  • Thriving too: Big Society: Exploring Sustainable Collaborative Service Models – "Collaboration between equals is difficult, between disciplines more so… but between paid professionals and unpaid volunteers very hard indeed. On paper it sounds like ‘just the sort of thing we should be doing’…. But in real life situations, such as the one described, it presents challenges that we don’t know how to overcome…. Yet.

    The challenge is not organisational or even financial… but about how we create frameworks that sustain the *relationships* that are required for collaborative services to flourish."

Help Me Investigate short listed for NUJ award

Posted on 19th June 2010 by

Help Me Investigate and my very clever colleague in that venture, Paul Bradshaw,  have been nominated for Multimedia Publisher of the Year in the 2010 NUJ Regional Press Awards.  The full list of nominees in Paul’s category are:

The site has had an number of big investigations, from uncovering the £2.8 million price tag for Birmingham City Council’s website (which in turn led to the council’s own inquiry on the spending) to stripping away the layers of what lay behind a new free newspaper in London.

The site allows citizens to collaborate which each other to ask civic questions and find the answers.  HMI  was also recognised in Talk About Locals Un Awards earlier this year – (full result on the Guardian site) thank you!

We’ll find out on the 29th whose won this one.

Stuff we've seen March 9th through to May 21st

Posted on 25th May 2010 by

These are my links for March 9th through May 21st:

  • Why its essential to socialize your business philosophy – “If you can’t or refuse to adapt your business philosophy to realize the full potential of social media, you will be wondering why your socialized competitors are doing increasingly more business than you are.”
  • Home is where the Art is: How to do social media – “Whatever you do with digital media, it is just that – digital media. The important stuff is the conversations it supports. No conversation, no point to digital media” This is from a customer and makes me very proud!
  • Talk About Local 2010 – What we learnt – Blog – – Much to our surprise, Greener Leith won the ‘Best Specialist Hyperlocal’ award, for which we’re most grateful. We’re still laughing at the plastic umbrella (price tag unremoved), tiny plastic trophy and the camouflage hat that made up the prize
  • Nick Petrie | One year of Redbrick – The student media scene is a great place for experimentation because the business model is different. It is an environment where risk should be encouraged and entrepreneurship supported. Social media is the buzz topic at the moment, but it is the concepts that surround it that matter; relationships, community engagement and conversations – the interactions that publications have with their audience.
  • 2008-09 Citizenship Survey: Empowered Communities Topic Report – Corporate – Communities and Local Government – “Using 2008-09 Citizenship Survey data, this report provides an in-depth examination of community empowerment: whether people feel they can influence local and national decisions; whether they would like to be more involved in decision making; what would make it easier to influence decision making; and how people would influence decisions if they wanted to.”
  • future interviews « ‘i interview interesting people’ – Interesting journalistic process from Robert Dale
  • Design for America – Sunlight Labs is pleased to announce our latest contest — “Design for America.” This 10 week long design and data visualization extravaganza is focused on connecting the talents of art and design communities throughout the country to the wealth of government data now available through bulk data access and APIs, and to help nurture the field of information visualization. Our goal is simple and straightforward — to make government data more accessible and comprehensible to the American public.

Scrutinising swimming pool facilities

Posted on 23rd March 2010 by

I’ve been a bit annoyed with the provision of swimming facilities here in Brum for a while. Nick Booth suggested I compare them with those of the other core cities to see how Birmingham rated. So I’ve just had a little go.

What I did

First I went to each council’s website, found its list of leisure facilities and then checked each one to work out which were swimming pools. Occasionally, in the case of Manchester, that was easy because it was quite handy. In other cases it was a pain, because the council had different ideas about presentation. Anyway, I managed to make a crude tally of the number of pool facilities.

I wanted to do more, but as this spreadsheet shows it’s hard to get all the data.

Newcastle Swimming Pools

Some councils provide more information than others, some are completely inconsistent about what they do present. You’ll also see that, scandalously, I’ve added some Scottish cities and left out the likes of Sheffield in my list.

I then had a look on the same sites for population statistics. I didn’t always find them. On some occasions the website provided a mid-2008 census estimate, and sometimes it was just the numbers from the 2001 census. Sometimes it was in a nice HTML format, and other times it was buried in a PDF.

What I produced

I managed to collate the information into this incredibly crude spreadsheet, where I divided the population of the city by the number of pool facilities.

Swimming pool comparison

I then used Many Eyes to upload my spreadsheet and turn it into a visualisation, which you can see here:-

Now, this isn’t a great analysis. After all, Birmingham has Moseley Road Baths, which is something like 20m long, while the Manchester Aquatics Centre has two 50m pools in one facility. Yet they each get a score of one. Deeply unfair. If I could find out how long and how wide each pool was then I could add it all up and then compare the total swimming area to population. But that depth (pun intended) of information isn’t available.

So what does this mean?
For me this is a scrutiny issue, because working out how Birmingham compares to other cities in terms of facilities helps us to understand whether it needs to improve. But the information isn’t there, or if it is it’s inconsistent. And it’s not just geeks who’d like to know how big a swimming pool is, how long it’s open for and even how warm it is. It’s all information that’s relevant to users.

What can be done?
Making comparisons between councils’ services would be made easier if we all were engaged in a discussion about what information needs to be made available and in what formats that information is presented in.

As this little experiment demonstrates, it’s not technically challenging to collect data and then use a free, web-based tool like Many Eyes to interpret it. And, for the time being, I’m considering setting up a site that looks specifically at swimming pools to work out how that process could become more useful and accurate.