A new data journalism platform

Swarmize-homepageMy colleagues Tom Armitage and Graham Tackley are unveiling a data journalism platform called Swarmize today. It’s an alpha-ish prototype which was funded via the Knight News Challenge with support from The Guardian.

While there was a real editorial use case inspiring Swarmize it was the absence of an easy to use and robust enough platform for conducting data journalism projects that made us think this was something that needed to be built.

It seems to me that the tools for collecting, analyzing and outputting data that tell a story haven’t evolved as much as I thought they would have by now. I suspect it’s holding back a form of journalism that is eager to evolve.

While the article and the video clip reign supreme as digital storytelling formats the Internet has the potential to unlock an entirely different type of journalism experience fueled by raw data.

It may hit us on a more adhoc case-by-case basis for a while yet, as this list shows, but you can be sure a new generation of developers will uncover ways to make data journalism work systematically.

I think there’s a certain kind of network-native developer brain that’s needed for this — someone who can think of what they are doing on the Internet as interconnected activities rather than places to go.

I tried to characterize this way of thinking a while back now. In retrospect this seems incomplete but it’s mostly still relevant:

  • Instead of caring about how much value you will get from your customers in exchange for your goods, you care about how much value you create for your customers with your services
  • You want to help other people succeed knowing that you will benefit from their success
  • You simultaneously seek ways to embed what you do into other things and to embed strengths of what others do into your things
  • You view those who do the same thing as you as partners rather than competition
  • You view those who take more than they give as threats
  • Nothing you do is ever done

indyref-graph3All the code for Swarmize is available publicly on GitHub, and Tom has done a great job documenting the API and writing up case studies including some useful screenshots.

The tools of the trade always affect what gets made. Hopefully, Swarmize will unlock new network-native data-rich journalism projects that otherwise would hide untapped and unseen.