- ABalytics — dead simple A/B testing with Google Analytics. (via Dan Mazzini)
- Fastest Rubik Cube Solver is Made of Lego — it takes less than six seconds to solve the cube. Watch the video, it’s … wow. Also cool is watching it fail. (via Hacker News)
- Fairfax Watches BitTorrent (TorrentFreak) — At a government broadband conference in Sydney, Fairfax’s head of video Ricky Sutton admitted that in a country with one of the highest percentage of BitTorrent users worldwide, his company determines what shows to buy based on the popularity of pirated videos online.
- Web Performance Tools (Steve Souders) — compilation of popular web performance tools. Reminds me of nmap’s list of top security tools.
Justin Arenstein is building the capacity of African media to practice data-driven journalism.
This interview is part of our ongoing look at the people, tools and techniques driving data journalism.
I first met Justin Arenstein (@justinarenstein) in Chişinău, Moldova, where the media entrepreneur and investigative journalist was working as a trainer at a “data boot camp” for journalism students. The long-haired, bearded South African instantly makes an impression with his intensity, good humor and focus on creating work that gives citizens actionable information.
Whenever we’ve spoken about open data and open government, Arenstein has been a fierce advocate for data-driven journalism that not only makes sense of the world for readers and viewers, but also provides them with tools to become more engaged in changing the conditions they learn about in the work.
He’s relentlessly focused on how open data can be made useful to ordinary citizens, from Africa to Eastern Europe to South America. For instance, in November, he highlighted how data journalism boosted voter registration in Kenya, creating a simple website using modern web-based tools and technologies.
For the last 18 months, Arenstein has been working as a Knight International Fellow embedded with the African Media Initiative (AMI) as a director for digital innovation. The AMI is a group of the 800 largest media companies on the continent of Africa. In that role, Arenstein has been creating an innovation program for the AMI, building more digital capacity in countries that are as in need of effective accountability from the Fourth Estate as any in the world. That disruption hasn’t yet played itself out in Africa because of a number of factors, explained Arenstein, but he estimates that it will be there within five years.
“Media wants to be ready for this,” he said, “to try and avoid as much of the business disintegration as possible. The program is designed to help them grapple with and potentially leapfrog coming digital disruption.”
Scraping together the best tools, techniques and tactics of the data journalism trade.
Great journalism has always been based on adding context, clarity and compelling storytelling to facts. While the tools have improved, the art is the same: explaining the who, what, where, when and why behind the story. The explosion of data, however, provides new opportunities to think about reporting, analysis and publishing stories.
As you may know, there’s already a Data Journalism Handbook to help journalists get started. (I contributed some commentary to it). Over the next month, I’m going to be investigating the best data journalism tools currently in use and the data-driven business models that are working for news startups. We’ll then publish a report that shares those insights and combines them with our profiles of data journalists.
Why dig deeper? Getting to the heart of what’s hype and what’s actually new and noteworthy is worth doing. I’d like to know, for instance, whether tutorials specifically designed for journalists can be useful, as Joe Brockmeier suggested at ReadWrite. On a broader scale, how many data journalists are working today? How many will be needed? What are the primary tools they rely upon now? What will they need in 2013? Who are the leaders or primary drivers in the area? What are the most notable projects? What organizations are embracing data journalism, and why?
This isn’t a new interest for me, but it’s one I’d like to found in more research. When I was offered an opportunity to give a talk at the second International Open Government Data Conference at the World Bank this July, I chose to talk about open data journalism and invited practitioners on stage to share what they do. If you watch the talk and the ensuing discussion in the video below, you’ll pick up great insight from the work of the Sunlight Foundation, the experience of Homicide Watch and why the World Bank is focused on open data journalism in developing countries.
A/B with Google Analytics, Lego Rubiks Solver, TV Torrents, and Performance Tools
The 2012 Presidential debates show how far convergence has come and how far we have yet to go.
What a difference a season makes. A few months after widespread online frustration with a tape-delayed Summer Olympics, the 2012 Presidential debates will feature the most online livestreams and wired, up-to-the-second digital coverage in history.
Given the pace of technological change, it’s inevitable that each election season will bring with it new “firsts,” as candidates and campaigns set precedents by trying new approaches and platforms. This election has been no different: the Romney and Obama campaigns have been experimenting with mobile applications, social media, live online video and big data all year.
Tonight, one of the biggest moments in the presidential campaign to date is upon us and there are several new digital precedents to acknowledge.
The biggest tech news is that YouTube, in a partnership with ABC, will stream the debates online for the first time. The stream will be on YouTube’s politics channel, and it will be embeddable.
With more and more livestreamed sports events, concerts and now debates available online, tuning in to what’s happening no longer means passively “watching TV.” The number of other ways people can tune in online in 2012 has skyrocketed, as you can see in GigaOm’s post listing debate livestreams or Mashable’s ways to watch the debates online.
This year, in fact, the biggest challenge people will have will not be finding an online alternative to broadcast or cable news but deciding which one to watch.
Open Publishing, Theatre Sensing, Reddit First, and Math Podcasts
- Open Monograph Press — an open source software platform for managing the editorial workflow required to see monographs, edited volumes and, scholarly editions through internal and external review, editing, cataloguing, production, and publication. OMP will operate, as well, as a press website with catalog, distribution, and sales capacities. (via OKFN)
- Sensing Activity in Royal Shakespeare Theatre (NLTK) — sensing activity in the theatre, for graphing. Raw data available. (via Infovore)
- Why Journalists Love Reddit (GigaOM) — “Stories appear on Reddit, then half a day later they’re on Buzzfeed and Gawker, then they’re on the Washington Post, The Guardian and the New York Times. It’s a pretty established pattern.”
- Relatively Prime: The Toolbox — Kickstarted podcasts on mathematics. (via BoingBoing)
- Seriesly — time-series database written in go.
- Tablets and TV (Luke Wroblewski) — In August 2012, 77% of TV viewers used another device at the same time in a typical day. 81% used a smartphone and TV at the same time. 66% used a laptop and TV at the same time.
- Tiny Transactions on Computer Science — computer science research in 140 characters or fewer.
Lucrative Downloads, Mobile Money Malware, Robotrading Reality Check, and PITA Programmers
- Recording Revenues for the Typical Artist (Digital Music News) — more than 82 percent of their revenue from paid downloads, with CDs accounting for more than 11 percent. That leaves streaming revenues – including Spotify – with a scant 6.5 percent contribution. (via Simon Grigg)
- Chinese SMS Payment Malware — the virus — which lurks in wallpaper apps and ‘activates’ post-download – quietly gains access to users’ SMS functionality before exploiting a vulnerability within China Mobile’s SMS payment gateway to carry out transactions and access data.
- Wall Street’s Robots Are Not Out To Get You (Renee DiResta) — injecting some reality into the robotrading “IMMINENT DEATH OF MONEY PREDICTED” hypetastrophe.
- Blocker Flash Cards (Gamasutra) — a collection of common ways game developers try to stall progress on something they don’t like. Not common to the games industry, though: I think I’ve encountered every single one of the tactics in various guises. In other news, many human beings are passive-aggressive meatsacks waiting to be composted for the good of the planet.
Mobile Money, Quantified Server, Mobile Chatbot, and YouTube's Content Detection
- Mobile Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — eBay’s mobile shoppers and mobile payers are 3 to 4 times more valuable than Web only […] Yelp runs ads on the mobile web, and those ads see a higher clickthrough rate than their desktop counterparts.
- Data-Driven Restaurants (Washingtonian) — Did Elizabeth bring your Pinot Gris within three minutes of the time you ordered it? Were your appetizers delivered within seven minutes, entrées within ten, desserts within seven? Were these plates described at the table before they were set in front of you? Were napkins refolded when you went to the restroom? Was non-bottled water referred to as “ice water” (correct) or “water” (incorrect)? (via Daniel Bachhuber)
- Content Detection Fail (Ars Technica) — five other media organizations (mostly television stations, including some from overseas) had claimed the content of his video through YouTube’s Content ID system. That video? A Google+ hangout where he played NASA videos of the Mars landing. Shonky rights verification is a problem, as Google pays ad royalties to those who claim the rights–creating incentives to lie. And as Google doesn’t pay any royalties while material is disputed and the dispute is unresolved, it’s not really in Google’s interest to make this work either. (via Andy Baio)
Creative Business, News Design, Google Earth Glitches, and Data Distortion
- Patton Oswalt’s Letters to Both Sides — You guys need to stop thinking like gatekeepers. You need to do it for the sake of your own survival. Because all of us comedians after watching Louis CK revolutionize sitcoms and comedy recordings and live tours. And listening to “WTF With Marc Maron” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and watching the growth of the UCB Theatre on two coasts and seeing careers being made on Twitter and Youtube. Our careers don’t hinge on somebody in a plush office deciding to aim a little luck in our direction. (via Jim Stogdill)
- Headliner — interesting Guardian experiment with headlines and presentation. As always, reading the BERG designers’ notes are just as interesting as the product itself. E.g., how they used computer vision to find faces and zoom in on them to make articles more attractive to browsing readers.
- Google Earth Glitches — where 3d maps and aerial imagery don’t match up. (via Beta Knowledge)
- Campbell’s Law — The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. (via New York Times)
Choking the Olympic spirit for profit.
I’m violating my first rule. I’m writing angry. But…
I love the olympics. I love sport. And the olympics, still, despite it all, seem to me an incredible distillation of sport’s dedication, intensity, joy, humanity, and drama. Whether it’s the higher order game theory playing out in the biking peloton, the slowly evolving drama of the marathon, the sheer primal athleticism of weighlifting, or the H2O-immersed VO2max test that is the 400m individual medley, I just can’t get enough of it.
But NBC insists on forcibly reminding me at every turn that the Games are also something else. Like college football players, the athletes are mere “content” in a much bigger game. In this case what amounts to a two week utopian experiment in Nationalist Corporatism. A frenzy of metal counts, extractive economics and mind numbing cultural absurdity – where countries are reduced during their introduction to an association with their biggest historical monster.
But you had to wait to hear it because Costa’s idiotic commentary was held on tape until NBC’s $1B worth of sponsors were ready for you to see it: PrimeMonetizationTime. So, a giant fence surrounds the proceedings, put there by the IOC, NBC, and Akamai, where even tweets are controlled and the biggest event on the planet is dribbled out in a maddening temporal shift. But even then we had to endure systematic editing to make sure no one in the Kingdom of TeaMerica might be offended by anything, or bored. It doesn’t have to be this way. This was such a lost opportunity to make it great.
I still haven’t seen the opening ceremony from Beijing (same reasons, same perp), and I missed the one last night too. Well, I didn’t miss it exactly. When my tweet stream started lighting up late yesterday afternoon with visions of giant babies and Voldemort and flying bicycles and all the other British trippiness I ran to my TV. Work can wait, I want to see this! But I was blocked at every turn. Like an Iranian dissident I finally managed via a secret proxy to get a glimpse. But it lasted only a moment before some well-compensated gatekeeper sussed it out and blocked my subversive stream. I couldn’t deal with the asymmetry of the commentary without the thing, so I just shut down Twitter.