TODD at RTP180°

RTP, NC – Story by Tech Tank Managing Partner Ian Henshaw

At the RTP 180°Open Source All The Things event on September 17, 2013, I was able to present an informative (and mildly humorous) view of 2013 Cary Open Data Day (CODD) and the upcoming 2014 Triangle Open Data Day (TODD).

We need your comments about what you want to see at Triangle Open Data Day, so leave them below or send me an e-mail.

Previous articles on RTP180°:

Pictures: Cary Open Data Day 2013


Cary, NC – It was a rainy Saturday in Cary. Perfect time to learn about Open Data and write some code.

Cary Open Data Day

About 50 people showed up for Open Data Day at the Cary Chamber. Town of Cary IT provided Wi-Fi and technical support (thanks Bill and Wilson).

Jason Hare, Open Data Program Manager for Raleigh gave the keynote. He educated the crowd (me, at least) about the Open Knowledge FoundationOpen Data Institute and the principles of Open Data.

“Transparent government. Not transparent citizens.” – Jason Hare, Cary Open Data Day


Jason also emphasized the goal of regionalism for open data in the Triangle. That is, municipalities need to adopt similar rules and standards so data can be easily complied for the entire region.

Hacking and Workshops

After the keynote, council member Lori Bush fired up the crowd and solicited ideas for data projects to hack. The group had half a dozen data sets provided by Town of Cary, plus all the open data available on the internet (for example, maps). The group also pitched ideas for data sets they’d like to see made available for future projects.


Crime data was a topic of high interest, as well as data about government spending.

The crowd broke up into smaller groups scattered around the Chamber to work on specific projects. The goal was to have a model up and working by the end of the day.


Throughout the day, workshops popped up in the conference room or the board room. Topics included privacy, Code for AmericaTriangle WikiGithubOpenSpending.orgdata journalismand more.


After a full day of hacking and learning, eight groups presented working open data websites the conference. Crime “heat maps” were popular.


Organizers Ian Cillay and Ian Henshaw of TechnologyTank raffled off a Samsung Chrome Book, won by a PhD student from NC State.


It was an auspicious beginning to Cary as a community tech hub. Open Data Day is a sure-thing to return to Cary next year.

More Pictures

In the spirit of Open Data Day, the entire set of 42 pictures is available on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


Story and photos by Hal Goodtree, first published on CaryCitizen.

History of Data Journalism

data journalism

Story by Hal Goodtree from CaryCitizen. Graph from Mortality of the British Army, 1858

Cary, NC – Sometimes, a word or phrase comes into focus around something we already understand, but have not yet named. Such a phrase is data journalism.

Data Journalism

The term data journalism came into focus for me in preparation for moderating a workshop at Cary Open Data Day.

Data journalism is creating content (stories or pictures) based on analysis of statistical information.

The best example of everyday data journalism is in sports. A table of projected rankings of NCAA tournament brackets is data journalism. A chart of salary vs. hitting percentage in Major League Baseball is data journalism.

The best known contemporary individual in data journalism is Nate Silver of The New York Times. Silver accurately predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the last Presidential election. The interesting thing: Silver did no original research. His analysis was based on everyone else’s polls.

The History of Data Journalism

The Guardian claims the first foray into data journalism in 1821, with an expose on schools in Manchester. They published a table showing the prices paid for public schooling in the British city, revealing a far greater number of public-assistance students than perceived by the population.

The most famous example of 19th century data journalism is the masterpiece study by Florence Nightingale, Mortality of the British Army, 1858.

In the late 1950′s, data journalism took a quantum leap forward with the first “Computer Assisted Reporting” (CAR) of Presidential elections by broadcaster CBS.

In he 1970′s, data journalism was sometimes called “precision reporting.”

The first international data journalism conference was held in Amsterdam in 2010.

3 Steps of Data Journalism

Modern data journalism has three basic steps:

  1. Get Data
  2. Understand the data
  3. Communicate the data

Get the Data

For reporters at ESPN, there is ready access to lots and lots of rich data sets. But often, data journalism requires some finely honed search skills.

Some data is readily available as “streams” – XML or RSS feeds that are easy for machines to read. The City of Washington, DC has an Open Data Catalog.

In many cases, data must be discovered or “liberated,” through carefully combing websites or by initiating a public records request from a government agency.

Understanding the Data

The fundamental principle of analysis is that data does not equal facts. Information is not the same as knowledge.

Understanding the data is about creating plausible context in which the information makes sense.

Communicating the Data

This is where the writers and graphic designers get involved.

Everyday tools like Google Spreadsheets and Microsoft Excel can produce stunning charts and graphs. Popular data journalism features include use of “infographics” – data presented as a picture. Typography often plays an important role is data visualizations.

Another good practice is to include the data set in any presentation. That way, interested parties can see how you derived your conclusions and maybe hack another view or conclusion.

Finally, data journalism today means communicating your results across platforms – a blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all come to mind. But a data visualization about food might find an audience on Pinterest. Or one about music might prove popular on Instagram.

More Information

For my workshop on data journalism, I collected a dozen or so links to examples and more in-depth information.

It’s an open document, so if you have data journalism links to add, please feel free.

More Info: Data Journalism Workshop Links

All About Data Journalism

Graph from Mortality of the British Army, 1858

Cary, NC – Sometimes, a word or phrase comes into focus around something we already understand, but have not yet named. Such a phrase is data journalism. Read more