[ddj] Results from Editors Lab Berlin & the myth of the heroic visualization

mirko.lorenz at gmail.com mirko.lorenz at gmail.com
Fri Jun 14 05:11:51 UTC 2013

Dear all,
two links to share this morning.

Results from Editors Lab hackday in Berlin
First: The results from Editors Lab, a two day hackday for newsrooms,
organized by the Global Editors Network. This was one of a serious
they did around the world. Point is that I found the event to be
helpful and a good learning opportunity. Have a look at what the

Not so much as self-promotion, but as a (winning) example we (team
from Deutsche Welle, Bonn) worked on a crowdsourcing app to better
compare global costs of living and gathering fresh data for a
newsroom. We called it "I pay this, you pay that".

The idea was to ask users how much they work, how much they make and
what they have to pay for certain goods like rice, petrol/gas,
cigarettes in their countries. We re-calculated the work time, work
pay and local prices into "working minutes". By being able to answer
how long someone has to work for a pack of rice in Ghana or in
Germany, we hope to have better and clearer comparisons of living
conditions, buying power of currencies. The whole thing is an attack
on media reporting that employees of knitting factories in Bangladesh
"make 40 Euros a month" - which might be true, but is very difficult
to understand or to judge without knowing what these 40 Euros buy in
the country. Plus, if we would move the app from rough alpha to beta,
we might end up having thousands of fresh datapoints, which we could
compare with costs of living data from Worldbank, IMF and UN. That
then would put any newsroom into a powerful position for reporting,
wouldn't it?


"Heroic visualizations"
Second: There is a discussion going on based on remarks by Alberto
Cairo. Key insight: For the most part data-driven journalism and data
visualizations should steer away from trying to do "heroic
visualizations" (e.g. Nightingale, Minard, Snow). That might be part
of the work, but always wanting to create super-awesome,
super-relevant visualizations is simply not the goal. More often than
not working with data is simply sifting through the data, displaying
patterns, doing line and bar charts. And that's ok.


Have a good day, everyone.

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