Data in journalism training at the NUJ on 17 May

I am again running an introductory day on using data in journalism at the National Union of Journalists in London on Friday 17 May. The course, which assumes little or no knowledge of the subject, covers risk, quality of data, assessing sources including surveys, government and open data, Freedom of Information and graphing.

The course, organised by the NUJ’s London Freelance Branch, costs £55 for NUJ members, £45 for student and temporary members and £110 otherwise.

More information and booking here.

Wikipedia gets it wrong even as a source of sources

I am currently teaching a term-long data journalism course at Birkbeck, University of London for MA students. Aside from seeing their overall projects develop, it is fun to see how students respond to challenges, such as to find data visualisations. (They came up with fine examples on gender pay gaps, China’s Uighur prison camps and trade discrepancies.)

One particularly interesting set of responses came when I asked students to find something wrong on Wikipedia (without editing in their own errors). Several found basic factual mistakes in pages on their home towns and other things they know well. Having said that, in data journalism courses I always advise using Wikipedia as a source of sources, to follow links and footnotes to good primary material. Continue reading “Wikipedia gets it wrong even as a source of sources”

Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital

Neophilia is a condition where the sufferer believes that newer things beat older ones. It’s quite common among technologists who make their livings introducing new things. This can bias them against older technologies – such as that miracle of resilience, portability and usability, paper.

For Computer Weekly, I looked at some specific areas where paper can outperform digital. George Osborne’s cancellation of paper tax discs appears to be costing the country tens of millions of pounds a year. Take-up of e-books has stalled, with the proportion of Americans reading paper books actually rising. Oxfam deliberately uses paper for some sensitive interviews and in places where people are worried about government surveillance. Continue reading “Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital”

The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook

If you want to get yourself a present for Christmas, then how about extra free time with a side-order of serenity? Follow Jaron Lanier’s advice and cut down on social media. I’d add, start with Facebook.

Facebook has unappealing aspects common to many tech companies, such as aggressively (and legally) avoiding taxes. But when it comes to disrupting politics, by allowing who knows who to target voters with ads saying (until recently) who knows what, it has no equal. Continue reading “The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook”

Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna

Cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology, such as bitcoin and ethereum, get a lot of hype. Some believe they are the future of finance, while other including savvy MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee and the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog (free registration required) take a more cynical view. Recent drops in the price of bitcoin suggest the latter have a point.

Like many technologies, blockchain – which creates a permanent, unalterable record of transactions – may prove to be of greater use in areas other than its original one. I have previously looked at its uses outside finance for Computer Weekly, but have now focused on how it can support food and drink supply chains. Continue reading “Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna”