Directors' blog

Links, thoughts and updates from the directors of Dim Sum Digital.

Archive for the ‘opendata’ tag

Crunching marriage data on Valentine’s morning

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It is legal, under special circumstances, for a 12 year old to get married in South Africa. That’s just one of the startling facts revealed through the open data work carried out by Code4SouthAfrica which you can interact with above.

As Adi Eyal explains:

The most disturbing part of the diagram is on the far left. Girls younger than 16 are getting married. Two 12 year-olds were married off, one to a 20 year old man, another to a 67 year-old.

The data set looked at 161,000 civil marriages in 2012. Trends such as popular months for marrying (December) and the most common age to get hitched are all there but it’s in the outliers that the biggest stories lie.

On Valentine’s day, who could fail to be touched by the story of a 92 and 94 year old taking the plunge!

Having been introduced to this data (we are currently working out of Code4SA’s Cape Town base) prompted me to have a look at the same situation in the UK.

But to no avail. The Office for National Statistics offers a listing for ‘age at marriage‘ in its menu but – not one piece of data is available. A couple of mentions in aged articles and summaries and that’s your lot…….

Not so open with our national statistics.

Written by sarahhartley

February 14th, 2015 at 7:44 am

News you can use #ipiwoco

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Updating notes from presentation by Justin Arenstein.

Apps for Africa looks to build projects which have tangible outputs. Support a range of projects everything from journalism drones to data visualisation, fact-checking sites, reporting apps and map-based story telling.

90 projects live and available for newsrooms to use.

GotToVote project, which cost just a few hundred pounds to build, credited with increased voting levels.

In Kenya a ‘dodgy doctor’ checker which checks against a spreadsheet of qualifications and any cases against them. Very simple tools driven off a spreadsheet. Every time the paper runs a story about a dodgy doc, they embed the tool for people to be able to check their own doctors.

“Databases like this are evergreen. They have an impact by amplifying news.”

Written by sarahhartley

April 14th, 2014 at 6:48 am

On the crime beat to open data with #hackthecity



Hacking underway

What could you do with crime and justice data?

A map to tell you the safer places in a city to park maybe? Or how about a way to check the work has been carried out near you by those who’ve received a court sentence to do it to see justice being done?

Utilising data available within the crime and justice field was one of the challenges facing attendees of Saturday’s Hack the City event in Sheffield.

Developers, designers and various general interested oddbods like myself were invited to share some ideas and see if maybe the room could come up with the next killer app or business idea for data.

Alongside a general city based hack, the event organised by Open Data Sheffield was also an opportunity to meet with those involved with the Open Data Institute’s Immersion programme.

The series lead on the project, Simon Whitehouse introduced participants to the scheme which is looking for people to engage in a process which will result in a data business looking at how open data projects can be constructed to achieve one of the following:

- increase community involvement with the criminal justice system
- create further evidence for what are effective interventions for rehabilitation
- address the rise in personal crime
Home Office representatives were also present and introduced the data sets already opened up around policing – – which includes more than the headline grabbing neighbourhood crime mapping data such as extra police officer details for neighbourhood teams.

The Home Office is hoping that by opening this data, developers and communities will start to engage more in conversations about policing and they’d especially like to see more activity around the Police and Crime Commissioner roles.

The hacks were well on their way at the point I left and were competing for prizes. They included building an email alerts system into this web map for stolen bicycles, a transport app for Sheffield, a ‘where not live’ crime mapping app and this library recommendation from the two youngest hackers to attend.

The full hacks, videos from the day and more information with developer links can be found at the website here.

A wiki with useful data in the crime and justice area has been set up here and the ODI’s website has the full details of all the current data challenges here.

Written by sarahhartley

September 8th, 2013 at 9:53 am

Data Journalism Camp 2013: Ready to get started in Istanbul #djcamp2013

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djcamp2013The next two days will be taken up with DJ Camp 2013 in Istanbul. This event is part of a programme created through Uclan’s Media and Digital Enterprise programme and will see Francois Nel, Megan Knight, Patrick McGee and I working with a group of journalists in Istanbul.

It’s all about data journalism – from sourcing information, work on verification and different outcomes including mapping and other visualisations.

The work comes at an important time for the development of an open data culture for the city. Late last year, Istanbul’s links with representatives from Manchester’s digital community kicked off discussions about the challenges and benefits of opening civic data sets during a visit from Julian Tait and Adrian Slatcher.

Now, in this separate initiative, we will pick up on that conversation again and look forward to hosting a panel event with representatives from Istanbul city council as well as prominent editor and columnist with national newspaper Milliyet, Mehves Evin tomorrow evening.

During the two days of workshops and coaching, there will be a liveblog running which you can see at the Uclan Made blog here:
and I’ll hope to do more updates here and on the Flickr group for MADE Turkey here.

The hashtag for the event is #djcamp2013.

Written by sarahhartley

January 25th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Testing the new spreadsheet n0tice tool with Manchester toilets data

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Picture: Phil W Shirley

As announced in the n0tice newsletter earlier this week, there’s a new feature available in the open journalism toolkit to help data journalists – the ability to easily map data contained in a spreadsheet.

Still in beta, it provides an opportunity to play around a bit and see how it might fit into the whole suite of geo-tagging related tools being developed.

Being one of those involved in the team developing this I wanted to get straight onto trying it out so I’ve created a very simple spreadsheet of the locations and opening times of Manchester’s city centre toilets. The data comes from the Data GM store. Creating the spreadsheet took the longest time, the set up and ingestion into the noticeboard probably 10 mins at most. Quick and dirty toilets mapping as it were!

You can see the items and click on items to get a map view here, but, as n0tice is primarily a mobile experience, the worth of this type of information is more obvious when viewed via the app where users will encounter the information in a serendipitous way due to their proximity to the location. (Alternatively a feed of the info from the api could create something in a different platform or publication.)

If you fancy giving the new spreadsheet feature a go, the instructions on how to get started are here: the apps to experience the content in your location are free and can be downloaded here.

Written by sarahhartley

January 18th, 2013 at 7:29 am

Data journalism in the newsroom secrets of success plus Freedom of Information request inspiration

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Factors behind successful data journalism teams

A new report from Knight has looked at some of the big players in the data journalism sphere worldwide (BBC. NYT, Guardian, Chicago Tribune and more) to look at the secrets of their success.

The four key findings (ironically distributed in the pdf below) are in summary:

1. Locating the data-journalism team close to the news desk: Members of data journalism teams emphasize that being close to the news desk gives them critical access to editors and reporters as they and the data team develop and plan data-driven news coverage.
2. Encouraging reporters and developers to work together to come up with ideas for data-driven stories: Because developers and reporters often have specialized skill sets, it’s important to bring them together to brainstorm story ideas.
3. Recruiting reporters and developers who bridge the skills gap: Find or develop people who can work as journalists and developers on your data journalism team.
4. Producing stories that show what data mean and why the audience should care: Data-driven stories about topics affecting the lives of news consumers produce impact and drive Web traffic.

Integrating data journalism in the newsroom by

(nearly) 500 ways to introduce yourself to the local FOI officer

Data journalist Claire Miller has come up with this cracking list of ideas for story prompts on Freedom of Information – everything from the cost of training days for councillors to the number of forced adoptions.

This list needs bookmarking – on the office wall!

Don’t forget there’s advice about formulating FOI requests and an easy, transparent system which helps cut down on duplication to make the application at

Written by sarahhartley

January 10th, 2013 at 7:47 am

Data journalism projects – large and small – to inspire

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I’m pulling together a list of data journalism projects (started below) by picking projects that could be interesting in some way to journalists starting out in this area looking for some inspiration and a little ‘howto’ assistance.

Later this month I’ll be joining colleagues from the Media and Digital Enterprise to help host our first Data Journalism Camp (DJCamp2013) in Istanbul – a place where journalists face a challenging environment when pursuing investigations.

In compiling this list I’m conscious that a lot of work in this area involves well-resourced big media groups which can be a bit daunting for independent operators and smaller outfits so I’m particularly interested in tracking down examples where the story is told using free or cheap tools and can be handled with a smaller staff (i.e. without a team of 16 devoting six months to it!)

So, although I’ve included the ‘big hitters’ at the bottom – including the winners of last year’s inaugrual data journalism awards – I’m keen to explore more modest examples too. Please do feel free to share links to any via the comments below (or twitter, email) and I’ll add them to this resource, they can’t be too small……



 Other visualisations

 Those international award winners……….

FBI Terrorists. (Mother Jones and UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, USA) – data-driven investigations, national/international

Methadone and the Politics of Pain (The Seattle Times, USA) -data-driven investigations, local/regional

Riot Rumours (The Guardian, UK) – data visualisation and storytelling (national/international)

Transparent Politics (Polinetz AG, Switzerland) – data-driven applications (national/international) explores and illustrates voting patterns in the Swiss parliament (Nikolay Guryanov, Stas Seletskiy and Alexey Papulovskiy, Russia) – data visualisation and storytelling (local/regional) (Chicago Tribune, USA) – data-driven applications (local/regional)

* I’ve also started  bookmarking useful blogposts for data journalism at Diigo with the tag djcamp all suggestions and links gratefully received. 

Updated: Suggestions from twitter



Written by sarahhartley

January 2nd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Manchester Hackathon gets started

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The city will play host to the first hackathon event starting this evening in an usual partnership of digital types and the city council. I don’t know whether it’s the first time a council has reached out to its local developer community to work on data for a city – it’s not something I’ve come across in other places that’s for sure.

In these times when the word ‘council’ seems to be attached to ‘cuts’ it’s great to see some innovative digital moves and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the projects which will emerge from inside the magic of the MadLab.

To help do that, I’ve set up dedicated noticeboard which is available for anyone to post to from the event. See it here:

In addition I have a little robot friend on the team – conference bot will automatically import tweets and Instagram pictures with the hashtag #mcrhack into the board providing users allow their location to be enabled. is all about geo-coding, that’s how it works!

PS. any developers interested in geo stuff at the hackathon can find the n0tice api and the source code for latest n0tice app HashGordon here and here respectively.

Letting the hacking commence!



Written by sarahhartley

November 16th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Data journalism demonstration for Turkey’s imprisoned journalists

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Data journalism isn’t a much-used term in Turkey where I’m currently coaching on a weekend for news entrepreneurs as part of the #MADETurkey project.

The country is advanced in its Internet use – it’s the fourth biggest worldwide user of Facebook for instance – but journalism is still very much in a transition process to digital and the opportunities scrutinising data offers to journalists just beginning.

After giving a short introduction to data journalism session yesterday, including three very different examples of projects in other parts of the world – wikileaks, HomicideWatch and ArtCast – it was time to demonstrate something practicle and this is the proof of concept that Megan Knight from Uclan put together.

See the mapping here.

Using a few of the figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ The map was created in a very short space of time to illustrate that points that 1. The tools to create something like this area freely available and 2. The skills required are ones all journalists have ie. gathering and processing information, albeit using slightly different tools.

The demo map was created using publicly available data and in a process which is described step-by-step here.

Written by sarahhartley

October 7th, 2012 at 9:45 am

Five take-aways from the #solomoDEN event

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Data visualisation of New York's 311 service showing city's concerns by the hour

The #solomoDEN event in Salford Quays was an opportunity to hear about projects, research and initiatives in the area of social-local-mobile journalism.

I attended to talk about a GMG project I’m involved with called which has these ideas at its heart to produce an online/mobile noticeboard (and if anyone would like an invite please drop your email here or via the comments below).

Here’s my pick of the other talks;

1. World Newsmedia Innovation Study.
There’s a lot of information in these 130 pages, 100 data sets compiled by 500 respondents in 11 languages. The aspect that caught my eye was the plans that news organisations have around developing new businesses and this mysterious finding: “While mobile phones, e-readers and social media remain the top propescts in 2011, responses show that managers are generally less enthusiastic about these opportunities than in 2010.” The full report is being being available to download at the website.

2. Help me Investigate networks.
The collaborative website that helps people investigate issues of shared concern has recently refined the proposition into various strands including health, welfare and education.

Help Me Investigate: Networks

Currently Paul is calling on interested bloggers to get involved in a Help Me Investigate health project looking at some of the data on GP surgeries’ patient list numbers. More on that here:

3. Sky in Tyne and Wear.
It was fascinating to hear from Simon Bucks about the video journalism experiment going on in the north east. The unease from local newspaper editors in the room was palpable as he described how a team of 13 journalists including nine dedicated video journalists were starting work in a patch chosen for its sporting enthusiasim and clear sense of self-identity.

As well as the original content that large team is producing, the broadcaster is also encouraging submitted video and self-serve events listings in the locality. One to watch.

4. Launch of Media and Digital Enterprise (Made).
The UK Winner of last year’s Google IPI award for news innovation was officially launched in a low key event at the end of the main sessions. Any budding news entrepreneur looking to develop a business involving data journalism should find this music to their ears – mentoring, software and support on offer. Simply add your details to the form before March 31 [Disclosure: I am involved in delivering some of the training support].

5. Open data cities 
A typically barnstorming finale from Greg Hadfield inspired the audience into thinking about data and the role of local journalists in not just acquiring data for stories but being the facilitators for city-level conversations. A whole new way of interacting with the citizens formally known as readers.

It was not just a great talk, it was a rallying cry to those of us who value data journalism to think about how we can collaborate to make such things happen. Anyone?

* There’s also more information at this live blog by Daniel Bentley  and this blog post from Caroline Beavon. Feel free to drop any other links to coverage in the comments below.