US Census upgrades American FactFinder tool, new data coming soon | Knight Digital Media Center

For journalists and others who use Census data, the American FactFinder is a key research tool. It just got a pretty major upgrade — although the 2010 data isn’t included yet. Apparently that will happen “in the coming months.

I wrote more about this for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC site: US Census upgrades American FactFinder tool, new data coming soon | Knight Digital Media Center.

Google Earth and News: Make Your Own Street Views (and More)

A render of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado...
The Flatirons of Boulder, CO, as rendered by Google Earth. (Image via Wikipedia)

Recently Frank Taylor blogged about a cool Google Earth trick that could be an intriguing visual online news tool: homemade street views.

The example he cites is from Taiwan, where developer Steven Ho lives. Taylor wrote:

“[Ho] has been waiting for signs Google would bring Street View to Taiwan, but finally couldn’t wait any longer. So, he spent a few days making his own Street View panoramas for National Taiwan University campus. It turns out March is the month when the Indian azalea bloom, so he decided to take his street view photos along the famous Royal Palm boulevard. Steven took the time to not only take 150 panoramas, but also process his KML [Keyhole markup language, which is to Google Earth what HTML is to Web browsers] so it looks and acts just like Google Earth’s Street View imagery. He also added in some 3D buildings for the campus and the palm trees.”

The result is impressive. If you have Google Earth installed (and I recommend upgrading to Google Earth 5.0, which was released in February), then download Ho’s Taiwan street view and open that file in Google Earth. After it zooms in on Taiwan, click on any of the camera icons to start your visual wandering of the campus.

If you don’t have Google Earth, here’s a video screencast of what the experience looks like:

This made me think: What if a news organization offered this kind of immersive experience related to a news story or ongoing topic?…

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Fun interactive visual tools: Why should journalists care?

Last week I wrote a lot about various interactive visual tools that can help people connect differently or more deeply with news and information. This was for a session I led at a Knight Digital Media Center seminar for the leaders of the News21 project.

Yeah, so what? Why should journalists and news organizations care about these tools? How can this help their communities, journalism, and (most critical right now) business opportunities? What’s in it for journos and news brands?

That’s what Meabh Ritchie, a reporter for the U.K. Press Gazette asked me to clarify. She’s writing a story on this, and I’ll link to it when it’s up in February 2009. The short answer is: This stuff is effective and (more importantly) FUN! — for journalists and news audiences.

But here’s the full version of my answer…

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Many Eyes: Turning data into pictures

Data is a key part of many stories. IBM’s Many Eyes is a free online library of tools that give you options for visually exploring all kinds of data — even for analyzing text documents. It also lets you share and embed your visualizations.

You can upload your dataset to Many Eyes and apply various visualization types to that data — kind of like using filters on images in Photoshop. You can customize your display.

Many Eyes is a useful tool not just for publishing information, but also for analyzing information to see what the story might be, or where the anomalies are.

Here’s an interactive visualization I just created:

Earlier on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits I wrote about how you can use some Many Eyes tools like word tree for document analysis.

Many Eyes meet the New York Times: On Oct. 27 NYTimes.com launched its Visualization Lab, where anyone can create and share visual representations of selected datasets and information used by Times reporters.

Many Eyes is just one of the projects from IBM’s Visual Communication Lab.

Gigapan: Pictures you can really get into

Gigapan fragment, DC Union Station

Gigapan fragment, DC Union Station

Gigapan isn’t brand new, but it’s a fascinating visual tool that allows people to deeply explore panoramic photographs — and to collaboratively tell stories through pictures.

It’s part of Carnegie Mellon University’s Global Connection Project

What’s so cool about Gigapan?

  • Conveys a strong sense of place — almost a 3D feel
  • People can create their own experience with snapshots
  • Provide text or link context
  • Allows examination and discussion of details
  • Plays nice with Google Earth

I like Gigapan because it offers an experience sort of like this:

More about Gigapan…

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