How Twitter does data journalism: San Francisco Hacks/Hackers goes inside the nest

More than 150 hacks and hackers gathered Wednesday at Twitter’s main headquarters in San Francisco to hear the company’s Data Editor Simon Rogers talk about data’s increasingly important role in journalism and how Twitter makes sense of the hundreds of millions of tweets passing through its platform every day.

From mapping the patterns of disadvantage that contributed to the UK riots, to data visualizations of Oscars tweets, Rogers helped demystify the collection strategies and tools required for top-class data analysis and visualization.

His colleague, data visualization scientist Krist Wongsuphasawat followed with more explanation of the data science behind beautiful dataviz, including an animation of the world’s reaction to goals in the World Cup this year.

Below is a Storify story contributed by Lyndal Cairns with presentations, images and quotes from the event:

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How Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires became the world’s biggest HH chapter, or the role of the “Maradona theory” applied to community-building

While we were organizing the latest Media Party, the media gathering that we created three years ago, Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires became the world’s largest chapter of the Hacks/Hackers network. With over 3800 members, about 40 events in three years and a strong community of volunteers, we beat New York, London, San Francisco, and many other chapters. #Hhba has had a big impact on media, civil society organizations, the government, the startup and the developer community. How did we do it? There is a number of possible explanations, but the most interesting one is the “Maradona theory.”

During the ‘86 World Cup, Diego Maradona made -against England- the two most memorable goals in the history of soccer, at least for Argentina. Let’s start with the perfect goal, the second one: Maradona faces five players from the center of the soccer field, and instead of going sideways, he ran in a straight line. How can someone get rid of five opponents if he runs toward them? Simply: Maradona played keeping in mind other people’s expectations. As his rivals expected him to move to the left or the right, he could keep moving directly toward the opponents’ goal post. Of course, he was Maradona.

Later on, that play was used in economics theory, and by writing this post we are applying it to community-generation theory. In 2005, Mervyn King from the Bank of England used Maradona’s incredible moves to explain the behavior of market expectations and interest rates control without official intervention.

The truth is that we weren’t thinking of Maradona when we created Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires in April 2011 and got together around 120 people in a couple of weeks, neither when we started to plan the future of the network. But part of the “Maradona theory” has to do with the growth of this network that brings together journalists and technologists around the world to accelerate innovation and reached its peak in Buenos Aires. We built Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires always moving forward, focused on clear objectives, issues and actions; playing with other people’s expectations: unexpectedly, we always jumped to the center.

When many expected us to be only a networking organization we became productive, creating apps and technology; when we became very productive (we had too many hackathons at times), we decided to return to networking; when we got bored of hackathons and networking we started organizing workshops. Neither journalists nor programmers or designers: we created links in between, focusing efforts in solving technology problems, rather than on specific topics; and we showed the benefits of working together in a highly competitive environment.

And as Maradona’s first goal against England, when nobody expected it, the Media Party happened. Here is where the historical goal by the “hand of God” ties into the story: in the same match against England, Maradona jumped over the goalkeeper, it looked like he was going to do a head hit but ended up pushing the ball with his little left hand that seemed to appear from nowhere. He beats Peter Shilton, the English goalkeeper, who jumped with both hands forward. “’Maradona’s hand of God’ goal [can be compared] to central banks’ old philosophy of ‘mystery and mystique.’ His action was unexpected, out of context and against the rules. He was lucky to get away with it,” said the director of the Bank of England Mervyn King.

The Media Party is to Hacks/Hackers what Maradona’s hand goal is to the English: an unexpected event, out of context and against the then-established rules of the Latin America media circuit. It was not cheating; it was smartness.

Each Media Party allowed us to increase in hundreds the number of members who remain engaged in a continuous loop of innovation. We put Buenos Aires on the global media map, and many are still scratching their heads trying to understand how all of this became possible.

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Hacks/Hackers Denmark: Hackathon produces eight great projects

Hacks/Hackers Denmark had their first hackathon on reinventing journalism in May 2014. We were lucky to be hosted by CCI in Aarhus, Denmark.

Take a look a what happened during the weekend.

Get ideas, code and presentations from the eight projects developed at the Media Hack Days.

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How Hacks/Hackers Rosario Made Its Map of Intentional Homicides of Rosario City

The Rosario Intentional Homicides Map 2013 is the first digital data journalism platform developed especially for publication in Rosario, Argentina, media. The platform and the map are the result of several months of intense work, exchange of ideas, information and building mutual trust between a team of journalists, designers and programmers from Hacks/Hackers Rosario (HHROS) and members from La Capital newspaper.

As with all firsts, there is a story behind those who were involved and Hacks/Hackers Rosario wanted to share it with all the Hacks/Hackers community.

The Rosario group launched in April 2013. Currently, it has 133 active members and has already held ​​seven meetups. Community activities have ranged from discussions about what data journalism means; workshops with D3.js data visualization, digital security seminars, social events, crash courses and proposed project presentations for future hackathons.

The idea of ​​making a map of intentional homicides arose from the concerns of the HHROS co-organizers during one of the usual rounds of project presentation. The purpose of the whole enterprise was to create a platform that would help to demonstrate, through data visualization, the increase in the number of social violence across the city: 214 intentional homicides in 2013 (the city average is 21 murders per 100,000 inhabitants; the national average is 5.5 per 100,000).

The data for the platform came from the Ministry of Justice in Santa Fe, through the police beat reporters of the newspaper La Capital. This information was used to create the dataset of points and geolocation on the map corresponding to each of the casualties. The data related to context was obtained from reading all the daily chronicles published in 2013.

The team that developed the platform was just two unpaid people: a programmer and a journalist. Among both devised its design and objectives in the short and medium term.

Platform development and design adjustments were by Pablo Cuadrado; Ezequiel Clerici normalized the dataset and fact checked information shown on the map. The newspaper La Capital, represented by Hernán Lascano (police beat editor), brought the original database and oversaw contextualization of events.

Our Process

Because each report and location had to be manually confirmed, we decided to limit the mapping of intentional homicides to the city of Rosario. This meant places like Villa Gobernador Gálvez, Baigorria Pérez, Ibarlucea and Funes, which are part of the Rosario Department (greater metro area), were left out. Our decision reduced the number of homicides appearing on the map from 264 for the entire department to 214 just for the city.

The purpose of this decision was to reduce the amount of standardization work on the dataset provided by La Capital, since we had a small team of people and limited time available to work on the project.

With respect to the dataset the first thing we did was remove all homicides that did not correspond to the city of Rosario. Then we searched through La Capital’s digital archive of every chronicled homicide to obtain each article link to include on the map.

The links to the chronicles were essential information for georeferencing every fact in the map. The stories were also useful for corroborating ages, full names, police stations, courts and addresses.

To avoid headaches, it was necessary to obtain accurate directions. The problem was that a significant number were referring to the intersection of two streets (“Ezeiza and Filiberto”, “Rueda and Pascual Roses”, etc.), recreational spaces (“Pools of Saladillo”) or parks (“Independence Park”). This made precise location impossible, so in many cases it was necessary to go to the news reports and do a quick reading looking for further details. This craftsmanship allowed accurate geolocation in most cases, and approximations otherwise.

Despite these precautions, we had to add new columns of information to the original dataset to achieve each fact georeference smoothly. The original Excel file had 8 columns: number of homicides, date of death, the victim’s name, age, approximate address, type of weapon and motive, police station, and in some cases the competent court. To those columns were joined three new: exact address; city, state, country; and district. With this change, the problem of georeferencing was corrected and we were able to map the 214 events smoothly.

At first, we used the free version of CartoDB to georeference the killings. It allowed work on five tables and drew polygons quickly and easily. Then — due to free version’s monthly view limits, plus the response time between multiple filters &mdash we exported our platform with its contents (police stations, districts, timeline, milestones, etc.) to D3.js and left CartoDB for Open Street Map (Leaflet) and increase the speed of response demanded by users.


The publication of the map made ​​a big impact since it allowed to put into focus a range of issues that go beyond just the high number of homicides. And this, in part, was made possible by the perspective to analyze the facts that data visualization provides journalism.

The platform and the project were submitted to the Global Editors Network Data Journalism Awards 2014 and will soon by submitted to the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI) Gabriel Garcia Marquez journalism awards. Also, as a result of this work, the team formed around Hacks/Hackers Rosario was invited to speak to the Media Party 2014 (CABA, Argentina).

This work has given way to the creation of VisPress, a startup that seeks to focus on the development of platforms and tools that work starting from visualization and data analysis.

The aim of the VisPress founders is to provide data visualization services to​ local and international media, as well as to public and private sector companies that are handling large volumes of data and are interested in giving productive use and thereby improving their decision processes and achieving higher efficiency.

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Hacks Hackers Austin: Post SXSW/NICAR Meetup

The gang from the Hacks Hackers Austin chapter got together with the Online News Association local on March 31 to discuss trends that emerged from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and SXSW Interactive conferences. And, it was just a great excuse to get everyone together for some social interaction. Meeting at the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex, the conversation included talk of data, sensors and wearables and technology skills needed to succeed in journalism.

Stay tuned for upcoming meetups in the near future!

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Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong first meeting

Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong first meeting

On a chilly Hong Kong night, not long before Christmas, about 20 hacks and hackers gathered in a busy bar to toast the first meeting of our local group. It was a casual, get-to-know-each-other type of meeting. The vibe was buzzing as a bunch of print, broadcast and multimedia journalists met with designers, programmers and a few students from HKU’s journalism school. People expressed excitement and enthusiasm to get the group up and running, and to more drinks in the name of data driven journalism.


Hacks/Hackers Zurich meet-up #2 – Why Do You Go To Meet-ups Anyway?

Tonight was the second edition of Hacks/Hackers Zurich #HHZrh. That means 2h30 in a train for me. Twice. So why?

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Hacks/Hackers llega a Asunción para innovar el periodismo local

La red global que trabaja por el futuro del periodismo encontró su nicho en Asunción, la capital de Paraguay, desde mayo de este año. Con el apoyo y el interés de desarrolladores Web, diseñadores, periodistas, comunicadores, y profesionales de diversas disciplinas, Hacks/Hackers Asu ha iniciado sus primeras actividades con miras a crear una comunidad activa de innovadores dispuestos a romper esquemas tradicionales y llevar el periodismo a un nuevo nivel.

Unos talleres introductorios con periodistas han sido el punto de partida del grupo local para socializar el concepto de periodismo de datos &mdash un concepto relativamente nuevo en el país — y para hablar sobre las implicancias de esta rama emergente en la profesión. Los diarios ABC Color y Ultima Hora, los más conocidos en el ámbito, y el periódico digital Ea, fueron los primeros medios que expresaron interés. En los talleres se abarcaron temas como la evolución del periodismo a  través de los años, la definición y la importancia de los datos abiertos y las oportunidades que ofrecen las nuevas herramientas digitales para narrar historias de forma distinta. También se presentaron experiencias emblemáticas de periodismo data, como las de The Guardian, el Washington Post y la Nación Data. Estos ejemplos sirvieron como disparadores de ideas  para proyectos locales.

Los miembros impulsores del groupo local aprovecharon otros espacios como la radio y foros de discusión para hablar sobre Hacks/Hackers y vincular a más personas al emprendimiento. “Nos enteramos de la existencia de Hacks/Hackers en setiembre de 2012, en el lanzamiento del Libre Bus en el Media Party de Buenos Aires“, comenta Maricarmen Sequera — de la organización TEDIC e impulsora del groupo local HHAsu — a la revista La Factory al relatar sobre los inicios de HHAsu. En el mes de octubre, Jazmín Acuña, también miembro del grupo local, formó parte del panel “Los desafíos para el periodismo en la era open data“, liderado por los maestros del periodismo Daniel Santoro del diario Clarín de Argentina y Carlos Huertas de Connectas.

En este panel, organizado por el Foro de Periodistas del Paraguay, el ICTJ y Connectas, los temas principales de discusión giraron en torno a las limitaciones y los avances logrados con respecto al acceso a información pública, y el rol de los periodistas en el tema. Acuña aprovechó la oportunidad para enfatizar la importancia que los periodistas se capaciten y actualicen constantemente en el uso y manejo de herramientas digitales para procesar grandes flujos de información. “Hacer periodismo de datos no es una opción. Es una necesidad“, afirmó.

A futuro, el grupo local tiene previsto continuar con varias actividades para ampliar y afianzar la comunidad HHAsu, que hasta el momento ya tiene más de 50 miembros inscriptos en el Meetup. Continuarán los talleres introductorios para periodistas y se iniciarán unos talleres avanzados para aprender a utilizar herramientas disponibles que faciliten el manejo y la visualización de datos. Se llevarán a cabo encuentros de trabajo para diseñar proyectos entre periodistas y desarrolladores. Por último, el grupo local se prepara desde ya para  Futuromedia 2014, el primer gran evento de periodismo data en Asunción con la presencia de referentes internacionales – evento con el que esperamos marcar un hito en la escena local.

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Hacks/Hackers Asunción Kickoff

The global network that works for the future of journalism has found its niche in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital, since May of this year. With the support and enthusiasm of Web developers, designers, journalists, communicators, and professionals from different fields, Hacks/Hackers Asunción has launched its first activities eager to build an active community of innovators ready to take journalism to the next level.

In order to spread the concept of data journalism — relatively new in Paraguay — and to discuss the implications of this emerging field, a number of introductory workshops with journalists have marked the initial stages of Hacks/Hackers Asunción. ABC Color and Ultima Hora, two of the most well known newspapers in the country, and the digital news site Ea, were the first to receive members of HHAsu for the workshops. The presentations and discussions centered around the evolution of journalism through the years, the definition and the relevance of open data in our daily lives, and the opportunities that digital tools offer to journalists to amplify the impact of a story. Cases from the The Guardian, The Washington Post and La Nación Data served to exemplify the kind work that can be done in Paraguay and motivated brainstorming sessions for future projects.

Members of the local group have also been to radio shows and discussion panels to talk about Hacks/Hackers and to invite more people into the initiative. “We found out about Hacks/Hackers in September 2012, at the Media Party in Buenos Aires“, says Maricarmen Sequera (@marsebu), a member of HHAsu and the civic-tech NGO TEDIC, in an interview for La Factory magazine. In October, Jazmín Acuña (@simonajaz), also a member of the local group, was part of the panel “The challenges of journalism in the open data era“, led by Daniel Santoro from Argentina’s Clarín and Carlos Huertas from Connectas.

At the panel, organized by the Foro de Periodistas del Paraguay (FOPEP), the International Center for Journalists and Connectas, speakers discussed about the limitations and the advances in the struggle to access public information and the role of journalists in this context. Acuña emphasized that training is key to process large flows of public data. “Data journalism is not an option. It’s a necessity“, she expressed.

In the future, Hacks/Hackers Asunción will continue engaging people with more activities to expand and strengthen the HHAsu community, which already has more than 50 members. In the short run, the introductory workshops for journalists will keep on, while members of the local group are already preparing a set of advanced courses for those interested in learning how to use digital tools. Also, through a number of informal gatherings between journalists and developers, we expect to render some projects. Last but not least, HHAsu is preparing the ground for Futuromedia 2014, the first international event in Asunción on data journalism upcoming next year.

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New Delhi: Digital Stories Around Indian Women’s Rights

From Dec. 7-8, 2013, activists, journalists, researchers, and coders met up at 91springboard in New Delhi to look at data about women’s rights in India, and find ways to create apps and multimedia stories that talked about women’s experiences in ways they hadn’t been talked about before.

Our five teams looked at diverse data. Below, what they worked on.

The homepage of their project: [AudioGroup]

One group picked up audio data from the rural mobile social network company, Gram Vaani — in which women from outlying towns and villages recorded audio clips about their experiences with early marriage (before the age of 18). They created a digital magazine-style scrolling story that incorporated these multilingual clips.


Another group focused on how to use documentary film footage to explore the rights of Dalit — untouchable — women, whose legal rights are often disregarded and whose rates of assault and rape are higher than the national average. Because crimes against Dalit women are often not recorded, their voices rarely make it into the national dialogue about violence against women.


Group Three looked at collaborative media, and in particular how stories about violence against women and about women activists get represented in online sources like Wikipedia. The group visualized landmark cases related to women’s rights, and worked on correcting and creating articles. For example, they worked on the article related to the recent Muzaffarnagar religious riots in northern India, adding information about crimes against women (this information had been missing before).


A Twitter-focused group built a real-time Twitter tracker to find and track misogynistic language in Tweets. They crowd-sourced a list of terms that were derogatory to women, built a tool to find those words, and then built a visualization interface that reflected real-time the amount of harassment against women that existed on social media. They also built an auto-reply bot that would automatically reply to misogynistic Tweets, flagging them to the user and asking for politer language.

[Whypoll Group]

Finally, one group used crowd-sourced women’s safety reports from the Whypoll Foundation (accounts of self-reported street harassment, collected and categorized on Ushahidi) and created two videos to document the dramatic experience of daily harassment that Indian women face. They also created an app that syncs with the Whypoll/SafeCity map, to ease the process of reporting street violence and harassment.

Read our event blog on the site. You can read about the groups, the projects, our media partners and our sponsors. The event was co-organized by Hacks/Hackers New Delhi and  Breakthrough, a nonprofit that uses media and technology to spread messages about violence against women. Videos of the final presentations are here, and you can meet the groups and walk around our event space in this great multimedia project by Raj Zaveri of Firefly Multimedia.

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