Data Session

Posted on 10. Oct, 2007 by in Uncategorized

It’s 3.22, and the 15 black folding chairs meant to accommodate attendees of the data session meant to start 7 minutes ago are all empty.

3.23 – Attendee #1 walks in, asks a student what this data workshop is supposed to be about. Student answers: “I really don’t know, I’m guessing how to make technology work for your product?”

Attendee #1 smiles politely and says, “Maybe I’ll check in later.”

He won’t be coming back.

3.30 Three men walk in together and sit a seat apart, chatting about travel and the drama they’ve endured at the American airports. A fourth joins them and they begin discussing their databases and those in charge of database management. They are:

Gordon Hurd, Yahoo

Neil McIntosh, Guardian Unlimited

Scott Anderson, Tribune Interactive

Tom Whitwel, Times Online

Anderson coordinates 11 newspapers, trains staff to handle all different types of data – police/crime, school data, personal data.

Says there arent many people who know how to work with databases

Whitwell says Times online does virtually nothing with their data. They have a big database with information on schools, businesses, etc. but the information is never converted to more than a table at best. Very little is done with it.

Anderson – Data collected by Tribune International covers different markets. They hire people to look at the data and pick out story ideas from them for their papers.

Consumer friendly databases – building programs that let anyone in the community report, for example, a school closing, and being able to give ppl the documents relevant to them. Letting users go through stats of data like test scores, school tuition, and pick out the trends and the correlations themselves.

Anderson, “Once you invite the public to tell you stuff, you must look at what theyre saying and take a long time to sift through what they send you.”

Hurd- “We look at data every day.” Involved in working with websearch. “We scrape up search data, and put thru nice interface.” Track popular searches through the years, and get ideas for use in story ideas. Ex. Halloween is always a popular search. One writer did 6 posts about Halloween costume searches.

Consensus among the participants: “It is easier to take techinical ppl and give them journalistic hues than vice versa”.

Hurd: “We have a massive amount of data we could use but it is frozen by the fact that must rely on user to make use of it. Data is all about the users. We were part of the original yahoo – group of websurfers who populated yahoo directory and built it.”

McIntosh: the Guardian uses tables on topics like higher education, retail, etc. These are very popular. Also use data to show what people are searching for in their sites. Results always surprise them.

Whitwell: Likes to be involved in tracking success of stories. Magazines – no data at all – only sales. 12 figures a year . Enjoys working in a medium where can see what users think.

Anderson: Tribune interactive collects local sports data – getting teams, coaches and parents to do the post up the themselves. This plays a factors economically. Provides them with an interface to do much themselves. Gives every high school some say – data, stories, quotes.. recruits coaches, parents – work with school districts, let them know and coaches let parents know etc.

McIntosh: The idea of ppl working with you to promote your paper is foreign in london.

In comes Derek Willis of

Derek: Data can also be used to show people all those submitting and visiting, in order to get them interested in reading.

Comments are closed.