Making data visualizations with Google Fusion

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 10.02.33 AM

Click on image to access an interactive map with data

Many thanks to Matt Carroll of the Boston Globe for a terrific presentation on making data visualizations with Google Fusion. Here is a map based on data Carroll gave us about campaign contributions to President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.


Data visualization assignment

For your next assignment, please find three examples of data visualizations that you think tell an important (or at least an interesting) story. Write a blog post explaining why you chose them, what you like about them and — if possible — how you think they might have been better. A 250- to 350-word post is fine.

Please stay away from map-based data viz, since we’ve already spent quite a bit of time with maps. I would like you to expand your thinking. In looking for examples you can start with the resources I listed earlier this week, but there are many places you can go.

Be sure to link to your three examples.

Please remember that this is a graded assignment. Your deadline is Monday at 5 p.m.

Database training with the Globe’s Matt Carroll

We are going to have a great class on Friday. Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll will be teaching the basics of data reporting using Google Fusion. I will be learning right along with you. You will need to have access to your Google account. Here are some resources that we’ll look at:

You should read Matt’s guide before class as well as Google’s “Basic tutorials.”

Please be on time this Friday (and every day). There are a few pieces of business we need to get done between 8 and 8:30, when Matt will begin his presentation.

Introduction to data visualization

Data visualization, often referred to as data viz, is a growing area within online journalism. Great data-viz presentations are created by programmers and designers. Most of us are neither. What matters is that we understand some of the possibilities.

Here are some resources that we will talk about in class and that you will find useful when you do your data-viz assignment — which I’m still thinking about, but which I promise you will not involve technical skills that you don’t already have.

This Friday, Matt Carroll of the Boston Globe will join us for a hands-on demonstration of how to make your own data visualizations.

More information about your final projects

If you have done a good job of thinking through your final project and made contact with a key source or two, then I think you’ll find you have a decent amount of time over the next few weeks to produce a first-rate multimedia story. If you’re still not quite sure of what to do, well, you have time, but it’s slipping away.

As I have told you, your project will comprise various components, the deadlines for which I am spacing out so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Here are the full details.

1. Your text story. You will write an 800- to 1,000-word feature story in the form of an extended blog post. Your story must be local enough that you are able to interview people in person for the purposes of your video and/or photo. I am looking for interviews with at least three people as well as at least five links. Deadline: Sent to me by email as a Word file on Friday, April 12, at 5 p.m.

2. Your slideshow. You will put together a slideshow comprising six to 10 photos that is either directly related to your story or that functions as a sidebar. You will post your photos to Flickr and create a slideshow as you did in our Flickr assignment earlier this semester. You will write a title and a caption for the set as a whole and for each photo individually. Unlike your earlier assignment, you do not have to interview people for this. But aim for variety and visual interest. Please do not create a slideshow consisting of the outsides of buildings, for instance. Deadline: Friday, April 12, at 5 p.m. Send me an email to your Flickr set with the link.

3. Your video. I have built into the schedule a full week for you to work on nothing but the video. So take a deep breath and relax. Your video can be directly related to your story, or it can function as a sidebar. The video should be two to five minutes long, with interviews with at least three named people. (No interviews with any unnamed people, please.) There should be B-roll in the form of at least three video clips and three still photos shot by you. There should be an introductory slide, and though I am not making it an absolute requirement, I think it will be better if you do a stand-up at the beginning. Other than having a friend shoot your stand-up, all shooting and editing must be done by you. The deadline is Friday, April 19, at midnight. If there is demand — and by “demand,” I mean even one person — I will keep 171 Holmes open until midnight. Post it to YouTube and send me an email with the link.

Notice that with both the slideshow and the video, I’ve suggested that you can use them as sidebars to your main story. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let’s say your beat is beer, as was the case with a student in a previous semester. You might do your project on the Beer Advocate magazine and website. You could interview your main subjects for your video, essentially producing a video version of his story — that’s not a sidebar. Or your could interview three people about where they get their information about beer. That’s a sidebar. You could shoot some sort of beer-themed event for your slideshow. That’s a sidebar, too. There are many, many ways you can approach the video and the slideshow.

4. Putting it all together. Our last class meeting is on Tuesday, April 16. That will be my deadline for sending you memos about recommended revisions to your blog posts and slideshows. Your final deadline is Tuesday, April 23, at 10 a.m. Post your revised story to your blog. Embed the lead image from your slideshow and link it to Flickr, just as you did with your earlier assigment. Embed your YouTube video.

Also: Send me a brief (a paragraph or two) memo explaining how you used social media (most likely Twitter) as part of your reporting — whether it was finding sources or some other aspect. And after your post is live, use a Google map to link to it, just as we did with the dessert project.

Steps for finishing our map project

We are finishing our burger map project in class today. I will run through all these steps, but you may find this useful so that you can follow along. First, make sure you are logged in to your Google account. Then:

  1. Click here to go to the map.
  2. Save it to “My Places.”
  3. Enter the address of your project (for instance, 27 Berkeley St., Boston, MA).
  4. Select “Save to map.”
  5. Select “Boston Burgers.”
  6. Go to “My Places” and choose “Boston Burgers.”
  7. Click on “Edit.”
  8. Click on the blue “27 Berkeley St.” icon — not on the map, but a little farther down on the left-hand side.
  9. Now go to the box that opened up on the map itself. For the title, replace “27 Berkeley St.” with your name.
  10. In the text box below, select anything Google may have already put there — text and pictures — it and delete it.
  11. Insert a picture — thumbnail size from Flickr is best. Remember, it has to be a picture that’s online. Google Maps does not let you upload a photo.
  12. Below the picture: The burger place you visited, i.e., Fred’s Real Horse Burgers, 27 Berkeley St., Boston
  13. Highlight the text Sizzlin’ Social Media and link it directly to your final project.