What Good is All This Data?

    by Amanda Hickman
    March 19, 2008

    Imagine a website that would show you, not just how many copies of some book are available for sale from Amazon, but which libraries near you carry the book. Oh wait, that already exists . Between WorldCat and Steven’s thoughts on the Sacramento Bee salary database I’m thinking a lot about what really good data driven content looks like.

    How could we, as news reporters, use our readers as more than passive observers in meaningful ways. WNYC has been doing some interesting work with crowdsourcing and I’d like to see some ideas for introducing the concept to public salary databases like the SacBees: how could we make that database really interesting?

    I’ve been contemplating the technical requirements of a perfect Gotham Gazette project: crowd sourcing the city budget. What if everyone was invited to tag every line item in the budget. What could we learn about how the Department of Health spends its money if we asked advocates to filter through the DOH budget tagging expenditures with their own assessment of whether this is PR spending or program funds? Could we zero in on some interesting trends? Could we make a case that city agencies aren’t prioritizing the things they say they’re prioritizing?


    NPR used twitter to send out fact check alerts during the President’s State of the Union, inviting readers to start researching data presented as fact in his speech. What if we could facilitate a two way conversation: provide a forum that would let readers who are following a campaign submit facts for checking and compare the answers found?

    I’m still looking for the news sites that are using databases really well, not just to spruce up dull content, but to engage readers. Anyone know more than I about where they are? Who is doing web 2.0 right?

    Tagged: crowd sourcing databases twitter

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