This is the first in a series of Q&As with Knight News Challenge winners who’ve wrapped up their projects. Brian Boyer, currently the news applications editor at NPR, is the project manager of PANDA Project, a Knight News Challenge winner in 2011.
I recently interviewed Boyer about the project via email. The following is an edited transcript of that interview:
Idea Lab: What is the project concept, and how does it work?
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Boyer: First and foremost PANDA is a “data library,” which means that it stores all the data you work with — voter registration records, police reports, water testing results, etc. When you upload your data to PANDA it is stored safely away so that it can be easily found again, either by yourself or by another reporter in your organization.
PANDA is also a search engine. Imported datasets are searchable by everyone in your organization. Even better, you can automate data imports, and set up automatic searches like a Google News alert — when something noteworthy happens, PANDA can email you!
In this past year of primary development, did PANDA ever take on directions that the team didn’t anticipate at the beginning?
Boyer: Automated search emails were not on our original plan, but seemed like such a great feature, we had to build it. We have also laid the groundwork for PANDA to be internationalized, and are hoping that people will help us translate the user interface.
What issues does version 1.0.1 address? What updates can we look forward to in version 1.0.2?
Boyer: PANDA is no longer under active development. We will be fixing bugs and hope to release a few translations in upcoming months.
Do you have data on how many organizations are using PANDA and what kind of organizations PANDA is most popular among?
Boyer: We don’t track PANDA use, but it’s being used in several newsrooms around the world.
What was PANDA able to accomplish that it couldn’t have without the Knight News Challenge grant?
Boyer: We wanted to build PANDA for the Chicago Tribune newsroom, but realized after a couple months that it was a bigger project than we could handle given our day-to-day work. The grant enabled us to dedicate resources to making it happen.
How would you advise current and future Knight News Challenge innovators to get the most out of the competition?
Boyer: Be practical and make something you need.
Jenny Xie is the PBS MediaShift editorial intern. Jenny is a senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying architecture and management. She is a digital-media junkie fascinated by the intersection of media, design, and technology. Jenny can be found blogging for MIT Admissions, tweeting @canonind, and sharing her latest work and interests here.