NICAR 2017: Lightning Talks

Thanks everyone for a great 2017. Stay tuned for next year!

Watch the talks from our 2017 lineup!

  1. CAR through the ages — what I learned from collecting every single NICAR program since 1990Christine Zhang
  2. Subverting the story model in the age of TrumpTyler Fisher
  3. Stuff I've said to FOIA officers to get them to give me ... well, stuffCezary Podkul
  4. What I learned by submitting the same FOIA more than 1,000 timesSteven Rich
  5. Self-care for NerdsAditi Bhandari
  6. How to collaborate when no one understands what you doCaelainn Barr
  7. Everything I Wasted Time Worrying About as A Newbie CoderKate Rabinowitz
  8. Using Uber's open data to understand citiesCory Kendrick
  9. 58 stupid things we learned from mapping all 25,000 of California's election precinctsJoe Fox
  10. Literally Everything The New York Times Knows About ElectionsJeremy Bowers
60
votes

What I learned by submitting the same FOIA more than 1,000 times

Proposed by: Steven Rich

For The Washington Post's Fatal Force project in 2016, I wanted to know who the officers were who fired shots and killed civilians. So I filed requests with every department that had a fatal shooting on a rolling basis last year. I'll talk about the logistics, what I came across and the best strategies to get your requests filled in a timely manner.

56
votes

Literally Everything The New York Times Knows About Elections

Proposed by: Jeremy Bowers

At roughly 400 words per minute, I will tell you everything The New York Times has learned about elections, including why you can't use "democrat" to look up the democratic party in Minnesota to why you shouldn't store delegates as an integer. BONUS: Did you know the US got a new county in 2015? It probably broke your map!

53
votes

Stuff I've said to FOIA officers to get them to give me ... well, stuff

Proposed by: Cezary Podkul

It's ok to get angry, get sassy or creative in the pursuit of lowering FOI fees or getting documents or data that you're told you can't have. In this lightning talk, I'll share some of my more creative exchanges with FOIA officers that have gotten results.

52
votes

Self-care for Nerds

Proposed by: Aditi Bhandari

Most of us spend 8-12 hours on our computers every day. Here's what my parents (an eye doctor and a bone doctor) recommend when it comes to preventing tired eyes and carpal tunnel. I’ll also talk about other tools, tips and exercises I’ve picked up along the way!

51
votes

Subverting the story model in the age of Trump

Proposed by: Tyler Fisher

As the Trump administration continues to make news at a blistering pace, newsrooms are searching for new ways of covering the administration. Our skills as data journalists make us particularly well-suited to find those new models. Given the urgency within newsrooms today, we have an opportunity to change newsroom thinking in how we inform our audiences. This talk will show some examples of alternative coverage models as implemented at NPR and suggest directions for the future.

48
votes

Everything I Wasted Time Worrying About as A Newbie Coder

Proposed by: Kate Rabinowitz

Looking back on my early days of coding, there was a lot of time wasted worrying about how to be a "good" coder. We're going to talk about what being a "good" coder from the start actually means and common worries of beginner coders that are just a waste of your time.

47
votes

How to collaborate when no one understands what you do

Proposed by: Caelainn Barr

Calling all weirdos! Are you the strange numbers reporter, the pretty chart-maker, or the person in the corner who gets excited when your code runs? One of the challenges of working with data and code in the newsroom is getting across what it is you actually do. I'll show you how aggressive collaboration has helped us work better with other editors, reporters and designers in our newsroom.

45
votes

CAR through the ages -- what I learned from collecting every single NICAR program since 1990

Proposed by: Christine Zhang

I used to think that "data journalism" started in the 2000's. Then I dug further into the history of computer assisted reporting (CAR). News nerds have been congregating at this conference since the early 90's. Let me take you on a tour of the recent history of CAR, as seen through NICAR conference programs. Like" CAR Rock 1994" in Cleveland, where Jennifer LaFleur showed off her maps of San Francisco's single men -- overlaid with income data and complete with interviews of some wealthy bachelors themselves. From "Internet 101" to "FoxPro versus Paradox" to "Regress for Success" -- I'll show you what's changed and what hasn't over the years, with fun/embarrassing pictures of some NICAR veterans to boot (like this one from 1994 http://www.drewsullivan.com/staff.html, when the NICAR staff dressed up like the cast of "Happy Days").

38
votes

58 stupid things we learned from mapping all 25,000 of California's election precincts

Proposed by: Joe Fox

We made the most detailed map of California election results ever, which meant harassing all 58 counties and dealing with 58 different ways of reporting election results. We'll condense two months of tears, gin and PDFs into 5 minutes.

34
votes

Using Uber's open data to understand cities

Proposed by: Cory Kendrick

What is this new open dataset Uber has released? And why should I care? Turns out you can use traffic travel times to understand cities better. Such as: what happens to travel times when there's a metro shutdown? Or when you add bike lanes? Or when it rains? I'll walk you through what exactly Uber Movement data is – and isn't – and how to dive in and start using it.

33
votes

Data out loud: Building charts that blind users can read

Proposed by: Leslie Shapiro

Journalists increasingly rely on charts to simplify complex data for readers. But in our noble quest to demystify data, we sometimes make it much harder for people with vision impairments to read. This talk will go over 5 quick and painless (really!) things we can do to make charts more accessible to people who use screen readers.

28
votes

I can draw my charts with no libraries...just SVG...just SVG.

Proposed by: Divya

As data journalists, we use libraries like D3 to create beautiful and compelling visualizations for the web. However, do we really understand the inner workings of SVG and how they get rendered on the web? In this talk, I will walk you through the process of going from CSV to SVG and highlight important gotchas when charting data without a library.

21
votes

A drug's life: how to connect data on pharmaceuticals across 10 different government sources

Proposed by: Marc DaCosta

60% of Americans over the age of 20 take at least 1 prescription drug. But reporting in-depth on particular pharmaceuticals can be daunting. From adverse event reports, to clinical trials, to medicare spending, to trends in doctor prescription patterns, there is a wealth of data out there but its sioled and hard to work with. In this talk I will provide an overview of the regulatory data available about drugs and discuss techniques for linking them together.

19
votes

All the Data We Cannot See

Proposed by: Kate Rabinowitz

Data is not truth. In many cases it can provide only a distorted perception of reality. I'll talk about all the data we cannot see: why there is missing data, the repercussions, how to be on the lookout for missing data, and what to do (or not do, as it may be) about it.

19
votes

What I learned by downloading satellite photos of every power plant in the US

Proposed by: Marc DaCosta

The production of electricity in the United States accounts for approximately 5% of global CO2 emissions. That’s a really big and quite abstract order of magnitude. And it begs the question: how can something so gargantuan be re-scaled to a more human perspective? In this talk I will cover helpful tips for finding data on critical infrastructure and offer novel approaches to visualizing it.

18
votes

43

Proposed by: Rachel shorey

There's lots of divisive stuff in the world. You know what can't be divided*? Prime Numbers.Five minutes. Forty-Three facts about prime numbers. That's just about 7 seconds per factoid. Facts will range from the cryptographic to the mathematic to the musical to the silly.*Except by one and themselves

17
votes

Please comment - no, really!

Proposed by: Cezary Podkul

How do you maximize your chances of getting a meaningful comment for your investigation? Here are three easy strategies you can use to get organized and share documents and data in a way that is sure to elicit more than the usual canned response.

17
votes

The Power of One

Proposed by: Tisha Thompson

By the end of NICAR, your head will be filled with brilliant tools and tricks for crunching millions of numbers and visualizing their results. But this TV reporter makes an argument for why the smallest number is the biggest deal.

17
votes

Self-Care in the Age of Trump: How Basic Therapy Techniques Can Help You Put Things In Perspective

Proposed by: Lindsay Carbonell

The explosion of the political news cycle since Donald Trump won the election has caused many journalists to be more overworked and stressed than ever before. Learn about some basic cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help manage stress — it's not just for people with mental disorders!

16
votes

Grief's geography

Proposed by: Patrick Cain

Maps and interactives can show the world as it is now, or reconstruct a forgotten past on a familiar landscape. I'll go through how I turned a dusty card file from the 1940s into an interactive map showing Toronto's 2,800 Second World War dead on their next of kin's homes. (There were some challenges along the way.)

15
votes

What Rocket Science Can Teach Us About Designing for Humans

Proposed by: Justin Myers

NICAR-L and news-nerd Twitter is fantastic, but in 5 minutes, I'll show you what NASA can teach us when it comes to how people process information and interact with tech. Hear about how putting people in space has resulted in great advice for the newsrooms of Earth, such as pointing out missing data, labeling things clearly, and handling the regret of pushing the wrong button.

15
votes

5 things I learned about online storytelling from the Star Wars opening crawl (and other things you saw on TV)

Proposed by: Adam Playford

And the most important things I learned to STOP doing. Nailing cold opens, finding your form, putting stories in order — and always be closing.

14
votes

The News Lab: Lessons in Product Design Thinking

Proposed by: Lindsay Carbonell

Have an idea? How do you know if it will work? We’ll talk about how to be pragmatic yet creative when expanding on a new idea, whether it’s a news product or a story template. We'll take lessons from Reese News Lab, a student think tank at UNC that has students assess the viability, desirability, and feasibility of their news product ideas while crafting pitches to investors.

14
votes

Welcome to weird Florida

Proposed by: Mike Stucka

This vibrant land hosts cannibals, a guy who tossed an alligator through a drive-through window, a politician who was arrested before his city *even existed*. Rumor has it that normal stuff happens here, too.

13
votes

10 easy steps to protect your data

Proposed by: Jorge Luis Sierra

With the data-driven stories and big data era, it comes also the era of cyber-attacks and digital espionage. Learn in five minutes what you can do to protect your data from any sort of viruses, mistakes, NSAs and hacking teams.

12
votes

Representing our countries

Proposed by: songbogong

What can international attendees contribute to NICAR? 5 non-English speakers will show, by quick mic relays in English, the most impressive digital works written in their languages and peculiar to their localities. Speakers are not necessarily the authors of them but represent his/her country. IMPORTANT: All international participants, I need you to join this presentation if this pitch is accepted.

11
votes

Make your dataviz work twice

Proposed by: Anatoliy Bondarenko

The fuel used for the legendary Concorde supersonic jet served three purposes: fueling engines; cooling the surface and internal systems; shifting the center of gravity to maintain aircraft’s balance. During my talk I will show examples how to obtain the similar efficiency with surprising and creative double use of the regular data visualization elements.

10
votes

Google Trends and the 2016 US election

Proposed by: Simon Rogers

What did Google Trends tell us about the 2016 election? Google Data Editor Simon Rogers talks about what we learned (and what we didn't).

10
votes

Programming language picks!

Proposed by: Yoohyun Jung

What is the most useful programming language for data journalism? Make your arguments.

10
votes

✊s, 🌹s, and major 🔑s: Emoji data science

Proposed by: Hamdan Azhar

Emojis have been called a “new type of language.” According to statistics cited by Ad Week, as much as 92% of the online population uses emojis. Twitter reports that since 2014 alone, over 110 billion emojis have been tweeted. Yet, despite the profusion of emojis in digital life, little research has been done that leverages emojis to understand popular sentiment around current issues. I’ll talk about how emoji data science, a largely unexplored field, might be a powerful new methodology for both the computational social sciences as well as fast data journalism.I’ll share preliminary research based on an analysis of millions of tweets that explores the relevance of emoji analytics to fields ranging from pop culture (i.e. the Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift dispute), to politics (the US presidential elections as well as Brexit), to gender norms, to the Olympics, and more.

9
votes

Make a simple cron-powered Twitter countdown bot in just three weeks!

Proposed by: Ben Keith

Countdown clocks are cliché. You want to build one of your own. They're almost everywhere. They could be in more places. This talk will help you colonize the final frontier of countdown clocks by building a lightweight, cron-based, bash-powered daily countdown Twitter bot. It'll also talk about problems encountered and lessons learned while building @looming_midterm, the bot this talk is based on.

7
votes

Life, Love and Poop Emojis: Decoding My Relationship Using SQL

Proposed by: Lindsey Hoshaw

How do you quantify the ebbs and flows of love between a tech-savvy Aussie and a Bitmoji-loving journalist? With SQL obviously! Charting a course through fart jokes, gifs and “I love you,” data reveals what love *really* looks like in my relationship.

4
votes

Draw any type of timeline with a single web-based tool

Proposed by: Matthew Brehmer

A timeline graphic is a great way to tell a story, but it can be difficult or tedious to make and customize timelines using popular charting tools. In this talk, I'll introduce Timeline Storyteller (timelinestoryteller.com), an expressive web-based timeline authoring tool released by Microsoft Research in January 2017. Using this tool, you can create a wide range of timelines, with each design emphasizing a different aspect of the underlying data. You can also selectively annotate the timeline and export it using one of several image formats. Timeline Storyteller was inspired by a survey of existing timeline authoring tools and over 200 bespoke timelines, consolidating a diverse design space within a single application.

4
votes

We already invented Star Trek replicators. They're called fax machines.

Proposed by: Joe Fox

With some caveats.

3
votes

Data-driven chart annotation with ChartAccent

Proposed by: Matthew Brehmer

Adding annotations to a chart such as text, shapes, and highlights can draw the viewer's attention and convey key messages. However, the process of annotating a chart is tedious, imprecise, and often independent of chart creation, meaning that the annotations are unaware of the underlying data. I'll introduce ChartAccent (https://chartaccent.github.io/), a web-based tool that combines chart creation and data-driven annotation, developed in collaboration between visualization researchers at UC Santa Barbara, Pennsylvania State, and Microsoft Research. Inspired by a large corpus of annotated news graphics and tools like the NYT's Mr. Chartmaker, ChartAccent supports an extensive range of annotation forms and styles for commonly used chart types.