Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
“Modern” homepage design increases pageviews and reader comprehension, study finds
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 17, 2010, 2 p.m.

Knight News Challenge: Winner wants to create tools that are “beautiful, interesting, accessible”

The biggest winner in the 2010 Knight News Challenge, City Tracking, wants to give cities an open framework to tell their stories and for users to easily share and discuss them.

Eric Rodenbeck, of the San Francisco design firm Stamen, wants to build data visualizations that are as compelling and user-friendly as photos or videos. “We want visualizations to be as easy to share and move around as a photo on Flickr,” Rodenbeck said. He hopes cities, journalists and locals will all use the end product.

Rodenbeck thinks there is both a great need for communities to better tell data-driven stories and a need for an open platform tool to tell them. He wants his tools to be “beautiful, interesting, and useful.” Google Maps is great, but it’s not in the public domain. “We’re finding that a lot of the tools that were out there are either really techy, or somebody else owns your data,” Rodenbeck told me. “We wanted to find that middle ground.”

To get an idea of the type of work that could come out of this new platform, take a look at Crimespotting. It’s a project Stamen started in Oakland that pulled public crime data into an interactive map. The city of San Francisco decided to create it’s own version. The tool lets users sign up for RSS feed updates and email alerts about their local communities. It also tells a bigger story about crime by plotting incidences on the map. It’s also nice looking and user friendly. “Tackling the kind of design aesthetic that a project like Crimespotting has, and extending it, is a huge part of it,” Rodenbeck told me in describing City Tracking.

Rodenbeck gave a more hypothetical example as well. An acquaintance of his wants to measure a local river’s temperature at various points, using input from other locals. Right now, there is no simple tool to power that project. It’s the kind of thing Rodenbeck would hope City Tracker would allow non-techies to do easily.

Like other Knight News Challenge winners this year, City Tracking is about presenting public information in a compelling, interactive format, rather than creating new news per se. At it’s core, the project is about engaging a community and getting residents thinking, talking and sharing. “I think we also want to encourage other kinds of conversations. Conversations about trees. Conversations about cabs. Conversations about pollution,” Rodenbeck said.

By that same token, Rodenbeck is eager for discussion while building the project. “What we don’t want to do is develop this in isolation. We want to announce it in small pieces. We’re really hoping to encourage the participation of other developers in the project. We don’t want to just be working away alone in our room, nerding away on our map projects.”

POSTED     June 17, 2010, 2 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Knight News Challenge 2010
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
“Modern” homepage design increases pageviews and reader comprehension, study finds
A new report from the Engaging News Project shows that users prefer modular, image-heavy homepage designs.
Newsonomics: The halving of America’s daily newsrooms
If you’re lucky enough to have the right deep-pocketed owner buy your paper and steady it, you’ve won the lottery. If you’re in a town whose paper is owned by the better chains, or committed local ownership, your loss will probably be mitigated. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
Gimlet wants to become the “HBO of podcasting” — here’s what its founder’s learned trying to get there
Alex Blumberg, CEO and co-founder of Gimlet Media: “People who like public radio like podcasts, but people outside of public radio also like podcasts. So let’s find those people.”
What to read next
1119
tweets
New Pew data: More Americans are getting news on Facebook and Twitter
A new study from the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation finds that more Americans of all ages, races, genders, education levels, and incomes are using Twitter and Facebook to consume news.
542Putting the public into public media membership
Getting beyond tote bags and pledge drives is critical to the sustainability of public media. Is there an alternative vision of membership that relies on relationships more than money?
538How Upworthy is using data to move beyond clickbait and curation
After hiring Amy O’Leary from The New York Times, the site has started using user data to inform its original content production.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Demand Media
AOL
The Daily Beast
DNAinfo
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Ars Technica
Tribune Publishing
NBCNews.com
Bloomberg
Semana
The UpTake
The Globe and Mail