Naked Data
Issue #296 || The Longest Year Edition || 2021-11-29
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A year of Covid-19

To mark the anniversary of the start of the coronavirus pandemic, GIJN has rounded up a year’s worth of data journalism covering Covid-19, looking at lessons learned in UX, statistics and science reporting in general. It’s also featured the rather sadder numbers around deaths of journalists to Covid-19 related causes, something that has hit home hard this week with the loss of one of South Africa’s most respected writers. (AO)

# Don't Miss

Visualising ALL of the internet

Barret Lyon has been quietly mapping the entirety of the internet since 2003, after friends bet him $50 he couldn’t do it. And he’s been quietly plugging away at the Opte project ever since, moving from traceroutes to routing tables in 2010. His visualisations have been displayed at MoMA New York, but his latest efforts have moved from stills to video, in what Wired describes as “trippy”. Lyon also walks us through one of his visualisations, showing off his cyber-security background (he’s also famous for busting Russian hackers) by taking us on a quick tour of the US military’s network.
See the quick tour here, a longer full history of the Internet here, and the exploration of the US military here. (JNY)

Cheque your head

Culturally, we may have come a long way in the last few decades when it comes to recognising that mental health issues are just as serious as physical health ones. Practically, though, not so much. The European Data Journalism Network has published a very detailed report on access to professional help in the EU – and although the chart work is beguiling and beautiful, the findings are not. With the exception of a few places (hello Scandinavia!) you still have to be disproportionately well off to get quality care. (AO)

Data dysfunction for bad apples in the Big Apple

It’s two years since the launch of the website, which collected police court settlement data between 2015 and 2018, but a Twitter thread by CAPstat lead Julie Ciccolini shows how much hasn’t changed: a comparison between CAPstat and NYPD data shows that officers with multiple disciplinary issues that have cost the Department millions of dollars are still marked as not having any disciplinary history issues. It’s a case of two disparate data realities. (JNY)

# Nerds

A sparkling new visual data pipeliner

I’ve recently been playing with Apache’s NiFi, which is great for robust data pipelining. Its biggest feature over other options — including Rolling Your Own, which I have done because I hate myself — is its visual pipeline design. Because pipeline design is hard, being able to visualise the flow of the data is immensely helpful. And that’s why I’m super-excited about a new tool on the horizon, Datablocks from Webkid. It’s like NiFi, but built with React Flow, and (important to me at least) a dark mode design. Also exciting is the ability to pipe your data through a straight-up Javascript function. It doesn’t look like it’ll be as heavy-duty as NiFi for a while, but it sure is purdy.

Popups with Flourish

Here’s one that we’re looking forward to testing out shortly… Flourish’s alliterative popup panels, which turn tooltips into neat little overlay pages and contain more styling than a normal popup. They look fantastic, and enable you to drop another Flourish embed inside the popup panel for layering information. Can you layer more popups into that embedded chart, and then in to that one until you have an infinite hall of mirrors cascade pure visualisation to the end of the universe? We don’t know, we haven’t tried it yet. But you should. (AO)

The hard drive in all of us

DNA-based data storage has been on the theoretical radar for years, but researchers at the bleeding edge of data storage are now starting to actually encode digital data in DNA, and get it back again, reports Nature. Members of the “DNA Data Storage Alliance”, which includes Microsoft, Twist Bioscience, Illumina and Western Digital, are pushing the envelope of bio-tech, with Twist encoding an episode of BioHackers into DNA. DNA promises the ability to store data at an incredibly high density — up to 17 exabytes per gram, enough for your big data AND your series collection.

# Finally

Unicorn fish is living history

If a picture of a Narwhal doesn’t trigger four of the five Ws – who, what, why, where? – then you are either a marine biologist or have no imagination. Apparently, their improbably tusk can also raise the question “when?”. Like tree trunks, a layer of horn is added every year, and as narwhals can live to be 50 scientists can use the spike to glimpse back into the history of its surrounding waters. (AO) [And don't forget the Narwhal song - Ed]

Who the hell is Jason Norwood-Young?

Journalist, developer, community builder, newsletter creator and international man of mystery, Jason was one of the first South Africans to really grasp the importance of data in the newsroom and has remained one step ahead of the trends in the field all the way. Even Naked Data was conceived before email newsletters were cool again. But what does that tell you about the measure of the man? Nothing, that's what. He hides the superman CV behind a truly mild-mannered and overly modest persona and is best described as "one of the nicest guys in the business". When he's angry, it is righteously so, and his anger always wears velvet mittens. The true signs of his genius include the ability to create multilingual puns on demand (witness the alternative Naked Data strap "Putting the heita in to data") and the fact that he offered me a job. (AO)

Who the hell is Adam Oxford?

Adam combines the best features of his Britishness — polite, sincere, witty, and pasty-white — with the best of South Africanness — enthusiastic, involved, socially conscious, underpaid and overly committed. He wears an incredible amount of hats , including the driving force behind Hacks/Hackers Jo’burg; an "innovation agent" with access-to-justice accelerator HiiL; an editor; a technology journalist; a data journalist; and a budding machine learning and AI expert. His latest gig with Naked Data is a natural progression for a gent that brings a sense of excited purpose to all of his myriad projects. (JNY)

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