Posts Tagged ‘Interactive’

The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady (NY Mag)

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

[Editor's note: Two pieces from the New York magazine profiling the New York Times Interactive News Collaborative staff, one of the strongest in the business. Thanks David and Chrys!]

Republished from the New York magazine.
By Emily Nussbaum. Published Jan 11, 2009
Related forum: Talk to the Newsroom: Interactive News Collaborative Jan. 17, 2009.

Image above: Aron Pilhofer, Andrew DeVigal, Steve Duenes, Matthew Ericson, and Gabriel Dance. (Photo: Mike McGregor)

What are these renegade cybergeeks doing at the New York Times? Maybe saving it.

On the day Barack Obama was elected, a strange new feature appeared on the website of the New York Times. Called the Word Train, it asked a simple question: What one word describes your current state of mind? Readers could enter an adjective or select from a menu of options. They could specify whether they supported McCain or Obama. Below, the results appeared in six rows of adjectives, scrolling left to right, coded red or blue, descending in size of font. The larger the word, the more people felt that way.

All day long, the answers flowed by, a river of emotion—anonymous, uncheckable, hypnotic. You could click from Obama to McCain and watch the letters shift gradually from blue to red, the mood changing from giddy, energized, proud, and overwhelmed to horrified, ambivalent, disgusted, and numb.

It was a kind of poll. It was a kind of art piece. It was a kind of journalism, but what kind?

This past year has been catastrophic for the New York Times. Advertising dropped off a cliff. The stock sank by 60 percent, and by fall, the paper had been rated a junk investment, announced plans to mortgage its new building, slashed dividends, and, as of last week, was printing ads on the front page. So dire had the situation become, observers began to entertain thoughts about whether the enterprise might dissolve entirely—Michael Hirschorn just published a piece in The Atlantic imagining an end date of (gulp) May. As this bad news crashed down, the jackals of Times hatred—right-wing ideologues and new-media hecklers alike—ate it up, finding confirmation of what they’d said all along: that the paper was a dinosaur, incapable of change, maddeningly assured as it sank beneath the weight of its own false authority.

And yet, even as the financial pages wrote the paper’s obit, deep within that fancy Renzo Piano palace across from the Port Authority, something hopeful has been going on: a kind of evolution. Each day, peculiar wings and gills poke up on the Times’ website—video, audio, “drillable” graphics. Beneath Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, there’s a link to his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Coverage of Gaza features a time line linking to earlier reporting, video coverage, and an encyclopedic entry on Hamas. Throughout the election, glittering interactive maps let readers plumb voting results. There were 360-degree panoramas of the Democratic convention; audio “back story” with reporters like Adam Nagourney; searchable video of the debates. It was a radical reinvention of the Times voice, shattering the omniscient God-tones in which the paper had always grounded its coverage; the new features tugged the reader closer through comments and interactivity, rendering the relationship between reporter and audience more intimate, immediate, exposed.

Despite the swiftness of these changes, certainly compared with other newspapers’, their significance has been barely noted. That’s the way change happens on the web: The most startling experiments are absorbed in a day, then regarded with reflexive complacency. But lift your hands out of the virtual Palmolive and suddenly you recognize what you’ve been soaking in: not a cheap imitation of a print newspaper but a vastly superior version of one. It may be the only happy story in journalism.

I met with members of the teams that created the Word Train in a glass-walled conference room, appropriate for their fishbowl profession. There was Gabriel Dance, the multimedia producer, a talkative 27-year-old with two earrings and a love of The Big Lebowski. There were Matt Ericson and Steve Duenes from graphics, deadpan veterans who create the site’s interactive visuals—those pretty maps that conceal many file cabinets stuffed with data. And there was Aron Pilhofer, a skeptical career print journalist with “nerd tendencies,” one of the worried men who helped spearhead this mini-renaissance.

“It was surprisingly easy to make the case,” says Pilhofer, describing what he calls the “pinch-me meeting” that occurred in August 2007, when Pilhofer and Ericson sat down with deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman and Marc Frons, the CTO of Times Digital, to lobby for intervention into the Times’ online operation—swift investment in experimental online journalism before it was too late.

“The proposal was to create a newsroom: a group of developers-slash-journalists, or journalists-slash-developers, who would work on long-term, medium-term, short-term journalism—everything from elections to NFL penalties to kind of the stuff you see in the Word Train.” This team would “cut across all the desks,” providing a corrective to the maddening old system, in which each innovation required months for permissions and design. The new system elevated coders into full-fledged members of the Times—deputized to collaborate with reporters and editors, not merely to serve their needs.

To Pilhofer’s astonishment, Landman said yes on the spot. A month later, Pilhofer had his team: the Interactive Newsroom Technologies group, ten developers overseen by Frons and expected to collaborate with multimedia (run by Andrew DeVigal) and graphics. That fall, the Times entered its pricey new building, and online and off-line finally merged, physically, onto the same floor. Pragmatically, this meant access to the paper’s reporters, but it was also a key symbolic step, indicating the dissolution of the traditional condescension the print side of the paper held toward its virtual sibling.

Story continues in 3 parts, jump to the one that interests you.

Next: The group’s initial series of audacious new features.

Next: Another face of innovation at the Times.

Next: The battle against reader nostalgia.

Concluding two graphs:

“One of the New York Times’ roles in this new world is authority—and that’s probably the rarest commodity on the web,” explains Pilhofer as the waiter gives us our check. “That’s why in some respects we’re gung-ho and in other respects very conservative. Everything we do has to be to New York Times standards. Everything. And people are crazy about that. And that’s a good thing.”

Over time, Pilhofer adds, this is the role the Times can play: exciting online readers about the value of reportage, engaging them deeply in the Times’ specific brand of journalism—perhaps even so much that they might want to pay for it. If this comes true, it would mean this terrible year was not for nothing: that someday, this hard era would prove the turning point for the paper, the year when it didn’t go down, when it became something better. Pilhofer shrugs and puts his glass back down on the Algonquin table. “I just hope there’s a business model when we get there.”

Continue reading at New York Times . . .

INTERACTIVE: Inside Obama’s West Wing (Kelso via Wash Post)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Editor's note: Please enjoy this interactive featuring a floor plan of the West Wing showing who sits where. Kudos to Laura Stanton and Karen Yourish for leading this project. I advised on the coding.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Original published 29 January 2009.

They say that proximity to power is power. And it comes to follow that the most coveted offices in Washington are those in the West Wing of the White House. Some, like press secretary Robert Gibbs’s office, are spacious. Others are cubbyholes. But they are all in the same building as the president’s Oval Office. Explore the interactive graphic below for an insider’s guide to who’s sitting where in President Obama’s West Wing:

Screenshots below. View interactive version.

GRAPHIC: By Laura Stanton, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Philip Rucker, Al Kamen and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post

Faces in the Crowd (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

[Editor's note: This in an interactive version of an annotated photo in the print edition. I did a little programming, Christina, Karen, and Patterson did the heavy lifting. The version below shows all the faces but the user starts off with the original image to explore.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009.

Roll over the photo to see who was at the Capitol when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States:

Screenshot below. View original interactive.

By Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Cristina Rivero, Patterson Clark and Karen Yourish – The Washington Post.

Karl Jeacle’s Mortgage Calculator

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

[Editor's note: With fixed rate home mortgages at new record lows, now is the time to consider refinancing (again). How this is possible in the current financial paradigm, I am not sure. But the tool demonstrated below from Karl will show you how much cash you'll save over the long term by refinancing at a lower rate.]

Republished from Karl’s site.
Links updated 22 Feb. 2009 and 5 March 2009.

Static screenshot below. View the interactive version.

Instructions

The calculator is split into three sections:

  1. Sliders
  2. Graphs & tables
  3. Input boxes

1. Sliders

Move the sliders to set the values of your principal, interest rate, loan length, and mortgage start date.

Up and down arrows at either side of the slider allow the range of values covered by the slider to be adjusted.

The checkboxes on the left of the sliders determine whether principal, interest, term or payment is calculated. By default, the Payment slider checkbox is ticked, meaning that moving the other sliders’ values will calculate the payment. Clicking on another slider checkbox, e.g. Principal checkbox, allows the user to modify term, interest and payment to see the Principal value calculated as these other values change.

2. Graphs & tables

Use the buttons underneath the graphs and tables to choose how you want the output to be displayed:

  • Amortization Graph – this shows how the monthly payments made each year are broken down. Note how the curves show increased principal and decreased interest being paid as time goes by. Also note that extra payments “push” up the principal curve, i.e. the annual principal amount shown is increased by the value of the extra payment.
  • Repayment Chart – the percentage breakdown of the total payments made over the entire mortgage (or indeed, the breakdown of the average monthly payment).
  • Balance Graph – this shows the balance outstanding over the term of the mortgage. It is useful when extra payments are made to visually see how much sooner the mortgage is paid off, and how quickly the balance drops.
  • Interest Graph – this shows the rate of interest used over the term of the mortgage.
  • Annual Amortization Table – how much interest and principal you pay each year.
  • Monthly Amortization Table – how much interest and principal you pay each year, broken down month by month.
  • Monthly Payments Table – the payment amount and any extra payment made each month. Useful when interest rates change or if extra payments reduce monthly payment.
  • Summary – shows a summary of the current values.
  • Settings:
    • Monthly/Bi-weekly payments – Limited support for bi-weekly mortgages is present through this option. When Bi-weekly payments are selected, an extra 1/12th payment is made every month. This equates to making 13 monthly payments every 12 months – a close approximation of how a typical bi-weekly mortgage will work (52 weeks / 2 weeks = 26 half-monthly payments == 13 monthly payments). Note that extra payments are always considered monthly payments, so no equivalent bi-weekly approximation is made.
    • Extra payments – default is to reduce term when extra payments are made, but alternative is to keep term unchanged and reduce monthly payment instead.
    • Interest sliders – You can use either 1/8th increments or decimal places.
    • Dynamic/static – Dynamic calculation means that calculations are done as you move the slider; this is the default. Static means that the calculations are done when you’ve finished dragging the slider.

3. Input boxes

The bottom of the calculator is split in two:

  • Fixed Loan Data
    1. Prepayment data
    2. Extra payments
    3. Interest rates
    4. ARM

The Fixed Loan Data section stays constant while the other four sections can be chosen using the buttons at the bottom of the calculator.

Fixed Loan Data – use this as an alternative to the sliders for entering values. This section is called fixed because it does not take interest rate changes into account. The annual Tax and Insurance fields are simply divided by 12 and added to the monthly payment amount. The inflation figure allows estimates in real terms (i.e. in “today’s money”) to be calculated. The total interest paid over the entire mortgage is shown on the right hand side along with the total interest paid as a percentage of all payments made (see the Repayment Chart for a graphical view). Finally, the total interest paid in real terms (“real interest”) is displayed – this figure is an attempt at calculating how much the total interest paid is worth in real terms.

The four optional sections:

  1. Prepayment Data – this section gives you the opportunity to estimate how you can shorten the term of your mortgage by making either a single one-off payment or continuous extra monthly or annual payments. You must enter a starting month for the prepayment to take effect. The format is simply the month number i.e. 1 for the first month, 2 for the second month and so on. On the right-hand side, the Savings field shows you how much money you will save, while the Real Savings field once again uses the inflation rate to give a rough estimate of what these savings are in real terms given that the interest savings are spread over a number of years. The dates shown reflect what happens to the mortgage term when the extra payments have been factored in.
  2. Extra payments – add up to six extra one-time payments, giving the start and end months numbers to indicate the period when the extra payment is to be made.
  3. Interest rates – add up to five extra interest rates, giving the start and end month numbers to indicate when the interest rate is active. Months outside these ranges will use the fixed loan data interest rate. To specify a period where no principal is paid, enter a start and end month in the interest-only payments section.
  4. ARM – Adjustable Rate Mortgage support is provied in this section. Enter a start month to activate and click on the interest rate graph to view how this section alters the interest rates over the term of the mortgage.

Notes

Enter the nominal interest rate not an APR.
All calculations are performed on a monthly basis.
The figures are estimates only – your lender’s figures will vary!

Climate Change: The Carbon Atlas (Guardian)

Friday, December 19th, 2008

[Editor's note: China has surpassed the USA as the #1 worst fossil fuels polluter in the world, according to the Guardian. They have updated their Carbon Atlas with new numbers and an interactive version, shown below (still has Dorling cartograms!). I earlier blogged about last year's print version here. Data is from Energy Information Administration. Seen at designnotes.info. I like the little animated hand on the graphic showing that it can be interacted with.]

Republished from the Guardian.Christine Oliver, Tuesday 9 December 2008.

New figures confirm that China has overtaken the US as the largest emitter of CO2. This interactive emissions map shows how the rest of the world compares. Global C02 emissions totaled 29,195m tonnes in 2006 – up 2.4% on 2005.

Read more in the associated article at Guardian.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Explore D.C.’s Charter Schools (Kelso via Wash Post)

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

[Editor's note: I created this Flash-based Google Mashup to accompany an investigative piece (1 | 2 | 3) about the Washington, D.C. Public Charter School system in Sunday's Washington Post newspaper. Map markers can be turned on and off with check boxes or by using data range sliders to drill in on which schools are performing how well. Clicking on map markers brings up a little info window with some facts and figures about that school, and links to full database entry and comment areas. While publishing this interactive in Flash format may hinder viewing by some viewers, it sure is nice not having to program around HTML rendering funk!]

Republished from The Washington Post.

Use the map below to learn about every charter school in The District. The default view displays all 55 schools for which test score data is available; you can also map the schools with no data, as well as sites offering early childhood and adult education and GED programs. To narrow your search, click the buttons to hide or display school types, or move the sliders directly to the left of the map to display schools by test performance. A full list of all charter schools is also available.

Interact with the original. Downsized screenshot below.

SOURCES: The District of Columbia, individual schools and Washington Post research and analysis.

INTERACTIVE CREDITS: Nathaniel Vaughn-Kelso – The Washington Post, Sarah Sampsel – washingtonpost.com.

Firefox Downloads Map

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Over 30 million computer users have downloaded Firefox 3 since it was released June 17th. The new version introduces many new features and continues to keep the web browser software market competitive. Apparently enough downloads were made on release to qualify for an official entry into the Guinness World Records!?

Map created with the amCharts map widget for Flash. Apparently all the Flash map “charting” tools for sale only have cylindrical projections? The math for those must be easier to figure out ;)

An interactive choropleth map shows where and how many downloads were made:

firefox downloads map

All of Inflation’s Little Parts (NY Times)

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

This interactive from last month hasn’t aged at all.
From the New York Time’s Matthew Bloch, Shan Carter and Amanda Cox.
Clipped version above. View the full-size version here.

From the NY Times:

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers 84,000 prices in about 200 categories — like gasoline, bananas, dresses and garbage collection — to form the Consumer Price Index, one measure of inflation.

It’s among the statistics that the Federal Reserve considered when it cut interest rates on Wednesday. The categories are weighted according to an estimate of what the average American spends, as shown below.

An Average Consumer’s Spending

Each shape below represents how much the average American spends in different categories.
Larger shapes make up a larger part of spending.

View the interactive at NY Times.com . . .

An In-Depth Look at USA’s Religious Beliefs Practices (USA Today)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This USA Today interactive (view here) is focused on charting religious differences between faiths and geographic regions as reported by this Pew research study of over 35,000 Americans. There is a pure charting tool and a map-based interface. Produced by Juan Thomassai. The Post did something with this data but completely different approach (here). Thanks Nelson!

From the Post article by Jacqueline L. Salmon

Most Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world, and nearly 80 percent think miracles occur, according to a poll released yesterday that takes an in-depth look at Americans’ religious beliefs.

The study detailed Americans’ deep and broad religiosity, finding that 92 percent believe in God or a universal spirit — including one in five of those who call themselves atheists. More than half of Americans polled pray at least once a day.

But Americans aren’t rigid about their beliefs. Most of those studied — even many of the most religiously conservative — have a remarkably nonexclusive attitude toward other faiths. Seventy percent of those affiliated with a religion believe that many religions can lead to eternal salvation. And only about one-quarter of those surveyed believe there is only one way to interpret their religion’s teachings.

Screenshots:


usa today religion bar charts

usa today religion map

Washington Post graphic by Laura Stanton:


washington post religion pew graphic

2008 Mountain Cartography Confernce in Switzerland Approaches

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

 The 6th ICA Mountain Cartography Workshop is approaching  (11 – 15 February 2008) and I just sent in my abstract (see below). This year’s conference will be in Lenk, Switzerland and will focus on Mountain Mapping and Visualisation.

Mountain Cartography Conference

TITLE
Building Smart Interactive Maps: Enabling Map Projections in Adobe Flash

KEYWORDS
Flash, Projection, Mashup, KML, Interactive

ABSTRACT
Adobe Flash allows cartographers the opportunity to build interactive graphics with rich user experiences. However, there are few cartographic tools available for Flash. Most are limited to merely integrating Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and Microsoft Virtual Earth services into the Flash display. What if you have created your own map with a custom graphic style and a more appropriate, non-Mercator projection? This presentation demonstrates several working examples that read data from external files and then plot features onto world, continent, and country level maps. Choropleth map shading is also supported with several classification options. Using a generalized component tool, maps can quickly be “registered” in Flash by setting several control points and providing projection parameters. More than 10 common projections are supported, including several interrupted forms. Map users are able to interact with the map by reading specific feature names, descriptions, and even data values. Flash’s ability to spatially enable your maps and its many graphic tools allowing interface customization give it a real advantage over generic online services.