I became aware of a few new DataBC data sets a few weeks ago, consisting of various spreadsheets of government purchasing card expenditures stretching from the fiscal year ending in 2007 to the fiscal year ending in 2010. (The fiscal years end March 31, hence the mad rush to spend, spend spend…)
But it was only a week ago that I decided to take a closer look.
I was reading Stephen Quinn’s Globe and Mail column — the entry about the non-renaming of BC Place — and one of the comments mentioned a local political blog, which I checked out and which led to a link to the most recent update (FYE11) in the data set of purchasing cards spending.
It was a PDF.
Now, nothing riles an open-data / data-journalist type more* than tabulated information being presented as a PDF, so I attacked it like the proverbial starving Chihuahua on a pork chop. Continue reading
I went to the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) annual Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR) conference again. This is my third. I can’t believe I was almost considering not going. Besides seeing a few familiar faces again and meeting people who I’d only been following on Twitter since last year’s conference, I managed to leave with that inner “oomf” feeling a little restored.
I want to program. I want to do analysis. And I want to report… what the data says to me.
I have the skills to do it all, and I am also realizing that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have a physical newsroom team right now to do it in. This extended network of journo-nerds is like a virtual newsroom team.
For posterity, and so I could better explain the conference to my spouse, I used Storify and collected images people created during #NICAR12. Enjoy it below. Continue reading
I decided this year to get accustomed to both Python and Ruby and spent quite some time getting my 10.5.8 Leopard mac working with Xcode and pip and all sorts of Terminal-coding-environment things that were quite buggy, as it turns out. (Whoever recommended to me to use MacPorts last year: Shame on you.)
Now that I have nice virtualenv Python instances and tidy little rbenv Ruby silos, it’s all fun and games. I install libraries into my selected builds, and it works. So I’m finally able to run sample code without it throwing a whole bunch of errors about how outdated my environment is. (So embarrassing!)
I’ve just started on Dan Nguyen‘s The Bastards Book of Ruby, where he actually encourages cut-and-run in chapter 2, on ‘Tweet Fetching’, perhaps just to get you excited about coding. (It runs! It does stuff! I’m hacking Twitter!)
But yeah, I mean, it is fun.
When the exercises turned to downloading and running some simple stats on sets of tweets, I decided to use something that is much more interesting than my own feed: @ScanBC.
ScanBC is an online community in British Columbia of people who like to monitor emergency radio communications* — and in some cases, hook up and stream live feeds over the Internet.
Occasionally, someone from within that community tweets out what is overheard… Continue reading