Posts tagged "election 2012"

Six Months in Review

NewsBeast Labs is roughly six months old and we’ve had a lot of fun. This tumblr has most of our projects for the past few months but there are a bunch from before our launch. Here’s a rough list of projects we’ve done so far.

Legal Experts Decode the Supreme Court’s Obamacare Ruling - Our very first project! We launched it the day we got DocumentCloud, which was also the morning of the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. We asked two law professors to make margin notes in the text of the ruling as they were reading it for the first time. Readers could follow along and read experts’ reactions as the conversation was happening.

Digital 100: Who’s Following Whom? - A network visualization of how Newsweek’s list of influential people in the digital space interact with each other on Twitter. 

Obamacare: It’s Cheaper! - I like to call these “Story Visualizations” - visual presentations of stories that could run as a list or as text, but are much more interesting visually. Matt DeLuca and I did a side-by-side on how Obamacare would affect different age groups’ healthcare spending.

2012 Olympics: The Latest Medal Tally - We had a live-updating Olympic Medal Count, (with a snazzy sortable table that I’ve written about before) that I worked on with our awesome intern Sarah Hedgecock. We also did a version of it for our right rail (sidebar).

Interactive Map: London’s Olympic Transformation - The Olympic Park rose from the rust. Sarah and I also did a satellite view before and after interactive that included a bunch of info on the star-chitect buildings.

Interactive Map: The U.S. Shooting Epidemic - Following the Aurora shooting, Brian Abelson and I made an interactive map of multiple-victim shootings since 2005 and asked readers to respond with their memories. We published a selection of the reader responses here. The full spreadsheet list is here.

As Income Inequality Widens, Rich Presidential Candidates Dominate - Lauren Streib and I worked on a chart (she did all the numbers), showing presidential income over the years. I remember this one chart taking four hours from start to finish for some reason…

Big Guns Inside the National Rifle Association Leadership - Who’s leading the NRA? I worked on a project with three colleagues Caitlin Dickson, Eliza Shapiro and Kevin Fallon on the NRA’s leadership. They dug through 990 forms and put together small profiles of the people at the top. We put it together in mosaic-style presentation. Normally this type of story would be a gallery format but since it’s not picture-based, we decided to create something more conducive to reading a lot of text.

SuperPAC App Election Ad Interactive - We partnered with the Super PAC App, an iPhone app that would identify political advertisements on TV and give you information about that group, such as how much money it was spending this election and articles about them. We made a web interface to their data to provide readers with more context for outside spending groups.

Interactive Map: Who’s Protesting Where? - When the Middle East erupted in protests in response to an anti-Muslim video uploaded to YouTube, Eliza Shapiro and I put together a visual guide with information on each protest as well as contextual information on each country. It was an interesting map to built since we had both point and polygon layers to deal with for hover states. As with all of our interactive maps, we used CartoDB.

Obama and Romney’s Bundlers - If bundlers had baseball cards, this is what they’d look like.We took a look at the biggest bundlers for each candidate. Collect ‘em all.

The Rise of the Political Non-Profit - How so-called “Dark Money” was influencing the 2012 election was one of the themes in a three-part series John Avlon and I wrote called the Super PAC Economy. This animated timeline overlays non-profit political expenditures and significant court decisions (Citizens United and lesser-known decisions) that determined what role these groups could play in politics.

The Dark Money Shuffle - Also in that series, we worked with Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics who had been compiling a database of grants that non-profits gave to each other. For the first time, we diagrammed this opaque world of money transfers that is only visible by manually going through hundreds of IRS forms. Full article

Election Right Rail - Showing the latest polls from battleground states, how those states voted historically, median income, and latest unemployment figures, our politics sidebar was full of context. It no longer lives anywhere on our site but you can see a standalone version how it looked on the eve of the election through the linked title.

Note: We did all of these projects before starting this tumblr. You’ll find write-ups for the projects that follow but if you want to know how we built any of the stuff above, send me a message at @mhkeller.

Debate Dashboard and Bingo - Brian, Sam, Vitaly Korenkov (one of our awesome developers) conceived of a great debate night dashboard. We had a livestream, a live chat with our commentators and a poll from Urtak, which is a polling platform that lets you pose simple yes/no/maybe questions to readers. It also lets readers submit questions they want other people to answer so it’s a good back and forth between questions we’re interested in and what our audience is interested in. We’re often into giving our readers a voice on the site so we liked it a lot. I came in during the last few hours before we were going to go live (a.ka. after all the hard work was done) and added a bingo card. The coolest part about it is the Bingo validation. The card checks how many you have in a row vertically, horizontally, and diagonally and tells you how many you need to win. NewsBeast Labs post.

Ground game: Obama Campaign Opens Up Big Lead in Field Offices - The airwave battle was being covered left and right, but we wanted to know what was happening on the ground. We scraped the two campaigns’ websites to map out their local HQs nationwide and found a big discrepancy between the two camps. In Ohio, for instance, Obama had a presence in so many counties where Romney didn’t that 10 percent of the state’s population lived in a county where the only volunteer center was an Obama HQ.

Technical note: We used CartoDB again for this map and it was a huge help. In the accompanying article, we ran interactive maps of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. These separate maps required no real extra programming or map making since CartoDB builds your map by querying a database. By setting our map query to ‘SELECT * from national_map WHERE state = FL’  we had a local map in minutes that we could swap out for another state if needed, which indeed ended up happening. NewsBeast Labs post.

Interactive Hate: The Great Obama-Loathing Canon - Matt DeLuca and I teamed up again to solve the perennial problem of how do you present a lot of information to the reader in a way they can digest in bites that make sense. This time, we presented over a hundred anti-Obama books in a mosaic that you can filter down to different subject matters. NewsBeast Labs Post.

HavingTroubleVoting.com - We did an experiment on election day asking our readers, or anyone really, if they were having trouble voting, and if so, what kind of trouble. We plotted the responses on a map below and color-coded the markers based on the type of problem. We partnered with Mother Jones on it to help us go through the responses to find patterns and to contact people to tell their story. Our own reporters used the database in stories about massive lines and machine malfunctions. We’re totally honored and floored when CJR named it No. 2 in their Must-Read Interactives of 2012! More about it in our NewsBeast Labs post.

Election Night Interactive Map and Dashboard - A lot of teamwork went into our election night coverage from the development team, social, design… the list goes on. We took over our home page on election night with video commentary, a live updating tally, a live chat, article updates and more things that you could probably put a “live” prefix in front of. The map lives on in the linked title, a screenshot lives in our NewsBeast Labs post about it.

‘It Was Like a War Zone’: Hurricane-Ravaged Staten Island Reels - In the wake of the trauma caused by Hurricane Sandy, we did a map of Staten Island victims. It shows how many of the fatal tragedies were concentrated on the east side of the island.

Not-So-Super PACs: 2012’s Winners and Losers - DeLuca and I teamed up again to produce this tally of who made good investments this election cycle. There’s a long post about it, including some failed versions in our NewsBeast Labs post

Interactive Holiday Gift Guide - Lizzie Crocker, Isabel Wilkinson and I help you find out what sub-culture your friends might belong to in this gift guide flow chart.

Own a Gun? Tell Us Why? - December brought another terrible shooting and has caused much thought over the state of gun laws. We wanted to hear from rational people on both sides of the debate by lettings readers complete the sentences, “I own a gun because…” or “I don’t own a gun because…”. In three days, we had over 1,300 responses that represented very civil remarks from each group, for the most part. We analyzed the responses and did a state-by-state breakdown of the common themes. We used some interesting algorithmic clustering to find these patterns so expect a write-up soon. For now, read the post on how the project was born and how we collected the responses.

HavingTroubleVoting.com is one of our latest projects to come out of our election coverage. It was born when fellow reporter, Allison Yarrow, whom I (Michael) sit across from, was talking about how we should do something to make voting issues fascinatingly interesting and digital. A Google Form, some reading about issues facing voters, and some CSS media calls later, we had a mobile-friendly submission form tied to a Leaflet map. 
We partnered with Mother Jones who had a similar project since the task of verifying so many reports (at last count ~700) is quite a process. As you can see, we took a different approach with this one: the site has a separate URL and we built it completely outside of our CMS. We took inspiration from the question-URL-based Guardian US project IsBarackObamaThePresident.com. I’m a fan because it lends itself to be more creative and have a longer shelf-life than a story that goes into a regular CMS, has a timestamp and all that. It also gives itself a catchy url that’s easy to remember. 
Under the hood
We ran into some issues being rate-limited using the results of our  Google Form as a data source so I wrote in some middleware with R that pulls down the form, does the geocoding for new entries (to avoid geocoding rate-limits) and let me put it on S3 easily.
Originally we were geo-locating the submissions based on browser location (since the main thinking was for mobile) but the percentage of successful tags was lower than expected. We also decided we would rather geocode based on the address people wrote in as opposed to their browser. I used a version of this geocoder to grab new entries every hour or so and make a new file to upload. 
We’re still going through the results and collecting more, if you have any, let us know! We’re pretty much always online at newsbeastlabs@gmail.com.
-michael

HavingTroubleVoting.com is one of our latest projects to come out of our election coverage. It was born when fellow reporter, Allison Yarrow, whom I (Michael) sit across from, was talking about how we should do something to make voting issues fascinatingly interesting and digital. A Google Form, some reading about issues facing voters, and some CSS media calls later, we had a mobile-friendly submission form tied to a Leaflet map. 

We partnered with Mother Jones who had a similar project since the task of verifying so many reports (at last count ~700) is quite a process. As you can see, we took a different approach with this one: the site has a separate URL and we built it completely outside of our CMS. We took inspiration from the question-URL-based Guardian US project IsBarackObamaThePresident.com. I’m a fan because it lends itself to be more creative and have a longer shelf-life than a story that goes into a regular CMS, has a timestamp and all that. It also gives itself a catchy url that’s easy to remember. 

Under the hood

We ran into some issues being rate-limited using the results of our  Google Form as a data source so I wrote in some middleware with R that pulls down the form, does the geocoding for new entries (to avoid geocoding rate-limits) and let me put it on S3 easily.

Originally we were geo-locating the submissions based on browser location (since the main thinking was for mobile) but the percentage of successful tags was lower than expected. We also decided we would rather geocode based on the address people wrote in as opposed to their browser. I used a version of this geocoder to grab new entries every hour or so and make a new file to upload. 

We’re still going through the results and collecting more, if you have any, let us know! We’re pretty much always online at newsbeastlabs@gmail.com.

-michael

Notes and images from an ever-growing digital newsroom.

Newsweek & The Daily Beast

Contributors:
Brian Ries & Sam Schlinkert

Formerly:
Michael Keller, Andrew Sprouse, Lynn Maharas, & Clarisa Diaz

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