Matt Fowler is a freelance application developer and programmer who helps journalists understand and use big data. At the CIJ Summer School this year he gave some top tips in the field, which we have summarised below…
1. Double check privacy settings of your data
You don’t want private work being published on show for all to see.
2. Tidy up the data and make the structure simpler
This re-engineering effort can get details out and help you to discover information to turn into stories.
3. Get a proper understanding of the database systems
Do your research into the programs you’re using. This is hard work but valuable for supporting journalism.
4. If countries are involved in the data, use GeoNames
GeoNames is a free list of place names which will help identify countries on a spreadsheet that may be spelt incorrectly or have a varying name. For example, ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘Great Britain’.
5. Make sure you are an expert on the subject matter
Coders are only focussed on the technical challenges. They expect the journalist to know the story behind the data.