Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Building Better Data Journalism: The Guardians Swarmize Takes the Headache out of Surveys, and More

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Building Better Data Journalism: The Guardians Swarmize Takes the Headache out of Surveys, and More

Article excerpt

Data journalism. Numbers and words.

Oil and water, for many a reporter and editor.

But the U.K.-based Guardian is doing something that makes the cross-pollination of these two orbits a bit less intimidating. Enter Swarmize (swarmize.com), which takes the job of collecting data from users and turns it into information that readers can easily comprehend. Development for Swarmize was paid for out of a $35,000 Knight Foundation grant.

The key is simplicity, according to Matt McAlister, the Guardian's general manager of new digital business.

"Editors can set up simple polls and embed them onto a Web page in minutes," he said. "Developers can build more custom interactives like a live TV feedback mobile app. And Swarmize customers can pour in high volumes of data, such as all the tweets from a popular hashtag, as we did during the Scottish referendum in September."

To use Swarmize, an editor will create a "swarm," adding questions about whatever they like from a form builder. Then, they either embed the form, or send the swarm to a developer, who can then build a custom interactive from the swarm. The developer can also pour in data from other sources like Twitter hashtags.

A good example of Swarmize can be found at fergusonnext.com, which was put together as a collaborative piece by several news outlets, including the Guardian, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Riverfront Times. The site is essentially an online community forum set up following the death of Michael Brown, and solicits comment and ideas from the community. …

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