I’ve been spending a lot of time recently working on a project for my “Advanced Multimedia Storytelling” class. I dove into a lot of different tools to throw together an interactive map-timeline flash app. I used a great little library called ModestMaps. You drop it into a flash project and you can get an instant draggable, zoomable map that can pull map images from Microsoft, Yahoo!, OpenStreetMap or images you generate yourself. I used a bunch of public domain GIS stuff – from the City of Chicago and State of Illinois – to generate a map that clearly highlights the CTA rail lines in Chicago. I used the wonderful Mapnik project to generate the image. Check out Paul Smith’s A List Apart article for more on rolling your own maps – it’s a great starting point.
My goal for the project was to compile accidents and derailments on the CTA rails from the past two years. I was surprised to find that there really isn’t a good public record of this. It’s easiest to find first or second day stories for about 3/4 of incidents, but many of those articles have important parts missing. Unfortunately I spent most of my time getting the flash together, so I only put a few incidents in at this point. I am working on a FOIA with the CTA to get some reports about the under-reported incidents. I worked with the media affairs department at CTA to get some of the data I wanted, but apparently they have no easy way to fill my request. I tried to the RTA, but after a couple weeks of phone tag, still haven’t received a report I asked for and was promised.
I would like to put this app up on it’s own site with a user-editable back end. Make it easy for others to records incidents on the CTA, and other time- and geo-tagged stories.
If you have any thoughts or ideas, drop me a comment.
Checkout the google code page to get the source code. Click on the source tab and follow the instructions. You need subversion to download the code.
A couple weeks ago I stumbled across a neat little reading applet called spreeder.com. You copy and paste text into the applet, and then it would flash each word at you one-by-one. The idea being that it forces you to read faster, teaches you speed read or whatever.
To be honest spreeder.com was a little annoying to use because I don’t read one word at a time. It takes a lot of concentration just to follow the story and is not a great experience. I thought it might be usable if it showed groups of words and phrases and put pauses between sentences and paragraphs.
However the little applet struck me as something that would fit very nicely on a small screen.
Well guess what folks. Someone did exactly that. Spreed:News is a relatively new web-app that rolls up an RSS reader with a spreeder-like widget. Spreed:News is a bit better than spreeder.com in that displays a few words at a time, instead of one. And they just launched an iPhone app.
Neat. If I had an iPhone I would give it a try.
They need to get this out for more mobile devices and start working with content providers.
The Sun-Times published the names, salaries and positions of 145,000 Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago employees on their website this weekend. The names and salaries are online in the form of a simple searchable database. The reporter published a couple articles with analysis of the massive database. One article talked about the top ten earners and another took a look at the Chicago police commissioner, who is the top earner.
A classmate of mine told me about it. Why did they just publish it all, she asked. Most of these people are just honest employees. She looked up the name of her friend who works for the government and found out how much he makes, which is what the majority of folks will do with it.
I think could be an interesting open-source approach to journalism – make a FOIA and release all the data to the public (as long as there are no privacy implications, which there might be in this case). But the Sun-Times didn’t really release the source to their product. You have limited access.
I want a link to download a csv file. I want to plug it into Many Eyes. I want to run my own reports on it.
I don’t know if they published the information with the intention that others should use it to find stories. But that would be cool.