We liberated the data at NewsHack

Haystax won the ScraperWiki prize this weekend at NewsHack.

What is NewsHack Day?
We’re bringing together journalists, developers and designers for some creative news coding and data reporting. Hackers and designers will work with reporters to come up with the future of journalism. A “liberate the data” code bootcamp on June 22 will precede the news hackathon on Saturday and Sunday.

Haystax went head-to-head against eight other teams (one team included our own Danny Willis, BANG’s fantastic “data guy”). All challengers were worthy and addressed the core issue we were there to solve: producing good journalism despite shrinking newsrooms and resources.
I feel the need to tell you that Haystax was the only app that got a spontaneous round of applause in the middle of the demo from the judges and audience (Burt Herman of Storify/Hacks-Hackers, ScraperWiki’s Tom Levine, Mother Jones’ interactive editor Tasneem Raja…the Bay Area’s technorati).

You can check out #NewsHack on Twitter for the comments.  And the Haystax website walks through the history of why we need the app. NewsHack has a list of the projects and participants (prepare to be inspired!)

It’s is beta for sure but instead of copying and pasting page by page of a database you can use the Haystax bookmarklet to copy an entire dataset automatically.

We ran a comparison of the two methods by copying and pasting into Excel as much as we could of the South Dakota lobbyists registration database, which makes you go through each page manually. I got two pages in 5 minutes. Then we used Haystax and in the same time got the entire database copied into a .csv file. We uploaded the file to Google Fusion into a table and created a map that revealed how many South Dakota lobbyists were actually out of state. What’s up with that? Good question…Maybe there’s a story.

Of course, the manual version told us very little because there were so few fields. It would have taken about an hour to create the same database using the copy and paste method.

We are starting a NewsHack study group to continue working on the projects. There is a link on Haystax if you want to get involvedViva la data! Viva journalism!

About Angela Woodall

I am an award-winning journalist and cross platform adventurer helping the newspapers transition to the digital first age. You will hear about ideaLab here: an experiment in digitizing disparities.
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