Top Finds from my five-week mission into Data Journalism, having just completed the Data Driven Journalism course.

I’ve done a lot of data visualisation in an engineering context in earlier Formula One work, but never in a Journalism context. The five-week online course by Data Driven Journalism seemed a great opportunity to broaden my horizons – to see data visualisation in a different context and to get up to speed with a few of the latest tools.

The course did just that – good structure, communications and pace. More surprising was the energy around the course boards – some of which have now developed into useful resources in their own right!

I’m chuffed to have just completed the final exam with full marks, but better than that, have picked up some neat tips and tools to take forward. These are a few that stood out:


1. Data ‘Scraping’ Tools – Outwit Hub and

New to me, these tools can quickly pull large data from web pages or directories into a useable, structured set. Have only used Outwit so far, but have found it a bit flaky with macros and automated jobs, so will be giving the online based a go too.

2. Email notifications when a web page changes will fire you an email whenever a web page changes. You just configure the pages you want to watch. A handy way to keep updated on pages that don’t have an RSS feed. Works well, sometimes a bit too well!

3. Comprehensive World Cup Data Set

Quite current, but I love World Cup data. Had struggled in the past trying to get any data from Opta, but in practicing advanced search techniques found this amazing FIFA data set with great detail on all previous world cups.

4. Google Public Data Explorer

Google’s very effective data viewer – so much value in being able to do the simple things well. Some large common data sets are available for interrogation (e.g. world development indicators) and you can upload your own. Scatter plots with colour, point size and timeline dimensions at your fingertips. Also a map view, where appropriate. Views can be exported or embedded. This World Fertility Rate vs Life Expectancy is a great demo example to have a play with.

5. World Development Indicators

Incredible set of world data indices that is updated annually by world bank and ‘compiled from officially-recognised international sources’.

6. OpenRefine tool for easy manipulation of large data sets

Most namely – Numerical Facet and Clusters. Ok it doesn’t have the most welcoming nomenclature but, after a quick tutorial, can see this having advantages of excel in certain areas – particularly for initial tidying of large data sets. It’s ‘Facets’ are an alternative to Excel’s Pivot Tables but the Numerical Facet gives frequency distributions at the drop of a hat, that are great for a quick initial interrogation of the information you’re dealing with. The program runs locally and is operated through your web browser. Available here.

7. Meteorite Landings

Definitely the coolest data set I found in the five weeks! Information on all the known meteorite landings from The Meteoritical Society. Available here, along with some great accompanying visualisations.


You can find more Data Journalism related news on twitter, with #ddjmooc. The course was provided by Data Driven Journalism: website, twitter.