News story rewrites itself depending on where you are


The lede and various details in The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares, an article at the New York Times, are rewritten automatically based upon the reader's location.

It's not overly clever. Simple, compelling details are used to frame and contextualize a dry, fact-driven story, and it works very well.

News reports generated by computers from raw data are not new, but they tend to be obvious and a bit daft, like the ersatz commentary in sports video games. This Times piece is a high-quality example of code with an appropriate editorial voice. It needs careful planning and restraint and can't just be glued together from journalistic clichés and data.

(Redditors, however, have managed to trick it into writing some rather daft phrases.)

Previously: North Korea Press Release Generator Read the rest

A beautiful data-driven Tube ad from 1928


This 1928 London Underground ad is a beautiful and witty example of using data to help people get the best use out of public services. By listing the tube's load at different times of the day, LU helped riders figure out how to avoid crushes, and by making the descriptions funny and insightful, the poster's creators created memorable hooks for putting the info in context. Read the rest

My Stolen Life

My handbag was stolen two months ago. It happened in seconds in a mall in Turin, Italy. I never saw the thief, and neither did my husband, sitting two meters from the scene of the crime a fast food Japanese restaurant.

How is such criminal skill even possible? There was almost nobody around. Now, after two months, I do vaguely remember though a nice young woman, sitting with a child, next to my table. Was it she who grabbed my bag off the back of a chair and escaped with it?

A week later, I read that a gang of four women, convicted of serial handbag thefts in Italy, was finally put behind the bars. Even though found guilty several times, they were always released from custody because they had either small children or were pregnant. So maybe they relied on the handbags of other women to feed their numerous children?!

But that would be a topic for a novel, and not what I want to write about. I will focus on this accident from a different angle. Because it can only be compared to an accident, a personal disaster, as if a truck ran over me. No use asking, was it my fault? Should I blame myself for leaving my chair to order a second beer to go with my sushi? And why on earth did I center my earthly life inside one rather small handbag? Why did I visit a shopping mall taking with me all of my traveling documents, credit cards, checkbook, USB backup, health insurance card, Iphone, address book, prescriptions, etc. Read the rest

Gender and sf awards: who wins and for what

SF writer Nicola Griffith reports in from her Literary Prize Data, which is collating data on gender and genre awards (and showing a dismally predictable skew towards books by and about men and boys). Read the rest

What does Facebook learn about you when you rainbowify your profile pic?


When Facebook offered a "rainbow filter" for images, following last week's landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, people joked that it was probably another creepy social experiment. Well, probably, yes.

Even seemingly small online actions—clicking the “like” button, changing one’s profile photo—are being tracked and analyzed. Just like McAdam’s research on Freedom Summer shapes our understanding of support for marriage equality, Facebook's past research on marriage equality has helped answer a question we all face when deciding to act politically:

Does the courage to visibly—if virtually—stand up for what a person believes in have an effect on that person’s social network, or is it just cheap, harmless posturing? Perhaps the rainbow colors across Facebook will become part of the answer.

Previously: Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal Read the rest

Quantified Self Expo in San Francisco on Saturday (6/20)


Our pals at Quantified Self are hosting a big expo in San Francisco on Saturday and they're offering BB readers a $10 discount off the $20 ticket price! Get hip to the self-tracking scene and see your life through the lens of data! Event details here. Read the rest

America's prison population, by the numbers

Administrative segregation prisoners take part in a group therapy session at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California, June 8, 2012. San Quentin prison is California's oldest correctional facility and houses the state's only gas chamber. Picture taken June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Quinn Norton's "long form data journalism" piece on the American prison system paints a bleak picture of a nation that feasts on its poorest and most vulnerable with a boundless, venomous cruelty.

Amazing sea floor maps reveal California's offshore depths

The California Seafloor Mapping Program is the most extensive of its kind, initiated in 2008 and bearing fruit in a series of beautiful maps.

The microbes on your phone are different from the microbes on your shoes

But the microbes on your shoes are similar to the microbes on everyone else's shoes and the microbes on your phone are similar to the microbes on everyone else's phone. Read the rest

Uncovering sexual preferences by data-mining sex-toy sales [NSFW]

UK sex-toy retailer Lovehoney allowed researcher Jon Millward to data-mine its huge database of over 1,000,000 sex-toy purchases and 45,000 reviews, in order to see what he could infer about Britons' sexual proclivities from the things they bought. Read the rest

Tesla's "car-as-service" versus your right to see your data

Espen got a parking ticket for his Tesla, and he's pretty sure he can exonerate himself, if only the company would give him access to his car's data, but they won't. Read the rest

Beautiful animated air traffic patterns

Air traffic data is great fodder for visualizations. Case in point, this lovely animation of a day of flights titled "North Atlantic Skies" by air traffic control firm NATS. (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Fax Your GP: quick opt-out from insane NHS plan to sell your medical records

The UK National Health Service has initiated a plan to take the nation's private health records and sell them off to private companies in a process overseen by notorious multinational bumblewads ATOS. If you live in the UK England, your records -- mental health records, prescriptions, records of surgeries including abortions, and other sensitive personal information -- will be handed over to a wide-ranging group of companies all over the world.

Unless you opt out. And opting out isn't easy. There's no central place to opt out. Instead, you have to send a letter to your GP's surgery, which means you have to look up your GP's surgery's address, compose a legally sufficient letter, print it out, find an envelope and a stamp -- etc.

However! There's a better way. A group of volunteers whom I trust implicitly, including the astounding Stef Magdalinski (who made the Faxyourmp service that is the ancestor of Theyworkforyou) have created Fax Your GP, a dead-simple form that will look up your GP's fax number for you, create a form opt-out letter you can fill in in just a few easy steps, and then they'll fax that letter directly to your GP's surgery. I just opted out. Read the rest

Interactive graphic of migration within US

Chris Walker created a fascinating interactive graphic of migration patterns within the United States. It's based on US Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey estimates. Here are a few insights that Walker gleaned: Read the rest

Spoiler: your nearest pizza joint is probably Pizza Hut

Created by Flowing Data, this map reveals exactly what pizza chain dominates in any given 10-mile region of the U.S. Read the rest

Animation about cell phone data mining

Michael Rigley created this beautiful animation, titled "Network," for his BFA design thesis project at the California College of Art. It's about personal data captured by cell phone providers and is quite relevant this week. Read the rest

Toronto mayoral disaster: illegal deletion of staffers' email?

More news from the embattled mayor of Toronto, Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford: after two of his senior staffers walked out on him following questioning by Toronto homicide detectives, it appears that someone illegally ordered the destruction of their archived city emails and call-records -- as well as the archived electronic communications of Ford's former chief of staff, whom Ford fired under mysterious circumstances.

The Star heard concerns at city hall Wednesday afternoon over the potential destruction or hiding of the records of three staffers who resigned or were fired during the ongoing crack cocaine scandal. Sources told the Star the records were in danger after city employees were directed to delete them.

The Star sent a request late Wednesday to the city asking for email and phone records of the three staffers in question for the time period during which the video at the heart of the scandal has been discussed.

Emails sent by city employees, including political staffers, are automatically preserved by the city, though emails related to “personal” business are exempt from freedom of information requests.

Two people familiar with the system said the emails of specific political staffers cannot be permanently erased from the system.p

Rob Ford video scandal: Concerns raised over safety of email records Read the rest

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