August & September Roundup: Thoughts and tools for & from the data practitioners

Stories and thoughts

Tools & Projects

IM Roundup A-S1

How and why ProPublica got into the (US) elections game

Last month, ProPublica announced two new projects: Electionland, a large-scale initiative to report on voting access and problems in the upcoming US elections, and Election DataBot, a comprehensive election-info data tracker and feed. Read on the design process and challenges on developing both projects in this Source article.

  • Why civil society organisations are using OpenSpending to share fiscal data with the public (OKFN)
  • Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies launches collection of new digital tools (Open Parliament)

  • Code 4 SA has built a search for South African Gazettes, using Aleph

  • FOIA Wiki was launched in beta (Columbia Journalism Review)

  • OpenTrials launches beta version at the World Health Summit (OKFN)

  • EUleaks, a European platform where you can submit information in a secure and anonymous way was launched and Fundación Civio enabled an system to receive sensitive information.

International Right to Know Day

Last month was not only the International Right To Know Day, but this year also marks the 250th anniversary of the world’s first Freedom of Information legislation (Sweden, 1766).

  • Six lessons from a five-year FOIA battle (CJR)
  • As government records move from paper to email to channels like Slack, how should FOIA keep up? (NiemanLab)
  • Open Knowledge Sweden chose this significant day to launch the beta version of FrågaStaten, the 28th installation of Alaveteli Freedom of Information software (mySociety)
  • Open data and freedom of information: complements or competitors? (Web Foundation)
  • When the openwashing is over: protecting the Right to Know (The Engine Room)
  • When will Spain walk the #opendata walk? (OpenCorporates)

Sunlight Foundation is changing

And it will no longer be supporting the creation or maintenance of technological projects or data repositories. Sunlight has come to a partnership with GitHub to host the Sunlight Labs repository as an open source community project independent of the organization.

If you are interested in officiating as the new home for projects such as Open States,Hall of Justice, Politwoops and Email Congress get in touch with Kat Duffy at

The Atlantic calls this moment a “crisis” and Joshua Tauberer sees this moment as the transition period before Act III for civic tech organizations.

This month’s learnings on…

  • Turning data into action: what the OKFN team learned from conducting social audits on public housing communities in Malaysia (OKFN)
  • Using replication sprints to repurpose technology without ignoring context (The Engine Room)

  • How to peer review our data stories (Source)

  • Turning from a journalist to a data journalist (DDJ)

  • Building civil society capacity for Africa’s emerging data revolution (OKFN)

  • Training South Africa's new generation of data journalists (IJNET)

  • International Open Data Conference: open data has grown up (ODI)

Month's toolkit

IM Roundup A-S2

  • CSV Lint // Validate your data by checking that its CSV file is readable.
  • Data Retriever v2.0.0 // Automate the first steps in the data analysis pipeline by downloading, cleaning, and standardizing datasets, and importing them into relational databases, flat files, or programming languages.
  • teseract.js // A pure Javascript port of the popular Tesseract OCR engine. This library supports over 60 languages.
  • Load grap content from Onodo visualizations into Neo4j using the apoc procedure library.
  • Flynn // An Open Source, Self-Hosted Heroku.
  • Copybara // A tool for transforming and moving code between repositories.
  • Googlescraper // Free, in-browser tool that allows you to quickly query websites of your choice for any number of terms.
  • textures.js // Javascript library for creating SVG patterns.
  • All-new line charts (Datawrapper) // There are all-new, responsive line charts, including point-and-click text and range annotations.
  • neovis.js // Neo4j + vis.js. Graph visualizations in browser with data from Neo4j.
  • kyt // Toolkit that encapsulates and manages the configuration for web apps, introduced by the devs from the NY Times.
  • An isotype chart generator designed by @mstoll students (recommended by Alberto Cairo).
  • Briefcase // News outlets with a self-branded website to view and organize document collections.

  • QuickCode // ScraperWiki has rediscovered its old free scraping tool. You can request an account with the subject “Journalist”. More details here (via Online Journalism Blog).

Resources on...



IM Roundup A-S3

Gregor Aisch and Karen Yourish visualized on 2015 how the teams behind the announced candidates are connected to previous campaigns, administrations and organizations close to the possible nominees.

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