Phillip Smith

A Tyee Master Class: Telling Stories with Data. June 2-3, 2012, Vancouver, B.C.

Telling Stories with Data: Explore, Understand and Present Data in Engaging Ways. Part of The Tyee's new Master Class series.

I’m happy to announce an upcoming two-day hands-on workshop on “Telling Stories with Data: Explore, Understand and Present Data in Engaging Ways.” I’m producing the workshop in partnership with my colleagues at the award-winning daily online site, The Tyee, as part of their new Master Class series that kicks-off at the end of March with workshops by Alisa Smith, Bill Tieleman, Meeru Dhalwala, Christopher Grabowski, Sean Holman, and Kai Nagata. The “Telling Stories with Data” workshop will run 10AM - 4PM on Saturday, June 2nd and Sunday, June 3rd and includes:

  • Twelve instructional hours

  • Hands-on instruction and feedback from yours truly

  • Catered lunch, snacks and refreshments (both days), from Whole Foods Market

  • Wine served by Tyee sommelier Justin Everett

The workshop will be held in The Tyee’s Vancouver Newsroom. Registration is limited to sixteen people. The cost is $395. If you’d like to attend, you can register online.

I’ll be developing this “Master Class” as a more succinct and hands-on version of the four-week online course – “Crunching Public Data Processing and analyzing information using code” – that I’ll be running this spring over at Code Lesson. Here’s a very rough outline of the format: On the first day, participants will brainstorm achievable mini-projects that they’ll work on over the course of the weekend. The mornings will be instruction and demonstrations, the afternoons will be hands-on exercises. At the end of the second day, participants will present their mini-projects to the group for feedback and will discuss next steps. That’s the plan. Feedback welcome.

As far as the “newsroom stack” that the workshop will cover, I’m still open to ideas and input. Basically, I’m planning to tweak the tools that the workshop covers depending on the previous experience that the participants bring to the workshop. That said, I think it’s safe to say that the workshop will cover the following areas in some detail:

  • A quick overview of some of the great “data journalism” and computer assisted reporting that is happening in Canada to give participants some context and inspiration for their personal projects

  • A discussion of the data journalist’s work flow, e.g.: stories that include supporting data vs. when data is the story

  • An exploration of where and how to finding publicly available information, and what to do when you find it

  • A quick discussion of what to do if you can’t get your hands the data you’re after. We’ll cover where to ask for help, or how to extract the data from a Web site (Web scraping) or PDFs (text extraction).

  • A demonstration of a handful of approaches for exploring and understanding data, e.g., from good ol’ spreadsheets, to databases, to tools like Google Fusion Tables and Google Refine.

  • Last but not least, we’ll look at a few quick-and-dirty ways to present your findings: charts, time lines, fancy visualizations, maps, and more. If several of the participants are working on datasets that are going to result in maps, we could delve into some more advanced mapping techniques.

If you’re thinking of attending and have questions, drop me a line. If you have feedback on what skills you’d want to focus on in this kind of hands-on workshop, please post them in the comments. And, if you can’t make it to Vancouver on the weekend of June 2nd-3rd, follow me on Twitter for announcements of a similar workshop in other locations – I can almost guarantee that there will be one in Toronto in late June. Can’t wait that long? No problem: sign-up for the four-week, self-paced, online version of this course on Code Lesson. Who’s got you covered? :-)


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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