NICAR postmortem

March 3, 2014, 10 p.m.Journalism

I’m not quite sure I can summarize everything I learned at this year’s NICAR conference in Baltimore. There’s simply too much.

Here, however, are the highlights that I know I’ll be putting to use in The News Journal newsroom:

Statistics: Our new best friend

I attended a few panels on better using stats in the newsroom (one of which was even called “Enhance your stories with statistics”). We’ve done some rudimentary statistics quite bit, finding means, medians and even modes to explore different various topics.

Beyond that, our only real venture into more complicated number crunching was how we ranked the most Dangerous Intersections. Looking back, our ranking math wasn’t bad, but we can now do it much more easily and with fewer Google queries.

For posterity’s sake, here are the tipsheets from some of the stats sessions at NICAR:

This is the year I learn R

There were quite a few sessions teaching/promoting R, the stats-based programming language. I’ve played with the language off and on for a while, but after attending a few sessions I realized I should really put more focus into the language.

If anything, being able to open RStudio and quickly visualize data will help me work more quickly and discover stories that I might not have found.

I (kind of) want to kill some servers

Most all of the headaches I’ve had recently involve server issues. We were hacked at the end of 2012 and I spent a good portion of 2013 rebuilding and securing one of our LAMP servers. No more.

We won’t be able to completely cut the chord, but I can at least put more emphasis on building flat apps. If the server should go down in the future, it’d be nice to be able to just open up the command line and type `fab deploy` and have everything pushed and restored.

As I continue going through notes, I might have some addenda to this post, but those three points should keep me busy for a while.


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