ScraperWiki and Open Knowledge Foundation win grants to help data journalism
Posted by Charles Arthur,23 June 2011
Awards from Knight Foundation should mean big advances in availability of tools to build new systems and query government and other public ScraperWiki, the British startup website which enables people to write code to "scrape" sites for public data, has won a grant of $280,000 from the Knight Foundation to help expand its offering to journalists and other users around the world. ScraperWiki's chief executive Francis Irving received the cheque at an awards ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Wednesday evening. Another British project, by the Open Knowledge Foundation, also won funding for a scheme to give greater context to reports about government finance spending. "The UK is leading the world in the open data field and it is wonderful for us, a high tech British company focused on this area, to get recognition and validation in the US," said a spokesperson for ScraperWiki. "Our application is all about making ScraperWiki useful to journalists around the world and the prize money will be used to add functionality to our platform. We will also run events across 12 cities in 12 US States - to liberate local, state and Federal data. Our kick-off event will happen at the University of Berkeley in California in late autumn." ScraperWiki offers an online editor where users can gather public data by creating "scrapers" - small programs to extract content from data sites - with the programming languages Python, PHP or Ruby. There is also a datastore which lets users store and query data, plus a viewer which lets data be mapped and presented graphically.
Irving said: "ScraperWiki is a place for doing data journalism. What matters is the people who use it. We've found activist coders itching to find stories. We've found journalists who know that data is a new source, and want better ways to access it. I'm excited that the Knight Foundation is funding us to both make better tools for that community, and to run events to find the people who care across the US." He added: "The world is increasingly complex and its future tipped on a balance more than ever. Together we can sift the data, and perhaps help tip it the right way." The Knight Foundation handed out a total of $4.7m, including $1m from Google, to a total of 16 organisations to help fund digital news experiments. Other winning ideas were: • iWitness by Adaptive Path, to "create a web-based tool that aggregates usergenerated content from social media during big news events." • Overview by the Associated Press, "a tool to help journalists find stories in large amounts of data by cleaning, visualizing and interactively exploring large document and data sets." • News Taskforce by the Awesome Foundation: bringing together 10 to 15 community leaders and media innovators in Detroit and two other cities to provide $1,000 microgrants to innovative journalism and civic media projects. • PANDA, by the Chicago Tribune, to "build a set of open-source, web-based tools that make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data". • DocumentCloud Reader Annotations, by Investigative Reports and Editors, which "helps journalists analyze, annotate and publish original source documents. Hundreds of newsrooms are already using the tool." • Frontline SMS, by the Kiwanja Foundation of Palo Alto, which "will create a new platform that allows journalists to more effectively use text messaging to inform and engage rural communities."
• Zeega, by Media and Place Productions of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which "improve its open-source HTML5 platform for creating collaborative and
• The State Decoded, by the Miller Centre Foundation of Charlottesville, which " will be a platform that displays state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make [the US] government more understandable to the average citizen." • Poderopedia, by El Mostrador of Chile, which will promote transparency and "will be an editorial and crowdsourced database that highlights the links among the country's elite." • Nextdrop, by Nextdrop of Berkely and Hubi-Dharwad of India, which "will launch a service, in conjunction with local utilities, that notifies residents of Hubli, Karnataka, India when water is available" - not always a predictable event in India. • Spending Stories by the UK's Open Knowledge Foundation from Cambridge, which "will contextualize news pieces about government spending by tying them to the data on which they are based." • The Public Laboratory, by The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "will create a tool kit and online community for citizen-based, grassroots data gathering and research." • ScraperWiki, which "will add a 'data on demand' feature where journalists can request data sets and be notified of changes in data that might be newsworthy, and data embargos that will keep information private until a story breaks." • Tiziano 360, by the Tiziano Project of Los Angeles, "will display the work of professional and community journalists and will enable news organizations, community groups and individuals to easily manage digital content for mobile and tablet devices". • OpenBlock Rural, by the University of North Carolina, which "will work with local governments and community newspapers in North Carolina to collect, aggregate and publish government data, including crime and real estate reports, restaurant inspections and school ratings." • Swiftriver, by Ushahidi of Orlando, Florida, which will try to make sense of data coming out of news events: "Working across email, Twitter, web feeds and text messages, the platform will use a combination of techniques to identify trends and evaluate the information based on the creator's reputation."