Interesting Tool of the Week: Quadrigam – Connecting two visualizers
Aug 18th, 2015 by Tom Johnson

Take me to Quadrigam

Connect two visualizers

All of the charts have input data and output data. You can synchronize two charts just using the output data element of the first chart as the input data element of the second chart. You can even build formulas based on data outputs, like for instance using the element selected in a control list to be part of a formula which filters a given datasset based on one column which elements match with the selected element in the control list. Charts use to have two main data outputs:

  • On over: When on over with the mouse, the element will be the data output of that chart.
  • Selection: When clicking on a given element of a chart (e.g: a serie in a Line chart) that will be the output element that can be synchronize with another chart. In Maps, we also have “zoom” and “center” which make super easy to syncrhonize, for instance, two maps (the zoom and center of the first map act as input data elements of the second map).
PDF Tables: Outstanding tool extracts tables to Excel
Jun 13th, 2015 by Tom Johnson

I just gave this a spin using the City of Santa Fe 2015 budget, a 150-pager.  Seemed to be very fast in the conversion and quite accurate.  Unless you need the text, it is even faster if you edit out text pages and just run those pages containing the desired tables.  The result is that each page becomes a separate Excel page, then they can be sliced-and-diced as necessary.

Kudos to the ScraperWiki folks.

Accurately extract tables from PDFs
No more time consuming and error prone copying and pasting


Washington Post Build App for Breaking News Freelancers
May 19th, 2015 by Tom Johnson

So cool: The @washingtonpost Talent Network. Like Uber or Task Rabbit, but to hire freelance reporters. Retweet from Mariam Rom

Tracking campaign contributions with MapLight
Jun 19th, 2014 by Tom Johnson

Maplight, a 501(c)(3) foundation, recently announced its “extensive mapping project examining the geographic origin of contributions to legislators by state; contributions from companies to legislators by state; and roll call votes by state and district on key bills in Congress.”

Today’s news peg points to “Who in Your State Has Contributed Money to Majority Leader Candidate Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)?”

MapLight looks to be a good edition to our GIS toolbox.

Web scraping with Excel [Saturday highlights from the Global Investigating Journalism conference]
Oct 1st, 2005 by JTJ

Kaas, of the Danish
International Center for Analytical Reporting
, just
presented a fascinating session on how to use Excel tools to
“scrape”data off the web an import it into Excel, at least Excel XP. 
This is typically helpful where one needs to extract data from standardized tables
on dynamic web sites, for example those with demographic, economic or crime

He has posted some handouts at or

It's not yet clear to us if this is more efficient than writing PERL
or PHP scripts, but it's still an elegant hack.


AJ Tool-of-the-Week: Furl – Online bookmarking tool
May 25th, 2005 by JTJ

We've been using a variety of web-based bookmarking tools for the past four or five years, tools like the now-departed Blink and Backflip.  They were all OK (so long as they remained financially viable), but never quite seemed to meet all our needs.  Recently, though, we learned about Furl ( and we like what we see.  Furl is in beta, so we don't know what the ultimate price will be, but journalists will like the ease with which we can pull URLs off a web page, markup those savings with keywords, copy-and-paste webpage annotations and then save the citation in a folder of your making.  Oh yeah, you can also save and e-mail the link(s) to anyone.  In fact, we like Furl so much, we will be demo-ing it next week at the IRE conference in Denver.

As the Furl gang says:
“Furl will archive any page, allowing you to recall, share, and discover useful information on the Web. Browse your personal archive of Web pages, and subscribe to other archives via RSS.”

Check it out.


Doing well by doing good
May 19th, 2005 by JTJ

at the IAJ we believe one of the reasons people come to newspapers or
broadcast stations is to get the data which, upon analysis, they can
turn into information that helps them make decisions.  Ergo, the
more meaningful data a journalistic institution can provide, the
greater value that institution has for a community.

A good example arrived today thanks to Tara Calishain, creator of ResearchBuzz.  She writes:

** Getcher Cheap Gas Prices on Google Maps


when I was saying that I would love a Gasbuddy / Google Maps mashups
that showed cheap gas prices along a trip route?   Turns out
somebody has already done it —  well, sorta. You can specify a
state, city  (only selected cities are available) and 
whether you're looking for regular or diesel  fuel. Check it out

The data driving the map is ginned up by 
It's not clear how or why GasBuddy gets its data, but it offers some
story potential for journalists and data for news researchers.  It
has an interesting link to dynamic graphs of gas prices over time.

Surely the promotion department of some news organization could grab
onto this tool, tweak it a bit,  promote the hell out of it, and
drive some traffic to and build loyalty for the organization's web

That's the obvious angle, but what if some enterprising journo started
to ask some questions of the data underlying the map?  What's the
range in gas prices in our town/state?  (In Albuquerque today, the
range was from $2.04 to $2.28.)  Are there any demographic or
traffic flow match-ups to that price range?  How 'bout the
variance by brand? 

Would readers appreciate this sort of data?  We think so,
especially if there was an online sign-up and the news provider would
deliver the changing price info via e-mail or IM much like Travelocity
tells us when airline ticket prices change by TK dollars.

AnyLogic: Tool-of-the-Week
May 12th, 2005 by JTJ

talented band of coders in St. Petersburg, Russia has put together a
nifty simulation modeling application written in Java. 
Anylogicsupports virtually all existing
approaches to discrete event and continuous modeling, such as process
flow diagrams, system dynamics, agent-based modeling, state charts,
equation systems, etc. With this incredibly rich toolset you are not
limited with the technology anymore – analyze the problem, identify the
best approach, and find the solution!”

package is relatively affordable, especially if one can qualify for the
educational discount.  It could make for a handy tool to model
and/or illustrate a variety of dynamic aspects in an urban setting —
ambulance response time, crowd movement during an anti-war

Today, too, the roll-out of the LA Times re-designed web site includes an intuitive interactive map of freeway traffic flow
— real time — of the greater LA basin.  Perhaps some
enterprising news organization will figure out a way to tie these maps
SigAlert into the dashboard-mounted GPS navigation devices.  Or will SigAlert itself deliver those goods?

Tool of the Week: The geography of libraries
Apr 22nd, 2005 by JTJ

Gary Price's Resource Shelf
indirectly pointed us to a new resource that can provide journalists
with a quick and not-so-dirty GIS tool for their community or any other
in the U.S.  GeoLib is the
Library Geographic Database (PLGDB) Mapping site.  But its mapping
engine delivers far more than just push-pining public libraries. 
The GIS server can  display a variety of physical, demographic and
political boundaries and data that can be turned on and off in
traditional GIS layers.  The resulting maps could be easily copied
with a tool like Snag-It and dropped into a document or web page.

“Florida State University's GeoLib Program ( )
is developing the National Public Library Geographic Database. The
database includes the locations of 16,000 public libraries, data sets
from the US Census, and library use statistics from the National Center
for Educational Statistics. The goal of this database is to provide
consolidated information on public libraries nationwide, easily
accessible over the Internet. The project is sponsored by the Institute
of Museum and Library Services ( )

key ingredient to the long term success of the PLGDB is the ongoing
incorporation of other relevant data. We need your feedback as to what
data you would like to have in the future. We hope the database will
offer public librarians access to data that can shape local, regional
and national library policies. For more information about GeoLib and
its programs and to find out about the latest status and data releases
of the National Public Library Geographic Database check back on this
website regularly.”

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