Directors' blog

Links, thoughts and updates from the directors of Dim Sum Digital.

Archive for the ‘data’ tag

Crunching marriage data on Valentine’s morning

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It is legal, under special circumstances, for a 12 year old to get married in South Africa. That’s just one of the startling facts revealed through the open data work carried out by Code4SouthAfrica which you can interact with above.

As Adi Eyal explains:

The most disturbing part of the diagram is on the far left. Girls younger than 16 are getting married. Two 12 year-olds were married off, one to a 20 year old man, another to a 67 year-old.

The data set looked at 161,000 civil marriages in 2012. Trends such as popular months for marrying (December) and the most common age to get hitched are all there but it’s in the outliers that the biggest stories lie.

On Valentine’s day, who could fail to be touched by the story of a 92 and 94 year old taking the plunge!

Having been introduced to this data (we are currently working out of Code4SA’s Cape Town base) prompted me to have a look at the same situation in the UK.

But to no avail. The Office for National Statistics offers a listing for ‘age at marriage‘ in its menu but – not one piece of data is available. A couple of mentions in aged articles and summaries and that’s your lot…….

Not so open with our national statistics.

Written by sarahhartley

February 14th, 2015 at 7:44 am

Data and culture metrics for arts organisations

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Capturing ideas

Gathering a group of arts organisations together to talk about ‘measuring cultural value‘ was never going to be an easy task. As researcher Franzi Florack pointed out in her opening remarks to the assembled culture thought-leaders in Manchester this week, every word in that phrase can be contested.

In the first of the two workshops looking at the sort of measures and metrics which could be useful when concerning cultural value (however that’s eventually defined!) participants were faced with a series of questions seeking to assess areas including, but by no means limited to, economic, cultural and social impact.

Please note, this is a cross post from the official research blog which contains further updates from the project and can be seen here but I felt the points deserved a wider airing as the issues raised are likely to cross into many other sectors of work and it would be interesting to hear from others who may be wrestling with similar complexities.

This blog post contains some notes the day from myself and Julian as we start to focus on the issues. We were both invited to attend to help formulate the provocations for the next workshop which looks more at data aspects and would appreciate any input you might have to the debate.

Some of the issues raised yesterday:

  • is a framework to assess cultural value even necessary/relevant/desirable?
  • when co-producing metrics, (how) could participatory events be used for the activity?
  • how can evaluation be longitudinal enough to include community?

Working in groups, participants considered their own organisation’s methods of data collection and evaluation. These included feedback surveys left in venues, interviews with visitors, random telephone cold call research interviews, social media monitoring and collation of newspaper reviews.

Small matter of reading

Some interesting points emerged including:

  • was collection and evaluation steered by financial imperatives?
  • notable that traditional marketing segmentation still seems widespread use across organisations.
  • changing role of front of house staff mentioned as venue ‘hosts’.
  • the friction between rewarding loyal engaged audiences and developing new ones through outreach to non-audiences and non-visitors.
  • discussion about the extent to which data collection was driven with funders in mind.

The two of us were asked to finish the session with a very brief introduction into the big data session which will come next.

Julian spoke about the need to identify gaps in the data currently being collected, and also referred to some of the rhetoric surrounding the ‘big data’ agenda which, in itself, can sometimes put up barriers to finding new, collaborative ways of working.

I used two case studies from the media sector to illustrate different ways in which data is being harvested, visualised and analysed. The first was this example from ReFramed.TV and the second, this opensource platform from

Before the next session on March 16, we will post some provocations into the internal critical friends forum and elsewhere. Further debate via the comments here also most welcome.

Written by sarahhartley

January 20th, 2015 at 9:19 pm

Making parliamentary data come alive #ipiwoco

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These are updating notes from the breakfast session on data.

People’s Assembly recently launched in South Africa – bit similar to in the UK.
Track proceedings, bills and committees. Lots of information to engage citizens in democratic process.

In Kenya – Mzalendo turned data on attendance of MPs into a front page story.

Lungisa platform is for reporting issues in locations via mobile eg. Broken stuff. Now looking to use the platform for people in communities to tackle water and sanitation issues.

Citizen Journalism projects going on in townships to highlight issues such as rubbish introducing rats.

Written by sarahhartley

April 14th, 2014 at 6:19 am

On the crime beat to open data with #hackthecity



Hacking underway

What could you do with crime and justice data?

A map to tell you the safer places in a city to park maybe? Or how about a way to check the work has been carried out near you by those who’ve received a court sentence to do it to see justice being done?

Utilising data available within the crime and justice field was one of the challenges facing attendees of Saturday’s Hack the City event in Sheffield.

Developers, designers and various general interested oddbods like myself were invited to share some ideas and see if maybe the room could come up with the next killer app or business idea for data.

Alongside a general city based hack, the event organised by Open Data Sheffield was also an opportunity to meet with those involved with the Open Data Institute’s Immersion programme.

The series lead on the project, Simon Whitehouse introduced participants to the scheme which is looking for people to engage in a process which will result in a data business looking at how open data projects can be constructed to achieve one of the following:

- increase community involvement with the criminal justice system
- create further evidence for what are effective interventions for rehabilitation
- address the rise in personal crime
Home Office representatives were also present and introduced the data sets already opened up around policing – – which includes more than the headline grabbing neighbourhood crime mapping data such as extra police officer details for neighbourhood teams.

The Home Office is hoping that by opening this data, developers and communities will start to engage more in conversations about policing and they’d especially like to see more activity around the Police and Crime Commissioner roles.

The hacks were well on their way at the point I left and were competing for prizes. They included building an email alerts system into this web map for stolen bicycles, a transport app for Sheffield, a ‘where not live’ crime mapping app and this library recommendation from the two youngest hackers to attend.

The full hacks, videos from the day and more information with developer links can be found at the website here.

A wiki with useful data in the crime and justice area has been set up here and the ODI’s website has the full details of all the current data challenges here.

Written by sarahhartley

September 8th, 2013 at 9:53 am

Video: Data journalism camp 2013, Istanbul

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I grabbed a quick word with some of the participants at the end of the first data journalism camp we hosted in Istanbul. Here’s how the journalists found the experience.

Written by sarahhartley

February 6th, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Data Journalism Camp 2013: Ready to get started in Istanbul #djcamp2013

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djcamp2013The next two days will be taken up with DJ Camp 2013 in Istanbul. This event is part of a programme created through Uclan’s Media and Digital Enterprise programme and will see Francois Nel, Megan Knight, Patrick McGee and I working with a group of journalists in Istanbul.

It’s all about data journalism – from sourcing information, work on verification and different outcomes including mapping and other visualisations.

The work comes at an important time for the development of an open data culture for the city. Late last year, Istanbul’s links with representatives from Manchester’s digital community kicked off discussions about the challenges and benefits of opening civic data sets during a visit from Julian Tait and Adrian Slatcher.

Now, in this separate initiative, we will pick up on that conversation again and look forward to hosting a panel event with representatives from Istanbul city council as well as prominent editor and columnist with national newspaper Milliyet, Mehves Evin tomorrow evening.

During the two days of workshops and coaching, there will be a liveblog running which you can see at the Uclan Made blog here:
and I’ll hope to do more updates here and on the Flickr group for MADE Turkey here.

The hashtag for the event is #djcamp2013.

Written by sarahhartley

January 25th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Testing the new spreadsheet n0tice tool with Manchester toilets data

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Picture: Phil W Shirley

As announced in the n0tice newsletter earlier this week, there’s a new feature available in the open journalism toolkit to help data journalists – the ability to easily map data contained in a spreadsheet.

Still in beta, it provides an opportunity to play around a bit and see how it might fit into the whole suite of geo-tagging related tools being developed.

Being one of those involved in the team developing this I wanted to get straight onto trying it out so I’ve created a very simple spreadsheet of the locations and opening times of Manchester’s city centre toilets. The data comes from the Data GM store. Creating the spreadsheet took the longest time, the set up and ingestion into the noticeboard probably 10 mins at most. Quick and dirty toilets mapping as it were!

You can see the items and click on items to get a map view here, but, as n0tice is primarily a mobile experience, the worth of this type of information is more obvious when viewed via the app where users will encounter the information in a serendipitous way due to their proximity to the location. (Alternatively a feed of the info from the api could create something in a different platform or publication.)

If you fancy giving the new spreadsheet feature a go, the instructions on how to get started are here: the apps to experience the content in your location are free and can be downloaded here.

Written by sarahhartley

January 18th, 2013 at 7:29 am

Data journalism projects – large and small – to inspire

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I’m pulling together a list of data journalism projects (started below) by picking projects that could be interesting in some way to journalists starting out in this area looking for some inspiration and a little ‘howto’ assistance.

Later this month I’ll be joining colleagues from the Media and Digital Enterprise to help host our first Data Journalism Camp (DJCamp2013) in Istanbul – a place where journalists face a challenging environment when pursuing investigations.

In compiling this list I’m conscious that a lot of work in this area involves well-resourced big media groups which can be a bit daunting for independent operators and smaller outfits so I’m particularly interested in tracking down examples where the story is told using free or cheap tools and can be handled with a smaller staff (i.e. without a team of 16 devoting six months to it!)

So, although I’ve included the ‘big hitters’ at the bottom – including the winners of last year’s inaugrual data journalism awards – I’m keen to explore more modest examples too. Please do feel free to share links to any via the comments below (or twitter, email) and I’ll add them to this resource, they can’t be too small……



 Other visualisations

 Those international award winners……….

FBI Terrorists. (Mother Jones and UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, USA) – data-driven investigations, national/international

Methadone and the Politics of Pain (The Seattle Times, USA) -data-driven investigations, local/regional

Riot Rumours (The Guardian, UK) – data visualisation and storytelling (national/international)

Transparent Politics (Polinetz AG, Switzerland) – data-driven applications (national/international) explores and illustrates voting patterns in the Swiss parliament (Nikolay Guryanov, Stas Seletskiy and Alexey Papulovskiy, Russia) – data visualisation and storytelling (local/regional) (Chicago Tribune, USA) – data-driven applications (local/regional)

* I’ve also started  bookmarking useful blogposts for data journalism at Diigo with the tag djcamp all suggestions and links gratefully received. 

Updated: Suggestions from twitter



Written by sarahhartley

January 2nd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Manchester Hackathon gets started

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The city will play host to the first hackathon event starting this evening in an usual partnership of digital types and the city council. I don’t know whether it’s the first time a council has reached out to its local developer community to work on data for a city – it’s not something I’ve come across in other places that’s for sure.

In these times when the word ‘council’ seems to be attached to ‘cuts’ it’s great to see some innovative digital moves and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the projects which will emerge from inside the magic of the MadLab.

To help do that, I’ve set up dedicated noticeboard which is available for anyone to post to from the event. See it here:

In addition I have a little robot friend on the team – conference bot will automatically import tweets and Instagram pictures with the hashtag #mcrhack into the board providing users allow their location to be enabled. is all about geo-coding, that’s how it works!

PS. any developers interested in geo stuff at the hackathon can find the n0tice api and the source code for latest n0tice app HashGordon here and here respectively.

Letting the hacking commence!



Written by sarahhartley

November 16th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Computer assisted reporting via

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Computer assisted reporting… there’s a phrase I haven’t written or uttered for quite a while. Where data journalism seems to have taken off, poor old CAR just never did catch the popular imagination as a term…..

Whatever you call it, the gradual opening up of data in computer readable formats brings with it more opportunities for journalists and I’ve been fiddling around with feeds to see how some of the new features launched with n0tice 2.0 works.

I’ve shared my efforts – and a step-by-step guide to curating feeds with these tools over at the n0tice blog today – see here.

Written by sarahhartley

October 23rd, 2012 at 1:14 pm