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Dept. of I'm A Reporter! Whoah!

newsies sell papes
 Freedom of Information. Big Data. 

These are things. These are important things. I've always known the FOI thing. Reporters do.

But Big Data? Whoah.

Yes, I'm actually at a day long workshop on Freedom of Information Act-related things, for both reporters and citizens, put on by the Chicago Headline Club. The biggest piece of interest for me, though, is the information I'm learning about a) the existence of Big Data and b) how it can be used, interpreted, contextualized and used to enlighten the public I'm serving.

Cool.

But a little weird for a woman whose reporting career began in 1975, back with carbons between sheets of paper that you put into a manual typewriter ....I'm such a mix of things; I love the Internet, I love and understand a bunch of things about communicating on the net, and yet I am so un-tech savvy most of the time ... 

Also, I'm going to be giving a workshop on this back at work. To a lot of other reporters. On April 8. I have until then to figure out Power Point, I suppose. And figure out what needs to be said, how it needs to be said and why. 

Ah, well. Back to breakout sessions.  

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
tardis_stowaway
Mar. 14th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
Go you!

Technology can do such amazing things, but it can be tricky and intimidating. (I'm a Millenial, albeit at the upper end of the generation. I still find lots tech to be pretty frustrating, especially stuff that came out after I graduated college and stopped having people walk me through how to use it.) I think it's awesome that you using these awesome new tools to do things with information that would have been totally out of reach not that long ago.

It's probably better to have the workshop for your coworkers given by someone like you who is highly competent with online tools but not a whiz kid, because someone supremely tech-savvy wouldn't spot where things need to be clarified for everyone else.
kaffyr
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
It's probably better to have the workshop for your coworkers given by someone like you who is highly competent with online tools but not a whiz kid, because someone supremely tech-savvy wouldn't spot where things need to be clarified for everyone else.

Actually, that happened during my second afternoon workshop. I'd planned to take what had been billed basically as "excel for dummies", only to discover that a)the workshop leader was familiar with PC but not with Mac and therefore her Excel tricks were PC oriented, and my work laptop is a Mac; and b) my Mac's company-installed Excel was so old that even the other Mac users couldn't figure out how it was configured. That meant that I sat through the session unable to grasp a single damned thing. When you can't even do a simple sort, because your program doesn't respond to the commands the workshop leader insists will work ... I made an executive decision and didn't stay for the second Excel workshop, switching instead to one run by the Better Government Association. It provided some very valuable information.
a_phoenixdragon
Mar. 14th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
Dude....sounds like an awesome plethora of info!! Learn something new every day, yeah?

*Happy!Hugs*
kaffyr
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:11 pm (UTC)
Hi there, dear - oh, I learned a number of things, and I think many of them will be great tools for my colleagues. Now I just have to figure out how to put the presentation together so that they get the most of what I can give them.
minnehaha
Mar. 14th, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
FOIA me!

K.
kaffyr
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:12 pm (UTC)
Heh. It's been too long, hasn't it? How's life, toots?
clocketpatch
Mar. 15th, 2014 04:16 am (UTC)
That is cool and weird. Technology has been changing so fast over this past century that it's a bit boggling. I think it's awesome that you're rising to the challenge of the onslaught. Good luck at the conference. :D
kaffyr
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
I think it's awesome that you're rising to the challenge of the onslaught.

Well, as I told tardis_stowaway, I ran into a particular technical onslaught that I challenged and failed, but my BB has offered to help me with it. Excel - I did learn that it can be a reporter's best friend. I wasn't able to make it my friend, though, at least not yet.
apostle_of_eris
Mar. 16th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
I certainly hope you follow Bruce's blog.
Last I knew, John Gilmore held the record for the most successful FOIA lawsuits. And Cory Doctorow is a champion on the battlements of cyber liberty.
kaffyr
Mar. 16th, 2014 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'd be interested in learning about Gilmore, and I do, from time to time, pay attention to Schneier's blog (it's one of my bookmarks, albeit rarely used). The situation, however, is that, while Bruce's focus on major sociopolitical trust issues are of a fairly direct, or at least not too indirect, interest to me, three quarters of his focus does not apply to me, is not understandable to me as a tech houseplant, and is not of direct use to me as a reporter.

Why? Because my needs are simple: I need to know and learn basic tech abilities to gather data, relatively small amounts of data, even if it's from the vast herd of data points that can be called Big Data.

Equally, and sometimes more importantly, I need to know the non-tech tricks of the trade, on how to get information from governments that don't want to give it to me. That involves knowing the law, or having resources that know the law, in order to make sure that the law works for me in getting, say, the number of police cars a department has paid for or sold in the past five years.

In short, my aim is to get information from governments, while Schneier's worldview is the largely technical interest in how governments (and everyone else) use tech to get information from us, and what that means to the larger world. While that is of interest to me in a meta sense, and of worth to me as a citizen in a world that I want to remain free, it is not of direct use to me. Information on John Gilmore would be of interest, and Cory Doctorow's points of views are, again, of personal interest to me. But as a reporter, I am seeking tools to find things, not looking for ways to block people finding out information about me.

As a side note, during the workshop I found myself sorrowful over the fact that FOI and Open Meetings acts do not affect private entities. I can't use them to find out what businesses and corporations are planning for me. And in many ways, that is absolutely more crucial to defending democracy. And it's one that we reporters and media Captains often ignore, to democracy's detriment - and it's often because the tools we have to find out what's going on in corporation board rooms are woefully inadequate. When you don't have the tools, you stop sharpening your skills in that direction.
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