Datawrapper step-by-step installation guide for Ubuntu on AWS

In my role as a data developer, I’ve recently been setting up a company-wide installation of Datawrapper, an open-source data visualization tool. Preparing a test server with the application, I hit some (ok, more than some) bumps along the way. It ended up taking far longer than I initially expected, but thankfully I extensively documented the process.

When I went to install Datawrapper on a production server, the setup was a breeze.

In the spirit of open-source (and in solidarity with improving the open-source world), below is an embedded gist of steps to get your own Datawrapper running — and avoiding common problems.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestion on how to improve it! Now to see if the Datawrapper folks will release more of their plugins…

The interface as mediator

Digital Art and Aesthetics by Umberto Roncoroni
Digital Art and Aesthetics by Umberto Roncoroni (photo of the cover by me)

Umberto Roncoroni:

The interface is a mediation between the desire and the imagination of the user and all the tools one might need and the actual functions of the software, which are limited.

—  Digital Art and Aesthetics: Studies and criticism from Latin America

The above is my translation. Here’s the original Spanish (let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement):

La interfaz es una mediación entre el deseo y la imaginación del usuario y todas las herramientas que se podrían al respecto necesitar y las funciones reales de software, que son limitadas.

— Arte y Estética Digital: Estudios y críticas desde Latinoamérica

Lessons from the past for “The Future of Programming”

Watch Bret Victor – The Future of Programming and then read his notes.

Bret Victor – The Future of Programming from Bret Victor on Vimeo.

In his notes there’s a link to a 1987 Alan Kay video in which Kay narrates footage of a demo Sketchpad around 4:14. It’s from 1962. Whoa.

My previous exposure to Victor came reading and later re-reading his Learnable Programming manifesto, which is radically practical and completely re-shaped my perception of how programming should work.

As someone who is basically self-taught in code, The Future of Programming video stands as similar shift in mindset for me. It also rekindled my interest in reading The Early History of Smalltalk by Kay (h/t Jeff Larson).

Update: Here’s the Hacker News comment thread

Quantifying impact: A better metric for measuring journalism

Before Isaac Newton, words like mass and force were general descriptors, as James Gleick writes in The Information:

“the new discipline of physics could not proceed until Isaac Newton appropriated words that were ancient and vague—force, mass, motion, and even time—and gave them new meanings. Newton made these terms into quantities, suitable for use in mathematical formulas.”

The term information was similarly amorphous until Claude Shannon, while working at Bell Labs, quantified the concept in bits.

* * *

The journalism goals and business goals for news organizations are out of sync.

Pageviews. Unique visitors. Time on site.

Some journalism might be best quantified partly or wholly by one or more of those ways, but we need to explore deeper beyond these fairly simplistic metrics.

We know how these terms are defined, but what do they really mean? What do they help us achieve?

In creating a theory of information and quantifying information in bits, Shannon aimed to remove meaning. “Shannon had utterly abstracted the message from its physical details,” Gleick says.

For journalism, the goal should be to add more meaning to the information we use to measure our work. Granted, our current metrics aren’t meaningless. We use them because they do have meaning: views, comments, shares, etc. each has a meaning and can be measured based on that one-dimensional measure. The quantities of metrics increase because the works of journalism they describe are meaningful. Or, put another way, impactful.

So, what if we measured journalism by its impact?

Continue reading Quantifying impact: A better metric for measuring journalism