New service enables collaboration and discussion around data driven stories

I met Nick Edouard and Mark Opauszky yesterday at the SXSW conference in Austin (Texas). They are running Buzzdata, a startup that enables collaboration and discussion around data driven stories. The Economist Intelligence Unit is one of the most active users and Edouard and Opauszky hope their service will keep attracting the attention of data journalists. For the time being, the service is completely free. “We plan to start charging for private datarooms in the future and this will be a small monthly fee. When and how much is still to be decided,” said Edouard.  Reporters who decide to make their data public even during the research part of the project won’t have to pay anything. I discussed with Mark Opauszky the usefulness of their service for reporters.

Nick Edouard (left) and Mark Opauszky (right)

Q: How does your service exactly help journalists?

A:  Let’s say that you are working on something where data is going to run the story, a story on municipal spending or the environment. Right away you are going to need the data, a place to collaborate with the people who are producing the data or helping you to clean it or present it in a form that is suitable for your story and then analyze it. We want to give you a space that is suitable for all those steps. You may also have other research materials. You may have documents or other articles, email conversations or other conversations. You can attach all that to the data as well. You have the attributions that tie to the original source, you can see who put the data up and when and you have a way to trail all the events. It is very transparent.

Q: What about security?

A: It is encrypted. It is running in your own servers. We are dealing with people’s confidential information. We are not naive about this. There are some people who don’t want to save it in their own servers. They don’t want to store it in Africa or wherever they are working. If that is the case you can work with us to see where your file is going to be saved physically and from a jurisdiction point of view.

Q: What happens after the story is published?

A: You embed a link to the data itself and takes you to the public buzzdata room that you have set up. This may represent the final output of your research process. People can then look at the data in its entirety. They can talk about it. There is a social engagement side to it, too. They can make comments. They can attach other information to your information. They may create an infographic that analyzes your data differently. You can see all this happening and you say ‘Oh the story has changed.’

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