Knight News Challenge data is now open

Photo Credit Flickr user Koen Vereeken

The Knight News Challenge is being offered three times this year in short, focused rounds to better mirror the pace of innovation. Winners of Round 1, which focused on networks, will be announced June 18. Here, Journalism and Media Innovation Program Director John Bracken writes about the Knight News Challenge: Data. Today, we are opening the Knight News Challenge on data. We are asking just eight questions – and 500 words – for your share of $5m. And you have three weeks to enter before the challenge closes at noon EDT June 21. We’re looking for ideas that help make data more useful, by collecting, processing, visualizing or otherwise making it available, understandable and actionable.

We don’t have a vision for what we hope to fund through the contest– if we did, we wouldn’t need a contest. Here are some examples of data being useful: 

  • The quantified self and “datasexuals.” Dominic Basulto (via Chris Messina) notes that the “the same cultural zeitgeist that gave us the metrosexual…is also creating its digital equivalent: the datasexual… They are relentlessly digital, they obsessively record everything about their personal lives, and they think that data is sexy…Their lives – from a data perspective, at least – are perfectly groomed.” Devices like  Fitbit and Nike FuelBand and apps like MapMyRun , RunKeeper and The Eatery feed and accelerate the ability to collect, understand and share data about our bodies’ input and output.
  • Statistical noisemaking as protest.Alexis Madrigal recently explored how anti-corporate activists, by coordinating their clicks on online ads, could  “muddy data” and thereby confuse advertisers. “How long before [Occupy activists] realize that many businesses are valuable more for their data than their storefronts? Banks are troves of data being mined for profitable strategies. How long before activists see that making their data harder to analyze could be a political tool?”
  • Seatguru collects data from different sources to help travelers understand what we’re getting ourselves into and to make decisions that can have real impact on the quality of our lives: Will I be able to plug in my laptop? How late does my flight usually arrive? Which seats have the most legroom?
  • Forbes’ Jon Bruner built a story about the background of journalists out of data he teased out of LinkedIn, concluding that “Financially, the media industry looks much like the rest of America. In terms of educational attainment and cultural preferences, it’s very different.” (Jon did his Ignite talk at NewsFoo on the same topic.)

“Before going to News Foo, I built a Python script to scrape the LinkedIn profiles of everyone at the conference. Ten percent of the conference’s attendees went to Harvard….Journalists are also much more likely than Americans in general to live in New York or Washington…[A] reporter is nearly twice as likely as the average American to live in New York and three times as likely to live in Washington.”

  • Governments are moving to make their our data more available and useful to citizens. One example is the White House’s digital government strategy. Announced last week, it calls for “agencies to make as much data as possible public and machine-readable through application programming interfaces — APIs — and other tools.”

So send us your ideas on how to make data useful. We’ll be holding a Google Hangout to answer questions at 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday June 5, on the Knight Foundation page. You can also reach us @knightfdn or [email protected] – and check out our FAQ.

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