Glossary

I’ll add more over time, but to start:

Absolute date reference/relative date reference: My shorthand for the difference between “May 15, 2010” and “three months ago”.  The first is an absolute reference; the second is relative to when I wrote it – or when someone read it.  Just as a street address – or latitude and longitude coordinates – is an absolute location, and “go west six blocks” is a relative location.

CAR: Computer-assisted reporting.  Generally taken to mean the use and analysis of databases to come up with stories and story ideas.

Database effect: A term I made up.  It’s like the network effect – networks increase in value as the number of participants grow – except with data.   A database with one piece of information in it has little value.  But each new item of information filed to it increases the overall value of the database, and increases the cost for a competitor to duplicate it.

Datafying: A horrifically ugly term I made up to talk about the process of turning bits of stories – names, perhaps, or the time of a statement, or the topic of a statement – into discrete items that could populate a database.

Metastory/Aggregated story: A story – or piece of content – created out of aggregating other stories or parts of stories.  If we track every statement made by a politician, for example, and organized it in a database with the time of statement, subject and so on – we could create a “metastory” about how many times he’s mentioned healthcare, or what he tends to speak about in the morning.

Persistent content: Content that is relevant and valuable for an extended period of time.  A recipe is persistent; the death toll from an earthquake at 2 am less so.  A long investigative piece on corruption in the mayor’s office could be still fresh weeks or months after the story ran; or it could be completely out of date if it doesn’t take into account the arrests that were carried out once the story ran.

People Maps: A project I’ve been trying to get going, where a newsroom collects, on an ongoing basis, relationship and other information about people, companies and entities and files them into a database.  That database then powers a visual representation of key relationships and offers an immersive environment for people to explore. As well as offers the opportunity for other news products to be built on top of it.

Structured data: As opposed to things that aren’t structured.  A telephone directory is pretty structured, with names, addresses, phone numbers set up in particular places (fields, in database parlance).  A love letter – unless it’s from a Romeo who sends the same one to a number of people with just the dates and names changed – isn’t.  Tagging a love letter doesn’t structure it; microtagging specific words or phrases is a sort of half-way house.

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