As part of The Globe’s new series “Reinventing Parliament,” we decided to investigate how often Members of Parliament voted against the majority of their party. The undertaking took weeks of number crunching, programming and visualizing to put together. The end product shows a clear trend: MPs rarely break ranks, with most voting along party lines more than 97 per cent of the time. But Conservative MPs are overwhelmingly more likely to break rank than members from other parties. The project began by scraping 600 pages of parliamentary voting data. We designed a scraper in Python that trudged through these pages, scraping the MP’s name, party, riding and vote. All told, we had 162,280 votes between June 2, 2011 and Jan. 28, 2013. The next step was determining whether the MP voted with or against their party. We first believed we could check this against the whip’s vote. But we ran into [...]
I was given the unenviable task of creating something on the history of U.S. presidents. There weren’t many restrictions, just the vague mandate to make it interesting. This is what I came up with. I decided to make it something visual and interactive using an “accordion” of presidents, displayed chronologically using cropped portraits. Each panel gives you a brief bio, election results and time in office. It’s simple, but it’s kind of fun to click through. I also had to write the blurbs for each, which took days of research. The final version was eight pages long. But I think it really turned out nicely. View the full version.
This was an interactive that went from conception to live in a single day. It might not sound revolutionary, but in a world where interactive development’s often a slow and bureaucratic process, it’s quite the victory. It maps five years of transit plans for the city: from David Miller’s massive network of light-rail, to its scaled-back version two years later, to Rob Ford’s bizarre subway plan, to Karen Stintz’s coup. The interactive came together quickly but the writing took longer, mostly since I’m not too familiar with Toronto and its complicated past. It also uses the new template I’m trying to perfect, which takes cues from the Globe’s existing “text gallery” to transform each slide into a new view on the map. See the full interactive
A major data project of mine was just released. It takes 31,480 bicycle collisions and maps them across the City of Toronto. The result is a rather stunning picture of 25 years of bicycling in Toronto, a unique picture of accidents – severe and not. The data was provided by Toronto’s Traffic Safety Unit, a talented group of people who collect, store and interpret this data every year. The interactive was made using Fusion Tables and Google Maps API, a robust but young platform that does a commendable job presenting the data points. But it’s far from perfect: only a certain number of points can be shown at once and it’s a bit buggy. My favourite part is the “Guided Tour,” a new idea intended to help readers understand what they’re looking at. It’s an entirely different way to tell the story and, I think, a bit better. You can [...]
By Kaleigh Rogers and Stuart A. Thompson A few weeks after her husband was struck and killed by a cement truck, Karen MacNeil Hartmann was reminded of her grief at the Ministry of Transportation office. A bulletin board listed bicycle fatalities. “There were two,” she said, “and one of them was my husband.” Though the number of cyclists killed in Toronto is relatively low – averaging three per year out of the 1,200 collisions reported annually – for those who lose a loved one, it’s too high a toll. “It’s not real to a lot of people, but it was real to me and my children,” Ms. MacNeil Hartmann said, whose husband was one of three cyclists killed on Toronto’s streets in 2006. While traffic fatalities overall have declined, according to Toronto Police, data acquired by The Globe and Mail show cycling collisions have remained stubbornly consistent for the past [...]
Fundraising is arguably the most important part of campaigning in America. Obama crushed the competition in both camps last election with his fundraising ability. Interestingly, 93 per cent of his donations were for $100 or less. Perhaps that’s why he’s so eager to sell sell sell this election campaign with an expanded online store. It’s more like a shopping mall, since you can get everything from calendars to “beverage totes.” Here’s some choice favourites: Glassware set: $80 “Perfect for display or everyday use” Spatula: $40 “When you’re fired up and ready to grill.” Joe Biden Can Holder: $10 “Need to keep your soda cold? The Vice President’s got you covered. Literally.” Rhodium Ball Ornament: $40 “A great companion to our glass ornament set.”
For the second year in a row, I’ve made a donation to Wikipedia’s annual fundraiser. It’s worth donating if you have some extra cash. A very important website with no ads, made possible through donations and a whole lot of contributors and moderators. Yay, freedom.
Have a look at my latest interactive made using the Fusion Tables and Google Maps APIs. As Obama revs up his campaign for the 2012 presidency, pundits are considering how the recession hurt key demographics. This map shows how median income changed between 2007 and 2010, highlighting the top 10 and bottom 10 counties. In red are the counties hit hardest by the recession — with their median income dropping as much as $15,000. Others saw their income climb as much as $10,000. But in no case did this correlate substantially with who they elected to Congress in 2007. If you zoom in you’ll have the option of turning on the 2007 election results. It becomes clear that the recession hit all counties without discrimination.
NOVEMBER 18, 1977 — Bobby, 7, and Jimmy, 5, join their father, Bob Loptson, in playing a video game on the TV set in their Toronto home using the Atari game console. This Christmas television video games are back again, but manufacturers have devised a plan they hope will keep the gifts from gathering dust in a corner. The new games are programmable, meaning you can buy cassette-like cartridges that let you change the action whenever you get bored. Instead of just electronic ping- pong, you now can play at anything from road racing and space wars to math quizzes and artistic doodling. Atari Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., the major manufacturer of programmable games, now has a library of nine cartridges offering a total of 187 games. And it pledges to bring out one or two new cartridges a month until 1983. The new games are not cheap. The Atari [...]
I’m usually a big fan of Marcus Gee’s columns. The Toronto columnist for The Globe and Mail writes mostly about Rob Ford, but also about municipal politics and “fixie” bicycles. But in a rare look at the other goings-on at City Hall was today’s column on shark-fin soup. Toronto councillors voted to ban the controversial soup at meeting last week because, by and large, the harvesting of shark fins is inhumane and cruel (as a wide variety of Chinese animal farming is). His arguments do so little to persuade me I scarcely understand their internal logic. Let’s examine. Argument 1: The matter rests with more senior levels of government My Rebuttal: “Look, everyone, Toronto’s doing something!” Surely it’s within a municipality’s power, especially for Canada’s largest municipality, to set the agenda for provincial and federal politics. It’s a lovely thought that provincial and federal politicians will turn their attention on banning [...]
The click-through rate on Internet ads is far less than 0.01 per cent. But sometimes an ad is interesting enough to warrant a coveted click. Here’s one of them. When you land, The Globe’s usual homepage is blacked out. It’s immersive and startling enough to get your attention. The box ad on the right gives the tease: “turn off the light and see.” Ads are moving in a good direction if they provide these in-site experiences rather than a standalone link. When clicked, the site goes black and a series of images of some weird night vision. Once the animation ends, the main site comes back and the box and site-topping ads are replaced with more information about whatever you just saw. It’s pretty cool and effective. The only strange thing is it seems like it’s not going to warn you about a deer, but it’ll tell you if you’re [...]
Social media is so 2009. Now it’s all about community: relationships with readers inside and outside of traditional “social media” tools like Twitter and Facebook. No one is better at than pushing community tools than The Guardian (but props to The Globe), whose ascent to online community supremacy began years before everyone else in the industry. 1. Participating should be simple BBC’s 9/11 Memories interactive Nothing’s more off-putting than a complicated process to participate. So avoid sign-ups, registrations, forms of any kind. It shouldn’t take more than two steps to finish the process. The Guardian’s slick 9/11 interactive wisely asked readers to log in via Twitter or Facebook to participate. While this is kind of a login/registration process, it’s a snap and very common online. This also let them grab a photo for use later in the interactive. Another cool Guardian example is this collection of Sarah Palin emails. It [...]
This isn’t a bells and whistles site. It doesn’t scream its fanciness from the rafters. It’s incredible but subtly so. It’s The Boston Globe’s redesign, which is a clean WordPress-looking website with one fascinating feature. You arrive to this well-padded blogroll with a clear main story and two sidebars. Fat with ads, it uses an awful lot of whitespace to keep things breezy and readable. Scrolling down, you find a few neat features, like a very simple slider for columns and features. The futuristic part happens when you resize the page. It resizes with you. Going about half the size, pictures and columns shrink to fit. Going even smaller, the right column drops off and some menu items disappear. Even small still, the flag shifts positions and the menu is resized once more. The Boston Globe’s new site follows a web principle that’s only now becoming widespread: that websites should [...]
I have no internet right now. I’m waiting for fledgling net company TekSavvy to “upgrade” their “service” in this “area” — a swiss cheese promise, since it’s been several weeks of supposed “upgrades” without any word on when they’ll offer service to my new building. But I have settled into my new home. A man cave in a vast (for toronto) 1-bedroom apt near cabbagetown. It’s good except for the loud-walking neighbour above me. I know his sleeping schedule because he stomps around fee-fi-fo-fumming his way around at 12:30 am (when he goes to sleep) and 7:30 am (when he rises). This unavoidable and unwanted wake-up call gives me 1.5 hrs of extra time in the morning, something I’ve used to consume breakfast and news by the bowlful. Yum. I have the Globe daily now. Work is going well. I’m settling in and getting restless for ruthless experimentation, obscene responsibility [...]
Jack Layton yearbook photo from 1967 when he graduated from Hudson High School in Hudson, Quebec. Layton’s mug shot and blurb: “A man is not what he thinks he is, but what he thinks, he is!” Jack is the most esteemed president of our Student’s Council and also the supporter of all activities. He always wears a bright smile which displays his natural friendliness to the world. In the past year he has proven himself to be the leader of grade eleven. Colour him dynamic. Activities: Vista, Football, Student’s Council, Drivers Ed. Next Year: science at McGill. Claim to fame: being president. Trade Mark: his wild ties. Prototype: George Washington.