Home > data journalism, education, open source tools, statistics > The Lede Program students are rocking it

The Lede Program students are rocking it

July 11, 2014

Yesterday was the end of the first half of the Lede Program, and the students presented their projects, which were really impressive. I am hoping some of them will be willing to put them up on a WordPress site or something like that in order to showcase them and so I can brag about them more explicitly. Since I didn’t get anyone’s permission yet, let me just say: wow.

During the second half of the program the students will do another project (or continue their first) as homework for my class. We’re going to start planning for that on the first day, so the fact that they’ve all dipped their toes into data projects is great. For example, during presentations yesterday I heard the following a number of times: “I spent most of my time cleaning my data” or “next time I will spend more time thinking about how to drill down in my data to find an interesting story”. These are key phrases for people learning lessons with data.

Since they are journalists (I’ve learned a thing or two about journalists and their mindset in the past few months) they love projects because they love deadlines and they want something they can add to their portfolio. Recently they’ve been learning lots of geocoding stuff, and coming up they’ll be learning lots of algorithms as well. So they’ll be well equipped to do some seriously cool shit for their final project. Yeah!

In addition to the guest lectures I’m having in The Platform, I’ll also be reviewing prerequisites for the classes many of them will be taking in the Computer Science department in the fall, so for example linear algebra, calculus, and basic statistics. I just bought them all a copy of How to Lie with Statistics as well as The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, both of which I adore. I’m also making them aware of Statistics Done Wrong, which is online. I am also considering The Cartoon Guide to Calculus, which I have but I haven’t read yet.

Keep an eye out for some of their amazing projects! I’ll definitely blog about them once they’re up.

  1. Dmitry
    July 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I wonder what you think about this criticism of Piketty’s analysis: it would be cool to see what Lede students would get if they tried to reproduce it: http://lemire.me/blog/archives/2014/05/23/you-shouldnt-use-a-spreadsheet-for-important-work-i-mean-it/


    • July 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      Hey thanks! We are actually planning to talk about this exact issue, so that’s a great article to have. Our syllabus for my class is here.


    • July 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      On the one hand, I agree completely with Lemire that using spreadsheets, rather than decent code, is a very bad idea, for all the reasons he mentions. In this particular case, however, if you look at Piketty’s detailed response (rather than the quick, short reply which is all Lemire links to), he has detailed and convincing answers for just about everything. In some cases, the explanations were actually in his spreadsheets, just not in the main page. (This would not, of course, happen with properly commented code.)


      • July 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

        I agree! I think the guy is too harsh. But it’s still a good part of the discussion.

        On Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 2:54 PM, mathbabe wrote:



  2. July 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Congrats on the milestone…in the next half, regarding the frequent complaint of “I spend most of my time cleaning data”, what additional tools/techniques do you think they’ll need in this second phase of their projects?


    • July 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      To address that complaint? I’d say patience.

      On Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 4:28 PM, mathbabe wrote:



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