The Story-telling Power of Maps

I continue to be amazed by the story-telling power of maps. This New York Times interactive map of recent fighter jet and drone strikes in northern Iraq makes me wonder how the use of visualized data used by news media in the form of maps would have changed the way people understood, in real-time, previous wars and conflicts. Yes, social media is changing the face of journalism, but so is data-driven journalism and visualized data of this quality. (Not to be confused with the lack of quality found in the vast majority marketing-oriented infographics.)

A couple of weeks ago, for the Hammock blog and the Hammock Idea Email, I wrote a post on the power of current mapping technology and some ways maps are being used to cover such stories as the Ebola epidemic.




Robin Williams, RIP

Six years ago, I wrote a blog post about “Why I’m Mourning Michael Jackson’s Death” in which I said this:

“I think we all get crazy in our obsession with the deaths of someone like Michael Jackson because he was there, singing in the background, when we experienced so many things we hold dear. The music is still there. The memories are still there. But if Michael Jackson can die, does that mean a part of us dies with him? I think that’s what we mourn.

Two years ago, I tweeted this about Whitney Houston:

Last year, I wrote a blog post about Aaron Swartz in which I quoted Cory Doctorow’s lament that Aaron took his own life:

Quote from Cory Doctorow:

“Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever. If he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends. If he was despairing of the fight, he will never again rally his comrades with brilliant strategies and leadership. If he was sorrowing, he will never again be lifted from it. Depression strikes so many of us. I’ve struggled with it, been so low I couldn’t see the sky, and found my way back again, though I never thought I would. Talking to people, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, seeking out a counsellor or a Samaritan — all of these have a chance of bringing you back from those depths. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Living people can change things, dead people cannot.”

Today, I find myself whipsawed between those reactions to the death of someone who was a comic genius and talented actor. As he’s just a few years older than me, I mourn his death personally as there were many parts of his life that touched me through his movies and performances. His humor was timeless, however, as they touched the lives of my children, as well. And they will touch the lives of generations of people to come.

In that way, Williams, like all great artists and creators, will live on. The creators have such immortality.

Yet this morning, I can’t help recalling what Cory wrote last year. Whatever problems Robin Williams faced will go unsolved forever.

His life inspired so many of us. Touched us. Moved us. Changed us.

I pray his death inspires those who may be facing the problems he faced, to seek the kind of help Cory suggests. To those, especially: Carpe Diem.



Today, the company that owns the former hometown newspaper of Nashville and 80 other cities in the U.S. announced its plans to split into two companies. (1) Gannett Good Stuff Inc. and  (2) Gannett Bad Stuff Inc.

Gannett Good Stuff will be lots of TV stations and internet companies like and

Gannett Bad Stuff will be 81 former local newspapers that will continue their transition into local delivery van companies specializing in distributing bundled advertising circulars to the front doors of local residents each Sunday morning. The rest of the week, the vans will be used in a new partnership Gannett Bad Stuff has entered into with the internet startup Uber.

The transaction is designed to generate large bonuses and fees for the company’s most senior executives, law firms and investment bankers.

The transaction also will lead to another round of downsizing at the 81 local delivery van companies because, well, that’s what synergy is all about.

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The NYT’s Chronicle: A Timeline of the Usage of Words & Phrases

(Above: According to Chronicle, the word “Rex” peaked a century ago. Oh well.)

The New York Times has opened to the public a graphing tool called Chronicle, an N-gram viewer that generates a timeline chart of the usage of a word or phrase appearing in the New York Times during the past 162 years.

The tool is very similar to Google’s Ngram Viewer a graphing tool that generates a timeline of words or phrases appearing in books scanned into the database of Google Books.

Alexis Lloyd, Chronicle’s creator, explains it in this blog post.

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How John Seigenthaler Changed Wikipedia

John Seigenthaler, the legendary editor of Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean, died yesterday (Friday, July 11, 2014) in his Nashville home. In addition to recounting his remarkable career in journalism and public service, an event nine years ago that’s now referred to by early contributors to Wikipedia as “the Wikipedia Seigenthaler incident” earned a paragraph in Mr. Seigenthaler’s New York Time’s obituary.

As a Nashvillian and admirer of Mr. Seigenthaler for decades, I was angered in 2005 by that thoughtless and vulgar prank that became one of the most controversial episodes in the early history of the online user-contributed encyclopedia. In hindsight, the prank and following events led to much needed changes by those who created and fostered the early development of Wikipedia.
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