data, data journalism, data visualization, infographic, journalism

What I learned on misleading data and visualizations at Alberto Cairo’s #visualTrumpery event

Trumpery is not linked to a famous politician. It means something flashy or beautiful, but without content. This is how Doctor Alberto Cairo started his talk in Barcelona last Friday on data visualizations and the challenge of truthful information.

Below 5 takeaways from the event to data journalists on their attitude towards teaching the audience to properly interprete graphs and visualizations:

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chatbots, data journalism, journalism, social networks, video, virtual reality

2016 represented in 12 vines

2016 has presented changes on politics, technology and successes: England vote the Brexit, Trump won the battle to Hillary; virtual reality depicted the Mobile World Congress, journalists got together to release the Panama Papers, and famous people such as David Bowie or Alan Rickman passed away.

Another app that said goodbye this year is Vine. This service was founded in 2012, offering a six second looping video that could be shared on Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve selected 12 incidents, one for each month of the year, with a video published on Vine to say bye to this year:

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chatbots, Interactivity, journalism

When chatbots talk about politics: 3 good approaches

Since the trend is to keep using Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger rather than downloading new apps, the media is investing in chatbots to engage with the audience. They keep users awake and speak the same language.

There have been several examples of chatbots for cooking, shopping or travelling. However, a politic chatbot is quite new. Below I share three good approaches when it comes to cover elections or represent politicians:

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automation, chatbots, data journalism, journalism, social media

How to: build a Telegram bot with Chatfuel

Telegram holds official bots and displays easy settings that help users without developing skills to build basic chatbots. On this previous post, I explained how I created three different bots through commands, menus, and submenus.

However, there are other tools that speed up the development of chatbots. For instance, Chatfuel. This platform runs the bot through an API Key, and administrators can create buttons and menus for a quick navigation.

I tested this platform creating a bot for the Noda and Tutki16 conference in Helsinki last April. This example acts similar to a channel, where subscribers receive notifications and news from several data streams:

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On this post, I explain how to build it in three steps:

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automation, chatbots, data journalism, Interactivity, journalism, social media

5 easy tools to create Facebook Messenger chatbots

The number of chatbots has rapidly increased on social media platforms such as Kik, Telegram and Facebook. Even though some of them are just a news feed or linear conversations such as ordering a pizza, humans look for plain language when communicating with computers.

Shawar and Atwell define a chatbot system as a “software program that interacts with users using natural language. And their purpose is to simulate a human conversation.”

Developers started to use keywords and images to simulate these conversations. But from those who don’t have coding skills, here are 5 easy and friendly tools to build chatbots:

 

1. Api.ai

This tool creates an Agent (bot) composed by intents, that match user requests to actions, and entities, which group words and synonyms into natural phrases:

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You can create as many intents as answers you want your chatbot to have. They are formed by a context of the topic, what user says, the action that the bot has to take and a speech response.

Intents and entities might seem complicated in the beginning, but the website has a testing section and it also allows the user to see if it works on Facebook in private before sending the chatbot to Facebook developers for approval.

What I like:

  • Keywords. They make conversations more flexible setting up answers for generic topics with similar words
  • Default answers when the user runs away from the conversation
  • Entities gather synonyms under the same umbrella and avoid multiple intents with similar meanings

What I don’t like:

  • Links don’t include previews
  • Cannot upload images

2. Botsify

It presents an easy dashboard with two main blocks: design and develop. The first one creates the welcome text, buttons, and templates for the messages. The second column transforms these messages into interactions.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload images
  • Links and previews work
  • Easy templates for the messages

What I don’t like:

  • Conversations are less flexible and more linear
  • Templates only allow a limited number of characters

3. Manychat

This platform requires logging in with the Facebook account to choose a page that we manage.

It has an easy dashboard to create default text, keywords, schedule posts or set up source channels such as Twitter or RSS links to auto post messages.

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Bots on this platform can be build in two or fifty minutes, depending on the complexity and the information that you want to display.

What I like:

  • Autoposting channels
  • Easy to set up keywords 
  • Possibility to schedule posts

What I don’t like:

  • Linear conversation
  • Difficult to connect replies and topics

4. Botsociety

A user-friendly platform that presents the information on a mobile to see how it will look like.

Messages are not complicated to run and they can contain images and buttons. The free plan includes a link to preview the conversation while the premium one includes a video and a GIF that summarises the bot features.

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What I like:

  • Easy to upload one or more images
  • Buttons and links
  • Share the link with other users to see how the bot works

What I don’t like:

  • Cannot set up keywords
  • Linear conversation

5. Wit.ai

This is the only platform that allows users to log in with the Github account and seems to be focused on people who have some coding skills.

Bot replies include functions, variables, and commands that give the conversation more interactivity.

Moreover, this conversation can be stored as an API and the data can be shared or downloaded.

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What seems more complex in the beginning makes a better result when the chatbot follows the conversation with the user.

What I like:

  • More ‘natural’ and flexible conversations
  • API feature to store and download the data
  • Entities and keywords
  • Recipes to solve problems and manage the app
  • Easy to fork apps from other users

What I don’t like:

  • Variables and functions seem confusing in the beginning
  • Cannot upload images 

 

Nieman published last year Automation in the Newsroom, a report on how algorithms are helping journalists to cover news and reach audiences. It concludes that the main challenge is how to solve technical rather than content errors:

Like any human reporter, robot journalists need editors. But the challenge of editing automatically generated stories isn’t in correcting individual stories; it’s in retraining the robot to avoid making the same mistake.

Do you have more examples? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @mcrosasb

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audience, data, data journalism, infographic, instagram, journalism, media, social networks

126 graphics that explain 7 months of my life

After seven months, I will stop publishing My #brummie daily graphic on Instagram. The challenge, explained in this previous post, was to come up with a picture, a graphic or both to visually summarise my days while studying Online Journalism at Birmingham City University.

I posted 126 pictures from October until May. Throughout these months, my Instagram account had a post almost every day. However, this regularity started to disappear due to the lack of interactivity and publishing when combining photos and charts.

I have been storing these posts in a spreadsheet with the Instagram URL and the description. After that, I have been assigning a general topic to each publication.

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