Jenn Webb

Jenn Webb is a veteran of the newspaper industry turned freelance scribe, editor and researcher. She is a nerd with a passion for publishing, technology and cultural disruption.

Strata Week: President Obama opens up U.S. government data

U.S. opens data, Wong tapped for U.S. chief privacy officer, FBI might read your email sans warrant, and big data spells trouble for anonymity.

U.S. government data to be machine-readable, Nicole Wong may fill new White House chief privacy officer role

The U.S. government took major steps this week to open up government data to the public. U.S. President Obama signed an executive order requiring government data to be made available in machine-readable formats, and the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a Open Data Policy memo (PDF) to address the order’s implementation.

The press release announcing the actions notes the benefit the U.S. economy historically has experienced with the release of government data — GPS data, for instance, sparked a flurry of innovation that ultimately contributed “tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy,” according to the release. President Obama noted in a statement that he hopes a similar result will come from this open data order: “Starting today, we’re making even more government data available online, which will help launch even more new startups. And we’re making it easier for people to find the data and use it, so that entrepreneurs can build products and services we haven’t even imagined yet.”

FCW’s Adam Mazmanian notes a bit from the Open Data Policy memo that indicates the open data framework doesn’t only apply to data the government intends to make public. Read more…

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Visualization of the Week: Building collapse rescue efforts

The BBC pulled data from the International Rescue Corps to create an interactive guide to emergency response efforts in a building collapse.

In the wake of recent building collapses, the BBC addressed the question of what goes into the rescue efforts by creating an interactive guide outlining how rescuers approach a collapsed building.

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Strata Week: The power of the Internet, wielded by machines and things

Jon Bruner's industrial Internet report; IBM, Belkin, and the Internet of Things; cars as software platforms; and coding is the job of the future.

Soon, everything will be an Internet platform

Ben Schiller at Fast Company took a look this week at a recent report by Jon Bruner on the industrial Internet. “According to Jon Bruner [the industrial Internet] is ‘machines becoming nodes on pervasive networks that use open protocols,’” writes Schiller. “And, to many others, it is as a big a deal as the Internet itself: essentially completing a job that’s only half-finished with web sites, email, Twitter, and so on.”

Shiller pulls some highlights from Bruner’s report, especially noting how the industrial Internet will effect various industries, such as energy, health care, and transport. Read more…

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Visualization of the Week: A DDoS attack on VideoLAN downloads infrastructure

Using Logstalgia, developer Ludovic Fauvet created a video visualization of a recent DDoS attack on VideoLAN.

In the wake of a recent DDoS attack on open source software distributor VideoLAN, developer Ludovic Fauvet created a video visualization to show what the attack looked like.

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Strata Week: Revolutionizing human resource management with work-force science

Big data aids HR, DataKind heads to the U.K., and German regulators fine Google a "paltry" 145,000 euros.

Big data replaces gut instinct in HR management

In a post at the New York Times, Steve Lohr took a look this week at a new data discipline: work-force science. The field pairs big data with human resources to help remove subjectivity and gut instinct from the hiring process and HR management. Lohr notes that in the past, studies conducted to understand worker behavior included a few hundred test subjects at most. Today, they can include thousands of subjects and far more data points. Lohr writes:

“Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies. Digital technology also makes it possible to conduct and aggregate personality-based assessments, often using online quizzes or games, in far greater detail and numbers than ever before.”

Lohr looks at several companies applying data-driven decision making to HR management. Read more…

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Visualization of the Week: Every recorded U.S terror attack 1970-2011

Using START Global Terrorism data, Simon Rogers mapped every U.S. terror attack recorded between 1970 and 2011.

The recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon prompted the Guardian’s Simon Rogers (who will soon be Twitter’s Simon Rogers) to look into the history of attacks on U.S. soil. Using data from the START Global Terrorism Database, Rogers mapped every recorded terrorist incident in the U.S. from 1970 to 2011.

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Strata Week: Movers and shakers on the data journalism front

Reuters' Connected China, accessing Pew's datasets, Simon Rogers' move to Twitter, data privacy solutions, and Intel's shift away from chips.

Reuters launches Connected China, Pew instructs on downloading its data, and Twitter gets a data editor

Yue Qiu and Wenxiong Zhang took a look this week at a data journalism effort by Reuters, the Connected China visualization application. Qiu and Zhang report that “[o]ver the course of about 18 months, a dozen bilingual reporters based in Hong Kong dug into government websites, government reports, policy papers, Mainland major publications, English news reporting, academic texts, and think-tank reports to build up the database.”

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Visualization of the Week: Commuting Paris

Dataveyes' new interactive map visualizes the Paris metro system from a time and crowd perspective.

The team at Dataveyes has launched its latest project,, an interactive map visualizing the Paris metro system. Using data provided by Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports (RATP) and from Isokron, the team visualized the metro system from both a crowd and time perspective.

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Strata Week: Court case sheds light on FBI stingray surveillance

Intrusiveness of FBI stingrays, IRS vs Fourth Amendment, Liquid Robotics' AWS of open seas, and Republicans want big data.

FBI and IRS push privacy envelope

Details about how the FBI uses stingray or IMSI-catcher technology — and how much more intrusive it is than previously known — have come to light in a tax fraud case against accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden. Kim Zetter reports at Wired that the FBI, in coordination with Verizon Wireless, was able to track Rigmaiden’s location by reprogramming his air card to connect to the FBI’s fake cell tower, or stingray, when calls came to a landline controlled by the FBI. “The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location,” Zetter explains.

The U.S. government claims it doesn’t need a warrant to use stingrays “because they don’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages and operate like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information,” Zetter says, but in this particular case they got a probable-cause warrant because the stingray located and accessed the air card remotely through Rigmaiden’s apartment.

The issue at stake in this case is whether or not the court was fully informed as to the intrusiveness of the technology when it granted the warrant. Read more…

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Visualization of the Week: A day in the life of a bus line

Urban Data Challenge winners Adam Greenhall, Amelia Greenhall, and Jared McFarland visualized bus route activity for Zurich, San Francisco, and Geneva.

The Urban Data Challenge winners have been announced. The grand prize was awarded to the team behind the Dots on the Bus animated, interactive visualization — Adam Greenhall, Amelia Greenhall, and Jared McFarland.

The team culled public transportation data provided for the contest by Zurich, San Francisco, and Geneva from the week of October 1-7, 2012. According to the about pop-up on the visualization site, the data included “each bus, the time it arrived at each stop, and how many people got on and off (as counted by lasers), along with the lat/long of each stop and route.”

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