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300: in other news
 
11 December 2018
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[skip the blabber, go to the links]


Hello! It's been a while. From mid-November I holidayed in Japan, which is the best country in which to get fatter and poorer (I started using my overdraft a few days into the holiday). I returned to the UK on December 3rd. Two days later I started my new job at the Department for Transport, where I'm Head of the Developing Data Unit, a new team set up to advance transport data in all directions. I have a rather broad brief, which is exciting (and a little terrifying).

In Other News goes on, although you will obviously see a little less politics. I've also realised that the link share buttons are not widely used, so I've removed them in order to offer a more streamlined reading experience. I hope I haven't massively mis-read you folks - let me know what you think.

Lastly, I'm launching a little experiment: a subreddit for this newsletter's readers. It's called /inothernewsers, it's empty for now, but I would like to hear your ideas on how to develop it properly. You can use it as you see fit and we will play it by the ear, but I'd definitely like to see it used to
1) suggest new links
2) start discussions about items I've sent.

Let me know what you think, and speak soon.

Till next week,
Giuseppe
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Open Units
Dan Winchester, an open data veteran and entrepreneur whose work I covered in my report about community open data, has released a dataset called Open Units. It contains the units of alcohol in over 1,000 branded alcoholic drinks in a range of standard servings. "For example, one pint of Camden Pale Ale (2.3 units), or a 335ml bottle of Brooklyn Lager (1.8 units)." 
This data, which can be freely used, is useful because government guidelines on low risk alcohol consumption are issued by the Chief Medical Officer in terms of units, whilst the public tend to think in terms of brands/packaging/ABV. Excellent work!
 

A Street Near You
A Street Near You is a map-based website to explore the local legacy of the First World War through photos and other documents. James Morley, its developer, says that he wanted "to demonstrate the potential of combining and enhancing large datasets focused on the First World War".
It's a poignant use of data at its best: data that tells the stories of people long gone. James has also written an excellent blog post telling how the website went viral and the issues he faced to keep it online.
 

How diverse the new United States' leadership really is
"The United States is a racially and ethnically diverse nation of 330 million people. But when looking at the country's elected officials, as well as the Supreme Court and President Donald Trump’s cabinet, one thing stands out - most are still white men."
An interactive article by Al Jazeera.
 

Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive?
'In 1977, the great computer scientist Donald Knuth published a paper called The Complexity of Songs, which is basically one long joke about the repetitive lyrics of newfangled music (example quote: "the advent of modern drugs has led to demands for still less memory, and the ultimate improvement of Theorem 1 has consequently just been announced").' I'm going to try to test this hypothesis with data. 
Complete with outstanding visualizations, this article uses compression ratios to measure repetition.
 
Big data at sea: How the Royal Navy charts the world's oceans
This is a short article that explains how the UK Hydrographic Office and the Royal Navy chart the bottom of oceans. It's more useful than you'd first think.
(via Matteo Moschella)
 

Open Access UK
"Released by Transparency International, Open Access UK is a central hub that allows you to understand who is meeting for government, when and for what purpose. The platform allows you to search, rank and filter the information in an intuitive way." 
The original data comes from the UK Government, but Transparency International has collated it from a variety of sources and made it searchable.
 

30 Years of American Anxieties
"What 20,000 letters to an advice columnist tell us about what—and who—concerns us most."
Another highly visual essay from The Pudding.
 

Most Stressed States
On a vaguely related note, "one interesting bit of data analysis looks at an aggregate level to understand how stress differs from state to state depending on specific economic, demographic and other geographic factors."
(via Fair Warning)
 

What Can Satellite Imagery Tell Us About Obesity in Cities?
From the Smithsonian Magazine, this short article tells how researchers at the University of Washington are using AI on satellite imagery in conjunction with obesity data to highlight which urban features might influence a city’s obesity rate. "If there’s no sidewalk you’re less likely to go out walking", basically.
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"In other news" is sponsored by ProofRed, who offer an excellent proofreading service. If you need high-quality copy editing or proofreading, head to www.proofred.co.uk. Oh, they also make really good explainer videos.
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