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13 Things We Learned at SoDAPop’s First Meetup

November 8th, 2013 by andresmh
SoDaPop had its first formal meetup on Nov 7. More than 60 people attended to talk about social data and action. People from academia, industry, startups, news media, and government showed up. There were also 8 ignite presentations, wine, cheese, and a lot of fun. The organizers, who came from FUSE Labs and UW, included: Shelly FarnhamRobert MasonDavid McDonaldJoshua Blumenstock, and Andres Monroy-HernandezHere are 13 things we learned from this lively and multidisciplinary gathering. 
1. The word “voluntweeters,” and how to become one
Twitter / sodapoping: .@katestarbird talks about ...
We learned the word voluntweeters from Kate Starbird who coined the term when studying the Haiti Earthquake of 2010. She and her colleagues discovered volunteers on Twitter (voluntweeters!) who organized themselves to help emergency organizations. Kate is now exploring ways of designing for emergence and investigating how people used social media during the Boston Marathon Bombings.
2. Where to get open data about the Pacific Northwest
We learned from Seth Vincent that is a new place where people can find open civic data resources in the Pacific Northwest. so he’s deep in the midst of civic hacking and civic data. Prof. Sean Munson knew about this resource though, and has been using it with his students at UW’s HCDE.


3. People prefer email and SMS to connect with the city
Twitter / sodapoping: David Keyes reports 37% non-users ...
We learned from David Keyes from the City of Seattle, that many people in Seattle are not on Facebook (34% to be precise) and many more are not on Twitter. Furthermore, David also mentioned that according to surveys they’ve done, Seattleites’ favorite method to receive information from the city is email, and SMS for urgent information, especially among young people (69% for people between 19 and 25).


4. Happiness is unevenly distributed in the city
Twitter / rachelnixon: @luisustain showing different ...
We learned from Luis Borrero about the power of overlaying urban data on top of maps. He showed the map above with the geographic distribution of happiness indicators on each of the neighborhoods of Seattle. Luis is working on a really cool system called DR-I-VE: a visual data discovery tool.


5. Beatiful scatterplots are good storytellers
Twitter / diginclusion: Longitudinal scatter plot to ...
We learned from Robert Kosara of Tableau about the importance of storytelling with data. Robert said that data should tell a story, leading you thru, pacing info, and keeping focus. He showed good examples, such as the a longitudinal scatter plot that tell a story of driving safety, and bad ones like a cryptic data visualization of causes of death. Robert also tell us that it is justifiable to embellish these data-driven stories.


6. Data wrangling is the elephant in the room. Trifacta is out to kill it.
We learned from Jeff Heer of UW that the elephant in a room full of data scientists is the fact that people spend ridiculous amounts of time massaging data to get it to fit into tools like R or Tableau. His research group has created Wrangler, a tool to turn anyone into a professional data masseuse. They are turning this project into a startup called Trifacta.


7. Democrats love data
Twitter / sodapoping: .@robdolin: tests the audience ...
We learned from Rob Dolin how the Washington Democrats are making use of data and social media. He mentioned a voter database called VoteBuilder that democrats across the US are using to make data-driven decisions. He also described how they are giving away hosting services for democrats to host blogs and trying to amplify and endorse progressive candidates and causes. Rob quizzed the audience on their political knowledge and showed how much information voters are missing.


8. Neighbors don’t talk much on social media… yet
Twitter / sodapoping: .@shellyshelly describing ...
We learned from Shelly Farnham about neighbors’ existing communication practices. One the findings is that most people rely on low-tech or no-tech to communicate with their neighbors. That said, there’s a space for experimenting with new platforms to connect via online third places like Twitter using tools like Whooly.


9. Masking tape is the best name tag
We learned that Bob Mason can come up with resourceful solution to the last minute realization that there were no name tags: masking tape!


10. Seattle has its own Wikipedia
We also learned from Seth Vincent that Seattle has its own Wiki, which, he said, it’s open to have articles written even for awesome graffiti in the city.


11. Barriers beyond access
David Keyes also reminded us about digital inclusion across language. He mentioned that 21% of Seattle households speak a language other than English.


12. All disasters are “social”
Also, from Kate Starbird, we learned that, despite what some journalists might want to tell you, Hurricane Sandy was not the first “social” disaster. Kate argues that all disasters are social by nature. Furthermore, she’s been studying social media use in disasters as the 2009 Red River Flood.


13. SoDaPop needs you!
We learned from everyone’s background as people got to introduce themselves. Here are the notes from Rob Dolin who tried to capture everyone’s names and their affiliations. Institutions included University of Washington (HCDE, iSchool, Computer Science), Tableau, Dr-i-ve, Seattle Times, Carnegie Mellon, University of British Columbia, Stanford, Bing, MSN, Microsoft Research, FUSE Labs. The organizers are looking for more people to join the organizing committee from startups, design organizations, and others.
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