Media @ McGill

Q&A with Lorenz Matzat, OpenDataCity

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Lorenz Matzat, OpenDataCityInterview by: Frédéric Dubois

Lorenz Matzat is a data person. As an open data activist, he is pushing for the release of government data. He is working as a journalist, media educator and entrepreneur also. Lorenz cofounded OpenDataCity, a datajournalism agency and founded Lokaler, a hyperlocal data products firm. We interviewed him in the lead-up to the Data, Stories & Co. event.

What is your definition of data journalism?

Data journalism is a mix of research and publishing, where datasets play a central role. You find the data and tell something with the datasets that is not obvious at first look - which basically is computer-assisted-reporting (CAR). But data journalism is more; ideally, a data story is published as a combination of an interactive interface of the data and background stories, accompanied by the raw data and where possible, a making-of.

Exactly what is the Rail Monitor?

The Rail Monitor is data journalism in realtime. The application provides you with a view of realtime train traffic in Germany, along with an archive of long distance train delays. Through an API that my company coded, we tell the story of delays on train schedules of the Deutsche Bahn. The statement that we made with that story - which was published in one of Gemany's greatest newspapers - is that Deutsche Bahn - which is a public company - possesses all the data and that it should be the one providing the service. Secondly, we made the point that it could gain efficiency from providing an API and Open Data - because a lot of services could build on that.

What is the Tell-all telephone?

The Tell-all telephone is a story about data retention. We made available six months of mobile phone data of Green party politician Malte Spitz, that he retrieved from German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom. We know that our phones can be seen by others, but until we broke this story, it remained an abstract theme. We represented 36 000 lines of data online, visually. Since people could connect with that, it became an eye-opener, an instant hit. The fact that one could zoom-in and play with the data at will also helped users gain an understanding of the scope of data retention, as well as of what security and police can do with it.

If you want to know more about Lorenz Matzat's practice of data journalism, attend Data, Stories & Co. on September 6 in Montreal. Register now: