ALGORITHM TIPS | BUYER POWER AND SUPPLIER WAGES
PAVEMENT, NURSING, MISSILES
Algorithm Tips, a compilation of "potentially newsworthy algorithms" for journalists and researchers
DANIEL TRIELLI, JENNIFER STARK, and NICK DIAKOPOLOUS and Northwestern’s Computational Journalism Lab created this searchable, non-comprehensive list of algorithms in use at the federal, state, and local levels. The “Methodology” page explains the data-scraping process, then the criteria for inclusion:
“We formulated questions to evaluate the potential newsworthiness of each algorithm:
Can this algorithm have a negative impact if used inappropriately?
Can this algorithm raise controversy if adopted?
Is the application of this algorithm surprising?
Does this algorithm privilege or harm a specific subset of people?
Does the algorithm have the potential of affecting a large population or section of the economy?
If the answers for any of these questions were 'yes', the algorithm could be included on the list."
Link. The list includes a huge range of applications, from a Forest Service algorithmic ranking of invasive plants, to an intelligence project meant to discover “significant societal events” from public data—and pavement, nursing, and missiles too.
- Nick Diakopolous also wrote a guide for journalists on investigating algorithms: “Auditing algorithms is not for the faint of heart. Information deficits limit an auditor’s ability to sometimes even know where to start, what to ask for, how to interpret results, and how to explain the patterns they’re seeing in an algorithm’s behavior. There is also the challenge of knowing and defining what’s expected of an algorithm, and how those expectations may vary across contexts.” Link.
- The guide is a chapter from the upcoming Data Journalism Handbook. One of the partner organizations behind the guide has a website of advice and stories from the data-reporting trenches, such as this on trying to figure out prescription drug deaths: “The FDA literally found three different ways to spell ASCII. This was a sign of future surprises.”