KNC12 DATA | DATAFRAME: Distributed data journalism microwork | Knight News Challenge 2012

One of my entries for the Knight News Challenge: Data.

DATAFRAME | Distributed data journalism microwork

1. What do you propose to do? [20 words]
DataFrame is a platform or framework that lets people help journalists process large datasets through microwork.

2. How will your project make data more useful? [50 words]
Journalists often have to scrub, mine, highlight, cherry-pick, search for patterns and correlations, and perform other labour-intensive tasks on large data sets. DataFrame will farm out small chunks of data to the public to process, and thereby increase the speed and quality of news it generates.

3. How is your project different from what already exists? [30 words]
Other examples of this kind of microwork involve specialized, dedicated tasks, such as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence or protein folding. DataFrame would enable more differentiated, low-load tasks for news.

4. Why will it work? [100 words]
The distributed microwork model has been proven over and over again in multiple instances, as noted above, as well as in journalism. The Guardian’s MP expenses investigation is a recent example. People like to contribute to a public good, especially when it takes minimal effort, and especially when they can make a game of it with peers.

5. Who is working on it? [100 words]
Saleem Khan: Project leader, journalist [editor and reporter, ex- CBC, Metro International, Toronto Star newspapers; chairman/director, Canadian Association of Journalists]; advisor, University of Toronto ThingTank Lab [Faculty of Information]; founder,


  • K. Khan: User experience strategist and designer, OCAD University sLab advisor; leader of UXI, Canada’s largest UX professionals group
  • M. Saniga, CA: President and co-founder, near-realtime business intelligence/data insight generation software firm Quant Inc.; former finance director and manager at Cara, Dell.
  • G. Szeto: Software interface designer/strategist for financial and geopolitical risk intelligence sectors, Fellow at the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College.

6. What part of the project have you already built? [100 words]
DataFrame is in the concept phase and is gathering feedback and insights on the plan from experts and ordinary citizens alike. A paper/visual prototype and Web-based mock-up are the next steps.

7. How would you use News Challenge funds? [50 words]
Funding will be applied to building a small, dedicated team to rapidly progress from prototype to product, and attendant costs.

8. How would you sustain the project after the funding expires? [50 words]
Once the product is developed, maintenance costs should be minimal. The project would follow a freemium model, with larger news organizations paying for a licence, pay-per-use or volume fee schedule. DataFrame would also pursue angel or venture investment and additional grant funding. Ancillary merchandise will also be offered for sale to users.

Requested amount: $190,000
Expected number of months to complete project: 12
Total Project Cost: $250,000
Name: Saleem Khan
Twitter: @saleemkhan
Email address [optional]:
Organization: Technovica
City: Toronto
Country: Canada
How did you learn about the contest? I have been following and participating in the Knight News Challenge for years.

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