You Need to Hire a Data Geek
-A strong background in computer science is essential. Dealing with information is not easy. The data geek needs to be able to collect the data, which in many cases involves knowing about databases, some networking, and Web programming technologies (XML, HTML, etc.), for a start.
-Statistics and mathematics are part of the game. Your data geek needs to know statistics inside out and backwards, and the software for manipulating them to develop an analysis.
-Data visualization is key. You need data visualization tools that are in equal parts useful and appealing. Your data geek should have an eye for graphs, maps, and charts, with a feel for the right dashboards, scorecards, data mashups, or even Excel workbooks—to generate the right mix of information for the right people.
-A bit of creativity goes a long way. The right data geek will use all the above skills to create new and improve existing ways to increase the return on investment (ROI) of your organization’s BI solutions.
The problem with bringing data to journalism isn’t convincing writers and editors that it’s useful for telling stories; it’s the toil required to get the numbers in a usable format. The data is already there, from federal sentencing figures and unemployment rates by county to minute-by-minute Twitter responses to the Black Eyed Peas’ smoldering wreckage of a Super Bowl halftime show. The problem is that it all looks different. It is compiled by different people using different programs and represented in different formats. As a result, mashing up data isn’t as simple as mashing together two balls of Silly Putty. It’s more like trying to plug a bunch of American appliances into outlets in Tbilisi.