25/5/2012

DJA nominee of the day: Where Are You on the Global Pay Scale?

 

The nominees for the 2012 edition of the Data Journalism Awards (DJA) were announced on 27 April at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. In this series of posts we are featuring the 57 nominated projects one by one in order to tell the story behind each project. Every day we are showcasing a different project from the six categories of the competition.

 

Where are you on the global pay scale? entered the DJA in the category Data-Driven Applications (mobile or web) and was designed to enable readers to see how their wage compares with the average, not just in their own country, but across the world. In difficult economic circumstances issues like pay are very topical and of great concern to millions.

"We’ve found that showing our readers how they fit into a particular story is a great way of re-engaging people with a familiar theme, in this case, one of comparative wealth and poverty around the world. It’s also a very popular type of format. Users were also able to share their result, making the whole app much more social." By showing readers their own wage in comparison to those from more than 70 different nations, people could see that even a relatively modest wage in a developed nation could still be much higher than the world’s average monthly wage of $1,480.

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A simple bar chart was the most efficient visualisation method to display how average wages compare worldwide

The BBC News data team working on this project included specials editor Bella Hurrell, data producer/journalist John Walton, data producer/journalist Adrian Brown, radio producer Ruth Alexander, client-side developer Luke Ward and designer Harjit Kaura. The whole process, from designing, building and checking the application took approximately a week. 

The data sources used for the project came from the UN’s labour body and the International Labour Organisation and covered information they held on average wages released exclusively to the BBC’s radio programme, More or Less. A good knowledge of the subject matter was the starting point to develop the application and further skills required for the work included "a little maths, coding and visualisation. A good understanding of our audience and user experience to deliver something that was simple and effective to use was also helpful." For the part of the project related to design, basic wireframing and knowledge of Adobe Illustrator were essential to create initial designs to be later passed on to a developer. The development tools used were Sublime Text 2 and an array of browsers. The application was built using a mixture of HTML, CSS and Javascript/jQuery, using JSON to store the data object and a little PHP for data transformation.

"Simplicity was the key to our presentation. A straightforward bar chart was used to display average wages around the world. But once a reader entered their data their own wage was added to the graphic, changing an impersonal stat about average wages into something that people could relate to directly," explained the developers also adding that "to keep things simple we only asked two questions of our users before showing them how they compared to the rest of the world’s wage earners. The first was about their country and the second about their pre-tax monthly salary. An article was also used to explain how the figures were calculated and give more context on their significance."

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Users only need to answer two simple questions to see how their individual situation relates to world statistics 

At the time of writing the app had received just short of 3 million page impressions. It has been shared on Facebook and Twitter over 21,000 times. The fact that the app works for so many different nations is part of its appeal. However, these results were not met without challenges. "Initially, it wasn’t clear if we had the time or resource to make the most of the data we’d been given. In addition, finding the space to fit in all 72 countries on the page wasn’t easy. Eventually we settled on an approach that would require the reader to scroll. Although this meant everything wasn’t available in a single screenful, it did have the advantage of conveying the massive differences of average wages from Luxembourg to Tajikistan with a sense of drama."

Advice for aspiring data journalists:

"Never rein in your ambition at the start of a project. Think about the data you have and what you are trying to communicate."

 

The Data Journalism Awards is a Global Editors Network initiative supported by Google and organized in collaboration with the European Journalism Centre. Please visit the Data Journalism Awards website for the full list of nominees.

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