8/8/2016

Onodo

 

An open source network visualization and analysis tool for non-tech users.

Onodo is a product designed by experienced journalists for non-technical users that haven’t used network mapping tools before. It intends to help journalists tell stories that relate to network connections by providing a simple platform to map, visualize, analyze and communicate these kinds of complex data.

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Behind this tool is Civio Foundation, a Spanish non-for-profit news organization that operates at the intersection of technology and journalism and that was recently awarded with the Best Investigation of the Year (small newsroom) in the DJA 2016 for Medicamentalia, a data-based investigation that was featured on Datadrivenjournalism.net.

Main features

Onodo aims to facilitate the creation of network visualizations with very few steps.  User workshops identified the importance of immediate feedback when building a network, especially for users that are still learning about a network’s most basic concepts. Hence, we implemented split-screen real-time editing in Onodo. Using this feature, changes in the bottom spreadsheet-like component of the editing screen get reflected automatically and in real time in the visualization at the top of the screen. Users can edit the information on the editing interface or import a file and in just two clicks the network will be ready.

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Network data visualizations have been implemented using state of the art visualization libraries, like D3.js 4.0, for optimal performance and aesthetics. Visualizations can be customized to include pictures and descriptions, and different colours, sizes, thicknesses and patterns can be used to dynamically reflect the underlying data.

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Users can also embed visualizations into any website by simply copy-pasting an html code. Additionally, for those interested in graph theory, Onodo includes a network analysis module so that the most important nodes and relations can be highlighted, the distance between any two members calculated, and clusters of tightly connected members visualized.

Technology-wise, Onodo relies on well-known open-source components and libraries; namely, Rails 4.0 as a web framework, PostgreSQL for database work and Backbone.js as the Javascript framework in the browser.

Potential users

While developing Onodo, the Civio team analyzed the needs and suggestions of various target groups like journalists, and especially those who work with data and interactive narratives. If you are working on a story that deals with elites or power relations, Onodo is the tool. For example, Onodo could be used to represent Spain's state attorney promotions.

The team also consulted NGOs and activists that often need to visualize the key players within their fields. You can see for example a map of the sugar lobby in Spain, or the leading international civic tech organizations and their investors (according to this report from the Knight Foundation).

What's next?

User workshops and meetings reveal that the main need for the tool was often to tell a story (of a corruption case, of a family, of an event…) via relations among actors - hence the importance of a narrative layer. Soon users will be able to mark those relationships that will best help them tell a story and, with them, create narrative chapters.

In addition, Civio aims to assist newsrooms, non-profits, activists and anyone interested in working with information networks using Onodo. To do this, aside from tutorials, they will conduct workshops and training activities across Europe. If you are part of an organization interested in hosting a workshop, you can contact the Civio team in writing at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

You can go on a guided tour of Onodo here and start creating your own visualizations of networks hereFollow on Twitter: @Onodo_.

About the author

Javier de Vega holds a degree in Journalism, a Master’s in International Relations and a specialty in Communication and Globalization of Spanish Businesses. He manages all the communication activities of the Civio Foundation and develops specific content for the website, projects and third parties.  He has worked as a corporate communications officer in the Zed Group and in the Office of Economics and Commerce of Spain in Düsseldorf (Germany). With Turespaña and the State Society for the Administration and Innovation of Tourism Technologies, he developed content for the tourism portals in Spain (Spain.info) and the European Travel Commission. His career in journalism began at the León Daily (el Diario de León) in 2001.

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