Weeknotes #27, June 16th, 2023

We've made lots of progress on the JRF project in the last 2 weeks! Last Thursday we had JRF in the Gather all day, filling up all the whiteboards with thoughts and decisions. Among many ideas about what will be on the site and how users will interact with it, we came up with the idea of having several "spotlights" which would focus on key concepts (e.g. economic insecurity), rather than one place or dataset.

This week Christian, Giles and Luke (virtually) met Connected by Data, who have worked on ecosystem mapping for JRF's insight infrastructure. We discussed what Connected by Data had learned and found that we should adopt a "Question first" approach. This means the site we are building should help people define the questions they are trying to ask before digging into the data. People want to know what questions are possible to answer with the tool before being faced with graphs and charts. We also discussed how different organisations should be involved, and know this will be linked to our idea of a geographical mapping of data; what organisations exist in a given ward, local authority, or county? Where do they operate? What datasets are available for the area? We know that some of these ideas are outside the scope of the current project, but they're worth thinking about now so we build a tool with the flexibility for them to be added later.

Luke has been wrestling with the DWP's statXplore API for quite a few weeks now, writing code to automatically harvest everything (yes, everything!). We are at a point where it should all work, and we want to start pulling data from the Houses Below Average Income dataset, as this is key to JRF's poverty analysis. Typically, this is the one dataset where there are issues. We believe there is an error with the statXplore API, and last week Luke wrote them an email detailing the problem. They have replied and said they are looking into it, although they have a "small" team. Hopefully, they can fix it soon so we can crack on!

Stuart has been adding to the capabilities of our mapping visualisations in OI Lume Charts to allow for several different map projections. Until now we've only had Web Mercator (the layout used by things like Open Street Map and Google Maps) so that it matches the look of our zoomable maps. However - as with all projections that aren't 3D globes - there are valid criticisms of Mercator as it makes things nearer the Poles look much larger than things nearer the equator and that can bias our perceptions. By allowing a variety of projections, we can do a better job with specific visualiations. So far we've incluced Aitoff (an oval Earth), Equirectangular (a rectangular Earth), Gall-Peters (a rectangular Earth that attempts to preserve area whilst distorting shapes), and Orthographic (like viewing the Earth from space). It would be relatively straightforward to add more projections in the future. Let us know if you have ones you'd like us to support.

We've updated our assessment of the emissions due to UK local authority homepages. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (5.19g of CO2 per visit) has jumped to the top of the list of highest emissions mostly because they have included a raw 17MB image in a news item box.