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February 1, 2018

Collaboration Database Tackles Policy Issues

Data collaboration startup released a list of its top data sets and collaboration projects that included journalists’ efforts to trace social media’s influence on the 2016 presidential election and a “Bitcoin Regret Calculator” along with data on federal efforts to address the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The data startup said it ramped up its collaboration platform in 2017 to help users find and organize data on public policy and other issues ranging from fake news to hurricane relief efforts.

Along with data sets on individual nation’s “ecological footprint” and government spending on Medicare Part D drug spending, the platform also helped develop tutorials on business data analytics and visualization tools such as Tableau. The goal of the project was to generate different views for exploring data using Tableau.

Another data visualization project measured ecological resource use and resource capacity since 1961. The result was a “Global Footprint Network” running on the platform that seeks to correlate economic growth based on gross domestic product with consumption of natural resources. The data set included statistics from 2009 to 2013.

Two investigative journalism efforts used the collaborative platform to crunch government data as well as social media engagement metrics in the form of removed Facebook pages. The latter was’s top data set in 2017.

The platform hosted data on Facebook posts from five alleged “foreign influence” opinion sites. The data on removed Facebook pages was pulled together by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “This data sheds light on the larger potential impact of the use of Facebook’s platform beyond a single advertising buy,” Gabriela Swider, a marketing executive with, noted in a blog post. “The work presented here suggests that there was much more widespread exposure of the content from these five closed pages.”

Another journalistic effort hosted on the collaborative platform was a data set obtained during an 18-month investigation by a New Jersey media outlet. The data was turned over by the Office of the State Medical Examiner and served as the basis of a probe into the state’s failure to properly investigate deaths.


A tragic U.S. hurricane season also generated heavy use of data sets by first responders and utilities. Among them was a Hurricane Harvey database of neighborhoods in 39 Texas counties suffering the most property damage. The result was a data visualization map showing the hardest hit areas around Houston. The map also allowed user to hover over individual properties to determine the level of damage.

The hurricane relief database also attracted data set contributions from dozens of community organizations.

Other top data sets included a collection of federal, state and municipal programs addressing U.S. opioid abuse, including prevention and rehabilitation programs. Users are able to search on government grants and other financial assistance and how the funds are being spent.

Meanwhile, a “Coin Metric” database was the second most popular database as users track wild fluctuations in the Bitcoin market over the last year. The resulting visualization also tracked Bitcoin value against other crypto-currencies such as Ethereum.

Founded in 2015, Austin-based has so far raised $32.7 million in two funding rounds, according to the web site Crunchbase.

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