On the 28th floor of The New York Times building, there are a team of scientists working for something called the Research and Development Lab (R&D Lab). Though it would be cool if they were working on a more efficient way to get the last bits of peanut butter out of the jar without getting your hand all sticky, they aren’t.
What they are working on is almost as cool though: A data visulization tool called Project Cascade, which analyzes the way stories are shared once they leave the Times.
Project Cascade centers on Twitter and information from the bit.ly link shortener to highlight who shares what and how the stories are being used. According to The Nieman Journalism Lab, the information could potentially change the way news is shared:
The team emphasizes that Project Cascade and its findings won’t necessarily dictate, or even affect, editorial decisions. But they could affect the packaging of stories and the way the Times presents them online. Particularly in a dynamic environment like Twitter, small decisions about presentation of content can have a big effect on how much that content gets shared. And the Times is not alone in thinking about how reporters, for example, should be thinking about and using social networks in their work; best practices can be valuable.
It’s pretty intense and complicated stuff, and it’s good to see the Times putting such an emphasis on social networking. The more it knows the better off it will be.