5 really cool things we saw on election night

News organizations are pulling out some special efforts for election night. Here’s a handful of the coolest projects we’ve seen.

The WNYC map

“We knew that The New York Times, L.A. Times, The Chicago Tribune — everybody would be doing the red-blue map,” John Keefe, Senior Editor for Data News & Journalism Technology at WNYC, told me Tuesday night. “We thought, what can we offer that would be different?”

The result was this map, which categorizes the vote results by the “community types” designated by the Patchwork Nation project. So at a glance you can see how communities with labels like “military bastions,” “monied ‘burbs,” and “tractor country” are voting.

WNYC developer Steve Melendez built this map mashup with Patchwork Nation community types.

New York Times’ change vector map

Another unique approach to mapping the vote comes from The New York Times. One of the mapping options it provides is this view of how partisan votes shifted in each county from 2008 to 2012. It’s a novel way to see what’s changing around the edges of Red America and Blue America.

One option on The New York Times map shows the change in support from 2008 to 2012. The arrow length indicates the proportional vote shift toward a candidate.

NPR’s Tetris-style dashboard

The NPR dashboard for following election results is great. There’s a blend of information types — the vote count, a visualization of the totals, the live blog of news and the “back channel” Tumblr for entertainment and discussion. But the one feature that really stood out is the Tetris-like falling blocks of electoral votes when each state is called. On Twitter, NPR news app team leader Brian Boyer shared one of the app’s early concept sketches:

Northwestern journalism professor Jeremy Gilbert and student Tyler Fisher paid tribute with a quick browser bookmarklet hack to style the NPR dashboard like an old 8-bit videogame.

The 8-bit hack of the NPR dashboard.

In action: Gilbert shared the backstory with me Tuesday night:

On Friday I was on the phone with Brian Boyer, actually one of my first graduate students, talking about sending a Medill undergraduate to NPR for an internship. As we wound up the conversation he mentioned that he was working on NPR’s election center map. He shared a prototype and we started talking about how the icons of the states reminded him of 8-bit video games. We started riffing back and forth and suddenly I had pledged to help make an 8-bit version of the election center.

Over the weekend I worked with one of my current undergraduates, Tyler Fisher, to build on top of the existing NPR app. Tyler made the MIDI version of hail to the chief and together we rebuilt the CSS. I “pixelated” a bunch of the graphics files but mostly it was a matter of typography and imaging how we were going to get our CSS into the hands of users.

The bookmarklet seemed like a great way to deliver the fun experience. It also [allowed] NPR to be as serious as needs to be for most users, but it can be fun and engaging for those that want it.

Aggregating the calls

So many networks, how can anyone keep up with which states have been called? The New York Times steps up with a web app that charts each network’s stance on the outcome of each state election.

The “network calls” aggregator from The New York Times.

Illustrating the calls

Digital video news startup NowThis News is having some fun announcing its calls of each state on Twitter, using ASCII art or illustrations made up of text characters.

NowThis News tweeting state election calls with text art.

Related: Poynter’s Regina McCombs gathers some interesting elections projects in multimedia and mobile || Earlier: News orgs innovate with election coverage

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  • Anonymous

    A number of journalists in the websphere today have given positive mentions to the election map delivered by WNYC and something called Patchwork Nation (http://www.patchworknation.org/content/patchwork-nation-methodology).

    I can’t speak for the validity of the national map, but I am familiar with the demographics of New Mexico. If you look in the northwest corner of the state, New Mexico’s portion of the 4-Corners region, you see two counties in light purple. They are San Juan County and McKinley County. Roll your mouse over either county and learn they are classified as “Minority Central: Home to large pockets of black residents but a below average percentage of Hispanics and Asians.”

    Hmmmm. National or state average of Hispanics or Asians?

    More importantly, a quick check with multiple demographic resources presents data and conclusions along this line when describing those counties:
    *”51.56% of people are white, 0.58% are black, 0.37% are asian, 36.63% are native american, and 10.85% claim ‘Other’.
    *”19.05% of the people in San Juan County, NM, claim hispanic ethnicity (meaning 80.95% are non-hispanic).” [The Hispanics in New Mexico comprised 46 percent of the total state population, the highest proportion for any state. So, yes, San Juan County is far below the state average.]

    But 0.58% black population doesn’t strike me as a “large pocket” of anything even if they were all living in the same apartment complex.

    In a similar fashion, take a look at Sandoval County, the dark purple county in the northwest quadrant. This is described as a county of “Boomtowns.” Yes, but. The “boom” in Sandoval County is basically confined to the City of Rio Rancho in the southeastern corner of the county, a suburb of Albuquerque. The rest of the county’s growth not so much.

    I haven’t taken the time to look at other counties or states, but these circumstances point out the shortcomings of relying too strongly on county data, especially in the central plains and the West where the area of a county can be large and the populations small or highly concentrated.

    Note, Patchwork Nation says it used “…data …from the 2000 US Census and 2006 estimates of common census items at the county level.” I suspect there is better data around.