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Making Collaborative Data Projects Easier: Our New Tool, Collaborate, Is Here

We’re open-sourcing our collaborative reporting software so that newsrooms can work together around large datasets.

Haisam Hussein for ProPublica

On Wednesday, we’re launching a beta test of a new software tool. It’s called Collaborate, and it makes it possible for multiple newsrooms to work together on data projects.

Collaborations are a major part of ProPublica’s approach to journalism, and in the past few years we’ve run several large-scale collaborative projects, including Electionland and Documenting Hate. Along the way, we’ve created software to manage and share the large pools of data used by our hundreds of newsrooms partners. As part of a Google News Initiative grant this year, we’ve beefed up that software and made it open source so that anybody can use it.

Collaborate allows newsrooms to work together around any large shared dataset, especially crowdsourced data. In addition to CSV files and spreadsheets, Collaborate supports live connections to Google Sheets and Forms as well as Screendoor, meaning that updates made to your project in those external data sources will be reflected in Collaborate, too. For example, if you’re collecting tips through Google Forms, any new incoming tips will appear in Collaborate as they come in through your form.

Once you’ve added the data to Collaborate, users can:

  • Create users and restrict access to specific projects;
  • Assign “leads” to other reporters or newsrooms;
  • Track progress and keep notes on each data point;
  • Create a contact log with tipsters;
  • Assign labels to individual data points;
  • Redact names;
  • Sort, filter and export the data.

Collaborate is free and open source. We’ve designed it to be easy to set up for most people, even those without a tech background. That said, the project is in beta, and we’re continuing to resolve bugs.

If you are tech savvy, you can find the code for Collaborate on Github, and you’re welcome to fork the code to make your own changes. (We also invite users to submit bugs on Github.)

This new software is part of our efforts to make it easier for newsrooms to work together; last month, we published a guide to data collaborations, which shares our experiences and best practices we’ve learned through working on some of the largest collaborations in news.

Starting this month, we’ll provide virtual trainings about how to use Collaborate and how to plan and launch crowd-powered projects around shared datasets. We hope newsrooms will find the tool useful, and we welcome your feedback.

Get started here.

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