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James Goldie

Data journalist

in data, journalist, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hey hey! My name is James. I'm a data journalist for 360info, a research-driven newswire.

The bread and butter of my work is data analysis and visualisation. We get a lot of cool and unique datasets on different topics from researchers, so I spend a good chunk of time tidying them up, looking for missed stories in them, and building charts, maps or interactive pieces from them.

We also give all of our stuff away under Creative Commons, so I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make journalists' and editors' lives easier when it comes to using the fancy graphics we make. I get to do a bit of everything in my role, from the infrastructure and strategy down to the pixel-pushing.

In a past life I was a researcher, investigating the changing health impacts of heatwaves with climate change. I still love working on climate change stories!

What hardware do you use?

These days I do most of my work on Macs: a 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro for work, and a 2020 13-inch MacBook Air for side projects.

I also use an 2020 iPad Air with an Apple Pencil 2 quite a lot: I prefer taking handwritten notes for meetings and calls, but I hate losing paper notes, so I write a lot in Apple Notes or OneNote. It's also great for sketching chart or UX ideas - with data vis in particular, people often don't have a great idea of the result you're trying to propose until you sketch it.

I started getting some wrist problems using regular mice a year or two ago, so I carry at Logitech MX Vertical around most of the time. It's ruinously expensive for a mouse, but it can connect to 3 different devices, so I can switch it between my work and play laptops and my gaming PC (which is really just for Destiny at this point, to be honest).

Does cloud infrastructure count as hardware? I've been using Google Colab Pro a bit recently for a machine learning side project. When I was a researcher, I used Gadi, the supercomputer in Canberra, quite a bit for tasks my laptop couldn't handle.

And what software?

R is the language I code in for data analysis most often (although I do use Python from time to time too!). Although RStudio is a fantastic environment for R, I prefer VS Code for my work.

Most of our data vis publishing is currently done with Quarto, which mixes R-style reproducible reports with reactive web programming from Observable. A lot of data vis teams are moving toward Svelte these days, which has a lot of similar concepts, but we get a lot of interns and collaborators with an analysis background, so it's nice to have the flexibility of a stack that is familiar to them with an easy path to more traditional web tooling. That might change in the future, though!

Like a lot of productivity nerds, I bounce around task management apps a lot. I've been using Reclaim a lot lately - the way it drops your task list into your calendar is absolute magic. I'm trying to pare things back a bit, though: just dragging and dropping Google Tasks onto my calendar seems to be enough for most of my needs for now.

For note taking, I mostly use Microsoft OneNote, since the cross-platform handwriting support is about as good as it gets. Now that more of my work is collaborative, though, I try to ensure I'm only handwriting if I really need to: it's hard for other people to use handwritten notes. Obsidian looks nice! Maybe I should migrate everything I ha - no.

As far as other indispensable tools go, 1Password saves my life basically every day. It's the best few bucks a month I spend.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm doing pretty well right now! Like a lot of apartment folks, I learned during the pandemic that I need to touch grass a bit more, so a place with some more natural light and a bigger balcony or a little patch of grass would be lovely. I live and breathe weather data, so a nice little weather station from Australian Geographic would make my heart sing.

Otherwise, all I really want in my life is more gaudy RGB lighting on everything.