Tamura Fatherree works for the Port of Los Angeles as a Civil Engineering Associate IV. In her off-hours, she volunteers at Hack for LA where she uses her extensive knowledge to work on data-related activities.
How’d you get into data?
I got into data as I became involved with Hack for LA. While volunteering at Hack for LA, I started a project called Food Oasis LA that used a variety of datasets to help people source locations for food. This was one of my first experiences collecting data, cleaning datasets, and learning how to store data. I believe data is a vital component of problem-solving that is often overlooked by non-technical people.
In your opinion, what gives a dataset value?
In my mind, there are three things that give a dataset value – the data needs to be current, it needs to be accurate, and it needs to be relevant. It’s true whether its a dataset or a data visualization. By being current, accurate, and relevant, that lets me know that this data is not only something that I need (relevance), but also something I can use because it will be accurate and up-to-date. On the other hand, if a dataset is old or if the information is outdated, I believe the dataset loses value to the end user.
What issue in Los Angeles do you think has the most potential for a data-driven solution?
Los Angeles is a very large city. I believe we can use data to ensure city government functions at its highest potential in delivering services to residents and visitors. One such problem in Los Angeles that comes to mind is illegal dumping. It’s an issue that plagues our city and has a huge impact on the quality of life in particular neighborhoods where dumping occurs.
Residents can use the 311 service to report this, but what I want to highlight is the action that my councilman takes in posting before and after images to social media platforms. The images come from the LA Sanitation as part of their clean-up process. By tweeting and sharing these images on social media, my councilman is highlighting the consistently good work being done by the LA Sanitation in cleaning these illegal dumpings and is encouraging residents by showing just how quickly these problems get resolved.
Share and walk through an example of your work related to data.
I started a civic tech project called Food Oasis LA (foodoasis.la) with a team from Hack for LA. Our project used a variety of datasets to help people source locations for food. We used a combination of open data from the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, as well as free datasets provided by non-profit and for-profit organizations.
The project collects all the data and visualizes the data on a map so that people all over Los Angeles County can find resources and locations near them currently or in their most frequented areas.
What’s your favorite “data-story”?
In general, I think story maps present data in a non-traditional, yet very interesting way. There is a wonderful story map example called, “Combating Homelessness in LA County.” link
Story maps are awesome because they’re so much more than visiting a GIS map and viewing data points. By introducing narrative components, story maps highlight aspects of the data directly to end users in ways that open-exploration data maps can’t at first-glance.
I find the narrative components of story maps to be very interesting, in a similar way data stories can supplement and provide context to understanding datasets. Similar to data stories, story maps dig deeper into the data and make the data easier to relate.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start using LA Counts datasets to tell their own stories?
I would advise someone to think about how the data will help tell the story they are trying to convey. That being said, the story doesn’t have to be too complicated. I think a lot about how data stories will be accepted by readers and end users. As human attention span narrows, I think we need to get our messages across in simple, yet compelling fashions. Simplicity is often underrated, so I would advise anyone looking to tell data stories to let the data compel the users and to keep the story simple.