Data-visualization duo turns down Knight funding over open source
In a surprising decision, Fernanda Viegas and Martin Watterberg have decided to turn down their recent award in the 2010 Knight News Challenge. The two have made themselves famous with their popular ManyEyes and NameVoyager tools, and again just recently with their Time Flow tool, but when this solution they decided that the copyleft license ( a requirement for all Knight News Challenge winners) wouldn’t work.
Flowing Media’s decision, the company says, doesn’t mean they’re against open-source projects. The team is currently building an open-source tool to help journalists plot data on a timeline. At a Hacks/Hackers event in Cambridge, Viegas and Wattenberg presented their project, Time Flow, to techies and journalists. The journalists in the audience I spoke with appreciated the potential the software has to help reporters find untold stories in data. “In the journalism world, there still aren’t great analytical visualization tools. This is an experiment in that,” Wattenberg explained.
An interesting aside is that if a winner doesn’t want to use CopyLeft license in their product, they can accept the award as an interest-free loan to be paid back. Even that was deemed unsuitable.
So in the meantime, the entire project has been tabled. The developers have plenty of work to do anyway with their new employer (Google), but this whole debacle raises the question of how the Knight News Challenge can create long-term sustainable projects that will transition out of the grant stage and into the independent stage.