The more experienced I get in journalism and data work, the more convinced I am that the spreadsheet is the first and best tool for the kind of bespoke, flexible, and iterative data collection and modeling that journalists find themselves having to do -- i.e. building a dataset from scratch.
You can of course counteract this with a quote or with formatting, but you have to remember to do this consistently.
I understand why they do it for a spread sheet: It is optimized for calculating. But this tendency makes excel untrustworthy for general processing.
Of course, all the aforementioned issues with excel can be avoided or changed in settings.
Has the pendulum really swung so far to the other side that sheets is the consistently better option? What about keyboard shortcuts and power users?
- Heavy text munging. The builtin regex functions have no equivalent in Excel without dropping down into custom
- Sheets I create for others (especially shared by multiple users) that I know I'll need to maintain and support later on. The access controls, change auditing & revert capabilities, and standardized/centralized execution environment all remove entire classes of support needs and the associated cognitive overhead when triaging issues.
That said, there are certain times I prefer to use Excel.
- Pivot charts are amazing and have no equivalent in Sheets.
- Pivot tables are far more powerful than their Sheets counterpart.
- PowerBI is fantastic (except for the lack of Excel for Mac support. Which can still view the results of PowerBI, but can't do any editing).
- When connecting to internal data sources. Getting access to data sources, for business teams, is a royal pain in the ass. Legitimately so, since it's rare for a business team to have a resource with a technical enough skillset to truly be trusted with direct access to anything. Getting access that's reachable outside of the intranet (where App Script would run) is virtually impossible.
And in response to your comment, Excel is still the de-facto tool for people in analyst and non-technical positions.
The "workbook" path of things like Jupityr is close.
I've always, unwittingly, organised myself via two systems:
That said, the spreadsheet functionality is a different beast altogether. Even though it's the same interface as the tables, it adds an exponential layer of complexity, and separation from how most people view a spreadsheet. It's powerful, but a bit daunting, and I don't see many journalists being able to grok it.
So that's quite amazing.
I was deep into HyperCard at the relevant time.
Mariel Padilla who was a student won a Pulitzer for her help in creating a database as an intern that was essential in keeping track of the 24/7 opioid crisis reporting that the Cincinnati Enquirer was doing.
The story was interesting but not one that is data-driven, like other Times pieces.
The Insider essay was just hype: "Look at me! I'm a software engineer covering a beat! Go me!"
Not to be rude, but I was expecting something more from this story than "I filled up a spreadsheet and talked to someone" :/ maybe I'm missing the point of this story?
In addition, the main story doesn't seem to include of her data.