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Smarter interactive web projects with Google spreadsheets and Tabletop.js

Using tabletop.js, one editor and two researcher, presenter Tasneem Raja of Mother Jones got the remarkable 47% graphic online for Mother Jones in under five hours. If that’s not reason enough for you to try tabletop.js, consider this: Raja says Tabletop has been an absolute “game changer” for the Mother Jones newsroom. 

Think of tabletop.js as a javascript library that gives legs to spreadsheets. For now, Raja has settled on a simple protocol to deploy it: Reporters populate a Google spreadsheet with data that can include text, links, images or videos. Once it’s fact-checked, the spreadsheet is “published to the web” with a couple clicks in a drop-down menu. Raja writes streamlined tabletop.js code, directing it to “suck the data out of the spreadsheet and put it on a page.”

Aside from the advantage of cleaner, more nimble coding this tabletop-spreadsheet loop enables, Raja has become a convert to the process for the added benefits of getting reporters to use Google spreadsheets as a repository for their reporting.

“Everything is data and everything that’s data can be structured,” Raja says. The tabletop.js-Google spreadsheet loop has helped illustrate this point to reporters. It’s fundamentally changed the way the newsroom conceptualizes information. And it’s been used for some darn fine graphical storytelling in the process.

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