Love Your Life

Retire Your Servers

By Andy Boyle and Tasneem Raja

Andy Boyle

Chicago Tribune, News Applications Developer

Tasneem Raja

Mother Jones, Interactive Editor


Chicago's Broken Bonds

Mojo Examples

  • Everything is data!
  • Spreadsheet interface
  • Collaborative power


Multivictim shooting incidents in Chicago

Here's The Old Way

Why Can This Be Bad?


Server/data costs

  • 1992: $400,000 for 1 TB
  • 2012: $128 for 1 TB on AWS
  • Dedicated servers: $30,000
  • AWS servers: $50-100ish a month per server

Employee costs

Smarty pants

  • Database administrator(s)
  • Frontend developer(s)
  • Backend developer(s)

And probably someone that knows Java and you have to compete against expensive banks for their talent

But there's a better way

Flat projects!

What's flat mean?

Less employee overhead

You can do it all from your laptop

  • No fancy servers
  • No crazy setup
  • Happy people

What you need

  • Put JS on a page
  • Basic HTML tags
  • Fill out spreadsheets elections

One awesome dude's laptop

More complicated

Put it on a server

  • Refreshes regularly
  • Allows updates
  • How Tribune's Tarbell works

Keeps Your Data

All In One Place

  • Promotes openness

Website won't break

  • $20 for election traffic

Getting started

  • Flying solo?
  • John Keefe and Tabletop.js
  • How Tarbell came about

How quickly do you need data online?

  • Live link to spreadsheet
  • iframe = simple solution

Non-techy newsroom control?

  • Even if they don't need it, they have it!
  • If they need it, they have it!

What You Need

  • AWS Account
  • Plain-text editor
  • Google Drive
  • Put JS/HTML On Website

What To Do Next

  • Talk to your nerds
  • Ask for access
  • Come up with a workflow for yourself

When you wouldn't use this

  • Asking for user input
  • Geospatial queries
  • More than a few thousand data rows


  • Google control
  • Plan on publishing
  • NSA
  • Security



Yell at us

  • @andymboyle,
  • @tasneemraja