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MinnPost’s new data tool: You are part of the experiment

We’ve added a new tool to our data toolbox, and we want you to give it a test drive.• Minnesota donors to Bachmann in the 3rd quarter• Minnesota donors to Pawlenty in the 3rd quarter• Top donors to Bachmann

Yesterday we added a new tool to the MinnPost data toolbox. It’s called TableSetter and it allows us to publish searchable tables of information. If you’ve ever looked at data in Excel, you know what to do. There is a search box for filtering information and you can click on any column heading to sort the data.

We used TableSetter, a piece of open source goodness created by the good people at ProPublica, to give our readers access to Federal Election Commission data on contributions to the presidential campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

For each candidate, there is a table of top donors and a table of Minnesota-only donors. See donor names, employers, occupations, cities and sates. And see the contribution amount and the date the check was written.

If you used any of these tables when we posted them yesterday, we want to hear about the experience. If you haven’t seen the tables yet, here are links to all four:

I think of things like this in a couple of ways. At the very least, it’s a dynamic way of footnoting our reporting. At best, it empowers our readers to be part of the reporting process. Maybe you see something in the data that our reporter didn’t mention. Or maybe you have a question we really ought to answer.

And speaking more broadly, what kind of data would you like to see us publish using TableSetter? Be as specific or as general as you like, and we’ll see what we can do.

Thanks as always for experimenting with us.