Story Idea Backlog
The Pudding team regularly maintains an on-going dump of questions, ideas, datasets, and half-baked thoughts for potential stories, listed below. If any of them excite you, feel free to pitch us your manifestation of the idea. Details here.
We are actively seeking contributors for ideas highlighted in gray.
We have a more vested interest in the production of certain stories. If it has a collab tag, we want to be involved in the creation process. If it has an edit tag, we’re happy to take the backseat and just help guide the story. Ideas without tags are blank canvases—feel free to work on them and then pitch us.
Can new parents afford to take parental leave?
Between the cost of childcare, transportation etc. can new parents afford to go back to work after they have a new child? Worded another way, how much do new parents need to make per hour (per state) to make the return to work financially "worth it"?
Complexity of language in headlines
Inspired by this paper.
Unpaid + pay to play internships
Inspired by this Twitter thread, how many internship postings are either unpaid or require the applicant to pay?
Explaining gun violence
Separating talking points from statistics when it comes to gun violence and exploring its impact in the US visually.
Shel Silverstein markov chain
An homage to the great children's poet, create a visual poem remix using markov chains (eg. Lil’ Silverstein - Where Tha Carter Ends). In the style of his books.
What is adulting?
Look at Twitter (?) to find all the things that people consider to be adulting?
Generative soundtrack of America
Using geographic or geological data to create an actual album / soundtrack to America.
When I was your age
Looking at activities throughout time and how they've changed (eg. going to the movies). Presented through a hybrid of data and documentary.
A story about viral stories. It unlocks more content as certain viral milestones are hit.
Weddings in the US have a lot of traditions. Some are cultural, some are religious. But how many people actually stick to them, and how long have those traditions been around?
Recall and working memory
An interactive explainer about recall ability / working memory.
End of athletic careers
Do athletes have a sharp or slow decline as they get older? Does it vary across sport?
Color temperature explainer
This would take a nerd topic like color temperature and attempt to explain it using social media photos and filters.
Ideal amount of time for comebacks
How much time has passed between when an original movie/tv show aired and its sequel/prequel/remake? What's the ideal amount of time between these two things (i.e., when do you hit "peak nostalgia"?)
What’s a millionaire, anyway?
Examining spending power over the years throughout North America.
Opioid crisis timeline
The history, facts, figures, major players, etc., of the enornmous topic in one interactive timeline.
Which name is going extinct?
Look at the age of names, which could lend itself to predicting which name will go "extinct."
Quantity of media coming at us
Visualizing the amount of emails, headlines, and social media posts that target people daily.
I'm fascinated with the idea of bands who tour like crazy for years before they're signed, particularly in the UK. I want to do a story about one or two of these bands through data. Catfish and the Bottlemen and the 1975 are the examples I always use for this phenomenon.
NOW That’s What I Call Music
2018 was the 20th anniversary and there have been 67 US albums since 1998. The songs included were the most “now” songs when each edition was released, but which album remains the most “now” now?
Black Mamba vs. White Mamba
Kobe Bryant and Diana Taurasi are undoubtedly some of the best to ever play the game of basketball — they even share similar nicknames. This would be a love letter comparing their careers and marking the end of an era. Kobe’s already retired and Taurasi isn’t far out.
Is rock music (really) dead?
Temporal and potentially demographic analysis on if rock music is really dead or if it is going to die or if everything is cyclical.
British Royal Family explainer/deep-dive
I watched The Crown and immediately wanted to do a visual essay on the British Royal Family. There are many angles that could be done with this one: An explainer about succession, a deep-dive into the current family, etc.
New York City subway
What is the best NYC trainline? How does hundred-year-old infrastructure serve the city's needs today? Draw your own trainline?
Is the cover better than the original?
I was watching every BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge and Triple J Like a Version in existence one day to procrastinate, and I truly believed some of those covers were better than the original. Can we quantify this?
Take a debated speech and annotate it. Or commission two people to have a debate and annotate.
The decline of banana in recipes
Apparently bananas were forced upon us by big banana industry. Are people still using recipes with bananas?
Tracking trump on homepages
How often Trump appears on homepage of news sites over time.
Headline grammar optimization
What does the evolution of underlying grammatical structure of headlines look like?
One day of internet the book
Everything published in one day, printed as a book.
The use of marketing words that don't mean anything on packaging labels.
Image analysis of musician's Instagrams
There are some musicians who match different album eras with a very particular image, and they subsequently curate their Instagram to reflect that image. Therefore, when you scroll through their Instagram, you can start to see those "eras" come to life. I think some kind of image analysis would be cool here (a fingerprint, if you will). Working with a photographer/photo expert would be great.
Does style recycle itself?
My mom is always all like “I was wearing that in the ‘80s!” and I’m like 🤷🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️, but does she have a point?
Shows that launch most careers
What TV shows produced the most future stars?
Clutch in the NBA
Who is the cluchest players in basketball?
How has the genre of acts that perform at the mother church of country music changed over time. Are there any other venues so closely associated with a particular type of music that would be good to look at too?
Astronaut.io for Wikipedia
Least viewed wiki pages as a passive experience, kind of like astronaut.io.
The Max Martin mafia
The outsized role of Max Martin and his deciples on the charts. This would also show the various "Max Martins" of each era.
Visualize Stanford traffic stop data
Stanford has released a paper summarizing its findings from the traffic stop dataset. There is an opportunity to visualize this data.
Age of atheletes extending over time
This idea aims to look at whether performance of older atheletes is improving in major sports, potentially due to the improvement in training and medicine.
Words babies say
We don't have an idea yet, but we're looking to build some sort of narrative with this dataset.
What would a truly representational Congress look like?
This idea is from this Kottke link and has been executed a few different ways in the past.
The mixed effects of online diversity training
This idea is based on visualizing this paper.
Longevity of dance fads
Are we ever going to produce another macarena? I feel like dance trends are more frequent and fleeting since social media. Perhaps wedding data as proxy, or quiz.
Visualization of cost of life for millenials
Idea would be to take everything we have around cost of living, incomes for different generations and show how life is different for each range (e.g., difficulty of buying homes, cars, education).
Dynamics of career paths
This is a riff on the NYT project showing the career path of politicians. I think this could be expanded to executives in large companies or other industries.
Hype in annual reports, conference calls, etc.
The idea here is that topics like machine learning, blockchains, AI, and data science are basically the flavors of the week and every company wants to say they are doing them in order to bolster their stock and seem innovative. I want to look at transcripts and documents from large companies to see if this is a thing.
When RegEx denies your application
How RegEx and other methods meant to clean data can exclude people with names that have accents, symbols, or are displayed in a non-English manner (e.g., all caps).
Why men only wear black (and really, really dark gray)
Inspired by this twitter thread, how much of men's fashion is "drab" in color?
How scoring a 10 in gymnastics has gotten harder over time
Inspired by this tweet. "Back in the day", gymnasts were only expected to nail a certain number of skills. As time has gone on, those skills have increased in both number and difficulty. What does this look like?
The rise of darts
What is flossing?
A study of age of person and how they define flossing.
Dig into the cases for various emojis for olds (like us) to show nuance in their meaning
Gender breakdown of how people describe success
An idea from reader Erica Livingston inspired by the NPR Podcast "How I Built This," what is the gender breakdown of people attributing their success to luck or hard work?
Desensitization of the exclamation point
It is being inflated. Related.
When is an artist's best song not it's most popular?
Trying to answer the question in this tweet.
How many people touch grocery store checkout magazines?
CSI grocery store.
Height difference in couples
Has the height delta of male/female couples changing over time?
Are schools abandoning tactile teaching?
Talk to just about any public teacher and they'll tell you that that schools are increasingly focused on liberal arts and common core standards, instead of pratical hands-on learning. How have state curriculums and graduation requirements changed over time?
Women journalist online harassment
The way the public interacts with women journalists is WAY different from males. How can we show this?
The ideal _______ on Pinterest
Pinterest is a HUGE online community (bigger than Twitter or Snapchat). People use it as a mood board for all sorts of things. This would look at photos to determine the ideal wedding/hair/home/tattoo according to what people have pinned.
Artists' fan bases
Do artists' fan bases age with them? Or are they perpetually stuck at the same age?