Living with Data and The Decoder launch!

I'm really excited to share that I launched a new series this week with Al Jazeera America, based on my Berkman lunch talk last April about personal data stories. It's called Living with Data.

Launching Living with Data, my new series for Al Jazeera America.

The series consists of two parts: articles about the uses of data all around us, and a regular column—The Decoder—that looks into reader-submitted questions about personal data and algorithmic encounters. I go into the goals and inspiration for the series here: Introducing the Living With Data series

Check out the first in The Decoder series: Stalked by Socks. The Decoder follows a familiar advice or explainer column format. Here's a preview:

Last fall I became seriously creeped out when I was stalked by a pair of socks. I’d looked at them at an online retailer and then they followed me all over the internet, even after I bought a pair from L.L. Bean. And not just ads from the retailer I looked at, the same socks from other retailers also popped up. And different socks, too—new socks that I had not found in my own search for the ideal pair of cotton ragg footwear. I tried to outwit my pursuers and occasionally looked at an item online that I had no real interest in, things like a crossbow and camo clothes from Cabelas. Or motorcycle equipment from a Harley shop. Sure enough, these things began stalking me, too. The whole thing is unsettling. What’s going on? And why don’t these companies respect that I’ve already bought the socks?
— Ebba, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Read more from Stalked by Socks.

I’m really excited to work with Al Jazeera on this project, given their dedication to being “with the people — we tell real stories.”

But I need your help! This series starts with you. Share your personal stories, your questions and your encounters with data.

Do you have screen captures of weird ads or algorithmic flukes? What were you doing, what caught your attention, and what’s your best guess for what’s going on? For example, what sites were you visiting just before the strange ad showed up? Submit with your name (you’ll be anonymous if you prefer), email address and phone number so I can follow up with you for details. 

Email The Decoder at, tweet me @smwat, or submit via the form here. Screen shots and links are helpful clues! 

I am indebted to all my friends and family who helped me get this off the ground with their feedback, brainstorming, connections, and support. Thank you!