It has become a daily online stop for thousands of Alabamians – and the website is not yet a year old.
Bama Tracker was created by Harvest resident David Marconnet to track COVID-19 statistics in Alabama, taking data released by Alabama Dept. of Health and repackaging it in a way that is easy to navigate and understand. It quickly developed a large number of fans, with everyday citizens as well as elected officials, school systems and media following on Twitter. Today the Bama Tracker account has more than 10,000 followers on the platform and also offers a subscriber service where followers can receive a daily email with the COVID-19 statistics for that day.
Marconnet launched the third iteration of the website in January – with expanded data about COVID-19 vaccine efforts. He said that with the new website, “it has been an exercise in finding out what the health department cares about, what the hospitals care about, what people care about.”
Marconnet was not new to this type of data website, although his previous efforts were primarily concentrated in the world of gaming.
“I have always had an interest in data presentation … when the health department put their dashboard out really early – when we first started seeing cases in the state, I saw the data but it looked like they were just going to be putting up numbers on a daily basis, a count with a map but not a lot of historical tracking or anything much deeper,” Marconnet said.
He started to monitor the site and drew on his gaming experience to write some similar scripts and create a rudimentary version of what would become Bama Tracker.
Marconnet said that from the beginning, Bama Tracker was meant to serve as a non-political source of information, and simply “be the data.” He learned early on that as COVID-19 restrictions became a hot-button topic, even a simple tweet to “wear a mask and have a good weekend” would result in angry messages from readers.
“I had people cheering me on and I had people cursing my name,” he said.
Overall, the response to Bama Tracker has been overwhelmingly positive, but also just a bit overwhelming. Marconnet said that he never imagined that media bureaus would contact him for interviews. To date, there have been 16. In December, Marconnet was included among AL.com’s Alabamians Who Made a Difference in 2020. Along with not taking a partisan stance, Marconnet has strived not to influence readers on what to do behaviorally with the data he posts, but that they make the best decision for their personal situations.
His efforts have not just been noticed by in-state readers. Marconnet has been approached by others outside Alabama looking for assistance on how to create similar websites for their states. Some wanted him to build it himself, but between a full-time job as chief technology officer at OneTeam.net and a busy family life, Marconnet said that his plate was full with the new expanded Bama Tracker website.
As for the future of Bama Tracker, Marconnet hopes that as the vaccine becomes widespread and the COVID-19 pandemic moves to the rearview mirror, the website can expand to cover different topics such as weather trends, politics or college football.
“With already having the audience I have, it seems like it would make sense to try to cover something else that is important to Alabama citizens,” Marconnet said. “After COVID, Bama Tracker just tracks other things that hopefully are valuable to people.”
The new Bama Tracker can be found at www.bamatracker.com.