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Data Viz News [19]

If you couldn't keep up with the latest data visualization news, articles and resources, here's what you missed.

August 10, 2013

Another week passes and another newspaper changes owner. While the media industry was still getting used to the idea that the Times sold The Boston Globe for a small fraction of what they paid for back in 1993, came the announcement that shocked pretty much everyone: Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos acquired the Washingon Post. Imagine the surprise.

Now, this space is far from being a journalism-only section of Visual Loop, but it’s easy to understand why we give it this kind of attention: besides the amazing team of infographic designers and editors – not to mention the Post’s importance to investigative journalism throughout its history -, the fact that it was “an Internet guy” that made the acquisition may be just the start of a new age for the newspaper industry. Let’s hope so.

This was also a week filled with terrible examples of data visualization (yes, even more than usual), from negative values on pie charts and bar charts that were everything but helpful, to the multi-layered-3D piece of …well, see it here. The data visualization community reacted, as expected, with a mix of disbelief, humor and anger – all leading, ultimately, to the spread of the #WTFViz hashtag on Twitter. Also, it seems that writing about data visualization is becoming a minimalism exercise – at least for some.

But you’ll find much more in this week’s recommended links:



Latest product launches and business announcements, career moves, data visualization competitions and general news.

By far the top news of the week, bringing together reactions from the media, Internet and news industries, all over the world. The deal was closed at $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to The Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses. Amazon had no involvement or role in the acquisition.

A message on Twitter alerted the team at of a bug that was messing up the site’s credits attribution system. The company published a blog post announcing the fix and apologizing for the inconvenience.

One of the most awaited features for all CartoDB users has finally arrived. According to the company’s blog post, “you can start adding legends to all your existing visualizations or add them to new ones in the future.” They also released this video:


Argentinian Government Chief of Staff, Juan Manuel Abal Medina, introduced the National Public Data Portal , a site that is part of the National Program of Public Data System (SINDAP), with the main goal of “making public information available in open formats and under free licenses”. In Spanish (Google Translate link).

It was a busy week for the folks at CartoDB. Another announcement, this time the integration with DropBox. As the company explains, “the process is simple, from your browser you can now explore your Dropbox folders and files and select them for magic import into CartoDB.”

Seattle-based agency Killer Infographics published some numbers of their business, including a 44% revenue growth in the first six months of 2013. According to the press release, “since its boot-strapped start in October 2010, the agency has grown from 2 to 20 employees, and completed over 3,000 projects, with work featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times as well as online at,, Fast Company, Forbes and more.”

After years of nagging by transparency advocates, on July 24 the New York City Department of Finance quietly released its trove of tax lot records, a dataset called MapPLUTO (short for Property Land Use Tax lot Output). Before, users had to pay $300 per borough and agree to a restrictive agreement that prevented them from posting the data online. Andrew Hill’s post about this is also highly recommended.

Ridgewood Land Use map
(Image: Jessie Braden | Pratt Institute)



A selection of recent articles published by experts in data visualization, cartography, business analytics and visual journalism, among other topics.

An excellent overview of the historical evolution of several types of visualizations – a topic we hold dear here on Visual Loop, as many of you already know -, by Manuel Lima, who will soon publish his second book. The first one one, Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, is itself a journey into the history of information design, and we highly recommend it.

In this blog update, Scott B. Weingart talks about an article [preprint] he’ll be presenting at the Universal Decimal Classification Seminar in The Hague.

One more post that looks back at the history of information design, this time by Michael Sandberg, who invites us to learn about Otto Neurath and the Origins of ISOTYPE – something you can complement by reading  The Transformer: Principles of Making Isotype Charts.

Joseph Rickert shares his impressions of Nate Silver‘s talk at the Joint Statistical Meeting in Montreal, that happened between August 3 and 8. Among other insights, Nate mentioned the 11 principles that journalists should take in account when dealing with data.

Data Visualization and Mobile Interaction Designer Dominikus Baur shares what he learned when facing the challenge of revamping the OECD’s Better Life Index, updating it from Flash to HTML5.

The number of Tweets around a particular event or breaking news has become one of the possible – and most used – ways of measuring online conversation. Simon Rogers shows us how some of those major events compare with each other, and why those kinds of comparisons have to take in account the differences between them to really mean something.

In this (long) article, Graham Odds, designer and developer specializing in data visualization, outlines several principles to take in consideration when creating data visualization.

Kim Rees and Dino Citraro, founders of Periscopic, try to go beyond the debate around “infauxgraphics” by proposing “a more accurate, non-pejorative, even appreciative term for them: digital posters”.

“Digital posters are not bad […] Sometimes their implementation is, but poor implementation is a reflection of the crafter, not the craft.”


Jer Thorp on how Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can be used not only to bridge one piece of software to another, but also operate on these data, shifting modes and meaning as information is requested and relayed.

In this post, Nicholas Diakopoulos explains the implications of a a world where algorithms are synthesizing communications that may in some cases run into moral (or legal) considerations. he takes the example of a recent legal victory of a man in Germany, who sued Google over the fact that when you searched for his name, the autocomplete suggestions connected him to “scientology” and “fraud”.

Paolo Ciucarelli continues the series dedicated to present some of the M.Sc Thesis Projects by students of the Master in Communication Design course at Politecnico di Milano, this time with the Project of  Valerio Pellegrini.

Adam Crymble gives his thoughts on the effectiveness of Word Clouds as a visualization tool – something that has been questioned before. He made a little experiment with 4 colleagues (all experts on the criminal trial transcripts of the Old Bailey Online), in which they were asked to look at word cloud of a trial and describe what key information they could tell about the crime.

Infographics about comic books heroes are not something new, especially since Marvel and DC transposed their rivalry to the big screen. But there’s always room for something new, and Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, by Tim Leong, looks like a fun one to get. Maria Popova shared her thoughts and some of infographics in this post.

An inside scoop at one of the latest projects by Jan Willem Tulp: a visual analytics tool that gets a sense of the trends in the Dutch used-car market which allows – a Dutch online marketplace where users can buy and sell practically anything -, to make proper adjustments to the occasion section of their website.



The most recent articles with tips, insights and best practices around data journalism.

One of many articles that succeeded the announcement of the The Washington Post deal. Like many, Larry Magid wonders how Bezos is planning to help transform the Washington Post and the company’s other newspapers he now owns, perhaps in the same way he reinvented retail with Amazon.

According to Mathew Ingram, an experienced journalist and currently a senior writer at GigaOm, there are at least five things Jeff Bezos should do to if he wants to re-energize the Post and “help blaze a trail towards the newspaper of the future”.

Although not directly related to infographics, this piece by Charles Apple is worth the read. In it, Charles alerts for the ethical lapses in the use of photos, following a incredibly absurd case portrayed recently by CNN.

Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, is sharing a Knight Mozilla OpenNews Fellow with Internews.

A month-by-month tale of Laurian Gridinoc‘s experience as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow in 2012. Laurian worked with the BBC News Specials team, and this post shows how intense and fulfilling a Knight-Mozilla Fellowship can be.

One of those data visualization atrocities we mentioned in the introduction was published by the British newspaper The Sun. Simon Roach points out how the newspaper’s bar chart using data from energy supplier power distorts the cost to consumers of renewable energy.



Recent articles related to the wide range of data visualization applications for business analytics, as well as content surrounding the “Big Data” buzz.

‘Big Data’ continues to grow, catching the attention of IT managers and executives at an impressive rhythm. According to CB Insights, “from Hadoop distributors to text mining platforms, private Big Data companies raised $1.28B across 127 deals in the first half of 2013″.

While Strata New York + Hadoop World 2013 is still a few months away, Alistair Croll and the rest of the team are already guessing at what next year’s Santa Clara event will hold. Recently, the team got together to identify some of the hot topics in big data, ubiquitous computing, and new interfaces, and came up with eleven big topics for deeper investigation.

One of the hottest trends in business intelligence today is embedding analytics capabilities into transactional applications. In this article, Drew Robb takes a look at the specific levels of embedded intelligence and the possibilities for manufacturing companies, among others sectors.

Data virtualization can help organizations to extract value from large data volumes efficiently, and perform intelligent caching while minimizing needless replication. Suresh Chandrasekaran, senior vice president at Denodo Technologies, a provider of data virtualization tools, gives an overview of all those benefits.

An interesting trend pointed out by David Smith, Revolution Analytics’ VP of Marketing and Community, using the data available at the Job-tracking site to demonstrate how the demand for R language skills is on the rise, while the number of SAS-related job postings peaked in late 2010 and has been declining steadily since early 2012.



Insights from well-known names in the data visualization field, published during last week.

To try to better understand the invisible array of algorithms that powers Netflix suggestions, Tom Vanderbilt talked with Carlos Gomez-Uribe, VP of product innovation and personalization algorithms, and Xavier Amatriain, engineering director.

Colin Ware is the Director of the Data Visualization Research Lab, part of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire. In this interview with Kristo Lila, he talks about streamline based visualizations, interactive visualization and some of his most well-known projects.

A new series of interviews with data visualization and data analyses experts, by Kaiser Fung. In this first one, he talks with Felix Salmon, currently the finance blogger for Reuters.

The relation between Big Data and astrophysics in a conversation with Dr.Kirk Borne, Professor of Astrophysics and Computational Science in the George Mason University School of Physics, Astronomy, and Computational Sciences (SPACS).

Sean Liddle asked some questions to Infographic designer Raj Kamal – who we had the pleasure to feature on our Portfolio of the Week section, one year ago. He is also a regular presence in our weekly infographic round-up, This is Visual Journalism.

One more interview with Lev Manovich, author of the recently published book Software Takes Command, this time by the folks at the Russian website Look At Me (Google Translate link).

News Exchange’s Matt Cargill speaks to multimedia journalist and Guardian US Interactive editor Gabriel Dance about how interactive news features and data infographics can be used to tell stories to new audiences, and his time at the world’s first iPad-only newspaper, The Daily.



Ranging from tutorials and presentations, to lists of tools and practical guidelines for creating effective data visualizations.

A list compiled by Andy Kirk, with tools, resources and references “for making the pain of working with colour on your visualisation project – navigating through the minefield of theory and seeking inspiration for that elusive creative spark – that bit easier”.

Another selection of tools, this one by Leonard Murphy, who compiled a set of 50 platforms, apps, and software that make data exploration more accessible to those who are not trained statisticians or data scientists.

And our third suggested list comes from Sharon Machlis, at Computerworld. This list was originally published as part of the Computerworld Beginner’s Guide to R but has since been expanded to also include resources for advanced beginner and intermediate users. If you’re just starting out with R, you should first heading to the Beginner’s Guide.

A paper (pdf) authored by Matthew Brehmer and Tamara Munzner proposing a multi-level typology of visualization tasks to address the gap between low-level tasks or interactions and high-level tasks, distinguishing why and how a visualization task is performed, as well as what the task inputs and outputs are.

A quick, yet filled with precious tips, review by Kaiser Fung of a project by the New York Fed visualizing funding and expenditure at NY and NJ schools. You’re invited to contribute with your own opinions and suggestions in the comments section.

Moritz Stefaner was one of the speakers at the European Communication Summit 2013, that took place in Brussels, on the 27th and 28th of June. He just shared the video with his talk.


How to you visualize data happening in real time? This is the central question of Robin Richard‘s presentation that he just posted on SlideShare. (we noticed Slideshare has been having some stability issues, so this presentation may look offline temporarily).



An updated view at the Events Calendar we have available here on Visual Loop.

Data Viz events
(Our updated Events Calendar)


That’s it for another Data Viz News. Like we said before, feel free to let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group or, where we share many of the links mentioned above.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.