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Data Viz News [22]

Just in case you had a hard time keeping up with the latest news and articles, we have them all here.

August 31, 2013

With the specter of imminent international military intervention in Syria, it’s hard to say that there was a ‘significant’ news in the data visualization field during this week. We’ve already mentioned the hacking of the New York Times website on a previous post that also featured several interactive maps showing the developments in the Middle East region, and if the attack really happens, no doubt there will be a lot more to talk about – and visualize.

So lets move on this week’s recommended links, now with a brand new category added, Cartography – for all the interesting articles and blog post we see being published every week about maps, GIS technology and everything else related to cartographic explorations, besides, of course, the weekly round-up with the latest released interactive maps that we already publish.

With more than 40 fresh links, we hope you’ll find this list of reads useful and inspiring, and let us know what we missed in the comments section or on Twitter.


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

After more than 5 years of writing and growing as an independent blog, The Monkey Cage is going to become part of the Washington Post. The team behind the blog  see this as an opportunity both to increase and broaden their audience as well as their content, and more details about this move will soon be available.

The Chrome browser extension Storyful MultiSearch allows you to enter a keyword and search Twitter, Twitter videos, Twitter images, YouTube and Spokeo. It was developed by Storyful, which has clients such as The New York Times, Google, Channel 4 News, ABC, France24, Reuters and Bloomberg, and it will be officially launched on September, 3rd.

Tableau just released a new version for Tableau 8. In the 8.0.4 version, new capabilities added include support for connecting to EXASOL EXASolution data sources, to Cloudera HiveServer2, to MapR HiveServer2 and support for connecting to Hortonworks HiveServer2. It also corrects some issues that were reported in prior releases of both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server.

Another major update announced, this time in Datawrapper – the open-source tool that was developed by ABZV, a German training institution for newspaper journalists. In Datawrapper 1.5. you’ll see that the chart editor was redesigned, the chart display was otpimized and also a few tweaks in data editing and per-column formatting, just to name a few changes.

As incredible as it sounds, ZMap is an open-source method that allows to scan the entire Internet in less than an hour. According to the report by Luisa Rollenhagen, ZMap manages to survey every IP address on the Internet- a process that usually can take months – in about 45 minutes, all from a single machine, while approaching incredible speed. Here’s the explanatory video:



A selection of recent articles published by experts in data visualization.

This is the new article by Alberto Cairo for Peachpit – the publisher of The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization. Here, Alberto talks about the challenges faced by small data visualization and visual communication teams in the ‘Big Data Era’, leaving a couple of important recommendations.

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned Robert Kosara’s “The Golden Age of Information Graphics“, in which he talks about the beautiful Chart of Electromagnetic Radiations (1944) – “the kind of poster or magazine fold-out that was fairly common during the golden age of information graphics, from the 1940s (if not earlier) to the early 1990s.” – and asks why did this “meticulous, well-researched, information-rich graphics” turned in today’s ‘infographics’. Now, Kaiser Fung gives his contribution on this topic, leaving his list of reasons for that and bridging it with today’s corporate reality.

Nathan Yau, who is himself a PhD in statistics, shares Jerzy Wieczorek´s explanation about the usefulness of a master’s degree in statistics, and points out that this is a field that will help you a lot if you want to learn data – whether it’s for analysis, visualization, journalism or any other area of expertise.

In this article, Steve Spiker – the Director of Research & Technology at the Urban Strategies Council and a co-founder of OpenOakland -, outlines the importance of involving the data partners in the entire planning process inside organizations, and the benefits that will outcome of that involvement, especially in research projects.



Ranging from ancient charts to modern digital cartography and GIS technology, here you’ll find the best links of the week:

Using LittleBird to track the top influencers in the geospatial community, the folks at OpenGeo pulled together this list, which is available as a Google Docs spreadsheet, in case you want to play with the data.

The folks at Map Lab asked their Twitter followers for the best books about maps and built this list, which is a work in progress, already with great recommendations, including in the comments section.

Written by Alan Palazzolo, this post looks at Simple Map D3 and Tulip, tools developed by Alan himself to facilitate the task of creating choropleth maps.

After reading the recent book by Stefan Ekman, Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings (Wesleyan University Press, 2013), Jonathan Crowe shares his view on the topic, emphasizing the clear differences between fantasy maps and real-world maps, and analyzing an example of modern fantasy cartography, the map of the western part of Middle-earth, found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

The Bay Area BikeShare program is now the only major bikeshare currently operating on the West Coast, and Allison McCartney took the opportunity to talk about several recent visualization projects that track and map information regarding bicycle use in several cities and countries.

The characteristics of Information Maps are the center topic of this post by Bern Szukalski, pinpointing the differences between them and ‘story maps’, which are currently becoming more and more popular.

While many story maps convey important information, there’s another collection of maps that combines configurable templates, sharing, media, live feeds, and more into “purpose built” maps that deliver specific, and more importantly, authoritative and reliable information including live feeds.


Just released by Keir Clarke, the Google Maps Developer Resources is a page of useful links for developers who use the Google Maps API. And we can’t wait for the Tutorial Page!

This fabulous “cheat sheet for doing cartography” has 50 questions answered by Gretchen Peterson, covering her personal views on several issues – “Is cartography dead?”, for instances – and precious tips that will help those interested in creating maps.

Today’s fishermen want maps that accurately depict present-day lake bottoms and shorelines. The answer for several makers of digital maps is to survey lakes with boats equipped to continuously geo-reference GPS positions with sonar soundings, and in this article, Allan Tarvid talks about the different alternatives available and the work being done in this field.

An amazing paper that provides a brief introduction to aesthetics and its relationship with cartographic design. Written by Alexander J. Kent, Kenneth Field, Bernhard Jenny and Anja Hopfstock, it focus on providing some concise definitions for the benefit of practicing mapmakers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the concept of aesthetics.

Another guest post by the OKCon 2013 speakers, this one by Javier de la Torre, co-founder and CEO of Vizzuality, and Andrew Hill, the company’s senior scientist. They talk about the PLUTO dataset and the set of visualizations they created using that data.

PLUTO dataset visualizations by Andrew Hill
PLUTO dataset visualizations by Andrew Hill



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

Data Dredger, a space where Kenyan journalists can mine data that is packaged in an user friendly manner, ready to be used in storytelling, began by using data from The Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), but it also hosts data downloaded from the Kenya Demographic Health Surveys. Dorothy Otieno, data journalism trainer at Internews in Kenya, shares a bit of the history and accomplishments of that project.

A brief overview of the evolving field of data journalism, posted by Hal Goodtree from CaryCitizen. He also shared a list of links that he collected for his workshop on data journalism.

Lars Damgaard, Sociologist and information architect, gives his opinion on the “Snow Fall trend” in digital journalism, with its “fullscreen images, elegant use of good typography, chaptered navigation, odd grids and fancy microinteractions”. (In case you missed it, we’ve recently brought to you several projects influenced by the ward-winning NYT special report).

This is obviously a matter of personal taste, but I still see some general challenges in this way of presenting digital journalism: it’s difficult to actually read the story, because it’s the details surrounding the words and not the words themselves that get the attention. The user experience is good , but the reading experience is bad.


Rachel Clarke, a senior editor at CNN Digital, wanted to do something special to look at the change and progress made in America since the March on Washington, 50 years ago. By teaming up researchers and producers with visual designers and artists, they managed to create animated data visualizations with Vine, as we can see on Jon Salm blog post for



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

Evan Levy, a partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting, talks about all of the attention that the world of Data Science has received lately, and what should be taken in consideration when building a team that can cover the various roles that are necessary to support a Data Science initiative.

Following a previous article published in his blog, Tony Cosentino talks about the three key trends for Discovery Analytics – where visual analytics and data discovery combine together to meet the business and analyst needs.

The Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Times R&D Lab, Sinan Aral, alongside the Times’ R&D team, is documenting every tweet, retweet, and click on every shortened URL from Twitter and Facebook that points back to New York Times content, and then combining that with the browsing logs of what those users do when they land at the Times. This project is a relative of the widely noted Cascade project, and Sinan shares some screenshots of three visualizations that show cascades of the tweets and retweets as lines and dots about three different Times articles over time.

The concept of “Customer Small Data” is explained in this post by Balakrishna Narasimhan, leads solution marketing for Appirio. According to him, “companies and management gurus are focusing on how all the data that customers are producing about themselves can be turned into models that then serve up the right content, offers and pricing”, something that is necessary but doesn’t lead to interaction.

An interesting example on how to promote data visualization inside a corporate environment. Angie Ficek explains how through some informal data viz meetings once a month over the lunch hour, PDA Inc is building an overall collective understanding of the bet practises around data visualization

There are an infinite amount of questions that can be asked regarding data, all depending on the type of data, the source of the data, the volume, variety and veracity of the data, but also the type of organisation and the use case that you want to develop. The founder of, Mark van Rijmenam, shares his thoughts on this topic.



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

Sandra Rendgen interviewd Jer Thorp about his latest project for Scientific American, as well as the role of ‘stroytelling’ in visualisation and the The Office of Creative Research‘s team approach to dealing with data itself.

Connie Malamed talked with Alberto Cairo on her latest ELC podcast episode. Among the topics discussed, the real purpose of infographics, the questions to to ask yourself when planning an visualization and several tips and tools to better understand the principles of information design.

Our latest exclusive interview was with brazilian infographic designer Luiz Iria, in which he talks about his illustrious career, the current state of visual journalism and the new challenges ahead.

Our interview with infographic designer Luiz Iria



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

Closing his ‘Subtleties of Color’ series of posts, Robert Simmon, a data visualizer and designer for NASA’s Earth Observatory, leaves a list of tools that help designers – and everyone working on visual representation of information – to avoid common mistakes with the use of colors.

In this post, Excel expert Purna Duggirala offers some simple, basic, but so many times forgotten, rules for making bar and column charts.

A selection of notes about Andy Kirk’s book, Data Visualization – A Successful Design Process, by Miguel A. Barbosa on his recently launched website Data Versed.

A new tutorial posted at Visible Data about responsive data visualization. This time, you’ll find a list of steps to create a responsive bar chart.

A comparison of three wide-spread but very different JavaScript libraries, to see how they cope with big data and real-time visualization. Posted by Igor Zalutsky.

Here’s a huge selection of tools, made by the folks at Divine Project, They compiled a set of 100 platforms, apps, and software that simplify web site development greatly, and that can be useful for those developing data visualizations for the Internet.

The slides from the Facebook talk at #TCCEU13, conducted by Namit Raisurana and Andy Krielbel, titled “Creating a culture of data…and making everyone an analyst in the process”.

Creating a culture of data



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

One of the most antecipated events of the year, the Ars Electronica Festival will take place once again in the city of Linz. All the details here.

Ars Electronica Festival


A five day event involving exclusive & selected Masterclasses & Keynote speakers from various academic & artistic disciplines. It will be held in Wellington, New Zealand and you can get all the details here.

International Visual methods Conference


Time to end another Data Viz News. As always, 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.