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Data Viz News [27]

Dozens of reads for a fully-packed data viz weekend

October 5, 2013

“Government Shutdown”. These two words could very well summarize the past week, with newsrooms across the globe trying to explain how the most powerful nation in the world can simply stop. Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year that started Tuesday as they wrangled over Obamacare, leaving federal coffers short.

Unfortunately, this affects pretty much everyone in the U.S., and those trying to access public data for research will have to look some place else, other than the U.S. Governmental websites. The Pew Research Center has put together a list of the data casualties of the shutdown, and like Nathan Yau said, “Now it’s personal.” But don’t worry, Congress is still getting paid, so everything will be alright.

The week was much more than just that, of course. The world laughed with an employee leaving her job, one of our favorite infographic designers, Richard Johnson, joined the Washington Post’s graphic department, and from the Spanish Chapter of the Society for News Design came the best editorial and infographic work produced in Portugal and Spain, in 2012. We featured some the ÑH10 winners on our This is Visual Journalism round-up – and while you’re at it, check out some of the interactive projects shortlisted for the Online Journalism Awards as well.

And, of course, plenty of fresh articles, resources (including the amazing RAW, from our friends at Density Design) and other interesting reads, for a fully-packed data visualization weekend. Hope you enjoy!


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

This is really not a surprise: Of the ten most widely-read papers in America, not a single title’s editorial board seemed to think that the House GOP caucus was going about things the right way. Jack Mirkinson compiled excerpts from the papers’ editorials on Tuesday and Wednesday to prove it.

Developed by Density Design, Raw is an open web app to create custom vector-based visualizations on top of the amazing D3.js library through a simple interface. You can use it as an open and customizable project (LGPL license), and you can freely download it and modify it. Thanks to Paolo Ciuccarelli for the tip, and congratulations to team behind the tool: Giorgio Caviglia, Giorgio Uboldi, Matteo Azzi and Michele Mauri.

Partial screen capture of the Raw tool
(image: Raw | Density Design


DataKind, the nonprofit that connects social organizations with leading data scientists to solve problems and inform decision-making, will expand their model to more U.S. communities. The plan is supported by $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The winners of The Visualizing Hospital Price Data challenge were announced and we’ve featured some of the entries here and here. The winners received over $30,000 in prizes, and you can browse through the 52 projects here.

Partial screen capture of the interactive gallery Visualizing Hospital Price Data challenge
(image: Visualizing Hospital Price Data challenge online gallery | Visualizing.Org)


Another news that we’ve already talked about here on Visual Loop, as we said in the introduction. Since 2004, the ÑH  recognizes annually the best practices in editorial design from Portugal and Spain, and this year 2.163 works from 56 magazines and newspapers were presented (1.986 in print categories and 177 in digital media), and 169 medals were awarded. However, no gold medal was given in the print infographics category. The full list is here.

Google Analytics Summit contained 14 new product releases, with perhaps the most interesting being the ability to view demographic data. You can now view it for your audience by integrating with DoubleClick. This is new data, and will allow businesses to segment particular visitor groups for the purpose of remarketing, or perhaps to see which products are selling most from a certain age group. The Google Analytics blog has a rundown of all the new features

Also from Google, comes a resource called Analytics Academy, aimed to be a new hub for digital marketers and analysts to stay up-to-date. The site also features free community-based video courses about digital analytics and Google Analytics, like this one:



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

One of the most discussed pieces of the week – at least on Twitter – was this post by Jorge Camões, tackling the issue of the difference is between data visualization and infographics. Jorge came up with a visual approach to illustrate the different ‘groups’, when it comes to the conscious use of design and aesthetics.

Twitter included in its IPO filing a chart of monthly active users, that proved to be another example of misleading data visualization, as reported by Quartz’ David Yanofsky. The flawed Twitter chart appears at the beginning of the filing.

An interesting article by Allison McCartney, with several visualizations of the historical political polarization in the U.S. and its effects throughout time, culminating in the present Government shutdown situation.

With infographics being primarily in English, it’s difficult to know what else is out there. Sean Liddle shared a list of databases and designers form around the world, and was kind enough to mention our work and Visual Loop Brasil.

Rainbow color schemes are “almost always the wrong choice,” Anthony C. Robinson, geography professor at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in an online class on Coursera, which taught students how to use geospatial technologies to map data. Anna Li shares other lessons in this article.

A showcase of 10 interesting infographics and data visualizations that use some different approaches. Includes works by some of the top creators out there, like Moritz Stefaner, Jan Willem Tulp, Stamen Design and JWT Spain.

In this article, Slava Pastukov, a Content Marketing Specialist at Dundas Data Visualization, explains why, when designing data visualizations and dashboards, it’s important to keep color-blinded people in mind to make sure they are seeing the same results as everyone else.

Andy Kirk talks about a new interactive visualization project and week-long accompanying series on global trade issues from Ideas Lab. The tool maps global trade against economic opportunity and quality of life indicators with the purpose of examining the relationship between global trade and social and economic factors within and between countries around the world. Featured on our Digital Cartography round-up.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Visualizing Global Trade
(image: Ideas Laboratory)



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

This map was another one of the ‘virals’ of the week. It illustrates the most visited website in each country, using Alexa data, with a nice vintage look – much like the ones we feature every Monday.

infographic Age of Internet Empires
Age of Internet Empires


Kirk Goldsberry, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis, shares his thoughts on spatial thinking, visualization, contemporary cartography, and the importance they have in modern times. And we didn’t know that, in its 375 years, Harvard has only ever eliminated one entire academic program: the Geography Department in the 1940s.

When talking about data visualization many begin with the assumption that it’s a new thing, freshly formed in this big data era. Visualization is not new, and it’s much older than the “Napoleon’s March” example cited by Edward Tufte as the best information graphic.


A set of ‘Dot Maps’ created by Andy Woodruff, based on data from the City of Boston Election Department. The dots are distributed randomly within populated portions of each precinct based on the census. Together, the maps give an overall picture of the geographic distribution of votes and voters in the election.

Boston election Dot Map by Andy Woodruff
Boston election Dot Map by Andy Woodruff


And another ‘Dot Map’ – they’re really becoming popular – , this one created by Jeff Clark. It shows a single point for every person in the Toronto area, colored by visible minority status. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 46% of the population were foreign-born immigrants and 47% are members of a visible minority.

Toronto Visible Minorities Jeff Clark
(image: Toronto Visible Minorities | Jeff Clark)

An article by Jeppe Strandsbjerg, Associate Professor in the Department of Business and Politics at Copenhagen Business School, focused on the role of cartography in mediating the relationship between humans and their environment.

International Relations, as a discipline, has traditionally been very reluctant to conceptualise space as a central concept for understanding world affairs. This is surprising because IR is an inherently spatial discipline.

This project by Jennifer Maravillas, 71 Square Miles, was all over the Internet as well. Maravillas is working on a map of Brooklyn, but instead of using traditional material, she is compiling it entirely out trash found throughout the borough.



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

In this post well illustrated, Paul Bradshaw shows how to cover a conference speech with Twitter: Fact-checking, contextualising, analysis, images, curation, and engaging with followers.

Gustavo Faleiros talks about the #NoShare tag, one of the proposals included in the Seven Principles for Big Data and Resilience Projects, that we mentioned in last week’s Data Viz News, and why this issue is relevant for journalism.

After reading Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude Steele, Reg Chua bridges the topic with data journalism, alerting for the importance of better understanding all the biases in the data we collect and use.

All data has bias, of course – in terms of what it’s intended to measure, how it was collected and categorized, what it does and doesn’t cover, and so on. And good journalists recognize that, and adjust for it, in the same way that good journalists understand the biases of their sources and adjust for those, too.



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

This socio-linguistic study, published by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University, is the largest analysis of the words we use on Facebook ever undertaken. And the findings are… well, revealing, but nor surprising.

Web companies like Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook live and die by web traffic metrics – even if they’re not the same for everyone. Kaiser Fung looks at this issue, after the Verge published a post comparing some of the top players in the field.

The thought of capturing, analyzing and somehow getting insights from mountains of disparate data can be overwhelming. And not having visual forms of data for decision-making has been a key factor preventing companies from capitalizing on Big Data. Michele Nemschoff shows how data visualization is empowering more and more companies to draw actionable insights from Big Data.



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

Jeff Goertzen shares some of the details behind the Orange County Register’s fantastic infographic series on California Native Americans.

Moviegalaxies is a project of Jermain Kaminski and Michael Schober, social network researchers. They’ve curated 8 visualizations for the latest Experts gallery and talk about the project in this interview with Alexandra Papas.

Moviegalaxies - Social Networks in Movies on Visualizing.Org
Moviegalaxies – Social Networks in Movies on Visualizing.Org



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

Like we mentioned before, this is an up-to-date list of shutdown’s data victims, compiled from agency release schedules and third-party calendars. The first major data casualty was the Census Bureau’s monthly report on construction spending, which was supposed to come out Tuesday.

This Gallery of Data Visualization displays some examples of the Best and Worst of Statistical Graphics, assuming that the contrast may be useful, inform current practice, and provide some pointers to both historical and current work. It ranges from what is arguably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, to the current record-holder for the worst.

A useful collection of some of the best storytelling, data visualization, search and productivity tools and apps for journalists. It was compiled by Sarah Marshall.

In this quick post, Ben Jones suggests 3 book that give a sense of the overall picture of “data viz” : Alberto Cairo‘s The Functional Art, Creating More Effective Graphs, by Naomi Robbins, and the classic Beautiful Visualization, edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky.

Data journalist Jean Abbiateci also prepared a list of useful websites for data-driven journalists, all of which can help to convert your data to CSV, JSON, KML, GEOJSON or TOPOJSON.

cairo_visualization_wheel is a Python script that uses matplotlib to create visualization wheels as seen in Alberto Cairo’s book The Functional Art

In this post, Angela Alcorn shares some tips how to plot a lot of data in Google Spreadsheet in a Google Map – something that should indeed be much more easy and intuitive than it is.

Ember and D3 Interactive Dashboards” is the title of the talk by Sam Selikoff at the Boston D3 Meetup, in which he presented a thoroughly elegant approach to developing Web-based interactive data visualization systems. Curran Kelleher explains what this approach consists of.

The 3rd edition of the EUhackathon took place on the 24h and 25th of September 2013 in Brussels. This 30-hour event with 24-hours coding brought together nearly 30 participants of 13 nationalities to create visualizations about government surveillance. The winners were awarded €5.000.



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

Data Viz calendar
That’s it for another Data Viz News. Let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group and follow us, 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.


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