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Data Viz News [32]

The finest links and reads for the weekend ahead

November 9, 2013

Twitter’s IPO was arguably one of the top news of the week, and we have to mention it, even if it’s not so data visualization related as , for instances, the announcement of who will be speaking at Tapestry 2014, the reactions to The Guardian’s interactive feature about the NSA scandal or the fresh job openings at Facebook.

Truth is that the micro-blogging platform has evolved to become a key part of our digital lives, beyond the simple concept of ‘tool’ or ‘social network’. If you use it well, it’s like a limitless stream of inspiration and learning, not to mention the amazing people you meet along the way. Congratulations for such a successful IPO, Twitter!

Apart from that, we have the usual round-up of links to articles, interviews, and other resources, covering a wide range of topics, from data journalism and cartography to big data and business analytics. Also, the usual reminder that if you want to revisit some of the best interactive maps, data visualizations and print infographics of the past week, we publish them all on Pinterest as well.

Hope you enjoy!


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

Robert Kosara announced the date and location for next year’s Tapestry conference, that will be taking place in Annapolis, MD, on February 26. After the success of last year, the organization will keep pretty much the same format, but with new key speakers like Alberto Cairo, Aron Pilhofer and Jake Porway. Added to our 2014 Data Viz Calendar.

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned in this space the cancelling of the Perugia International Journalism Festival – the largest media event in Europe. Well, it’s great to see that  Arianna Ciccone and Christopher Potter didn’t give up and launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep the festival alive. Those wishing to donate can do so here. The eighth edition will take place in Perugia from Wednesday 30 April to Sunday 04 May 2014.

Recently, the Open Knowledge Foundation launched the Open Data Index, an interactive tool based on community editor contributions. As Nathan Yau explains, “the index assesses the availability of datasets such as transportation timetables, election results, and legislation, and provides a single-number score. The higher the score is, the more data a government makes available to the public. Of the 70 participating countries, the UK leads the way, followed by the United States and Denmark.”

The popular chart-creation tool Datawrapper is out with a new version: 1.6. Inline editing of chart title, description and labels, quicker navigation through your recent charts or rounding numbers to significant digits are just some of the updates and additions made.

Goo Technologies has announced the launch of Goo Create, a professional platform for high-end web graphics, aimed at helping “regular people” create and publish high-quality 3D graphics using HTML 5, without the need for downloads or plugins. It also offers cloud-based software, available in a browser on any device supporting WebGL in HTML5. Developers interested in trying Goo Create can sign up for the open beta on Goo Technologies’ website.

A brand new data visualization competition at, with up to $17,000 in prizes. This time, they’ve teamed up with Microsoft Research to challenge the data visualization community to create a visualization using the ChronoZoom, API. ChronoZoom it’s an open source project initiated by Microsoft Research and UC Berkeley that enables students to explore, create, and tell stories with timelines directly from within a web browser. More details here.

A great job opportunity, published by Andy Kriebel on VizWzi. Facebook’s Data Warehousing & Reporting team are looking to bring on full-time employees, contract-to-hire, and/or full-time contractors. An overview of the role can be found on Facebook Careers.

And more job openings. Following a trend we’ve seen increasing for the past months, R-bloggers is offering an “R jobs” post, that will be published once every month. This is the first edition, refering to the months of September and October.

Since Tokyo 1964, each edition of the Olympics has depicted the sports on its programme through iconic graphic symbols that reflect the culture of the host nation. Brazil’s Rio 2016 Organising Committee just released their set for the 2016 Games, and for the first time, all Olympic and Paralympic sports are individually represented.

Rio 2016 pictograms
Rio 2016 pictograms



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

Digging in search for examples of classification of chart types, Jorge Camões pull together his own suggestion. And we can’t wait for his upcoming book!

Classification of chart types
(image: Classification of chart types |


A good reminder of one of Tufte’s concepts presented in his book, Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, Disinformation design, by Sheila Pontis.

A nice overview article by Drew Skau, explaining the basic ground rules for effective Data visualization. He covers aspects such as the human visual system, the use of Visual Metaphors and the importance of Visual Context.

Technology reporter John Markoff fell and injured himself while biking in the hills south of San Francisco, and later had no memory of the fall. But his bike did have a GPS device, and that gave an opportunity to Jonathan Corum to diagram his crash for The New York Times. In this post, Jonathan explains how this work was done.

Bryan Connor‘s take on Raw, the new web-based data visualization tool developed by Density Design. He highlights the fact that “Raw’s inclusion of some specialized layouts with sample data also suggests there’s an opportunity for users learn more about visualization simply by playing with the tool.”. We agree!

In the midst of Twitter’s IPO, Paul Ford, a programmer and the creator of, talks about the history and all the technology that it´s behind the newest tech-billionaire company.

The history of Twitter, as it’s been told so far, doesn’t offer a moment where various youngish men rise up from their desks and run naked through San Francisco yelling “Eureka!” It was created, like most things, in meetings. Somewhere in those meetings, Twitter uncovered a latent aspect of human life that had never before been so clearly articulated and turned it into a product that has altered, to various degrees, hundreds of millions of lives.


Now in charge of VizWorld, Dean Meyers shares his thoughts about the one-day “Future of Storytelling” (FoST) event. The conference combined theatrical staged activities and performances, roundtable conversations held in small meeting spaces indoors where 20-30 can gather to share, ideate, and learn, areas to workshop and play at storytelling in different ways, both analog and digital, and, finally, large outdoor gathering places for eating, mulling, and networking.

Andre Behrens recently attended the HTML5 Developer Conference in San Francisco and talks about a few trends he noticed during the presentations.

An introduction by Andy Kirk to the latest release of DataAppeal, that enables users to import their generated 3D data-maps into other 3D modelling and vector-based software programmes, creating the potential for physical 3D prints being made of their data.

A well deserved post by Alberto Cairo, about the work being developed consistently by The Washington Post‘s infographics and multimedia team, after they published Shots heard around the District – a visualization we’ve brought here, together with other interactive maps.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Shots heard around the District
(image: The Washington Post)


The expectation around Tapestry 2014 has led to this post by Ben Jones, who tells us what he enjoyed the most in the first edition of the event, early in this year.

Using a little piece on the history of understanding the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, Robin Evans tries to explain both the importance and the difficulty of causal inference in statistics.

Causal inference is a fast developing field which shows that it is possible to obtain evidence of causal effects even without ideal study designs, and there is a huge potential benefit for many fields in discovering how.


Researchers at MIT lab have devised a way to determine how well straphangers can comprehend a subway map in a single glance. The research team, led by Ruth Rosenholtz of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, devised a computer model that spits out alternate visualizations called “mongrels”–twisted images that represent how our brains actually process the maps in front of our eyes. Eric Jaffe tells the story.

Mongrel", computed for a person who's looking directly at the Kendall/MIT stop on the red line
“Mongrel”, computed for a person who’s looking directly at the Kendall/MIT stop on the red line



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

Carol Rumens talks about Emily Hasler’s “Cartography for Beginners” poem. The playfulness and assurance extend to the way the poem remodels and subverts what a cartographer might call its “ground-truth” – a lesson on how to draw a map.

The second part of John Nielsen‘s 20 Unrequested Map Tips (see the fist one here). Like in the first part, the variety of useful advises is astounding, ranging from aesthetic aspects to contextualization – and even when not to use a map to visualize geographic data.

Johann Heinrich Lambert, a name not often seen in cartography literature. But his importance is well documented in this post by Nick Stockon, addressing conic projections.

Stamen’s Alan McConchie has been looking at the historical OpenStreetMap data to see how the project has grown and evolved over time, as part of his dissertation research at the University of British Columbia. He explains how he created the OpenStreetMap: Every Line Ever, Every Point Ever interactive visualizations, with historical OSM data.

We’ve talked about this one previously, on our Digital Cartography post. South Korea’s Naver Maps has introduced a new way to navigate oblique aerial imagery in its new Plane View. Plane View works just like Google Maps Street View, except the imagery has been captured by a plane and not by a Street View car.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Plane View
(image: Naver Maps)



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

One of the reactions to the latest addition to the ‘Snowfalling’ of news good-bad argument, The Guardian’s interactive about the NSA Files. By Alberto Cairo.

Criticizing Snow Fall, the 2012 overwhelming multimedia project by The New York Times, has become a sport among journalists and news designers.

The ONA conference in Atlanta was one of the great events of 2013, filled wit interesting presentations, tips and resources – not to mention the Online Journalism Awards. Kate McGinty shares 14 of those useful tools for journalist, she heard about at ONA 13.

Again the ‘Snowfalling’ theme, this time by David Sleight, who tries to answer the ultimate question in this discussion: is the investment in such elaborate narratives worth it?

Adaptive Storytelling. It may just sound as another “buzz word”, but you might change your mind after reading this article by Kevin Gentzel, the chief revenue officer of the Washington Post.

In a device-first world, the newsroom that delivers across the platform spectrum will define relevance and shape the future of media.


A nice short video with Matt Waite, journalism professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, that offers insight into what you need to score the data-driven journalism job.



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

Facebook announced that it’s releasing their software called “Presto” as a free and open source project. Presto allows people to ask questions (in geek speak called “queries”) of huge databases and get the answers back immediately, not hours or days later).

Amazon Web Services, the currently undisputed heavyweight champion of cloud infrastructure providers, is looking at adding big-data services to its already wide spectrum of capabilities, with new programs that will simplify and lower the cost of crunching torrents of information coming down hard and fast. Jordan Novet reported this for Venture Beat .

In this article, John Horgan – a teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology and the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney’s, 2012) – suggests that Big Data might be harming science, by luring smart young people away from the pursuit of scientific truth and toward the pursuit of profits. He mentions a recent post by Jake VanderPlas, a postdoc in astrophysics at the University of Washington, The Big Data Brain Drain: Why Science is in Trouble.

Another article focusing on the relationship between Big Data and Science, this time by Michael White. He alerts to the fact that the rise of big data has generated a controversy in fields such as biology, over how much emphasis and funding should be put on traditional, “hypothesis-driven” research, versus “unbiased,” big data projects.

If testing ideas about cause and effect takes a secondary role, are we less likely to see genuinely new ideas that will lead scientists in radically new directions?


Presentation given at Big Data Spain Conference by the CEO and co-founder of CartoDB, Javier de la Torre.



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

The Poderopedia Foundation is making improvements to its platform in order to implement it in several Latin American countries, allowing users to feed and continually update the network. This is a conversation with its founder, Chilean journalist Miguel Paz.

This one is actually a podcast, featuring Aja Hammerly, David Brady, James Edward Gray, Josh Susser, and Charles Max Wood. Data Visualization was the topic in hand.

The latest Visualizing.Org’s Expert Gallery features Andy Kirk, who besides gathering some time-based visualizations for this gallery, also answered a few questions about the works he picked.

Visualizing.Org's Expert Gallerie:Andy Kirk
Visualizing.Org’s Expert Gallerie:Andy Kirk



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

Data Science VM is a set of scripts that automatically launches and configures a new virtual machine locally or on Amazon EC2. Created and presented in this post by J. Nathan Matias.

With his new book coming out in 2014, Vincent Granville shares his personal selection of books about data science, analytics, big data and visualization. Some excellent picks here – and the list keeps growing in the comments section..

In this second part of the ‘Let’s Make a Bar Char’ tutorial, Mike Bostock extends the example bar chart using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and teaches how to load an external data file in tab-separated values (TSV) format.

According to Stephen Turner, Manhattan plots have become the standard way to visualize results for genetic association studies, allowing the viewer to instantly see significant results in the rough context of their genomic position. You can download the code to make this plot yourself.

After the Four Pillars of Visualization, the second video of Noah Iliinsky‘s series about the basics of good information design. The goal of this talk is to provide ideas, and to show that there are alternate structures available that will highlight different aspects of data.



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 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.