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Data Viz News [35]

All the news and articles about information design that you might have missed during the week

November 30, 2013

This was a relatively quiet week, due to Thanksgiving and the whole Black Friday craze – or so we were supposed to think, because the fact is that we managed to pull together once more, a huge list of articles and resources. It’s a fact: there’s no more ‘low season’ for data visualization, cartography and data journalism in general.

In fact, some of the links in today’s round-up might come in handy in this shopping season, with recommendations of gifts for data-viz geeks. Books, e-Cards and other fun items that will surely be appreciated by anyone who’s working in the field.

Also worth pointing out the number of interviews that came across our way – don’t miss the one with Periscopic‘s co-founders Kim Rees and Dino Citraro -, and don’t forget to check out our weekly compilations of interactive maps, visualizations and print infographics, they’re also a great way to see whats been going on in the field.

Hope you enjoy this week’s list!


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

Like we mentioned yesterday, Dan Murray wrote a new Tableau guidebook called Tableau Your Data!: Fast and Easy Visual Analysis with Tableau Software, in which he and his team share step-by-step instructions for making the most of Tableau.

In this brand new certificate program launched by the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), students will learn how communication links big data, storytelling, and design, while also facilitating the processing, organization, analysis, and visualization of data for various industry applications.

Twitter has begun using a form of encryption to scupper the attempts of spy agencies to crack intercepted data. It’s based on the Diffie-Hellman method first developed by British spy agency GCHQ in the 70s. Using Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman cipher suites, a random key is generated for every session, which is not sent across the network between the client and the server.

Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies Fellow Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard has established a new Journal Club in collaboration with Ebbe Sloth Andersen from iNano. Each time the Journal Club will be meeting, scientific articles related to data visualization and scientific graphics with a focus on biology, molecular biology and nanoscience will be discussed. Researchers interested in discussing articles within these academic areas are welcome to participate. Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard is the scientific contact in relation to registration to the meetings of the Journal Club.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center, a U.S. supercomputer facility, recently announced its anticipated introduction of Maverick, a supercomputer that will replace its current counterpart, “Longhorn.” Beginning in January 2014, students and faculty will have access to the new supercomputer, which specializes in visualization and data analysis.

The folks at Periscopic are looking for a Jr. Front-end Developer and a Jr. Visual Designer, Full-time. If you’re interested just email your résumé, links to recent work/portfolio to this email address. Also, don’t forget to check out the Data Viz Jobs Google Group, with tons of other interesting opportunities.



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

One of the highlights of our latest This is Visual Journalism post was Moritz Stefaner’s first information graphic for Scientific American magazine. And here, Moritz gives a brief overview of how he approached the project, and the difficulties and solutions he found along the way.

Where the Wild Bees Are Documenting a Loss of Native Bee Species between the 1800s and 2010s, infographic by Ferris Jabr | Scientific American
(image: Moritz Stefaner, Jillian Walters | Scientific American)


An inspiring story, by Hannah Guzik, about Nelson Dellis, who has trained his brain to store data like a computer. The 29-year-old from Florida won the 2012 and 2011 U.S. Memory Championships and is now preparing for the worldwide competition this November.

With this post, Paresh Shah starts a new series of articles in which he will discuss data visualization in Annual Financial Reports and in other financial reports, by studying the charts and graphs presented in those types of publications. The fists case belongs to Tata Consultancy Services, a respected IT services and software companies in India, that made a mediocre use of visualization in its latest report.

A detailed (and useful) guide for anyone who needs to share data with a statistician. The goals of this guide are to provide some instruction on the best way to share data to avoid the most common pitfalls and sources of delay in the transition from data collection to data analysis, and it was created by Jeff Leek.

The “Look Up” campaign designed by Ogilvy Group UK for British Airways has been all over the Internet. The campaign includes digital billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick that seem to show a boy get up and point to a real plane flying over. Programmed to know exactly when a BA plane flies by, the billboard then display the flight number, destination, and eventually, even the lowest fares currently available to that destination, as Jennifer Miller explains in this post.


A companion article to David Guttman‘s “Data Visualization with JavaScript without D3” talk at DataVis LA, that took place November, 19th, at Cornerstone OnDemand.

This is the second part of Aatish Bhatia‘s long post about the cognitive and historical processes of dealing with color-naming. The big question here is: when children learn their color words, does their perception of the world change?

Sheila Pontis started a new series of posts about the top 10 points that need clarification, when it comes to effective information design. According to Sheila, each of the 10 topics presented here aims to add clarity to the current information design situation, and maybe be a step towards finding the missing piece to solve the puzzle in which it seems to be immersed.

The lack of principles to inform information design practice, of robust and rigorous teaching programmes to provide a solid foundation to future generations, and of predetermined criteria for assessing quality to guide effective information design practice are some of the areas which deserve further attention.


Michael Babwahsingh‘s goal in this post is to address the gap between what information design looks like today and what it really is, by surfacing five of the most important (and interrelated) aspects of information design that are either implicit in a variety of resources or missing entirely.

Last October a small delegation of former Density Design students participated at Fall Data Sprint held by Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam, a workshop part of EMAPS Project (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science). Stefania Guerra presents some of projects developed during that workshop.

The Tableau Workbook Library functions as an area to have workbooks from all different industries with all different approaches and tricks to create dashboards and views that are compelling, tell a story, or provide motivation for working around data issues that seem difficult. Workbooks about everything from bacon to cell level formatting make this place an ever expanding resource for learning and inspiration. It has been live in the Tableau Community for just a couple weeks and already has 37 workbooks from 18 different authors.

Posted by Will Stahl-Timmins, this article explains the process behind a visualization project at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health. This series of three graphics was produced to accompany the paper Potential Changes in Disease Patterns and Pharmaceutical Use in Response to Climate Change, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews, 16:5, 285-320.



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

Geographer Amy Lobben has been on a mission to figure out why people vary in their ability to read maps, and Greg Miller made this post about those map-related skill that varies from person to person, sharing some ideas on how to improve that.

Just in time for the shopping season, James Cheshire shares a Christmas Map List, filled with cartography-goodies and must haves for map lovers. It includes books such as Around the World: The Atlas for Today , Cartographies of Time and On the Map, among others.

Due to the increasing availability of large urban datasets, it is now becoming easier to produce online visualisations that capture and help interpret the complex spatial dynamics of cities. In this overview of several urban cartography projects, Duncan A. Smith argues that as further open datasets are made available, a much wider range of interests and user groups are set to be represented and explored. These urban cartography projects allow users to ask questions about how city areas have changed and are likely to change in the future.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Buildings in the Netherlands
(image: CitySDK)


One of the articles we’ve mentioned in our Digital Cartography round-up, with tips from the Earth Observatory’s writers and visualizers, who use them to interpret images daily. Wrote by Holli Riebeek, with design by Robert Simmon.

Also mentioned in our latest Digital Cartography post, this article was written by Dr. Ian Muehlenhaus, assistant professor of geography and cartography at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who recently gave a presentation on designing effective maps at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.

Shaun Pett writes about Where You Are, the anthology of sixteen maps by an eclectic mix of writers, artists, and thinkers, created by London-based Visual Editions. As Shaun describes it, this project is “an exploration of the map as a storytelling form, one that questions how stories create meaning and offers up possibilities to navigate the more ethereal terrain of day-to-day life.”



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

The Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), together with the European Journalism Centre (EJC), released the first two chapters of the Georgian translation of the Data Journalism Handbook (the remaining chapters will be serialised over the coming months). This is the fourth published translation of the Handbook to date and several more are coming soon.

An update of BBC News Labs’ activities for the past couple of months and new initiaves, by Matt Shearer, the Innovation Manager of this BBC Connected Studio’s pan-BBC innovation and collaboration programme. It mentions the events they’ve been attending, and other interesting developments related to data journalism.

IREX announced the start of the China by the Numbers Data Journalism Project. This project will equip enterprising Chinese journalists with tools for data analysis and support them to produce hard-hitting, evidence-based news content. IREX and its Chinese media partners will host a series of workshops for over 100 journalists and media professionals to train them in data journalism.

Lizzie Hart, a student at Syracuse University and the presentation director at the Daily Orange, talks about the paper’s recent redesign. The main objective was to get more student voices in the paper.

A set of ten straight-to-the-point insights on data journalism, by Lasse Lambrechts, who’s been working with data journalism since 2010.

We are here for our readers. Use data journalism to give them insight, not show off for friends and colleagues. A lot of stories can be told amazingly well with plain text. Use data journalism when it’s necessary. Don’t reduce it to a hype.



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

Recently, Sanjeev Sardana had the opportunity to talk with Mayank Bawa, co-president and co-founder of Teradata Aster, and Abhinav Gupta, vice president of engineering and a co-founder of Rocket Fuel, about how they’re extracting value of Big Data.

This year, the NBA entered into a comprehensive partnership with STATS, the company responsible for Sports VU, a player tracker technology. Six cameras track players’ every move by way of a specific set of data points including, but not limited to players’ names, numbers, and the ball. And it’s free for fans all over the world at

Big data has been around for decades but has only taken on the form of a buzzword in the last few years. Siraj Datoo, in this post, shares his thoughts on the reasons for that increasing investment in Big Data across different industries.

Python still lacks some of R’s richness for data analytics, but it is closing the gap fast, as Matt Asay explains in this article. R remains popular with the PhDs of data science, but as data moves mainstream, Python is quickly taking over.

For most users, data wrangling still tends to mean a series of steps that usually involves different tools, something that has its toll in productivity. Ben Lorica talks about this issue and mentions several Visual Analysis startups like Platfora, Datameer, and ClearStory, that help minimize the problem.

One of the most challenging tasks in selling digital marketing to the C-Suite is defining the return on investment (ROI). It can be particularly challenging when justifying the budget for social media marketing (SMM). Chuck Price asked Nicole Harrison about this and the importance of ROI in social media. She was adamant that social media done correctly will deliver results and recommended a list of 11 free tools for measuring both ROI and social media success.



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

In the wake of the company’s tenth anniversary, Information Age spoke to Andy Cotgreave, social content manager at data analytics software vendor Tableau, about social media analytics and what we can expect from Tableau in the future.

Gabriel Dance, the interactive editor for The Guardian U.S., spent a good chunk of the last several months working on NSA Files: Decoded, the multimedia examination of all the information revealed so far about how the U.S. government conducts surveillance on people in America and abroad. Justin Ellis asked a couple of questions to Gabriel about this project.

This piece was designed to be read, or consumed, as a whole. You can’t take the writing out of it and have it work the same. You can’t take the videos out of it and have it work. You can’t take out the graphics and have it work. It’s meant to be consumed as an entire project, with all these different parts being seen, seamlessly, to one another.


This month the Creative Voices team headed to the Pacific Northwest, on Portland data visualization agency Periscopic, to speak with co-founders Kim Rees and Dino Citraro. A must see.

Nicola Hughes is the media partner manager at She also launched a blog called Data Miner UK. In this interview, she talks about the crucial role of data scraping and gives some advice on data journalism.



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

This sequence of tutorials, produced by the Processing Foundation as a part of’s Hour of Code 2013 initiative – to introduce students to computer programming -, was one of the most well-received resources of the week, highly praised by the data viz community.

Hello Processing
Hello Processing


One more for the data-geek Christmas season: Stephanie D. H. Evergreen illustrated some nerd funny jokes and put them on holiday cards, now available on Redbubble.

After reading Enrico Tonini post, Al-Ahmadgaid Asaad decided to map the super typhoon Haiyan track using OpenStreetMap, maptools, and ggplot2. Here, he explains the process, alongside with the code he used.

Mike Fortress breaks down the animation of one of the circles seen in an animated SVG featured on Sprout. This chart, and one other animation on Sprout, were initially GIFs. By using animated SVGs instead of GIFs they were able to reduce the page size from 1.6 mb to 389 kb, and reduce the page load time from 8.75 s to 412 ms.

Zachary M. Jones talks about GNU Make, a tool that allows you to construct a direct acyclic graph of dependencies amongst the files in your data analysis project. Make was developed to handle the building of complex pieces of software composed of many source files that need to be compiled or run in a particular order.

With each step in the evolution of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), Oracle has added powerful new data visualization capabilities that turn raw data into insightful information. With that power comes great responsibility. This session explores the far corners of OBIEE’s presentation options and demonstrate best practices for the creation of BI content.



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.