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Data Viz News [40]

Bringing together the top reads of the week

January 18, 2014

A quiet week, this one, at least if we compare it with the last edition of Data Viz News. Of course, we had our share of announcements, articles, resources and interviews, but definitively less that has been usual.

Among the highlights,’s new funding. The company announced the closing of a Series A financing round with $8.1 million, led by Crosslink Ventures and included investments from Correlation Ventures, SoftTechVC, 500 Startups, Giza Ventures, Quest Ventures, and Kapor Capital (Mitch Kapor). According to the blog post, the new funding will be used “toward a drastic shift in visual content creation and making it easier for global creatives to collaborate with each other and with customers.”

Articles from the likes of Alberto Cairo, Enrico Bertini and Robert Kosara, just to name a few, guarantee a good read, and if you pair this post with the ones with the best print infographics, interactive maps and visualizations, then you’ll certainly have some hours of fun ahead.

Here are this week’s recommended links:



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

Great news for The company announced the closing of a Series A financing round with $8.1 million. The round was led by Crosslink Ventures and included investments from Correlation Ventures, SoftTechVC, 500 Startups, Giza Ventures, Quest Ventures, and Kapor Capital (Mitch Kapor). According to the blog post, the new funding will be used “toward a drastic shift in visual content creation and making it easier for global creatives to collaborate with each other and with customers.”


In the wake of SND34, Dr. Mario Garcia hosted a rather vibrant discussion on the plight of infographics and illustrations in the Best of News Design print competition. Some changes were made to the competition and Josh Crutchmer, Deputy Design Director of the Buffalo News, walks us through them. You can find the SND35 Call for Entries here.

IDV Solutions will return for the third year as a sponsor of and participant in TechSec Solutions, the premier conference discussing new and emerging technologies and their impact on the security industry. TechSec Solutions 2014 takes place on January 28-29 in Delray Beach, FL.

The University of Miami’s Journalism department has an opening for lecturer, someone “who is able to bring a storytelling mentality to code”, according to the full job description. The person who accepts this position will teach courses such as web design, database journalism, interactive storytelling, and introductory and advanced programming for interactivity. As usual, when it comes to job opportunities, we always recommend a visit to Lynn Cherny‘s Google Group.

Inspired by Facebook and Emily Kund’s efforts, Mike Evans has created VizWars, a data visualization event in Irvine, California, on February 11th. This challenge is an open competition. You’ll be provided with several data set options (posted here 48 hours prior to the competition) and you’ll have 1 hour to build your best Viz in your software of choice. Anyone is welcome, but you must RSVP and be physically present at the time of the competition.

2014 Viz Wars, a competition for Tableau users
2014 Viz Wars, a competition for Tableau users



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

From Jordan Kushins comes this shot out to Manuel Lima‘s new book, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge. The post features several examples of visualizations, both ancient and conetmporany. Here’s one example:

The Tree of Man's Life by John Goddard, ca. 1639–50
The Tree of Man’s Life by John Goddard, ca. 1639–50


We’re glad to see Enrico Bertini write in his blog – one of our favorite ones. In this post, he offers a reflexion about data, after attending the Aid Data Convening, a conference organized by the Aid Data Consortium (ARC) to talk exclusively about a single data set: the Aid Data, a curated database of more than a million records collecting information about foreign aid.

Alberto Cairo was particularly active this week on his blog, writing several posts. The first one that we highlight today is actually the one he expresses his disagreement with a recent guest post here on Visual Loop.

If you really want to be an infographics or visualization designer, you should never begin with a preconceived idea and then look just for some data here and there to support it. You can begin with an idea, but you must earnestly look for evidence that could contradict it. You do need to read all data available, analyze them, study them, and understand them. Only then you can design your graphic.


An excellent overview of what were the main developments in the data visualization field, in 2013. Among the trends, Robert Kosara mentions Storytelling, news grahics and automatic infographic creation, and we totally agree with his last sentence: “It’s a good time to be in data visualization.”.

By comparing infoposters (or “infauxgraphics”) with PowerPoint, Francis Gagnon points out that these infauxgraphics have fallen for the bullet point fallacy, the perception that facts are conveyed faster and better by using short scattered sentences.

Infauxgraphic designers seem to think that “visualizing” is the best way to convey any kind of information. Yet, many ideas are more clearly explained, more easily understood in full paragraphs.


Just released, the Music Timeline is a new project from the Big Picture and Music Intelligence research groups at Google. The Big Picture group includes names such as Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, and in this article Andy Kirk walks us though this visualization.

A recent interactive visualization explaining what a polar vortex is, by The Washington Post, has deserved some praising by Alberto Cairo. This interactive was featured on our latest Digital Cartography post.

An article by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan featuring Accurat’s popular visualization of when famous authors published their best-selling works.

From first published to masterpieces, infographic by Accurat  | Corriere della Sera
(image: Accurat)


Bryan Pierce of Perceptual Edge offers an alternative to one of Bill Gate’s favorite charts, included in a recent edition of Wired Magazine that he guest edited. The graphic in question is a treemap (with the infamous 3D touch) created by Thomas Porostocky to display worldwide years of life lost by cause using data from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation database.

The third pick from Alberto Cairo‘s blog, The Functional Art, is also a praise to the work being done at american newsrooms. This time, Alberto shows some recent examples of The Wall Street Journal’s print editions, something he already did before.

A fun poster by Nathan Yau that has been all over the Internet for the past couple of days. The famous movie quotes as charts illustrates the 100 most memorable quotes from American cinema, selected by the American Film Institute, in celebration of their 100-year anniversary.

Famous movie quotes as charts, by Nathan Yau
Famous movie quotes as charts, by Nathan Yau



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

A second round up of maps by The Washington Post’s Max Fisher, after August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Worth checking out.

The review process by which one can suggest changes to Google Maps has caused an embarrassing situation in Germany. An unknown user recently suggested that Berlin’s Theodor-Heuss-Platz should be known as “Adolf-Hitler-Platz.” The embarassing part is that the change passed through Google’s volunteer moderators, as reported by David Murphy.

A fascinating dive in to the stick charts used by the Marshallese to navigate on canoe across the islands of the Pacific Ocean, until WWII. Fosco Lucarelli wrote this well-illustrated article.

The stick charts were the main tool the Marshallese used to navigate on canoe
The stick charts were the main tool the Marshallese used to navigate on canoe



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

Seven projects that harness the power of data and information for the health of communities will receive more than $2 million as winners of the Knight News Challenge: Health. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made the announcement at the Clinton Health Matters conference in La Quinta, Calif.

Our friend Mariana Santos talks about the work being done by Chicas Poderosas in Costa Rica. Using data on water supply, distribution and use and combining them with census databases, journalists coordinated by a ‘dream team’ that included Brian Boyer, from National Public Radio, Chris Cross from The Guardian’s (London) interactive team, Martin Pellecer, former director of Plaza Publica in Guatemala, and ICFJ Knight Fellow and InfoAmazonia founder Gustavo Faleiros, created several apps to adress the issue of potable water short supply in the country.

Last month, Knight Foundation released a report titled “The Emergence of Civic Tech” which covered the breadth of activity and investment in new technologies advancing civic engagement, government effectiveness and the quality of life in cities. A data visualization tool was part of the resources available, and it will be updated with all the suggestions users gave to improve it even further.



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

Authored by Roman Vladimirov, this article gives an overview of the basics of Descriptive, Predictive and Prescriptive analytics, in order to show how Big data and analytics are nothing if not adaptable.

A book review by Maria Popova – something that usually means new additions to our personal libraries. This time, Maria shares her thoughts on Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture, by data scholars Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel.

Quick post by Mark van Rijmenam, sharing a short video with Kenneth Cukier, co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.



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

Interview conducted by Patrick E. Scott with one of the most well-known names in contemporany digital caretography, Andrew Hill of CartoDB and Vizzuality.

Rede Bandeirantes — known to viewers as Band — is a television network based in São Paulo, Brazil. Part of Grupo Bandeirantes de Comunicação, Band was founded in 1967, and in this interview, Gabriel Queiroz, Business Intelligence Director, and Alexandre Porto, Marketing Analyst for Band, talk about the benefits of choosing a self-service business intelligence tool and how they are using Tableau to improve revenue and save time.



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

A step-by-step guide on how to harvest tweets from Twitter using ScraperWiki and how to analyse them using social network analysis and Gephi, by Michael Bauer.

One of the aims of the new tools for the visualization of health and genomic information that the folks at Fathom are working on is to help doctors and researchers find new correlations in their data. In this post, you’ll see some of the challenges presented in order to complete that task, well illustrated with charts and examples.

Over the last several years, the masters of mathematical abstraction have made Topological Data Analysis (TDA), a subfield of Computational Topology, an exciting technique for dealing with high dimensional data sets that shows great promise, as explained by Joseph Rickert in this article.

Written by Tarek Amr, this tutorial is one of the first we’ve seen using RAW – the data visualization tool developed by the folks at Density Design – in a practical, objective way – not to create interactive visualizations, but one to be printed in a newspaper or magazine.

In this presentation, Chris Johnson introduces various Machine Learning methods used for music recommendations and discovery at Spotify. Specifically, he focuses on Implicit Matrix Factorization for Collaborative Filtering, how to implement a small scale version using python, numpy, and scipy, as well as how to scale up to 20 Million users and 24 Million songs using Hadoop and Spark.



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

Updated calendar of data visualization events
Updated calendar of data visualization events


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.