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Data Viz News [42]

Dozens of fresh articles, tutorials and other data viz-related resources

February 1, 2014

The “study” which shows that watching Fox News makes you less informed than watching no news could be the headline of today’s Data Viz News, if we were a bit more link-bait oriented, but the truth is that, when it comes to the field of data visualization and journalism, this week was filled with great articles that put such a claim – no matter our truthful it is – way down in our preference list.

For instances, the FiveThirtyEight‘s status update, by Nate Silver, and the Memo to newsroom staff from Marty Baron, The Washington Post‘s Executive Editor, with some of the newspaper’s projects for this year, are indeed quite more interesting, and worth checking out.

Also, the interviews, announcements, and resources about data visualization, cartography and business analytics are a must, with so many insights and tips that is almost overwhelming for a single post.

But if you follow us regularly, that doesn’t really comes as a surprise, right?

Here are this week’s recommended links:



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

Last week we mentioned the announcement of Malofiej 22′ jury as one of the top news, and now it’s time to present the full program, that includes workshops, presentations and, of course, the awards.

Malofiej 22 World Summit – Program
Malofiej 22 World Summit – Program

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that it will invest $1 million in a fund to encourage innovation and experimentation in nonprofit news and public media organizations. The INNovation Fund supports projects proposed by nonprofit news organizations that can demonstrate that they advance the economic sustainability of their newsroom. Applications for Round 1 open February 1, 2014.

CNN announced a partnership with Twitter and social analytics company Dataminr, resulting in a new tool called Dataminr For News. Dataminr CEO Ted Bailey said the goal is to “alert journalists to information that’s emerging on Twitter in real time.” Basically, the technology looks at tweets and finds patterns that can reveal breaking news when it’s still in its “infancy.” Those alerts can be delivered in a variety of ways, including via desktop applications, email, mobile alerts, and pop-up alerts.

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism announced the appointment of award-winning television documentary maker Travis Fox to its core faculty. Fox will lead a new Visual Journalism department that will build on the school’s already strong broadcast, web video, photojournalism, and documentary programs.

MaryJo Webster, the computer-assisted reporting editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will become Inside Thunderdome‘s new senior data reporter. She will be charged with spearheading national data reporting projects for the DFM network, as well as leading a more in-depth training effort.



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

Computer Watching Movies, by new media artist Ben Grosser, is a project in which he wrote software for a computer to illustrate its view of famous movie scenes in real time. Needless to say that this went viral as soon as it was published.


“What’s the use of algorithms in visualization? When do we need them? Why do we need them? What are they for?” In his most recent blog post, Enrico Bertini tackles the use of algorithms in visualization, grouping them in four broad classes.

In her coverage of President Obama’s State of the Union address, The Guardian finance and economics editor Heidi N. Moore tweeted a chart that caught Robert Kosara‘s attention, as a good example of redundant visual information.

Great post, both for the example of graphics used to visualize uneven distributions the author provided, as for the comments. Kaiser Fung also wrote about this article at Junk Charts.

One of the featured projects that came to our attention in our weekly round up published every Friday was this set of visualizations of narrative structures, by Natalia Bilenko and Asako Miyakawa, two neuroscience PhD students at UC Berkeley. Bilenko and Miyakawa plotted chapter-by-chapter interactions between characters in The Hobbit, Kafka on the Shore and The Glass Menagerie.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The Hobbit
(image: Natalia Bilenko, Asako Miyakawa)


“There are lines and sometimes we cross them. There are lines and sometimes we don’t see them. There are lines that are bold and there are lines that are blurry. The line that I crossed appears bold in retrospect but was blurred at the time.” The fine line between inspiration and plagiarism in data visualization now has another great user-case to keep he discussion alive, thanks to this courageous post by Michael Sandberg.

Recently, Jim Vallandingham rediscovered a 1966 copy of Birds of North America, which ended up sparking a bit of visualization exploration – and the creation of a new tool, SpectrogramJS.

Jim Harris is an independent consultant, speaker and freelance writer, and the blogger-in-chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, a blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and related disciplines. here, he talks about Jack Olson’s two characteristics of data accuracy: form and content.

In this article, Rafael Irizarry points out the importance of computer literacy in the new reality of emerging ground-breaking technologies and outdated jobs, soon to be replaced by machines.

Computer literacy is essential for working with automatized systems. Programming and learning from data are perhaps the most useful skill for creating these systems. Yet the current default curriculum includes neither computer science nor statistics.


In this new post, Sheila Pontis gives an overview of the learning process every information designer goes trough, when facing the challenge of making sense of a particular situation – or data set. She then discusses how the attitude and commitment can influence the quality of the final outcome.

You’re probably familiar with the work of Pop Chart Lab – they create those stylish infographics, from taxonomies of hip-hop to field guides of famous felines. In this video, founders Ben Gibson and Patrick Mulligan describe how they broke down the data for over 700 Nintendo games and reimagined it visually for their “The Nebula of NES Games” chart.



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

Ralph Straumann and Mark Grahan share the results of their study on the ways that Google’s algorithms are presenting our world back to us, through a set of maps. As they explain, “using a Python script, was queried for all countries with the term: “why [is/are] [the] (country x) so”. Queries thus encompassed, for example: “why is Kenya so“, “why are the Philippines so“, “why is the United Kingdom so“, etc. The phrasing of this crude and somewhat naïve query is meant to reflect what people may find remarkable, great, sad, annoying, surprising, or unknown about a country.”

The World according to Google's Autocomplete suggestions
The World according to Google’s Autocomplete suggestions, a work by Ralph Straumann and Mark Grahan, of the Oxford Internet Institute


One of the most popular recent posts from Keir Clarke‘s Google Maps Mania was the one about the slow death of the Google Maps API, mentioned by us in last week’s Data Viz News. The reactions to that post lead to this new article, in which Clarke explains why he believes platforms such as MapBox and LeafletJS are overtaking the Google Maps API is in the area of control over map design and presentation.

Also from Keir Clarke comes this trip into digital mapping memory lane. Clarke was asked by the folks at Mapperz if he could tell them which was the oldest Google Maps mashup that still worked. After a bit of digging, it seems that Google Maps Transparencies, launched in 2005, is the oldest surviving Google Maps Mashup.

As Jim Davemport points out in this article, “Map projection isn’t just a concern for cartographers, city planners, or ocean travelers”. Jim writes about data visualization in the field of astronomy, and here you’ll see how he applied different map projections to a set of 2.5 million random stars from 2MASS, a famous infrared all-sky survey.

This August (2014) marks 100 years since the start of the Great War, World War I. To commemorate this, the National Archives has digitised 1.5 million pages of war diaries, giving readers an insight into what the war was like from a first-hand perspective, and in this post the folks at Mapperz look back at the technology used during the First World War, specifically the use of Aerial mapping.

William Shubert of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network worked to develop the ground-breaking InfoAmazonia platform, together with our friends at ((o)) Eco. He’s now the project manager for a similar initiative in Indonesia, called Ekuatorial, which was launched this week, and in this post he explains how these geojournalism projects have developed – and what potential they hold.



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

A revealing update by Nate Silver, who continues to build the team of journalists at FiveThirtyEight

as they prepare for re-launch with their new partners at ESPN and ABC News.

We’ve hired 15 amazing journalists so far, and we’re actively interviewing candidates for several open positions, including database journalists, visual and computational journalists; and a Director of Business Development.


The expectation around the future of  The Washignton Post has been huge, after Jeff Bezos acquired the newspaper, last year. Now, as mentioned in the introduction, Marty Baron, Executive Editor, shares some of plans for a set of “exciting initiatives” – including the announcement that Jim Tankersley will lead a digital initiative, driven by data and narrative storytelling, that explains complex public policies and illuminates their human impact.

A great overview on the state and short-term future of digital data-driven journalism, by Alexander Howard, writer and editor based in Washington, DC.

By automating tasks, one data journalist can increase the capacity of those they work with in a newsroom and create databases that may be used for future reporting. There’s one reason (among many) that ProPublica can win Pulitzers prizes without employing hundreds of staff.



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

The team at Harmony Institute have been working on a better way to analyze the social impact of narrative media. They developed a new web app called ImpactSpace, and according to this blog post, “In designing ImpactSpace, HI has made a conscious effort to combine analytical functionality with a positive user experience, such that ImpactSpace could become a destination for people seeking to understand impact in storytelling.”

This post by Daniel Dewar shows how to use LinkedIn’s network visualization tool to better understand the relationships between your connections.

Ben Waber, the author of People Analytics: How Social Sensing Technology Will Transform Business and What It Tells Us about the Future of Work, comments the recent news that Sony Pictures has hired a screenwriter to fictionalize Sheryl Sandberg’s s tale of the lessons she learned adapting to the male-dominated world of Silicon Valley, where she’s risen to chief operating officer at Facebook.


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

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden helped The New York Times “keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters,” says Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of The New York Times, in this insightful Q&A.

SND regularly features a Q&A on how magazine covers were developed. Last week, Art Director Kate Madden shares the creative process behind Portland Monthly’s annual “Top Docs” issue, in this interview conducted by Courtney Kan, a news and sports designer at The Arizona Republic.

Leo Dillon heads the U.S. Governmental Geographical Information Unit, which is responsible for ensuring the boundaries and names on government maps reflect U.S. policy. He’s been at the State Department since 1986, and shares a bit of his experience with Greg Miller in this interview.

Cathy Newman talked with Will C. Van Den Hoonaard, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of New Brunswick, about his freshly released book Map Worlds: A History of Women in Cartography.

Women came to the fore in the golden age of cartography in the low countries in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was the era of family-run map-making ateliers. Women were engravers, colorists, and would stitch the leaves of a map into a book.



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

A great new resource for those working with information design, The Data Visualisation Catalogue is currently an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca. If you have any suggestions on how the site can be improved, especially in terms of helping you find the right data visualization method for your needs, then feel free to message Severino on the suggestions page.

The Data Visualisation Catalogue, an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca.
The Data Visualisation Catalogue, an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca.


Our good friend Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez (one of the first featured Portfolios of the Week here on Visual Loop) pulled together a list of some of her favorite data-related links, in a new monthly column.

Another monthly round up of interesting links, this one from Andy Kirk. The latest collection refers to articles published during December 2013, and includes a mention to our Best 100 interactive infographics of the year.

Created by Alexis Jacomy with the help of Guillaume Plique, Sigma is a JavaScript library dedicated to graph drawing. It makes easy to publish networks on Web pages, and allows developers to integrate network exploration in rich Web applications.

Sigma,  a new JavaScript library dedicated to graph drawing.
Sigma, a new JavaScript library dedicated to graph drawing.


John Peltier shares his first contribution to – the online forum created by Jon Schwabish to discuss, give and receive advice and feedback about data visualization projects. In Excel: Multiple Lines Across X-Axis Categories, Lars Verspohl described a column chart with columns forming 12-month time series of some variable for nine countries. Lars wanted to plot another variable on this chart as a set of line chart time series, and John came to the rescue, as always with a very detailed tutorial.

Tableau’s Product Marketing team in the US had an offsite meeting. On the agenda was a competition: win a Tableau Hooded Sweatshirt for your best demo tip. Here’s Andy Cotgreave‘s contribution:


Andy Kirk shared the slides of his presentation at the Design of Understanding 2014 conference.



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

Data Viz 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.