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Data Viz News [45]

All about the latest data viz events, projects and resources, in one place.

March 1, 2014

After last week’s absence – that we explained here – , it’s no surprise that this edition of Data Viz News is, again, long and filled with fascinating articles, interviews and resources about data visualization, data journalism and cartography, among other related topics.

The big talk of the past week was, of course, Tapestry Conference, that gathered pretty much everyone who’s someone in the infoviz field. The one-day, invitation-only event took place at the Historic Inns of Annapolis, Maryland, and included several keynotes from some of the top names in data visualization. We’re looking forward to see some of the presentations being made available in the coming weeks.

Another event that draw a lot of attention – and great insights so far – is NICAR 2014, the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual conference devoted to computer-assisted reporting. The event started Feb. 27 and ends tomorrow, March 2. We do have several links about this one.

Also worth noticing is the recent announcement of a new introduction to data visualization MOOC from Google, and the new Google Maps Gallery, a new way for organizations to share and publish their maps online via Google Maps Engine – this one will certainly help us with our Digital Cartography round ups, every Wednesday.

And, finally, a mention to the online coverage that SelfieCity received. This project had the participation, among others, of Lev Manovich, Moritz Stefaner (who wrote a detailed post about this project), Dominikus Baur, Alise Tifentale and Mehrdad Yazdan, and was reviewed in websites such as Wired, FatsCo Design and National Geographic, just to name a few. It was also featured in our Interactive Inspiration post.

But there’s so much more to read in this week’s list. Overall, about 70 recommended  links, videos and presentations, so please, take your time and enjoy:


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

Google has launched its own Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to teach the general public how to understand surveys, research, and data. Called “Making Sense of Data” and running from March 18 to April 4, the course will be open to the public and, like most MOOCs, will be taught through a series of video lectures, interactive projects, and the support of community TAs.


Recently, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce, announced a new effort to unleash the power of its data to foster innovation, create new industries and job opportunities, and spur economic growth. NOAA, through a Request for Information (RFI), is looking to the private industry to help make NOAA’s data available in a rapid, scalable manner to the public.

Launched Feb. 26, the ProPublica Data Store allows news organizations and individual reporters to “shop” for research that ProPublica has either been given access to by the federal government through FOI requests, or data resources gathered by ProPublica’s internal team. The site is launching the experiment to see whether the store might add a unique revenue stream to ProPublica.

Researchers at IBM Labs claim to have broken a speed record for Big Data, which the company says could help boost internet speeds to 200 to 400Gbps using “extremely low power”. The IBM researchers have been developing the technology in collaboration with Swiss research institution Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to tackle the growing demands of global data traffic.

A worldwide competition run by the folks behind SportsDesigner, aimed at finding and showcasing the best work in sports design from 2013. The entry deadline is March 7, 2014, and are eligible the works published between January 1 and December 31, 2013.

Google Maps has added new underwater Street View captured by the Caitlin Seaview Survey. The new imagery includes Street Views off the coast of Monaco, France at the Larvotto Marine Reserve and at Roche Saint Nicholas, among others.

Like we said in the introduction, the new Google Maps Gallery works like an interactive, digital atlas where anyone can search for and find rich, compelling maps. Maps included in the Gallery can be viewed in Google Earth and are discoverable through major search engines, making it seamless for citizens and stakeholders to access diverse mapping data

Partial screen capture of the interactive Google Maps Gallery
(image: Google Maps Gallery)



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

Every time Moritz Stefaner launches a project that he created or is involved with, you can count with a detailed explanation in his blog, a few days after. With SelfieCity was no different. In this post, Moritz provides some thoughts on the project, including the challenges posed in the data collection process and visualization.


One of the first blogs to talk about SelfieCity, after its launch, was Andy Kirk‘s Visualising Data. Andy praises several aspects of this project, and walks us trough the visualizations available for anyone to explore.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Selfie City
(image: Lev Manovich, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, Alise Tifentale, Mehrdad Yazdan)


Also about SelfieCity, this post is a research update by Mehrdad Yazdani, Research Scientist, Software Studies Initiative, and another member of the team behind the project. It includes additional graphgics and more detailed information about the methodology used and the findings they encountered.

Arguably, the most complete post-event coverage of the Visualized Conference belongs to Jon Schwabish, who wrote a eight-part summary of the keynotes, discussions and highlights surrounding the event. This is the first post, but you should definitively read all the eight.

Like we mentioned in the last edition of Data Viz News, Enrico Bertini started a new series of posts in his blog, sharing . In this second post of the series, Enrico talks about “high-information graphics” and the “Aggregation Twitch” – a term he coined to describe the tendency to overaggregate data through summary statistics. The lecture slides are available here.

Jen Christiansen, the art director of information graphics at Scientific American, wrote this piece after attending the Visualized conference, inspired by Sha Hwang’s presentation in that event. The core issue here is the use of emotional components to communicate scientific topics to a broader audience, without falling in to the pitfalls of biased interpretations.

This guest post by Mushon Zer-Aviv was originally published on Tactical Tech‘s new blog for Visualising Information for Advocacy. The topic in hand is, as you can guess by the title, the misuse of visualization to tell stories that are quite different from what the data is revealing.

We don’t spread visual lies by presenting false data. That would be lying. We lie by misrepresenting the data to tell the very specific story we’re interested in telling. If this is making you slightly uncomfortable, that’s a good thing, it should.


As part of her internship at Interactive Things, Estelle Hary was offered the opportunity to work on a purely self-directed project. She decided to create a visualization based on the interview collection of Substratum, and in this post she explains the process and solutions used to reach the final result.

Another post about the “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight” exhibition at the British Library, that we’ve mention several times here on Visual Loop. According to Sheila Pontis, “the exhibition provides the rare opportunity to get closer to (and even analyse!) foundational information design work, and also appreciate how it has influenced the creation of new information design projects.”

Paul Farino talks, in this article, about some of the challenges associated with creating visualizations primarily for web/mobile interfaces.

Visually it’s important to recognize utility and understand that analyzing and interpreting data should be efficient. Great visualizations shift the burden of calculating/aggregating information from the user to the visualization.


An overview of several visualization/illustration projects covering the history of Art, written by Robin Cembalest. Among the projects mentioned you’ll see Loren Munk’s paintings that lay out the story of Modernism, George Maciunas‘ unfinished work, “Diagram of Historical Development of Fluxus and Other 4 Dimentional, Aural, Optic, Olfactory, Epithelial and Tactile Art Forms“, and Ward Shelley‘s famous “Extra Large Fluxus Diagram“.

It might seem a bit stretched to consider music sheets a “visualization”, but Olga Kouzina points out in this article that notation does visualize music in that someone with a good ear will decipher the visual symbols and then reproduce them with their inner hearing, or in play.

For the winter Olympics, The Washington Post’s graphics team members Darla Cameron, Gene Thorp and Cristina Rivero wanted to look at the elevation and latitude of host cities. We’ve feature the the graphic they ended up with, and in this post the team shares the steps they went through to get that final result.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Mountains of the Olympics
(image: The Washington Post)


The Landscape of Climate Finance is a web-based slide deck built by Vizzuality to promote the 2013 report from the Climate Policy Initiative. Here, Bryan Connor reviews this resource, and leaves a couple of advises in order to improve the end result .

This post is actually the first one in the series ‘Principles of Data Visualization’ (#PoDV), from the folks at Fusion Charts. The intention is to “go on a tour of the major ideas from the experts in data visualization”.

In each of the “One to One Hundred” series, graphic designer Mark Gonyea creates a numerical language out of negative space, lines, circles, dots, and pixels. The end result is a poster exploring outside-the-box methods of counting numbers.

One to One Hundred poster, by Mark GonyeaOne to One Hundred poster, by Mark Gonyea
(image: One to One Hundred poster, by Mark Gonyea)


A brief post by Alberto Cairo, about Jon Schwabish‘s recent article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives titled ‘An Economist’s Guide to Visualizing Data.‘ In it Jon provides a good introduction visualization principles, and it presents new neologism, “clutterplot, that really caught Alberto’s attention.

The author of Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information and more recently, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, Manuel Lima continues to highlight the importance of medieval information design, this time with a mention to Hartmann Schedel‘s Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493.

Looks like Andrew Vande Moere is back with Information Aesthetics‘ relentless showcase of data visualization projects. He posted several times in the past few days, one of which was about the life-size physical visualization of all the lint that Assistant Professor of Arts Technology Rick Valentin and his partner Rose Marshack collected from their clothes dryer during the last year.


This post by Cole Nussbaumer generated an interesting conversation in the comments section. The topic in hand is quite familiar to the data visualization community, but one that it’s never obsolete, due to the continuous mistakes we often see using non-zero baselines in graphs – specially the ones that are intended, to tell a different story than the one shown by the data.

Andy Kirk shares his thoughts on the Weather Radials poster created by Timm Kekeritz and the team at Raureif. The set of charts illustrates the climatical characteristics in 2013 of each of the 35 cities analyzed, as well as that year’s particular local weather events.

Weather Radials poster, by Raureif
Weather Radials poster, by Raureif


Another project featured recently on Information Aesthetics is this set of 4 YouTube movies that present several psychological constructs and statistical procedures by a series of gracious and well-coordinated dancing gestures. Initiated by Lucy Irving (Middlesex University) and Andy Field (University of Sussex), the project “Communicating Psychology to the Public through Dance” was funded by BPS Public Engagement with additional funding attracted from IdeasTap. Here’s one of those videos:



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

One of the featured interactive maps in our latest Digital Cartograhy post was the Global Forest Watch, developed by CartoDB as part of a multiyear collaboration of over 40 partners led by World Resources Institute (WRI). This is the blog post with the announcement, with some extra-details about the project.


A selection of some of the maps featured in the newly created Google Maps Gallery, that Keir Clarke picked as his favorites. It includes a great collection of planetary maps by the SETI Institute, historical maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection and also some historical maps of the UK from the National Library of Scotland.

One of the most discussed topics of the week, in the data visualization community, was the map created by Redditt user atrubetskoy, about the distribution of US output, largely concentrated in a few cities. The discussion about the utility of the map moved out from the ‘Twittosphere” (Storified here) into the blogs of Alberto Cairo, Andy Kirk (here) and Ben Jones (here). Also worth reading the comments by Santiago Ortiz and Robert Kosara, among others.

Map US Economic Activity In Half
(image: atrubetskoy on Reddit)


In The Book of Legendary Lands, Umberto Eco takes us through an illustrated voyage into history’s greatest imaginary places. As Maria Popova describes it, in this review, it’s “a dynamic tour guide for the human imagination, with all their fanciful inhabitants and odd customs, on scales as large as the mythic continent Atlantis and as small as the fictional location of Sherlock Holmes’s apartment”.

This post, written by Margaret McKenna (Head of Data and Analytics at RunKeeper), is actually a reply to Nathan Yaus’s recent series of maps, created using public running routes from RunKeeper. Seasonal bias, location fuzziness, and tagging bias are some of the problems McKenna points out.

Maps can be powerful tools for exploring human behavior, but it’s critical that any and all assumptions that go into the making of the map are revealed to the viewer. Before you jump to conclusions about what a map means, you should have a good understanding both of what’s on the map and what’s below the surface.


Philip Hampsheir looks at how charts, globes, atlases and street plans are becoming ever more collectable as paper maps are slowly replaced by smartphones and satellite navigation, and how the Internet is behind the sudden rise in their value.

After reading this article from David J. Hand, in The New York Times, Gretchen Peterson thought it would be important to point out a new initiative by Jonah Atkins, who created “Amazing-Er-Maps“, a place for you to upload a folder that contains the link to a bad map and a new map that is similar but does a better job.

This exhibition, Mapping our World, currently at the National Library of Australia until March 10th, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare and unique cartographic treasures from around the world.



The most recent articles with tips, insights and best practices around data journalism and information design in newsrooms.

A (long) presentation by Tony Hirst, Itinerant academic at The Open University and regular contributor of The School of Data.


The confirmation that the dissolution of RIA Novosti, the award-winning Russian public news agency, is underway, led to this post by Alberto Cairo, after he received a message from Ilya Ruderman, the former head of the graphics desk.

A quick update by Nate Silver on the job openings created by the new FiveThirtyEight project. All editing positions, including all features editors, copy editors and full-time writers were filled already, but several other key positions remain open, like Visual Journalist, Computational Journalist and Technology & Product Development Manager.

In this article, Chris Essig talks about a service called Yeoman, which is dubbed “the web’s scaffolding tool for modern web apps”, and how it helped him to eliminate much of that boring, repetitive work most coders are familiar with, when developing their applications.

Journalists, editors and other media professionals packed into MSN UK’s office in Victoria, London, for the 11th news:rewired digital journalism conference. Highlights on the agenda included a keynote speech from Buzzfeed editorial director Jack Shepherd and sessions on short-form video, immersive storytelling and using Instagram for news. In this post you’ll find a Storify of the tweets published around the event.

This presentation by Ben Jones tries to answer a simple question: why would a journalist be interested in using a BI software program, such as Tableau? Also, February was Data Journalism Month on Tableau, so check out all the content they’ve posted on the blog about this field.



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

Nitesh Chawla, a computer science professor at Notre Dame and self-proclaimed “dataologist,” argues that Americans’ health and wellness would improve if we paid more attention to the facts and circumstances of people’s daily lives. Tracking personal data on a large scale, he says, can help us move from insufficient healthcare to abundant health.


The folks at Analytics Week wanted to identify the top 200 Thought Leaders in the field of Big Data and Analytics that are influencing and changing the data and analytics world today, and came up with this initial list, with several familiar names.

Although figures are scarce, analysts think selling data on mobile users’ locations, movements, and web browsing habits may grow into a multi billion-dollar market for the telecom business, according to this article by Leila Aboud – even after last year’s revelations over the U.S. tapping of phone and internet data, the commercial potential could prove irresistible.

The backlash against the government’s use of bulk phone records for intelligence purposes has been led mostly by technologists used to speaking the language of privacy. But a new push by civil rights organizations to challenge “big data” — both in the public and private sectors — is highlighting how the abuse of data can uniquely affect disadvantaged minorities, as we can read in this post by Brian Fung.

A team at Oracle asked industry luminaries the burning question: “If big data were a band, what band would it be?” Hear their answers in the video below:

Four prominent venture capitalists who have funded big-data companies dished about what they’ve gotten tired of — and what they might actually like to fund — at the recent O’Reilly Media’s Strata big-data conference in Santa Clara, Calif. Jordan Novet summarizes the key points.

The differentiation between Qualitative and Quantitative analytics is not always obvious, and in this article Anmol Rajpurohit talks about those differences, as well as the role both approaches have in the business intelligence field.

This presentation, by big data expert Bernard Marr, outlines in simple terms what Big Data is and how it is used today. It covers the 5 V’s of Big Data as well as a number of high value use cases.



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

In their first real face-to-face Data Stories episode ever, Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner invited Accurat’s co-founder Giorgia Lupi, to talk about hand-crafted visualization, high-density designs, design studios, and much more.

In this video of the “Big Data & Brews” series, Jake Flomenberg, a big data industry veteran turned Venture Capitalist, talks about how he views the larger big data market. In case you’re not familiar with it, this YouTube channel features conversations between Datameer CEO, Stefan Groschupf, and various technical Big Data thought-leaders as they talk about whatever is interesting to them at the moment while enjoying the guest’s beer of choice.


Shane O’Neill talked with Phil Simon, author of the upcoming book The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions, to discuss how to become more of a “visual organization,” the perils of being a big data laggard, and more. caught up with Nicolas Belmonte of Twitter about the visualization he worked on the for the State of the Union, which tracked tweets across the U.S.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic See the State of The Union address minute by minute on Twitter
(image: Twitter)


Earlier this month, in collaboration with Forum One Communications, HDC founding member Calfornia HealthCare Foundation produced a guide called “Worth a Thousand Words: How to Display Health Data,” describing case studies and best practices in health data visualization. In this interview, Andy Krackov, Senior Program Officer at CHCF, talks about what data visualization topics were meant to be tackled and goals his organization had in mind when creating the guide.

“A picture is worth 4 kilobytes,” says Kirk Borne, Ph.D., in this podcast about data visualization and big data, or as he prefers to call it, “visual analytics.” He explains what he means by visual analytics and describes where so many data scientists fail in communicating their findings. He also talks about how he sees the field of study developing.

Last week, we also published a new interview, here on Visual Loop, this time with the man behind Google Maps Mania, Keir Clarke.

Exclusive interview with Keir Clarke, of Google Maps Mania
Exclusive interview with Keir Clarke, of Google Maps Mania



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

The first two Visualized 2014 talks posted online belong to two of creators of SelfieCity, mentioned above: Lev Manovich, Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and a Director of the Software Studies Initiative , and Moritz Stefaner, the “truth and beauty operator”. Other videos soon to come.


There are a lot of domain specific visual languages available to play with and check out, and Eric Hosick pulled together a comprehensive list with many of them.

Todd R. Johnson, professor at The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics, explains Data Governance and Visualization in this presentation.


This is a fantastic collection of “all the practical knowledge journalists specializing in investigative reporting can share in the four days of NICAR 2014“. Prepared by Chris Wu, this growing list includes links to the presentations and several additional references.

As information visualization methods mature, we see a growth of information visualization integrated with traditional linear text narrative. This is especially important, as showed in this keynote by Elijah Meeks (Stanford University Library) for this combined event between Bay Area d3 User Group and Data Visualization Group in the Bay Area, in the development of research and publication methods for humanities scholarship, where scholars have traditionally relied entirely on text narrative without even static figures or maps.


Robert Kabacoff, Vice President of Research at Management Research Group, offers a general overview of the programming language “R” and its applications for data visualization.


A new Tumblr blog with a different proposal from what we usually see, in dataviz/infographic curation blogs. Created by, here you are invited to build a data dashboard about an issue, cause, or non-profit organization, and have it featured on this site. According to the site, “there are no rules, no skill requirements, and no winners – if your dashboard fits this theme and tells a story using data, we’ll post it”.



Posted by Al-Ahmadgaid Asaad, this article includes some examples of 3D manipulation and development using the plot3D package for “R”.

This video is a supplemental component to the textbook “Web Cartography: Map Design for Interactive and Mobile Devices” by Ian Muehlenhaus.


The folks at continue to invite some of the top names in the field of data visualization to curate a gallery of projects of their own choosing. This time, Bryan Connor gathered seven projects related to climate change.

A tip from John Brownlee, about the Pattern Library, a simple online site that allows you to keep scrolling through a responsive web library of great patterns, created by designer Claudio Guglieri and built by Tim Holman. If you’re a designer who would like to contribute to the Pattern Library, you can do so here.

This video shows you a quick example of how to bind data using D3 and make some visualization settings to build a table.



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

Data Viz Calendar update
Data Viz Events Calendar


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.