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Data Viz News [47]

The latest articles news and resources related to data visualization and journalism

March 15, 2014

New promising tools, fresh visualization competitions, inspiring interviews, Pi Day, SXSW 2014…Yes, this was one of those weeks in the Data Visualization world. Today’s list of links about data visualizations, data journalism, cartography and big data is not the biggest one we had, but it sure worth checking.

For instances, you’ll get to know more about The UpShot”, the New York Times’ replacement for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Also, a couple of tools – Visage from the folks at Column Five, and Streamtools, by New York Times R&D Lab – made their debut, joining a growing list of DIY alternatives out there. Simon Rogers shares some practical tips on how to work with animated narratives in journalism, after presenting his latest collaboration with Mariana Santos – who, by the way, has managed to pull off the first Chicas Poderosas workshop in the U.S., set to happen in Miami, in April. And in the interview section, conversations with Nicholas Felton, Andrew W. Hill and the former owner of the Washington Post, Don Graham.

We’d also like to remind you of this week’s compilations, with vintage information design, print and online infographics and interactive maps, in case you prefer a more “visual” type of content. If not, well, get set for Data Viz News:



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

The winner of this years SXSW ReleaseIt, Visage is a new Web-based platform by the folks at Column Five, “that transforms the uninspired data in your reports into beautiful, branded visualizations that make your message more impactful—and make your work look good. The easy-to-use software helps you create high-quality, professional visualizations that are accurate, effective and elegant.”.

Visage, new infographic tool by Column Five
Visage, new infographic tool by Column Five


A new and open source tool from the New York Times R&D Lab, Streamtools provides a general purpose, graphical tool for dealing with streams of data. It offers a vocabulary of operations that can be connected together to create live data processing systems without the need for programming or complicated infrastructure. These systems are assembled using a visual interface that affords both immediate understanding and live manipulation of the system.

Speaking of The New York Times, David Leonhardt, the Times’ former Washington bureau chief, told Quartz that the new venture that is set to replace Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, will have a dedicated staff of 15, including three full-time graphic journalists, and is on track for a launch this spring. The name of the online endeavor is “The Upshot.”

The Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin has a new report out called Interactive Features in Online News. In order to get a sense of how features like polls and various share buttons are being treated by newsroom developers, Professor Talia Stroud, the project’s lead researcher, surveyed over 950 web pages and 155 websites. The report is available for download here (pdf).

The “Elite 8 Sports Viz” contest is now open for submissions! This is the first of three contests in this year’s Iron Viz series, all leading up to the big finale, a live viz battle at the Tableau Conference in Seattle, in September. Contest entries are due on March 21st and you can submit your viz using this form.

Press Gazette launched a new set of awards to highlight the journalists who are doing the most to harness the power of social media. There are just four categories, with the awards spread out over the course of the next year: Reporter of the Year on Twitter and Social Media; Most Influential Journalist on Social Media; Best News Organisation for Breaking News on Social Media; Best Journalist/News Organisation to follow on Social Media. Press Gazette readers are invited to vote in-turn for their favourites on Twitter, using the hastag #SMJA, via Google+ and online.

The first Chicas Poderosas event in the United States will happen in Miami, next April. The four-day workshop will be a mixture of lectures and clinics, as well as significant amounts of hands-on work producing and making journalism projects that incorporate new skills. The event will be multilingual, with translation services to be provided in Spanish, English and Portuguese. To know more about this project, visit the website and read the exclusive interview with Mariana Santos.

One human brain contains seven orders of magnitude of spatial complexity and at least 10 orders of temporal magnitude. These numbers are hard to fathom so MIT’s EyeWire has teamed up with FEI and Visually to launch a “Scale of the Brain” Infographic Competition. Entries should visualize spatial scales in the brain. The deadline for submissions is April 30, and the winner will be announced on May 15.

Dublinked invites interested parties to join them at the Dublinked Data Visualisation Competition launch event on Wednesday 19th March, to explore the area of data visualization,to learn about available data visualisation tools and on the day Dublinked will launch a Data Visualization Competition. Speakers on the day will provide an overview of the current state of play in the area, future trends and showcase available tools.

No, this is not a “data visualization” story, but when the cartoonist in hand is Randall Munroe, and the subject is a new book inspired by his online comic XKCD, there’s no way we could leave this out.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced this week that it would be publishing a book written and illustrated by Mr. Munroe based on a side project on the xkcd website called “What If?”. Though the book won’t appear for six months, “What If?” quickly reached No. 2 on Amazon’s best-seller list on the strength of pre-orders, trailing only a history book from Rush Limbaugh.

Another SXSW festival is gone, and among many take-backs from this year’s edition there’s the 2014 SXSW Interactive Awards. The big winner was The Little Red Logo that Transformed the Marriage Equality Narrative, taking away the Best of Show and Digital Campaign of the Year awards. Our particular recommendations go to Pulse of the City, by George Ziziadis (winner in Art category), The Missing Person Pre-Roll (winner in Activism), and An Idea Lives On (Best Film/TV). Stay tuned to the SXSW website, as details will be announced for the 2015 SXSW Interactive Awards Competition.



A selection of recent articles published by experts in various fields of data visualization:

“Pi Day” is celebrated every year on March 14. For some, this date is probably an excuse to eat a lot of pie and for others it’s probably an excuse to memorize some number of digits of pi. In the data visualization community, however, it’s the opportunity to do something about pie charts, like Jon Schwabish shows in this article.

Honoring International Women’s Day, Travis Korte pulled together a list of women in data visualization that are rockin’ on Twitter. All these accounts are deservedly recommended, of course – but this list could easily go on.

A look at slopegraphs, by Myles Harrison, that is doing more research into less common types of data visualization techniques. In this post, he takes on Andy Kirk’s piece praising slopegraphs, alongside some bad examples of the use of this sort of graphic.

An always-welcome chart critic and redesign by Kaiser Fung. In this post, he applies his well-known Trifecta checkup to a graphic apparently made by CNBC – and presents a much better alternative.

And while we’re at it, Xan Gregg invites us to ‘fight’ the widespread use of poor pie charts on Pi Day: Looking for wayward pie charts in your own work or in a public space like Wikipedia and replacing them with better visualizations. The hashtag used on Twitter for this was #onelesspie.

A fun one to close this section. Designer/illustrator Josh LN shows how “History Began with Superheroes” in this hieroglyphic-style illustration. Brilliant.

Hero-Glyphics, infographic by Josh LN
(image: Josh LN)



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

Keir Clarke talks about Napoleon’s March, Leaflet Data Visualization Framework’s modern reworking of Charles Minard’s flow map – probably his most famous visualization – is a good attempt at a slippy map visualization of the Napoleonic army’s movements and dwindling size. Unfortunately the map lack’s Minard’s temperature chart that visualized the freezing temperatures faced by Napoleon’s army as they pushed eastwards.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Napoleon's March
Napoleon’s March, inspired by Charles Minard and his famous Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813.


The Social Computing group, led by Sep Kamvar, (LG Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences), is making 10,000 maps—100 maps of 100 cities, including Boston, Cambridge, and New York City. The maps show a wide range of information, including public transportation efficiency, school route walkability, and estimates of footfall density on sidewalks. “The residents will be able to see this narrative of their city that they haven’t been able to see before,” he said to Eric Smalley, who wrote this article.

Earth’s terrain is ever changing thanks to erosion, but now a technique enables scientists to reconstruct some past landscapes and forecast those of the future. The key is in the geometry of how river boundaries shift over time, suggests the study, which uses a statistical method to assess and describe these changes, as explained in this article by Sid Perkins.


A hand-picked selection of ancient maps, some of which are new to us. From London’s cholera outbreak to the siege of Frankfurt, you’ll see the work of the earliest data gurus, who charted not just geographical details but trends and tragedies in some of the world’s cities.

And still on the subject of ‘vintage visualization’, here’s another selection, this time by Greg Miller, who talks about the set of maps that were recently scanned and posted online by the New York Public Library’s Map Division, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This selection, handpicked by NYPL geospatial librarian Matt Knutzen, focuses on transit plans.

Horse Routes in Manhattan (1852)
Horse Routes in Manhattan (1852)



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

Charlie Chung from from Class Central recently spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Doig, one of the instructors on the team of “Doing Journalism with Data: First Steps, Skills and Tools“, which starts May 19, to get a preview of one of the most expected MOOCs of the year.


Alberto Cairo praises the new project by Robert Kosara, The Directory of News Visualizations, that we mentioned last week, as a new resource to point his students to, when searching for infographic and visualization inspiration. And we’re happy our weekly round ups are on that list of resources Alberto recommends – even if they’re “bit of a hodgepodge”.

Last week saw the first event in the Responsible Data forum, co-organised by Aspiration Tech together with the engine room, held in Oakland, CA. The event brought together a broad range of people, from those documenting human rights abuses, funders of social innovation projects, technologists providing secure hosting, net neutrality campaigners, digital security trainers, and open data advocates, to name just a few areas of knowledge, and Zara Rahman shares the key highlights in this post.

Another post by the folks of The School of Data, and again about an event. Here, Teresa Jolley talks about the Statistics in Journalism conference, held in the end of January by the Department of Journalism Studies of the University of Sheffield.

An eloquent – and humorous – tale by The Chicago Tribune‘s visual journalist Alex Bordens, describing his (hard) journey from print to the Internet, while pointing out several practical tips to help you cross that bridge with a minimum level of despair – after all, as he says, “the internet is hard and will likely make you either cry or drink heavily depending on your personality.”

The author of Facts are Sacred, Simon Rogers, has been collaborating with Mariana Santos to create video animations about several topics. This is the latest one, published recently for International Women’s Day — the theme of which this year was inequality. He also shares some practical tips on how to work with animates narratives, based on his experience.



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

This talk covers the basics of D3 and sheds light on some of its main conceptual hurdles. It concludes by discussing some applications of D3 to big data.


The opportunities in Big Data are too compelling for any business to ignore. In this article, Tim Girgenti highlights five basic principles regarding Big Data that successful companies understand, like “Big Data is about connected data” and “You need data science, from insight to outcome”.

Close to the beginning of Giga Om’s Structure Data, Derrick Harris leaves a few key points and trends that will be discussed in that event, with a panel speakers that will be talking about everything from fighting human trafficking to the future of Hadoop and the cutting edge in artificial intelligence.

Kenji Williams, Ed Parsons, David McConville and Linda Tischler go on a one-hour discussion about the revolution in data visualization and how it will transform our future. The video was uploaded recently, but it refers to an event held a couple of years ago, Aspen Ideas 2012.



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

Ryan and Tina Essmaker spoke with Nicholas Felton while he was knee-deep in his latest Annual Report, just weeks after the launch of his Reporter iPhone app. He shared about his path into design, his decision to focus on data visualization, his recent transition back to the East Coast after two years at Facebook, among other topics.

There’s a universe of personal data around us. The thing I’m trying to do with my work is connect people with the footprints or data they create. I’m hoping, in some way, to liberate this data.


This is the second part of an interview with Don Graham, who was publisher of the Washington Post for more than two decades, before selling the newspaper to Jeff Bezos. In Part One of his OZY interview, Graham talked about his predecessor (and mom), the legendary Katharine Graham.

A quick Q&A with one of the most prolific figures of the digital mapping scene, Andrew W. Hill, on his work at Visuallity and CartoDB, storytelling and learning to code.

This interview is part of “The Guts” series, where Rachel Schallom, a multimedia designer at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, will be finding cool projects and tracking down how it was made. Here, Sisi Wei answers a few questions about ProPublica’s “The Military is Leaving the Missing Behind” — a story about the Americans missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who are considered recoverable.

Not so long ago, The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for Time Services at the US Naval Observatory about where time comes from, the precision required and how they obtain it, and why we need such precision. Nathan Yau shared the video of that interview on Flowing Data:



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

A gallery of visualizations from apps and websites in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Great resource pulled together by Sebastian Sadowski.

Partial screen capture of the interactive gallery MOBILE INFOVIS
(image: Mobile Infovis)


Excellent tip by Andy Kirk, pointing us to the Sunlight FoundationData Visualization Style Guidelines“, a guide that covers the basics of visualization in a effective and elegant way. As well as covering the general layout, branding, type and color identities, the guideline helpfully profiles the general dos and don’ts for several key chart types.

Evolving tastes and preferences of the user along with developments in mobile and web technologies is determining the look and feel of the modern day dashboards. Here’s a quick list of 10 trends in dashboard design, shared by the folks at Fusion Charts.


A paper authored by Sebastian Sadowski and Monika Hoinkis, overviewing several visualization projects (digital and physical) that focus on real-time streams of data, and proposing a classification method to “provide the reader with an useful tool to find the appropriate visualization method for future projects.”

James Davemport shares some of the findings uncovered in his “informal report” on the study of gender in AAS talks. It all started about 6 months ago when he was attending a difference astronomy conference, and observed that the gender ratio for speakers seemed well balanced, as did the audience. Both were perhaps 60%/40% (Men/Women). However, the questions mostly seemed to be asked by men.

In time for Tableau’s Sports Viz Contest (mentioned above, in the News section), Ben Jones shares a viz that allows you to search and find websites with sports data for over a dozen different sports.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Sports Data Sites
(image: Tableau Public)


A step-by-step guide on how to easily export a CSV in Tableau, by Andy Kriebel – “a game changer” as he calls it. It’s really easy, and the sample workbook is available to download.

A full presentation by our friend Randy Krum, of Cool Infographics and InfoNewt.


One of the keynotes at this year’s Strata Conference, that took place in Santa Clara (CA) last February, was Ben Fry, principal of the data visualization agency Fathom, and the video of his presentation is now online:



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. 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.