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Data Viz News [48]

A long list of articles, news and resources for those interested in data visualization

March 29, 2014

Due to some technical problems, we weren’t able to publish last week’s edition of Data Viz News, and that just means one thing: There’s an avalanche of recommended links for you today.

The big news of the past two weeks was the launch of the ‘new’ FiveThirtyEight . With a multidisciplinary team under his wing, Nate Silver told in his Manifesto What the Fox Knows what are the plans for this new exciting endeavor – that goes way beyond what you could expect from a data-journalism initiative.

But there were also other important news – even if outside the data visualization field – that are worth pointing out in this selection. First of all you had the Malofiej 22 World Summit and Awards, the SND 35 Best of Digital Design awards were announced, as were the SPD 49 Medal Finalists for Magazine of the Year, Print, and Digital.

And how could we not mention the new chapter in astronomy, cosmology and physics that the detection of gravitational waves in the afterglow of the Big Bang opens, if confirmed? Or the solved mystery of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Add to that incredible interviews, fascinating articles and useful tutorials and tips, and you’ll have a glimpse of what this Data Viz News has for you.

Hope you enjoy this week’s recommended links:


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

Like we said in the introduction, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is up and running online. Besides having expanded the team and the range of topics is covers (see image below), one of the challenges that the project faces is figuring out how to make data journalism vivid and accessible to a broad audience without sacrificing rigor and accuracy. One of the new features is DataLab, a blog-like product led by Mona Chalabi and Micah Cohen.

Partial screen capture of the website FiveThirtyEight
The new FiveThirtyEight


This is the special page Nature magazine dedicated to this major scientific breakthrough. The signature, seen by the BICEP2 radio telescope at the South Pole, packs at least three discoveries into one: It provides the most direct evidence for the existence of the waves predicted by Einstein; it is the proof of ‘cosmic inflation’ that physicists had been eagerly awaiting; and it opens a window into the unification of the fundamental forces of nature and into quantum gravity.

It was no surprise that The New York Times left Malofiej 22 as the great winner, taking home several medals and the Peter Sullivan Award – Best of Show Printed and Best of Show Online. You can check out the full list with all the medalists here.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Front Row to Fashion Week
(image: The New York Times)


Yesterday, we dedicated our Interactive Inspiration weekly post to the winners from the SND’s “Best of Digital Design” competition. Again, The New York Times was all over the place, but the great winner of the night was the amazing NSA Files: Decoded, from The Guardian.

The SND also announced the 2013 World’s Best-Designed™ news sites and apps: NAUTILUS, WNYC for iPhone, Al Jazeera America for iPhone and The New York Times. Judges met in Indianapolis March 21-23 and reviewed sites from around the globe. Winners required a unanimous vote.

The Society of Publication Designers has announced the Medal Finalists of one of the world’s most prestigious editorial design competition. In addition to the finalists, over 600 Merit winners were selected by the jury. The full press release here with all the print and digital medal finalists is here (pdf).

In June 2013, the President of the United States announced the Climate Data Initiative, an effort to leverage data to help the American people understand and prepare for climate change. Now, CartoDB is looking to fund projects building mobile or web-applications, data visualizations, and data collection tools that address topics such as flooding, drought, and heat waves. CartoDB Climate Grants of between $50 and $3500 will be made to successful applications to be used on CartoDB infrastructure over one year.

A look back (with several charts) at the Word Wide Web’s meteoric rise since 1989, published by Laura Ryan and Stephanie Stamm. It was in that year that Tim Berners-Lee published “Information Management: A Proposal” at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, “to achieve a practical goal: to make the troves of information at the institute, known as CERN, more accessible to the scientists there by using hypertext to share information. Instead, he touched off a revolution.”

Brazil’s National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, with the support of Google, will offer the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Portuguese, “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization.” The four-week course will start on Apr. 14 and end on May 12. It will be taught by Alberto Cairo.

The State of the News Media 2014 is the eleventh edition of an annual report by the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project examining the landscape of American journalism. This year’s study includes special reports about the revenue picture for news, the growth in digital reporting, the role of acquisitions and content sharing in local news and developments around digital video. In addition, it provides the latest audience, economic, news investment and ownership trends for key sectors of news media, including a new, searchable Media & News Indicators database.

The Adobe Marketing Cloud provides a complete set of marketing solutions for customers to manage all their marketing efforts and now that data can easily be viewed in Tableau, blended with other data sources, and put into beautiful dashboards. This functionality opens the door for Tableau customers to more effectively explore and analyze the results of marketing processes, especially when the goal is to layer in additional data from outside Adobe Analytics environment.

The Google Maps API now has a new Data Layer which makes it very easy to add GeoJSON to your Google Map creations. The new Data Layer also allows you to add data event handlers to your data. The event handlers include mouse-over and mouse click events. You can learn more about the new Data Layer in the Google Maps Javascript Documentation, with demo maps for each of the new features.



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

In the last edition of Data Viz news, we shared some links regarding the South by Southwest festival (SXSW 2014), but none of those recommendations were as complete, or more focused on data visualization, than this one by Randy Krum. Beside the photos, Randy points out some of the main events and unofficial sessions related to the field and shares several links with more details about each one.

One of the highlights of Visualized 2014 was Kim Rees’ presentation. In a conference about storytelling and data, Kim rocked the boat by calling for rethinking our mania with storytelling. In this article you have a quick recap of her talk.

Sometimes all it takes is a bar chart. Ok. I said it. You can ask any of the viz superstars if they’ve ever made a bar chart and they will sheepishly have to admit “yes, I’ve made a bar chart.” And they’ve probably made lots of them.


Developed by design agency Kram/Weisshaar, CODE_n consists of more than 3.000 square meters (approx. 33,000 ft2) of ink-jet printed textile membranes, stretching more than 260 meters of floor-to-ceiling tera-pixel graphics, and was presented at this year’s CeBIT computer trade fair in Hannover, Germany.

The first of three book reviews/recommendations we have in today’s post. In this one, Jon Salm speaks about The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions, the sixth book by Phil Simon. According to Salm, the book “succeeds in its wealth of case studies and examples, which Simon uses to structure his arguments” and “in describing how businesses can harness the power of Big Data through data visualization”.

The second book review – more of a recommendation actually – was written by Sandro Saitta, about Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data. “The book is an homage to How to Lie with Statistics and it is complementary to it. “, says Saitta.

Finally, the last book recommendation of today’s post comes from no other than Stephen Few, about Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, written in 1971 by the designer/teacher Victor Papanek. “This is a true classic that all designers should read, especially those of us who design information displays.”

The ongoing debate about storytelling and data visualization keeps leading to interesting, in-depth blog posts, after Moritz Stefaner’s Worlds, not stories, that we mentioned in the previous Data Viz News. Here, Robert Kosara gives his two cents about the discussion.

Stories are great vehicles to get people interested, to give them some orientation, and to guide them far enough into a world so that they can do their own exploration.


Again, the issue of storytelling as the core subject of an article, this one by Dino Citaro. The concept of ‘data narration’ as opposed to “data storytelling”, and the relationship between data visualization, narratives and pre-existing insights are two key aspects of this article.

Fresh blog post by Lynn Cherney – we’d love to see it more often – about, guess what? Yes, storytelling, having as a starting point Emma Coats‘ talk at Tapestry Conference, based on her internet-famous 22 Rules of Storytelling developed while she was at Pixar.

As technology has advanced, the war between cyber security professionals and cyber criminals has changed shape every few years. The criminals are becoming more sophisticated, forcing security professionals to continually step up their game. This post by Twain Taylor (the first in a blog series, “Visualizing Cyber Intelligence”) points out some of the problems plaguing security visualization – a field that lies at the intersection of four other major fields of study: security, statistics, computer science, and data visualization. .

In April, at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, members of the Haystack Group in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will present an in-depth study of the ways in which Exhibit has been used — with ramifications for the design of data-visualization tools; data-management software, such as spreadsheets; and Web-authoring software, such as content management systems. Released in 2007, Exhibit lets novices quickly put together interactive data visualizations, such as maps with sortable data embedded in them; sortable tables that automatically pull in updated data from other sites; and sortable displays of linked thumbnail images.

Steve Wexler shares his concerns about how often ‘sparklines’ are cropping up in dashboards. He says that “In many cases, other chart types will do a better job getting the message across”, and uses an example from Stephen Few’s design competition in 2012 to illustrate his case. Comments to the post by Robert Kosara and Andy Cotgreave.

After attending Visualized 2014, Jessica Lascara‘s perception of the roles of a data visualizer and that of an information designer changed a bit, as she explains in this post.

This article is part of a new series about design principles that can serve both as a refresher for seasoned designers and reference for newcomers to the industry. Written by Steven Bradley, here you’ll find a good overview of each of the The Principles Of Gestalt, widely used as guidelines in many areas of Design – including information design.

And closing this section, the data visualization project that captivated the attention – and hearts – of many in the infovis community. One Human Heartbeat by data scientist and communicator Jen Lowe displays the dynamics of Jen’s heartbeat from about one day ago. The data is captured by a Basis B1 band, which is able to detect one’s heart rate by measuring the pulse and blood flow, and then records the average heart rate for each minute.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic One Human Heartbat | Jen Lowe
(image: Jen Lowe)



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

With the amount of international news coverage it got, it’s no surprise that the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 led to the creation of many infographics, maps and charts. One of the most elegant sets of visualizations came, naturally, from the New York Times, as you can see in this page that gathers all of those works.

Wind Speed and Wave Height in the search areas | The New York Times
(Wind Speed and Wave Height in the search areas | The New York Times)


When we interviewed Keir Clarke, a month ago, he mentioned a project he was developing together with Map Channels. Now, the Autocomplete Map Maker is out, making it possible for anyone to create these maps, that use Google search autocomplete to show what are the most popular search terms for locations around the world.

When the Environmental Protection Agency Geoplatform launched in May 2012 there were about 250 people registered to create and share mapping data within the agency. That number has grown to more than 1,000 during the past 20 months, said recently Harvey Simon, EPA’s geospatial information officer. Joseph Marks tells the story.

One of our favorite ‘fantasy maps’ out there is the set of illustrations by Philadelphia artist Andrew DeGraff, that we covered in the past here. Now, Andrew will showcase his massive collection of ‘movie maps’ in a new exhibit at Gallery1988, named Cartography The solo show opens on Saturday, March 29th, 2014 from 7 – 10 PM and will run until Saturday, April 19th.

Paths of Raiders, Infographic by Andrew DeGraph.
(Paths of Raiders | Andrew DeGraph)


Two excellent websites for vintage cartography fans. Old Maps of New York is a nice collection of historical maps of New York which can be viewed using the normal Google Maps panning and zoom controls. Old Maps of Paris is the sister site to Old Maps of New York and includes a number of interesting historical maps of the French capital.

The folks at Unlikely Story just announced the ToC for the upcoming Unlikely Story #9: The Journal of Unlikely Cartography, which will be out in June. It includes eye-catching titles such as “How a Map Works” by Sarah Pinsker; “The Cartographer’s Requiem” by Shira Lipkin; and “All of Our Past Places” by Kat Howard.

Another one for ‘vintage’ fans, with a list of ancient maps available at Daniel Crouch Rare Books. Daniel Crouch founded his company in 2011 and has a collection of some of the world’s oldest and rarest maps.

A selection of interactive maps that cover issues related to biodiversity and life on Earth in general, from Google Maps Mania‘s archives.

Photographer Henry Hargreaves created this cartographic series with food stylist Caitlin Levin, illustrating exactly what kinds of regional delicacies you can expect to find around the world. A delicious tip by Margaret Rhodes.

Maps Of Countries Made From Their Regional Foods | Henry Hargreaves, Caitlin Levin
(Maps Of Countries Made From Their Regional Foods | Henry Hargreaves, Caitlin Levin)



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

As we mentioned in the introduction, Nate Silver’s manifesto was one of the highlights of the new site. Besides explaining in detail the role and fields of action that the team will be covering, Nate also goes on sharing his view on the data journalism landscape, and the approach he feels suitable for journalism in this new digital age. As he puts it, “our methods are not meant to replace “traditional” or conventional journalism.”

Among the chorus of criticism about the new FiveThirtyEight – yes, things heated up a bit after Nate Silver’s site launched -, this one by Noah Smith has been seen as one of the most complete ones.

The problem with the new FiveThirtyEight is not one of data vs. theory. It is one of “data” the buzzword vs. data the actual thing.


A ‘making of’ post by Evan Applegate, graphics designer for Bloomberg Businessweek, about one of the recent works published around the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill. It’s a step-by-step tale that mixes detailed explanations with the right amount of good humor.

Apart from his relentless Twitter coverage of Malofiej 22, Alberto Cairo is also part of the Show Don’t Tell! workshops. This year, he discussed common pitfalls in data graphics, including not adjusting for inflation, for which he used a couple of examples from Spanish sports newspaper, Marca.

On Sunday, March 2, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, the Newseum and Pop Up Archive hosted a one-day conference focused on solving a fairly new problem: How to preserve the new breed of complex interactive projects that are becoming more prevalent in news. Tyler Fischer and Scott Klein provide us with the details of what happened.

The recent boom in “data-driven” journalism projects is exciting. But economist Allison Schrager is concerned that “data give commentary a false sense of authority since data analysis is inherently prone to bias.” She suggests a set of ethics that data journalists might follow to avoid common pitfalls.

This post by School of Data mentor Marco Túlio Pires talks us through how to begin approaching and thinking about stories in data, using as an example a recent story from the The Guardian.

In this article, Alexander Howard talks about his experience at NICAR 2014, giving us a brief overview of the key points presented at the conference. Also, for him “what differentiates NICAR from the hundreds of other panels, forums and conferences that I’ve been to over the years — particularly technology conferences — is the community I’ve seen on display, both online and off.”

“What does it look like to scroll through 30 years of history on one page?”. That’s the challenge Catherine Taibi took upon to make this post, featuring some of the most representative newspaper covers of the past three decades.



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

Big data is a vague term for a massive phenomenon that has rapidly become an obsession with entrepreneurs, scientists, governments and the media, as Tim Harford points out in this article. It’s also the first of two takes in today’s Data Viz News on the failure of Google Flu Trends as an indisputable proof of the value carried by big data.

The second article referring to Google Flu Trends and big data was written by Numbersense‘s author Kaiser Fung, who also talks about his OCCAM framework, “a more honest assessment of the current state of big data and the assumptions lurking in it.”

According to Gary Drenik, “as more marketers recognize their big data ad targeting expenditures aren’t paying off, they will turn to more valuable data analytic outcomes for a better understanding of what makes their customers tick—the how’s, the why’s, and what they will do—and move beyond programmatic ad buying.”

A Senior Manager, Product Marketing EMEA n APAC at Talisma Corporation, Prayukth K V shares his view on how Big Data will change our lives in 2020.



Insights from well-known names in the data visualization field, published during the past couple of weeks.

We had the pleasure to ask a few question to the “truth and beauty operator”, Moritz Stefaner, for this month’s exclusive interview on Visual Loop.

Interview with Moritz Stefaner
Interview with Moritz Stefaner


Speaking of  Moritz Stefaner, in the latest episode of Data Stories he and Enrico Bertini talked with Simon Rogers about his past experience at The Guardian as well as the more recent and exciting developments at Twitter.You might want to also check the interview Simon gave us just before he went to Twitter.

The Wolfram Language will become publicly available in the next few weeks, Wolfram Research founder Stephen Wolfram promised in a recent keynote at SXSW. This interview is divided in two parts (one and two), and it covers the Wolfram language, its application to wearables and corporate data science needs, and Wolfram’s own life-logging efforts.

GeoHipster is the brainchild of Atanas Entchev and Glenn Letham, and they regularly publish interviews with important names related to the digital cartography field. The latest one is with the Senior Scientist at Vizzuality and responsible for innovation, education and community engagement at CartoDB, Andrew Hill.

There are a lot of reasons why geo is so in-focus right now, mainstream or other. Maybe a major one is that maps seem to be the right proportion of truth and deception to make data accessible, to make data approachable, and to contextualize otherwise foreign concepts.

Several interesting insights coming out this conversation between Will Kreth and Eric Klotz, founder of VISUALIZED. Kloutz states that “in a time of increased data and shrinking screens, we need better ways to collectively make sense of the information being thrown at us”, when talking about the Visualized conferences particular format.

Andrew Fogg from discusses data visualization and the structured web with Mikko Jarvenpaa from Infogram. Mikko talks about his past experience with web data at Google and Hack Fwd and his current work with Infogram and Vuact.



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

This is Simon Roger‘s guide to using CartoDB for mapping data, breaking down step-by-step the process behind the creation of one of his recent visualizations, London’s rail system in 60 seconds – also highlighted in this edition of Digital Cartography.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic London's rail system in 60 seconds | The Guardian
(image: Simon Rogers)


Bryan Connor has made some changes to his website The Why Axis. Among them, a new Collections tab, that lists the blog’s content by categories.

Inspired by this article, Flavio Barros pulled together a list of multimedia resources to learn “R”.

In a world of exponential information growth, we crave content that is efficient, engaging and easy to synthesize. This guide from the folks at Column Five will show you why visual communication works — and how to make it work for you.


A set of practical tips on how to use Google to search for code solutions, compiled by Suyeon Son as she was trying to solve some issues with a project she was working on.

John Pavlus talks about Designers & Books, a new website that lets you glance over the shoulder of your favorite A-list designers and see what books inspire them. With 50 designers, 678 books, and a few other bits and bobs to choose from, there’s definitely something here for everybody.

This is the slide deck Andy Cotgreave delivered in his “Most Influential Vizzes of all Time” talk at SXSW in 2014.



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. As usual, feel free to let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group, 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.