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Data Viz News [55]

The latest news, articles and resources from the data visualization community

May 17, 2014

When the news came out that The New York Times dismissed Jill Abramson as executive editor, last Wednesday, replacing her with Dean Baquet, the managing editor, pretty much everyone was in shock. Rumors that the reason for such an abrupt change in the most well-known newspaper in the world were related to a salary disagreement were not confirmed, and the official explanation is that there were “serious tension in her relationship” with Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company. And if this wasn’t enough, soon after, Buzzfeed’s Myles Tanzer released a leaked internal report of the Times’ newsroom innovation team, that Joshua Benton from Nieman Lab called “one of the key documents of this media age”.

Besides this story – which is, obviously, our number one pick for today’s Data Viz News – , other announcements caught our attention, especially the ones related to job openings. In addition to the ones included here, we always like to remind our readers about the Google Group that Lynn Cherny runs, where you can find many other carreer opportunities being posted on a regular basis – Lynn, by the way, wrote an excellent article this week, a follow-up post about storytelling in data visualization.

This round up of links also includes many other recent articles, interviews and resources, that will guarantee you at least a couple of hours of reading and exploring. Hope you enjoy it – and have a great weekend!


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

Like we mentioned in the introduction, The New York Times dismissed Jill Abramson as executive editor on Wednesday, replacing her with Dean Baquet. According to the Times’ note, “Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company, told a stunned newsroom that had been quickly assembled that he had made the decision because of “an issue with management in the newsroom.” The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes under Ms. Abramson, and she won praise for journalistic efforts both in print and on the web.

The Goat must be fed” is a fresh new report, product of the Duke Reporters’ Lab at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy in the Sanford School of Public Policy. Written by Mark Stencel, Bill Adair and Prashanth Kamalakanthan, it’s based on interviews with more than 20 senior editors, news directors and digital editors at newspapers, TV stations and radio outlets across the United States, and it outlines the gap between newsrooms of different sizes, in terms of use of data journalism tools and techniques. Alberto Cairo added some comments about this report on his blog.

Partial screen capture of the report The Goat must be fed
(image: The Goat must be fed | Duke Reporters’ Lab)


Environmental journalists can now apply for a fellowship to cover business practices in the Amazon, for‘s Special Reporting Initiative (SRI) Program. English-speaking journalists who plan to publish their reports in English will receive up to US$20,000: a US$15,000 stipend and up to US$5,000 for travel and reporting costs. The deadline to apply is June 15.

Zachary Bookman, the CEO of OpenGov, announced in the company’s blog a new Series B investment. The premier Silicon Valley venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz has led the investment, which totals nearly $15m. A16Z’s newest General Partner, Balaji S. Srinivasan, a former Professor of Statistics at Stanford University and co-founder and CTO of Counsyl, will join’s board of directors.

Cloudbilt, a provider of Software-as-a-Service Apps, has announced a new nonprofit support program in conjunction with the Foundation. The program provides 501(c)(3) organizations with ten free licenses for its flagship MapAnything application and a ten percent discount off additional licenses. Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status interested in participating in the program can apply online here.

Every month, Nathan Yau posts the latest job openings added to Flowing Data’s Job Board. If you live in New York or Melboune (Australia), you might want to check it out, some interesting opportunities available.

If , by any chance, you’re planning to visit Barcelona this year, don’t miss the exhibit Big Bang Data, that opened last week at the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona, and will be available for visitation until October, 26. Taking part in the project are creators such as Christopher Baker, Chris Jordan, Ingo Gunther, Erik Kessels, David Bowen, Aaron Koblin, Eric Fischer, and Jaime Serra, along with investigators, activists, designers, educators, analysts, cartographers, engineers, economists, architects, communicators, programmers, journalists and many others. Jaime posted on his blog some of the pieces he has on this exhibit.

Data in your pockets, by Jaime Serra for Big Bang Data



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

Jen Christiansen shares an abridged version of her OpenVis Conference presentation, in which she shows a glimpse at the process and guiding philosophy behind data visualizations for Scientific American.

This is part 2 of Lynn Chernney‘s post on implied stories (part one), suggesting that good data visualization is often about characters. And the storytelling debate continues…

Presenting a visualization hook of a hero or villain outlier and the company they keep might make a reader curious — curious enough to explore the visualization or topic further.


The 2014 edition of World Development Indicators (WDI) was released in the last few weeks, revealing some startling differences in the lives of people around the world, and the challenges they face. In this article Neil Fantom shows a couple of examples of visualizations that use the data within that report.

Glenn Greenwald, the reporter that broke the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, has published a new set of documents to the web concurrent with his new book‘s release, and Matthew Yglesias shares some of terrible slides that have kind of become a trademark in NSA Powerpoint presentations.

And speaking of terrible visual presentations, Paul Ford showcases, with a nice twist of humor, more unbelievable examples from documents coming out of U.S. military organizations.

More “bad charts alerts”, this time with “common mistakes enraging data nerds everywhere since the invention of the bar chart”. You’ll see all the ‘classics’ here…

A post by Randy Krum alerting to the use of “registration walls” in infographic promotion, a practice that he considers unfit for this type of content, for several reasons.

Margaret Rhodes talks about, the data visualization tool created by the folks at Column Five, that we mentioned here a couple of months ago.

This is the first post in the Data Visualization in Education series where the folks at Fusion Charts showcase how different universities are using data visualization in a meaningful way. This first post covers what’s been doing at University at Buffalo (UB), The State University of New York (SUNY).

One of our featured interactive visualizations this week was RockViz, an exploration of 2000 rock album covers that have been classified as the ‘most significant’ by editors of the platform AllMusic. Everardo Reyes-Garcia explains in this post how he developed the project.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic RockViz
(image: Everardo Reyes-Garcia)



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

Inspired by John Nelson’s breathing earth and Conveyal’s aggregate-disser post, Joey Cherdarchuk developed an animated visualization of Manhattan’s population at work and at home by hour. He explains in this article all the “easy steps” he had to take to complete this “simple” project.



A nice one to help us with our weekly round ups of vintage maps, charts and graphics, courtesy of Kleir Clarke. From David Rumsey Map Collection to the recent Google Maps Gallery, these websites provide you with thousands of ancient maps.

The website Londonmapper, created by academics from Oxford University, has produced over 300 maps of the capital, including ones that show the distribution of homeless people, obese children, rent prices and even hedgehog sightings. The folks at The Guardian put together 15 of their most interesting designs in a gallery, as well as one that shows the true scale of London for reference.

Another visualization that was already mentioned here on Visual Loop, the Smartmine Whale Tracking Map, which animates the paths of whales using data collected over recent months, was developed by the GeoEngineers’ Smartmine team.

Partial screen capture of the interactive Smartmine Whale Tracker
(image: GeoEngineers)


Again from Keir Clarke, a small round up with some of the most inspiring uses of Google Maps API and Street View. Using these two makes it possible to create fully immersive and interactive guided tours of locations around the world, and here are five examples.

Last week, our friend Gustavo Faleiros led a Google+ webinar which covered basic info on mapping for journalism. Participants learned how to acquire data from primary sources, transform it into a display-ready format and map it with the right tools. The webinar, hosted by ICFJ Anywhere, was supported by Dow Jones Foundation, and in this article are IJNet’s key takeaways.

One of the many interesting sessions that took place during the annual Perugia International Journalism Festival, this one about visualizing geo-localised data on maps – one of the most classical format of Data Driven Journalism, but it is an always evolving field: each year new tools and practices appear and regenerate data mapping.

The “Chevalier” Commercial, Pictorial and Tourist Map of San Francisco (its full title) was designed and engraved by August Chevalier, lithographer and publisher. The original first edition was later published with improvements and additions in 1911, and Kenneth Field tells us a bit about what makes this map so different from others of the same period of time.

Colossal‘s Christopher Jobson shares two new stunning pieces today from London-based artist Claire Brewster, who creates delicate montages of birds, bees, and plants cut from maps. Some of her cartographic sculptures are cut by hand while others, like the ones featured in this post, are laser cut and then pinned onto a board.

(image: Flocks of Birds Laser Cut from Maps by Claire Brewster)



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

One of the many reactions to the announcement that Jill Abramson was fired from her position as the executive editor of the Times. Ken Auletta wrote this one (and this other one), with details that are still emerging. Other reactions and comments you might want to read were published in FiveThirtyEight, Vox, The Atlantic, Forbes, and many others.

Jill Abramson’s removal and Dean Baquet’s ascent has apparently inspired someone inside the Times to leak one of the most remarkable documents regarding the present and future of journalism, to Myles Tanzer at BuzzFeed. In this article, Joshua Benton highlights the key points of this document, which you can see below:


This is a report from the second panel session during the School of Data Journalism organised by Open Knowledge, European Journalism Center and hosted by International Journalism Festival. The session was led by Antoine Laurent, Silke Grunewald, Marie Coussin, Martin Belam, Mar Cabra, and it was about producing data journalism content in small teams.

Alberto Cairo shared his tips for visualizing data in a more effective and focused way at the recent Chicas Poderosas conference in Miami, including the four guiding principles to remember when preparing a visualization or infographic. Here’s the full talk:


The folks at The Media Briefing analysed social sharing data for every article published they could find on each of the three new “data journalism outlets” sites since their respective relaunches: a total of 1,106 articles – 610 from Vox, 356 from FiveThirtyEight, and 140 from The Upshot.

A somewhat provocative post by Milo Yiannopoulos, with his opinion on why Data journalism, “fact check” journalism and the new generation of “explainer” websites are failing to grab the general public’s attention.

If you’ve signed up to a life of crafting explainer tabs for Vox, or landed a gig at the Guardian writing for its datablog, good for you. But know that your work will only ever be read by dorks


“Parties are campaigning in full flow for the European and local elections but the stats they’re using may be stretching credibility”. Yes, you guessed it right: it’s another post about misleading charts and statistics, this one from The Guardian’s Adrian Short.

And while we’re at it, here’s Alberto Cairo‘s take on another epic data journalism fail, coming out from FiveThirtyEight. The criticism to the way data was misrepresented in this article started on Twitter and ultimately led to an editor’s note update, that pretty much sums it all in the first sentence: “This article contains many errors, some of them fundamental to the analysis.”

La Nación’s VozData initiative, which launched in late March, allows users to review and rate more than 6,500 Argentine Senate spending records from 2010 to 2012 – all were originally published on the official Senate website. The project was inspired by initiatives like ProPublica’s Free the Files and the Guardian’s MP’s Expenses.

Ben Jones, senior product manager at Tableau Software, shares his ideas on the rise of data journalism, through this article written by Tess VandenDolder. For Jones, and others working with building the technology making data journalism so available, data journalism is not a trends, but just the beginning. “As people become more numerically literate, it’s only a good thing – individuals will come to expect a quantitative backbone to the stories they read.”

Like others, Andrew Whitby has become quite frustrated at the mixed quality of the new data journalism sites that have sprung up. He made this Prezi presentation as a response to the frequent bad examples coming out of sites such as FiveThirtyEight and Vox.



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

Brian Enquist, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, gave this talk at the 2014 Santa Fé Institue Science Board Symposium. Enquist’s lab investigates how functional constraints at the level of the individual (anatomical and physiological) influence larger scale ecological and evolutionary patterns.


At the 67th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Seattle, Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight, “delivered an important message to financial professionals about the appropriate uses and definite limitations of big data that was well worth its weight in gold”. Jason Voss reports with the key points of Silver’s presentation.

This paper by Muhammad Adnan, Paul A. Longley and Shariq M. Khan investigates the social dynamics of Twitter social media usage in three ethnically diverse cities — London, Paris, and New York City.

Presentation given by Dr. Diego Kuonen, CStat PStat CSci, on May 13, 2014, at the `SMi Big Data in Pharma’ conference in London.


The issue of big data and ethics is at the core of this article, that provides a good overview of the main issues pointed out in the recent White House report on big data. Compiled by the administration over 90 days, the analysis articulates the prospects and the perils, and it suggests a few policies.

Many business leaders have embraced big data initiatives expecting miracles, only to discover that big data introduces new complexities – and that reaping the benefits requires a lot more effort than they anticipated. Mary Shacklett lists 10 key things that big data in itself won’t do for your business, unless you take the right steps to optimize its value.

Again from the Perugia International Journalism Festival YouTube channel, this is the presentation by DisqusDaniel Ha and journalist Lelio Simi.



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

An interview with Angélica “Momi” Peralta Ramos, one of the persons responsible for the brilliant data journalism efforts coming out the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion.

The open data movement and hacktivism can accelerate the application of technology to ingest large sets of documents, complex documents or large volumes of structured data. This will accelerate and help journalism extract and tell better stories, but also bring tons of information to the light, so everyone can see, process and keep governments accountable.


Michael Keller, an interactive multimedia reporter for Al Jazeera America, talked with Annie Stone about his work, the role of data visualization inside a newsroom, and why it can be such a powerful tool to report stories and events.

In this quick Q&A, Gary Shorter discusses how Big Data is shaping the future of Healthcare industry and gives some advises for those looking for a career in Analytics.



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

Nice to see Andy Cotgreave getting back to the Best of the Tableau Web, a round up with some of the most interesting links to visualization projects and user cases found on the Internet. This edition covers February, March and April.

Also with fair number of suggested links to read, the latest issue of the Data Science Weekly newsletter was out early in the week, featuring curated news, articles and jobs related to Data Science.

Andy Kirk met recently with Miguel Nacenta, one of the people behind the development of the FatFonts technique, and of another tool he has co-worked on developing called Transmogrifiers, that Andy reviews in this post.


Ann Emery and Stephanie Evergreen compiled a set of best practices based on extensive research, tested against the practical day-to-day realities of evaluation practice and the pragmatic needs of our stakeholders. The document pilot-reviewed by Jon Schwabish and Rob Simmon, among several others, and was quite mentioned on Twitter,

In a guest post for Online Journalism Blog, Natalia Karbasova explains how, with no coding experience, she used German carpool data for the basis of a data visualization project.

Nathan Yau shares the link to Hadley Wickham‘s practical guide to finding and removing the major bottlenecks in your R code.

Useful list with Map Control Icons and Navigation psd files. The categorical division helps you to settle on the motif most suitable for your website.

And we close with another list of resources, this time with data visualization tools, pulled together by Brian Suda and Sam Hampton-Smith. The comments section is filled with many other services and platforms suggestions.



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

Data viz calendar


And that’s it for another Data Viz News. Let us know if we missed some other 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.