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Data Viz News [64]

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

August 9, 2014

Ukraine, Gaza, Western Africa. This week, the news surrounding the tragic events unfolding in these regions have overshadowed everything else – or at least, it should have. In terms of data visualization, events such as these are usually followed by impressive infographics and maps, and this time it wasn’t different. Remarkable jobs by the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post were highly praised by the data viz community, so, in a sense, these were the top highlights of the past few days.

Taking aside the obvious discrepancy in overall importance, our list of top news of the week also includes announcements from MapBox, OpenDNS, IBM and OpenSignal, a new data journalism MOOC in Spanish, NSF’s annual International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, and John Venn’s 180th anniversary, celebrated with a delightful Google Doodle and several round ups of favorite/terrible venn diagrams. ( Also, congratulations to OpenStreetMap for its 10th anniversary, celebrated today).

A couple of webinars and interviews, alongside the most provoking, in-depth and engaging articles about data journalism, visualization, cartography and big data complete today’s Data Viz News, with a total of 45 links. Hope you enjoy the reading, and have a great weekend!


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

Mapbox GL JS is a client-side renderer, so it uses JavaScript and WebGL to dynamically draw data with the speed and smoothness of a video game. Instead of fixing styles and zoom levels at the server level, Mapbox GL puts power in JavaScript, allowing for dynamic styling and freeform interactivity. In June, the company launched a preview of Mapbox GL for native platforms, and now they announced that they have open sourced its web counterpart, Mapbox GL JS to enable cross-platform styling.

“The Vizzies” is the newest iteration of the NSF’s annual International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, which has honored some amazing stuff in the past. They’ve hosted the contest for more than a decade, and this year they’ve joined forces with Popular Science magazine, as announced in this article. If you want to participate, send your work through Tuesday, September 30 at 11:59pm PST. All the details here.

Hull-born John Venn, creator of the eponymous diagram, was born 180 years ago, in August 4, 1834, and to celebrate the date Google have created an interactive doodle of the famous data visualization. Besides praising Google’s doodle, , George Arnett also shows a couple of examples of terrible Venn diagrams – something that, unfortunately, it’s easier to find than ever. Our friend Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez also wrote about this date on her blog.

Partial screen capture of the interactive John Venn Google doodle
(image: Google)


The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin will offer a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on data journalism. The program will introduce journalists to the most relevant digital tools that assist in data reporting, and will be led by Argentine journalist Sandra Crucianelli. The course begins Aug. 18 and runs until Sept. 21, and you can get all the information here (in Spanish).

The folks at OpenDNS have been working on a “next-generation data visualization tool”. OpenGraphiti is a new data visualization engine focused on 3D rendering. It can visualize any relational data by connecting various entities with ‘like’ relationships. According to Thibault Reuille, they’ve been using this tool extensively to provide new insights into, and unique perspectives of, the company’s intelligence database, and now it feels it has reached a certain level of maturity, enough to make it publicly available.

Based in the East Village, Electric Objects (EO) has an intriguing idea: what if there was a computer dedicated to the sole purpose of exhibiting digital artwork? To find out, they’re making one. So, to begin exploring the possibilities of the platform, they’ve started an artist residency program, and NYPL Labs is among their first partners. The Library is asking applicants to see what beautiful things can be made from their map and NYC history collections, and if you’re interested, you can get all the details at the Electric Objects artists page.

Crowdsourced mobile signal mapper OpenSignal has closed a $4 million Series A funding round, led by chipmaker Qualcomm via its investment arm, Qualcomm Ventures. Prior investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Passion Capital also participated in the round. OpenSignal’s business model involves providing intel on the consumer experience on mobile and wireless networks to a range of paying customers — including carriers, web companies, consultancy firms, hedge funds and telecoms regulators.

Also this week Dundas Data Visualization announced that a National Health Service (NHS) Trust in the UK has chosen Dundas Dashboard as its dashboard and data visualization platform. The NHS provides public health care in the UK and Devon Partnership NHS Trust provides mental health and learning disability services in the county of Devon, in the south west of the country. The dashboards will track various key metrics, including waiting times and patient follow-ups, which will help the Trust to monitor its performance against internal and national targets.

IBM announced new consulting services, known as “IBM Global Business Services Online”, that provide customers with direct access to analytics assessments and other click-to-buy services. The new services, part of IBM’s social business strategy and digital portfolio, provide customers with immediate access to IBM’s analytics capabilities and expertise. IBM is promoting the services through a convenient digital delivery model. Clients in the United States and the United Kingdom will have direct access to these digital services through Global Business Services Online. Once purchased, a consultant will contact the client within one business day of contract confirmation to commence fulfillment.

IEEE Vis, one of the premiere conferences for data visualization, will feature eight research papers co-authored by NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering faculty members from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The event will be held November 9-14, 2014, in Paris, and includes conferences on Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST); Information Visualization (InfoVis), and Scientific Visualization (SciVis).

The “Operator of Truth and Beauty”, Moritz Stefaner, will be moderating a panel featuring Greg McInerny, Scott David, Matteo Maggiore, and Tariq Khokhar, at this year’s edition of IEEE Vis conference. During this session, they will try to shed some light on what it’s like to work with and publish data in the NGO context, and what can be done to improve that work. Moritz will also be giving a workshop, together with Dominikus Baur, about all the practical aspects of producing successful web-based data visualizations.



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

One of those types of posts by Kaiser Fung that really makes you love his blog, especially if you’re in the initial stages of learning data visualization. A step-by-step remake of a terrible chart published in, with Fung explaining in comprehensive way the reasons and principles behind each one of the changes he made.

Graphics is a discipline that often rewards subtracting. Less is more.


One of the most prolific information design studios out there, Accurat has been working for months side by side with the United Nations Development Programme in the design of all the data visualizations, charts and visual contents of the Human Development Report 2014, titled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, that has been launched on July 24th 2014 in Tokyo. Gabriele Rossi shared the details behind this project.

To discuss the state of play with respect to open government decision-making APIs, Open Knowledge Finland, Open North, and the National Democratic Institute organized a session at the Open Knowledge Festival 2014 in Berlin to explore the possibilities for moving toward a global standard for APIs that deal with data on government decision-making. This post summarizes that session, and was collaboratively written by Jogi Poikola and Markus Laine of Open Knowledge Finland, James McKinney of Open North, and Scott Hubli, Jared Ford, and Greg Brown of National Democratic Institute.

At a recent event in New York City, about a hundred people gathered for a panel discussion about the ethics of data collection and use. The attendees came from every corner of the tech world — engineers, academics and consultants working in both the public and private sectors – and among the panelists was DataKind founder Jake Porway. Article by Max Willens.

Koen Verbeeck shares her review of Tableau Data Visualization Cookbook by Ashutosh Nandeshwar – and it even includes some graphic analysis breaking down part of the book’s content.

The Urban Village was one of the most impressive visualizations featured in the latest Interactive Inspiration round up. A team of researchers from both the “MIT Senseable City Lab” and “the Santa Fe Institute” worked with “Orange Labs”, “British Telecom” and “Raschke Software Engineering” to study how cities affect our social relationships. For more information, see the published paper or the preprint, and you can also download the press release and the visual material.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The Urban Village
(image: Luis Carli | MIT Senseable City Lab)



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

The “viral fail” of the week was published by New Republic, a map to accompany a story by Jonathan Cohn. This is Kenneth Field‘s take on what he calls one the worst maps ever.

A new set of cartograms from the London Mapper team. The maps shown here highlight how it was only in England that the August 2011 riots occurred and only that nation which was immediately immersed in soul-searching.

(image: London Mappers)


Ben Jones shows how he created a visualization of his trekking explorations around the Seattle area. For collecting the data he used the iPhone app Backpacker GPS Trails Pro, and the visualization was made, of course, with Tableau Public.

From Joe Hanson‘s amazing It’s Okay To Be Smart comes a set of historical atlases of the moon, the earliest studies of the moon’s surface features -“selenography”. The one below was made by Michel van Langren, in 1645.

(image: Atlas of the Moon (1645) | Michel van Langren)



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

Data has always played a role in local journalism, including on investigative desks and in computer-assisted reporting. But with the rise of data journalism, an increasingly influential and prominent subset of journalism, some regional news sites have developed local versions of FiveThirtyEight, exploring local issues through numbers, sometimes in a written story but often as some sort of graphical visualization. Article by Tanveer Ali.

With a plethora of gadgets and high-end technology hitting the market so rapidly, it’s more important than ever for journalism curricula in higher education to evolve with the times. Melissa Jun Rowley talks about the new trends in this convergence between journalism and technology, quoting a couple of interesting projects.

An in-depth analysis by Gilad Lotan of how the media is reporting the current crisis in the Gaza strip region, and how it differs from the conversation taking place in social networks.

While war rages on the ground in Gaza and across Israeli skies, there’s an all-out information war unraveling in social networked spaces.


Two recent visual journalism projects that caught Lulu Pinney‘s attention: BBC History’s series of video explainers about WW1, and the Washington Post’s Gaza overview – one that we also brought here yesterday. In both cases, the integration of text (or in the case of the video series, voice) and visuals are highly effective, and deservedly praised in this post.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The crisis in Gaza
(image: The Washington Post)


A post about the obstacles that data journalism faces in the academia world, so it can be recognized as an important field by itself. As Cathy O’Neil explains, “data journalism sits more or less between journalism and computer science, and both of those fields have cultures that are unintentionally hostile to a thriving new descendant.”

After leaving the newsroom of German’s newspaper TagesWoche, journalist David Bauer compiled a list of topics, assumptions and questions about journalism and the media business that he wants to explore, now that he has the time. Some excellent topics for discussion in this one.

Computer science and journalism are intersecting in surprising ways. Jonathan Stray leads the Overview Project at the Associated Press in New York, an open-source system to help journalists sort through huge quantities of unstructured documents. He teaches computational journalism at Columbia University, and is a visiting lecturer at HKU.



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

Bruno Gonçalves at the University of Toulon in France and David Sánchez at the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems on the island of Majorca, Spain, say they have found a new way to study dialects on a global scale using messages posted on Twitter. The results reveal a major surprise about the way dialects are distributed around the world and provide a fascinating snapshot of how they are evolving under various new pressures, such as global communication mechanisms like Twitter. The full paper is available here.

Andrew Nusca, Robert Hackett and Shalene Gupta present Fortune’s first class of Big Data All-Stars: 20 extraordinary people who they consider to be the best “at connecting the dots, digging deep, and discovering the information that will transform the way businesses operate.”

Retailers, banks, heavy-equipment makers and matchmakers all want specialists to extract and interpret the explosion of data from Internet clicks, machines and smartphones, setting off a scramble to find or train them. Elizabeth Dwoskin talks about the growing importance of the data scientist as a corporate asset, numbering several success cases.

As more companies hire data scientists, there is a corresponding trend to hire a new kind of employee that some refer to as “data artists,” whose job it is to tell the stories behind the data in the most accessible and revealing ways. Jer Thorp and Aaron Koblin are the two examples quoted by David Strom to illustrate this trend.

New frameworks for interactive business analysis and advanced analytics are fueling the rise in tabular data objects, as Ben Lorica shows in this article. He pulled together a short list with of tools designed to handle large data sets and frequently optimized for specific problems.

Stefan Groschupf is one of the world’s top big data authorities and here he explains to Robert Scoble what his new company, Datameer, is doing for companies who need to get into using big data



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

One of those must-have guests that were missing in Data Stories’ amazing collection of interviews, Paolo Ciuccarelli talks with Moritz Stefaner and Enrico Bertini about the work being done at Density Design and all things at the intersection of design and visualization. And in case you missed it, here’s our own interview with Paolo, from 2013.

This week, announced the addition of a new Chief Operating Officer, Mikko Jarvenpaa. Previously in his career Mikko was a Product Marketing Manager at Google, and has worked with technology startups in Silicon Valley and in Europe alike, recently as the Chief Marketing Geek for HackFwd. In this quick Q&A, Mikko talks a bit about his experience and challenges ahead – and by the way, Infogram is hiring in both Riga and San Francisco.

Following in the footsteps of edible interface projects like Data Cuisine or the Data Chef, Veronika Krenn and Vesela Mihaylova combine statistics and cuisine in their Taste of Data series, which recently snagged the Gabriele Heidecker Prize. Nadja Sayej talked with the two recent graduates of the Interface Culture Lab at the University of Linz in Austria about these projects.

(image: Veronika Krenn and Vesela Mihaylova)



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

A quick “how to”/guide by Ann K. Emery, teaching us to create a small multiples chart in Excel.


The first of three “Best of the month/week” posts we have in this section today comes out of Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez’ blog, with her picks from last month – and it even includes a mention to one of our posts, so thanks, Tiffany!

Sebastian Gutierrez‘ weekly digests have become one of the top round ups of its kind. The “Data Visualization and D3.js Newsletter” has now reached 90 episodes – impressive!

The third and final roundup of stories from other sites we’d like to give a shout-out is this one compiled by the staff at MIT Technology Review. Not all the picks are related to data visualization, but nevertheless some interesting reads.

The video recording from the first webinar that took place in collaboration between and Around 1.000 people participated in the live session, and here’s your chance to catch up:


Another webinar, this one held on the 24th of July by CartoDB‘s senior scientist Andrew Hill, to teach how you can use CartoDB to develop geospatial applications. If you were not able to attend it or want to go through it again, here is the link to the presentation and the recording:


Closing this section, a 90-minute talk with an overview of solving a simple predictive analytics problem, using R for feature exploration and visualization and building a predictive model using Azure ML.



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. 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.