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Data Viz News [63]

Announcements, events, articles and much more, in another data visualization link-fest

August 2, 2014

Welcome to another issue of Data Viz News, and let’s move on right to the top story of the week: Reports confirm that there was no new data journalism website being launched in thew last few days. Yes, that’s right, a rare week without a new explanatory journalism endeavor that aims to breakdown all the numbers and tell the stories that… well… nevermind.

Jokes aside, the fact is that data journalism was very much mentioned in the past few days, and not always for the good reasons – but then again, not new. We have, of course, much more than rants and criticism, with a whole bunch of links to articles, interviews and resources – including some good ones that will renovate your faith in data journalism, in case it has been affected by the recent surge of poor examples.

Storytelling is another one of those ‘buzzwords’ that we’ve been hearing about all the time, and it is also present in this weekly gathering of links – that includes other interesting reads about cartography, big data and business analytics, the latest product launches, competitions and career moves, and our updated events calendar. The year is closing down fast, but you still have a good amount of attendance-worthy conferences and workshops in 2014, so go check it out.

Hope you enjoy the full selection, and have a great weekend – oh, and in case we got it wrong in the first sentence, and you know of a new data journalism website that we haven’t mention here before, let us know in the comments.


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

Created by the American Statistical Association, This is Statistics is the informational website for the organization’s national public relations campaign that will launch August 19. The goal of this campaign is to introduce high-school juniors and seniors and undergraduate students to the diverse and in-demand career opportunities in statistical science. This website will serve as a platform for raising awareness among students of opportunities in the field of statistics, and the importance of statistical literacy.

Partial screen capture of the This is Statistics website
(Image: This is Statistics | American Statistical Association )


Just last week we said that CartoDB was making a new announcement almost every week. Well, here’s this week’ – and it’s a big one: CartoDB Enterprise. With multi-user capabilities and other enhanced support and tools, educators, researchers, and general business can now embrace digital mapping in a secure and scalable environment for collaboration.

The Graduate Center, City University of New York, co-leader of CUNY’s newly created Big Data Consortium, announced this week that it will establish the CUNY Center for Digital Scholarship and Data Visualization. The consortium has been awarded $15 million from the State of New York in the CUNY 2020 grant competition. Other consortium college members include co-leader the College of Staten Island, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City College of Technology and City College.

The Wellcome Library and Jisc Historic Books revealed which are the nine partner institutions whose 19th-century book collections will be digitised and added to the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK MHL), an online resource for the study of the history of medicine and related sciences. The project will build on the success of the US-based Medical Heritage Library consortium, which has already digitised over 50 000 books and pamphlets.

A self-described “storytelling platform,” Contently launched an investigative reporting publication Wednesday along with a center that the three-year-old outlet plans to use to train young journalists in longform. Called and the Contently Foundation, these new initiatives seek to offer freelance journalists alternatives to, as its founders put it, “exploitative media, like content farms.” Contently’s most recent mission statement says that it aims to build “a world with great content instead of ads.”

We already mentioned this one this week: Tableau announced the winner of the Storytelling Viz Contest. This was thee 3rd and final Iron Viz feed-in contest, and was won by Jonathan Trajkovic, with a visualization about Road Accidents in France – that was featured in this space just a couple of weeks ago. He will join John Mathis, winner of the Elite 8 Sports Viz Contest and Jeffrey Shaffer, the winner of the Quantified Self Viz Contest in the upcoming Iron Viz competition at the Tableau Conference. The contestant with the most votes on Twitter was strong>Sambit Tripathy for his viz Earthquakes – In a nutshell, and you can explore all the entries submitted here.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Accidents in French roads
(image: Jonathan Trajkovic)


A new data viz challenge that seems promising. VizRisk is the first government prize competition that seeks to use visualizations of behavioral health data to inform personal and policy decisions. Those interested in playing with health data, developing novel visualizations – and win $15K in prizes – can now submit projects, until October 28th, 2014. All the details here.

Hosted by the Quadriga University Berlin, the Digital Communication Awards honor achievements exclusively in the field of digital communication. 38 award categories cover all disciplines from social media communications to digital public affairs and explore the full range of the profession, providing a comprehensive look at exemplary best cases. Our attention goes to the “Online data visualisation and information design” category. The shortlisted projects are OSCE Mélange Programme infographic: Ensuring people’s security and environmental safety (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Jarakite Creative Partners); Air Traffic Control – The “Invisible Infrastructure” (NATS); AdReaction: Marketing in a Multiscreen World (Millward Brown); Mattel Analytics (Mattel/Early Morning); and SmartRunway SmartLanding Infographic (Honeywell). Winners will be announced during the Digital Communication Awards ceremony, that will take place on September 19, 2014, at the Wintergarten Varieté (Berlin).

Opening county health budgets, exploring the underlying causes of malnutrition in Turkana and unearthing corruption in Kenya’s safety net program were just some of the projects that earned Internews in Kenya and its 2013 data journalism fellows recognition for its contribution to the open data movement. The competition was run by the Open Knowledge Foundation as part of the Partnership for Open Data, a joint initiative of the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Open Data Institute and the World Bank.

We welcome a brand new data visualization podcast, although this one is essentially focused on Tableau. In this first episode of “The Tableau Wannabe Podcast”, hosts Matt Francis and Emily Kund chat about the recent Iron Viz contest qualifier (mentioned above) and storytelling with data.

With a stellar group of internationally renowned and award winning information designers lined up as mentors for this workshop, including Stefanie Posavec, Pierre La Baume and our good friend Maral Pourkazemi, this 2-day workshop will guide the attendants through the design and research process and teach you all the dos and don’ts of working with the data/information sets. It will take place November, and is run in partnership with VISUALIZEDio London.



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

Not so long ago, Andy Kirk talked about the several constraining factors that might limit the time and resources put into a visualization project, no matter if it’s inside a newsroom, a corporate bureau or a marketing agency. Now, in this post, he shares a couple of examples of how some of the top graphics desks are re-using custom graphic archetypes as a way of bypassing some of those limitations, without compromising the final result, both in journalistic and aesthetically aspects.

One of the visualizations featured in yesterday’s Interactive Inspiration was developed by the Office for Creative Research for Popular Science. “The Whole Brilliant Enterprise” is a text-based visualization drawn from 4,861,706 words of NASA long history of aerospace innovation – since 1959, NASA has published a document called “Astronautics & Aeronautics Chronology” nearly every year, compiling news coverage of science, technology, and policy at the agency. In this article you’ll get an idea of how this project came to life.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic NASA’s First 50 Years
(image: The Whole Brilliant Enterprise | Popular Science)


Moritz Stefaner is still playing around with the Selfiecity project, that he talked about in this interview. “Shared tag space” is a comparative visualization of the keywords people in five cities use to describe their selfies. The visualization displays a network of tags, cities and photos.

If you follow our round ups of vintage maps, infographics and diagrams (published every Monday), you know that we are huge fans of the work of Otto Neurath and the graphical language he created, Isotype. If you’re not familiar with the importance of Neurath’s work, this article Helen Kennedy is a good way to start.

More Isotype fondness: Interactive Isotype is a website created by data visualization designer Eugene Tjoa, where he takes an illustration that was made originally by the late Gerd Arntz and updates it with current statistics into an interactive visualization. Although the blog hasn’t been updated for a while – the website was actually dedicated to a project that run from August 2012 to December 2013 – , this new post shows an approach to the issue of creating responsive visualizations that we thought worthy of mentioning here.

Storyboarding is not a new concept, especially when it comes to video, but in this post, Ann K. Emery shares her tips and lessons learned on how to use it to convey information through data visualization in other forms of visual communication, including Webinars and Presentations.

A schematic overview of the academic studies applying data visualization in Wikipedia analysis, by Martina Elisa Cecchi – a student that has developed her thesis project “Visualizing controversies in Wikipedia” in the Density Design Lab and obtained the master degree in Communication Design at Politecnico di Milano on April 2014. The aim of her research was to analyze “Family Planning” article of the English version of Wikipedia as a case study to understand how controversies on the web develop.

(image: schematic overview of the academic studies applying data visualization in Wikipedia analysis | Martina Elisa Cecchi | Density Design)


A couple of charts published in The New York Times caused some mix feelings to Cole Nussbaumer, as she explains in this post, pointing out what are the details she hated/loved in each chart.

Speaking of The New York Times, Jacob Harris (a Times’ senior software architect) wrote this rant against “World Clouds” presented as insight, especially by well-known publishers. He further explains the fallacies of applying this form of visualization in the wrong context, in situations where textual analysis is not even appropriate. And if you want a world cloud of his article, don’t worry

Numbers is a 2012 short film by Robert Hloz where some people see numbers appear above others’ heads. Great find by Nathan Yau.



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

After nearly 20 years, Robert Simmon is leaving NASA to help Planet Labs develop world-class satellite imagery. During all that time, Robert had the chance to work with thousands of imagery and produce some impressive visualizations, and now he shares his top 10 all-time favorites. Here’s one of our own favorites, with Robert’s comment:

(“I think this map of vegetation in South America was the first original color palette I really got right.” | Robert Simmon | NASA Earth Observatory)


One of the top reads of the week, this post by Nathan Yau offers a general review of the several projects that visualize movement – people, cars, planes and so on -, and the evolution of this ‘trend’ throughout the past decade.

And while we’re at it, here’s Carl Bialik‘s take on the paper describing a preliminary attempt to identify the most beautiful, most quiet and happiest ways to walk within a city, published by a group of researchers at Yahoo Labs.

Mentioned briefly in the latest issue of Digital Cartography, this article by Becky Little tells us how the far-off battles of WWI created an appetite for maps, and the role National Geographic had in attending that demand. And an interesting fact, new to us: Although National Geographic is well known today for its maps and atlases, the magazine did not actually create its own maps during the first 27 years of its existence.

In this post, Elena Malykhina invites you to explore 10 ways federal agencies use geographic information system (GIS) technology and maps to improve decision making and deliver public information. All the examples featured were created by agencies with ArcGIS Online.

This one has been shared quite a lot in the past few days. Maximilian Schich, an art historian at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues used the Google-owned knowledge base, Freebase, to find 120,000 individuals who were notable enough in their life-times that the dates and locations of their births and deaths were recorded. The team used those data to create a movie that starts in 600 bc and ends in 2012.



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

What is data journalism? Why does it matter? How has the maturing field of data science changed the direction of journalism and global investigative reporting? The speakers in this session discuss the implications for policymakers and institutional accountability, and how the balance of power in information gathering is shifting worldwide, with implications for decision-making and open government.


The urge for a better understanding – or ate least, for a consensual definition – of what is data journalism reached Robert Kosara. “Is a data journalist one who unearths the data, who finds the insights in the data, who finds the right way to visually communicate the data?” The answer is, of course, all three, as Robert points out in the first paragraph.

Chris Williams attended the first ever Knight-Mozilla OpenNews’ #SRCCON, a conference for developers, interactive designers, and other people who love to code in and near newsrooms, that took place in Philadelphia last week. These are his impressions of the two-day event. Session notes, writeups, and more can be found in the event’s follow-up Etherpad and on Source.

Together with ICIJ member Emilia Diaz-Struck, Margot Williams traveled to Barquisimeto, in the state of Lara, 168 miles from Caracas (Venezuela), to help coordinate the workshop “Data Journalism: new techniques and tools”. She shares the experience in this post.

This was a talk given as part of the HasGeek Fifth Elephant event on Data Journalism at India Today Mediaplex office, Noida. (Note: Sound stops at 9.29 and resumes at 12:34).


We do sympathize with a lot of what Kaiser Fung says in this post, since it’s always a challenge not only to save the graphics from publishers such as the ones he mentions, but to actually find them online. There’s a long way to go for the majority of newspapers in this aspect….

In this week’s “Data Darts and Laurels”, written by Tanveer Ali, the analysis of the several maps and visualizations created by news organizations, about the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and other topics that have made the headlines.

This is the second of an inspiring two-part series of The Guardian’s always delightful “Photography then and now” section of their website. Archive photographs of significant events of the first world war in Belgium, France, Ireland and England are matched with the locations today, providing one of the most impressive visual pieces about the centenary of the First World War.

Another inspiring piece of visual journalism that is not an infographic, this time by The Washington Post’s Richard Johnson – who we had the pleasure to feature in the Portfolio of the Week section, back in 2013. Here, Johnson combines his background experience as a war correspondent with his well-known drawing skills, to tell the story of veterans attending Fort Lyon – a former military base, now serving as a refuge for those struggling with homelessness, and in many cases addiction and mental illness.

Partial screen capture of the interactive visualization Once we were Soldiers
(Image: Richard Johnson | The Washington Post)



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

SAP has made much of the fact that that the World Cup winning German national football team used its ‘Match Insights’ software as part of its training program. In this post, Adrian Bridgwater takes the football metaphor/use case to wonder if there’s some way of assessing the inner worth of data so that we can treat it with appropriate worth and gravitas and potentially even trade with it.

According to a new report to be released Friday by big data firm Recorded Future, just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaida dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online. “We saw at least three major product releases coming out with different organizations with al-Qaida and associated organizations fairly quickly after the Snowden disclosures,” said Recorded Future’s CEO and co-founder Christopher Ahlberg. Story by Dina Temple-Raston.

For most small business owners, Big Data is still one big mystery. Sara Angeles wrote this short list with five of the most baffling things about Big Data demystified, to explain what Big Data is all about and how it can aid you in making better business decisions.

Ainsley O’Connell writes about a new show featuring the early works of conceptual artist Charles Gaines. The 75 works on display as part of “Charles Gaines: Gridwork” at the Studio Museum in Harlem – laboriously constructed grids that chart mathematical regressions, faces, California landscapes – date from the ’70s and ’80s, and the exhibit runs through October 29.

Gaines challenges viewers steeped in the gospel of big data to reexamine the idea that there is an inherent “goodness” in large volumes of information.



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

A brand new interview with Juan Velasco, about why we need data visualization, what it takes to create great infographics, and what it’s like to work at National Geographic – and includes a bunch of amazing infographics. You might also want to check the one we did with him, a couple of weeks ago.

(image: National Geographic)


A fun and engaging Q&A between Francis Gagnon and Andy Kirk, moving away from the traditional questions asked in these types of interviews.

Bryon Darby is a photographer teaching at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and in this interview he talks about some of the series of works he produced using Google Maps imagery. The conversation was conducted by John Foster.

One day while scouring my neighborhood on Google Maps, it occurred to me that the act of exploring the terrain, choosing a vantage point, and framing a scene through a computer just wasn’t all that different from the way I was interacting with the landscape through my camera.



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

#Edshift chat on July 29 discussed the significance of data visualization and how educators can incorporate it into the classroom. The chat was moderated by MediaShift’s Education Curator Katy Culver, with special guests Alberto Cairo from the University Miami, Susan McGregor from Columbia University, Chrys Wu and Hannah Fairfield from the New York Times, Meredith Broussard from Temple University and Molly Steenson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here you’ll find the Storify of this conversation, filled with brilliant tips and insights.

It’s been a while since the folks behind the Visualized Conference updated the event’s video page. Jan Willem Tulp‘s talk is now available, and more are soon to come.


New “Best of the month” post by Andy Kirk, catching up with what was published during the month of June. And we thank Andy for the mention to two of our World Cup compilations in the list.

Every once in a while, the folks of Salon97 post examples of visualizations about music. In this round up, the focus is interactivity, so you’ll see some familiar projects in here, like the Every Noise at Once visualization or The Infinite Jukebox.

Hacking video Conference is the world’s longest running and largest underground hacking conference. Hackers, corporate IT professionals, and three letter government agencies all converge on Las Vegas every summer to absorb cutting edge hacking research from the most brilliant minds in the world and test their skills in contests of hacking might. This is just one of the several videos available on EducationShare!’ YouTube Channel.


Fresh new post by Ben Jones, who decided to see how many different data stories he could tell with the a simple spreadsheet of population, birth rates and death rates for every country since 1960 as obtained from the World Bank’s online data repository. Another example of what you can do with the Story Points feature that came with Tableau Public 8.2.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Bokeh is a Python interactive visualization library for large datasets that natively uses the latest web technologies. Its goal is to provide elegant, concise construction of novel graphics in the style of Protovis/D3, while delivering high-performance interactivity over large data to thin clients. This tutorial is divided in three sections: Basic, Topical and Advanced exercises, with each section containing several IPython notebooks with different exercises.

Flatiron School students Emily Simonton and Mandy Yeung talk about D3 in this presentation.


Recently, several web-based data visualization tools have come out (thanks to D3.js) that lower that barrier to entry so that designers don’t need as many technical skills to be able to build their own beautiful data visualizations. Here are five of those tools, what they do, and how you should use them, as recommended by Drew Skau.

With a broader range of data visualization tools than the previous article, this list by Will Fleiss is also worth checking out – even if you’re an experienced practitioner, you might find something new here, as we did.

We have been following the ‘Infographic Resumee trend‘ for a while now – we even have a couple of hundred examples on Pinterest – , so we couldn’t leave behind this post by Ilcho Bogdanovski, showcasing interactive resume designs.



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

Data Viz events


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, 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.