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Data Viz News [67]

Data visualization, cartography and data journalism resources, articles and news

September 6, 2014

Since 2000, the Online News Association has been promoting the Online Journalism Awards to honor data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism, public service, technical innovation, and general excellence in the field of digital journalism. This year’s finalists list was announced recently, and this story is not only the opening pick of today’s post, but was actually highlighted in a special round up with many of the shortlisted projects – the ones that made most use of data visualization as a core component of the story. Congratulations to all the finalists, and good luck! The winners will be known at the 2014 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 27, in Chicago.

These past two weeks (we had a technical issue last week, so we didn’t publish Data Viz News) was also noteworthy for the latest special interactive report by ProPublica, “Losing Ground,” a mixed media piece that shows the erosion of the Louisiana coastline using maps, photographs, text, a timeline, and audio interviews of residents. We have a couple of posts about the creative process and technichal challenges behind this work, and you can check his and other interactive projects in our weekly round ups of data visualizations and digital cartography.

And our final mention in this introduction, before heading up to the +50 recommended links, goes to The Washington Post’s recent hire: Samuel Granados, who’s Portfolio we had the pleasure to feature here, has joined the Post’s team as Senior Graphics Editor. You can check Samuel’s work on his website, and we wish him all the best in this new exciting challenge.

Now, here are this week’s recommended links:


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

For this 14th edition, the Online Journalism Awards categories were updated “to keep up with the rapidly evolving media industry with new data journalism and enhanced investigative awards”. Ten of the awards now come with a total of $52,500 in prize money, thanks to the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation, and The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. A group of 60 industry-leading journalists and new media professionals teamed up to screen entrants and select semi-finalists. Twelve judges, representing a diverse cross-section of the industry, then conferred to determine finalists and winners from independent, community, nonprofit, major media, start-up, and international news sites.

And speaking of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, they released a new report (pdf) that looks at the successes and failures of two cycles of the News Challenge, and what lessons might be passed on from them to other inventors and entrepreneurs. Since 2007, the News Challenge competition has attracted thousands of people with ideas for an innovation project, and Knight has funded more than a hundred of them. This is the second time Knight has put together a report card on the News Challenge; the first focused on the 2009 round of winners.

Andy Kirk‘s Visualising Data was completely redesigned, and it looks great. Andy also wrote a detailed overview of the changes and some of the ideas behind this new design here.

We’ve already made reference to Tableau’s 2014/15 top experts, recognized with the title of “Zen Master”, on our weeklt round up of interactive visualizations. The Zen Master page has links to all their blogs, and the company will be officially announcing and congratulating the Zen Masters during Tableau’s annual conference, that will begin next Monday (08/09)

For this year’s call, the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial asked that people submit manifestos under the theme: The Future is Not What it Used to Be. The Mapmaker Manifesto was Stamen’s Beth Schechter‘s response, and it “calls upon all of us to look at the data around us, to use that data to think critically about the state of our world and our future, and to communicate it clearly and beautifully”. To create this voice, Stamen is curating maps representing our present time and near future to create a collective, global voice for this manifesto. You can submit your work until September, 15.

The Indonesian government has officially launched its open data portal, starting off with 700 datasets from 24 agencies. The portal aims to promote a more credible government, better public services and encourage innovation in the society.

The announcement of Samuel Granados‘ hiring came from Kat Downs and Laris Karklis, in which they say that he “will be focused on planning and editing enterprise projects and managing section coordinators.” Before joining the Post’s team, Samuel was the head of infographics of the La Nación (Argentina), and before that he worked for Público (Spain) and El Mundo (Spain) as a graphic editor for print and online respectively. Born in Córdoba in 1981, Samuel has a bachelor in Journalism at the University of Málaga, and a bachelor in Communication Design at the Politecnico of Milan, in Italy.

The The Innovation Enterprise is hosting a poster competition ahead of the upcoming Data Visualization Summit, that will take place in Boston, September 25 & 26. The criteria for entry is to submit a visualization that represents data in a digestible way for those without technical expertise or background. All posters must be submitted to by Friday, September 12.

Published by Gestalten, Visual Families visualizes our penchant for sorting in playful and entertaining ways. The book presents lighthearted yet compelling work by illustrators, designers, and the creators of infographics that visually structures the stuff of our daily lives. In very different ways, all of the examples tell interesting stories with subjects that might otherwise be boring and dry and show how enjoyable arranging things can be. Here’s the promotional video:



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

The Big Picture, a visual exploration of the reciprocal image of Italy and China observed through the lens of Digital Methods, is Giulio Fagiolini‘s M.Sc Thesis for the Master in Communication Design at Politecnico di Milano. The project has been carried out under the supervision of professor Paolo Ciuccarelli and the co-supervision of Yang Lei, Curator and Exhibition Director at China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Art of Beijing.

The Big Picture, website showcasing the research by Giulio Fagiolini
The Big Picture, website showcasing the research by Giulio Fagiolini


Great post by Robert Kosara, not only showing some of the charts he keeps coming back to “because they’re just so clear, well-designed, and effective”, but also explaining why these examples work so well.

It’s easy to find, and make fun of, bad charts. But between all the pie chart bashing and general criticism of bad charts, it is equally important to find the good examples and try to figure out what makes them work so well.

Cole Nussbaumer remakes the charts that are part of a Pew Research article, since both of the visuals leave out an important part of the picture.

After the NYT’s The Upshot published a line chart showing projections of Medicare spending per recipient, Alberto Cairo made the case for including another chart with total projected spending.

As they prepared to design a printed advertisement for their work in an upcoming issue of Nonprofit Quarterly, the folks at Periscopic were challenged to embed the mission, values, and philosophy in one static image on a 8 by 10 inch piece of paper. Sam Vogt shares the creative process and final result (pdf).

Shared by Mandi Woodruff, this is a video explanation of the dying American dream, perfectly illustrated in Lego bricks. The three-minute video posted by Richard Reeves, an economist with the Brookings Institute, captures the startling difficulty that the country’s poorest households have at ever working their way up the income ladder, among other topics.



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

The featured CartoDB project this time comes from Brazil, and our good friends behind InfoAmazonia – a news project that combines data, maps, journalism, and citizen reports to improve the public’s perception of issues in the Amazon region. Data Intern Laura Kurtzberg explains how the Two Years of Fires in the Amazon was produced – a visualization that we highlighted as well here.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Fires in the Amazon
(image: InfoAmazonia)


When you create a map in Tableau, by default you’re creating a map in the Web Mercator projection, “the de facto standard for web mapping applications”, and is used by popular content providers like Google Maps, Microsoft Bing Maps, and OpenStreetMaps , among others. Ben Jones shows in this post some of the alternative projections you can use in different scenarios.

For those not familiar with it, the Urban Observatory is a website that lets you compare major cities in a host of different ways. In this article, Philip Barker provides a quick walk-through of some of top features of the website.

This set of maps represent Matthew Yglesias‘ favorite way to illustrate the major economic themes facing the world today. Some of them focus on the big picture while others illustrate finer details. As it usually happens in these types of posts, not every example picked can be considered a role model of perfect cartographic work.

Imaginative maps to heaven and hell form a peculiar subset of antebellum cartography, as Americans surveyed not only the things they could see but also the things unseen. Here you’ll see several examples of maps that provided striking graphics connecting beliefs and behavior in this life to the next. Post by Stanford professor Kathryn Gin Lum, who is publishing “Damned Nation: Hell in America from Revolution to Reconstruction” this month.

Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction, new book by Prof. Kathryn Gin Lum



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

Speech by BBC News‘ Editor, Amanda Farnsworth, on Visual Journalism at The BBC, presented at The Graphical Web Conference 2014, a couple of weeks ago. Video produced by John Wilson of Winchester University School of Journalism.


This is actually one of three articles published on the Tow Center for Digital Journalism blog about the interactive report “Losing Ground”, that we highlighted in the latest Digital Cartography post. The piece relies heavily on satellite imagery and is the product of a unique collaboration between ProPublica and The Lens, a public interest newsroom based in New Orleans. Besides this post by Smitha Khorana, there’s also Sensors and Journalism: ProPublica, Satellites and The Shrinking Louisiana Coast, written by Fergus Pitt, and a Q&A with Scott Klein and Al Shaw of ProPublica, that we’ve included in the Interviews section, below.

A couple of articles from our friend Eva Constantaras – who we had the pleasure to interview recently – about teaching data journalism in developing countries. This one published on Source, shows some of the initiatives that produced results in Kenya, and the other, published on the School of Data website, covers the use of Data Journalism to probe economics in the West Bank.

Alberto Cairo revisits the issue of plagiarism vs inspiration, this time comparing a visualization by Retale to a classic one by The New York Times, from 2009. Interesting to see that after Cairo raised the issue, the folks at Retale added a note acknowledging the “inspiration”.

The making of Accurat’s data visualization published in November 2013, in the “La Lettura” section of the Corriere della Sera newspaper. It was featured here on Visualoop as well.

(image: Accurat | Corriere della Sera)

A quick and fun post by Steve Wexler, comparing how The Economist, USA Today, and Fox News might display the same data using their very own visual and editorial styles.

What a great story! J.S. Makkos, a printmaker, publisher, and curator of the New Orleans Digital Newspaper, tells how 30,000 antique New Orleans newspapers listed on Craigslist ended up in his home.

Introductory lesson about data journalism within science journalism and science communication, during the International School of Science Journalism 2014 in Erice (June 10th, 2014).



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

A commonly repeated definition of Big Data cites the three Vs: volume, velocity, and variety. But others argue that it’s not the size of data that counts, but the tools being used, or the insights that can be drawn from a dataset. To settle the question once and for all, UC Berkeley’s Master of Information and Data Science program asked 40+ thought leaders in publishing, fashion, food, automobiles, medicine, marketing and every industry in between how exactly they would define the phrase “Big Data.” Their answers might surprise you – and we also recommend this article by Gil Press, one of the thought leaders that answered the survey.

The FTC data broker report released at the end of May argues that data brokers need to do more to make the sources of data, the data profile and uses transparent to consumers. The report acknowledges Acxiom’s efforts in leading the industry by building the first interface for consumers to review and revise data. More in the industry are likely to follow, whether to get in front of future legislation or as mandated later on. But this doesn’t go far enough, as Sara M. Watson, a technology critic and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, explains in this article.

This interactive panel of data security experts deliberates on the issues, challenges and solutions to detect and prevent security breaches using big data technologies including Hadoop and Machine Learning.


Much of the focus on Big Data lies in accumulating more and more data to improve our ability to predict what consumers will buy, which customers will churn, etc. And so we put inordinate amounts of effort into perfecting our prediction models rather than learning from their many failures to do so. Unfortunately, our data infrastructure too often gets in the way of our ability to embrace failure – the central topic of this article by Matt Asay.

In this talk, Dr. Anu Acharya of MapMyGenome project outlines the challenges and opportunities that big data presents for the field of genomics.


You’ve spent a great amount of time and effort on a detailed data analysis, and are asked to present to the C-suite, marketing team, or other non-tech group at your company. The findings, you’re convinced, are quite interesting, and should be self-evident, you think. You launch into the numbers and graphs, only to look up and see blank or confused expressions on the faces before you. How could this happen? Melanie Larbalestier shares her tips for those in a similar situation.

Twitter, Airbnb, HotelTonight and Facebook all used insights found deep within their data to unlock big growth opportunities. In this webinar, Colin Zima, Chief Analytics Officer for Looker and Sean Ellis, CEO of Qualaroo, show you how to find and tap into the hidden growth levers in your own data.



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

As we mentioned before, Tow Center’s Smitha Khorana spoke with Scott Klein, assistant managing editor, and Al Shaw, news application developer at ProPublica about the editorial decisions and satellite imagery used in “Losing Ground”.

In this interview, Anmol Rajpurohit discusses with Debora Donato the role of data science at StumbleUpon, the shift from search to discovery, metrics for user engagement, the art of collaborative filtering, how native ads improve user experience, major trends, advice and more. And if you use StumbleUpon, you can follow us there as well.

Even if there was absolutely no connection with data visualization – which is not the case here -, an interview with xkcd‘s Randall Munroe is always a must-read. Here, Walt Hickey talks with Randall about the new book expanding on his recurring “What If?” series.

Before Lauren Egts, a sophomore at Hathaway Brown School, left NASA after an internship this summer, she interviewed computer scientist at the GVIS Lab, Herb Schilling, about how the lab uses open source.

We’ve already mention our latest exclusive interview, with data journalism expert Eva Constantaras. Currently, Eva is the Internews Data Journalism Advisor and specializes in cross-border journalism projects to combat corruption and encourage transparency, and we talked about the state of data journalism, Internews activities and the growth of the Open Data community, among other topics.

Interview with Eva Constantaras here on Visualoop



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

Every week, the editorial team of the Global Investigative Journalism Network selects the top #ddj tweets. Here are the selected links for August 28- September 3, including a mention to our post, This is Visual Journalism [79].

If you practice data visualization — broadly defined — then Scott Murray is interested in your process. Share your experiences. Just fill the form, and in the spirit of open-sourcing our processes, some of the data collected here will be shared back with the community.

More NGOs and relief organisations are using maps and charts for campaigning. Learn how to visualize development data, with the help of this guide by Rachel Banning-Lover, that also includes links to other references and to some of the most popular tools out there.

VisuAlgo was conceptualized in 2011 by Dr Steven Halim as a tool to help his students better understand data structures and algorithms, by allowing them to learn the basics on their own and at their own pace. Together with some of his students from the National University of Singapore, a series of visualizations were developed and consolidated, from simple sorting algorithms to complex graph data structures and algorithms, and also string+geometry algorithms.

VisuAlgo, a project by  the National University of Singapore School of Computing
VisuAlgo, a project by the National University of Singapore School of Computing


Vispy is a high-performance interactive 2D/3D data visualization library. Vispy leverages the computational power of modern Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) through the OpenGL library to display very large datasets, and they just released version 3.0.

A list of resources and examples on how publications and data-driven journalists use open source to power their newsroom and ensure information is reported fairly and accurately. GitHub also created a similar list for data visualization.

After the success of the first webinar, conducted a second edition, this time visualizing a real time stock market data extracted by Here is your chance to catch up and learn how to do it yourself:


A series of examples that describe a wide range of geographical and geotemporal storytelling models, often based around quite simple data files containing information about individual events. The list was pulled together by Tony Hirst.

A guest post by Matt Sundquist, the Co-founder at Plotly. The goal of Plotly is to be a platform for delightful, web-based, language-agnostic plotting and collaboration, and in this post, Matt shows how it works for ggplot2 and R.

A presentation by Ryan Sleeper, Manager of Data Visualization & Analysis at Evolytics. Ryan Sleeper is the 2013 Tableau Iron Viz Champion, and this is his keynote that he’ll be presenting at the 2014 Tableau Conference in Seattle, Washington on 9/9/2014.


From 1935-1944, the Farm Security Administration — Office of War Information undertook the largest photography project ever sponsored by the federal government. Photogrammar is a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the agency.

Another guest post, this time on Stephanie Evergereen‘s excellent blog. Angie Ficek is a program evaluator at a small evaluation consulting firm called Professional Data Analysts, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN. In this post, Angie offers a follow-up to Stephanie’s post about adding standard deviations to a dataviz.

A tutorial by Ann K. Emery, detailed, as she usually does, in form of presentation. Also, Ann announces in this same post that she’s now “taking data visualization and data analysis interests to the next level”, by offering a range of workshops for all sorts of organizations.



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.