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Data Viz News [69]

The weekly list of data viz related links for both beginners and experts

September 21, 2014

If you read our previous post – this week’s list of interactive data visualization projects -, you’ll see that we’ve already praised this past week as an exciting one for the field. We brought several recent projects from folks such as Moritz Stefaner, Jan Willem Tulp and the team at Periscopic, alongside the latest interactive pieces from the top graphics desks out there, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Guardian.

The list of articles, news and resources we now present to you kind of corroborates that feeling, no matter if you’re in academia, visual journalism, map making or just curious about data visualization. There’s just so much great stuff going on right now, that even with more than 30 links every week, we always fear we missed something huge.

As for the news outside the data visualization domain, the Scottish Independence referendum took the central stage, and similarly to what we see in election time, there were a lot of visualizations – mostly maps – breaking down the final results. Some of these visualizations have been feature in our weekly round ups (here, here and here), and places like Google Maps Mania also pulled together many other examples related to this historical moment in the United Kingdom’s history.

Before we move on to the full list of recommended reads, a quick final mention also to Jorge Camões‘ upcoming book. Jorge released, earlier this week, new hints on what the book will be about, and we can’t wait to see it out.

Now, here are this week’s recommended links:


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

The annual free and open source software for geospatial conference, FOSS4G has announced the winners of the best open source maps of the past year. A total of 16 maps have been called out in 8 different categories with the help of a great panel of judges and the votes for for People’s Choice. Below is the winner of Best Open Source Software Integration.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Denmark National Lidar Showcase
(image: Septima Labs)


This one was mentioned in the latest Digital Cartography round up, but we decided to include it here as well – after all, it’s been a while since Google made some significant change/move to its Google Maps Engine Lite. The company has renamed Google Maps Engine Lite to My Maps, in a move that tries to consolidate the platform as an effective entry level, tool for non-developers to quickly create simple maps. Also read Keir Clarke‘s take on this move here.

Spotify’s new Insights data blog will feature data-driven articles about music and how people experience it. The company hopes it will become a destination and resource for music fans, journalists and data-heads alike.

The World Bank has launched a new website that allows users to track progress toward 12 of the institution’s key targets, including process simplification, citizen engagement and knowledge sharing with clients. According to Rolf Rosenkranz, “the targets are part of President Jim Kim’s ambitious reform process, which kicked into high gear this July with the launch of several “global practices” and will face perhaps its most public review to date next month in Washington, D.C., during the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.”

Vivametrica, a company that analyzes data from wearable sensor devices for the assessment of health and wellness, is building a cloud-based platform for aggregating data from any kind of bio-sensor, from popular fitness trackers to medical-grade health sensors. The company plans to store that data for you so you can see all the data from all your devices in one place, compare it to others who are like you, and eventually feed that into medical applications that doctors and HMOs could use to help prevent illness, diagnose conditions, track health, and discover unprecedented insights into what truly constitutes healthy living. John Koetsier tells the story.

This week, IBM announced a new product called Watson Analytics, one they claim will bring sophisticated big data analysis to the average business user. Watson Analytics is a cloud application that does all of the the heavy lifting related to big data processing by retrieving the data, analyzing it, cleaning it, building sophisticated visualizations and offering an environment for communicating and collaborating around the data. According to Ron Miller, the product goes into Beta this month and they are shooting for general release by the end of the year.

With all the talk about the algorithms that make big data sing, we usually overlook all the maintenance and cleaning up of the data that has to be done before even thinking about firing up the report engines. CrowdFlower is using crowdsourcing to simplify this process, and the company just announced that it has put together $12.5 million in funding to help it grow.

As we said before, Jorge Camões is writing an “unsexy entry level data visualization book for the illiterate and artistically challenged spreadsheet user”. The book – which he mentioned back when we interviewed him, in 2013 – is in an advanced stage, and so he decided to shared the table of contents in this post.



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

This article by the folks at Interactive Things is about creating refined color scales for charts and visualizations. You will get insights from, and a deeper view into, their working process. 
A list of the used tools can be found at the end of the post.

Robert Kosara and 3D charts – Sounds like the prelude to a lot of criticism, right? But in this case, Robert moves away from the traditional fun-making to a more constructive approach, using as an example a 3D area chart he saw online recently. As expected, the comments section is worth the read as well.

This is the transcript from Scott Weingart‘s closing keynote address at the 2014 DH Forum in Lawrence, Kansas. According to Scott, “It’s the result of my conflicted feelings on the recent Facebook emotional contagion controversy, and despite my earlier tweets, I conclude the study was important and valuable specifically because it was so controversial”.

As we saw last week, Alberto Cairo discussed a graphic by the New York Times on the slowing growth of Medicare spending. And in this post, Kaiser Fung adds his two-cents to the conversation.

This is a tradeoff inherent in all of statistics. To grow understanding, we narrow the scope; but as we focus, we lose the big picture. So, we compile a set of focal points to paint a fuller picture.


According to this article by Laura Montini, will soon launch, a separate site that will include free education and training materials for journalists, educators, nonprofits, and really any lay person who needs to brush up on data analysis skills. The information came from’s COO, Mikko Järvenpää, during his talk at DataWeek + API World 2014 in San Francisco.

Kenneth Black started using Tableau with Version 3.6 way back in February, 2008. Since that time, he has continued to use Tableau about every day, with several thousand data files investigated over this time from a wide range of businesses. This work experience has allowed him to explore Tableau in many different ways and that history has given him the opportunity to write the 3danim8’s Blog starting in May, 2013. Now, this blog post series describes what he has learned as a Tableau blogger over the past 15 months – and here’s part 2.

A review of Manuel Lima‘s latest book, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge. This one is written by Shane Parrish, who focused mainly in the historical background Lima provides.

Responsive design has changed the way that designers and developers create content for the web. How can data design learn from web design as a whole, as we move to a mobile-driven, multi-device internet? Presentation by Bill Hinderman, Founder at Starbase Go!



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

Like we said in the introduction, there were a fair number of interactive maps about the Scottish Independence Referendum, and Keir Clarke has posted over at Google Maps Mania some of the most impressive ones – such as this one below, made by Oliver O’Brien.

Partial screen capture of the interactive Map Scottish Referendum Data Map
(image: Scottish Referendum Data Map | Oliver O’Brien)


This year, Kenneth Field didn’t attend the FOSS4G conference, that took place in Portland, but here are his remarks about the event, the maps distinguished with awards, and particularly the work of Bernie Jenny, who took a couple of awards home for his Plan Oblique Relief Shading work.

Article by Larry Weru, in which he makes the case for the use of a neutralizing election map for properly detecting vote margins. Quite useful, in this election year in so many parts of the world.

During the night of the 24th of August this year an earthquake struck Napa, near San Francisco, California. Doug McCune began downloading seismic data from the U.S. Geological Survey to gain an understanding of the experience in Napa to produce a 3D printed visual representation of the Peak Ground Velocity (PVG) information. The final 3D print was produced in a series of nine panels representing the whole PVG information with considerable accuracy and detail. Post by Shane Taylor.

(image: Doug McCune)


Here is the start of an awesome collection of world globe tattoos found on Instagram, curated by the folks at Bellerby Globemakers.

Two of the pics of World Globes Tattoos found on Instagram



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

This is the first of a series of essays by Jonathan Stray to help data journalists see the processes they must master. Anybody can read a graph — that’s the point of publishing it — but journalists who are committed to producing great work need to look deeper. Stray’s essays will guide journalists towards answering four crucial questions: Where did the data come from? How was it analyzed? What is a reader going to believe when they see the story, and what can they do with that knowledge? Although data has just recently exploded into every corner of society, data journalism draws from ideas and traditions that go back hundreds of years.

During two intense and fruitful workshop days the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam in cooperation with the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium gave a hands-on introduction to visual storytelling in data-driven journalism for 24 young journalists from all over Europe. This site presents the results of the workshop.

Edward Snowden’s NSA files reveal that almost all electronic communications can be intercepted by government agencies or private firms, either directly or by security contractors, so if a journalist is investigating powerful institutions they need to understand that, nine times out of 10, the institution will be aware of the investigation. How can journalists protect both the sources and the communications when online? Infosec expert Arjen Kamphuis shared his advice on top-level security, in this post by Alastair Reid.

In the wake of Ferguson, several posts on social networks have asked if there’s a way to track and document the attacks against journalists there. If there were, it would probably look something like the Periodistas en Riesgo (Journalists at Risk) map of Mexico, a project by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Freedom House that registers attacks against journalists in the country. Javier Garza oversees the map, which was launched by ICFJ’s Jorge Luis Sierra, as part of his ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship.

A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism. Article by Mike Ananny and Kate Crawford.

Post by Rui Kaneya about “comics journalism,” the shorthand term for reported nonfiction told through sequential art, quoting an example coming out from Chicago’s Illustrated Press.

Are infographics clever teaching tools, or misleading clickbait? How has coverage of state and local politics fared in the digital age? And has data journalism really deepened our understanding of policy issues? Those were some of the questions addressed in “The Impact of Data-Driven Journalism on Public Policy Discourse,” a lively panel discussion presented in Washington, D.C. as part of the Chicago Harris Public Policy Lecture series, in conjunction with the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for TIME Magazine, moderated the discussion among Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle, Twitter data editor Simon Rogers, Washington Post opinion writer E.J. Dionne and founder Ezra Klein.



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

Opening this section dedicated to the corporate side of data, here’s a collection of Dilbert’s 20 funniest cartoons on Big Data, data mining, data privacy, data security and data accuracy.

Dogbert on Data accuracy


A book recommendation by Alberto Cairo (“At last, a “big data” book that is well written.”): Christian Rudder‘s Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). The book consists of a long series of stories with a common theme: Good data and analysis are the best antidote to prejudices and biases.

Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning will someday help executives peer into the future to guide major strategic decisions like what products to bet on, what markets to enter and what companies to buy. But, said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School, “the leap from the tools to the insight is the weak link.” Article about Big-data management, by Steve Lohr.

Emerging big data platforms are playing a central role in increasing economic inequality and harming low-income sectors of the population, argues researcher Nathan Newman in public comments submitted for a Federal Trade Commission workshop held this week on Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? This post is a summary of those comments.

Kaiser Fung highlights five recommendations by Avinash Kaushik from a post about how to make Web analytics dashboards better by simplifying. And while we’re at it, here are six quotes from Kaiser Fung that Andrew Gelman compiled.



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

Moritz and Enrico welcome Jessica Hullman on the show, to talk about her research on narrative visualization. Jessica is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley and soon to be Assistant Professor at University of Washington iSchool.

A new series of posts from CartoDB, interviewing developers using the platform. For this first post, they talk with John Branigan, from Azavea. Azavea is a CartoDB partner specialized in the creation of geographic web and mobile software, as well as geospatial analysis services to enhance decision-making.

The new frontier of data journalism is helping journalists and bloggers create compelling stories. In an interview for theCUBE at the Tableau Conference last week, Tableau Software, Inc. Senior Product Marketing Manager Ben Jones discussed the rise of data journalism and why he believes it’s going to become just another part of the way journalists do their work. And check out the other videos of this Tableau Conference series – like this other conversation, with Dan Murray and Thomas Minnick.



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

Andy Kirk continues to update his new website, this time focusing on the resources page – one of the most comprehensive lists available out there. In total there are now 273 identifiable tools, applications and services that play a role in the design of data visualization.

(Data visualisation tools and resources, compiled by Andy Kirk | Visualising Data)
(Data visualisation tools and resources, compiled by Andy Kirk | Visualising Data)


In addition to the updates mentioned above, Andy still managed to find the time to publish the latest post of the Best of the visualization web series, with July’s top content. Our post ‘3D World Cup Dataviz Ball, by Times of Oman‘ is among those links, so thanks for that, Andy!

Coupled with the proliferation of digital screens, data visualization now dominates daily life. But we have hardly been taught how to communicate in visual ways. To tackle this issue, the folks at CartoDB selected the links and tools to help you upgrade your data visualization skills.

Yale professor Edward Tufte presented many ideas on how to effectively present data to an audience or end user. In this session, Tufte’s most important guidelines about data visualization are explained, as well as how you can apply those guidelines to your own data. Learn what to include, what to remove, and what to avoid in your charts, graphs, maps and other images that represent data.


In this post, Andy Cotgreave is going to show how to build a slope chart in Tableau. As he points out, “it’s not the first tutorial on this: there are others by Ben Jones and Andy Kriebel“. The issue with those examples is that they all start with data that has just two time points. What happens if you have lots of time data and just want to show the start/end points?

A Gapminder-lookalike animated chart in Microsoft Excel, based on the generic Motion Chart Excel Template. For those of you who do not know it, Gapminder is a data visualization software to animate statistics. It was originally developed by Prof. Hans Rosling and his team, and presented in his famous TED talk.

Speaking of Hans Rosling, Alberto Cairo points us to a new TED talk published in Gapminder’s website. This time, Rosling shares the stage with his son, Ola, responsible for many of the graphics and interactive visualizations used in these talks.


Software Engineer Luiz Ibanez recently came across The Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffman. It is an introduction to using software tools to better understand the way things interact in nature. Shiffman employs animations and visualizations to create this joyful understanding of simulation and the world around us. From a simple oscilating pendulum, to a group of many interacting particles, to the general patterns of a flock of birds. In this post, Ibanez lists 10 reasons why you will love this book after reading the first few pages.

It’s 2014 and there is no question that visual storytelling is an important tool in every marketer’s tool belt. However, how to swiftly produce consistent, cost-effective and beautiful work is a lot less obvious. To arm you with the methods, resources and workflows you need to win at visual storytelling, marketer and data visualization pioneer Leslie Bradshaw shares her playbook.



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 always, 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.