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Data Viz News [70]

Dozens of hand-picked links about data visualization, cartography and data journalism

September 27, 2014

Today is the big day for the 2014 Online Journalism Awards finalists! The year’s top celebration of excellence in digital journalism around the world takes place during the 2014 Online Journalism Awards Banquet at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, after another successful edition of the Online News Association annual conference.

We talked about the finalists a couple of weeks ago in this same space, and even posted a special round up with some of our favorite interactive visualizations that are competing in the OJA categories – something that is becoming sort of an habit. So, we’d just like to congratulate all the finalists, once again, and hope to see some of the conference materials available soon – looks like the keynotes were very interesting (#ona2014 on Twitter).

This is actually quite a weekend, in terms of events. In addition to ONA 2014, you have the Society for News Design 36th International Congress taking place in Frankfurt, INST-INT in Minneapolis, and Retune 2014, in Berlim. If you’re attending these events and want to share your experience and thoughts about what you seen, let us know (email) – we’ll be happy to feature your guest post here on Visualoop!

As for today’s Data Viz News edition, the typical’overdose’ of links about data journalism, cartography, visualization and big data, all published within the past few days. Don’t forget to pair this post with the compilations of interactive infographics and maps, as well as these examples of visual journalism. We also featured the works of Alexis Robles, infographic designer based in Quintana Roo, Mexico, and this guest post by information design Ben Willers, about one of his latest visualizations.

A lot to digest, so let’s get to it. Enjoy this week’s recommended links:


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

The New York Times introduced “Watching,” a major new feature on the homepage on desktop and on the mobile website. Watching is a stream of developing and noteworthy news designed to amplify the scope and urgency of The Times’s digital report. Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times, said, “Watching makes The New York Times homepage that much more essential. Our editors and reporters sift out the most urgent and important news, and present it alongside our own world-class journalism.”

The first of two announcements by the folks at, this past week, was the company’s website complete redesign. Among the highlights, a much-improved, and constantly improving repository of help and support content, and more information and examples specifically tailored for users in Media & Publishing, Education, Brands, and Organizations & Enterprise.

And just two days after presenting the website’s redesign, unveils one feature that was among the most requested by users: For Teams. Now, groups of users can get the same product benefits, access the same themes, including your very own custom themes, and share their work in’s library view. Watch the video below for more details:


The Global Landscapes Forum is launching its inaugural infographic and data visualization competition in 2014 with a US$ 1000 first prize. The competition encourages research institutions, think tanks, design professionals, students and other interested individuals to use their creativity to enhance understanding of the holistic ‘landscape approach’ to development conservation and research. Submissions will be received from 23 September 2014 to 03 November 2014 at midnight UTC. Winners will be announced on 10 November 2014.

New Geoprocessing services from Esri. The official release of the Elevation Analysis Geoprocessing Services – Watershed, Trace Downstream, Profile, Viewshed, and Summarize Elevation – was announced this past week.

In the Wolfram Language a little code can go a long way. And to use that fact to let everyone have some fun, they released Tweet-a-Program.
Compose a tweet-length Wolfram Language program, and tweet it to @WolframTaP.

Richman Pariona has joined the Mapbox data team. Previously, Richman was researching traffic patterns in his home town of Ayacucho, Peru and creating software solutions for small businesses. He is now joining Mapbox’s growing data team to improve OpenStreetMap systematically identifying issues, adding data and fixing errors in the map.

Freedom Communications, the owner of the Orange County Register, has ended the print run of the Los Angeles Register and will redirect its focus to covering Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the company said Tuesday. The Los Angeles daily, which launched in April, will continue to have an online presence at



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

In June 2013 the scale of government mass surveillance of agencies, like NSA and GCHQ, were leaked by Edward Snowden. This project intends to raise awareness by designing a fictional monitoring software and its possible consequences. The main aim is to visualize how the surveillance agencies work and how easy a normal citizen with his or her personal data can come into focus of government agencies. The website is a part of the bachelor thesis “Interface design in government surveillance between fiction and reality” by Christian Gross. It was created at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam under the supervision of Prof. Boris Müller and Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk between March and June 2014.


Very nice article by Lena Groeger, about “wee things” – more specifically, the wee things that we see as part of graphics, maps, visualizations, as well as the wee things we experience as part of interactions, navigation, and usability. This means everything from sequences of small graphics that help us make comparisons, to tiny locator maps that help orient us within a larger graphic, to navigation icons that give hints about how we should make our way around a page.

Doing the rounds on social media this week, a still image generated from National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) north pole sea ice extent images. These images are arranged in a grid pattern with the years across the top from 1979 to 2014 and the months running down the image from January to December. In this article, Andy Kirk started a discussion on how to improve this visualization, so don’t miss the comments section.

ASA News recently asked Kaiser Fung to describe “a day in the life of” a business statistician. His response is here, together with responses by two others.

Closing this section, Shaunacy Ferro points out another magnificent creation from the folks at Pop Chart Lab, and this time, they’ve turned their attention to works of architecture. From the Greek Parthenon to Buckingham Palace to Taipei 101 to the Freedom Tower, The Schematic of Structures organizes what the designers describe as “90 eminent edifices erected and perfected throughout history.” Each building has been beautifully hand-illustrated to scale in blueprint-like style—and is accompanied by notations for location, height, year of construction, and architectural mode. You can purchase it here.

(image: The Schematic of Structures, by Pop Chart Lab)



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

The folks at Mapbox will be joining open data advocates from all over Latin America at Condatos next week in Mexico City. And thwey decided to get a little headstart on the event by rolling out 2,000 km2 of fresh DigitalGlobe imagery in and around Mexico City. As with all of the imagery available in Mapbox Satellite, this new imagery can be used for tracing in OpenStreetMap.

(image: Central de Abasto, Mexico city’s massive public market | Mapbox)


And now that we mentioned it, Mapbox’s Tilemill and Mapbox Studio applications are incredible tools for map developers to control the design and style of nearly every aspect of their maps. Using Tilemill or Mapbox Studio it is possible to create some truly gorgeous looking maps, as you’ll see in this selection by Keir Clarke.

Ok, and here’s a third suggested read related to Mapbox, this one related to the previous link, about Map Styles. AJ Ashton talks about Pencil is one of the 12 example styles included with Mapbox Studio, providing a hand-drawn pencil-on-paper look for a map of the whole world. He explains that the style is made up largely of image patterns, so most of the design work started on paper and was touched up in image editing software before finaly being arranged with CartoCSS.

In this blog post you’ll see how the Urban Planning Department of the Cordoba City Council, fulfilling one of the main objectives of providing information to citizens in a simple and comprehensive way, has made use of CartoDB to visualize important data of the area.

GeoCurrents is a forum dedicated to exploring events from all over the world by delving into the peoples, places, genes, and languages that are shaping them. In this post, user Martin W. Lewis talks about the several maps purporting to show plans for an enlarged caliphate by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) that have been circulating on the Internet.

Cool tip from Nathan Yau, pointing us to the work of illustrator Jenni Sparks, who embeds herself in a city, takes copious notes, and draws detailed maps about what she learns. Sparks has made four maps so far: London, Berlin, New York, and most recently, San Francisco.

(image: Hand Drawn Map of San Francisco | Jenni Sparks)



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

An overview of facts and numbers related to the worst Ebola outbreak in history, by Simon Rogers. He extracted the data and stuck it in a spreadsheet, so if you do something with it, just let him know.

On the occasion of Bruno Latour’s visit to Columbia University, this presentation showed participants how to operationalize his seminal Actor-Network-Theory using digital data and methods in the service of social and cultural research.

From The Upshot to Vox to PandoDaily to FiveThirtyEight and beyond (just look for “about” pages for videos and letters to readers), we are experiencing manifesto overload. Article by Nikki Usher.

One of the highlights of yesterday’s Interactive Inspiration came from AL Jazeera – its firts newsgame. “Pirate Fishing” is an interactive in which the user takes the role of a journalist assigned to investigate the multi-million dollar illegal fishing trade in Sierra Leone. Developed by Italy’s Altera Studio team, the project aims to shed light on environmental crimes and the practice of investigative journalism, as well as appeal to younger audiences.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Pirate Fishing
(image: Al Jazeera)


Zara Rahman tells us about her experience in Jakarta, Indonesia, for School of Data‘s first workshop facilitated with School of Data fellow, Yuandra Ismiraldi, and Open Knowledge Ambassador, Ramda Yanurzha, together with local organisation Perludem, and a coalition of other CSOs in attendance.

Not-for-profit civic tech organisation Code for South Africa is working to inculcate a culture of data journalism in South African newsrooms and also helping civic organisations use data in their work. Raymond Joseph reports on the state of data journalism in that country.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo, where Alberto Cairo worked between 2000 and 2005, published a set of misleading charts comparing the circulations of the three major national papers in the country. As media critic Josu Mezo has pointed out in his blog, the main problem isn’t the lack of a 0 baseline but the fact that the Y-axis is truncated in the middle, to suggest that El Mundo is closer to El País than it really is.

Alberto also praised several visualization projects, this past week. In this post, he talks about The New York Times’ work about the Stop-and-Frisk policy in New York – featured in the latest Digital Cartography round-up – , and here are the others, mentioning Folha de S. Paulo and Scientific American.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Is All but Gone From New York
(image: The New York Times)



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

Self-driving cars were just the start. What’s the future of big data-driven technology and design? In a thrilling science talk, Kenneth Cukier looks at what’s next for machine learning — and human knowledge.


The potential benefits of big data are enormous, and the uses vary widely as the information collected about us grows exponentially and the ability to process it grows in tandem. But like any powerful tool, Big Data has a dark side, as Vann R. Newkirk II states in this post.

Nearly half of data scientists surveyed last month say Facebook’s controversial “mood manipulation study” was unethical, and many support ethics guidelines for big data research. The Revolution Analytics survey results show data scientists are largely a principled bunch concerned over the lack of ethical guidelines for big data research, at least in some industries. Post by Jeff Bertolucci.

Here are 25 facts about the phenomenon we call Big Data, pulled together by Bernard Marr, Chief Executive at Advanced Performance Institute.


Many cities are still struggling to understand how to use big data, but, as Dave McGinn points out in this article, it promises to be a hugely important urban-planning tool.

Post by Ted Benson, about the work being conducted by Dr. Jeff Heer of the University of Washington and his group, the UW Interactive Data Lab. At the recent Intel Science and Technology Center for Big Data Research Retreat, Jeff discussed the scaling of interactive visualization techniques to high-volume data, a topic his group is currently studying.

A machine learning approach inspired by the human brain, Deep Learning is taking many industries by storm. Empowered by the latest generation of commodity computing, Deep Learning begins to derive significant value from Big Data. It has already radically improved the computer’s ability to recognize speech and identify objects in images, two fundamental hallmarks of human intelligence. Session held September, 16, at Stanford Graduate School of Business.


With technology advancing so quickly and data growing exponentially, how are companies supposed to keep on top of the accompanying and escalating data privacy issues and concerns? With more technology? Post by Tamara Dull.

A discussion of the possibilities and the challenges of next-generation genomics and implications for health care worldwide. The panel of speakers include Timothy Behrens, Senior Director, Human Genetics, Genentech, Francis de Souza, President, Illumina Corporation, Robert L. Nussbaum, Chief, Department of Medicine & UCSF Institute for Human Genetics, UCSF. The discussion is moderated by Michael Chui, Partner, McKinsey Global Institute.



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

Alberto Cairo shares this interview with our friend Manuel Lima ( and, made by students from UM’s School of Communication. Lima visited UM on Thursday, September 18 to present at the Places&Spaces lecture series.


In the latest episode of Tableau Wanna Be Podcast, hosts Emily Kund and Matt Francis talk to Jon Schwabish about his work at The Urban Institute and his approach to data visualization. In case you missed it, we talked with Jon right about the time he was embracing this new challenge.

Second installment of CartoDB’s Developer Interview series. How are developers using CartoDB to develop geospatial applications? In this one, the experiences of Liam Densley, a Data Analyst at Geoplex, a company based out in Sydney creating some advanced projects with CartoDB.



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

In this keynote, Nicolas Garcia Belmonte discusses how Twitter does data visualization. Talk was at The Graphical Web 2014 conference at The University of Winchester as organised by The Office for National Statistics. Video by John Wilson of Winchester University Journalism School.


A quick post by Ann K. Emery, with six simple ideas for presenting qualitative data in reports, slidedocs, presentations, handouts and more.

This past Wednesday we dedicated the opening entries of our Digital Cartography post to some of the projects recognized at FOSS4G 2014, celebrating the fact that all the talks are available online here. And you can browse all the mapping projects at FOSS4G’s online Map Gallery.

Presentation by William Gunn, Head of Academic Outreach at Mendeley Research. It includes a short history of graphical presentation of data, introduction to R, and more.


Last week, Dr. Ben Shneiderman, Professor of Computer Science and Founding Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, presented a Big Thinkers talk at Yahoo entitled “Information Visualization for Knowledge Discovery: Big Insights from Big Data.” During his presentation, Dr. Shneiderman focused on the importance of visualization tools in answering Big Data questions and solving Big Data problems. Shneiderman enthusiastically stated that “visualization is a way of engaging people,” and that “visualizations give you answers to questions you didn’t know you had.”

Jon Peltier, as he is challenged to talk about Swimmer Plots: “This is the kind of chart that can probably be adapted to a variety of uses, and it’s a great way to help people learn how to think outside their usual approaches, to push Excel beyond its supposed limits.”. Great tutorial, as always.

More small multiples goodness, now by Stephanie Evergreen, with another of her brilliant Excel tutorials for beginners.

This presentation by Paul Derby – a Senior Experience Designer within the Honeywell User Experience design studio – aims to give an overview of some best practices of data visualization and provide a discussion of why they benefit human perception and performance.



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 or, 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.