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Data Viz News [72]

All the top links of the week, about visualization of information and data journalism

October 11, 2014

Welcome to another edition of “Data Viz News”, our weekly bulletin for those interested in information design, data journalism, cartography and all other things data-related. We always try to bring you the best content from around the Internet, something that has actually picked up in many blogs out there. Not so long ago, only Andy Kirk at Visualising Data and a handful of other publishers were making this sort of effort, but now, there are literally dozens that you can follow to keep up with all the content being produced on an increasing rate.

Because that’s the thing: You have more and more interesting content out there. More that we can actually digest, in many cases. Every week, new blogs are created, hundreds of articles are published, presentations are shared on YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare, and so on. It’s no surprise that these “best of the week/month/year” types of posts continue to get some attention – and clicks -, and we’re glad they do, because no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get it all. It’s simply impossible.

So let’s move on to our “link-festival”, that includes news about data visualization competitions (including the Information is Beautiful Awards), step-by-step tutorials, interviews and in-depth discussions, and much more. And during the week, we covered both the ÑH awards and the Brazilian elections, here on Visualoop, in addition to our usual round ups of interactive infographics and maps, and exquisite examples of visual journalism and vintage charts and graphics. We also had an interview with Jason Lankow, the co-founder and CEO of Column Five Media and Visage, and a guest post by infographic master Luiz Iria – a special one for soccer fans.

In sum, a lot to read, explore and learn from, if you’re interested in visualization, cartography, data journalism and all related fields. Here are this week’s recommended links:


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

As mentioned in the introduction, the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards online gallery has been updated with the projects longlisted for the 2014 edition. You can also explore all the visualizations from previous years.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Reading Level of Presidential Speeches
(image: Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards gallery)


Three professors at Duke University have just launched the first installment of a Coursera MOOC on Teaching Statistics: “Teaching Statistical Thinking: Part 1 Descriptive Statistics.” The course, designed with high school teachers in mind, is organized around “core principle videos” that discuss the statistical content, along with additional videos discussing resources, pedagogy, and the analysis of data using JMP.

The Urban Institute‘s Data Dive, hosted November 1st, 2014, in partnership with the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP), will explore how better and more accessible data, analysis, and dialogue can be used to improve understanding and reduce domestic violence. Using data from the DVRP, the discussion will focus on how collecting high quality data about domestic violence requires a high degree of cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Just launched, represents‘s social mission of increasing global data literacy. Here you’ll find the company’s base for outreach activities, resources, events and their Ambassador Program. You can also browse through The Data Club section of the website, to learn tips, tricks and best practices for data visualization and data storytelling.

Partial screen capture of the website
(image: Infogram org)


Wide-ranging National Institutes of Health grants announced recently will develop new strategies to analyze and leverage the explosion of increasingly complex biomedical data sets – often referred to as Big Data. These NIH multi-institute awards constitute an initial investment of nearly $32 million in fiscal year 2014 by NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, which is projected to have a total investment of nearly $656 million through 2020, pending available funds.

General Electric announced that revenue from its Internet of Things software business will be $1.1 billion this year – probably the fastest a G.E. business has hit the $1 billion mark, as Quentin Hard points out in this article. Also, next year, G.E. plans to connect this big data product, called Predix, to machines made by other companies.

ZoomData has raised another $17 million for its visualization technology that was built with stream processing and iPads in mind, but has since made the leap to historical data and desktops, as well. Report by Derrick Harris.

Qlik has presented Qlik Sense, a device-independent, self-service visualization and discovery product for enterprise-class governance and performance. According to the release, “Qlik Sense lets users create apps through a drag-and-drop experience that delivers relevant analysis, interactive reports, and dashboards critical to decision-making and operations.”

The debate “Quem mexeu no meu jornalismo de dados?” (Who messed-up my data journalism?) will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Oct. 21. Speakers include Alexander Howard, former fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and Fabio Malini, coordinator of the Research Laboratory on Internet and Culture at the Federal University of Espírito Santo. Journalism students and professionals interested in data journalism can attend this event in São Paulo or via Google Hangout.

A new blog worth following, if you appreciate good information design. Juan Velasco, former National Geographic and The New York Times, has launched his company’s blog, 5W Blog, where he’ll be sharing the latest news from the 5W Velasco Design Group. In case you haven’t read it, here’s an interview we did with Juan a couple of months ago.

Using Mapbox Vector Tiles, the recently launched Surface API can look at elevation profiles to crime indices to home prices – anything, any data that you upload. The core of the API is a flexible query interface. Given a point on a mountain, it can compute the elevation at that point by interpolating nearby values. Given a line across the mountain’s ridge, it’ll return multiple elevation values along the path. A couple of examples are presented, like this bicycle theft rate density map in San Francisco that features bike theft and elevation:

Partial screen capture of the interactive map SF Bike Crime, by MapBox
(image: SF Bike Crime, by MapBox)



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

Alberto Cairo‘s keynote at the Online News Association conference is recommended not only for journalists, but for everyone who has an interest in visualization. Enjoy it.


Article by Rachel Delacour, co-founder and CEO of BIME (We Are Cloud), stating that aesthetics should not be considered as an optional part of visualizing data, but instead as a crucial component in helping us understand what we’re looking at.

One of the several “bad graphics reviews” of the week, this one by Kaiser Fung – he was actually one of the first people to do this type of analysis, usually offering advises on easy-to-do improvements that really make the difference.

Tableau’s Tara Walker shares the top highlights of “Fanalytics”, an event that took place within the Tableau Conference, and resulted in some very interesting visualizations – done in 45 minutes or less. The presentations of the three Tableau Public authors that opened the event are also available.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The History of Music #1s in the U.K.
(The winning viz of Fanalytics, by Will Jones and Eric Shiarla)


Data Visualization is a great way to show off your data. It reveals patterns and trends, and can grab attention better than a table of numbers. But vision isn’t the only sense we can use to get a feel for data. Hearing can also be a great way to input data into our brains, as Drew Skaw shows in this article.

Interesting post by Jill Walker Rettberg, professor of digital culture at the University of Bergen, explaining the meaning and importance for Humanities of “dataism” – a term coined by Prof. José van Dijck, in an article she published this spring.

Data isn’t just objective information any more. It’s interpretations of our emotions, translated into numbers and graphs and rendered more reliable – more cerebrally sincere – than our own thoughts.

The latest project by the team coordinated by Lev Manovich, about visual social media, is called The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev – a continuation of previous Software Studies Initiative’s projects, and selfiecity – which Moritz Stefaner talked with us about here. In this new installement, using computational and data visualization techniques, the team explores 13,208 Instagram images shared by 6,165 people in the central area of Kiev during 2014 Ukrainian revolution (February 17 – February 22, 2014).

The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev, by Software Studies Initiative

(image: The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 hours in Kiev, by Software Studies Initiative)



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

Researchers published the most detailed map of the ocean floor ever produced. Data collected by satellites and remote sensing instruments were used to created a model at least twice as accurate as previous maps, revealing thousands of previously uncharted seafloor features in the process. The video below explains the gravitational mapping technique in more detail and shows a tour of the ocean floor.


One way of trying to make Twitter data understandable is by giving it context – by putting it on a map. In this article, Twitter Data Editor Simon Rogers talks about the challenges and possibilities of mapping Twitter geotagged data.

A researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mark Kimura, who specializes in economic geography, has generated mapping data showing the possible effects if or when the current lava flow in lower Puna cuts off the highway and then reaches the shore. For his analysis, Kimura is using geographic information systems or GIS, which are computer systems designed to capture and analyze spatial or geographical data.

‘You Say Potato’ is a new book about English accents by David and Ben Crystal. As part of the promotion for the book’s release the publishers have released The You Say Potato Accent Map, and Keir Clarke pulled together a list with other interactive maps using sound as a core element.

We recently featured Duncan A. Smith‘s project, Luminocity 3D – also reviewed by Kenneth Field here. In this post, Duncan talks about the increasing availability of large urban datasets, and, of course, the Luminocity project.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Luminocity 3D
(image: Duncan Smith)



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

The popularity of data journalism is rising and sensors have become a vital device for collecting, sifting through and interpreting data that journalists (and their audiences) have never seen before. A nice overview by Jenn_Zarate on the concept of sensor journalism, alongside a description of a workshop, where the folks at Public Lab experimented with it.

Recently, Amanda Farnsworth, editor of visual Journalism at BBC News, discussed with delegates at the INMA European Conference how the BBC brought journalists from TV and online together, the role of visual journalism for audiences, and how the BBC is doing data journalism. Marek Miller lists the key insights of that conversation.

Another session from the Online News Association annual conference, showing how two leading experts are pushing real-time metrics to the edge of their fields, and finding ways to improve readership of important stories. is a non-profit data journalism-driven website that uses data and analysis to focus on a wide range of government programmes and policies. What are the experiences and what is the potential of data journalism? Julie Hudman, former director of Research,, provided some interesting insights at WAN-IFRA India 2013. Sashi Nair reports.

#MigrantsFiles: the European investigation on 23,000 migrants that died from 2000 to 2013 trying to reach Europe, now summarized in this presentation.



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

Peppered with several real-world case examples, this session by Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger also provides concise strategic ideas how to succeed in the Big Data age.


The huge amounts of data around us need to be filtered, analyzed for interesting trends, and then displayed in a way that humans can make sense of quickly. It is this last task of data display that Zachary Weber and Vijay Gadepally have taken on at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts. They say that combining big data with 3-D printing can dramatically improve the way people consume and understand data on a massive scale.

In his keynote presentation, Lutz Finger, Director of Data Science at LinkedIn, shows how to work with data to obtain usable results and influence customer behavior.


Late last year, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) licensed a Strava metro data set of 17,700 riders and 400,000 bike trips around Portland. That adds up to 5 million BMTs (bicycle miles traveled) logged in 2013 alone. The data is now being parsed as ODOT determines what kinds of infrastructure needs that information reveals. Can that data give Portland planners insight into cyclists’ habits? Mona Lalwani wrote this story.

Ben Medlock, CTO and Co-founder of Swiftkey, speaks about the experience, background, and challenges of building Swiftkey’s intelligent typing system. Swiftkey’s products now feature on over 200 million devices worldwide.



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

John Niedermeyer is Deputy Director of Digital News Design at the New York Times. While at SND Frankfurt, he spoke with Adam Baumgartner about his role in producing quality design that preserves the Times’ legacy in a digital environment.

How can designers, developers and journalists collaborate to create stunning data journalism products? Do journalists need to code? And how does a typical workflow for Bloomberg data visualizations look like? Read this interview with Jeremy Scott Diamond, a data visualization specialist for the Bloomberg Visual Data team, and you will know the answers.

A Q&A with Uldis Leiterts, co-founder of, about infographics, how he started the company and about his plans for a future of the tool in Japan.

The folks at KDnuggets launched a “Spotlight initiative” to bring attention to academic research. The journey begins in this post, with Prof. Eamonn Keogh and his student, Yanping Chen, who are applying data mining to save us all from insect-vectored diseases.

In our latest exclusive interview, Jason Lankow, one of the founders of Column Five Media and Visage talks about infographics and data visualization.

VL destaque Jason Lankow



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

At the end of each month Andy Kirk pulls together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content he has come across during the previous month. Here’s the latest collection from August 2014 – including a mention to one of the featured portfolios of the week.

A new selection of articles and resources by the folks at Data Science Central, about R, data science, Python, machine learning, and other related topics. Comments are from Vincent Granville. For a full list of all resources featured so far, click here.

Presentation by Krist Wongsuphasawat, given at the Hacks & Hackers Meetup SF at Twitter HQ, on Oct 8, 2014.


Post by Ross Crooks, also co-founder/CCO of Visage and Column Five, with seven tips for using data in presentations, so they can be more effective and memorable.

As we said back in the beginning of this post, the new Mapbox Surface API allows you to create your own geographic query API from any data in minutes. Damon Burgett shows how in this step-by-step tutorial.

Bokeh is a data visualization library that lets Python programmers and data scientists create interactive, novel, plots for the web. This talk overviews its capabilities and demos its latest features.



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

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.