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Data Viz News [73]

All the latest news, articles and resources that you might have missed

October 25, 2014

We have a truly full-packed session for you today, since we pulled together not one, but two whole weeks of content. The result? More than 70 high-quality, hand picked links for all of you folks interested in data visualization, explanatory and data journalism, cartography and data science. Before all that, just a quick note: Outside the data visualization world, we are witnessing some incredibly tragic events taking place across the globe, and although this is perhaps not the most suitable place to talk about issues such as the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, or the Ebola outbreak, it’s hard to start a “most important of the week post” without at least making a reference to them. These events have been depicted exhaustively in infographic fashion, both in static and online versions, and without an end in sight for any of these crisis, it’s only fair to assume that we’ll continue to see them being developed by the top newsrooms and graphics desks in the world.

Now, here’s a quick recap of these past days in data viz: in the data journalism front, The Guardian just launched Swarmize, an open-source data journalism tool that enables journalists to tell new, collaborative stories by making use of real-time data collection and visualisation; in the competitions/challenges front, we met the winners of the 2014 Innovation By Design Awards, while the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards shortlisted visualizations were announced, with a fair amount of ‘familiar faces’ there; The Best American Infographics 2014 is now available on pretty much every online and some local bookstores; on the business analytics side – besides everything that took place at Strata+Hadoop World, one of the top events of the industry – , we saw Salesforce presenting Wave, the company’s Analytics Cloud platform, during Dreamforce 2014; and you’ll also get all the latest announcements from companies such as MapBox, CartoDB, Esri, Tableau, and others.

While this was indeed an exciting couple of weeks for data visualization in general, here at Visualoop we were busy as well. New featured portfolios and guest posts, shared some of our favorite sports data blogs, and the usual weekly selections of interactive infographics and maps. Among all the articles we published, the special round up with 30 data visualization galleries everyone should follow really caught some momentum, and we’d like to thank all of you that shared this one for spreading the word. And there are so many excellent resources and galleries out there, we will most definitely be back to this topic very soon.

Well, enough talk. Enjoy one of our biggest lists of recommended reads so far:


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

Mentioned here on Visualoop several times this week, the list of projects that made it to the final round of Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards is a good measure of how high the overall quality of the data visualizations submitted was. You can actually browse through both longlisted and shortlisted visualizations in the competition’s online gallery – one of the recommended ones in this special post.

Partial screen capture of the online data visualization gallery website Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards
(image: Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards)


Fast Company hosted its annual Innovation By Design Awards and Conference in downtown New York recently, where they revealed the 10 best designs of the year. They received 1,587 submissions from around the world, later closing down to 53 finalists. Data Visualization was not only one of the categories – the winner here was Mapdwell’s web-based Solar System platform that helps users design at-home solar energy systems -, but Nicholas Felton’s Reporter for iPhone also won the Apps category.

Collaborative data journalism platform Swarmize has launched yesterday (24) to offer editors and journalists better tools for the use of data, including real-time visualization. Swarmize, now in alpha, won funding through the Knight News Challenge in June, and has been built at the Guardian over the last four months.

According to Salesforce’s official release, “Wave is the first cloud analytics platform designed for every business user, making it easier than ever for anyone to explore data, uncover new insights and take action instantly from any device.Companies can now quickly deploy sales, service and marketing analytics, or build custom mobile analytics apps, using any data source—empowering everyone to make smarter decisions from anywhere.” The company also stresses out the fact that “Wave is designed for business users, not just analysts”, with advanced social collaboration features.

Our friend Jon Schwabish teamed up with Stephanie Evergreen to launch this brand new podcast about presentations. Each episode they will cover a new topic related to presenting – picking great images, the array of slide deck software, audience engagement strategies, and so on.

Partial screen capture of the Rad Presenters website
(image: Rad Presenters)


LinkedIn has become the latest social network to solicit ideas from researchers to explore the company’s data. Under the rules of the new LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge, announced in a blog post this week, researchers will submit proposals for analyzing LinkedIn’s vast pool of data on companies, geographies, education, and other characteristics of people’s work lives.

The founder of FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver, is expanding video production with short films that aim to demystify data for a wider audience. According to this report by Lucas Shaw, the first one of those videos, “The Man Vs. The Machine,” features a chess match between Gary Kasparov and an IBM computer.

One of the highlights of the last Interactive Inspiration post was the newly launched, fully redesigned, London Datastore. New resources, visualizations, and even a data challenges section, and in the official announcement Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director, Intelligence, Greater London Authority explains what are the goals of this new era.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic London Datastore
(image: the new London Datastore)


Eighteen projects aimed at improving journalism or media are each receiving $35,000 in seed funding from Knight Foundation as part of the latest round of funding from the Knight Prototype Fund, the foundation announced this weel. Each project has six months to research, iterate, and test their ideas, and at the end of the six months all the groups come together to present their projects for a demo day. Familiar names include, Ushahidi, Internews and Creative Commons.

CartoDB is part of an ever-growing community that includes students, educators, researchers, developers, and designers who are building some of the most advanced maps on the web. In this post, the company announces a series of new features for students and teachers.

The folks at Mapbox have expanded the functionality of the static maps API to include support for overlaying paths and GeoJSON. Everyone has access to this new feature and can start playing with the API right away.

Map-D Technologies, a big data visualization startup, has raised $1.5 million from Nvidia, Google Ventures, and numerous angel investors. They created an in-memory database that moves quickly in supporting graphics-intensive maps, charts, and other visualizations built from a massive amount of data. The company will use the money for product development.

No so long ago we highlighted this website that presents the results of the EU research project EMAPS, as well as its process: an experiment to use computation and visualization to harness the increasing availability of digital data and mobilize it for public debate. To do so, EMAPS gathered a team of social and data scientists, climate experts and information designers. It also reached out beyond the walls of Academia and engaged with the actors of the climate debate.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic


Every month, Tableau’s digital marketing team picks a topic to dedicate the month to. And with the midterm elections in the U.S. coming up at the beginning of November, it seemed like the perfect time to do politics month – #VizTheVote! They will feature a wide-range of politically-themed content this month, from how-to/tutorials to guest blog posts and content from their very own Tableau Public team.

Recently, the New Zealand Herald presented its new data blog, focusing on numbers in news and showcasing the best interactive visualizations. The blog will be aimed at people interested in all aspects of data, and readers can also expect data from StatisticsNZ and other government agencies to be published on the blog in a usable format with brief analysis.

The longtime news artist, graphics reporter, designer, editor and blogger Charles Apple shares the announcement made by the Victoria Advocate editor Chris Cobler, in which Charles is presented as managing editor/visuals, starting in early December.

On November 1st, the Urban Institute is hosting a Data Dive in partnership with the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) and sponsored by Socrata. The event, entitled “How Better Data Can Reduce Domestic Violence,” is not a typical hackathon. “It’s not even a typical data dive,” , Urban Institute’s Jon Schwabish said in an interview with Socrata, “Although we are working on a technical challenge, like at a hackathon, we are really planning to leverage what Urban Institute does so well — elevating the debate using our expertise in social issues and combining that philosophy with technology.”

Edited by Gareth Cook and having Nate Silver, founder of FiveThirtyEight and author of the bestselling book, The Signal and the Noise as the guest introducer, “The Best American Infographics 2014″ is the second volume in the series. The book is available at Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, BAM, Indiebound and the publisher. Information on the debut volume, introduced by David Byrne, is available here.

Cover of the Best American Infographics 2014



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

One of the most debated topics in data design is whether or not chart junk—all those additional illustrations and design elements meant to enhance the aesthetics of data visualizations—are effective at making a chart more more memorable or not. To examine the issue, in 2013 MIT ran the largest-scale visualization study yet, delving into what exactly makes a visualization memorable, which is the center of this post by the folks at Visage. In case you missed it, we recently had a nice conversation with Jason Langow, the CEO/Cofounder of Visage and previously CEO/Cofounder of Column Five.

Guest post by Andy Cotgreave, Social Content Manager at Tableau Software, about Willard Cope Brinton‘s classic book Graphic Methods of Presenting Facts, to which Andy dedicated the Tumblr blog 100 years of Brinton. He has been adding insights from the book over time, combining them with modern day equivalents or new ideas to add to Brinton’s.

A quick reminder by Alberto Cairo, that we should spend more time actually exploring the visualizations before jumping into the judgement of its overall quality. he was about to do it with this visualization, but then he visited the website where it was published, and discovered that the graphic isn’t that bad, after all.

Numerical data is so ubiquitous that it’s no longer just the purview of statisticians or analysts. Journalists are increasingly charged with transforming data sets into interesting narratives – but in many cases, it is no longer possible to see that narrative in a raw data file with the naked eye. Anni Murray shares here some helpful tips for mining data: techniques and tools that will help you transform a pile of numbers into a story worth telling.

If you had the chance to check out our latest compilations of print and interactive infographics, you’ve seen how the Ebola outbreak has taken over the headlines. In this post, Dean Meyers talks about several Ebola-related resources and visualizations that came to his attention.

Recently, Jon Schwabish wrote a post on Visually about the conceptual and design process behind The Graphic Continuum. Now, he shares some of the sources of inspiration for the project, that Jon did in collaboration with Severino Ribecca, who created and runs The Data Visualisation Catalogue

Getting a sense of scale can be difficult, and the usual chart types like bars and lines don’t help. As Robert Kosara demonstrates in this post, showing scale requires a different approach, one that makes the multiplier directly visible. Together with the article, Robert created a visualization that was also featured in this Interactive Inspiration round up.

First on Twitter, and then on this post, Alberto Cairo points out several aspects in Tableau Public that, in his opinion, could be improved. The post generated a couple of responses in the comments, including one by Tableau’s Robert Kosara.

We continue with some more criticism towards Tableau, although Jeffrey A. Shaffer starts her article with a compliment to what she considers to be the “best data visualization and BI platform on the market today”. But she points out several negative aspects regarding this white paper, a critique she now shares, a month after sending it directly to Tableau. It seems the paper is now under review.

For the last “Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards Conference” in New York, Accurat has been working in parallel with agency R/GA to interpret Amazon‘s complex bestseller database. What came out of our study are 3 data posters, that tell the stories of the aspects and phenomena they found more interesting in the datasets analyzed. You can check here all of the links to Accurat’s analysis and visualizations, including a detail pdf explanation of the process. You can also explore a visual tale of it on Accurat’s Behance page, or read a summary of the panel on Fast Company.

(Amazon’s top sellers, one of the data posters developed by Accurat and R/GA for Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards Conference)



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

Geographer Stentor Danielson has an Etsy store called Mapsburgh, that produces delicate hand-cut paper street maps, fantasy maps in the style of Tolkien, and other cartographic art. Nice tip by Nathan Yau, that also recommended an intriguing set of geographic smell maps in this other recent post.

(image: Stentor Danielson)


This post is actually pulled from an internal message written by Tableau’s development team, something like an inside look at how Tableau thinks about maps, and a quick overview of some of the features of the most recent updates.

In his new book, “Great Maps”, professor Jerry Brotton uses over 60 milestones to guide us through our cartographic heritage. Brotton explains in this article by Nick Stockon how he took special care in choosing the maps, to highlight the ones that have special stories behind them – after all, like the author states, “A map is about space, but it is also an object in time.”

Post by Ruben Lopez Mendoza, explaining how Mapbox’s data team took a break from improving OpenStreetMap all around the globe and focused on mapping beautiful Ayacucho, Peru, where many of them are based. They added around 700 major points of interest like public entities, financial, educational institutions, restaurants, and just like with street names, they gathered this information with ground surveys.

This presentation was created by Search Factory’s SEO Manager David Butler, and it gives insights into the ranking factors for Google Maps.



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

An in-depth investigation of the reasons of the decline of the News Industry, and the challenge, as well as opportunities that lie ahead. Presented in long-form narrative style, you’ll get lots of insights out of this excellent job signed by Robert G. Kaiser.

Partial screen capture of the interactive report The Bad News about the News
(image: Robert G. Kaiser)


A series of questions that define the many “nuances” of data journalistic best practices, compiled by Simon Rogers. As Simon explains, this post was adapted from materials for an introduction to data journalism MOOC run earlier this year.

Visual journalism, data journalism and audience development teams are all being restructured under plans from new executive editor for digital Aron Pilhofer, who spent the summer visiting other media organisations for inspiration. Story by Alastair Reid.

The Society for News Design hosted its second #SNDMakes hackathon in Boston this past weekend. The last iteration of the event was held in Indianapolis, hosted about two dozen designers, developers, and journalists, and produced a handful of ongoing projects. This fall’s event was hosted by Upstatement, the Boston-based design firm that’s worked with a number of media clients, including The Boston Globe, NPR, and Global News. Caroline O’Donovan tells us how the teams performed during the “hackathon”

A critic to the dubious quality journalism being made by Ampp3d, one of the new wave of standalone data journalism sites. The fact that it belongs to one of Britain’s most popular tabloid newspapers, the Trinity Mirror, doesn’t help the case of Ampp3d, with James Ball showing in this post several examples of junk food data journalism – clickable pieces, but far from useful.

Article by Mayaz Alam, also referring to the fact that most of the new data journalism initiatives such as FiveThirtyEight or have fallen short in the face of lofty expectations.

In a session on digital tools at the International Newsroom Summit in Amsterdam, the Pew Center’s Robyn Tomlin shared some key tools for working with data. Alastair Reid sums up the list of suggested tools mentioned.

This event examines how data journalism is transforming work in health, education, agriculture and other sectors of development, drawing on work from Internews in Kenya and the World Bank in countries across the world. Here’s a wrap-up of the event, written by Valerie Popper– and in case you missed it, here’s a fantastic interview with Eva Constantaras about the work being done by  Internews in Kenya .



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

While emergency response teams, medical charities and non-governmental organisations struggle to contain the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history, could big data analytics help? A growing number of data scientists believe so, as Matthew Wall shows in this article.

Claudia Perlich is one of the top data scientists in the United States, and in this post she talks about the challenges she faced in a field and working environment dominated by male colleagues and bosses.

I’ve never sought out female role models in data science, nor bemoaned their scarcity, as I never worried for a moment that my gender should limit my ability or accomplishments.


“What Is Big In Big Data And What Trends Are Driving Its Future” panel on Main Stage of IDCEE 2014.


Like we mentioned before, at this year’s edition of Dreamforce, took its own swing at harnessing the power of data with the debut of Wave, its long-anticipated Analytics Cloud service. Michael Howard, chief executive of C9, talks about the announcement and its implications.

One of the several Strata + Hadoop World conference recap posts, this one written by Marco Chiappetta, about the possible impacts of Rackspace’s new Hadoop and Spark Bare Metal solutions for the field of big data analytics.

Leading Apache Hadoop provider Cloudera made a slew of announcements recently, starting with the release of a new, free tool for monitoring and self-service provisioning of Hadoop clusters in the cloud. Called Cloudera Director, the tool allows business users to provision and monitor private or public cloud deployments of Hadoop, reportedly without needing IT staff intervention. Ellis Booker wrote this piece.

Presentation given by Dr. Diego Kuonen, CStat PStat CSci, on October 13, 2014, at `F. Hoffmann-La Roche’ in Basel, Switzerland.


For Daniel Riedel, CEO of New Context, the issue with big data is that it is a double-edged sword, and it’s razor sharp on both sides. Although it has amazing potential to improve our world, it can easily be abused for the sole purpose of tracking behavior to make money or, even more evil, tracking dissidents to eliminate them.

The number of jobs related to Big Data is growing by the day, as more and more companies become aware of the benefits data collection and analysis could have on their profitability. Bernard Marr shares his list of the 6 key skills he considers key for those who are thinking about working in this industry or recruiting for big data jobs.

In the Age of Big Data, computational algorithms are getting good at recommending books based on our behavior and our interests. But can they become better than a knowledgeable human?



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

When Martin Krzywinski took a systems administrator job at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Center, he didn’t plan on becoming a pioneer of 21st century biological data visualization. But that’s what happened.


In this episode of the top podcast on data visualization, Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner welcome Lisa Strausfeld, of Bloomberg Visual Data and Bloomberg View.

Alyssa Goodman – who we mentioned here, in 2012 – is a Professor of astronomy at Harvard University and a Research associate at Smithsonian Institution. She talks about her amazing experience as astronomer and about the data visualization as the next frontier in astronomy and astrophysics.


The OKCast is a weekly open source blog and podcast with the goal to explore, connect, use and inspire open knowledge projects around the world to develop the public commons, improve organization and government transparency and communication, and advocate for social justice and social activism. In this episode, the guest of honor is Lily Bui, a researcher and journalist exploring what she calls sensor journalism.

HBR senior editor Scott Berinato speaks with MIT’s Alex “Sandy” Pentland, who has pioneered the use of sensor technology to collect deeply detailed, big data about people and their interactions.



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

Ramon Bauer and Nikola Sander on how to use data visualization to engage the public on topics such as migration – another one of the many interesting talks given at The Graphical Web 2014 conference.


Small multiples are already a powerful tool for anyone who works with data. With the right interactions, we can engage the viewers more and bring out insights and details that would be obscured otherwise.. A primer and a how-to in this guest post by Jim Vallandingham

One of the great things about small multiples is that it enables direct comparison by having all data displayed simultaneously. This tutorial, by the team behind new data viz blog “on the block”, Webkid, shows how to create small multiple maps that are interactive.

In this guest post, data presentation guru Stephanie Evergreen teaches us four basic tweaks one can make to graphs right inside Excel that will elevate them to “rockstar status” — tweaks that mix data and design, to best communicate your work’s impact.

Huge list of resources, including articles, videos, books and step-by-step tutorials, related to Pivot Tables in Excel. Compiled by Debra Dalgleish, Excel MVP and the author of three books on pivot tables, published by Apress.

These are the slides of the MOOC course on big data by Clement Levallois, from EMLYON Business School.

Many of you already know how D3 can be… dense. But Ben Clinkinbeard breaks down the bare essentials in this set of guided video lessons, aimed for those without much experience in coding.

A short review article, in which DataMeet‘s Nisha Thompson talks about her first experience using WebScraper in a small project.

John Rauser, Lead Data Scientist at Pinterest, talks at the Data Driven NYC – a monthly event covering Big Data and data-driven products and startups, hosted by Matt Turck, partner at FirstMark Capital.


Written by Amy Lee Walton, this is a quick introduction to Mapbox Studio’s print export tool, that makes it possible to create high-resolution prints of any map style.

The goal of Andrea Mostosi, when making this list, was to offer a comprehensive, yet forever incomplete, guide of resources, bloggers and companies. Here is also a incomplete but useful list of relevant paper published in the VLDB/big-data environment starting from 1997 with the paper from NASA that mention the word “big-data” fro the first time.

Emma Whitehead and Tobias Sturt (of Graphic Digital Agency) discuss and exemplify effective visual storytelling with data. Talk was also at The Graphical Web 2014 conference at The University of Winchester, as organised by The Office for National Statistics.


In this step-by-step tutorial, again from the WebKid Blog, Moritz Klack shows how to create a world map with random colored countries. By following these four steps, you’ll learn the basics of developing cartographic narratives through a combination of Leaflet, TopoJSON & Chroma.js.

A tutorial on how to build a treemap graph in R and refining it using Illustrator, utilizing a dataset used in an article by The New York Times on Feb. 25, 2007 – treemap visualization by Amanda Cox. Although described in Chapter 5 of the book Visualize This, by Nathan Yau, this tutorial used a different package (treemap with RColorBrewer) instead of “portfolio”. The PDF of the tutorial with the related links and files can be found here.



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

Data Viz calendar


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.