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Data Viz News [78]

We are back with our recommended links about data journalism, visualization and infographics

March 2, 2015

At long last, we return to our weekly round ups of the best links about data visualization. Well, it hasn’t been that long, but when you look at what has already taken place since our last post, well, it does seem like an eternity. So much has happened in the first two months of 2015!

This means, of course, that we have a lot of catching up to do! Yes, we could just bring you the most recent articles, interviews and resources. But we’ll try to mix in some of the amazing content already published during this past 60 days, so that we may continue to feature the very best content related to visualization, infographic design, visual journalism, cartography, and much more.

That said, we have been also thinking hardly about alternatives to these long, many times overwhelming, gigantic posts. When we created Data Viz News, we were sure that there was enough content to make an appealing, interesting weekly round up just with links about the fields closer to our interests. Now, almost two years later, the question is sort of if we have content for such a post… every day!

So, while today’s post – and the upcoming ones, all to be posted this week – are still in that very same format, we are intensively looking for alternatives, and your help would be very much appreciated: just let us know on Twitter (@visualoop) what you think would be the best way to deliver this much amount of articles. Looking forward for your ideas.

Now, all set for our first round up of data viz news links:


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

We have been talking a lot about Malofiej 23 (here, here and here), the year’s top infographic event that will take place in the Spanish city of Pamplona, but we couldn’t leave it out of the first Data Viz News. After all, with such a stellar panel of speakers, plus the fact that this year we’ll be covering the event, we just had to open this section with this quick mention.

A great panel of keynote speakers at this year's Malofiej
A great panel of keynote speakers at this year’s Malofiej

Our latest Interactive Inspiration was dedicated to the awarded projects of the Society For News Design’s annual “Best of Digital Design” competition, so you can explore most of them in that post. Article by Kyle Ellis, product manager at The American City Business Journals, co-founder of #SNDMakes, and digital director of the Society For News Design.

Great news for, that managed to get Simon Rogers, data editor at Twitter, to become a contributing editor. The announcement was made by the company in early February, alongside this article about Vox’s commitment and general objectives for the field of data journalism.

Early in January, GraphLab, a startup that has emphasized the power of graph databases for storing and analyzing certain kinds of information, is announcing today a new $18.5 million funding round as well as a new name: Dato. The idea is to convey that the startup can work with data in many formats, not just graphs.

A new feature launched by Jon Schwabish on his great blog PolicyViz: the “Remakes” page, a place where Jon will gather examples of graphics and charts “that I think violate some basic principle (yes, pie charts, I’m looking at you), clearly misrepresent data, or could be improved in some basic way”, as he says. Worth following.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve probably come across some of the inspiring pieces of visual journalism by the newly created team over at Fusion Tv. Led by our friend – and editorial board member – Mariana Santos, this is the team’s website, where you’ll find in-depth articles about some of their most amazing work.

Partial screen capture of the Fusion Interactive website
The Fusion Interactive website


Andy Kirk – who, by the way, celebrated five years of high quality data viz blogging this past month – points out to one of the several data visualization competitions and challenges that were launched these past weeks. This one is promoted by the Bank of England, in conjunction with the One Bank Research Agenda conference and the release of new publicly available Bank data sets. The winning entry will receive £5000, and the closing date for entries is Friday 1 May 2015. More details here.

The latest visualization challenge from the folks over at is about he rapid urbanization of East Asia – one of the most transformative global phenomena of our generation, with far-reaching economic, political and environmental implications. As part of its study on urban expansion in East Asia, the World Bank has mapped urbanization across the East Asia and Pacific region using satellite imagery, and now challenges you to visualize this dataset on East Asia urbanization. They’re offeruing $1,500 in prizes, but you have to hurry: deadline for submitting your work is March 12. If you’re interested in participating, please register for the challenge here.

A great opportunity to expand your knowledge of d3.js, in case you haven’t seen it yet The course runs from March 16 to April 26 and will be taught by two experts with extensive experience in data visualization and who are authors of reference books in the field: Alberto Cairo, Professor of the Professional Practice at the School of Communication of the University of Miami, author of “The Functional Art” (and member of our editorial board), and Scott Murray, an Assistant Professor of Design at the University of San Francisco and author of “Interactive Data Visualization for the Web: An Introduction to Designing with D3“. You can register here, and watch the video below for more information:



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

Infographic design master Juan Velasco praises Understanding the World, The Atlas of Infographics, by Sandra Rendgen and editor Julius Wiedemann. Featuring more than 280 graphics, the collection focuses on the 21st century, but also includes historical masterpieces to put our current situation into perspective. The book’s introduction is signed by Nigel Holmes.

If you follow our Thursday’s round ups of infographics published in newspapers and magazines, you know how much we appreciate the work Accurat has been doing side-by-side with the newsroom of Corriere della Sera for more than 2 years, designing a series of of exploratory data visualizations originally published for La Lettura, the newspaper’s Sunday cultural supplement. In this article, Giorgia Lupi talks about this experience, the lessons learned and the challenges of building these impressive multi-layered, non-linear, visual narratives. The post includes several of these visualizations.

The future as foretold in the past , one of Accurat’s visualizations for Corriere della Sera


In his keynote at last year’s IEEE VIS in Paris, Alberto Cairo talked about journalism, visual explanations, and what makes a good news visualization. Robert Kosara highlights some of his favorite quotes and slides from this presentation.

Charts are undeniably powerful tools for communication, but as Drew Skaw alerts in this article, chart makers should be careful with their “power” and ensure they are using proper practices when creating charts.

To offer a primer on the world’s major faiths, creative director Giovanni Bianco and his New York–based studio GB65 have designed colorful card sets compiling prayers from 10 spiritual traditions: Brazilian Candomblé, Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Kabbalah, Islam, Protestantism, and Shinto. These card sets are available in one sleek package, called “Say a Little Prayer“, from Taschen. Tip from Carey Dunne.

(image: Giovanni Bianco)



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

Very well received by the visualization community, this post by Josh Stevens introduces the idea of bivariate choropleth mapping and demonstrates a technique for creating your own.

Following Josh’s post about Bivariate Choropleth Maps, in which he mentions value-by-alpha maps, Andy Woodruff thought it would be interesting to go a little deeper on this technique, and produced the very complete “how to” guide.

Nice piece by Buddy Kite, recognizing the contributions of four of the most innovative, hardworking and well-known contemporary mapmaking-related folks: Laura Kurgan, Erik Rodembeck, Carlo Ratti and Tony Jebara.

If there’s a capital of commercial mapmaking in the U.S. today, it’s probably in Silicon Valley. But from the late 19th century to the post-World War II era, Chicago was America’s city of maps, according to this article by Laura Bliss, filled with gorgeous examples that will surely be featured on our Vintage InfoDesign compilations.

(image: Hull House Maps and Papers, 1895)



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

Recently, Juan Velasco rediscovered an old entry in Alberto Cairo’s blog titled “Reclaiming the word “Infographics””, a post that resonates strongly with Velasco’s own thoughts on the matter.

In the last few years “the term “infographics” has been hijacked”, as Cairo puts it. Instead of denoting a branch of journalism, the word is now used more and more often to refer to graphic displays that serve not journalism, but marketing.

Every year, Fast Company elects the World’s 50 most innovative companies, and in the media category this year, we have a very respectable “old” newspaper that has managed to turn things around leading the list. “With a little help from Jeff Bezos”, the Washington Post has indeed regained its strength, as we’ve seen by the outstanding visual reporting team they’ve managed to put together – The Post’s graphics are a constant presence in our weekly round ups of print and interactive infographics. Just one year after Bezos’s purchase, unique monthly visitors to the Post’s website increased by 61%, setting an all-time traffic record for the paper.

Speaking of the Washington Post, one of the best interactive features about this year’s Superbowl came from newspaper’s the graphics desk. In this post, Bonnie Berkowitz and Lazaro Gamio talk about how this project was developed.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic An Illustrated history of the Superbowl halftime show
(image: The Washington Post)

A privileged look inside the working of the World’s most well-known newspaper, The New York Times. Written by Reeves Wiedeman, this article goes somewhat out the realm of visual or data journalism – the focus of this section – but nevertheless, it’s well worthy of being featured here.

As we well remember, The New York Times launched The Upshot in April 2014, entrusting it to the paper’s former Washington bureau chief and economics columnist David Leonhardt. Since then, The Upshot has become a laboratory where Leonhardt leads a team of 17 cross-disciplinary journalists to rethink news as something approachable and even conversational. The goal: to enable readers to understand the news and by extension, the world, better. Story by Mark Wilson.

Last year, reporters at the South Florida Sun Sentinel set out to prove that Cuban criminals are exploiting the extraordinarily broad immigration privileges that apply to their nation to run elaborate fraud schemes in the US and then escape back to the island. Susannah Nesmith tells the story behind this impressive three-part investigation.

An article signed by Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, showing how open data has the potential to drive positive social change, and that data-journalists can be key to creating the stories that bring that data to life for a community and for policy makers.

How to ensure your data journalism gets it right? Craig Silverman asked fore the advice from three journalists working in the field: The Guardian’s James Ball, The NYT’ Sara Cohen and Tasneen Raja, interactives editor at Mother Jones.

Speaking of Craig Silverman, he launched his report “Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content: How news websites spread (and debunk) online rumors, unverified claims, and misinformation.” In this presentation, Craig is joined by Gawker’s editor-in-chief Max Read, Anna Dubenko, the managing editor of Digg, and Fusion’s social media director, Margarita Noriega.


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

Matt Asay attended Strata+Hadoop World, Big Data’s big conference last month, and in this post he stresses the importance of adopting a data-before-people corporate attitude, despite the fact that “the industry has made a fetish of gathering ever more data”. And visualization is the perfect tool to bridge this need for applying human analysis to raw data – no matter how big it is.

The title of this post – also by Matt Asay – sounds a bit provocative, but the bottom line is clear: “most enterprises should be paying close attention to the data visualization vendors.” He explains that “In most cases, these won’t be yesterday’s BI vendors (all of which struggle to deal with unstructured data), but rather modern BI startups that understand that today’s data is messy but can be made to tell stories with the right visualization.”

The AnyScale Learning For All (ALFA) Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) aims to solve the most challenging big-data problems — questions that go beyond the scope of typical analytics. ALFA applies the latest machine learning and evolutionary computing concepts to target very complex problems that involve high dimensionality. The group has taken on challenges ranging from laying out wind farms to studying and categorizing the beats in blood pressure data in order to predict drops and spikes. The group is also analyzing huge volumes of recorded click data to predict MOOC-learning behavior, and is even helping the IRS protect against costly tax-evasion schemes.

For Sarah Rosen Wartell, the solutions to many of the problems facing the new D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser depend on getting up-to-date information into the right hands and using it well. The District will need to embrace “wonkiness” and strive to become a data-driven city.

Forbe’s regular contributor Howard Baldwin praises the litereary references used by Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst at Altimeter Group, a consulting firm focusing on digital disruption, who spoke late last year at TED in San Francisco about “the implications of a data-rich world” and how we can “use it to our best advantage.” Citing culture critic Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), she referenced the issues of irrelevance and narcissism in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and surveillance and power in George Orwell’s 1984. . Most important, she lays out five key tactics for anyone tackling big data.

Big data has obviously received a lot of attention in the past couple of years from major companies as well as online communities. The folks at Onalytica analysed the online #BigData discussion by looking at over 400,000 tweets from around 80,000 users to present the most influential individuals and brands that drive this online discussion.

(image: Onalytica)



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

This is the video with the interview to Ezra Klein, Editor in-Chief for, by Google’s Richard Gingras, to discuss the intersection of technology and news.

Not one but six new episodes of the amazing Data Stories podcast were released since our last Data Viz News, and all of them are absolutely unmissable. So we’re just going to share the links here: Data Stories #43: IEEE VIS’14; Data Stories #44: w/ Tamara Munzner; Data Stories #45: With Nicholas Felton; Data Stories #46 — Year 2014 Review w/ Robert Kosara and Andy Kirk; Data Stories #47: Moritz and Enrico on Books, Data Literacy, Their Projects, Etc.; Data Stories #48 Vis Going Mainstream w/ Stamen’s CEO Eric Rodenbeck; and don’t forget to send Enrico and Moritz an appreciation message for their 50th episode.

Another podcast that has been featuring high-level guests on a regular basis is this one by Tableau Zen masters Matt Francis and Emily Kund. Also a bunch of interesting guests and nice discussions, so if you haven’t been following them, you’ve been missing some great episodes with folks such as Jon Schwabish, Ben Jones, Andy Cotgreave and others.

The third podcast we’d like to give a shout-out this week is already in its 10th episode. Jon Schwabish and Stephanie Evergreen have been doing a fantastic with job Rad Presenters, sharing tips about effective presentation and chart-making techniques. Latest episodes include the one with Rick Altman and with Ann Emery.

Matt Ocko had been investing in data-based companies for years before he and Zack Bogue officially launched Data Collective Venture Capital in 2012. Ocko went recently on the “Structure Show” podcast to talk about what has him excited as an investor and what’s just overdone. Also interesting is the previous “Structure Show” episode, with the founder and CEO of research company Fast Forward Labs, Hilary Mason.



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

To mark the milestone of each mid-year and end-of-year, Andy Kirk takes a reflective glance over the previous 6 month period in the data visualization field and compiles a collection of some of the most significant developments. Here’s the list representing the best of the the second half of 2014, following this one with the previous semester. Also, Andy released two additional monthly round ups of interesting links published during last year’s November and December. Tons of great reads in here as well.

And while we’re at it, also from Andy Kirk comes this useful list with some references, papers and examples for anyone interested in learning more about how to effectively visualize uncertainty of data. Feel free to send over other suggestions.

A regular presence in this section of Data Viz news, Jon Peltier‘s tutorials and tips are an absolute must-read for all of those using Excel. In this particular one, Jon shares some of the numerous ways to create floating bars in an Excel chart.

From the 2014 Strata + Hadoop World conference in San Jose, a keynote from Jeffrey Heer, Co-Founder of Trifacta: “Charting a Path Forward: The Future of Data Visualization”.


That’s it for this first Data Viz News of 2015. 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.