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Data Viz News [15]

The weekly overdose of fresh data visualization content

July 13, 2013

Among the +40 links we’ve picked for this edition of Data Viz News, a couple of them really caught our attention. Already mentioned here, the new Wired MapLab blog was definitively one of the top news. The latest version of CartoDB, the launch of the Open Knowledge Foundation Labs and Kaiser Fung‘s new book are also worth mentioning.

Other posts such as Kim ReesCritique of Harvard Business Review Article, Simon Roger‘s overview of how journalists used Twitter to tell The Boston Bombing story and the interview with Lev Manovich, published on Rhizome, are also highly recommended.

And that’s just a small sample of all the suggested reads for the weekend. As usual, you’ll find lots of articles covering data journalism, big data and information design, tutorials, more interviews and details about upcoming events. And when you’re done, head on to our Interactive Inspiration round-up for the latest visualizations, and get inspired by the amazing print infographics that we gather in the This is Visual Journalism column.

Now, for the links of the week:



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


We’ve mentioned the new blog about maps by the folks at Wired last Wednesday, in our Digital Cartography weekly round-up. Even so, it’s worth mentioning again, as a brand new digital space to learn, explore and share content related to maps.

Affectionately given the title 2.1, this release is, above all, a major step forward for the platform, with the addition of new features, design and usability improvements, and most of all, multilayer support. The video below gives more details about this new release:


The Databoard for Research Insights is a new interactive tool that enables people to explore and interact with some of Google’s recent research in a unique and immersive way. The Databoard uses responsive design to to offer an engaging experience across devices, and even allows you to create your own infographic.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Databoard for Research Insights
(image: Databoard for Research Insights | Google)


Rufus Pollock, Founder and co-Director of the Open Knowledge Foundation, announced the launch of the Open Knowledge Foundation Labs, “a community home for civic hackers, data wranglers and anyone else intrigued and excited by the possibilities of combining technology and open information for good – making government more accountable, culture more accessible and science more efficient.”

A new book by Kaiser Fung, founder of Junk Charts, who also wrote the bestseller Numbers rule your world, published in 2010. According to the author, in Numbersense: How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage, the focus is the importance of data science as an indispensable field inside corporations that deal with large volumes of data. From his blog post:

The ability to analyze and interpret data analyses will be a critical skill in the world of Big Data. So far, the conversation around Big Data is focused around the collection and processing of mountains of data. The real challenge of Big Data is the proliferation of data analyses: it will be a confusing world of claims and counterclaims.


A new site and Twitter account with the latest news about data visualization, created by Bryan Connor. Bryan is the founder of The Why Axis, a must-follow collection of in depth articles about the data visualization field.

Chicas Poderosas is a new project founded by Portuguese visual storyteller Mariana Santos, who did groundbreaking work as a member of the interactive team at The Guardian, in London. With the aim of creating a network and build skills, through events and training, to bring more women into newsrooms, this project has the support from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Knight Foundation.

The Urban Observatory is a collaboration between Esri, the transmedia company Radical Media; and Richard Saul Wurman, the creator of TED. It provides a way to directly compare cities head to head on a variety of factors, including demographics, land use, and transportation.

Social Media Marketing company Simply Measured teamed up with LinkedIn to create professional level reporting on the professional social network through the beta reporting solution that has been packaged in two comprehensive reports – The Company Report & The Competitive Report. You can preview both of them here and here.

To inspired people to demand more control over the information collected and disseminated about them, a group of Web developers in Austria has created an online game called Data Dealer. The animated game encourages players to amass and sell fictional profiles containing details like the names, birth dates, weight, height, shopping and dietary habits of imaginary consumers.

Amazon’s Partner Network (APN) is a global program that offers solution providers with technical information in addition to sales and marketing support to accelerate their business on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Dundas Data Visualization has announced its membership with (APN) and is among the first AWS Partners ever to gain public designation as a Standard Technology Partner. As a result, Dundas can now enable businesses to monitor and visualize their critical business metrics in a secure, scalable hosted environment.



A selection of recent articles published by experts in data visualization, cartography, business analytics and visual journalism, among other topics.

A brief preview of Alberto Cairo‘s next article for Peachpit (the publisher of Alberto’s book The Functional Art). The full article is set to be online in the next few weeks, and it will cover the “role that independent visualization designers and small firms and teams could have in the current media landscape, in which large watchdog/news organizations are in deep trouble.” In this preview, Alberto leaves an excerpt that alerts for the importance of choosing meaningful topics to work on, instead of some less important issues that are often used by visual designers to practice and develop their data visualization skills.

Kim Rees wrote this post as a more in-depth critique of the Harvard Business Review’s article “How to Tell a Story with Data”. Kim points out that the proposed ‘5-step’ approach can be a dangerous one, reducing the uniqueness of each dataset to a mere “don’t be boring” and “tell compelling stories for your readers/viewers.

As maps, graphics and charts become more common in video games, what are the challenges developers are experiencing, when facing the task of building effective visualization displays that add value to the players experience? This is the core topic of this article.

Simon Rogers writes about the role of Twitter in the coverage of the Boston tragedy, both by the media as well as by citizens, and how the journalists at the Boston Globe used the micro-blogging platform to feed the facts in real time.

Rich Gordon is a professor and director of digital innovation, and in this post he explains why news leaders need to think about three dimensions of data journalism — and three different types of journalism skills – , making it a team work, instead of a one-man job.

While social media can help journalists find important information, it can be hard to find the signal in the noise, and that’s precisely where geolocation tools can make a difference. Gabriela Manuli shares some of the tips presented by Twitter’s Creative Content Manager for Journalism Mark S. Luckie, at the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The folks at the School of Data have held another one of their Data Expeditions. This time, they took on an issue put on the table by the Right2Know campaign, an access-to-information group in South Africa, and Max Richman and Murray Hunter tell how the ‘expedition’ went.

A post by Mark Fidelman, about a set of recent network visualizations created with NodeXL that outlines the 6 major types of Twitter social networks.

Roger Peng leaves his thoughts on interactive data visualization, and the role of storytelling supported by data to present evidence, opposed to just leaving the reader to explore the data by himself. In the end, he also asks what are the most impressive (and effective) data graphics and charts.

This time, the guest author at Randy Krum‘s Cool Infographics blog is Dr. Matthew Dunn, Chief Explainer at Say It Visually. Dr. Dunn gives his opinion on what are the attributes of a “Cool ” infographic.

In 1974, the U.S. Department of Transportation hired the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) to produce 34 pictograms that would be standard in U.S. transportation areas. Five years later in 1979, 16 more were added for a total of 50. Kathy Scott leaves her suggestion of which ones should be updated.

A personal tale by Amy Webb (the author of Data, A Love Story), in which she explains why she started collecting all the data she could think of about her new-born baby, and how that has helped her to become a better parent



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

The shortage of data-savvy people inside organizations will take its toll, when it comes to take full advantage of Big Data. Cynthia Karena talked with a series of experts in business analytics about this new corporate reality, and why a data scientists is key for modern organization, many times providing a competitive advantage over a rival.

A list of facts and stats about Big Data, collected by Rob Petersen. These stats are divided in two categories, ‘solution’ and ‘problem’, as answers to Rob’s question: Do you think Big Data is a solution or a problem?

A visual guide for those interested in becoming a data scientist, created by Swami Chandrasekaran, who took inspiration from the subway tubemaps to design this useful resource.

Becoming a Data Scientist
(image: Swami Chandrasekaran)



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

In the latest episode of the podcast, Enrico and Moritz welcomed Dominukus Baur, interaction designer and mobile data visualization specialist who gave a presentation about this theme at the OpenVis Conference.

One of the most awaited books of the year – at least in the coding/visualization community – was Software Takes Command, by Lev Manovich. The author spoke with Michal Connor about his software analysis methodology and some of the examples used in the book, among other topics.

In this interview conducted by Noah Hutton, Julia Buntaine shares a bit of her background as a ‘bio-artist’and her interest in neuroscience, a permanent inspiration and a constant reference in her work.

With more than thirty-years working with information design, Peter Grundy has established himself as a reference in the field. He He talks about his working experience in this short interview, beautifully illustrated with some of his works.

Partial screen capture of Peter Grundy's website
(image: Peter Grundy)



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


Practical advises from Nathan Yau for those who wish to keep improving their data visualization skills and knowledge. Includes recommended books, articles, academic papers, tools, and more.

Earlier in the week, The Startup Universe data visualization – a collaboration between, Accurat and Ben Willers – was made available, and quickly draw a lot of attention in the data visualization community. In this post, Giorgia Lupi shares details of the whole creative and development process, including some early sketches.

In this article, Robert Kosara tackles the widespread use of Rainbow Maps as an effective way of displaying data, using examples and giving a couple of alternatives to avoid the basic, and yet common, errors that keep being made when picking the right color palette.

All the data-related posts published in Twitter’s Media blog in one place. Most of the content is written by Simon Rogers, who joined the Twitter team back in May, as its first Data Editor.

A selection of tools picked by Drew Skau that can help designers making decisions about the use of color in their visualization works.

An interesting visual experiment by IDV Solutions’ John Nelson, taking the Gloogle image search results across different cultures and compare them, in an array of hues tracking various concepts (design, art, music, math, science, and philosophy) through five different languages.

The award-winning infographic team of Brazilian weekly magazine Época published a new infographic in every single edition, between February 2010 and April, 2013. This gallery gathers all of those works that were featured in the magazine under the title ‘Diagrama’.

Partial screen capture of Diagrama's website
(image: Diagrama infographic gallery | Época magazine)


A simple demonstration of why you should always avoid stand-alone numbers in a dashboard. Tips on adding context, either by including other data or by properly highlighting the existing one, and other details that must always been taking in account for a correct business effective information display.

Matt Stiles reminds us of the power of R in exploring data before investing time in a more complicated visualization, featuring an example of a recent analysis he did on D.C. crime data.

A fantastic collection of the best open data sets and open-source tools for data science, wrapped in an easy-to-use REST/JSON API with command line, Python and Javascript interfaces. Available as a self-contained Vagrant VM or EC2 AMI that you can deploy yourself.

A different way of using the social media share buttons, with a practical example and a new JavaScript library, called abtest.js. The post was written by Jay Boice.

A keynote presented by Fusion Charts‘ founder, Pallav Nadhani, at the Hacknight organized by HasGeek, last June.



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

The Computational Aesthetics symposium is a part of the Expressive 2013 series of events that bridge the analytic and synthetic by integrating aspects of computer science, philosophy, psychology, and the fine, applied & performing arts. It is collocated with SIGGRAPH 2013, that starts June, 21.

(Expressive 2013, 19-20 June)
(Expressive 2013, 19-20 June)


That’s it for another Data Viz News. 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.