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Data Viz News [29]

The top news, articles and resources from throughout the Internet

October 19, 2013

While things slowly get back to normal in the US, after the end of the government shutdown, there were some other exciting developments in journalism. For instances, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian reporter who first wrote about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, is creating a media startup with billionaire eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar. Bezos was not an isolated case.

Also, the Knight Foundation is reinvesting in Knight-Mozilla OpenNews to help grow the community of journalism-centered hackers and find ways to better integrate them into media companies. How much? $4 million over three years, which means OpenNews can continue to seed developers throughout media organizations with the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships. That’s not as much as the $10M MapBox raised from Foundry Group, of course.

Several events also on the news, like the SmartDEN meetup in London, and of course, the Online Journalism Awards Conference. You can look back at some of interactive projects shortlisted to the final round here.

In addition to all that, a brand new Tumblr worth checking out, Thumbs Up Viz, the longlist of the Kantar Information Is Beautiful Awards awards is out. with dozens of projects in data visulization, infographics, motion graphics and more (take a look at our pick of 25 interactive infographics of that list), and our usual selection of articles, announcements, interviews, and resources about data journalism, cartography and data visualization.

All in all, some hours of fun reading ahead:


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

At long last, the House voted to end the U.S. government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling late Wednesday night (16/10). The final tally was 285-144. All 198 Democrats voting were in favor, but most Republicans voted against it, by a margin of 144-87.

Four major foundations (Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund) launched a $1 million challenge encouraging universities to create teams that will experiment with new ways of providing news and information. The two-year micro-grant contest will be run by the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership group of digital journalists. The ‘competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education’ was announced yesterday at ONA’s 2013 conference.

After Pierre Omidyar´s interested in buying The Washington Post, he teamed up with Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian reporter who first wrote about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, and created a new media startup. The billionaire has written a blog post explaining why he’s interested in creating a digital publication, and how he and Greenwald teamed up.

Like we said in the introduction, the Knight Foundation announced it was awarding $4 million in new funding to the program it jointly supports with Mozilla, best known for its Firefox browser. The new funding is nearly double Knight’s initial commitment to the program in 2011.

The ‘Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards’ released the longlist for the 5 categories, as we mention previously. We dedicated yesterday’s Interactive Inspiration to some of those selected works.

This was great news for all digital cartography fans aout there: MapBox Inc. raised $10 million in Series A funding from Foundry Group. Chief Executive Eric Gundersen said MapBox’s software as a service makes it easy and affordable for designers, journalists and developers to put a custom, interactive map into their websites and mobile apps using open-source tools and data.

And unfortunately not everything is good news, The International Journalism Festival, due to take place in April 2014 in Perugia, has been cancelled. This decision has been taken by the festival founders Arianna Ciccone and Christopher Potter by lack of funds. Europe looses a great event.

Stop at the top! The 2013 festival was by general agreement the best so far. If the conditions had been right, if projected revenue had been sufficient to allow us to put together a 2014 festival to surpass the 2013 festival, we would have continued. If at some point in the future the conditions were right, we would consider continuing. We’re still brimming with energy and ideas. But given that the conditions aren’t right, we stop here.


Dan Sinker talks about the projects of Knight-Mozilla OpenNews after the announcement of the new funding,. Among the ideas – besides the continuation of the fellowship program and Source – a new conference (right now, code name SRC CON) that will combine the passion-driven open sessions of an unconference with the collaborative making of a hack weekend.

The ‘career move of the week’ was easy to pick: Javier Zarracina left the Boston Globe to take a position as Graphics and Data Editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he’ll report to the Times‘ new director of data visualization, Len Degroot. Charles Apple included a few samples of his work for the Globe:

Sample of Javier Zarracina's infographic work for the Boston Globe
Sample of Javier Zarracina’s work for the Boston Globe


Fresh new data visualization competition! Pacem in Terris (Latin for “Peace on Earth”), a non-profit organization founded by an interfaith group or clergy, business leaders and academics, launched the Gun Violence Data Visualization Contest, with a prize of $1,000 Honorarium for the entry the judges determine is the best at helping people understand the issue of gun violence. The contest starts at October 1st, entries must be received by December 1st and the winners will be announced January 1st, 2014.

The folks at are celebrating their 3rd anniversary. and compiled a Flickr slideshow looking back at some of their greatest moments. Congratulations to all the team!

The bulk of confirmed sessions for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival is out. Almost all of these sessions come from proposals submitted by the online community via the SXSW PanelPicker.

A great initiative from GitHub, the social coding startup in San Francisco, who launched a new portal Tuesday to showcase some of the more interesting civic collaborations between governments around the world and their citizens. The showcase should serve as a useful resource to governments and citizens everywhere looking to share project ideas and solutions.

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) announced that registration for Doing Journalism with Data‘, a free online d course with 5 leading experts, is open. This free 5-module online introductory course gives you the essential concepts, techniques and skills to effectively work with data and produce compelling data stories under tight deadlines. Its set to start in early 2014.


Prof. Winfried Gerling, together with a whole network of media researchers, creators and students, will teach in this MOOC the basics of storytelling, such as antagonist/protagonist relationships, narrative/narrated time, how to analyze how they are designed and executed based on aforementioned basics and discuss how (and if) new online tools and formats change the way stories are told and perceived. The 8-chapter course starts on October 25th, 2013 and ends on December 20th, 2013.



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

In this review of the research study “What Makes a Visualization Memorable?Michelle Borkin, et. al. (Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and MIT), presented this week at the annual IEEE VisWeek Conference, Stephen Few tackles once more the “chart junk” epidemics.

A very well-picked selection of science-centric data visualizations, by Becky Fogel, with precious thoughts and comments from their creators.

The Anatomy of Speed, by Jason Treat, Senior Graphics Editor, National Geographic & Bryan Christie, Bryan Christie Design
The Anatomy of Speed, by Jason Treat, Senior Graphics Editor, National Geographic & Bryan Christie, Bryan Christie Design


This is the third post in a series of guest blog entries by Tableau Public authors for Design Month. This one comes from Kelly Martin, a Tableau Zen Master and the brains behind Viz Candy. At TCC13, she competed in the 3rd Annual Iron Viz competition.

In this post, Cyrille Vincey spoked about the use of Excel as a Data Visualization tool – something Jorge Camões of Excel Charts talked about in his interview with us, a couple of months ago -, and shares a 8-step recipe to “tufterize” your Excel charts.

The author of The Best American Infographics, Gareth Cook, provides a general overview of the history of infographics, going back to William Playfair.

What is so interesting about infographics today—and the reason they’ve become so popular—is the role they play in today’s escalating information arms race. Data has become “big.” There are so many new forms of media (blogs, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.) that just to make a complete list of them would itself be overwhelming. Like Lincoln, we are all looking for a little help.


This year, for the first time, IEEE Vis offered a workshop on data visualization in sports, and Drew Skau shares a few thoughts on the current state of the field and the challenges ahead.

Twitter’s Data Visualization Scientist, Nicolas Garcia Belmonte, spoke at the data visualization meetup heald in Twitter HQs. He shared both the slides and the 18m video.



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

Hexagonal cartograms are becoming quite popular, and Ralph Straumann, who mapped Switzerland’s administrative regions using this technique, shares some of the recent projects using similar approaches.

In this post, Alex Black shares a collection of some of the more fascinating examples of maps that look absolutely stunning, focusing much more on the overall visual aesthetic rather than for it’s accuracy. We recommended this article in our Digital Cartography post.

This was a great one: Andrew David Thaler (@SFriedScientist) took to Google Earth to visualize what 80 meters of sea level rise would look like. The real fun started when he opened up for requests on Twitter where anyone could submit their own city to sea level rise of their choosing using the hashtag #DrownYourTown.

The World Map Generator project has been developed by two Swiss universities: Brene University of Applied Sciences (BFH) and Berne University of the Arts (HKB) and it’s based on customer made software that allows to play with cartography the way you have never experienced before.

Partial screen capture of the interactive World Map Generator
(image: World Map Generator)



The most recent articles with tips, insights and best practices around data journalism.

The Creative Director at, Jess Bachman, advocates for a much more close, mutual beneficial, working relationship between data journalists and designers, in order to create great stories.

A effective way to add depth to a particular topic on an online news site is to include interactive databases and map mashups that people can use to explore subjects on their own according to their particular interests. Paul Grabowicz gives some valuable examples and a list of readings and resources about this topic.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas’ MOOC “Data-Driven Journalism: The Basics ” ended a while ago, and Amy Schmitz Weiss, a journalism professor at San Diego State University and one of the five instructors, shares five recommendations on teaching this type of course.

Eric Newton, a longtime Knight Foundation executive, gives seven key arguments journalism students can use to demand a much-needed update in many journalism courses.

I realize now that change in journalism and communications education is like climate change, chock-full of deniers. The digital deniers say journalism’s fundamentals have not been upended.



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

Information overload. Barry Devlin speaks about  insight in the human process of decision making, especially when we’re facing such a massive amount of information from pretty much everywhere.

The world’s top newspaper companies are realizing they need to invest heavily in data analysis to maximize their business opportunities. In this post , Ken Doctor talks about the investments some media companies are making in areas such as consumer intelligence and business analytics.

Onavo, an Israeli start-up, announced it was being acquired by Facebook. Onavo’s flagship product is a data compressor. As Leo Mirani explains, “when you browse a web page or use an app on your phone, Onavo routes the traffic through its servers, where it compresses and optimizes the data before sending it on to the phone. Call it “small data.” The result is you see exactly the same web page but less data comes out of your plan. This makes a big difference in markets where users are loath to exceed data limits for fear of punitive charges.”

A promo-slideshow published by Tableau, with tips and lessons for those dealing with data visualization.



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

SND continues with its Q&A series on how magazine covers were developed, this time with Art Director Greg Klee, who shares with Courtney Kan the process behind the Boston Globe Magazine’s Medical Issue (Oct. 13).

As part of another ongoing series of interesting interviews, Larry Cahoon, a 29-year veteran at the Census Bureau, answered some questions to Kaiser Fung‘s ‘Numbersense Pros’ series. This is the first part of that conversation, with the second part already available here.

Once more with the (much more) active team of SND: Danielle Rindler spoke with Stephen Beard and Jennifer Imes about their work in the Indianapolis Star



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

Google Spreadsheets provides a free, one-stop solution for journalists and researchers to retrieve tabular data from a web page, visualize the data, and embed the visualizations in a news or research report. Learn how to take the first steps with this tool  in this tutorial.

A quick list with 11 data visualization pros offering outspoken commentary in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Most of them won’t come as a surprise.

DW Akademie’s Natalia Karbasova has dived into the English speaking journalism blogosphere and has surfaced with a list blogs you should bookmark and read regularly. 

Ola Henriksson‘s presentation for the #smartDEN conference in London, that we talked about here.

A browsable collection of Informative Scales found on the internet and classified into a corpus. Also available from a Google Spreadsheet.

This huge YouTube playlist (59 videos) is a comprehensive Excel 2007 class taught by Mike Girvin at Highline Community College with a review of Excel basics and then move on to intermediate and advanced topics in Excel.



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. 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.