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Data Viz News [31]

Interviews, news, resources and much more, in this huge collection of recent reads

November 2, 2013


An overwhelming interactive explanation about the NSA files scandal, a couple of interesting career moves and job openings, revamped websites ( and VizWorld), awards and shortlists, in-depth interviews, and tons of data visualization resources, all that and more just during this week. It’s amazing the volume of quality reads that, week after week, we see growing when preparing this summary, and the time when you just had to follow the top blogs to stay on top of things it’s gone. There’s just too much good stuff out there.

But don’t worry, we’ll keep giving it a try, gathering the best reads of the week all in one place – as well as the links suggested by our readers on Twitter and Facebook! We can’t thank our community enough for that!

Here are this week’s links:


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

Big news at Mashable: Jim Roberts, a longtime New York Times and Reuters veteran, is the new executive editor and chief content officer. According to his first blog post, Mr. Roberts “changed scenery in search for using interactive tools, social media, video and graphics to augment traditional storytelling techniques”.

Also in the ‘career moves’ section, The Guardian announced that James Ball – currently data editor at the Guardian and based in London – will join the Guardian’s US news operation as special projects editor. His official start date will be announced in the coming weeks.

The New York Times offered a sneak peek at the future of, with an advance look at the new homepage, sections fronts, and article pages. The paper is offering staffers inside Times HQ a chance to kick the tires of the new site and offer feedback before the rest of the world sees the site next year.

The 'future' NYT online, partial screen capture | The New York Times
The ‘future’ NYT online, partial screen capture | The New York Times


We’ve mentioned this one yesterday, on our weekly round-up of interactive visualizations. The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards announced the finalists among the hundreds of works submitted to this years edition. Many of the interactive onesselected were featured on Visual Loop here

Another award session, this one at the Strata Conference + Hadoop World. Each year, Strata Data Innovation Awards recognizes disruptive, innovative technologies in big data and data science. It highlights data science as an increasing importance for companies and showcases notable developments in the growing data community. Congratulations to all the winners, specially Giorgia Lupi (and the team at Accurat), taking home the Data Journalism award, for analyzing data and context, and designing visual tools and narratives

Forbes launched SafeSource, the first iteration of SecureDrop since Freedom of the Press Foundation took over the project. SecureDrop is the open-source whistleblower submission system for journalism organizations originally coded by the late transparency advocate Aaron Swartz.

Andy Kirk writes about MicrosStrategy‘s release of a free tool called ‘Analytics Desktop‘. It´s a fast, user-friendly visual analytics tool. Designed for self-service, it empowers business people to analyze and understand data without specialized expertise.

The Trinity Mirror are hiring a team to make a new site for socially shareable data journalism. They’ll be helping launch a new mobile first, topical, factual data-driven site, with the aim of making great data journalism and great data visualizations that people want to share on the social web. With an exclusively digital focus, the site will be publishing charts, graphs, facts, figures and producing infographics to explore both the day’s news agenda and a range of topics that people care passionately about.

Like we mentioned in the introduction, revamped its website, including the launch of an improved Marketplace and Project Center, with an enhanced suite of visual solutions, including videos, presentations, interactive applications, dashboards and company reports.

This week’s fresh book comes from Purna Duggirala, who has just released “The VLOOKUP book“. It captures various techniques, ideas and formula concepts that are necessary to write lookup formula for almost any situation. It is more of a “how-to” book than a theoretical book.



A selection of recent articles published by experts in all fields data visualization-related.

Arguably the most complete post about IEEE VIS 2013. Robert Kosara shares his general opinion about the event and the papers submitted, and the reactions in the comments section are also worth reading.

Speaking of reactions, this is a must read.  Alberto Cairo and Martin Krzywinski wrote an article about storytelling and visualization for Nature Methods magazine a few moths back, which received a reply from Yarden Katz, a neuroscience graduate student at MIT. Alberto made available all the links of this discussion, which was featured in the current issue of the magazine.

“Strong visualizations will enable users to determine unlikely connections and draw unforeseen conclusions, leading to innovative solutions to problems as well as new discoveries”. This is one of the highlight sentences written by Lisa Xia in this post, about a topic that we’d like to see more out there, being discussed.

The introduction of a data visualization class to each student’s curriculum is (…) necessary, not only to teach the fundamentals of data analysis, but also to show students how to effectively present data.


A nice tip by Cory Doctorow: Alex Reinhart‘s Statistics Done Wrong: The woefully complete guide. The author has kindly published the whole text free online under a CC-BY license, with an index, and It’s intended for people with no stats background and is extremely readable and well-presented. An important reference guide, right up there with classics like How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff (Author) and Irving Geis (Illustrator).

It’s not often you see a major newspaper dedicating two pages to data visualization. But the Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s top publications, did it, as Alberto Cairo points in this article. The story appeared in the newspaper’s culture supplement, La Lettura, a place where data visualization is a regular presence with works from Accurat, Density Design, just to mention a few.

The two-page story about visualization in The Corriere della Sera
The two-page story about visualization in The Corriere della Sera


The City of Chicago is working on documenting all of its data. Sean Thornton talks about the project, called the Chicago Data Dictionary, a massive, public metadata repository that gives users information about the variety of data in the City’s numerous databases.

In this post, Eric Rosenbaum talks about the presentation given by Tableau’s CEO Christian Chabot at #TCC13 earlier this year, about the increasing importance of data visualization throughout history.

Great analogy by Oz du Soleil, comparing Excel as the Business Intelligence world’s equivalent of the NBA’s former star and off-court show man, Dennis Rodman.

Neither Dennis Rodman nor Excel developers are 1-trick ponies. Behind all the flash, something or somebody has to be back there backing up the flash.


A valid ‘rant against world clouds’, by Stephanie Evergreen, using Wordle to visualize, as an example, the AEA 2013 conference program session titles. As expected, interesting comments followed the publication.

A team of American transparency advocates will test a British model for open data standards in the United States, with $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Waldo Jaquith , a winner of the 2011 Knight News Challenge for The State Decoded, wrote about the new project, its goals and what are the next steps to implement it.

This video has been all around the data viz community this week. “Beauty of Mathematics” from Yann Pineill and Nicolas Lefaucheux shows how much of what we see every day can be described by a series of symbols and relationships, through math. Amazing.



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

The first of a series of posts with tips ‘you did not ask for’. Great read for those who are already experienced in the field, and a must-bookmark if you’re just starting with mapping. Then again, John Nelson is the author, so we couldn’t expect nothing less.

Neal Hudson created, a week ago, a ‘detailed map of London house prices’, and in this article Kenneth Field points out a couple of improvements / mistakes to avoid in this type of cartographic work.

The number of bits of data you have doesn’t make the map ‘detailed’. It just makes it ‘a lot’. Detail can only be seen if the map’s content is legible and so much of it masks itself.

Jonathan Crowe shares his excitement with the forthcoming iPad version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, set to be available on November 21 at only $20.

Although not so ‘cartography-related’, we thought this project was worthy of a place in this section. Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has spent the last several decades photographing how humans degrade the earth, as they mine, drill, pump and drain in a relentless quest for resources and riches. His newest project looks at water, the most vital resource we have, and the multiple ways it is employed in the 21st century, and here you’ll find some of those impressive contrasts, alongside the story written by reporter Jonathan Blaustein.

Edward Burtynsky photos



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

The title is how John Paul Titlow describes D3.js. The reason is simple: as we mentioned last week, this Javascript library just won the Gannett Foundation Award For Technical Innovation in the Service of Journalism, at the Online News Association annual conference.

One of many good articles out there, published after the recent deals involving tech-billionaires and the News Industry. Optimism is the key word, as Ken Doctor outlines with his ‘8 real reasons to feel optimistic about the future of newspapers’.

Data from a new Knight Foundation report offers an in-depth view into the nonprofit news industry, revealing the significant progress that news organizations have made toward sustainability and the challenges they still face. Mayur Patel (vice president of strategy and assessment at Knight Foundation) and Michael Maness (vice president of journalism and media innovation) highlight some of those findings.

Not an easy task: Jonathan Peters, a media lawyer and assistant professor at the University of Dayton, explores the definition of journalist. He culled a variety of sources that conceptualize a journalist in some way, and we analyzed each conceptualization to identify its elements — the primary constituents of a journalist’s matter.

Looks like the ‘talent war’ has definitively landed in Journalism. Matt Waite, journalism professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told Poynter that, despite the continuing layoffs depleting traditional newsrooms, reporters with skills in data journalism are being snatched up by news organizations.



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

Usually, when you talk about Big Data, you associate it with big corporations and retail giants such as WalMart or Starbucks. But in this article, Siraj Datoo points out that smaller shops don’t need to invest in big data solutions to find ways of increasing their revenue, quoting the example of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, among others.

A new research paper written by Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University, and Lars Backstrom, a senior engineer at Facebook, will be presented at a conference on social computing in February. The pair used a data set from Facebook as their lab: 1.3 million Facebook users, selected randomly from among all users who are at least 20 years old, with from 50 to 2,000 friends, who list a spouse or relationship partner in their profile. Their key finding was that the total number of mutual friends two people share — embeddedness, in social networking terms — is actually a fairly weak indicator of romantic relationships.

A contribution to Michael Sandberg‘s Data Visualization Blog, by Dr. Vincent Granville, a visionary data scientist with 15 years of big data, predictive modeling, digital and business analytics experience.

Walt Disney announced the introduction of the wireless-tracking wristband ‘MagicBand’. The goal, besides making “the visit to the Walt Disney World in Orlando a more magical experience”, is to record the complete data trail of the visitors.

A new McKinsey report suggests that seven sectors alone could generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data, which is already giving rise to hundreds of entrepreneurial businesses and helping established companies to segment markets, define new products and services, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

According to Nicole Laskowski, who wrote this article, “You haven’t seen big data in action until you’ve seen Gartner analyst Doug Laney present 55 examples of big data case studies in 55 minutes.”. A bit to overwhelming, perhaps, so she picked 10 of those cases of companies using big data in their favor to achieve results.

A 13 minute presentation by John Havens, founder of  The H(app)athon Project, a contributing writer for Mashable, The Guardian, and the Huffington Post, and author of Hacking Happiness.



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

A nice in-depth talk between Kyle Ellis and Chris Johanesen, vice president of product at BuzzFeed, and the company’s second employee. Chris talked his time at Buzzfeed and how the company as become a solid media enterprise.

We’re not so much different from a TV network in some ways — we have our hard news, we have our entertainment, and we have everything in between. Our media is the internet and social media, not TV. We are the first large — by audience size, not head count — media company that could only exist because of the internet and social media. Most older media companies exist in spite of it.


Not really an interview, but nevertheless worth mentioning here. After his talk in New York around his latest book ‘Numbersense: How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage‘, Kaiser Fung answered a few questions in a lively, fun discussion, that he shares on his blog.

Fresh new episode of the top data visualization-related podcast out there. And this is a special one: Enrico Bertini caught Robert Kosara at IEEE VIS’13 and recorded almost one hour of highlights from the conference.

In this interview by Walter Frick with the author of The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver, you’ll find a couple of recommendations on how those people without extensive training in statistics can equip themselves with the skills necessary to thrive (or even just survive) in our age of “big data”.

The second interview from SND that we picked for this Data Viz News. In it, Steve Cavendish (news editor at Nashville Scene and Nashville Post) asked some follow-up questions to Kate Marymont, after three years since her previous interview to SND. The topic? The impacts and results of Gannett’s transition to a hub-based approach to design and production

Our latest interview here on Visual Loop was with Mariana Santos, the young Portuguese journalist/designer, who already has a fantastic professional career, including a passage in The Guardian. She shared with our readers some details about her career and the Chicas Poderosas project.

Exclusive interview with the "Chica Poderosa" of digital journalism
Exclusive interview with the “Chica Poderosa” of digital journalism



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

We don’t usually feature interactive visualizations in this space – that’s something we leave to our posts Digital Cartography – just with interactive maps – and Interactive Inspiration. But there’s simply no way you can make a ‘data viz news’ round-up this week without mentioning this fantastic work by The Guardian team.

The NSA Files: Decoded  | The Guardian
The NSA Files: Decoded | The Guardian


At the end of each month, Andy Kirk pulls together a collection of links to some of the most relevant web content he’s come across during the previous month. Check out the latest collection, with the links of September 2013.

This year’s Online News Association Conference (ONA13) gathered together nearly 1,600 journalists, technologists, professionals and students in Atlanta, who brought with them amazing energy, ideas and insights. And now you can explore all the highlights with these resources.

The Strata Conference in New York brought together the brightest minds in data science, and one of this year’s tracks — Data, Connectivity, and Society — explored the ways in which mobile, ubiquitous computing and cheap, real-time analytics are connecting us to one another. In honor of the event, gathered the projects submitted by the community exploring this topic through data visualization.

Data, Connectivity, and Society , galley curated by Visualizing org
Data, Connectivity, and Society , galley curated by Visualizing org


Tableau experts Andy Kriebel explains how to create a single chart that allows you to choose between a bar chart and a line chart via a parameter.

Another tutorial by Jon Peltier, teaching how to make column charts with primary and secondary axes and the special steps that must be taken to prevent secondary columns from obscuring primary columns. Enters the “Panel Chart”.

And while we’re at Excel, how about the latest chart redraw by our friend Jorge Camões? The original dual-axis chart was published this week in the Time magazine, and Jorge couldn’t stand its cries, begging for a connected scatterplot :)

This is first contribution to the Neubot website by Giuseppe Futia, talking about the paper “Visualizing Internet-Measurements Data for Research Purposes: the NeuViz Data Visualization Tool”, written by him, together with Enrico Zimuel, Simone Basso and Juan Carlos De Martin, and presented at the Congresso Nazionale AICA 2013.


Last week, Dominikus Baur attended the 5. Data Science Day in Berlin, organized by The Unbelievable Machine Company. In his talk ‘Big Pictures in the Small’, Dominikus focused on a more high-level picture of why visualization will go mobile and what form that will take.


This is a beginner level introduction to the CartoDB style wizards for point data. In the tutorial you will see how to create Simple, Categorical, Bubble, Intensity, and Density Grid style visualizations all using point data in CartoDB.



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

Events Calendar


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.