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Data Viz News [39]

The first edition of 2014, with more than 50 must-read links

January 11, 2014

Our first week of work of 2014 comes to an end, and it’s time for our usual round up of links to articles, news, interviews and several other resources regarding data visualization, cartography and data journalism, among other topics.

Today’s post is even bigger than our usual Data Viz News, since we’re looking at content published from the second week of December 2013 on. You’d think that, because of the Holiday season, things would calm down a bit, but that’s really not what happened, so prepare yourself for a long list of recommended reads.

In terms of top news, the New York Times’ website redesign was all over the Internet, with an overall positive response from readers. There were many in-depth reviews of the new website, if you missed them, read the ones from, Mashable and CNN Money, together with the special page the Times published, explaining the redesign.

Several calls for papers and presentations for upcoming events, job opportunities and an inspiring set of interviews are also featured in this edition, but we kept out the many 2013 retrospectives published, compiled earlier in the week here. You can also browse through our own collection of best visualization of 2013, just follow the links below:

Here are this week’s recommended reads:



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

As mentioned in the introduction, the new NYT website was out. The last time the site was redesigned was back in 2006, and a lot has changed since then, so it’s only natural that it was one of the most talked news of the week. To explain the changes and help the reader with the new design, they’ve made available a special page.

The New York Times Redesign
The New York Times Redesign


Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight is continuing to build its data visualization and interactive features team, which will employ information design, web programming and other tools to produce groundbreaking data journalism. Among the latest positions available are Visual Journalist and Computational Journalist.

Calling all infographic designers! It’s that time of the year again, with Malofiej 22 approaching, so prepare your best infographics of 2013 and send them. The competition is open to all general circulation newspapers —daily or non daily, broadsheet or tabloid, printed or on line— and magazines published anywhere in the world, as well as syndicates, agencies, infographic service providers, books, blogs and other online information distribution channels providing graphics. All entries must have been published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. Entries must be received by February 14th, 2014.

Another submission call, this time for maps. The Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit was created to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale. The 10th and final iteration of the exhibit is devoted to maps of science that point to the future of the practice itself. Micro to macro studies using quantitative and/or qualitative data are welcome, and mixed methods approaches are encouraged. The works must be submitted by January 31st, 2014.

And a third ‘call to action’ recommendation: OpenVis Conf 2014 Call for Speakers is now officially open, looking for speakers who can talk about all aspects of creating data visualization for the Open Web: from basics to best practices. Applications to speak are due by March 1st, 2014.

OpenVis Conf 2014 - Call for Speakers
OpenVis Conf 2014 – Call for Speakers


Over the past five months, the folks at Tableau have switched the theme of the Tableau Public blog to coincide with key events on the calendar. To kick-off 2014, the topic in hand is Data Blogging, and if you already have a data blog using Tableau, whether it’s topical or general, brand new or years old, personal or corporate, add it to the list using the form available here.

December 10, 2013 marked the publication of Isotype: design and contexts, 1925–1971 by Hyphen Press. The book, on which work began in late 2007, gathering speed after the close of the V&A exhibition in March 2011, represents the final major outcome of the AHRC – funded ‘Isotype revisited’ project.

In mid December, the British Library released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft.

The Data & Society Research Institute is a new think/do tank in New York City dedicated to addressing social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development. They’re currently looking to assemble its inaugural class of fellows, and if you’re interested, you have until January 24 to apply.

Announced in the end of December, an exciting new feature from our friends at Mooted to launch in the first half of 2014, the drag-and-drop interface promises to allow users to quickly create videos that tell a story with data.



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

A highly praised post by the Boston Globe’s infographic designer Patrick Garvin, who also teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism. Patrick shares his frustration about the infamous paper ‘What Makes a Visualization Memorable?‘.

Friends who have worked for great news agencies have shared recent freelance stories of clients choosing big numbers of multiple colors over data, charts and diagrams. Rather, in my estimation, they are rejecting actual infographics for something else, and they’re calling that “something else” an infographic.


“Finding visualization projects and pretty pictures on the web isn’t exactly difficult, but what about actual research?”. This is the initial question posed by Robert Kosara in this article. Robert argues that the data visualization community needs a ‘Visualization Research Blog’, a space focused on reviewing academic papers on a regular basis.

A new book, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegal and Irene Etzkorn, caught the attention of Stephen Few. According to Few, the book is a must-read, because “it lives up to its title by providing a simple overview of the need for simplicity, examples of simplifications that have already enriched our lives, and suggestions for what we can all do to simplify the world.”

A quick post by Alberto Cairo, around the criticism about a graphic published by Reuters, in December. The comments section is worth reading, and it includes some alternative designs.

British architect Martyn Dade-Robertson took upon himself to create maps of how websites link to each other. The networks turn out to be pretty complex, even for the simplest sites. Tanya Basu presents this project, including a few images.

Information Aesthetics, by  Martyn Dade-Robertson
Information Aesthetics connectedness portrait, by Martyn Dade-Robertson


A short review of one of our favorite books out there, Noah Iliinsky en Julie Steele‘s Designing Data Visualizations, by Maarten Lambrechts, a journalist/engineer that works with data visualization.

In this article by Elizabeth Gibney and Richard Van Noorden, some thoughts on the vast amounts of research data being tossed away because scientists keep their old research data in inaccessible places such as boxes in the garage, or stored on now-defunct floppy disks. These are just some of findings of the study, which was published in Current Biology.

Redesigning the Periodic Table is nothing new – we’ve seen that clearly here. This time, Ben Jones decided to use Tableau Public to develop an interactive version of one of the most recognized visualizations worldwide.

One of the Periodic Table redesigns by Ben Jones
One of the Periodic Table redesigns by Ben Jones


A look at “a big fail by MIT Technology Review”, specifically a graphic that Kaiser Fung considers simply unreadable. Fung breaks down the graphic’s flaws in conveying the information, and leaves his own proposal for presenting the data.

An overview of Ben Shneiderman’s Treemap Art, by Robert Kosara. It’s not often we see Robert posting about ‘Art’, but in this case it’s perfectly understandable.

Treemap Art is unique in its approach, and I think it’s very interesting. Anything can be used to make art, so why not a visualization tool? The results speak for themselves.


Andy Kirk summarizes the key claims of a patent filed by Microsoft Corporation in June 2012, but published on 19th December last year, “Dynamic Visualization Generation and Implementation”.

The author of The Language of New Media and Software Takes Command, Lev Manovich, shared his article for the upcoming issue of Journal of Visual Culture – a special edition titled “Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man @ 50″ (Spring 2014).

In this post, Derrick Harris writes about Google’s Transparency Reports – the latest was released in December – , which usually gets a lot of attention for their data on government action, but less so for their insights into copyright takedown requests. He analyzed nearly 1 million takedown requests to find out who’s getting the most URLs removed and created several graphics, including the one below:

Google’s million-row copyright claim dataset
(image: Derrick Harris)


The first post of 2014 by Robert Kosara is a shout out to some of the new blogging initiatives that went live in 2013. It mentions WTFViz, ThumbsUpViz and HelpMeViz, and it closes with a positive feeling about the future of data visualization blogging – something we also believe it’s going to be huge in 2014.

A brilliant redesign proposal of an airline boarding pass, by Peter Smart, that wrote this post detailing the challenges and solutions he used to reach the final goal: to make it more functional, for all parts involved.

Redesigning the airline boarding pass | Peter Smart
Redesigning the airline boarding pass | Peter Smart



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

Roger Macdonald presents a couple experimental data-driven visualizations that literally map 400,000 hours of U.S. television news. Kalev Leetaru applied “fulltext geocoding” software to the entire television news research service collection. These algorithms scan the closed captioning of each broadcast looking for any mention of a location anywhere in the world, disambiguate them using the surrounding discussion (Springfield, Illinois vs Springfield, Massachusetts), and ultimately map each location.

400,000 Hours of U.S. TV News


A topic that it seems that could be more discussed outside the data visualization community is Geography Literacy. As Anne-Laure Freant points out, it’s disturbing, to say the least, that half of young Americans cannot find New York on a map, quoting data from this 2006 National Geographic study data.

Nick Stockton makes the case for the use of d3.js in map creation. The article includes a brief overview of the most popular Javascript library for visualization out there, and some examples of maps built with it.

John Nelson pays tribute to his father’s love for 3D wooden bathymetric maps, and shares a set of fake digital versions that use a deeper-looking color palette. The result is impressive

(Burled Walnut, one of the fake digital 3D wooden bathymetric maps by John Nelson)
(image: John Nelson)


Another article signed by Nick Stockton, this one about the Armadillo projection, invented in 1943 by a Hungarian immigrant named Erwin Raisz.

A well-deserved article by Frank Jacobs, about Ben Schmidt‘s Reading digital sources: a case study in ship’s logs. Ben took a data set collected from Matthew Fontaine Maury’s 19th century logs (with ‘merely’ millions of points) to create the fantastic map below. Ships tracks in black, plotted on a white background, show the outlines of the continents and the predominant tracks on the trade winds.

All the voyages from the ICOADS US Maury collection.
All the voyages from the ICOADS US Maury collection.


In this article by Emma Jane Kirby, you’ll get to know more about the story behind the Macdonald Gill’s 1914 ‘Wonderground Underground’ map, and its importance in the context of the break of the first world war.

I want to tell everyone that it’s all because of a comical map drawn in 1914, a map designed to cheer up angry commuters like us when the trains were late. It’s because of that 1914 map and its commercial success that there’s still Art on the Underground and that Frank Pick went on to commission so many other artists to design posters for the Tube. It’s partly because of that map that Tube posters have become a respected art medium.


Book sculptor Guy Laramée pays homage to the printed version of the Encyclopedia Britannica by carving into a 24-volume set of the informative series of books for his latest piece titled Adieu. With the physical publication of the encyclopedias coming to a halt after 244 years of printing the educational text, Laramée decided to bid the obsolete medium farewell in his signature way.



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

Besides the yearly retrospectives, this is also the time for the predictions. In the field of journalism, this special feature from Nieman Lab is arguabluy one of the most complete. It gathers the views of prominent names in data journalism, like Miguel Paz, Sarah Marshal and Philip Bump.

Predictions for Journalism 2014, a special series from Nieman Lab
Predictions for Journalism 2014, a special series from Nieman Lab


A personal view by Melanie Stone, a journalism student at DePaul University in Chicago, about the role of coding skills in the current/future scenario of journalism. She talks about her experience using Codecademy and offers an outside view from another Codecademy graduate, Tyler Fisher – currently a senior at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and student fellow at Knight Lab.

Leo Benedictus looks back at “the worst fudged stats of the year”, breaking down fallacious claims by British politicians throughout 2013.



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

The 2014 IDG Enterprise Big Data research was completed with the goal of gaining a better understanding of organizations’ big data initiatives, investments and strategies. Additional information on the research can be found here.


A quick look back at the conceptual developments surrounding ‘big data’, written by Larry Freeman, a senior technologist in the Office of the CSO at NetApp.

2013 was the year that business and government realized the complexity and limitations of big data and began to make adjustments based on this realization.


Gregory Piatetsky revisited the analysis of the top 30 LinkedIn groups for Analytics, Big Data, Data Mining, and Data Science , to identify the largest, fastest growing, and most active groups in 2013.

The discussion around privacy in this Internet age, especially after the NSA scandal, is far from being exhausted. Mark F. Bernstein talks, among other things, about the web portal,, where users can go, create an account with identifying information, and discover what is out there about them on the World Wide Web.

Like a few other ‘big data experts’, Tom Davenport believes that creativity and intuition are critical to the successful development of data products. It’s like he says: “developing the right mix of intuition and data-driven analysis is the ultimate key to success with this movement. Neither an all-intuition nor an all-analytics approach will get you to the promised land.”

The imMens system is an example of applying an analyst centered perspective to big data. Jeffrey Heer talks about this initiative from the research group at Stanford (which recently moved to the University of Washington).

We must expand our focus to all stages of data analysis. Data discovery, data transformation, feature selection and model assessment are all tasks that could benefit from improved methods for “human involvement and intervention”.


In December, Mark van Rijmenam looked back at the trends that he discussed for 2013, and forward to the Big Data trends of 2014. The seven Big Data trends for 2014 include the rise of the Industrial Internet, personalization, and security.

A short presentation by Ellie Fields, with the main trends ahead for the field of business intelligence.



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

The folks at Design Boom – one of the most active graphic design communities out there -, have talked with Giorgia Lupi, Accurat‘s design director about the studio’s work.

In the last episode of Data Stories of 2013, Moritz Stefaner and Enrico Bertini welcomed Marian Dörk, Research Professor at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. The conversation was around the interesting new directions for visualization like the visualizing data starting from a few seed points, whether we always need an overview first in visualization and tips on how to design visualization for “information flaneurs”.

After three years, Sarah Marshall is moving from, the 15-year-old journalism news site based in the U.K., to The Wall Street Journal, where she’ll be the inaugural social media editor for news coming out of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In this interview, Sarah talks with Caroline O’Donovan about this change, the state of journalism and visual storytelling.

Ravi Parikh, Co-Founder of Heap, a user analytics company, shares his experience in the field of visualization and analytics, and the work that is being developed in his company.

I’m incredibly excited about the future of bioinformatics. The cost of genome sequencing and other technologies is dropping rapidly, and we’re on the verge of an explosion in the amount of data that researchers will have access to.



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

After being interviewed by Argentinian newspaper La Nacion, in which he recommends some of his personal favorite sites and Twitter users, Alberto Cairo made available the feed with all the blogs he follows on a regular basis. You can download it either as a simple txt file and as an opml file, and, on a more personal note, we’d like to publicly thank Alberto for including us alongside Perceptual Edge, Why Evolution is True,, and Arts & Letters Daily. Here’s a photo of the interview in the print edition of La Nacion:

Alberto Cairo interviewed by La Nacion - with a nice mention to Visual Loop
Alberto Cairo interviewed by La Nacion – with a nice mention to Visual Loop


To mark the milestone of each mid-year and end of year, Andy Kirk takes a reflective glance over the previous 6 months period in the data visualization field, and puts together a collection of some of the most significant developments. This one covers the period between July and December 2013.

This tutorial by Gregor Aisch shows how to add a nice D3.js bubble chart so Datawrapper users can create them without writing a single line of code.

Dc.js is a JavaScript library used to make interactive dashboards in JavaScript. By clicking and selecting different events in graphs, you can filter the entire dashboard to drill into a particular event. In order to do this, DC.js relies on two other JavaScript plugins/libraries: D3.js and Crossfilter js, and in this tutorial you’ll learn how to use both.

The 3-minute win is a simple concept: Start from scratch. Build something useful. Do it quickly. In this fun initiative from Tableau, anyone who builds data dashboards is invited to submit a 3-minute win video to be featured on this site. Check out the rules here – and kudos for using Tumblr for this :)

The 3 minute win, a new fun website by Tableau
The 3 minute win, a new fun website by Tableau


Simple Multi-Touch (SMT) is an open source Processing toolkit designed to make multi-touch computing accessible to non-experts, and to facilitate rapid prototyping of interactive applications. The Simple Multi-Touch initiative was started in 2011 through a collaboration of people at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Waterloo. These people include Erik Paluka, Zachary Cook, Dr. Mark Hancock, and Dr. Christopher Collins.

Back in December, Andy wrote this piece about a simple application of slopegraphs, using data from the English Premier League.

This talk was co-written by Will Evans and Thomas Wendt, and covers some basics of Design Thinking as it pertains to externalization of ideas through empathy, problem framing, ideation, and prototyping.



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

Events calendar updated
Events calendar updated


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 or, where we share many of the links mentioned above.

Have a great weekend!

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.