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Data Viz News [44]

The top news, articles and resources of the week, in one place.

February 15, 2014

A big week for visual journalism, with SND35 taking place in Syracuse, and awarding the best editorial design around the world. Besides the hundreds of Award of Excellence (you can browse them in the Search Competition Database), Gold and Silver medals, the jury also picked the World’s Best-Designed™ Newspapers, so congratulations are in order to all of those that participated and organized this event, as well as to all the visual journalists, designers, photographers and illustrators that received awards.

It’s interesting to see, in today’s post, the great amount of interesting reads surrounding data journalism – a field that seems to gain further importance in times of major events, like the Winter Olympics. Speaking of Sochi 2014, don’t forget to check out yesterday’s Interactive Inspiration, with over a dozen data visualizations about the event.

Another big event that took place this week was The Strata 2014 Conference, in Santa Clara. Under the slogan “Make Data Work”, those who attended the three day event had the opportunity to check out dozens of sessions that explored the latest advances, case studies, and best practices in topics such as big data, data mining and data science.

And finally, before we move on to the full list of recommended reads, we’d like to say that next week we won’t be publishing the Data Viz News post (we know, your weekend won’t be the same…), since we are in the process of moving in to a different working space. Hopefully this will be the only post we are going to skip, but don’t be surprised if, during the next few weeks, our posting rhythm won’t be as intense as normally is.

Now, here are the links of the week:


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

After thumbing through nearly 200 newspapers, looking at hundreds of sections and thousands of details, the winners of World’s Best-Designed™ Newspapers were the Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm, Sweden), Die Zeit (Hamburg, Germany), The Grid (Toronto, Canada), The Guardian (London, England) and Welt am Sonntag (Berlin, Germany). Congratulations to all, and here‘s the official press-release, with the jury’s comments.


After three days of judging at Syracuse University, the 35th Best of News Design general competition has concluded. A National Geographic joint print-digital entry was named Best in Show, and overall, there were a total of 1.132 winning entries, six Gold medals, 63 Silver medals, seven Judges Special Recognitions and 1.051 Awards of Excellence. We featured several of the awarded infographics in a previous post. All competition results from the 23rd edition to the 35th edition are available here.

Sad news for the GIS and cartography community. Roger Tomlinson, a central figure in the development of GIS, passed away in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on February 9, 2014. Tomlinson was a pioneer in the field of geographic information systems and he was widely credited with having developed the first GIS with the creation of the Canada Land Inventory (CLI) in 1962.

The folks at Accurat just updated their Béhance profile with a new project. Sento is a social media conversation monitoring web application, for Sisu Labs, a Barcelona-based startup that develops Natural Language Processing and semantic analysis software solutions.

Nicholas Felton, the person behind the infographic-style setting Feltron annual reports, has released a self-logging app for the iPhone, called Reporter. The app presents the user with a few randomly timed surveys each day that aim to capture what today’s sensors still cannot, such as emotions, ‘real’ friends, food habits, and much more.

Reporter, the new iPhone app by Nicholas Felton
Reporter, the new iPhone app by Nicholas Felton


The North American Cartographic Information Society invites submissions for the Atlas of Design, a publication dedicated to honoring beautiful and interesting maps from around the world. All mapmakers are encouraged to offer their work for consideration. Entries must be received by February 28, and will be judged by a panel of experts, with a book featuring the top choices to be published in October 2014.

Great news for our friends at The infographic-creating platform has secured a $1.8 million investment led by Point Nine Capital with participation from Connect Ventures and HackFwd. The cash will be used for expansion in the U.S. via a new sales and marketing office.

As The Guardian remains committed to remaining free online it is increasingly looking at new ways to make money. Now, Guardian News and Media has signed a seven-figure deal to provide content about sustainability under the brand of household goods giant Unilever. It is the first deal for the new Guardian Labs division – which describes itself as a “branded content and innovation agency which offers brands bold and compelling new ways to tell their stories and engage with influential Guardian audiences”.

After more than half a year in limited preview, Microsoft finally launched Power BI for Office 365, its Business Intelligence for Office 365 Enterprise subscribers. In combination with Excel, Power BI allows users to model and analyze their data and query large datasets with complex natural-language queries. The tool also allows users to easily visualize their data in Excel with the help of Power View and Power Map.



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

In a time where books about data visualization keep popping out every week, Stephen Few highly recommends Data Insights: News Ways to Visualize and Make Sense of Data, by Hunter Whitney, released in 2012.

Data Insights is not a “how to” book in the sense of comprehensive instruction in the principles and practices of data visualization, but more of a philosophical grounding in the thinking that a data sensemaker must have to make the journey from data to insights.


In his latest article for the Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter (January/February/March 2014), Stephen Few discusses the use of Mosaic Plots, a graph that is often found in the statistician’s tool chest, but rarely found in analytical products for a general audience, such as business intelligence (BI) products – something that could change in time.

Starting from this week and during the rest of the semester, Enrico Bertini will be writing a new series called “Course Diary” where he reports about his experience while teaching Information Visualization to his students at NYU.

One of our 100 Top interactive visualization of 2013 was GameSetMap‘s interactive game tree celebrating Rafael Nadal’s historic 2013 season. The Game Tree allows users to visually explore how easily, or not, Nadal won each of his 666 service games in the Masters 1000 Tournaments, Grand Slams and World Tour Finals he played in 2013. This article, explaining the processes behind this epic visualization, was written by Damien Saunder and David Webb for the MIT Sloan Sports Conference.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The Comeback of Rafael Nadal
(image: Game set map)


Francis Gagnon shares his opinion and key points about Visualized 2014, arguably the first main event of 2014, related to data visualization and information design. Mentioned here are the presentations by Lev Manovich and Moritz Stefaner, Giorgia Lupi, Jonathan Corum, Neil Halloran and Kim Rees. Francis also posted on Facebook some of the photos he took.

A couple of talks suggested by Alberto Cairo, that bring up the issue of irresponsible, non- consequential design and technological innovation, as well as our role as an information designer in this world.

You first have a responsibility towards the planet, humankind, citizens, and only after that towards clients and employers —or even towards your artsy inner world. You must be a creator of devices that make this Earth a better place before you can even think of becoming a fine artist.


An update by Sean Gonzalez, a data scientist, data visualizer, co-founder of Data Community DC, and organizer of Data Visualization DC. He speaks about what the community has been doing to “engage with top talent, promote great content, facilitate relationships, and organize resources.”

In this post, Simon Rogers summarizes the many different ways that the Twitter Data Team is visualizing the stream of content posted in the micro-blogging platform, around the Winter Olympics. We’ve mentioned some of these works here and here.

A nice post by Emily Kund, about the use of color and data blogging in general – referring to Tableau’s Data Viz Blogging month, that we mentioned several times here on Visual Loop. She shared in this post Ben Jones Data Blogging Hangout video.



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

“Why would a cartographer consider UX?” That’s the question Damien Saunder has to answer frequently, when asked about his decision to enroll in the UX Certificate Program at Bentley University. Damien (who we’ve already mentioned today, in the Articles section above)) currently works as a Geospatial Designer at Esri, where he specializes in online interactive maps, GIS and GeoData, and in this post he talks about the connection between cartography and UX.

For the past year and a half, Karen-edis Barzman, an art history professor at Binghamton University, has traveled the globe in an effort to understand the history of borders. In a presentation to a group of 30 faculty members and students Wednesday night, sponsored by the art history department’s VizCult series, Barzman said that the Venetian empire pioneered some of the first detailed modern maps in the 1400s.

A fun post by Shawn Robare, taking us into a journey across well-known fantastic worlds from cinema and television, through maps. Examples include ThunderCats, the lands of Fraggle Rock, the Goonies and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride – this one below:

The Princess Bride Map
The Princess Bride Map



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

A very complete overview of the field of data journalism, by Nicola Hughes, a programmer-journalist, specializing in uncovering, structuring and analysing datasets for investigative news content. She is currently working as a data journalist for The Times Newspapers.

It’s always great to see Simon Rogers blogging, and this time the topic in hand is, of course, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. In this post, Simon teaches how to scrape BBC’s medal table whichh is constantly updated, so that you don’t have to copy and paste that every day.

The folks at Solution Spark are preparing a series of discussions/workshops on integrating data analysis, data mining technologies and data-driven journalism practices into research and media monitoring. Participants will review the best practices from Bloomberg Businessweek, NYTimes, World bank and the Economist on analyzing state data for demonstrating socially significant trends.

A document started by Matt Waite, professor of practice in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and covers a specific question: “How do you get basic data journalism into a beginning reporting class that many feel is packed as it is?”

Anthony Organ talks about the online debate around how schools make use of data, hosted recently by the Guardian’s Teacher Network. The concerns around too much focus on data, and how it is getting in the way of teaching, was one of the topics brought to discussion.

The rise of data journalism in newsrooms across the UK is the focus of a new book by Professor Richard Lance Keeble, from the Lincoln School of Journalism. ‘Data Journalism: Mapping the Future’ is a collection of essays from prominent academics and industry experts, who explore the rise of this developing journalistic process which involves filtering and analysing large data sets to produce insightful news stories.

The Tow Center just published a new Tow/Knight Brief, “Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes” to start tackling the issue of the use software and algorithms in journalism. You can read the paper here.

The German news organisation Zeit Online, website for weekly newspaper Die Zeit, announced last week that it has established a new, senior editorial team for investigative and data journalism. The new team will be led by Karsten Polke Majewski, previously deputy editor; business editor Philip Faigle; digital and data protection expert Kai Biermann; and Sascha Venohr, who will remain in his post as head of data journalism alongside his new role. Alastair Reid tells the story of what we can expect with these changes in this article.

A Storify stream around the hashtag #ddj, compiled every week by the Global Investigative Journalism Network‘s staff. These are the week’s Top Data Journalism Links on Twitter (for February 6-12).

Gathered at Syracuse University to judge the 35th Best of News Design™ competition, three speakers shared their best advice for students at the Newhouse School for Public Communications: Society for News Design President David Kordalski; Sara Quinn, an instructor at the Poynter Institute; and designer Jennifer Daniel, who spent three years at Bloomberg Business Week and now works for The New York Time. Lee Steele summarizes the key points of each of these presentations.

One of this week’s featured interactive visualizations, here on Visual Loop, was The Wall Street Journal’s Explorer, and in this quick post Alberto Cairo praises this work as “public service visual journalism at its best.”

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Explorer
(image: The Wall Street Journal)



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

Also mentioned in the introduction, the Strata 2014 conference took place in Santa Clara (California), between February 11 and 13. You can find here links to the slides of the presentations, and the YouTube Playlist with some of the best moments:


A round up of big data related news and announcements, pulled together by Andrew Brust. These include the release of Couchbase 2.5, Chrous 3.0 by Alpine Data Labs, and Pentaho integration with with Hadoop 2.0’s YARN component and the Apache Storm real-time streaming data engine.

Written by Zavain Dar, a Venture Capitalist at Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, this post challenges us to understand how the rise of big data and the proliferation of programmatic interfaces to new fields and industries have shifted the manner in which we solve problems. “Fundamentally, we’ve gone from creating novel analytic models and deducing new findings, to creating the infrastructure and capabilities to solve the same problems through synthetic means”, says the author.

Part of the Most Innovative Companies 2014 series, this list includes companies that are developing ground breaking big data initiatives, such as General Electrics, IBM and The Weather Company.

Hyperlocal marketing platforms are producing mountains of data for small business owners, but many local merchants aren’t quite sure of what to do with all the information they collect. Stephanie Miles, in this post, leaves six strategies for local merchants who are thinking about using data visualization tools for the first time.

Amidst all of the hype and confusion surrounding Big Data, though, a new type of enterprise is emerging: The Visual Organization, and Vincent Granville gives the heads-up to a new book on the subject, to be launched March 31, 2014. In The Visual Organization, award-winning author, keynote speaker, and recognized technology expert Phil Simon demonstrates how progressive enterprises have turned traditional dataviz on its head.



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

Fast Company spoke with Chris Wiggins, the New York Times new Chief Data Scientist, about what his role will be and how having a background in biology makes him at all qualified to lead the Times into the future.

Mitchel Resnick, PhD, is a LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and director of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab. His research group developed the “programmable brick” technology that inspired LEGO MindStorms robotics kits. More recently, the group developed Scratch, a popular programming environment for kids. In this interview, he speaks about the importance of creative learning, effective strategies for digital literacy, and the impact of initiatives to introduce computer science into more classrooms.

In this video, Jonathan Corum, the graphics editor for science at the New York Times, explains how he integrates “art and annotation” to create a unified visual story and tells us how the NYT developed a serious comic to answer the question: “What is the Higgs?”.



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

Marco Menchinella brings together a list of news, tips and articles for those working with data visualization and visual journalism – and it even includes a nice mention to one of our posts :)

As usual, a John Peltier tutorial makes its way in this space dedicated to resources, this time teaching us how to make a chart based on only part of a pivot table, and update it on demand.

We talked about this post yesterday, in which Peter Gassner shared some of the details behind the work of Interactive Things for the long-form article about Iouri Podladtchikov, published in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The YOLO flip


Another post by the folks at the School of Data, this one by Tony Hirst. In this tutorial, Tony describe a specific network mapping technique – emergent social positioning (ESP) – that tries to identify the common friends of the followers of a particular individual.

Agnieszka Krajetzka (better know in the data viz community as Russian Sphinx) uses QGIS to prepare shape files for creation of maps in Tableau, and she decided to share a few tips how to work with them, in a two-part tutorial. Here’s the first part.

Sha Hwang was one of the speakers at Visualized 2014 and made available in this post all the projects and stories referenced in his talk, some additional notes on things he has been reading in preparation, and some pointers to sections he eventually cut from the talk.

This is the script with references and acknowledgments of Benjamin Wiederkehr’s talk at the Visualized Conference. Benjamin talked about the process behind the aforementioned Iouri Podladchikov’s special article, published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

A very complete summary of Jonathan Corum‘s talk at Visualized, which was held at the Times Center. A big part of his presentation was dedicated to one of our Top 100 best interactive visualization of the 2013, Kepler’s Tally.

Partial screen capture of The New York Times' interactive infographic Kepler’s Tally of Planets
(image: The New York Times)



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

Data Viz Calendar


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.

Written by Tiago Veloso

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