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Data Viz News [46]

The latest news, articles and resources related to visualization

March 8, 2014

In a week that will be forever remembered in infamy here on Visual Loop, the data visualization community saw a few notable news and articles being published throughout the Internet. As usual, we tried to bring some of them together in this weekly column, but before we start, we’d like to thank all the support we received after the “Tumblrpocalipse” that hit us.

In terms of highlights for this week, of course we have to mention SXSW 2014, that includes several sessions related to data visualization and visual storytelling. The announcement that Yahoo “bought and killed” Vizify was also one of the hottest topics of the week, and finally, a shout out to Moritz Stefaner’s new provocative post, Robert Kosara’s new project, Simon Rogers’s article and new books about infographics for children, Santiago Ortiz’ and Giogia Luppi’s talks at Visualized, now available on video, and another episode of Data Stories, with Jon Schwabish.

Hope you enjoy the full list:



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

This week, Vizify announced that Yahoo has acquired it, and will shut down what the company built. If you’re not familiar with it, Vizify helped its users better visualize and graph their social lives in the format of a personal website of sorts. The price of of the acquisition was not made known, and the company will issue refunds to paying users. For all bioholders, free and paid, they’ll be providing a way to opt-in to “archive” a snapshot of your current bio that will remain live at the same URL through September 4, 2014.

A couple of months ago, we talked about a new MOOC by The European Journalism Centre (EJC), in cooperation with the Canvas Network by Instructure, Doing Journalism with Data, a free online course with 5 leading experts. They have just released the date the course will start – May 19 -, and the names of those experts: Simon Rogers, Paul Bradshaw, Steve Doig, Nicolas Kayser-Bril and Alberto Cairo – in other words, a must.


Although not so ‘data visualization-related’ this was arguably one of the biggest news of the week. Getty Images has made more than 35 million images freely available to anyone for non-commercial usage. Using a new embed tool, bloggers will be able to use Getty’s images at no cost.

Another edition of SXSW is on the way, and with several sessions / workshops related to data and business analytics, like PlayStation: Data at the Speed of Gaming, Unstructure: Smashing the Boundaries of Data, Data Science: Decode Your Organization’s Data , Visually Turning Complexity into Clarity and What Social Media Analytics Can’t Tell You. Check out the full schedule here.

BuzzFeed announced that it has hired Wall Street Journal data reporter and programmer Jeremy Singer-Vine, who helped produce the Journal’s data-heavy ”What They Know” digital privacy series and its investigation into nuclear processing and storage facilities. His role at BuzzFeed will be to dig into similarly dense data sets to find the kinds of stories that would otherwise go untold.

Tableau Software and Splunk, two of the first pure-play Big Data vendors to have gone public, announced an alliance, a “joint technology investment” to help customers glean insights from the vast volumes of machine data generated by the Internet of Things. The move comes as the analytics ecosystem enters into a new phase of maturity defined by a growing focus on strategic partnerships and vertical solutions.

Defense operator L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. hopes to benefit from the Big Data Analytic revolution by acquiring Data Tactics Corporation. Data Tactics is a provider of Big Data analytics and cloud computing solution services, primarily to the U.S. Department of Defense. The company forecasts that the acquired business could generate sales of $50 million for the year ending Dec 31, 2014.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is offering the first online graduate certificate in business journalism through the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. Starting in August 2014, the Cronkite School will offer a five-course, 15-credit-hour certificate taught entirely online by experienced journalists – including “Data in Business Journalism”.

This prize, offered annually by the Washington Map Society since 1994, recognizes academic achievement in the History of Cartography and honors the late Dr. Walter W. Ristow, former chief of the Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress. It’s open to full or part-time undergraduate, graduate, and first-year postdoctoral students attending accredited colleges and universities anywhere in the world,and the winner will take a US $ 1000 cash award, a one-year membership in the Washington Map Society, and publication of the paper in The Portolan – Journal of the Washington Map Society. The deadline is June 1, 2014.

A new viz challenge from the organizers of the Kantar Information Is Beautiful Awards, tackling a serious issue: The Price of a Human Life whether slavery, death, trafficking, now and in the past. Besides the cash prizes, the winning entry may well appear in David McCandless‘ next book, Knowledge is Beautiful. Deadline for entries is 24 March, 2014.

Speaking of data visualization challenges, the winners of‘s latest contest were announced. The winning entry belongs to Ewa Tuteja for her project “Web Maturity”, which you can see below:



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

Graphics and visualizations give us a method to use images to describe a story in a way that we can understand. If children want to comprehend the world around them, infographics can help, writes Simon Rogers in this article for The Guardian. Simon mentions two upcoming books in which he was involved: Infographics: Human body and the Animal Kingdom.

After Hans Rosling uploaded a new video in which he visualizes data with objects, Alberto Cairo talks about this form of visualization, quoting several examples out there – in particular José Duarte‘s sets on Flickr. Here’s Hans Rosling video, in case you missed it.


Alberto Cairo’s talk at NICAR 2014 (see it below, in the Resources section) is summarized by Suyeon Son, a student at Northwestern University. She goes a step further, and puts her “improved data viz literacy” on a 2012 project from The New York Times called “Girls Lead in Science Exam, but Not in the United States”.

Bryan Connor‘s take on the recent purchase of Vizify by Yahoo, already mentioned in this post.

While Vizify is not particularly innovative in its use of data visualization, its acquisition is meaningful for the field. It indicates that visualization talent is valued and sought after and that a consumer web service can be built around visualizing data.


This is the last lecture of the introductory part of Enrico Bertini‘s course, where he gives a very broad overview of some key visualization concepts he hopes will stick in his students’ heads. After talking about basic charts and high-information graphics Enrico introduces dynamic visualization as visual representations that can change through user interaction.

Last week, we mentioned Moritz Stefaner‘s talk at Visualized 2014, that was centered around SelfieCity project. Moritz has published his overview on the project, an this week released another post, expanding the point he tried to convey in that presentation.


Another post by one the team members involved in SelfieCity – the visual analysis of the ‘selfie’ phenomena on Instagram, that we talked about extensively in last week’s Data Viz News. This time, Dominikus Baur explains some of choices and solutions adopted in the making of selfiexploratory tool.

Jon Schwabish has been all over the place! This time, he writes about the Thinking With Your Eyes visualization symposium at Harvard University. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the uses of data visualization across different disciplines and research methods. Researchers from such varied fields as architecture, astronomy, physics, art, urban studies, biology, music, and economics presented work showing their uses of data visualization methods and tools.

A post by Beth Giudicessi also about Thinking with Your Eyes, the two-day conference mentioned above that brought together experts in the arts, sciences, humanities, and technology — as well as academic and computing groups from across Harvard — to investigate how graphic representation brings knowledge to life.

A well humored overview of Tapestry Conference 2014 by Andy Kirk, with a few comments “using the gift that is the bullet pointed list”.

The latest data visualization tool creating a buzz out there is Lyra, released by the UW Interactive Data Lab. In this article, Jim Vallandingham explores the tool, creating a simple bar chart. Bryan Connor wrote a follow up post to this on the Why Axis.

Screenshot of Lyra
Screenshot of Lyra


A nice take on Florence Nightingale’s rose diagrams, by Andy Cotgreave. Andy points out that people over-criticize her diagrams for not being “best practice”, and explores alternative visual displays of the information they represent. The result? “Boring”

When approached to making some kind of data visualization to help raise awareness on funding for Seattle’s bus system, James Davenport decided to create an animation, rather than produce some big infographic or series of detailed graphs. Here’s the video:


The first of two articles in major websites about the new exhibit at the British Library, Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight – that we have mention several times, both in this space as well as the Vintage InfoDesign compilation, every Monday. This one comes from Greg Miller.

The second post about the Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight, also with some of the visualizations featured in this unique exhibit, that will be running May 26.

The Happel map (1675), one of the highlights of "Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight"
The Happel map (1675), one of the highlights of “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight”



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

The first pick for this cartography section is also an exhibit, filled with vintage goodies. Marginalia in cARTography, which runs through May 18 at the Chazen Museum of Art, explores the images on the margins of maps dating from the 13th century through the 1960s. The exhibit includes nearly 50 maps drawn from 13 libraries across the U.S., including UW–Madison’s Department of Special Collections and the Robinson Map Library.

And while we’re at it, here’s some more vintage visuals, this time on Gizmodo. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan remembers the work done by a Japanese cartographer named Hatsusaburo Yoshida, who would be completing 130 years old this week.

One of Hatsusaburo Yoshida's maps
One of Hatsusaburo Yoshida’s maps


Again from Gizmodo, but this time with a sense of criticism, about the ‘avalanche’ of “stupid maps that are making us dumber”, as Alissa Walker puts it.

Maps are great. Maps help us get where we need to go and can sometimes teach us things about the world we live in. But unfortunately, the internet has been infected by a scourge of stupid maps. And stupid maps are making us dumber.


“The ‘bad maps’ exist in multiple forms”, something that lately has drawn some attention in the data visualization community. Mike Foster, a professional cartographer, GIS Analyst, and designer, not only talks about that in this article, but also leaves a useful list of five simple habits that will improve map reading abilities.

This is a post by Tasneem Raja, with a Mother Jones case study, about the project mapping the status of marijuana legislation in every US state. Here’s the end result:

Legalizing Marijuana | Mother Jones
Legalizing Marijuana | Mother Jones



The most recent articles with tips, insights and best practices around data journalism and information design in newsrooms.

Vocativ, a millennial-focused news startup launched last November, pairs journalists with data analysts to take that deep data and combine it with good old-fashioned storytelling. Ricardo Bilton talks about this interesting concept, contextualizing it in the current scenario of data driven reporting.



This is the last in a 5-part series about the SND 35 competition, by Dr. Mario R. Garcia. Here, he brings some of the works by the talented team at South China Morning Post of Hong Kong, including, of course, a mention to our friend Adolfo Arranz, who was awarded with a Silver Medal for his portfolio.

An overview of NICAR 2014 by Jonathan Stoneman, looking at at the three kinds of takeaways to be gained from attending a NICAR conference – new skills, new ideas, and studies of what people have done in the past 12 months.

A long, enlightening article by Eva Constantaras, an investigative data journalist and trainer specialized in cross-border journalism, on the challenges of training data journalists where data journalism isn’t a standard practice.

A look at the current state of data journalism in Nigeria, by Odimegwu Onwumere. As he points out, “many Nigerian journalists have won awards locally and internationally, but certainly not in data driven investigations”, specially because of of the lack of in-depth information and many of the investigative reporters in the country, do not know how to obtain, clean, and analyse “prearranged information” in this digital world.

In this post, Caroline O’Donovan shares Nick Diakopoulos‘s thoughts on why why journalists should start thinking more critically about algorithms that govern an increasingly large share of our lives.

When corporations or governments are not legally or otherwise incentivized to disclose information about their algorithms, we might consider a different, more adversarial approach



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

The title of this post is pretty much self-explanatory, and the list consists of projects that are very well-known by7 the data visualization community – like Periscopic’s U.S. Gun Deaths:

Gun deaths


An article by Shilpi Choudhury, in which she highlights the five changes on the horizon that will deepen user experience with data, in a scenario when more and more businesses are waking up to the idea of data-driven decisions and looking for applications powered with visualization capabilities to help them comprehend their data well. .

Big data ethics is the core issue at the center of this article by Neil Richards. He makes the case for the balance between the technological advances and the human values we care about – such as privacy, confidentiality, transparency, identity and free choice.

Big data allows us to know more, to predict and to influence others. This is its power, but it’s also its danger. The entities that can harness the power of math applied to large sets of personal information can do things that used to be impossible.


According to Matt Asay, ever since Moneyball, the sports intelligentsia have rushed to find ways to implement Big Data to maximize the performance of their teams. However, that’s not always the case, as proved by England’s recent humiliating defeat to Australia in cricket, simply because England cricket coach Andy Flowers relied too much on Big Data.

Another article that goes around the issue of Big Data ethics, this one by Tim O’Reilly, talking about ‘data redlining’ – a term used by The Atlantic, so called because of the practice of drawing a red line on the map to demarcate geographies where loans or insurance would be denied or made more costly.

This is a presentation that Charles Sayers made to the AMA Data with Purpose conference in March 2014. It looks at the current surge in data and how to create and share data stories to help make data more understandable and actionable.



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

Enrico and Moritz welcome Jon Schwabish to the show, where they talk about HelpMeViz, a web site where people can send requests to visualize some data of interest or redesign some particularly tricky charts.

The folks at KDnuggets talked with Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Data Platform Group. In the interview, they discuss Power BI for Office 365, Big Data trends and Microsoft’s strategic decisions.

A quick Q&A with London-based freelance infographic designer, Ben Willers. Ben talks about some of his favorite projects, his work, and the future of “information art”

A conversation between Joseph Lichterman and Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which she started in 2006. In this interview, they talk about her accomplishments and what she sees as the future of the open data movement.

Carlos Martínez de la Serna started working as a journalist in 1998, when he joined the Spanish newspaper El Mundo as an intern. Now, he runs “Por Causa“, a collaboration between poverty, human rights, and data experts and launched formally in July of 2013. Here, he talks with Alexis Sobel Fitts about this project and using data in the public interest and telling unexpected stories.



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

Already mentioned here on Visual Loop, this is a new site by Robert Kosara, launched with three main objectives: “surface the work that is done but not as visible as The New York Times or The Washington Post; make them searchable by the chart type, etc., rather than just text; and serve as inspiration for people doing visualization.”, a new website for infographics from news outets, a new website for infographics from news outets


A new monthly report from the folks at Infogr8, “to demonstrate how our relatively small industry is starting to take shape and merge ever closer with mainstream media and technology.” It includes a nice mention to us, so thanks for that!

infogr8 Trend Report, available for download
infogr8 Trend Report, available for download


Another monthly round up of articles, resources and visualizations, this one very well-known: Andy Kirk‘s “Best of the visualisation web… ” features the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content he’s come across during the previous month.

And yet another compilation of interesting links, this one published on a weekly basis by the folks at Data-smart city solutions. They pulled a summary of what happened this week on their website, on Twitter, and in the wider world of municipal data.

Alberto Cairo shares the presentations he gave recently at Tapestry and NICAR 2014, both tackling issues such as the rise of activism and P.R in visualization and in communication in general, unconscious cognitive biases and transparency.

A wonderful new list of interesting and useful texts and timeline/chronological links for the history of mathematics, by one of our favorite vintage designs blog out there. It will be updated over time.

As always, an impressive talk by our friend Santiago Ortiz, this one done recently, at Visualized 2014 – we’ve mention some of the other talks previously in this space, so check out the videos page in the event’s website.


Also published recently in the Visualized 2014 website, this talk by Accurat‘s co-founder and design director Giorgia Lupi is definitely a must-see.


Mike Bostock provides this quick guide on how to post examples to As he points oput, this is not the only way to do it — you can use GitHub’s Gist editor, for example.

With changing information needs of the user and the advancements in technology, data visualizations today have become more evolved, more effective and more insightful. In this presentation, 17 experts share their views on where the industry is headed in 2014.



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.