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Data Viz News [53]

A festival of articles, news and resources from the data visualization community

May 3, 2014

If last week, the OpenVis Conference concentrated most of the attentions in the data visualization community, the International Journalism Festival had pretty much everyone in the data journalism field with their eyes turned to Perugia (Italy). The event started last Wednesday (30/04) and ends tomorrow (04/05), and by the looks of it on Twitter (#ijf14), it’s being a success. Great to see it so, after all the financial problems that almost led to the cancellation of the event, as we reported back in October, 2013.

We have already a couple of presentations and other links about the International Journalism Festival in this round up, including an interview with Felix Salmon, who’s recent relocation from Reuters to the online operations of Fusion, a new cable channel co-owned by ABC and Univision, sparked even more the “Wonk Bubble” debate in the media world.

The interview section of this post is, actually, quite big in comparison to previous editions of Data Viz News. Besides Felix Salmon’s and Craig Silverman’s, both published in the International Journalism Festival’s website, you’ll also see two equally interesting conversations from the folks at Two Center for Digital Journalism, with Tasneem Raja and Sisi Wei. On top of that, a hangout with Moritz Stefaner, and a talk with The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley, the economic correspondent leading the forthcoming policy-focused website that will compete with the likes of Vox, The Upshot and .

And this is just a small sample of another huge reading list we prepared for you. News, articles, resources and tutorials from some of the top bloggers and websites, all to assure that you can stay up to date with all that has been going on in the visualization field.

Hope you enjoy it, and have a great weekend!


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

Around 500,000 Internet fans from over 200 countries and territories around the world cast their votes to choose this year’s Winners of the Webby People’s Voice Awards, with Vice Media (7) Google (5) and Tumblr (4) earning the most People’s Voice wins. The Guardian’s NSA Files: Decoded took home the award for Best Website Practices, and you can browse through all the winners here.

The gallery with all the 2014 Webby Awards winners
The gallery with all the 2014 Webby Awards winners


The National Magazine Awards are sponsored annually by the American Society of Magazine Editors, in association with Columbia Journalism School. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski co-hosted this year’s award ceremony, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, and The New Yorker was the great winner of the evening, taking home four prizes, while Fast Company was elected “Magazine of the Year”.

The competition, “Visualising Research”, challenged entrants to create a new visualization of the UK Research Council funding data, which makes use of the online database ‘Gateway to Research’, and which tells a compelling story that anyone could understand. The two winning entrants were a professional agency ÜberResearch (with the collaboration of Moritz Stefaner), and a collaboration between four infographic enthusiasts in Sheffield. Their win was announced at the British Library, as part of an event to mark the Library’s ongoing exhibition about data visualization, Beautiful Science.

Visual Funding Portfolios | ÜberResearch
Visual Funding Portfolios | ÜberResearch & Moritz Stefaner


As we mentioned before, Felix Salmon announced this week that he was leaving Reuters to join the cable network Fusion, in a web-based role that runs across multiple media. Though his title will be senior editor, he plans to use the strengths of the network, which is owned by ABC and Univision, and is aimed at a younger audience, to produce “animations, videos, data visualization stuff, ways of using other platforms to convey information and tell stories,” according to this story by Ravi Somaya.

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard has selected 24 journalists as members of the 77th class of Nieman Fellows. The group includes journalists who work around the globe as reporters, editors, columnists, bureau chiefs, digital leaders and news executives in print, broadcast and online media. They will study at Harvard University during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Besides Harvard, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism also named ten Knight-Bagehot Fellows in economics and business journalism for the 2014-2015 academic year. They include journalists from The Associated Press (AP), Bloomberg News, CNN Money, Forbes, Marketplace, Thomson Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

With their most recent product release, introduced several new features and capabilities to improve the user experience on the Visually Marketplace, their cloud-based collaboration platform for creating visual content. Better project bundle management and easier project start for existing clients are some of those improvements.

Over the last six months, the Foursquare team has been hard at work on a complete reinvention of the company. In the end they decided that, in order to save Foursquare, they would have to break it half, splitting the iconic service into two separate apps. This week, the company announced the first fruit of this labor, a brand new app called Swarm that will exist alongside the current Foursquare app. Swarm will be a social heat map, helping users find friends nearby and check in to share their location.

Swarm, a new app by Foursquare
Swarm, a new app by Foursquare



A selection of recent articles published by experts in different fields of data visualization:

In this article, Stephen Few lists the common myths and misguided uses of data visualization, as well as the four quantitative features and activities that require visual displays – all to answer that simple question: Why do we visualize data?

“Reading Alberto Cairo’s fabulous book, The Functional Art, feels like reading my own work.” This is how Kaiser Fung starts this post, in which he reviews one of the fundamental readings for those interested in data visualization and visual journalism.

This is Jeff Clark‘s take on the whole “Storytelling and visualization” discussion that has been constantly debated for the past few weeks and culminated with the latest Data Stories podcast, with hosts Moritz Stefaner, Enrico Bertini, and their guests Alberto Cairo and Robert Kosara.

Sheila Pontis pulled together a small collection of situations and scenarios of simple, interesting and functional information design, that she collected while travelling.

Well-conceived information design is intrinsically timeless, and, in some cases, is detached from specialised software or fashionable aesthetics; it is functional, clear and useful.


Written by Sharon Lin, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Stanford University, and Jeffrey Heer, associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, this article points out the factors to consider when using semantically resonant colors in visualizations. The comments section is worth reading as well, as is Jon Peltier‘s view on this, that he shared in his blog.

Interactive Visualization can be an intuitive way to enable data trending and ‘manipulation’ to review findings in and across myriad dimensions. Forbes contributor Ben Kerschberg highlights five key properties of this type of dynamic display of information in the corporate environment.

If you’re a graphic designer who’s just starting to create “infoposters” and graphics, there is a number of historical and contemporary references that you should know of (and study), in order to avoid common errors and misuses. Gabriel Schaffzin does a nice overview of those references in this article.

To help his students, Alberto Cairo has been collecting good examples of motion graphics to share with those that are diving deeper in this type of visual narrative. Here, he recommends an animation about evolution, made by Phillipp Dettmer.



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

We usually try to leave all the interactive maps for our weekly round ups, every Wednesday. But since today’s post is being published in the same day that World Press Freedom Day, we thought it would be appropriate to share this animated map developed by Trendsmap, showing how the hashtag #PressFreedom was used on Twitter during 2013.

One year of PressFreedom on Twitter, by Trendsmap
One year of #PressFreedom on Twitter, by Trendsmap


MapBox presents Mapbox Foundations, a new collection of educational guides for every corner of the Mapbox platform, for anyone who wants to learn more about making maps with Mapbox, TileMill, and the rest of their platform. Each guide covers general concepts and tricks of the trade.

If Kenneth Field says something like “It is that far from the normal cartofail scale it defines its own scale!” about a map, you know that you’re in for a “horror cartographic show”. That’s precisely this case. Warning: Eyes may bleed.

Three different examples of the use of drone technology to make WebGL 3d maps from aerial photographs, listed by Keir Clarke.

In her new book, Globes: 400 years of exploration, navigation, and power, Sylvia Sumira, a London-based conservator of ancient globes, traces the history and making of globes and showcases dozens of fine examples drawn largely from the collection of the British Library.

John Russell’s lunar globe. Made in 1797 it’s the oldest surviving printed globe of the moon. | British Library


One of our featured interactive maps in this week’s edition of Digital Cartography came from Argentina, and depicted the private contributions at the Argentine primary legislative elections of 2013. In this post, Andy Tow explains how this visualization was created.

Waldo Tobler is a well known American-Swiss geographer and cartographer, famous for his idea that “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related to each other” – an idea referred to as the “first law of geography.” This video (c1970) mentioned by Keneth Field on Twitter caught our attention.



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

Giorgia gives us an inside look at one of Accurat‘s most recent collaborations with print publications. The visualization in question was published for the May Issue of Popular Science, and represents scientific papers and their peaks of citations over years. We opened one of our latest This is Visual Journalism posts with this interesting work.

(image: Popular Science)


Perhaps the only ‘controversy’ arising from the International Journalism Festival, so far, started when Felix Salmon stated that “Breaking news is the most masturbatory thing journalists do. The reader couldn’t give a flying fuck who broke it”, answering a question from the audience, during his talk about “wonk journalism”. Felix wrote further more about this, and in this article, James Ball explains why he disagrees with Salmon’s statement – and here’s Felix Salmon’s annotated answer to this piece.

A critique to one of Vox’s pieces, from a place that isn’t so well-known for its data journalism reviews as it is for the outstanding vintage goodies they regularly post – many times referenced in our Vintage InfoDesign posts. But Matt Novak makes some very good arguments against the article Ignore age—define generations by the tech they use, written by Kelsey McKinney, as well as the way Vox itself handled the corrections.

A very detailed series of four posts by Claire Miller, currently a reporter at Media Wales, looking at tips and ideas for getting started with data journalism.

Paul Bradshaw makes this brilliant overview of all the current state of data journalism. An article also recommended by Alberto Cairo, in his selection of Weekly resources.

Article by Nicholas Diakopoulos, with his general impressions of OpenVis Conference, held recently in Boston. He picked on a few talks that exposed some particularly relevant implications for data journalism.

We close this section dedicated to visual and data journalism with two of the videos already available on the International Journalism Festival‘s official YouTube Channel. Both videos are over one hour, so sit comfortably.



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

A guest article by Ellie Fields, the Vice President of Product Marketing at Tableau Software. In it, besides providing some context to the present and future of big data, she shows three examples of companies that are tackling the challenge finding value inside the vast amounts of data.

This wave of innovation isn’t over. The impact generated by the democratization of data and big data will spur more action. Data continues to explode, and new trends like the Internet of Things will only fuel the change.


An analysis of what Tibco’s recent acquisition, Jaspersoft, could represent for the fast-moving data visualization market, written by Nancy Gohring. According to her, “traditional business intelligence work horses, from the likes of Microsoft, SAP, and IBM, will continue to evolve their products to meet demand for easier to use and cloud based services. Upstarts like Tableau and even smaller data visualization providers like Chartio, BigML, and ClearStory will continue to drive new kinds of capabilities”.

Brian Nichols, a value investor and author of “Taking Charge With Value Investing (McGraw-Hill, 2013)“, analyses the current scenario of the stock market performance of companies such as Tableau, Qlik Technologies and Tibco Software.

According to Anthony Palella and Mario Faria – the authors of this article – “The CEO of an enterprise is a lot like that most famous of Enterprise leaders, Capt. Kirk, commander of the starship Enterprise”. Using the same analogy, the new resident of the C-suite, the chief data officer (CDO) would be Mr. Spock.

Craig Box, Cloud Platform Solutions Engineer, Google Cloud Platform, explores how Google BigQuery puts the processing power of Google’s infrastructure at your fingertips, allowing you to query massive data-sets, super-fast.



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

A one-hour conversation with Moritz Stefaner about some of his projects and explorations, pushing the boundaries of data visualization — from data sculptures to using food for representing information.

One of the two interviews we mentioned in the introduction that were made available on the International Journalism Festival’s website. Here, Felix Salmon talks about the “wonk bubble”, and his new job at Fusion.

The proliferation of rumor and dubious images and video that follow big news stories, and the ease with which even established news organisations can fall for fake User-Generated Content (UGC) provide a clear example of why something like a Verification Handbook is needed. Craig Silverman, founder and editor of the Poynter Institute blog Regret the Error, shares his thoughts on this topic.

Alexander Howard had a nice conversation with ProPublica‘s news applications developer Sisi Wei, about her work and her view of the data journalism field.

Data journalism allows journalists to point to the raw data and ask questions, as well as question the very conclusions we are given. It allows us to use social science techniques to illuminate stories that might otherwise be hidden in plain sight.


Second interview coming out the Tow Center for Digital Journalism‘s website, and again by Alexander Howard. This time, he spoke with Tasneem Raja, the interactive editor at Mother Jones Magazine.

Ri Liu is the creator of the Web Colour Data tool, that visualizes the colour scheme for any website which has been featured on popular blogs around the world. She’s also a data visualization practitioner and we had the chance to feature one of her most recent projects here, of which she speaks about in this interview.

Also mentioned in the introduction, this interview with Jim Tankersley shows how The Post’s forthcoming policy-focused website will deal with data journalism and storytelling.

Data and visualizations and storytelling — human drama — when combined help readers understand concepts. I can get a lot from one great visual chart, I can get more context from several paragraphs just really laying out the conclusions of data. And I can get a lot out of a story about someone like me doing something that is interesting to me



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

Reporters without borders has just published a list of profiles of “100 information heroes” for World Press Freedom Day (3 May). “World Press Freedom Day, which Reporters Without Borders helped to create, should be an occasion for paying tribute to the courage of the journalists and bloggers who constantly sacrifice their safety and sometimes their lives to their vocation,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

100 Information Heroes,an interactive tribute by Reporters Without Borders
100 Information Heroes, an interactive tribute by Reporters Without Borders


The first of three “best of” posts with suggested links to articles, visualizations and many other resources. Andy Kirk was one of the first ones to publish such lists, and here he shows what caught his attention during the month of March 2013. We thank Andy for the mention to Misha Simakov’s portfolio, published here on Visual Loop.

Alberto Cairo has just published his third list of weekly resources, with links to articles, opinions and essays, covering data journalism and visualization.

And the third list of recommended reads – within this list of recommended reads (talk about meta) -, comes from School of Data‘s Marco Menchinella, also with several links mainly about data journalism.

This past week, Andy Kirk also shared the slides used in his talk at OpenVisConf 2014, titled “The Design of Nothing”.


With quotes from Moritz Stefaner, Scott Murray, Benjamin Wiederkehr and Jan Willem Tulp, this post by Luke Dormehl goes way beyond the traditional “listcicle”. Highly recommended.

Like if we hadn’t enough interviews this week, here is a recap of the 15 interviews published on Data Science Weekly to date with their relevant links as well as a pdf of everything in one place, to make them more easily accessible to the community.

Although not so ‘data visualization-related’, many of the books suggested in this article might come handyfor those looking to expand their illustration/design skills.

A great way to develop your skills as a Tableau Public user is to download and analyse the workbooks of other authors, learning from the countless examples made available the Tableau Public community. Kelly Martin shares in this post some of those resources and exercises that helped her evolve in the use this tool.

Someone on Twitter asked Jon Peltier how to make axis labels stay on the side of the axis away from the data. With the level of detail and clarity that he has us used to, Jon explains it in this step-by-step Excel tutorial.

A nifty little web app by the folks at StatWing – it’s actually an API Demo – , that allows you to quickly generate visualizations from any public CSVs of github data. There’s a discussion on this over at Hacker News.

In the recent past, several attempts have been made to bring Python visualizations to the web. In this post, Nipun Batra reviews some of these along with minimal code for illustration, and discusses some of the pros of each library.

Another list of book recommendations, this time about “R”. Curated by Roopam Upadhyay, the 12 books in this list are divided into five categories.

Keiichiro Ono, a software developer at UC, San Diego medical school, attended both the Visualized Conference (New York) and jQuery Conference (San Diego), and prepared this presentation with the highlights of both events.


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. As always, feel free to let us know if we missed some interesting resource, and don’t forget to join us on our Facebook Group, 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.


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