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Data Viz News [56]

Recommended reads about data visualization, cartography and data journalism

May 24, 2014

The New York Times continues to be in the center of the journalism community’s attentions, this week, with another shocker, following the replacement of Jill Abramson with Dean Baquet as executive editor, and the subsequent leaked innovation report. Aron Pilhofer, currently associate managing editor for the Times’ digital strategy and editor of interactive news, will be joining The Guardian.

Needless to say that this pretty much trumped all other news, but as you will see in today’s post, a lot has happened in the past few days, regarding information visualization, data journalism and cartography. Other highlights include the criticism that kept falling on‘s and FiveThirtyEight‘s ‘explainer/data journalism’ missteps, the brand new episode of Data Stories, with featured guest Jer Thorp, Giorgia Lupi‘s article she wrote for the latest Malofiej book, and – how could we not mention this? – Alberto Cairo‘s famous visualization T-shirts, now available for everyone to purchase.

Hope you enjoy the 40+ links we gathered today:


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

The announcement that Aron Pilhofer will leave The New York Times to become The Guardian’s executive editor of Digital was made by the editor-in-chief, Janine Gibson. According to the official release, “Pilhofer, who is also editor of interactive news at the Times, will work across the Guardian’s editorial teams to develop and execute new and innovative digital journalism initiatives and tools to help grow global audiences and deepen reader engagement.” And look at what the Times interactive team made as a farewell gift:

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Awesome Pilhofer
Farewell gift from The new York Times’ interactive team


Submissions for the 2014 Online Journalism Awards are now open, and those interested in participating have until June 13, to send their works. Ten of the awards now come with a total of $52,500 in prize money, courtesy of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation and the University of Florida. These awards honor data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism, public service, technical innovation and general excellence. Honorees will be announced on the final night of ONA14, the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet, Sept. 25-27, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers in Chicago.

“Big Data”, “Hashtag”, “selfie”, and “tweep” join over 150 new words and definitions added to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary in 2014, available now in print and online at These new additions to America’s best-selling dictionary reflect the growing influence technology is having on human endeavor, especially social networking, once done mostly in person.

Great opportunity: Future Everything is seeking a data visualization designer/artist to conduct research, design and build an interactive visualization platform for a prototype climate service for the wind energy sector, based on probabilistic wind forecasts. The successful candidate will work as a part of a team led by IC3 in Barcelona, and can develop the platform in a remote capacity, but will be required to attend numerous meetings and commit face to face consulting with partners. More details here.

As we reported here, MIT’s EyeWire teamed up with FEI and Visually for an infographic competition to explain the scale of the brain. The competition closed at the end of April and the winning entries were announced recently. The jury of this competition included Jen Christiansen (Scientific American), Maria Popova (Brainpickings), Christopher Jobson (Colossal) and Elise Andrew (I F*ing Love Science).

This workshop by Moritz Stefaner will take place in Barcelona, in coordination with CCCB, the Big Bang Data exhibition, and Sónar. For the culinary side of the project, the guest will be Pere Castells, an experimental chef currently coordinating the production of the bullipedia.

Data visualization startup DataPad announced a $1.7 million in Seed funding from some big names that include Accel Partners, Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and Ludlow Ventures. The San Francisco-based company is focused on the visualization part of the data equation — building easier-to-use data discovery, analysis, and collaboration tools.

Mapbox.js v1.6.3 is now available, with better support for geocoding, an updated attribution UI, and several code changes, numerous documentation improvements and bugfixes. To read the full list of changes, check out the changelog on GitHub.

A couple of new features added to CartoDB: besides various new sets of icons, now you can customize your visualization so when when people puts their cursor over a marker or polygon, the infowindow will appear without the need of clicking it, therefore speeding up a lot the browsing and discovery of data.

Founded by New York’s New Museum, NEW INC. it’s the first museum-led incubator dedicated to art, design, and technology that intends to fill in that gap between the art and startup worlds by fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. The organization has now revealed the first group of artists and innovators that will take part in the year-long incubator program.

Bloomberg LP has launched a new suite of native ad products that tap into its data-crunching abilities. Using Bloomberg’s Custom Rankings, a data-mining department that sits in editorial, the ad side can create infographics for advertisers to run as part of a larger ad platform, which it is calling Bloomberg Denizen.

The new database on the National Public Radio web site is formally titled, “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever”. Users can search by name of the commencement speaker, name of school, and year. Keyword search for specific words and phrases is not available. Speeches are also tagged using one of sixteen tags that describe its theme. This nprED blog post has more including a look at the most popular themes of the speeches found in the collection.



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

The MIT Media Lab Playful Systems group is working on an experiment in data sharing, on a personal level, called 20 Day Stranger. Nathan Yau explains it :” You install an app on your phone that tracks your location and what you’re doing, and that information is anonymously shared with a stranger. You also see what that stranger is doing.”


This is the second post in Fusion Chart’s Data Visualization in Education series where they’re showcasing how different universities are using data visualization in a meaningful way. After last week’s post about University at Buffalo, this one shows how Cornell University is using Data Visualization to realize the values of diversity and inclusion.

An article by Manuel Lima, about the redesign of Codeacademy. Manuel explains each one of the UX and design principles that served as guidelines for the decisions concerning the new layout. Many of these guidelines can be easily transported to data visualization.

Carey Dunne talks about a new app called Tunnel Vision, that reveals stories about New York’s population and neighborhoods just by pointing your smartphone at any MTA map. “The app sits at the junction of a few interests of mine: computer vision, data visualization, and the subway,” says Bill Lindmeier, who created the app for his graduate thesis at NYU’s ITP program.



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

After the release of the Data Visualization Checklist – that we mentioned here last week -, folks at WIRED’s Map Lab asked for a similar checklist for maps, and folks at Stamen Design answered, with “a list of interaction design-related things we like to ensure across all of our map projects which we thought you might be interested to see.”

A great overview of the “map frenzy’ that the United States experienced just after the beginning of World War II, in 1939, and of some of the most innovative map creators from that period, such as Richard Edes Harrison. Article written by Susan Schulten.

(image: Richard Edes Harrison)


Back in March, the British Library launched a new collaboration called the Virtual Mappa project, using digital images of a selection of medieval world maps – mappaemundi – and some excellent new annotation software, which are explained in this article. More posts about this project will follow, so keep watching the British Library blog for that.

Google first released their 3D Ocean feature in Google Earth more than five years ago, and it’s something that has seen steady improvements over the years. Mickey Mellen highlights some of the more interesting recent developments.

In this article, Kaiser Fung praises the interactive map of Baseball fans published by The Upshot – one that was featured on our Digital Cartography round up, as well as the follow-up Map of NBA fans, by the same team of journalists and developers. Fung also addresses some of the issues related to the use of Facebook data, and leaves a couple of recommendations that make a lot of sense – but that’s really nothing new, right?

From handmade and hand-drawn maps, to interactive online maps, to plots of some of the most obscure data that took decades to collect, here are 33 detailed maps of the world and its constituent parts, compiled by Alex Scola. Frequent readers of Visual Loop will recognize many of these maps.

After his map of the internet caught the attention of some major blogs, graphic designer Jay Simons decided to bring the project into the whole new level. “I want to create a fully-interactive zoomable version of the Internet Map, updated according to approximate real-time online stats, and with a wide multitude of clickable interactive elements”, he explains in his project page at crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

After stumbling upon a map that illustrated The Proclaimers’ song “Sunshine on Leith”, more precisely the well-know part of the lyrics “But I would walk 500 miles. And I would walk 500 more“, Keneth Field points to a very common map-making mistake, when drawing each of the 500 miles ‘circles’.

The map below was created by Eric Odenheimer and shows the countries that are due east and west from points along the coasts of North and South America. Many small island nations are excluded for ease of reading, as explained in this quick post by Max Ehrenfreund.

(image: Eric Odenheimer)


The Guardian’s Street View specialist Halley Docherty takes us back to the cities of the second world war, in another “photography then and now”round ups. See the Nazis’ march through Paris, how London weathers the blitz and Hiroshima facing devastation, among other “visual journeys into the past”.

Election maps are an interesting challenge for digital media: millions of people are awaiting the results, at the time that data comes bit by bit, in what seems a very slow night. Receiving, processing, and publishing this data in an appealing way to offer an interactive application that enables the usable discovery and browsing of the election data is not an easy task, but CartoDB has a couple of features that make that whole process easier. Read about these in this post, that also contains important guidelines for making election maps for the Internet.

From the brilliant “It’s Okay To Be Smart” by Joe Hanson, comes this awesome image that might be familiar for many of you, but we thought it’s well worth posting here anyway. It was published in Scientific American, circa 1921.

(image: Scientific American)



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

“I’m seeing too much shoddy stuff in websites like and FiveThirtyEight. They do publish interesting stories, but a very visible portion of their output is dubious.” This sentence kind of sets the tone for Alberto Cairo‘s post about these “explainer journalism” sites. Alberto gathered some of the examples of this sort of “datum journalism” – a story in which grand theories are derived from insufficient evidence -, and also shares a storified Twitter conversation that includes comments from C.W. Anderson, Greg Linch, Scott Klein, Emily Bell, Tim Carmody, Alex Howard and Jacob Harris, among others.

Speaking of Jacob Harris, the New York Times’ Senior Software Architect and news hacker wrote this article explaining furthermore his views on the new “data journalism age” and websites such as Vox, FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot, as well as a very useful check-list with six ways to make mistakes with statistics.

The public has only a limited tolerance for fast-and-loose data journalism and we can’t keep fucking it up.


This is one of the several articles that followed the release of The New York Times’ internal Innovation report, that we brought here last week. Lucia Moses summarizes some of the key points of that report with five charts tell the story of the Times’ struggles as it tightens its embrace of digital media. Other articles that we recommend, also published this week, are Emily Bell‘s on the Columbia Journalism Review website, and Erin Kissane‘s round up of Tweets, over at Source.

Article by Michelle Atagana, about the upcoming GEN (Global Editors Network) Summit, that will take place in Barcelona, between June 11 and 13. The conference theme is “Mobile. Video. Data. Challenge the Status Quo.” According to the event organisers, its aim is to get the industry thinking about these tools as the paramount when it comes to innovating within the newsroom. Each session will aim to push this idea that the future of journalistic content lies with this three things.

Alastair Dant and Hannah Fairfield walk us through the development of a recent New York Times’ visualization story on what happens when states repeal their universal helmet laws. A big part of this effort was focused on how best to tell visual stories that take advantage of the mobile platforms and as well as looking elegant on the desktop.

Giorgia Lupi wrote a chapter for the latest Malofiej book, earlier this year, presenting some of Accurat‘s recent works and sharing their approach and ideas on the aesthetic elements and features of data visualization. And now, that chapter is available for downloading here (pdf), both in English and Spanish.



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

In a previous post, Jeff Leek pointed out that a major problem with big data is that applied statistics have been left out. Now, he tries to answer the second question in that post: “When thinking about the big data era, what are some statistical ideas we’ve already figured out?”.

Guest post by Kaiser Fung, on the ‘failed promises’ of predictive analytics and algorithms in companies like Netflix and Amazon.

Data scientists are vital to the future economy and advanced algorithms are an extremely important part of their work. But from a market-facing perspective, simplicity and quick wins should be part of the data science toolbox.

Every day companies collect data about their customers and industries, simply as an artifact of the act conducting business. As Ron Miller listened to a panel on Big Data at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., he had an epiphany: “every company is a Big Data company, it’s just that some get it and some don’t”.

While he was in Chicago for one of his public workshops, Andy Kirk visited a free exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Foundation called ‘Chicago: City of big data‘. The exhibition aims to reveal how Chicago has been influenced by the concept of data as a 21st century design material through a range of displays, and Andy shares some of the featured works and projects that impressed him the most.

We talked last week about the exhibit Big Bang Data, that opened recently at the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona, and will be available for visitation until October, 26. In this video shared by Alberto Cairo – one of the many experts collaborating with this project -, you’ll get a sense of questions Big Bang Data aspires to answer:



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

In this episode, Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner received Jer Thorp, to talk about his past and new projects, teaching art and visualization and the many intersections between art and science.

David Dubas-Fisher is a Sports Data Journalist at Trinity Mirror, and shares in this interview some points about how, for sports journalism, it’s particularly important to develop data stories that are not overflowing with statistical analysis as for the reader this will detract from the bigger story.

Alex Abad-Santos talked with Seattle-based visual designer Jon White the creator of Seventeen People, an essay/website/visualization about The West Wing episode “17 People” (season 2, episode 18), which White believes is the single greatest episode of television ever created.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Seventeen People
(image: Seventeen People | Jon White)



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

Damien Dallimore, Worldwide Developer Evangelist at Splunk, gave this presentation at QCON London 2014, entitled “A Brief History Of Data”


A quick tip from Alberto Cairo, recommending Scott Murray’s freshly released 3-hour video tutorial about D3.js through O’Reilly. Scott has also written an article to present it: ‘5 Reasons to learn D3: D3 doesn’t stand for data-design dictator.

Mona Chalabi introduces “Ctrl + ←,” FiveThirtyEight‘s weekly data journalism roundup. You’ll find the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles of the past week as well as some other links spotted elsewhere on the Internet.

This is a list of top 3′s book titles from subject areas that are not data visualization but that do hold many interesting related ideas, theories and concepts, pulled together by Andy Kirk with the help of the ‘Tweep nation’.

A quick reference guide that illustrates some of the differences between ‘Data’ and ‘Information’, in technical terms.


Here’s a collection of some of the best data visualizations on global literacy, mortality, birth rates and more that will help put some of the biggest issues surrounding poverty today into perspective. Compiled by Turner Shaw.

Alberto Cairo‘s T-shirts have been the subject of several Twitter conversations and comments, and after some convincing, he decided to make the designs available on, so that anyone can get his “classic-visualizations-with-Game-of-Thrones-captions” masterpieces.

Not so much a visualization resource, but this is a must for all journalists. In 1937 and 1941, Dick Whittington Studio photographers were hired to document the production of the Los Angeles Times, and now you can see more than 20 of these images in this photo gallery.

A presentation given by Angela Cornelius to Pittsburgh Data Vis Meetup on May 12, 2014, about approaching data visualization from a storytelling perspective.



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

Data Viz events


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.