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Data Viz News [75]

The weekly link-festival for the data visualization enthusiasts and practitioners

November 8, 2014

The week when the 2014 Midterm elections took place in the United States in now over, after days of countless analysis, and months of ever changing forecasts. We had our fair share of visualizations about the elections as well, as we saw here, here and here, and in this post we’ll share some more pieces of content related to this topic.

It was a week also filled with announcements from some of the top data viz tools like Datawrapper, Infogram, CartoDB,, Silk, just to name a few – and a new Many Eyes that is well deserving of being the opening pick. New data visualization challenges, a stellar job opportunity for data journalists at Google and a huge list with articles, tutorials, presentations and other data visualization related resources complete this round up

Hope you enjoy this week’s 40+ recommended reads:


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

One of the first free data visualization tools is being completely revamped, and you can now have a glimpse of what ‘s ManyEyes‘ new look like.

Partial screen capture of the Many Eyes
(image: Many Eyes)


This sounds like a very interesting opportunity. Google is looking for a Data Journalist to be part a new group of data curators responsible for using Google Trends and other data to tell unique stories that inspire data journalists around the world to leverage the company’s tools in their reporting. All the details here.

The European Union has committed €14.4m (£11m) towards open data with projects and institutions lead by the Open Data Institute (ODI), Southampton University, the Open University and Telefonica. The funding, announced at the ODI Summit being held in London, is the largest direct investment into open data startups globally and will be used to fund three separate schemes covering startups, open data research and a new training academy for data science.

Visualization tool Datawrapper is to launch new, paid-for services alongside its free offering as views of charts created by users reach 32 million in October. From 1 December, users will be able to sign-up to create white-label charts and maps with different options available for small, large or international newsrooms. While casual users will still be able to create Datawrapper branded charts for free they will no longer be hosted online, but downloaded by the user and uploaded to their site.

CartoDB has been awarded the European Union Europioneers 2014 High Growth Web Entrepreneur award. The award was announced at the Web Summit in Dublin, one of the biggest web conferences in Europe. Runners up included some of the most exciting web companies in Europe today, such as Wunderlist, Klarna, Hailo and Transferwise among others.

Also during this past week, Silk announced new visualizations. New additions to the lineup are the scatter plot and stacked barchart. To learn more about how to use and create these visualizations, check out the new general visualization tutorial, and the support article about charts.

We wrote about this announcement here, earlier in the week. officially presented – a platform that supports the company’s social mission of increasing global data literacy. The site features lots of resources, including the best infographics produced during the Data Storytelling workshops, global satellite events where essentials of effective data storytelling are shared.

Andy Kirk reviews one of‘s latest features, Magic, that allows users to paste in a URL into a search box, hit a ‘Get Data’ button and then turns that page into a table of data or API without the need for any training or anything to download or install. Fort Andy, “what stands out is really the simplicity, the speed and the convenience of the output.”

Google’s new Open Location Code uses a sequence of characters to identify locations around the world. The first four characters in an Open Location Code describe a one degree latitude by one degree longitude area, aligned on degrees. To get a code for a smaller area characters are added to the code. Adding two further characters to the code, reduces the area to 1/20th of a degree by 1/20th of a degree within the previous area. And so on – each pair of characters reduces the area to 1/400th of the previous area.

Writing computer programs could become as easy as searching the Internet. A Rice University-led team of software experts has launched an $11 million effort to create a sophisticated tool called PLINY that will both “autocomplete” and “autocorrect” code for programmers, much like the software that completes search queries and corrects spelling on today’s Web browsers and smartphones. The four-year, DARPA-funded effort will involve more than two dozen computer scientists from Rice, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the company GrammaTech.


Smartsheet, the spreadsheet-inspired collaborative work management tool, unveiled a new way to visualize work and the various people contributing to it. By breaking down the traditional organizational chart view of work management, the Smartsheet visualization shows how internal employees and external contributors form work clusters around certain processes to drive work forward.

In advance of the upcoming re-launch of Open Data Philly, Azavea has announced the Open Data Philly Visualization Contest. This competition invites designers, data scientists, developers and “anyone who enjoys exploring and visualizing open data” to share visualizations that utilize open data found on

Univision Communications entered into a partnership with the University of Miami’s School of Communication to create a student-managed infographics unit for Univision News. As a result of this new alliance, journalism students from the University of Miami will produce infographics for Univision News under the leadership and guidance of Professor Alberto Cairo. Initially focused on the 2014 midterm elections, the student-managed Infographics Unit provided visual data and information to Univision News’ digital platforms — and its mobile app — as well as to Univision’s new political blog, Pol16.

The third short story speaker at the 2015 Tapestry Conference was announced this week. Katie Peek, an information editor at Popular Science magazine, where she conceives, designs, commissions, and creates visualizations about science and technology. Here’s a little teaser, from Eyeo 2013:



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

One of the projects highlighted in yesterday’s Interactive Inspireation, came to our attention thanks to Andy Kirk. He published this overview of ‘The Library Project’, a collaboration between the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University, led by Laura Kurgan, and visualization design/developers Annelie Berner, Jen Lowe and Derek Watkins. The project, split into two displays, visualizes the Columbia Libraries collection in one interactive interface and then explore connections between the books based on subject connections in the other. Wer presented Catalog, and below is a screenshot of Crossing Disciplines, ‘a digital library tool for multidisciplinary exploration’.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Crossing Disciplines
(image: Columbia University)


Last week, Jon Schwabish helped organize and run the Urban Institute’s first Data Dive. The event focused on domestic violence, primarily as it related to the lack of data that can inform research and analysis. Urban Institute partnered with the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project and with The data platform company Socrata. In this post, Jon shares a Storify of the Twitter conversation that day.

AbreLatam, an unconference first organized in Uruguay last year, brings together open data practitioners to share their thoughts, lessons learned and the experiences they face day-to-day. Juan Manuel Casanueva, Knight International Journalism Fellow, writes about this year’s AbreLatam key takeaways. The event was held in Mexico City.

Earlier this year, Randal S. Olson went on a week-long data analysis frenzy into a massive data set of chess tournament games. One of the better visualizations that came out of that post series was the evolution of openings over time set, where he looked at the popularity of various chess openings from 1850 through 2014. Here, Randal talks about all the visualization experiments he tried using that data, including a video-GIF and a stacked area chart in d3.js. Also in the topic of chess, Nathan Yau shared a nice viz as well, with the chances of survival of individual chess pieces in average games.

The folks at Visual Capitalist created this slideshow visualizing the amount of resources extracted in British Columbia. The slides cover the amounts collected or mined of gold, silver, zinc, molybdenum, copper, lead, metallurgical coal, and even wood products.

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic A Year’s Worth of Resources in British Columbia
(image: Visual Capitalist)



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

This late couple of months have been filled with elections, from Brazil’s Presidential race to the US midterms. Doug Greenfield gathered some of many works produced about this years elections in Brazil, Indonesia and India.

Every year, at about this time of year, Jonathan Crowe assembles a gift guide listing some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year. This year’s list includes several lavishly illustrated histories of maps and globes, interesting reads about map thieves and forgotten places, an a couple of guides to map art and personal mapmaking.

When conflict, disease, or natural disaster strikes, the humanitarian community often scrambles to generate map data as it responds. The Missing Maps project aims to solve this problem with an ambitious effort to put the world’s most vulnerable populations on the map. A collaboration between the American and British Red Cross, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), and Medecins Sans Frontieres, Missing Maps is rallying volunteers to trace satellite imagery and gather on-the-ground data, as Matt Irwin explains in this article

Brazil has more freshwater than any country in the world – 12 percent of the entire planet’s total volume. So how is São Paulo—the richest, largest city in South America—running out of water? Andrew Maddocks, Tien Shiao and Sarah Alix Mann talk about three maps that help tell this complicated story.

(image: Aqueduct)


A couple of visualizations produced recently by The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal caught Andy Kirk’s attention, as two good examples of plotting spatial information .

Just because you can map your data, doesn’t mean to say you should. Have the discipline and sense to challenge your natural impulses but, when it does make sense to do so, plotting spatial data on a map can really illuminate the inherent patterns.


Hans Hack is a German web developer who has created a number of interesting interactive maps. In this article, Keir Clarke praises several of those works, especially this interactive paper cut-out map of Berlin.

From the opium trade routes of the 1900s to CND’s operations in the 1980s, maps reveal the political leylines of history – except when it comes to the holiday islands of San Serriffe, as A History of the 20th Century in 100 Maps, the new British Library book, reveals. The example below was published in 1974: The Beatles’ Liverpool marks the beginning of the “Beatles tourism”, four years after the band split. In it, a surreal Yellow Submarine-era fantasy world is superimposed on real locations

(image: The Beatles’ Liverpool, 1974)



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

Great post by Vikram Sundar, with a brief history of Data Journalism and its influence on electoral reporting, since in 2008 Nate Silver, a relatively unknown baseball statistician at that time, correctly predicted every Senate race and all but one state in the presidential election.

By 2020, data will be a ubiquitous part of our lives, just as it will be a ubiquitous part of journalism. It remains to be seen whether it will be a boon or a hindrance for us.


For Derrick Harris, “Nate Silver and his ilk have proven they can predict elections with high accuracy, so maybe it’s time to move on from focusing on the forecasts.” What was once novel — and, for many Americans, relatively isolated to Nate Silver at the New York Times over the past few elections — is now ubiquitous, and Harris leaves the alert: It’s becoming a case of information overload.

In this op-ed article, David Brooks also talks about all the buzz surrounding data and the midterm elections. He thinks the data-driven style of politics is built on a questionable philosophy and a set of dubious assumptions that he explains in this post. Some of the points made are quite good – enough to have Kaiser Fung praising them in this other post, untitled I can’t believe I’m citing David Brooks on data.

In recent years, companies from Google to Facebook and LinkedIn have invested in data scientists to help them gain business insights and develop new products.’Data science’ has definitely become a buzzword, and in this article Abigail Edge shares the lessons and tips from News Corp’s Rachel Schutt, on how news outlets can use data scientists too.

A couple of weeks ago, the School of Data Knowledge Unit, (Heather Leson, Anders Pedersen, Lucy Chambers, Milena Marin, Sam Leon, Zara Rahman and James Hamilton) met up in person for a face-to-face team meeting. Zara writers this post sharing a few initial thoughts and learnings that emerged from that encounter.

Hackathons or hack days can be a great way for journalists and developers to collaborate on projects over the course of a day, a weekend or even a week. But for the uninitiated, what exactly is a hack day? Why should journalists get involved, and how can you make sure you get the most out of them once you’re there? That’s the topic of this episode of the podcast.



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

For the third year in a row, NewVantage Partners has conducted a survey of Fortune 1000 senior business and technology executives regarding their companies’ investments in big data. This annual survey provides a unique glimpse into the big data initiatives of large enterprises and how fast they have adopted the set of technologies, processes, and skills associated with it. Gil Press provides this summary of this year’s findings.

Epidemiologist want to forecast disease like meteorologists forecast rain – and the way people browse Wikipedia could be the key, they say. Kyle Hickmann from Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico and a few pals reveal the results of their model which used real-time data from Wikipedia to forecast the ground truth data gathered by the CDC that surfaces about two weeks later. They say their model has the potential to transform flu forecasting from a black art to a modern science as well-founded as weather forecasting.

The Los Angeles Clippers were the first NBA team to roll out new features for the huge monitors that hover just above the playing floor. For instance, sometimes the video replay was enhanced to show overlays of intricate new statistics, displaying the game as if viewed from the point of view of the Terminator. Here you’ll know more about Second Spectrum, the company behind this new sports tech – and in case you missed it, somewhat related to this topic we posted recently a small list of suggested blogs that mix data and sports in a unique way.

Industry analysts still stress that BI projects fail because tools are too complicated and data is not readily available or accurate. This feedback is obviously resulting from surveys and interviews but if you dig deeper, these problematic BI initiatives still struggle because of people issues, as Ryan Goodman points out in this post.

Big Data promises to completely change the world. What it might not do, however, is change the enterprise technology scoreboard of winners and losers, mainly because, according to Matt Asay‘s article, organizations want new-school technology, but would prefer to buy it from old-school vendors.

A machine learning approach inspired by the human brain, “Deep Learning” is taking many industries by storm. In this session, you’ll learn more about this new technology and be introduced to some of the new application domains, the business models, and the key players in this emerging field.



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

Interview with the designer and quantified-self guru Nicholas Felton, covering his background, the creative process behind the reports, sources of inspiration, and more.

The popularity of each subsequent report has prompted me to take an interest in different parts of my life each year in order to keep the reports interesting for myself and the people who are interested in my work.


Alexander Taub had a chance to connect with Eldad Farkash to learn more about Sisense, how they are selling into big organizations, where business intelligence is going and what the company has planned for 2015.



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

After receiving lots of emails asking for a tutorial on how to make the gif-animated infographics that have caught the attention of the data viz community all over the place, Seattle-based designer Eleanor Lutz made this incredibly detailed step-by-step guide… animated, of course. Alberto Cairo also praised this post here.

( How to make the gif-animated infographic, a tutorial by Eleanor Lutz)


James Cheshire spent the past year working hard with designer Oliver Uberti to create a book of 100+ maps and graphics about London. The majority of graphics produced for London: The Information Capital required R code in some shape or form. In this post, James shares five of those visualizations shown from the moment they came out of R to the moment they were printed.

Paul Bradshaw‘s books about data journalism are a must for all of those interested in the field. And now, you can now buy ‘bundles’ of his books on Leanpub for special discounted prices. At this time, you have available the Spreadsheet books bundle and the Scraping Heist bundle.

October was #VizTheVote politics month at Tableau, and to close the month they pulled together a list of visualizations that, whether it’s for a local town election or a national race, showcase new insights, help digitally engage an audience civically, and properly inform their choices in the polling booth.

In this talk, Dominikus Baur presents a quick run-through of all the relevant aspects of mobile web-based datavis: What graphics technology (Canvas, SVG, WebGL) to choose? How to include all the neat HTML5-supported sensors to do cool stuff (GPS, device orientation)?What amazing things can be done with multi-touch input? What changes for information and chart design? How to best debug mobile visualizations?


Mapbox Pyskel, an new open source skeleton Python package repo, emerged out of Mapbox’s internal experience in building Python tools. Sean Gillies presents this resource.

This is part of a series of posts by Andy Cotgreave about dashboard design, focusing on choices he made in this dashboard. In this first post, he explains the different choices he made.


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.