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Data Viz News [77]

The ultimate list of recommended links about data visualization, data journalism and infographics

December 6, 2014

It’s not always we can say that the big news of the week was… us!

Ok, so, maybe not the top news, but us joining forces with surely caused a bit of a buzz this past week. In addition to all the social media talk, places like The Next Web, Venture Beat, Arctic Startup and Classes de Periodismo mentioned the deal, which was announced last Wednesday – together with this new redesigned website.

Ours wasn’t, however, the only website bringing you something new these past days. The World Digital Library also got its website completely revamped, and as for new ‘player’s in the investigative/explanatory journalism field, you should welcome the most recent one, The Marshal Project, a nonprofit news organization focused on criminal justice issues founded by Neil Barsky.

Since we didn’t publish this round up last week, we have a huge selection with articles and resources, and as we close yo the end of 2014, we want to inform you that this will also be the last Data Viz News in this format, of the year. We’ll dedicate the remaining editions to the best content of the year, so stay tuned – and enjoy this week’s recommended links:


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

“There’s no template for doing what we’re doing,” said recently Neil Barsky, founder and chairman of The Marshall Project. “There was no template for Vox or FiveThirtyEight or First Look. There are all these new enterprises that I feel, maybe I feel, some kindred spirit with them, but everybody should be given a little time because it’s difficult. It’s not like a newspaper where, for the last hundred years, all newspapers more or less had the same model.” Like the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica, The Marshall Project plans to partner with more established news organizations to maximize the impact of its reporting.

Partial screen capture of The Marshal Projects website
The Marshal Project


Rejoice, data folks: Twitter now indexes every public Tweet since 2006. According to the blog post, this new infrastructure enables many use cases, providing comprehensive results for entire TV and sports seasons, conferences (#TEDGlobal), industry discussions (#MobilePayments), places, businesses and long-lived hashtag conversations across topics, such as #JapanEarthquake, #Election2012, #ScotlandDecides, #HongKong, #Ferguson and many more. This change will be rolling out to users over progressively, and in this post, Yi Zhuang describes how Twitter built a search service that efficiently indexes roughly half a trillion documents and serves queries with an average latency of under 100ms.

In October 2015, Manuel Lima‘s Visual Complexity website will celebrate its 10th Anniversary, a significant feat considering the life-span of many online projects, and in order to commemorate this event, he’s planning on reaching 1,000 projects by that date. If you want to contribute to this ongoing research, please use the “Suggest a Project” form on the homepage, in order to recommend a new network visualization. And don’t miss our interview with Manuel here.

For launch in fall 2015, Parsons The New School for Design announces its new Master of Science in Data Visualization, a multidisciplinary program that enables students to explore and develop skills across the dynamic intersection of visual design, computer science, and statistical analysis.

The story behind the success of Highcharts and Highsoft. Besides consolidating itself as one of the top charting tools, the company is also moving into a new market with their new product; Highcharts Cloud – which basically is Highcharts with a user interface that lets people without programming skills produce and share charts easily from any datasets.

Partial screen capture of Highcharts timeline


Web publishing startup Medium has open sourced a tool, called Charted, that it built to visualize data within the company. There’s a web version that anyone can use — as long as your data is stored in Dropbox or Google Drive (it requires a URL) and has the proper sharing settings — and the code is available on GitHub for anyone that wants to host a version locally.

Data visualization startup qunb has been acquired by VE Interactive for a “a multi-million pound” amount, the later announced on their company website this week. qunb, once a self-described “YouTube of Data” is an alumni of both LeCamping & TechStars Boston, and had, since 2013, pivoted to push their Google Analytics data visualization.

DataKind is a not-for-profit organisation with the lofty mission of using data science for social good – it comprises a community of data scientists who regularly team up with non-profit organisations to help them successfully mine information. As Charlie Taylor reports, Jake Porway’s brainchild has now set up a Dublin chapter.

Social news agency Storyful announced the creation of 30 new jobs at its Dublin headquarters. News Corp acquired Storyful in December 2013 with a commitment to retain and grow Storyful’s Dublin headquarters. The roles, located at Storyful’s Dublin headquarters, will support the company as it deepens the existing Storyful technology platform and brings it to the next level of its development. Recruitment for the technology roles will begin immediately.

Like we mentioned in the introduction, the World Digital Library has a renewed digital space, making it easier to explore the almost 11.000 vintage gems available.

Partial screen capture of World Digital Library
World Digital Library



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

Since 20 October, Hans Rosling has occupied room 319 of Liberia’s Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, aworking alongside the country’s head of Ebola surveillance, Luke Bawo, helping the ministry make sense of the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. Story by Daniel van Moll.

For Mark Rolston, the new design challenge is to use all the data being collected for the same humanistic outcomes that we have in mind when we shape products through the user interface or physical form.

Data is an exceedingly rich instrument that grows ever more crucial as it knits into our lives in ever more complex patterns. Data Designers can use the intent and humanism of their discipline to put this rich medium to its full purpose.

One of the great articles of the week is this one published by The Economist, about the static vs interactive visualizations discussion. Indeed, it seems nowadays “the default is shifting whereby dynamic charts will become the standard format, and data-visualisation editors will have to deliberately choose to depict data in a static format. The stationary chart will be a preference not a limitation.”

November was #TableauDesignMonth and they’ve invited several infographic designers for sharing their experiences with the data visualization community. This guest blog post was written by one of the best in the business, Giorgia Lupi of Accurat.

After posting his daily summaries of some of the individual talks and events at IEEE VIS 2014, Robert Kosara shares a couple of additional overall observations – positive and negative – he thought would be interesting to write down.

In a study recently published in the journal “Public Understanding of Science,” two Cornell researchers, Brian Wansink and Aner Tal, ran a small online survey to assess whether alternative descriptions of the same information were more persuasive. Guess what happens when they used a chart. Report by Justin Wolfers.

Very useful article, showing not only the common ‘mistakes’ with real examples, but also offering a revised approach for each one of the charts, maps and graphics presented. Bookmark it.

Speaking of bad charts, here’s one of Kaiser Fung‘s reviews, showing that, as so usualy happens, the visual elements in this particular chart are mere ornaments. Also, read this one about Disorganization of the elements in another chart, that Fung published a couple of days later.

After her last blog post (a roundup of recent text analytics and vis work), Lynn Cherney decided todo a fast word2vec text experiment for #NaNoGenMo. It turned into a visualization hack, and in this article she shares the process behind the projects, the challenges faced and the solutions she used.

We live our lives through digital services and connected devices and generate data at an unprecedented volume. Whether you’re actively self-tracking or not, we’re all capturing traces of what we do every day. They’re like photographs of every moment of our lives. They form a hologram of ourselves reflecting our experiences – our memories, and reflecting and reminiscing through these memory cues can be powerful. Interesting read by Pascal Raabe, who wrote a follow-up post here.

Published nearly 500 years ago, Andreas Vesalius’s medical text books occupy an important place in scientific history. Intricate art, unlike anything that had been seen before, sits alongside detailed text that sought to change the way bodies were dissected post mortem. Vesalius, born in Flanders in 1514, published two books on the workings of the human body – the Fabrica, and its colorful companion piece, the Epitome. Incredibly innovative for the time, this layered paper manikin – an early form of pop-up book – is in the Epitome.

(image: Andreas Vesalius)



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

Cinematic cartography provides us with a sumptuous feast of data representation. It captures the intricacies and patterns of large datasets and, in particular, those that have some element of flow or movement about them. Here, Kenneth Field talks about NATS, that give us a state-of-the-art 2 minute 30 second video showing the patterns of air traffic in and out of UK airspace over a 24hr period incorporating some 7,000 separate flight movements.

Another visualization critique to open this section dedicated to Cartography, this one by Noah Iliinsky – great to see him blogging again, btw. A friend asked him what he thought about the NYT Mapping Migration visualization, a work Noah feels to be more structure-driven than purpose-driven.

The on-going protests in Hong Kong began in late September. Since then, Google has added imagery for Hong Kong taken on October 12th and October 17th. Although you can’t make out a lot of detail, there are clearly some tents and a lot of activity on what is normally a busy highway. To find the location in Google Earth download this KML file.

Together with seven other students at the University of California, Berkeley, David Lu recently created a new kind of air pollution sensor dubbed Clarity. This keychain-sized gadget lets you constantly track your personal exposure to air pollution via a smartphone app. But it’s also a way of crowdsourcing much broader studies on air quality.

Eric Fischer has been tracking geotagged tweets from Twitter’s public API for the last three and a half years. There are about 10 million public geotagged tweets every day, which is about 120 per second, up from about 3 million a day when I first started watching. The accumulated history adds up to nearly three terabytes of compressed JSON and is growing by four gigabytes a day. And here is what those 6,341,973,478 tweets look like on a map, at any scale you want.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map 6 billion tweets
(image: Eric Fischer)



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

Information designer and journalist Nigel Holmes gave a presentation at the University of Miami on October 9. Holmes’ talk was part of the Places&Spaces lecture series, and also read a review by Karli Evans, a student from the School of Communication.


Matt Mansfield, professor at Northwestern University in the Medill School’s Washington program, shares the results of a survey about the future of news design – the subject of SND’s Annual Workshop and Exhibition, that will take place in Washington, D.C. in April. A total of 140 people took the survey, with digital design and graphics leading the pack as the most-desired topics for SNDDC.

Keynote by Nicolas Belmonte presented at the JSConf Argentina, Nov. 29th .

Numeracy, or numerical literacy, is at the heart of data journalism. In this article, Meredith Broussard shares a couple of tips for those interested to become more numerate in order to do data journalism.

DataN is a project that lowers the barrier for smaller newsrooms to integrate data journalism into their daily operation. This project was jointly conducted by New York University’s Studio 20 graduate program and Foreign Policy.

This article summarizes a research paper presented at the 2014 Computation + Journalism Symposium by our good friend and data journalism expert Eva Constantaras. We talked with Eva a couple of months ago, so if you’re not familiar with her work at Internews, that’s a good place to start.

Every day hundreds of articles are put online via the New York Times’ website. All of these articles are then shared, and commented on, across social media networks. The New York times wanted to know the impact of these social sharing of their articles and therefore they developed a tool called ‘Cascade’. This tool illustrates the connections between readers and publishers and provides multiple insights to the New York Times. Tip by Mark van Rijmenam.



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

Presentation by speaker/performer David Haussler, Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering, UC Santa Cruz.

For years the promise of data” unlocking a treasure trove of insights and advancements has been the subject of countless headlines. And while the hype around the topic hasn’t subsided all that much, the hope around what “big data” can deliver has largely gone unfulfilled. But for Mark Harrington there’s an unlikely exception in this, within the organization – the Marketing department.

Facial expressions can provide a window into a person’s unspoken thoughts. But can these nonverbal tells provide real-time insights for financial traders? Jeff Bertolucci tells us the story of a group of researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, that are analyzing facial expressions of corporate execs, as well as other data streams, to forecast stock market trends.

This talk was first given at the Digital ELT event in Dublin on November 22, 2014. In the talk Gavin looks at the difference between the new EdTech and traditional EdTech. Slides in PDF format are available here.

Dark data refers mostly to unstructured information, which includes text documents, multimedia files, PowerPoint decks, spreadsheets, and more, and makes up about 80 percent of the data most companies create. When data is “dark,” it’s often because the organizations that own it lack the tools, infrastructure, or skills to effectively leverage it. Article by John Joseph.

While many commentators have focused on data-driven innovation in the United States and Western Europe, developing regions, such as Africa, also offer important opportunities to use data to improve economic conditions and quality of life. Travis Korte talks about three major areas where data can help in African nations: improving health care, protecting the environment, and reducing crime and corruption.

This is generally the time when we take stock of the past 12 months and look ahead to the year in front of us. So, looking back at the run that Big Data has experienced over the course of the past four plus years, here is a reflection and a forecast, by Randy Bean.

As Eran Levy points out in this post, the term Business Intelligence solution can be a deceiving one, simply because many software solutions that call themselves BI can actually only offer you half of what you need.



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

For the 4th episode of the Rad Presenters podcast, Jon Schwabish and Stephanie Evergreen welcome Dave Paradi to talk about about presenting large numbers, automating the data process, and teaching presentation design. The previous episode was with Sheila Robinson, about strategies for engaging audiences.

In the first ever sponsored episode of Data Stories – congratulations, guys – Moritz Stefaner and Enrico Bertini talk once again with Santiago Ortiz, this time about visualization and data science, how he strives to create value our of his data visualization projects and how he is *not* interested data visualization!

In an interview at The Marshall Project’s midtown New York office, Michael Calderone spoke with Neil Barsky about his latest role as the founder of the recently-launched nonprofit news organization covering criminal justice that we referenced in the News section of this post.



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

An introduction to D3, the JavaScript library created by Mike Bostock for data visualization on the web, by Gabriel Bentley, a graduate of the Design and Industry Department at San Francisco State University.

At the end of each month, Andy Kirk gathers some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content he came across during the previous month. Here’s the latest collection from October 2014.

The final post of Andy Cotgreave‘s series, in which he deconstructed a dashboard he made for Tableau’s internal VizWhiz competition. He wanted to really think about the design choices and share the process of taking a perfectly functional dashboard and trying to make it into a thing of beauty.

As part of #TableauDesignMonth – Part 2, the folks at Tableau ran a #VizMakeover competition: redesign the What is the World’s Biggest Cash Crop viz by Information is Beautiful. Meet the winner and check out all the entries.

Andy Kirk shares the slides of his talk at the conference event in London. The title of his talk was ‘The Design of Time’.

Round up pulled together by Dylan Matthews, showing maps and charts that illustrate how our world has improved over the last decades – and therefore, despite all the current tragedies and conflicts, there’s really a lot to be thankful for.

How do we democratize data by igniting a crowd powered global movement with the aim of building a collaborative social fabric-enabling layer across diverse cultures and markets? Presentation by Steve Jennings, founding Partner at NordicDEi.

Twitter created the BreakoutDetection package for R, which decomposes a time series into a series of segments.Twitter uses this R package to monitor the user experience on the Twitter network and detect when things are “Breaking Bad”. You can download the BreakoutDetection R package itself from GitHub.

Six guidelines for scientific data visualization was written and designed by Charles Tran, a PhD student in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto.

(image: Charles Tran)

Still in its early stages, Landline, an open source JavaScript library from ProPublica, aims to make easier to produce choropleth maps online. Currently, the library lets you make state and county maps, as well as customize to your own needs. Tip by Nathan Yau.

An object-oriented API for business analytics powered by d3, the aim of dimple is to open up the power and flexibility of d3 to analysts. It aims to give a gentle learning curve and minimal code to achieve something productive. It also exposes the d3 objects so you can pick them up and run to create some really cool stuff.

Stephanie Evergreen suggests the use of aggregated stacked bar chart to visualize “Likert-type data” – the kind of survey response options that range from ‘Strongly Agree’ to ‘Strongly Disagree’.

After reading Stephanie Evergreen‘s post about labeling charts in Excel. In it, Stephanie’s showed two ways to directly label a line chart in Excel, and now Jon Schwabish adds two other alternatives top get a similar result.

Two videos with 16 principles for better Data Visualizations, by Pino Trogu, San Francisco State University, College of Liberal and Creative Arts, Department of Design and Industry.


That’s it for another Data Viz News. 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.