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Data Viz News [79]

Catching up with the latest news, articles, interviews and resources about infographics and visualization

March 3, 2015

Yesterday, we returned to our (huge) round ups of interesting links, and since we have a two-month catching up journey to do, we decided to start not with a weekly round up, but instead, with a daily-week-long overdose of data visualization, cartography, data science, business analytics, infographic design and data journalism. Hope you don’t get fed up, but let us know if you do, because we are very much interested in knowing how would you like to receive these special Data Viz News posts. Let us know on Twitter, or, if 140 characters won’t suffice, sent us an email.

Looking back at these first two months of 2015, we’ve sure had a lot of good things happening, as you’ll see n this and the other posts of this series. But we also had some gruesome moments. For instances, 2015 will be forever remembered as the year when terrorists tried to silence a magazine just because it didn’t like their cartoons. Tried, caused a lot of pain and loss in the process, but were far from succeed.

This (young) year has already withness the passing of outstanding figures of journalism such as David Carr; global artists such as Leonard Nimoy; and important personalities of fields such as geography, names like professor William Louis Garrison who, while at the University of Washington in the 1950s, led the “quantitative revolution” in geography, which applied computers and statistics to the study of spatial problems. You can see a full list of notorious deaths in 2015 over at Wikipedia.

This special issue of Data Viz News includes several noteworthy links about these personalities, in addition to all the articles, interviews, tutorials and resources that came to our attention:


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

Already one of the top news of 2015 in the Data Science field: the White House officially appointed DJ Patil as the federal government’s first ever Chief Data Scientist. Nathan Yau shared the news, together with the video below by Patil, with an introduction by President Barack Obama, on what’s in store and a recruitment note for the US Digital Services.

We’ve actually mentioned this list in the latest edition of This is Visual Journalism, dedicated to the awarded works of SND36. Journalists from around the world have traveled to Syracuse, New York, to participate in the Society for News Design’s annual Best of News Design competition. The 2014 contest year brought in over 9,500 entries, and 27 judges had the difficult task of evaluating each one. Winners of those top honors will be announced on April 11 at SND’s annual workshop.

The Wellcome Library has donated over 100,000 images on medical history, which have now been uploaded on Wikimedia Commons. The high resolution photographs and scans are used to illustrate a wide range of Wikipedia articles such as disease, art history, cartoons, sexuality and biographies.

Leonard Nimoy was an actor, director, artist and poet but was best known for his portrayal of the beloved “Star Trek” character Mr. Spock. The half-human, half-Vulcan character with the signature bowl cut and pointed ears appeared more than 100 times in TV and film. Here is the Los Angeles Times’ tribute to his depiction of a voice of reason during an era of social turmoil.

Partial screen capture of interactive infographic Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock  An illustrated guide
(image: The Los Angeles Times

In a move to beef up its portfolio of analysis software and services, Microsoft announced that it is acquiring Revolution Analytics, a major commercial distributor of the R statistical programming language. R is one of the most widely used programming languages specifically designed for statistical computing and predictive analytics, alongside SAS, MatLab, Mathematica and a number of Python libraries.

A new book by associate Professor David Herzog – “Data Literacy: A User’s Guide” – has been published by SAGE Publications. Herzog, who serves as the academic adviser to the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), said the book takes the Missouri Method approach to learning, using hands-on lessons and real-world data sets. This is Herzog’s second book. His first, “Mapping the News: Case Studies in GIS and Journalism,” was published in 2003 by ESRI Press.

And another new book to recommend in this post, this one by Simon Rogers (Author) and Jennifer Daniel (Illustrator). “The third in a visually stunning series of information graphics book that shows just how interesting and humorous scientific information can be. Complex facts about space are reinterpreted as stylish infographics that astonish, amuse, and inform.”

Our friend Randy Krum will be teaching a new course at the SMU Dallas Campus this spring as part of the CAPE program (Continuing and Professional Education). In this course, working professionals will become familiar with the exciting and expanding field of data visualization and infographics. The course will run from April 7 to May 19, 2015, and you can get all the info here.

Although many of our readers have probably heard about this, we just had to mention this great opportunity to learn more about d3.js. Alberto Cairo and Scott Murray will be co-teach a 6-week online course titled Data Visualization and Infographics with D3.js., set to begin on March 16th. The Knight Center has also published an in-depth description of the course, and here’s the promo video:



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

These past couple of months, Andy Kirk has been publishing several tips and discussions around more specific issues related to visualization. Besides this post about color and gender, learn also why you should make grey your best friend and why you should “Turn off” the sea if you’re not using it.

Recently, /r/DataIsBeautiful began hosting weekly visualization redesign competitions challenging everyone to come up with better and less misleading designs of existing graphics. This is the first of many redesigns and detailed critiques that Randal S. Olson will be working on.

Primary schools have been using Lego informally for decades. But what is happening at Birchfield, an independent preparatory school in rural Shropshire, is different; its pupils are using a product of Lego Education – an arm of the Danish toymaker – called MoreToMaths, which officially launches worldwide in January. Story by Richard Adams.

A set of basic, yet important, guidelines for creating non-journalistic pieces of information design, usually to be used in corporate communication and presentations. Article written by Asha Saxena, President and CEO of Future Technologies.

Charlie Kufs currently works as a statistician for the Federal Government and her keeps the Stats with Cats Blog to help out in questions related to the field. In this post, an in-depth analysis of the discussion around correlation and causation in statistics.

The latest visual awesomeness signed by Eleanor Lutz is actually a tribute to NASA: “I wanted to show what Earth’s control panel might look like if it was a spaceship piloted by humans”, said Lutz in the article. Mission accomplished, wouldn’t you say?

Planet Earth Control Deck



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

The maps presented in this post by Christopher Jobson were created digitally and printed on large slabs of acrylic glass for display as part of Contemporary Venice through January 2015. The author of these beautiful images is the digital artist and illustrator Istvan, and you can see much more over on Behance.

(image: Istvan)

The International Map Year (IMY) 2015–2016 is a celebration to illustrate to the general public as well as decision makers the importance of making and using maps in a global context. Read about this initiative in this article by Georg Gartner, president of the International Cartographic Association.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine different nations and there are a lot of environmental institutions and governments that need better geospatial data to do their work in that region. Mapazonia is a new project by the Latin America OpenStreetMap community that aims to solve that lack of information.

As Kenneth Field states in this long, thought-provoking post, “Cartography is a word that many new to map-making seem reluctant to use”. Lots of great pointers in this one, and also worth reading are Field’s new posts on heat maps (here and here)

One of many round ups published recently at Keir Clarke‘s prolific Maps Mania, shows a couple of the most interesting digital maps about this year’s edition of the Oscars – a topic we’ve also covered mentioned here on Visualoop.

The 3D urban visualization platform ViziCities started nearly 2 years to the day. In this post the founder Robin Hawkes takes us on a brief journey from the very beginning all the way up to the present day.

Partial screen capture of the website ViziCities
(image: ViziCities)



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

Opening this section, Jaime Fuller shows how far back “data journalism” goes and how this “technique” was being used to tell the most…eh…engaging stories.

The series of journalism FAQs by Paul Bradshaw is a gold mine of insights, use cases and practical tips for students, practitioners and those curious about all things related to the fields of investigative and digital journalism. This one about Twitter came from a journalism student who is writing her dissertation on the relevance of Twitter as a news source.

The first national study of data journalism in Germany reveals that the sector is still small, but has potential. The qualitative study found that data journalists typically consider themselves to be society’s watchdogs. Conducted at the Macromedia University, Cologne and the Westphalian University, Gelsenkirchen, this research also found that data journalists are numerate and understand social science methods and statistics. All the study’s main findings are summarized in this article by Ralf Spiller and Stefan Weinacht.

A quick post by Andy Dickinson, reflecting on the definition of data journalism. It starts by analyzing three distinct Wikipedia articles: data journalism, data driven journalism and database journalism.

Our friend Juan Velasco writes about 5W’s latest collaboration with ProPublica. They did several maps for the story Firestone and the Warlord, an investigation report “on the unexamined role of an iconic American company in the rise to power of Charles Taylor, a murderous politician in Liberia, one of Africa’s most volatile and vulnerable countries.”

It’s always great to get an inside look at the making of a good infographic. In this article, the art director of information graphics at Scientific American, Jen Christiansen, talks about the “Pain That Won’t Quit” graphic, featured in the magazine’s December 2014 issue.

(image: Scientific American)



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

Using ideas drawn from psychology, sociology, politics and economics, Professor Swati Bhatt of Princeton University argues that connectivity and big data stimulate cooperation rather than competition in the network economy.

After writing about big data projects going wrong, Howard Baldwin decided to bring up examples of successful big data projects. As he says, “Reading about adversity may be fun, but when it’s your own big data project, figuring out how to make it go right is even more important.”

One of the leading big data algorithms for finding related topics within unstructured text (an area called topic modeling) is latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA). But when Northwestern University professor Luis Amaral set out to test LDA, he found that it was neither as accurate nor reproducible as a leading topic modeling algorithm should be

Michael Jordan talking big data? Yeap, that’s what you’ll find in this article by Martyn Jones sharing a huge list of quotes about Business Intelligence, Data Transformation, Data Sources, and others.

This was a talk given at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand on January 16, 2015 as a part of CodeMania X2 “Data Science 101.



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

Yesterday we mentioned a bunch of Data Stories episodes, and Moritz and Enrico just released a new episode. The guest is Scott Klein from ProPublica.

Last week, The New York Times published an in-depth multimedia feature, How Ebola Roared Back. It details the origins of this most recent Ebola outbreak and how top international health officials and experts missed the signs of the coming catastrophe. Several weeks ahead of publication, The New York Times graphics department was handed a detailed outline of story. Storybench spoke about this process with Sergio Peçanha, one of the graphics editors involved in conceiving and designing graphics for the piece.

Gretchen Peterson is a cartography explorer who is constantly on the lookout for new techniques, tricks, and solutions that collectively elevate the status of maps. She was interviewed for Geo Hipster by Jonah Adkins.

At a time when health journalism is clogged up with self-serving peddlers of bogus diets and magic miracle cures, Dr. Ben Goldacre, a physician and former Guardian columnist, has made it his mission to “skewer the enemies of reason” and bring research and evidence to bear on the big — and small — health questions of our time. A must-read interview by Julia Belluz.

Late Thursday night on Feb. 12, New York Times media columnist David Carr was pronounced dead at the age of 58, having collapsed earlier that evening in the paper’s newsroom. That same night, Carr conducted his final interview with Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald and director Laura Poitras on the subject of “Citizen Four,” a documentary charting Snowden’s decision to leak classified documents on the NSA’s spying program to the media. The panel discussion was part of the newspaper’s popular “TimesTalk” series and lasted roughly an hour.



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

This talk by Erik Hazzard explores techniques for designing visualizations- for telling stories – from the most important perspective.

This post by Gregor Aisch explains how you can create your own multihue color scheme, using two new features of chroma.js: Bezier interpolation and automatic lightness correction.

A new Tumblr blog by Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, Designer, Researcher, Umich Associate Professor, with several health design visualizations worth exploring.

(image: healthdesignviz | Joyce Lee)
(image: healthdesignviz | Joyce Lee)

Well, they won’t “blow your mind”, and we do try to avoid such titles in these round ups. But you’ll find some pretty good examples in this compilation by Allison Stadd.

Written by Patrick Tehubijuluw, this tutorial shows how you can setup a tool to visualize your own musical preferences, using Qlik Sense.

Slides from Selwyn Kancharla‘s talk at the World Information Architecture day (2015) at Ann Arbor.


That’s it for this secondData Viz News of 2015. 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 , 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.