• Network visualization game to understand how a disease spreads

    July 31, 2014  |  Network Visualization

    Vax game

    Vax, a game by Ellsworth Campbell and Isaac Bromley, explores how a disease spreads through a network, starting with just one infected person. It's a simple concept that works well.

    When you start the game, you have a network of uninfected people. The more connected a person is, the more chances that person can infect others upon his or her own infection. Your goal is to strategically administer a limited supply of vaccinations and to quarantine people to prevent as many infections as you can.

    Fun and educational. Woo.

  • Running

    Explorations of People Movements

    A new data source gave rise to a different set of visualization projects. We see people.
  • Civilian casualties in Gaza

    July 29, 2014  |  Infographics

    Deaths in Gaza

    Lazaro Gamio and Richard Johnson for the Washington Post cover civilian deaths in the recent Gaza conflict, namely child civilians. Red icons represent children.

    Similar to a previous piece on the death penalty in the United States, the icons provide more focus on individuals while maintaining a zoomed out view of the situation. However, this piece brings an interactive component that shows deaths over time and more information in tooltips on the mouseover.

  • How well we don’t understand probability

    July 29, 2014  |  Statistics

    All Things Considered on NPR ran a fine series on how we interpret probability and uncertainty. It came in five bits (plus one follow-up), each five to ten minutes long. They explore explanations of risk in different areas such as national security, health, and the daily weather and how people interpret the numbers and words.

    A recurring theme was experts who use alternative descriptions for the seemingly concrete numbers.

    Doctors, including Leigh Simmons, typically prefer words. Simmons is an internist and part of a group practice that provides primary care at Mass General. "As doctors we tend to often use words like, 'very small risk,' 'very unlikely,' 'very rare,' 'very likely,' 'high risk,' " she says.

    Not that words always makes understanding numeric probability easier. From the social scientist for the National Weather Service:

    And it's not just a numbers game — words used to describe weather can be just as confusing. Take "watch" and "warning," for example.

    "'Watch' means that conditions are ripe for something to happen. 'Warning' means that it is happening — it is imminent," Brown says. "It's easy to get them confused."

    Both the doctor and the social scientist agree that a combination of numbers, words, and a visual explanation could be the best route.

    Some people think we should forgo trying to explain uncertainty to a general public that doesn't understand, but the rejectors themselves don't recognize the importance. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean you should ignore it.

    Listen to the full series. [via Dart-Throwing Chimp]

  • Too many numbers

    July 28, 2014  |  Miscellaneous

    Numbers is a short film by Robert Hloz where some people see numbers appear above others' heads. What the numbers are varies by the person with the ability, and it turns out knowing can be a blessing and a curse. Worth your nine and a half minutes of undivided attention:

  • A decade of Yelp review trends

    July 25, 2014  |  Statistical Visualization

    Yelp trends

    Yelp released an amusing tool that lets you see how the use of word in reviews has changed over the site's decade of existence.

    From food trends to popular slang to short-lived beauty fads (Brazilian blowout anyone?), Yelp Trends searches through words used in Yelp reviews to show you what's hot and reveals the trend-setting cities that kicked it all off. Our massive wealth of data and the high quality reviews contributed by the Yelp community are what allow us to surface consumer trends and behavior based on ten years of experiences shared by locals around the world.

    Just type in keywords, select your city, business category, and click the search button to see the changes. For the less used words, the data looks mostly like noise, but there are also some clear trends like in craft beer and chicken and waffles.

  • Senator John Walsh plagiarism, color-coded

    July 25, 2014  |  Infographics

    John Walsh plagiarism

    John Walsh, the U.S. Senator from Montana, is in the news lately for plagiarizing a large portion of his final paper towards his master's degree. The New York Times highlighted the portions that Walsh copied without attribution (red) and the portions he copied with improper attribution (yellow). About a third of the paper was just straight up lifted from others' works, including the final recommendations and conclusion, which is basically the grand finale.

    See also: Visualizing Plagiarism by Gregor Aisch, which shows the plagiarized PhD thesis of Germany's former Minister of Defense.

  • A more visual world data portal

    July 24, 2014  |  Data Sources

    OECD data portal

    One of the most annoying parts of downloading data from large portals is that you never quite know what you're gonna get. It's a box of chocolates. It's government data sites. It's lists of datasets with vague or unhelpful titles with links to download. Of course, I'd rather have a hodgepodge than nothing at all, but as with most things, there's room for improvement.

    The OECD, which maintains and provides data on the country level, takes steps towards a more helpful portal that makes data grabs less of a headache. With the help of Raureif, 9elements, and Moritz Stefaner, the new portal is still in beta, but there's plenty to like.
    Continue Reading

  • Interactive treemap

    How to Make an Interactive Treemap

    Treemaps are useful to view and explore hierarchical data. Interaction can help you look at the data in greater detail.
  • Large-ish data packages in R

    July 24, 2014  |  Data Sources

    If you've played around with R enough, there comes a time when you just need some data to mess around with. Maybe it's to learn a new method or to make one of your own. R offers some small-ish, clean datasets to poke at, but sometimes you need bigger, messier data. Hadley Wickham from RStudio released four popular large-ish datasets in package form to help you with that.

    I've released four new data packages to CRAN: babynames, fueleconomy, nasaweather and nycflights13. The goal of these packages is to provide some interesting, and relatively large, datasets to demonstrate various data analysis challenges in R. The package source code (on github, linked above) is fully reproducible so that you can see some data tidying in action, or make your own modifications to the data.

    Good.

  • Editing photos as if they were audio files

    July 23, 2014  |  Data Art

    paris-echo

    Masuma Ahuja and Denise Lu for the Washington Post applied a technique called databending to a bunch of photos. The idea is that computer files — even though they represent different things like documents, images, and audio — encode data in one form or another. It's just that sound files encode beats, notes, and rhythms, whereas image files encode hue, saturation, and brightness. So when you treat image files as if they were audio, you get some interesting results.

    See Jamie Boulton's post from a couple of years ago for a detailed description on how to do this yourself with Audacity Effects.

  • Voter approval rates as butt plugs

    July 23, 2014  |  Data Art

    From a couple of years ago, but still relevant, I think. Matthew Epler took candidate approval ratings (again, this is from a little while ago), tossed them in a 3-D program, made the molds to match, and poured in some silicon. Boom. Butt plugs that represent data. It's called Grand Old Party.

    Epler describes his project best:

    Grand Old Party demonstrates that as a people united, our opinion has real volume. When we approve of a candidate, they swell with power. When we deem them unworthy, they are diminished and left hanging in the wind. We guard the gate! It opens and closes at our will. How wide is up to us.

    So true.

  • Misery index based on perceived temperature

    July 22, 2014  |  Mapping

    Misery index

    Late last year, Cameron Beccario made a wind map for earth, inspired by an earlier work by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg. Beccario has been slowly adding overlays to the piece to show more dimensions of weather data around the world. The most recent overlay is what he calls a Misery Index, which is based on perceived air temperature.

    If you've seen the interactive globe already, it's worth revisiting. Click on the earth label on the bottom left to see the new stuff.

  • You get a personal data site, and you get one, and you too

    July 21, 2014  |  Self-surveillance

    Aprilzero data collection

    Personal data collection keeps getting easier and more efficient. Much of what was manual or clunky a few years ago is now automatic, done via the phone we carry every day anyway. More recently, personal data is finding a way out of the closed networks and applications and on to our own computers and servers.

    Anand Sharma's personal site is the newest example of what an individual can do with his or her own data. On a whim a few months ago, Sharma downloaded the Moves app, which tracks your location, and was hooked. Then with some design inspiration from Tony Stark, Sharma put a site together to show a feed a several aspects of his life, mostly tracked with his phone.
    Continue Reading

  • Flights around Ukraine

    July 18, 2014  |  Mapping

    Avoiding Ukraine

    The New York Times is covering Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a series of maps. The ones above show a sample of recent flights in the area. Some airlines, such as British Airways and Air France show a clear path around Ukraine, whereas others take a more direct route.

  • Geologic map of Mars

    July 18, 2014  |  Mapping

    The USGS released a more detailed geologic map of Mars, not just renderings based on rough models.

    The USGS-led mapping effort reveals that the Martian surface is generally older than previously thought. Three times as much surface area dates to the first major geologic time period - the Early Noachian Epoch - than was previously mapped. This timeframe is the earliest part of the Noachian Period, which ranges from about 4.1 to about 3.7 billion years ago, and was characterized by high rates of meteorite impacts, widespread erosion of the Martian surface and the likely presence of abundant surface water.

    Nice.

  • Spiky betting odds during LeBron James decision

    July 17, 2014  |  Statistical Visualization

    Cleveland betting odds

    LeBron James decided to head back to Cleveland, so naturally the odds that they win the championship went up. Todd Schneider charted the betting odds as the announcement happened to see how much they went up.

    Of course that 10% already had built in some likelihood that James would choose to play for the Cavaliers next season. Before Cleveland was considered a threat to land LeBron, their championship odds were around 2%, so the 10% Cleveland odds immediately before LeBron’s decision perhaps reflected market expectations that LeBron had a 50% chance of choosing Cleveland: 0.5 * 0.18 + 0.5 * 0.02 = 0.1

    Houston, who was expected to pick up Chris Bosh if James went to Cleveland, also saw a spike during the announcement, but the odds quickly came back down once Bosh decided to re-sign with Miami.

  • How much underwear to bring on a trip

    July 16, 2014  |  Statistical Visualization

    Underwear to bring on a trip

    Packing underwear for a short trip is easy. You just pack a pair for each day you're away. However, longer trips require extra planning. Pack a pair for every day, and you get a bag that's too heavy. Pack too few and you have to launder your dirties more often.

    Reed Kennedy and Carrie Smith gave this problem some extra thought, in search for the ideal underwear count, given the number of days you leave. The result is the chart above.

    Simply select your trip length on the top, and then move down to find your ideal underwear count. The numbers inside the grid cells indicate how many times you have to launder. Gold numbers indicate a perfect remainder of zero pairs of clean underwear by the time you get home.

    Note: This chart assumes you do not turn your underwear inside out for another wearing. Not that'd I've ever done that.

    See the full post for further dirty underwear details.

  • Visualization Education Mailbag

    July 15, 2014  |  Ask FlowingData

    It's around that time of year when more people than usual ask for advice about degrees in statistics, career paths in visualization, and how to get started with something that looks awesome.

    The high of graduation from high school, undergrad, and grad school has settled, and it's time to think about the future. Maybe summer brought more idle time at work to imagine what else you could do every day. I know the feeling.

    I'll try to answer the more common questions. However, keep in mind that I'm nowhere near the best person to ask about these things. I didn't grow interested in statistics until late in college, I studied remotely for most of my graduate student life, and although I consult occasionally, I run FlowingData for a living.

    So there's your salt. Now some Q & A.

    Continue Reading

  • Changing World Cup fans

    July 13, 2014  |  Infographics

    World Cup fans

    Shan Carter and Kevin Quealy for the Upshot have a look at sports fandom once again using Facebook usage as a proxy. This time they examined shifting fan support during the World Cup.

    A new analysis by Facebook's data science team analyzed migrations of fan support from one country to another throughout the tournament, stage by stage. It's based partly on the contents of people's posts, which means it is largely a reflection of the views of people who follow the World Cup at least to some degree. In the chart above showing global opinion, Brazil, the U.S. and Mexico have a strong influence on the results, because of their size, Facebook population and high interest in the World Cup.

    Keep in mind World Cup posts for a specific country aren't counted once that team dropped from the tournament. So it's not so much shifting fandom as it is who people rooted for during each round.

    Be sure to check out the whole article to see how fandom shifted by country. (Congrats, Germany.)

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