• Comparing current data boom to past waves

    June 8, 2011  |  News

    Pete Warden, for O'Reilly Radar, compares current data responsibilities with those of harbor masters from the Victorian era. Warden warns:

    Specialists like us who can understand and interpret data are in a privileged position. Most people have an exaggerated respect for arguments expressed as numbers or visualizations, because they don't understand how many assumptions and simplifications go into these creations. It's our job to remember that and balance our enthusiasm about the power of our techniques with some humility about their limits.

    In other words: You should learn statistics. You don't have to go out and get a PhD, but it's helpful to be able to think like a statistician, so that you know the right way to think about data.

  • Data tales, revolution, and journalism

    May 20, 2011  |  News

    On the Media's episode last week was on data, namely personal data collection, journalism, and two cautionary tales. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have a feeling it's going to be a good listen. Part one on personal data embedded below to kick things off. [via]

  • Growing need for data heads

    May 20, 2011  |  News

    The New York Times, citing a number of bits from a recent McKinsey report on big data, reports:

    One hurdle is a talent and skills gap. The United States alone, McKinsey projects, will need 140,000 to 190,000 more people with “deep analytical” skills, typically experts in statistical methods and data-analysis technologies.


    McKinsey says the nation will also need 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired. The report points to the need for a sweeping change in business to adapt a new way of managing and making decisions that relies more on data analysis. Managers, according to the McKinsey researchers, must grasp the principles of data analytics and be able to ask the right questions.

    I've said it before, but if digging into data is your idea of fun, there's a whole mess of excitement and adventure headed your way. There are lots of opportunities already out there in marketing, journalism, tech, the Web, government, and pretty much everywhere you look. And more importantly, there are lots of opportunities that you can make for yourself. This is a great time for data heads.

    [The New York Times]

  • Ben Fry on visualization future and data literacy

    May 13, 2011  |  News

    Ben Fry, co-creator of Processing and head of Fathom Design, talks data visualization with O'Reilly Radar editor Mac Slocum. When asked about the concern over visualization and analysis getting into amateur hands:

    I think it’s kind of funny… The same argument has been made with any technological leap since the beginning of time. Books printed in mass had a similar reaction. The internet came along and everybody could post things on the internet and wouldn’t that be the end of the world… The important thing is to focus on the literacy aspect of it. The more that people are doing the work — it all kind of goes to improve the conversation of what’s good, bad useful and what’s not.

    When asked how he sees visualization developing over the next couple of years:

    I think the real thing that's going to change is that we're going to start understanding that visualization isn't this sort of monolithic thing... I like to look at it a lot like writing. You have novels and poetry and haikus. You know there's lots of different types of writing and styles of writing — and I think the same thing happens in visualization... some things are tools for analysis and some things are purely for entertainment, and there's not so much a spectrum that there is different ways of addressing it.

    Watch the short eight-minute interview below. There are some other interesting soundbites in there. I especially like the tidbit at the end about snippy discussions within the visualization sphere. Similar sentiments in a recent Q&A with Moritz Stefaner.
    Continue Reading

  • Ben Cerveny talks Planetary and where they go next

    May 11, 2011  |  News


    Planetary, the iPad app for music exploration by Bloom, has hit the ground running. Out only a few days now, Planetary is already number four on the list of top free apps. Ben Cerveny, the president of Bloom, chats on Press:Here about the app, visualization as UI, and where they go next in the video below.
    Continue Reading

  • Science as metaphor

    May 4, 2011  |  News

    In this article from Science from July 1998, award-winning journalist John Banville on the similarities and differences between art and science:

    Of course, art and science are fundamentally different in their methods, and in their ends. The doing of science involves a level of rigor unattainable to art. A scientific hypothesis can be proven—or, perhaps more importantly, disproven—but a poem, a picture, or a piece of music, cannot. Yet in their origins art and science are remarkably similar. It was a scientist, Niels Bohr, who declared that a great truth is a statement whose opposite is also a great truth. Oscar Wilde would have agreed.

    It often seems like there's a chasm between the two, but there is also plenty of common ground.

  • Coming soon: Bloom visualizes your music collection as planets

    April 29, 2011  |  News

    Bloom planets

    I almost never post about projects that aren't released yet, but the previews of Planetary from Bloom have got me excited. If you recall, we saw a taste of what Tom Carden and Ben Cerveny were up to last month in an interactive that displays your Twitter feed and one that maps Instagram photos.
    Continue Reading

  • Statistics is the sexiest subject around. And information design.

    April 7, 2011  |  News

    Natasha Singer for The New York Times starts the article on visualization and design with: "In an uncharted world of boundless data, information designers are our new navigators." Uh oh, I thought, another aesthetic-heavy piece on hot numbers. But then Singer continues:

    They are computer scientists, statisticians, graphic designers, producers and cartographers who map entire oceans of data and turn them into innovative visual displays, like rich graphs and charts, that help both companies and consumers cut through the clutter. These gurus of visual analytics are making interactive data synonymous with attractive data.

    I can get on board with that. Includes soundbites from Rosling, Shneiderman, and Rodenbeck.

    [The New York Times]

  • The end of the Statistical Abstract of the United States?

    March 24, 2011  |  News

    There are rumblings, mostly among librarians, over the end of the Statistical Compendia branch of the Census Bureau, in 2012. The branch has produced the Statistical Abstract of the United States every year since 1878.
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  • Best of digital news design winners announced

    March 15, 2011  |  News

    The Society for News Design announced the winners of their annual digital competition. The New York Times, an obvious frontrunner, took home the Gold Award and Best in Show for their coverage of the Haiti Earthquake, as well as a bunch of other awards. USA Today and The Washington Post also earned some nods, but big congrats to the NYT graphics and multimedia desks.

  • Freakonomics is available on Netflix to watch instantly

    February 23, 2011  |  News

    FYI: Freakonomics, the Movie is available to watch instantly on Netflix right now. It is of course based on the highly recommended first book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I just watched it last night, and it's not as good as the book, but still an interesting watch. If anything, it's worth watching just to see Levitt talk about data. The exchange between Levitt and Dubner is also pretty entertaining.

    I haven't read the second book, SuperFreakonomics, yet. Thoughts?

  • Data talks and keynotes from O’Reilly Strata conference

    February 9, 2011  |  News

    The sold out O'Reilly Strata conference was a success down in Santa Clara, California, with the next one already scheduled for 2011 in New York. There were lots of interesting talks and lots of interesting people to talk to. I was only there for one day and didn't nearly get to meet everyone I wanted to, but it was great seeing so many people who are excited about data packed into one place.
    Continue Reading

  • Data conference: only a few days left for early registration + reader discount

    January 6, 2011  |  News

    In case you haven't heard, O'Reilly's new Strata Conference on "making data work" is coming soon February 1-3 in Santa Clara, California. It's three days chock-full of data talks, tutorials, and events. And January 9 is the last day to get the early registration price.

    So if you're thinking about going, I'd register soon. You might as well save a couple hundred bucks. Plus if you register via FlowingData, you get 25% off (and support your favorite data site in the process), which is applied at checkout.

    There are a ton of speakers, including DJ Patil from LinkedIn, Philip Kromer from Infochimps, Hilary Mason from bit.ly, and Kim Rees from Periscopic (and technical editor for the upcoming FlowingData book). No doubt you will learn a lot and meet plenty of interesting people who are also into data.

  • Jon Stewart explains Wikileaks’ Cablegate

    December 2, 2010  |  Data Sources, News

    You've probably already heard and read about Wikileaks' Cablegate. If not, Andy Baio has a fine roundup with significant coverage and events to get you caught up quick. Alternatively, you can watch Jon Stewart and The Daily Show explain in the clip below (slightly NSFW, because it mentions a body part).
    Continue Reading

  • How do people use Firefox?

    November 30, 2010  |  Data Sources, News

    Mozilla Labs just released a bunch of anonymized browsing data for their open data visualization competition:

    This competition is based on Mozilla's own open data program, Test Pilot. Test Pilot is a user research platform that collects structured user data through Firefox. All data is gathered through pre-defined Test Pilot studies, which aim to explore how people use their web browser and the Internet.

    There are two datasets in various formats. The first is browsing behavior from 27,000 users, including on/off private browsing that we saw a few months ago. The second dataset is from 160,000 users and is on how they actually use the Firefox interface.

    Additionally, both sets have survey answers to questions like "How long have you used Firefox?" which could make for some fun and interesting breakdowns.

    The deadline is December 17.

    [Mozilla Labs]

  • Telling Stories with Data, A VisWeek 2010 Workshop

    November 11, 2010  |  News

    This is a guest post by Joan DiMicco, who heads the IBM Visual Communication Lab. Matt McKeon, Karrie Karahalios, and Joan hosted a workshop on Telling Stories with Data. These are the highlights.

    What is a story? In a classic sense, a story has characters, events, and a progression. In our postmodern, meta-obsessed culture, we also tend to think about story in terms of the identities of the author and audience.

    Now what if the story involves data? How does visualization support telling a story with data? How do journalists think about data visualization as part of their stories? How can visualization tools help data storytellers construct narratives?
    Continue Reading

  • Why Swivel shut down

    October 19, 2010  |  News

    Robert Kosara asked former Swivel co-founders Brian Mulloy and Dmitry Dimov about their thoughts on why Swivel shut down recently. Only the blog remains. In case you're unfamiliar, Swivel was a service that let people upload data and share basic charts and graphs.

    Mulloy and Dimov left Swivel a while back and are currently working on different startups, so it was actually news to them too. But in the end it seems it came down to context for the data.
    Continue Reading

  • Tune in live to Data Visualization and Infographics meetup

    September 21, 2010  |  News, Visualization

    The NY Data Visualization and Infographics meetup is about to start, and you can tune in to the livecast below. It's 4:20pm PST right now, so they'll probably be starting soon. They've got a good speaking lineup, so it should be interesting.
    Continue Reading

  • Federal CTO on government and data

    July 14, 2010  |  News

    Tim O'Reilly and Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer sit down for a chat on the US government's goals on open data and information accessibility. Disregard the infomercial feel to it. There's some interesting tidbits in there, albeit pretty broad.

    Uses for data

    Chopra brings up two examples on how the government is getting involved, and what's interesting about them is that it's not what most have in mind. It's not about money matters or policy-making.
    Continue Reading

  • Graph site Verifiable closes shop

    June 24, 2010  |  News

    After a few years of fighting the good fight, charting and data site Verifiable closes shop in August. The idea spawned during an Edward Tufte workshop and developed into an effort to provide a tool that people could come to for facts by the numbers. Continue Reading

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