• Dabble DB acquired by Twitter

    June 18, 2010  |  News

    Smallthought Systems, the group behind Dabble DB, the easy-to-use online database system and Trendly, the exploration tool built on top of Google Analytics data, was acquired by Twitter last week:

    Avi, Ben, Luke and I will be moving down to San Francisco this fall to work in Twitter's great downtown offices. We'll certainly miss everyone we're leaving behind, but at the same time we're excited about a new adventure. One great consequence of this is that the four of us will finally all live and work out of the same city — that has never happened before!

    On Smallthought's side of the table, they're joining a great company with a huge, unique, and exciting dataset i.e. billions of tweets. On Twitter's side of the table, they're getting a great team who knows data and how to help people make use of it. So it's great news all around.

  • Maps and data score big grants from Knight News Challenge

    June 18, 2010  |  News

    Since 2007, the Knight News Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants to fund "innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization." There were 12 grants awarded this year, and three of them deal with maps. The folks at Stamen scored the biggest grant at $400k for their project CityTracking:

    To make municipal data easy to understand, CityTracking will allow users to create embeddable data visualizations that are appealing enough to spread virally and that are as easy to share as photos and videos. The dynamic interfaces will be appropriate to each data type, starting with crime and working through 311 calls for service, among others. The creators will use high design standards, making the visuals beautiful as well as useful.

    That's obviously something we'll need to keep an eye on.

    The other two mapping projects were GoMap Riga (Marcis Rubenis and Kristofs Blaus), which will place real-time local news on maps and Tilemapping (Development Seed), which will be a tool to help journalists make maps more easily.

    Broken record, yes I am, but data is gonna be big I tells ya. Big.

    See the quick ten-second pitches from all twelve winners below. I'm intrigued by The Cartoonist. They're going to use cartoon-like games to get engaged readers and get them involved in the news.
    Continue Reading

  • Live webcast: Community Health Data Initiative

    June 2, 2010  |  Data Sources, News

    Health and Human Services (HHS) is about to announce the launch of their Community Health Data Initiative over in DC right now. The point is to make health data more usable for consumers and communities.

    Today groups will be presenting how they've made use of the data in the past few weeks from about 9:30 to 10:30 - as in right now. I've embedded the live webcast below.

    They're just going through the formalities of thank yous and intros right now, but the good stuff should start soon.
    Continue Reading

  • Design for America deadline approaching

    May 3, 2010  |  News

    Just a quick note. Sunlight Labs' Design for America contest is coming up soon on May 15. There's $40k in prize money up for grabs, so get your entries in soon. All forms of media are accepted - including sculptures.
    Continue Reading

  • Viegas+Wattenberg announce visualization startup

    April 9, 2010  |  News, Visualization

    Big news. Former IBMers Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg just announced their new venture Flowing Media (no relation to FlowingData), a consultancy focused on visualization for consumers and mass audiences.

    Those who read FD probably already know of the duo, but for those who don't, I'm sure you've seen some of their work. They sit somewhere in between the art/design and technical side of visualization, which always provides for interesting results. I highly recommend them if you're in need of some viz help. Needless to say, I'm a fan.

    Seeing a trend?

    This comes just a few months after Ben Fry's decision to also venture out on his own (after being with Seed for a year). Like Fernanda and Martin, he's also in Cambridge, interestingly enough. There must be something in the water over there.

    If anything, this is yet another indicator of the growing popularity of data, and more importantly, a desire to do something with it. I'm totally guessing here, but I bet Fernanda and Martin's inbox was chock-full of project possibilities/offers, which I'm sure played a big role in their decision.

    I don't know about you, but I'm excited about the opportunities out there after I graduate. It's a great time for data scientists.

  • Design for America – Win $5,000

    March 29, 2010  |  News

    In a follow up to Apps for America, Sunlight Labs just introduced their next contest: Design for America.

    This 10 week long design and data visualization extravaganza is focused on connecting the talents of art and design communities throughout the country to the wealth of government data now available through bulk data access and APIs, and to help nurture the field of information visualization. Our goal is simple and straightforward — to make government data more accessible and comprehensible to the American public.

    There are three subject areas to appeal to different types of designers too. There's data visualization, process transparency, and redesigning the government for a total of seven challenges each with a $5,000 top prize. Not bad, eh? Visit Sunlight Labs for more details.

    By the way, I'm one of the judges (along with Charles Blow, Andrew Vande Moere, Nicholas Felton, and others). You've got about two months to show me what you got. Go on, I dare ya.

  • Notes from Interactive Infographics #interinfo #sxsw

    March 17, 2010  |  Infographics, News

    Yesterday was the Interactive Infographics panel at South by Southwest, and if Twitter is any indication of how it went, I'd say the panel had a captivated audience. I wouldn't expect anything less from the four panelists, Ben Fry (Processing), Shan Carter (NYT), Casey Caplowe (Good), and Eric Rodenbeck (Stamen)

    Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend, but luckily I was able to follow the play-by-play on Livefyre (sort of a cross between chat and forum) along with some excellent notes from @jpmarcum and @bryanconnor. Here are the important bits I was able to glean.

    The bulk of the time was spent showcasing the work from the four groups. I think you can find most of the projects through FlowingData. Just use the search form on the bottom right of this page. The good stuff came towards the end during the Q&A.
    Continue Reading

  • Undergraduate Summer Program for Statistics

    February 5, 2010  |  News

    If you're an undergraduate with an interest in data and statistics, you should definitely consider applying to this one-week summer program: Explorations in Statistics Research. It's in Boulder, Colorado and your travel expenses, along with room and board, will be covered.

    The seven day workshop is designed so that students get a sense of how statisticians approach large, complex problems. Several different topics will be presented over the course of the week.

    You'll also get hands-on experience with computing and visualization tools. Basically, you're going to have fun with data when you're there.

    And since three of the four organizers are either past or current advisers of mine, I can tell you first-hand that you're going to learn some cool stuff during the workshop.

    Get your application in now. The deadline is March 3.

  • What day is it? It’s Data Privacy Day!

    January 28, 2010  |  News

    Today is Data Privacy Day 2010, apparently. Was there a Data Privacy Day 2009? I dunno. To be honest, I didn't even care all that much about data privacy a couple years ago.

    But it's grown in importance as everything goes digital (and Google acquires every business under the sun).

    Take a moment and think about what Google knows about you. Correspondence and contacts via email, schedule via calendar, interest via feed reader, purchases via Checkout, and most importantly your day-to-day via search. How do you feel about a single company knowing that much about you? Don't you want to know how they use all that data and more importantly, how they protect it?
    Continue Reading

  • Join the Great American Hackathon

    November 11, 2009  |  News

    Sunlight Labs, one of my new favorite data groups, has partnered with Google, RedHat, Mozilla, and several others to get the open source community involved in open government projects. They're calling it the Great American Hackathon and it's happening December 12-13.

    For those unfamiliar with Sunlight, it's an organization that promotes open government data and transparency, and they fund technology projects (mainly online apps) that move this idea forward.

    Organize an Event

    If you're a developer or designer and want to help out, organize an event in your local area for December 12-13, and get as many people involved as you can. The more we make use of open government data, the more people that will see its usefulness, and the more people that care, the more the government will put into data. Get involved now.

  • Workshop: Visualization on the Web – Join Me at VisWeek

    June 29, 2009  |  News

    Visualization on the Web is growing, but a lot of the really good stuff is just sitting around on someone's computer. So to get a discussion going about how we can get more visualization out there - theory and application - Robert Kosara of Eager Eyes, Andrew Vande Moere from information aesthetics, and myself are heading up a workshop at VisWeek in October. It's in Atlantic City.

    We'll share some of our experiences, but mainly we want to know what's on your mind. Submit your one-page position statement and tell us about your experiences, propose discussion topics, or ask questions that you're wondering about. We'll review the topics and you'll hear from us by the end of July. Get your submissions in by July 17.

    Find more details here.

  • Non-profit Seeks Infographic Designer

    June 11, 2009  |  News

    eastwest-logoAre you an information designer looking for a project?

    The East-West Center in Washington is currently looking for a designer to create a series of information graphics for an online and print publication. They want a series of graphics that will cover a broad range of topics from economics, politics, demographics, history and culture. They provide the data, and you provide the creativity.

    The job description is a little wordy, but basically, they just want to see your portfolio and a sense of what kind of work you do. You can find more details here. It sounds like a fun opportunity.

  • Turning Statistics Into Knowledge – 3 Days Left to Sign Up

    April 27, 2009  |  News

    The US Census Bureau, World Bank, and OECD have organized a seminar to discuss innovations in visualization and blossoming Web technologies to disperse the stories in data. Innovative Approaches to Turn Statistics into Knowledge will be held July 15-16, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

    While dynamic graphics and communication tools are at the heart of the seminar, we also want to focus on a broader range of tools. The seminar will also include the use of videos, as explored by GapMinder and others, and participative approaches, as seen in some web 2.0 initiatives; and – although innovative tools are themselves of great interest, and worthy of being presented at the seminar – the focus of the seminar will be on innovative applications of tools, for example, so-called story-telling applications.

    With participants [pdf] from all over the world and major organizations, and no registration fee, the seminar looks promising. Hurry though, there are only three days left to sign up. The deadline is April 30.

  • Do You Want to Learn How to Make Statistical Graphics?

    March 14, 2009  |  News

    If you're interested in learning how to use R for statistical graphics or tools like GGobi for exploratory data analysis, check out this workshop in Washington, DC during the end of July right before the annual Joint Statistical Meetings. The workshop's called Looking at Data.

    Graphics are a fundamental part of data analysis, used in initial data inspection and exploration, model building and checking and also communicating information. In this course we will teach the basics of static graphics and move on to the new developments in direct manipulation and dynamic graphics that facilitate exploratory data analysis. The methods taught are readily available in open source software, enabling all participants to reproduce, extend and use them with their own data after the workshop.

    This workshop will be focused on the analytical side of things (after all, three statisticians are running it) with static graphics on day 1 and dynamic graphics on day 2, so if you're interested in learning graphics for analysis, this should be fun.

  • Position Available for Professor of Statistics at UCLA

    March 26, 2008  |  News

    While we're on the topic of what you plan to do with your PhD in statistics - UCLA department of statistics recently announced that it is looking for a new professor.

    Applications and nominations are invited for the position of Professor of Statistics, any level (tenure-track Assistant Professor, tenured Associate Professor or tenured Full Professor), in the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    The position targets candidates with high quality research, a strong teaching record, and with expertise preferably in one or more of the following areas: Environmental Statistics, Social Statistics, and Spatial Statistics. Qualified candidates must have a Ph.D. in Statistics or Biostatistics. The position is effective July 1, 2009.

    UCLA department of statistics is one of the best stat programs in the country with a talented faculty and really cool students. Albeit, I might be a little biased, but still. If you're interested, go for it; or if you know anyone who might be qualified, do them a solid and forward them the information.

  • Highlights From Journalism 3G – Symposium on Computation + Journalism

    March 6, 2008  |  News

    Computation+JournalismThese highlights from Journalism 3G are pretty overdue, but better late than never. Here's what I thought was most interesting.

    Sensemaking and Information Visualization

    Naturally, my ears perked up on the second day when the sensemaking and information visualization panel began. Jeff Heer, who I've referred to a few times before, was the standout of the group. His presentation was for the most part on his paper - Voyagers and Voyeurs: Supporting Asynchronous Collaborative Information Visualization with Fernanda B. Viégas and Martin Wattenberg. It's a pretty good read that covers topics like vizster and the pre-Many Eyes project sense.us.

    Vizster by Jeffrey Heer

    However, it wasn't so much the material that was so interesting. It was the way Heer presented his material that captivated the audience. From the static visualizations to the animated ones, it was another great example of how powerful visualization can be.

    John Stasko from Georgia Tech also had some fun visualization work to show. His presentation was more of an overview of why journalists should care about visuals. As chair of last year's InfoVis conference, he did a good job.

    Journalistic Video Games

    Fatworld by Persuasive Games

    Ian Bogost gave an interesting talk on the role of video games in journalism. The focus was mostly on his work with Persuasive Games:

    Our games influence players to take action through gameplay. Games communicate differently than other media; they not only deliver messages, but also simulate experiences. While often thought to be just a leisure activity, games can also become rhetorical tools.

    Think games are just for fun? Think again.

    One thing that Bogost said stuck with me. He said that video games are usually bad at telling stories. Many games put up a road sign for an issue but don't really go any further than that. Persuasive Games tries to go deeper to make players think about the issues presented.

    We can say this about a lot of data visualization projects out there (you know which I'm talking about); they try to make a statement but don't really go into the why or how we can change.

    Citizen Scientists

    Finally, there was Mark Hansen, who was actually the first speaker of the conference (and happens to be my adviser). Hansen talked about his recent work with Ben Rubin at The New York Times building and moved on to citizen science.

    Brad Stenger did a good job summarizing Hansen's talk in his detailed recap on infosthetics, but the main point to take away -- citizens certainly play an important role in data collection and reporting. Over time, as technology advances, citizen science will only play a larger role in ubiquitous journalism collecting, analyzing, and making use of data.

    Lasting Impressions

    The Journalism 3G coordinators put together a very good set of talks covering a lot of different areas. As journalism spreads outside of the conventional paper, it's clear that collaboration between journalists and techs is vital to future success.

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