• Live Coding Implemented

    March 19, 2012  |  Coding


    Remember Bret Victor's live coding talk from last month? He presented an example where he would edit code on one side, and the corresponding visual would automatically update on the other side. It was instant feedback that could help in learning code. Gabriel Florit implemented the idea with D3, and it's called water. Edit on the right and the diagram updates on the left. Try clicking on a number and then holding down the Alt key (or option on the Mac) for slider goodness.

    Also, check out Daniel Hooper's interactive JavaScript editor, CodeBook. It's the same idea but a slightly different implementation.

    [via Waxy]

  • Kartograph aims to make interactive vector maps easier

    March 7, 2012  |  Software

    La Bella Italia

    Gregor Aisch wanted a better way to make maps online that allowed something other than the Mercator projection, so he developed his own. The result is Kartograph, a lightweight framework "for building interactive map applications without Google Maps or any other mapping service. It was created with the needs of designers and data journalists in mind." No more tiles.

    The framework is still in its infancy, with not much documentation, but the map-making process seems to be straightforward. It's basically a two-step process. First you generate an SVG map with Kartograph's Python component, and then you load the SVG with the JavaScript component, which is built on top of Raphael.

    Check out the showcase for a sense of what it can do. You've got your choropleth, chart symbols, and 3-dimensional projections. The star however is clearly the map of Italy, complete with a cute little ferry that follows a geo path.


  • Live coding and inventing on principle

    February 20, 2012  |  Software

    This talk by Bret Victor caught fire a few days ago, but I just got a chance to watch to it in its entirety. It's worth the one hour. Victor demos some great looking software that connects code to the visual, making the creation process more visceral, and he finishes up with worhtwhile thoughts on the invention process.

  • WolframAlpha Pro launches in an effort to democratize data science

    February 16, 2012  |  Online Applications

    Taking the next step in the Wolfram|Alpha experiment, Wolfram launches a Pro version that lets you plug in your own data and get information out of it.

    The key idea is automation. The concept in Wolfram|Alpha Pro is that I should just be able to take my data in whatever raw form it arrives, and throw it into Wolfram|Alpha Pro. And then Wolfram|Alpha Pro should automatically do a whole bunch of analysis, and then give me a well-organized report about my data. And if my data isn't too large, this should all happen in a few seconds.

    I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but the sense I get from others is that the part about data not being too large is key. Apparently it's still in the early stages and can't handle much data at once. The main hook is automated summaries, model fitting, and some graphs, but if you know enough to interpret the models appropriately, shouldn't you know enough to derive them?

    I'd love to hear initial thoughts from those who have tried it. For those who haven't, it's $4.99 per month, but there's a two-week free trail.


  • Weave for visualization development

    February 7, 2012  |  Software

    Visualization with weave

    Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment, or Weave for short, is open source software intended for flexible visualization.

    Weave (BETA 1.0) is a new web-based visualization platform designed to enable visualization of any available data by anyone for any purpose. Weave is an application development platform supporting multiple levels of user proficiency — novice to advanced — as well as the ability to integrate, disseminate and visualize data at "nested" levels of geography.

    It looks like everything is done through a click interface, and you can piece together modules and link them, etc. There is some setup involved, but there are a number of video tutorials and documents to get everything installed.

    Source code also available on GitHub.


  • Angry Birds productivity tracker

    January 3, 2012  |  Software

    Angry productive birds

    With the new year, many of you (myself included) and your employers resolved to be more productive this year. You are going to finish that side project. Learn that new language. Run that long distance. You are going to be all that you can be. Then you spent all day in front of the television yesterday while playing Angry Birds. Little did you know, productivity and Angry Birds go hand-in-hand.

    Enter Productivity Birds, created and used internally by Stamen.

    We’ve used these graphs as the simplest-possible visualization of how we spend our time so we know how we’re doing relative to the budget for a project. Operationally, the data output of these graphs feeds directly into an accrued revenue model that lets us predict our income earlier. The day/week granularity makes it possible to collect the data as a team without making everyone unhappy with management overhead, and the bias toward whole- or half-day increments helps stabilize fractured schedules (not for me, though—my time is probably the most shattered of anyone in the studio).

    Calendar time is represented on the horizontal axis and time spent on a project is the vertical. The object of the game is to hit the bird, where a bird over the pig means a risk of losing money, and a bird past the big means a risk of finishing late. The stacked area chart on the bottom shows who has been or is working on the project.

    The small app, built with Protovis, is available on GitHub.


  • Programming gets you freedom to do what you want with data

    October 26, 2011  |  Coding

    After the vote

    Casey Reas and Chandler McWilliams asked visual designers why they write their own software and how it affects their process:

    The answers reflect the individuality of the designers and their process, but some ideas are persistent. The most consistent answer is that custom software is written because it gives more control. This control is often expressed as individual freedom. Another thread is writing custom software to create a precise realization for a precise idea. To put it another way, writing custom code is one way to move away from generic solutions; new tools can create new opportunities.

    Most of the interviewees are media artists, but there are a couple of names you'll recognize. My favorite, Amanda Cox, uses a Mad Libs metaphor:

    Mad Libs is a game where key words in a short story have been replaced with blanks. Players fill in the blanks with designated parts of speech (“noun”, “adverb”) or types of words (“body part”, “type of liquid”), without seeing the rest of the story. Occasionally, hilarity ensues, but no one really believes that this is an effective method for generating great literature.

    I'm looking at you, non-programming statistician.

    Update: The article isn't there anymore, so you can read the cached page for now.

  • Quick time series visualization with Cube

    September 21, 2011  |  Software

    Cube time series

    Seeing how things change over time can be important for a business so that you can figure out what works best. Square, the company that turns your iPhone into a credit card reader, just released Cube, an open-source system to help you visualize time series data. It's built on MongoDB, Node, and D3.
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  • Explore large image collections with ImagePlot

    September 18, 2011  |  Software


    When we make charts and graphs, we usually think of the data abstractions in terms of bars, dots, and other geometric shapes. ImagePlot, from UCSD-based Software Studies, instead makes it easier to use images to understand large collections.
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  • BuzzData aims to make data more social

    August 23, 2011  |  Online Applications

    BuzzData page

    In many ways, data wants to be social. It wants to get out there for people to see, interact with other datasets, and it wants people to talk about it. There aren't that many places for that to happen though. Newly launched BuzzData wants to fill that void. It's pitched as a "social network designed for data."
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  • On the Launch of Visually

    August 4, 2011  |  Online Applications

    A couple of weeks ago, Visually, a new infographics-based startup, launched with a warm reception among all the popular tech blogs. I didn't post about it right away for a couple of reasons. The first is that I've been sick for the past couple of weeks, and it's been hard to think in between all the nose-blowing. Seriously, this cold will not die. Secondly, I wasn't sure how I felt about the new site (partially due to the first reason). Now that I've let my thoughts simmer, it's clear that Visually has potential, but it's way too early to tell if it will actually work.
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  • Visualizing Player makes it easier to share visualization

    July 19, 2011  |  Online Applications

    It's easy to share static graphics. Save an image and then upload it to your own site. Boom, you're done. However, when it comes to interactive graphics, which come in a variety of file formats, it's not as straightforward. The Visualizing Player helps with this:

    We love and respect what you create and we know how much effort goes into each piece (it's why everything that gets uploaded to Visualizing is protected under a CC license). One of our core missions here at Visualizing is to build you the best possible platform and the most powerful tools for sharing those creations.

    Now when you go to Visualizing, there's an embed code accompanied with each graphic, and it's easy to share any visualization on your own blog or site. The embed works for 7 formats: HTML5, Java, Flash, PDF, Video, Image, and URL.
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  • Make Sankey flow diagrams with Fineo, sort of

    July 6, 2011  |  Online Applications

    Sankey diagram - sort of

    Whenever I post a Sankey diagram (for example, here, here, and here), someone always asks how they can make their own. I'm always surprised that so many people have data where the chart type applies, but in any case, I've never had a good answer other than open up Illustrator and do it by hand. DensityDesign tries to make Sankey diagram creation easier with Fineo.
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  • Dotspotting to make city data more legible

    June 27, 2011  |  Online Applications


    Last year Stamen Design received a grant from the Knight News Challenge to design and implement Citytracking, a project to help people gather data about their cities and gain some kind of understanding about it. Dotspotting, the phase of the project, just launched. It makes it much easier to put dots on a map.
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  • Inbox Influence shows political contributions by the people in your email

    June 21, 2011  |  Software

    While browser plugins like Rapportive tell you the social networks that people in your email belong to, Inbox Influence, from the Sunlight Foundation, uses their data from Influence Explorer, Transparency Data, and Party Time to show a different type of network in your inbox.
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  • Gender and time comparisons on Twitter

    June 9, 2011  |  Online Applications

    Hate comparison

    Men and women are different. You know that. But do they tweet differently? Tweetolife is a simple application that lets you compare and contrast what men and women tweet about. Simply type in a search term or phrase and compare. For example, search for love, and 63 percent of tweets that contain that word were from women, based on the sample data collected between November 2009 and February 2010.
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  • GeoCommons 2.0, now with more mapping features

    June 6, 2011  |  Online Applications

    Harvard distance from subway

    GeoCommons, an open repository of data and maps, launched version 2.0 this week, which is more feature-rich and robust than the first. Two of the major updates have to do with the fast-changing data landscape: amount of data and browser technology.
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  • DataWrangler for your data formatting needs

    May 26, 2011  |  Online Applications

    Formatting data is a necessary pain, so anything that makes formatting easier is always welcome. Data Wrangler, from the Stanford Visualization Group, is the latest in the growing set of tools to get your data the way you need it (so that you can get to the fun part already). It's similar to Google Refine in that they're both browser-based, but my first impression is that Data Wrangler is more lightweight and it feels more responsive.
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  • Google Correlate lets you see how your data relates to search queries

    May 25, 2011  |  Online Applications

    Influenza search - Google Correlate

    A while back, Google showed how Influenza outbreaks correlated to searches for flu-related terms with Google Flu Trends. It helped researchers and policy-makers estimate flu activity much sooner than with previous methods. Google Correlate is the evolution of Flu Trends in that now you can correlate search trends with not just flu cases, but with your own data or other search queries.
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  • Sorting algorithms demonstrated with Hungarian folk dance

    April 14, 2011  |  Coding

    Bubble sort dance

    We've seen sorting algorithms visualized and auralized, but now it's time to see them through the spirit of Hungarian folk dance. In a series of four videos (so far), folks at Sapientia University in Romania demonstrate how different sorting algorithms work with numbered people dancing around and arranging themselves from least to greatest.

    See them in action in the video below. This one is for Bubble-sort. They move with such zest.
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