• Current tracks and visualizes memes

    May 27, 2010  |  Software, Statistical Visualization

    It's not easy keeping up with what's going on around the Web. Trending topic here. Another topic there. Zoe Fraade-Blanar, a graduate student at NYU ITP, hopes to lessen the pain with Current: A News Project.

    Through a combination of data from Google Hot Trends and cross-references via Google News, the last 24 hours of memes are charted over time. The focus is on providing a tool that allows journalists to report news that matters, without sacrificing the reader traffic that comes in for videos of cute puppy dogs.

    News relies on soft stories like horoscopes, celebrity gossip and restaurant reviews to subsidize the important but less sensational stories that keep democracy running. At base, any solution to News’ present problems must address the balance between the hard news we need and the soft news that drives advertising dollars. By visually anthropomorphizing the capricious nature of public attention Current can spotlight these missed opportunities in news coverage.

    It's still rough around the edges, and I'm not really digging the whole amoeba aesthetic, but I could see how this might be useful. Next steps: provide a way to focus on specific topics, incorporate Twitter trends, and smooth out the interaction.

    Try it out for yourself (available for Mac and PC), and toss your thoughts in the comments below.

    [via ReadWriteWeb]

  • Elastic Lists code open-sourced

    May 26, 2010  |  Network Visualization, Software

    Moritz Stefaner, whose work we've seen a few times here on FD, just released his code for Elastic Lists (in Actionscript).

    For those unfamiliar, Elastic Lists builds on the idea of faceted browsing, which lets you sift through data with multiple filters. Think of when you search for an item on Amazon. In the initial results, filters for price, brand, and category rest in the sidebar. Similarly, Elastic Lists lets you browse data on multiple categories, but with more visual cues and animated transitions.
    Continue Reading

  • HTML5 visualization readiness

    May 18, 2010  |  Software

    Everyone's been bashing Flash lately and holding HTML5 up on a pedestal. This circular graph thing, for example, shows what a combination of HTML5 and CSS3 can do and what features are available in major browsers. That's great and all, but as you can see there are still a lot of holes.

    The most glaringly obvious hole is Internet Explorer - which supports practically nothing. This is nothing new. Anyone who's designed a site to work in all browsers knows this. But as much as you hate Internet Explorer, you're not going to block content for some 80 percent of visitors, right?

    On top of that, Flash provides richer interaction than HTML5 right now, and it's going to be like that for a while. A lot of the work from the New York Times is in Flash. Stamen Design uses Flash. A lot of great work has come out of Flash - not just cruddy MySpace pages.

    Now I'm not saying HTML5 isn't going to be useful. It will be and is in some areas. But in terms of visualization, Flash is still better.

  • Facebook users who don’t know they are sharing

    May 17, 2010  |  Online Applications

    I'm pretty sure all this Facebook stuff will blow over soon enough. Most people have changed their privacy settings by now. The rest don't really care. Some people though simply have no clue that what they're sharing with their inner circle is out on display for anyone to see. Openbook uses the Facebook search API to show these users. Search for a term or phrase and see the status updates of public profiles.
    Continue Reading

  • Streamgraph code ported to JavaScript

    May 7, 2010  |  Software, Statistical Visualization

    stream4

    Lee Byron open-sourced his streamgraph code in Processing about a month ago. Jason Sundram has taken that and ported it to JavaScript, using Processing.js.

    The algorithms are the same as that in the original, but of course the natural benefit is that people don't need Java to run it their browsers. Jason has also added a few features including dynamic sizing, more straightforward settings, and some interaction with zoom and hover control. Really nice work.

    Grab the code, plus examples on GitHub.

    [Thanks, Jason]

  • Review: indiemapper makes thematic mapping easy

    April 28, 2010  |  Mapping, Reviews, Software

    It's finally here. Indiemapper brings easy and flexible thematic mapping online. I've been looking forward to this app ever since I got a glimpse of what was to come over a year ago, through the eyes of Indieprojector. The guys at Axis Maps have taken the core functionality of advanced GIS, simplified the work flow with a well-designed interface, and made it it super easy to create beautiful maps.
    Continue Reading

  • R is an ‘epic fail’ – or how to make statisticians mad

    April 22, 2010  |  Software, Statistics

    Statisticians are mad and out for blood. Someone called R an epic fail and said it wasn't the next big thing.

    I know that R is free and I am actually a Unix fan and think Open Source software is a great idea. However, for me personally and for most users, both individual and organizational, the much greater cost of software is the time it takes to install it, maintain it, learn it and document it. On that, R is an epic fail. It does NOT fit with the way the vast majority of people in the world use computers. The vast majority of people are NOT programmers. They are used to looking at things and clicking on things.

    How dare she, right? Here's the thing. She's right. Wait, wait, hear me out. For the general audience - the people who use Excel as their analysis tool - R is not for them. In this case, the one that appeals to non-statistician analysts, R, as they say, is an epic fail (and that is the last time I will say that stupid phrase).

    However, R wasn't designed to enable everyday users to dig into data. It was designed to enable statisticians with computing power. It's a statistical computing language largely based on S, which was developed in the 1970s by the super smart John Chambers of Bell Labs. The 1970s. Weren't people using slide rules still? Or maybe it was the abacus. Can't remember. Oh wait, I wasn't born yet. In any case, there's really no need to get into the whole R-for-general-audience conversation — just like we don't need to talk about why The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie lacked emotional depth.
    Continue Reading

  • A guide to geostatistical mapping with open-source tools

    April 22, 2010  |  Mapping, Software

    Mapping with R and other free and open-source programs feels clunky and hacked-together at times. The plus-side is that it's all for free, and once you find the time to wrap your head around it, you can get quite a bit done. Tomislav Hengl provides a free e-book, A Practical Guide to Geostatistical Mapping, that can hopefully help you with such tools (namely R, SAGA GIS, and Google Earth). You can also buy the paperback version on Lulu.

    [Thanks, Ryan]

  • Data visualization tutorial in Processing

    April 13, 2010  |  Software, Visualization

    If you absolutely refuse to touch any code, I suggest Many Eyes or one of the fine FD sponsors, but if you're looking to get your hands dirty, Processing is a great place to start.

    Jer Thorp, whose work we saw not too long ago, posts this introduction tutorial for data visualization with Processing.

    I’m going to start from scratch, work through some examples, and (hopefully) make some interesting stuff. One of the nice things, I think, about this process, is that we’re going to start with fresh, new data – I’m not sure what kind of things we’re going to find once we start to get our hands dirty. This is what is really exciting about data visualization; the chance to find answers to your own, possibly novel questions.

    The examples are straightforward, the results are interesting, and most importantly, it gives you a lot to work off of with your own data and geometry. Hopefully it's the first post of many.

  • Map and report data with InstantAtlas

    April 2, 2010  |  Mapping, Software

    As you know, there's this big wave of transparency going on right now, and many organizations want to do more than just post a bunch of spreadsheets. They actually want to visualize it and share their data in a way that can be consumed by the general public. InstantAtlas aims to make that easy - without any code.
    Continue Reading

  • Streamgraph code is available and open source

    April 1, 2010  |  Software

    Some people love 'em and others hate 'em. Now you can play with streamgraphs (seen here and here) yourself, whatever side you might be on. Lee Byron has made the code available on Github, under a BSD license.

    It's in Processing, and it's not plug-n-play like many of you are probably hoping for, but on a quick skim, the code does look very readable and shouldn't be too hard to grasp for those with a little bit of coding knowledge. I recommend reading Lee and Martin's streamgraph paper first though.

  • Visualize your Last.fm listening patterns with LastHistory

    March 3, 2010  |  Self-surveillance, Software

    lasthistory

    Frederik Seiffert provides this nifty tool, LastHistory, to visualize your Last.fm listening history. Mouse over songs and find repeated track sequences. The visualization itself isn't all that useful, but it gets interesting when you hook your calendar and photos in with music. LastHistory lets you replay songs synched with your photos, and your slideshow suddenly gains a new dimension.
    Continue Reading

  • Sunlight Labs releases mapping framework, ClearMaps

    February 23, 2010  |  Mapping, Software

    clearmaps

    Open data is great, but it's useless if you don't know what to do with it. Sunlight Labs, a group focused on using technology to support open government, recently released ClearMaps. It's an Actionscript framework for interactive cartographic visualization.

    In addition to giving designers and developers more control over presentation the project aims to address some of the common technical challenges faced when building interactive, data driven maps for the web. ClearMaps is designed as a lightweight, flexible set of tools for building complex data visualizations. It is a framework not a plug-and-play component (though it could be a starting point for those wishing to make reusable tools).

    It's still in the early stages, but developers will want to check this out I am sure.

    [Thanks, Kevin]

  • Build Online Visualization for Free with Tableau Public

    Tableau Software, popular for making data more accessible, mainly in the business sector, just opened up with Tableau Public. The application is similar in spirit to other online data applications like Many Eyes and Swivel. It lets you share data and visualizations online. However, Tableau Public doesn't have a central portal or a place to browse data. Rather it's focused on letting you explore data and stitch modules together on your desktop and then embed your findings on a website or blog.
    Continue Reading

  • Build Statistical Graphics Online With ggplot2

    Statisticians are generally behind the times when it comes to online applications. There are a lot out-dated Java applets and really rough attempts at getting R, a statistical computing environment, in some useful form through a browser. So imagine my surprise when I tried this tool by Jeroen Ooms, a visiting scholar at UCLA Statistics.

    It actually works pretty well, and for a prototype, it isn't half bad.
    Continue Reading

  • Microsoft Live Labs Pivot: Interact With Massive Amounts of Data

    December 10, 2009  |  Software, Visualization

    What if you could see all the individual bits of information scattered across the Web in one view and then interact with it in a meaningful way? This is what Microsoft Live Labs' new Pivot experiment tries to do.

    Pivot makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. We tried to step back and design an interaction model that accommodates the complexity and scale of information rather than the traditional structure of the Web.

    The goal is to let users make connections between pages, data points, photos, etc that go beyond links, with what the developers call collections. The below video is a demonstration and explanation:

    Pivot's ability to display lots of thumbnails and then reorganize and zoom in on them is the tool's foundation. The transition between each view involves a flutter of thumbnails, which sort of provides a link between data arrangements. The browsing behavior looks a lot like that of Photosynth, a Live Labs project that lets you browse giant bundles of photos.

    Jeffrey Heer et. al. wrote a paper on these transitions a while back. I can't really say whether it works or not. I suspect it's more about a fun factor once you get into higher volumes of data than it is about making connections. That's not to say it's not important, of course. After all, most of the Web is about entertainment in some form or another.

    All in all, it's an interesting concept, and it will be fun to see where the Live Labs team takes the project.

    Pivot is currently by invitation only, but I have a handful of invites (10 to be exact) for you guys. Download Pivot from here, and then use this activation code: 3C5D 19BD B7DA 3186. Come back here and let us know what you think in the comments.

    [Thanks, Jeff]

  • Nebul.us Shows You Your Activity on the Web

    December 8, 2009  |  Online Applications, Self-surveillance

    Nebul.us is an online application, currently in private beta, that aggregates and visualizes your online activity. Enter your information for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc and install a plugin in Firefox to record your browsing behavior. Get something that looks like the above, sort of a donut-polar area chart hybrid. Nebul.us calls it a cloud.
    Continue Reading

  • Make Thematic Maps With Cartographer.js

    November 5, 2009  |  Mapping, Software

    Like it or not, Google Maps mashups continue to be a Web favorite. It's just so easy to use. Stick a few lines of javascript in your web page, and voila, you've got an interactive map. That's for point-wise data though. It gets a little trickier beyond "you are here" pointers. Cartographic.js, in its first release, aims to make thematic mapping with the Google Maps API easier.
    Continue Reading

  • Data Interface Iterations: Designing webtrendmap.com’s Stacks

    September 30, 2009  |  Online Applications

    545-stacks

    This is a guest post by Craig Mod, who collaborated with Information Architects, to develop Web Trend Map. The site, which is largely inspired by iA's previous work, lets you curate links with sources you trust. This post describes the multiple iterations and decisions made during the design process.

    Design and development of webtrendmap.com v1.0 took three months. During this period the interaction design and interface underwent countless subtle permutations. What we ended up with is almost totally unlike what we started with. There was a lot of painful iteration. A lot of gut wrenching backtracking.

    Let's drill down and take a look at how we iterated on one key webtrendmap.com visual element: the Stack. Continue Reading

  • Collect Data About Yourself with Twitter – your.flowingdata is Live

    July 15, 2009  |  Online Applications, Projects

    your.flowingdata (YFD), a Twitter application that lets you collect data about yourself, is now LIVE!

    I feel like I've been working on this project forever, but it's finally at a place where I think it's ready for human consumption. And unlike the previous version, what you track is completely up to you.
    Continue Reading

Unless otherwise noted, graphics and words by me are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC. Contact original authors for everything else.