• Google Adds Search to Public Data

    April 28, 2009  |  Data Sources, Online Applications

    Google announced today that they have made a small subset of public datasets searchable. Search for unemployment rate and you'll see a thumbnail at the top of the results. Click on it, and you get a the very Google-y chart like the one above, so instead of searching for unemployment rates for multiple years, you can get it all at once.
    Continue Reading

  • A Couple New Looks for Google News

    April 27, 2009  |  Online Applications, Visualization

    The ever popular newsmap (above), a tree map view of Google News, got a facelift a few days weeks ago. Markos Wekamp, the creator, has changed to a rectangularized tree map layout to display headlines more completely, search as you type, and deep linking. Markos also brings the brightness down a notch from that of the original, which I like. It's easier on the eyes.

    Earlier last week, Google released its own alternative news view with News Timeline. The interface lets you search the news, blogs, etc and results are displayed in a timeline format. Show by day, month, year, and decade.

    The jury is still out on whether the timeline is an improvement over regular search listings. What do you think? How about versus the New York Times article skimmer?

    [via infosthetics & Google News Blog & Newsmap Blog]

  • Social Weather Mapping From Google Chrome Experiment

    March 19, 2009  |  Mapping, Software

    In the promotion of its speedy javascript, Google announces the Chrome Experiment. As part of the Experiment, design group Use All Five give us Small Talk, which is a social weather map that uses tweets that contain terms like rainy and sunny. Circles are sized by number of tweets, and tweets are colored by dominant weather tweet, so what you get right now is very blue on the east and sort of orange in the west. Oh how I long for the sun.

    The cool thing about this (and the other projects from Chrome Experiment) is that it's implemented in javascript.

    Pan and zoom...

    Click on the bubbles...

    Yes, javascript just keeps getting faster and more impressive. It's no longer just a way to show dynamic status messages and popups. It's much more than that. Javascript is becoming a viable visualization solution.

    [Thanks, Levi]

  • News at a Glance with New York Times Article Skimmer

    February 26, 2009  |  Online Applications

    The New York Times homepage has a lot of news to report. While well-organized and well-designed, the Times recognizes that there's still room for improvement as seen in their article skimmer prototype:

    Here at The Times, we often hear a common story of usage from our customers: Reading the Sunday Times, spreading out the paper on a table while eating brunch. For many of our customers, this ritual is fundamental to their enjoyment of the weekend, and its absence would be jolting.

    With this in mind, we present an as-yet-unnamed article skimmer. Think of it as an attempt to provide the Sunday Times experience anytime. Of course, there are parts we can’t replicate: the satisfying crinkle of the paper; the circular stain of your coffee; the smell of newsprint.

    Article headlines and snippets are arranged by grid and divided by news categories. Jump to a specific category with the sidebar on the right or browse up and down with the arrow keys on your keyboard. I personally think it makes skimming easier. What do you think?

    [via NYT First Look via Waxy]

  • Open Thread: Is Google Latitude Dangerous?

    February 12, 2009  |  Data Sharing, Discussion, Online Applications

    Google recently released Google Latitude, which is an online application that lets you share your location with online friends:

    Of course when any application shares where you are at any given time, people start to feel like Big Brother is looming in the background ready to sneak up on us from behind a giant bush. Some call it a real danger, but is it really? I put this question out to all of you:

    Is Google Latitude a danger to anyone who uses it?

    My take on things is that people are already doing it anyways, so why not make it easier for those who are interested? Sure, if some stalker got a hold of your location, that could be bad, but that's true for a lot of data... credit card statements, cell phone logs, Twitter... As long as the proper security are put in place, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

  • Open Call to Designers: Visualizing Mozilla Community

    February 2, 2009  |  Online Applications

    The Mozilla group is starting to dig into visualization to participation within the active Mozilla community, and they're looking for some input:

    If you’re a visual designer, data visualization guru, student or just interested in hacking on a cool project, join us to generate concepts and prototypes that build upon the LizardFeeder, a cool feed aggregator released earlier this year by Les Orchard.

    As Les describes it, LizardFeeder brings together and archives different types of activity from across the far reaches of the Mozilla universe and spits them out in a single, dynamic stream. It’s pretty darn cool to watch on its own, but we’d love to further develop a design concept that is approachable, meaningful—or at least entertaining—to virtually anyone who sees it.

    Here's what the Lizard Feeder looks like now:

    So basically, there's a whole lot of data waiting for your ideas. Get to it. I am sure you'll get a lot of recognition in the process.

  • Tools You Need to Track Energy Consumption – WattzOn

    January 12, 2009  |  Infographics, Online Applications

    wattzon

    "Climate change is a global problem. But it's individuals who will create the solution." This is the WattzOn premise.
    Continue Reading

  • Using Visualization to Optimize Adwords: Time Series Visuals vs the Pivot Table

    January 7, 2009  |  Software

    This is a guest post from Elad Israeli and Roni Floman of SiSense, which specializes in easy-to-use business intelligence.

    Pundits joke that Google Adwords is driving Microsoft Excel sales. Two rivals are vying for domination; yet one's desktop software is used to optimize keywords sold by the other.  The reason is very simple: the Google AdWords interface doesn't support the rigorous analysis of multiple AdWords keywords and their optimization. Importing the Google AdWords data into Excel lets you do just that… albeit within the constraints of Excel.

    Let's try to explain this by looking at the visualization and business intelligence assumptions behind the Google use case and the Microsoft use case.

    Continue Reading

  • Discover Your Future for 2009 – CookieSays Fortunes

    January 6, 2009  |  Online Applications, Projects

    First off, happy new year! I'm back from my short hiatus from blogging and school. I trust everyone had a good holiday week. I saw a couple of good movies: Slumdog Millionaire, which was one of the best movies I've seen in a while, and Benjamin Button, which was good, but not as great as Slumdog. I also played a ton of NBA 2K8 on Xbox 360. I'm not much into video games (I really suck), but the plasma HDTV I got for my birthday/Christmas almost makes me feel like I'm in the game.

    Rate and Tweet Your Fortune Cookies on CookieSays

    During the last few days of break I put together CookieSays. It's a toy Twitter application that lets you tweet fortune cookie fortunes and rate others. The point? Good ol' fashioned fun, of course. I don't know about you, but whenever I crack open a fortune cookie, that little piece of paper never fails to amuse me and everyone else at the table - no matter how ridiculous or incoherent. Now you can share them on CookieSays! Plus, it seemed fitting for the new year and all.

    How to Tweet Your Fortunes

    It's really simple. Just follow @cookiesays on Twitter and post your fortunes in the following format:

    @cookiesays You will make a million dollars tomorrow.

    That's it! Your fortune will appear here in about 10 minutes or so. In the meantime, rate other people's fortunes or just sit back and let the fortunes change on their own. Have fun! It was fun making it.

    Now - back to work on my more serious project.

  • Magically Reformat Data to Get it How You Need it

    December 12, 2008  |  Online Applications

    One of the more painful parts of analysis or visualization is that you have to get the data in a proper format. Real data almost never comes how you want it. Magic/Replace from DabbleDB lets you reformat data via their spreadsheet interface and a few sprinkles of magic. The solution is really quite elegant.

    You copy and paste CSV or TSV from a spreadsheet and submit. You then see a column editor and a preview window. This is where the magic happens. In the column editor, you can edit a column so that it fits a certain format and Magic/Replace will show you a preview of what the others will look like. For example, say you have a column of phone numbers and they're in the (555) 555-5555 format, but what you really want is 555-555-5555. Change a single row, and voila, Magic/Replace does the rest. It really is "data cleanup for everyone" - not that the data were dirty to begin with.

    [Thanks, Jose]

  • Processing 1.0 Released

    November 25, 2008  |  Software

    Processing 1.0 was released yesterday and it "only took 162 attempts." I strongly encourage you to check it out - especially if you've never heard of it. Even if you're not into programming, there are a lot of fun-to-look-at demos. Processing is an open source programming language that aims to make it easy to animate and draw programmatically with students, artists, designers, and researchers in mind.

    Here's the first part of the press release:

    Today, on November 24, 2008, we launch the 1.0 version of the Processing software. Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community that since 2001 has promoted software literacy within the visual arts. Initially created to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing quickly developed into a tool for creating finished professional work as well.

    Processing is a free, open source alternative to proprietary software tools with expensive licenses, making it accessible to schools and individual students. Its open source status encourages the community participation and collaboration that is vital to Processing's growth. Contributors share programs, contribute code, answer questions in the discussion forum, and build libraries to extend the possibilities of the software. The Processing community has written over seventy libraries to facilitate computer vision, data visualization, music, networking, and electronics.

  • Read Your Feeds Like a Newspaper with Tabbloid

    November 20, 2008  |  Online Applications

    Tabbloid is a free service that lets you receive your feeds in newsletter, or rather, tabloid form via email at a set time and frequency (as a PDF file). Above is my custom Tabbloid for today. This service won't be for everyone, but sometimes a morning coffee is best spent reading over paper and not hunched over a laptop. I could also see this being useful for travelers.

    [Thanks, Tim]

  • 672 Obama Headlines – Both Browsable and Readable

    November 12, 2008  |  Software, Visualization

    Vertigo put together a great collection of 672 Obama headlines using Silverlight's deep zoom capabilities. The cool thing here isn't so much the number of headlines or the mosaic of pictures. It's how you can interact with the newspapers' front pages. It's not just a mosaic of thumbnails. You can pan and zoom really smoothly with a roll of the scroll wheel and mouse drag and a click. Zoom all the way in to read the actual articles without it taking forever for high-resolution images to load.

    Take a look see at Blaise Aguera y Arcas' TED talk for where this technology is headed:

    [via Data Mining]

  • How to Make Your Own Twitter Bot – Python Implementation

    November 5, 2008  |  Coding, Self-surveillance, Tutorials

    Following up on my post last week about using Twitter to track eating and weight, some of you voiced some interest in creating your own Twitter bot. This post covers how you can do that.

    The Gist of It

    Creating my own Twitter bot was pretty straightforward (much more than I thought it'd be), mostly because Twitter provides an API and the resources to make it that way.

    I wanted something really simple that I could play around with. I just wanted to be able to send a direct message to my Twitter bot, and from there, it would store my data. OK, so here are the basic steps I took:

    1. Create Twitter account for bot
    2. Turn on email notification for direct messages only
    3. Check email periodically for new direct messages
    4. Parse direct messages and store in database

    Continue Reading

  • Google Visualization API Opens Up

    When Google first launched their visualization API, you could only use data that was in Google spreadsheets, which was pretty limiting. Yesterday, Google opened this up, and you can now hook in data from wherever you want. What does that mean? It means that developers now have access to all the visualization API offerings like before, but it's now a lot easier to hook visualization into data applications.

    Headed for Googley Waters

    It also means we're about to see a boom in web applications that look very Googley. Motion charts (above) are going to spread like wildfire and ugly gauges will grace us with their presence. It'll be similar to the Google Maps craze, but not quite as rampant. In a couple months from now, I will have a long list of online places that use the Google visualization API. It's going to be interesting where online visualization goes from here.

    Going back to my original question, to what extent do you think the now-open Google Visualization API will affect visualization on the Web?

    [via ReadWriteWeb]

  • 40 Essential Tools and Resources to Visualize Data

    October 20, 2008  |  Software

    One of the most frequent questions I get is, "What software do you use to visualize data?" A lot of people are excited to play with their data, but don't know how to go about doing it or even start. Here are the tools I use or have used and resources that I own or found helpful for data visualization – starting with organizing the data, to graphs and charts, and lastly, animation and interaction.

    Organizing the Data


    by sleepy sparrow

    Data are hardly ever in the format that you need them to be in. Maybe you got a comma-delimited file and you need it to be in XML; or you got an Excel spreadsheet that needs to go into a MySQL database; or the data are stuck on hundreds of HTML pages and you need to get it all together in one place. Data organization isn't incredibly fun, but it's worth getting to know these tools/languages. The last thing you want is to be restricted by data format.

    PHP

    PHP was the first scripting language I learned that was well-suited for the Web, so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I oftentimes use PHP to get CSV files into some XML format. The function fgetcsv() does just fine. It's also a good hook into a MySQL database or calling API methods.

    RESOURCES:

    Python

    Most computer science types - at least the ones I've worked with - scoff at PHP and opt for Python mostly because Python code is often better structured (as a requirement) and has cooler server-side functions. My favorite Python toy is Beautiful Soup, which is an HTML/XML parser. What does that mean? Beautiful Soup is excellent for screen scraping.

    RESOURCES:

    MySQL

    When I have a lot of data - like on the magnitude of the tends to hundreds of thousands - I use PHP or Python to stick it in a MySQL database. MySQL lets me subset on the data on pretty much any way I please.

    RESOURCES:

    R

    Ah, good old R. It's what statisticians use, and pretty much nobody else. Everyone else has it installed on their computer, but haven't gotten around to learning it. I use R for analysis. Sometimes though, I use it to extract useful subsets from a dataset if the conditions are more complex than those I'd use with MySQL and then export them as CSV files.

    RESOURCES:

    Microsoft Excel

    We all know this one. I use Excel from time to time when my dataset is small or if I'm in a point-and-click mood. Continue Reading

  • Compare Media Coverage of Presidential Candiates with Everymoment Now

    September 15, 2008  |  Online Applications

    I keep stumbling on rants about how media coverage of presidential candidates is uneven, biased, etc. Everymoment Now provides a way to see what's going on with the election from the coverage (and sort of statistical) standpoint. From Craig, the developer of Everymoment:

    In order to limit the scope I've decided to keep the focus (for now) on the 2008 US general election. It's a timely, pertinent and, I believe, quite fascinating topic to study under this sort of data visualization lens. When all is said and done, you'll be able to use this site to look back over the last 100 days leading up to the election and see how the shifts between candidates played out in the media. I think we all have a sense that things may get pretty nasty in the coming weeks. I feel that having a bird's eye, hindsight view of how things went down, which stories the media focused on and how that ultimately influenced the final outcome will be an invaluable resource.

    Check out spikes in coverage of the candidates or even events and locations. Lots of sparklines and lots of bar graphs very nicely organized.
    Continue Reading

  • See the World Through SimCity’s Eyes – One Up On OnionMap

    September 10, 2008  |  Mapping, Online Applications

    Michael comments, "Onionmap is nothing when compared to this Chinese site...They've practically mapped out the entire Shanghai (and quite a few other China cities) in a SimCity-like fashion! Amazing stuff!" He's completely right. Edushi maps Shanghai with great detail. While OnionMap looks like Google Maps with SimCity sprinkles, Edushi is just straight up SimCity.

    Unfortunately my three years of Chinese classes in high school did me no good, and I don't understand a thing on the site. Maybe someone can translate and let us know what Edushi is all about. Chinese CitySearch?

    [Thanks, Michael]

  • Mozilla Labs Ubiquity Plugin Makes Mashups Easy

    September 3, 2008  |  Software

    Mashups have been around for a while now, but for the most part have required at least a little bit of web development. Maybe it's a line of javascript or thousands. Mozilla Labs, with the Ubiquity plugin, aims to make mashup-making accessible so that everyone can view data how they want everywhere on the Web. Use natural language like "map this" to stick a map into your email or get Craigslist offerings out of the list and onto a map.

    For version 0.1, the application looks interesting. Check out the demo (or even install the plugin yourself):

    [Thanks Colin and Jodi]

  • Keep Track of Presidential Race from Many Perspectives – perspctv

    August 28, 2008  |  Online Applications

    Keep track of what's getting reported about the presidential race in somewhat realtime with perspctv. It's a nicely done news dasboard that updates on its own showing updates from CNN, Twitter, and the Blogosphere. It also shows poll results, predictions, daily reach, and search volume.

    They've got charts (above); they've got maps:

    they've got timelines:

    and they've got widgets:

    In essence, it's a news aggregater, but it's a really good one and a great dashboard for you election junkies.

    [Thanks, Iman]

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