• Stamen Design Puts Out Another Good One in Digg Pics

    January 8, 2008  |  Online Applications

    digg-pics

    In the usual fashion that we've come to expect from Stamen Design, Digg Pics shows us what pictures are being dugg as well as provides an opportunity to discover new pictures. As with its Digg Labs siblings, Digg Pics offers three streams -- popular, newly submitted, and all activity.

    I always like to read posts that discuss the experimental phases and how a viz came to whatever it is; it's kind of like when you know the history of a piece of art, you can appreciate it more. Eric goes into the design process at the Stamen blog. There's screenshots of Stamen's experimental layouts, and from what I see on Digg, I'd say everything came together quite nicely.

    The picture streams are split up into Digg categories where the number of times a picture is repeated represents the number of times the picture was recently dugg. The display is clean and smooth, and of course the interaction is quite nice (and useful).

    Another good one, Stamen!

  • YouTube Releases Visualization for Related Videos

    December 18, 2007  |  Online Applications

    youtube-viz

    YouTube (or should I say Google), released their visualization for related videos. It's essentially a ball and stick graph without the sticks. The above is a screenshot of the videos related to Marty McFly playing Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future, the greatest movie of all time.

    Some of the video bubbles that circle around the Marty clip are the same as those in the "Related Videos" section of the usual page while others are not. Place the cursor over a bubble for about two seconds, and related videos for the one you have your mouse over will bubble up.

    I'm not sure if the distance between the bubbles have to do with similarity level. So far it seems not, because I've refreshed the Marty visualization a few times and the bubbles' initial positions have always been different.

    Continue Reading

  • Many Eyes Has Embeddable Visualization

    December 13, 2007  |  Online Applications

    You used to only be able to get a small thumbnail to "share" the visualization you found or created on Many Eyes (well, outside of taking screenshots and emailing), but Many Eyes just announced the embed feature. In the same way you can embed YouTube videos, you can embed Many Eyes visualizations. This is a really big step forward, because users can share what they've found or seen more easily and as a result, it's more likely others will become drawn in. You know, it's that whole viral marketing thing.

    Just one weird thing. I had to change the single quotes in the copy and paste snippet to double quotes for the embedding to work, because my version (or all versions?) of WordPress escapes the single quotes.

  • Google Has a Charting API Too Now

    December 7, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Yahoo: Look Google, I've got a Flash charts API now. I make it easier for people to plot their data, and look, pretty colors.

    Google: So what. Look what I've got. I have URL-based chart creation with fun, cartoon-ish Google colors. My API is way easier, and plus, since I'm Google, everyone will use my API and not yours.

    Y: Why are you so mean to me? We both have two O's in our name. Can't we be friends?

    G: No. That's right, you heard me. I'm better. Now kiss my feet.

    Sigh, poor Yahoo. Right after Yahoo released their flash-based charting API, Google proudly announces a super simple charting API of their own. The idea is very straightforward. It all starts with the URL http://chart.apis.google.com/chart and from there

    1. Add parameters to URL
    2. Link to URL as an image

    That's it.

    For example, this URL

    http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=520x225&chd=s:helloWorld&cht=lc&chxt=x,y&

    chxl=0:|Mar|Apr|May|June|July|1:||50+Kb

    gives you

    You have the usual options of line, bar, pie, venn, and scatter; and you can change the colors, labels, size, etc.

    With all the charting available, could this be a sign that data is becoming more popular?

    [via Blogoscoped]

  • Yahoo Charts Control Library Now Available

    December 6, 2007  |  Online Applications

    YUI Charts Example

    Yahoo User Interface 2.4.0 was recently released which includes the new YUI Charts Control.

    Josh Tynjala of the Yahoo! Flash Platform team contributes the new YUI Charts Control, a hybrid JavaScript/Flash component that supports bar, line, and pie charts. The Charts Control draws data from the same DataSource Utility that underpins the YUI DataTable Control, making it possible to do combined chart/table visualizations. The Charts Control accepts CSS style information, allowing you to skin the chart itself without touching the underlying .swf file. But if you do want to dig into the Flash side of this project, you can get full access to those assets on the ASTRA site.

    What does this mean? It means that we're probably going to see a lot more hack-ish looking charts online (example above); but we might also see some nice-looking charts since it seems like they're potentially customizable. In any case, it's good to see this. There's some cruddy Flash-based chart libraries that people are actually charging money for. This free and open library should have some positive effects.

  • Graphwise: Crawling the Web for Tabulated Data

    November 8, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Graphwise LogoGraphwise launched a few weeks ago, but I'm just hearing about it now, so I guess there hasn't been a whole lot of buzz about this new application.

    The Graphwise group has got a spider crawling the Web for data in HTML data tables and as a result, has accumulated a pretty big data warehouse. There's currently 2,766,560 extracted tables in the Graphwise database. That's pretty good, and I think they're building on a pretty good idea. However, Graphwise advertises itself as three pieces of a three-piece puzzle -- get data, visualize, and share.

    To say the least, the visualize and share portions need work. Here's a visualization from the front page:

    Graphwise Graph Example

    I...I...don't know what to say. Why the 3-d bars with the gradient background and the giant, semi-transparent Earth in the foreground blocking everything? It makes me want to throw up. It seriously looks like someone threw up data on the screen -- data vomit. The javascript-enabled graphs seem to be making the browsing experience pretty sluggish too.

    Am I being too harsh? My conscious is yelling at me for calling the graphs regurgitated food.

    OK, OK. So to sum things up -- the data warehousing and Web crawling are great. The spiders are clearly doing their job, so thumbs up for that. As for the visualizations, I, well, uh, it needs work (along with all the other junk that comes with running these types of data-centric applications).

    [via Swivel]

  • Use Flare Visualization Toolkit to Build Interactive Viz for the Web

    October 30, 2007  |  Software

    Flare Logo Tom from Stamen Design and Hadley from the GGobi group kindly pointed me to the recently ported Flare visualization toolkit. Developed by Berkeley's Jeffrey Heer, Flare looks extremely useful for anyone who is interested in developing interactive visualizations (e.g. time series, stacked bar, pie charts, graph) for the Web that run in the Adobe Flash player.

    There's a pretty good tutorial that I, as a beginner, found straightforward. I ran into some problems when I was trying to "import a library into another project," but per Jeffrey's suggestion, I upgraded to Adobe Flex 3 beta (currently a free download). That cured my problems. Adobe Flex is apparently still a little rough around the edges. Oh right, and the tutorial provides instructions on how to develop with Flare in the Flex Builder environment.

    I'm currently going through the demos to gain a better understanding of both Flare and Actionscript, and it looks very promising. I'm pretty excited about what I can do once I've improved my Actionscript programming skills.

    Check out some screenshots from the Flare demo reel after the jump.

    Continue Reading

  • Create, Share, and Embed Custom Timelines with circaVie

    October 25, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Part of the AIM network, it's another online application to create and share timelines. As I've said before, timelines are very intuitive in displaying both data and information, so it's not surprising that these applications are springing up. The circaVie user interface feels a bit easier than xtimeline, and I like circaVie's style and design a lot more too. In particular I like the timeline scrolling; it feels a lot like the iPhone interface. Try it out for yourself using your AIM screenname.

  • What is the Best Way to Learn Flash & Actionscript for Visualization?

    October 19, 2007  |  Software

    Maybe someone can help me with this. I'm shifting focus from static graphics (with Adobe Illustrator) and moving onto dynamic data visualization with Flash and Actionscript. Does anyone have any book or site suggestions that you've found particularly helpful in data visualization?

    I have three books sitting in front of me right now:

    1. Hands-on Training for Macromedia Flash Professional 8 from Lynda
    2. Essential Actionscript 2.0 from O'Reilly
    3. Macromedia Flash 8 @work from Sams

    I started going through Essential, and I've clearly forgotten what a chore it is to learn a new programming language in the early beginnings. To read books about code is particularly boring to me. Although I suppose it's necessary. I've also read a lot of the Hands-on book, which wasn't exactly my cup of tea either. Going through the tutorials reminded me a lot of the ArcGIS crash course I took earlier this year. "Click this to do that, and click that to do this. Click this and that to do that and this. After you're done, voila. You get this...and that."

    For an idea of what I can do already: I mainly have R, PHP, and some Processing behind me, and then there's the computer science courses I took in undergrad at Berkeley, which I guess has been about four years ago now.

    So if anyone has any ideas or suggestions on what books to read, online resources to check out, or aspects of Actionscript and/or Flash I should focus on, please, I am all ears.

  • Gazing Deeply Into Your Many Eyes

    October 7, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Dear Many Eyes,

    From the moment I stared into your thousands of solid black eyes, I knew we had something special. Since the day we met you've shown me the silver lining in my data and pointed out details that I never would have found on my own. You're never pushy or arrogant about it; you always let me learn for myself. You believe in my natural pattern-finding ability the same way I believe in your big, beautiful exploratory tools.

    Many Eyes, I want to tell you something. I just want to, well, let you know why you're so high up on my bookmark list. You should also know there's some ways that you can improve, but please don't take it personally. I just want you to be all that you can be.

    Sincerely,
    Nathan

    Continue Reading

  • World Freedom Atlas

    October 5, 2007  |  Mapping, Online Applications

    World Freedom Atlas is an online geo-visualization tool that shows a number of freedom indicators so to speak. For example, you can map by a number of indexes such as raw political rights score, civil liberties, political imprisonment, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or torture. If I've counted correctly the data comes from 42 datasets divided into three categories:

    1. What It Is
    2. How To Get It
    3. What You Get

    What It Is covers data such as political rights and civil liberties while How To Get It is data on government structure and education system. I'm not really sure What You Get is though. There's GDP and some economic indexes, so it could be something like quality of life. Maybe someone can explain it better?

    The mapping and plots are pretty standard, but what stands out is the number of datasets that have been formatted in such a way the user is able to map things quickly and easily. It would be really cool if the data was explained a little better, so that I could "browse" the data a bit more efficiently, and even better, if there were some way to compare indicators against each other. Nevertheless, worth exploring a bit.

  • Swivel Gets a Data Guy

    October 3, 2007  |  Online Applications

    What the heck's a data guy? According to Gerard, who studied computer science and economics in college

    It means that I'm the type of person who, instead of planning for a vacation like a normal person, will write a script to pull down airline data for all possible destinations and routes, load the data into R and perform a regression analysis to find the best time to buy.

    Oh, so that's what a data guy is. I guess that makes me a data guy.

    This should be good for Swivel, who has seemed to be missing the "data guy" piece of the puzzle. Will Swivel's visualization tools improve? Will data become more reliable on Swivel? I don't know. It's possible. There's definitely a lot of work to be done, so one person won't be enough, but hey, it's a start. It's not often that I see a computer science / economics person. I'm an electrical engineering and computer science / statistics person myself, and I like to see people with dual backgrounds (even if they did go to the other school across the bay).

    That being said, applications like Swivel, Many Eyes, and Data360 make me wonder where all the statisticians are. I see mathematicians, designers, economists, and businessmen. Come on statisticians. Show yourselves. The world needs you.

  • Useful Stat Resources for R and GRASS

    October 1, 2007  |  Software

    UCLA Statistics has a pretty extensive list of resources on how to use R and GRASS. For those unfamiliar, R is a programming language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. GRASS is an open source geographic information system (GIS). And of course, both are completely free and completely useful.

  • Using Many Eyes to Visualize Text

    September 29, 2007  |  Online Applications

    many-eyes-word-tree

    Some time last month, Many Eyes introduced their text visualization, the word tree. The user starts from a word or phrase, which is the root (or the trunk?) of the tree and then the branches are the continuation of the sentence in which the word appeared. The advantage over the word tree is that the order of words stays the same, as opposed to a jumbled tag cloud:

    Many Eyes Word Cloud

    Hence, the word tree allows the user to gain a better understanding of text flow and writing patterns than she would with a cloud.

    I found that it was very easy to create a word tree with some text that I had uploaded, but while starting exploration, I was unsure about what words to begin with. The word tree interface is similar to Martin Wattenberg's earlier Baby Name Wizard. The user naturally has some ideas on what to start with since it's an exploration of names. However, with the word tree, it's not as obvious, because the user might be exploring a body of text she's unfamiliar with.

    So instead I began sifting with a word cloud, which gave me an idea of some important words and phrases used in the text. Then it was simple to move from the word cloud to the word tree. The two viz tools -- cloud and tree -- go together quite nicely as the cloud kind of works as a suggestion box for the tree. As a standalone, the word tree is off to a good start.

  • Use Mint to Manage Your Finances

    September 26, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Mint LogoMint was released last week. It's an online application that brings financial data from all of your credit card and bank accounts into one place. Think Quicken online and free.

    It's super easy (only takes a few seconds) to add your financial accounts, and you only have to do it once. After you've added your accounts, Mint will update your data every night and compile them into useful reports. You'll get an overview of spending trends, transactions, and even ways you can save money based on your current credit cards' interest rates.

    So far I've found it useful simply because all of my data is one place. As I've made my way into adulthood, I've slowly accumulated more and more credit cards to the point where it's kind of annoying to login to every account to see how much debt I have.

    One Small Annoyance

    My one gripe about Mint is that the spending trends and savings features haven't been that informative, but I imagine will get better once more data comes in and Mint continues to tweak the system. My highest hope is that they do something about the dreaded 3-d pie chart...

    Mint Pie Chart

    Overall though, I'm looking forward to seeing Mint grow and develop into an extremely useful tool that brings all of your data into one place and represents it in a way that's understandable and interesting.

  • My Love-hate Relationship with ArcGIS

    September 13, 2007  |  Software

    Housing BurdenArcGIS can do a lot for you in terms of speeding up the mapping process, which is great, but here's my dilemma: do I really want to put in all the time to figure out how to use the software?

    I think the basics is good enough for me and any further than that, I'll let a mapping expert take over. However, I know that spatial analysis is something I'm going to pursue, so... I'm really back and forth.

    On the one hand, ArcGIS has a lot of functions, but on the other hand, it's not especially easy to use all those functions. For example, I was doing a join between two data tables, but it wasn't working at first because the column on one table didn't have leading zeros (e.g. 1 instead of 01). By "not working" I don't mean that columns weren't joining. I mean that I couldn't select this column and that column to join by, so I couldn't even get to the step where I knew I had to change something. It's little things like that that bug me and make me think that ArcGIS is inflexible.

    Plus, it sure does like to crash.

    I don't know.

    I probably just need more experience. How about this. I'll just learn what I have to, but I'm not going to go out of my way to become an ArcMap expert. Yeah, that sounds OK to me.

    And on that note, here's the map I made. Color scale was the main thing I had to fuss with. Too many shades of gray lead to a muddled graphic in the paper even if it looks fine on screen. The map shows the percentage of people who spend 30% or more of their household income on housing. Of course, California leads the way.

  • Why I Do Not Swivel Data

    August 31, 2007  |  Online Applications

    I've been back and forth on whether or not I wanted to post about this. Two reasons: I feel blasphemous feeling this way; and I'm not sure if I'm working for or against my hopes for data awareness. I also think I might be getting some mild form of carpal tunnel. Ow.

    I'm a graduate student in Statistics, and I don't like Swivel. Why? How is that even possible? All of my work encircles data, I blog about flowing data, and I read about data. So why can't I force myself to enjoy the "tasty data treats for data geeks" offered by Swivel?
    Continue Reading

  • Many Eyes on The Times U.S. Open Blog

    August 27, 2007  |  Online Applications

    us-open-many-eyes

    There was a post on The Times U.S. Open blog debating on the state of American tennis compared to the rest of the world. Right in the middle of the post, what do we see? It's a Many Eyes thumbnail!

    There was some discussion on the the decreasing trend shown in the graph, but as the graph only shows American tennis data, the obvious next step would be to show what the rest of the tennis population (i.e. Europe, etc) would look like.

    In any case, it's nice to see Many Eyes creeping into popular media.

  • More Mapping from amMap Offering Flexibility

    July 13, 2007  |  Mapping, Online Applications

    amMap

    Yes, more mapping. Map, map, map. amMap offers a Flash-based mapping tool that you can download and customize to your liking.

    Ammap is an interactive flash map creation software. Use this tool to show locations of your offices, routes of your journeys, create your distributor map. Photos or illustrations can be used instead of maps, so you can make different presentations, e-learning tools and more.

    There's some smooth browsing and zooming, and it's pretty sleek. Those who appreciate simplicity will appreciate amMap. Plus, it's free :) Continue Reading

  • Browser Statistics Firefox Add-on

    July 9, 2007  |  Software

    mozilla-browser-stats

    I just added the Browser Statistics add-on to my Firefox browser. On the bottom left corner, it shows the number of kilobytes downloaded for the current page, total number of kilobytes downloaded since the last start of the browser, and number of pages loaded. I'm going to try to log these numbers each day and try to make use of the data (uh, if laziness doesn't get the best of me). If only there were some automated data logging.

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