• 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.

  • Xtimeline to Explore and Create Timelines

    July 7, 2007  |  Online Applications

    xtimeline

    Xtimeline allows you to explore all sorts of user-created timelines from the US war in Iraq to the life of Angelina Jolie to the history of pornography. I think the site is still pretty new since the most viewed timelines for the month, past 3 months, and year are still all the same, but nevertheless, from the looks of things, a nice community seems to be developing over there.

    The timelines are (I think) in javascript and what you see is a timeline of user-entered events. As you click and drag through time, events are displayed on the right. You can click on the events for more details where events can be anything from text, a picture, or a Flash-embedded video.

    One suggestion -- it looks like timelines can only be ended by a single user. It would be cool if multiple users could contribute to a single timeline, because I think it's hard to remember all the dates (especially the months) for certain events. We can't all be like Victor, who seems to know an awful lot about Britney Spears.

    *UPDATE* I just read the xtimeline blog. Yup, xtimeline did in fact, just open up to the public July 1.

  • Grab Data with templatemaker

    July 7, 2007  |  Software

    Adrian Holovaty released templatemaker yesterday. Adrian is probably best known as the guy, featured on YouTube, who played the MacGyver theme song. So clearly, he a man a many talents.

    Anyways, templatemaker is a Python script to extract data from text, um, HTML. For example, you could pass a review page from a site like Yelp, or several pages, and the script will "learn" the template. Once a template is established, you can extract the stuff that changes (e.g. ratings, restaurant name). Here, in Adrian's words:

    You can give templatemaker an arbitrary number of HTML files, and it will create the "template" that was used to create those files. ("Template," in this case, means a string with a number of "holes" in it, where the holes represent the parts of the page that change.) Once you've got the template, you can then give it any HTML file that uses that same template, and it will give you the raw data: "The value for hole 1 is 'July 6, 2007', the value for hole 2 is 'blue'," etc.

    It's under the BSD license, so all the more reason to use it. I haven't used it yet, but looking forward to it.

  • Hans Rosling: Providing Data, Inspiring Change

    July 6, 2007  |  Online Applications

    Okay, so this video has been posted probably on thousands of blogs already, but you know what, I don't care. Hans Rosling gives an amazing talk on poverty and life around the world, and he uses his interactive exploratory tool, Trendalyzer (acquired by Google), to show the different levels of health, education, and money around the world. Trendalzyer: useful, yes, but not the main point of the talk. Watch Rosling's talk all the way through. You won't be disappointed.

  • Diet and Weight Loss Tracking with Viz

    July 2, 2007  |  Online Applications

    fatsecret pie

    Weight loss is a difficult task for many, further complicated with so many diets -- Atkins, Jenny Craig, etc -- and lack of motivation. Fatsecret aims to make weight loss easier by providing the tools to track your weight loss, write about it, see what others are doing, and share your progress.

    There's a couple of graphs (built by Flash) on the homepage. The first, a pie chart, shows the proportions of fatsecret users on certain types of diets. You can see the proportions for this week, this month, or all time.

    Then towards the bottom -- a bar chart showing the average weight loss of fatsecret users for specified diets. Again, you can see for this week, this month, and all time.

    fatsecret: avg weight loss

    Every user has her own homepage which shows a line graph of her progress as well as the average weight loss of fatsecret members on the user's same diet.

    Fatsecret seems like quite of an active site with plenty of posting, tips, and member interactions, which makes me pretty happy. Next step: interactive tools.

  • Time Series Tool Like Google Finance

    July 1, 2007  |  Online Applications

    time-series

    Chronoscope is a work-in-progress time series visualization tool that lets you explore data similar to that of Google Finance. It's written in Java, unlike Finance, which uses Flash/Javascript, and uses the Google Web Toolkit as the hook. After a quick look-see, it's certainly still in alpha, and I'm not quite sure when beta will be available to the public. The browsing is pretty nifty though. I wonder how hard it'd be to do it Flash?

  • Same Big Mac Data, Different Platform

    June 30, 2007  |  Online Applications

    I went to Swivel, to see how they did with the same Big Mac data I visualized on Many Eyes. Swivel uses a Google Maps interface with an overlay:

    Big Mac Map (Swivel)

    It looks nice, but it was incredibly slow when I tried to zoom in or browse the map. Actually, not just the map was slow, but the whole page. Maybe some caching issues? Exploratory graphics isn't really Swivel's high point at the moment. I also find it a little strange that the overlay is the same color as that of the maps on Many Eyes.

  • Cost of Big Macs Worldwide

    June 28, 2007  |  Online Applications

    big mac map

    I was playing around at Many Eyes, and it was amazingly easy to map some data on the Big Mac. The data set was simply two columns: country name and the cost of the Big Mac in that country. I chose the mapping visualization option, and voila, data was mapped. Awesome.

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