• # Elastic Lists Celebrates Five Years of Information Aesthetics

December 23, 2009  |  Infographics

In celebration of Information Aesthetics' birthday, Moritz Stefaner of Well-formed Data adapted his elastic lists concept to all five years of infosthetics posts. Each white-bordered rectangle represents a post, and colors within rectangles indicate post categories.

Select categories on the right, and the list updates to show related categories. Similarly, filter posts by year, author, and/or number of categories. Select a rectangle to draw up the actual post.

Go on, give it a try for yourself. Excellent work.

And then head over to infosthetics and wish it a happy birthday.

• # 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.

• # Virtual Slot Machine Teaches the Logic of Loss

December 18, 2009  |  Infographics, Statistics

This interactive by Las Vegas Sun describes how in the long run, you're going to lose every single penny when you throw your hard-earned money into a slot machine. In the short-term though, it is possible to win. It's all probability. It's also why statisticians don't gamble. Nobody plays a game that he's practically guaranteed to lose, unless you're a masochist - or you're Al Pacino in that one horrible sports gambling movie with Matthew McConaughey.

One clarification on the snippet about payout percentage.

This is the ratio of money a player will get back to the amount of money he bets, which is programmed into the slot machine. If a machine has payout percentage of 90 percent, that means 90 percent of the money someone bets should statistically be won back. It means a player is not likely to lose 10 percent of the amount initially put into the machine, but rather 10 percent, on average, over time.

The wording is kind of confusing. To be more clear - over time, on average, you'd lose 10% of the money you put in per bet. This is an important note, because it's how casinos make money. For example, when you play Blackjack perfectly (sans card-counting), you'll lose on average 2% (or something like that) per hand, so play long enough, and you're going to lose all your money.

Imagine you have two buckets. One is filled with water. The other is empty. Transfer the water back and forth between the two buckets. Some of the water drips out during some of the transfers. Eventually, all the water is on the ground.

Ah yes, intro probability is fun. Play the virtual slot machine and do some learning for yourself.

[Thanks, Tyson]

• # Infographic Coins for International Visitors

December 17, 2009  |  Infographics

You know when you go to another country and have no clue what the coins of the local currency are worth? I always end up with a giant handful of international coins, which doesn't go well when I try to spend a Euro in Canada. The US vending machine won't take my Canadian quarters either, or my pesos.

• # 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year – 2009

December 16, 2009  |  Visualization

It was a huge year for data. There's no denying it. Data is about to explode.

Applications sprung up left and right that help you understand your data - your Web traffic, your finances, and your life. There are now online marketplaces that sell data as files or via API. Data.gov launched to provide the public with usable, machine-readable data on a national scale. State and local governments followed, and data availability expands every day.

At the same time, there are now tons of tools that you can use to visualize your data. It's not just Excel anymore, and a lot of it is browser-based. Some of the tools even have aesthetics to boot.

It's exciting times for data, indeed.

Data has been declared sexy, and the rise of the data scientist is here.

With all the new projects this year, it was hard to filter down to the best, but here they are: two honorable mentions and the five best data visualization projects of 2009. Visualizations were chosen based on analysis, aesthetics, and most importantly, how well they told their story (or how well they let you tell yours).

• # Canvi & Temps: An Exploration of Science Over Time

December 15, 2009  |  Network Visualization

Bestiario, the group behind 6pli and a number of other network projects, released their most recent project - Canvi & Temps - that explores the complexity of science since the early 1920s.

• # Twitter Mentionmap and Correlations at your.flowingdata

December 11, 2009  |  Network Visualization

your.flowingdata got a couple of cool updates recently. One is based on your interactions with others on Twitter and the other helps you find relationships in your actions.

The first is the Twitter Mentionmap created by Daniel McLaren. It's a network visualization (above) that lets you explore how you (or other Twitter users) interact with others.

It's not focused on the data that many of you are used to seeing on YFD, but it's always been my plan to bring in other data sources. So when I saw Daniel post the original Mentionmap, I jumped at the chance to get a version for YFD. It seemed like a good first step to branching out. Get it? Network, branching out. Oh nevermind.

By the way, Daniel used his constellation framework to build this. It's called asterisq. It's worth a look if you're looking to visualize network data. Daniel can also help you with customization and design.

• # 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]

• # How to Make an Interactive Area Graph with Flare

December 9, 2009  |  Statistical Visualization, Tutorials

You've seen the NameExplorer from the Baby Name Wizard by Martin Wattenberg. It's an interactive area chart that lets you explore the popularity of names over time. Search by clicking on names or typing in a name in the prompt. It's simple. It's sexy. Everybody loves it.

This is a step-by-step guide on how to make a similar visualization in Actionscript/Flash with your own data and how to customize the design for whatever you need. We're after last week's graphic on consumer spending (above).

December 7, 2009  |  Visualization

The gift-giving season is here, and you're probably wondering what to get everybody. You can only give so many neck ties, and you gave gift cards to Best Buy last year. So here's some help. Here are some gifts that will rock the socks off any data geek.

FlowingPrints - Obviously an excellent choice. I'm a little biased, yes, but still great :). Use the code gimme50off to get 50% when you buy two prints or more. Deal ends this Friday.

The Visual Miscellaneum - This book covers a wide variety of topics with lots of pretty infographics. Read my glowing review.

Data Flow: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design - More design-focused than the above with many many examples from various visualization people and designers. Read my review here.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information - It's Edward Tufte's first book. Always a crowd-pleaser.

Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions - Exactly what the title says. It's a collection of essays from experts in the data arena, except for the first chapter. That was written by some lamebrain.

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists - Maybe your data geek is just getting into visualization. Processing is a great place to start, and this book provides plenty of guidance.

WallStats - The most recent 2010 infographic poster for where you tax dollars go. Get 50% off two or more posters when you use the code flowingdata.

Ambient Devices - Get all data all the time with these devices. The orb is my favorite.

Got any more data gift ideas? Let us know in the comments.

Visit datavisualization.ch for more ideas on how you can surprise your data fiend this season.

• # The Geography of AIDS Around the World

December 7, 2009  |  Mapping

It was World AIDS Day last week and UNAIDS published the latest estimates on the number of people around the world who are living with HIV. Xaquin G.V. provides four cartograms (i.e. value-aread maps) to show the numbers. In the final result (above) each square represents 10,000 people with HIV, and regions are color-coded by percentage of people with the virus.

• # Should You Get the H1N1 Vaccine?

December 4, 2009  |  Infographics

David McCandless, author of The Visual MIscellaneum, delves into the usefulness of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. There was quite a bit of research involved, as there's a crud load of material about H1N1 (naturally).

My wife's an ER doc, and she says it's not that big of a deal, seeing as way more people die from the flu, but here's full graphic. You can decide for yourself.

• # Stat Charts Get a New York Times Redesign

December 3, 2009  |  Statistical Visualization

Statistical graphics are often... kind of bland. But that's fine, because they're usually for analysis, and the wireframe does just fine. The time eventually comes though when you need to present your analytical visualization in a paper or some slides, and you're no longer the primary reader.

In their NYT op-ed on health care calculations, Andrew Gelman, Nate Silver, and Daniel Lee had some graphics of their own that needed some NYT flavor and design treatment.

November 30, 2009  |  Network Visualization

There's this branch in computer science and statistics for vision research. Normally, if you ever hear about it in the news it's in the context of spotting terrorists in security tapes or facial recognition checkpoints (you know, like what they have in movies in front of giant steel doors). That is of course not the only application.

Google (and many others) has been playing around with this stuff for a while. Most recently, they released Google Image Swirl in their labs section, which utilizes computer vision to find similar images.

Above is my search for happy cat. The initial search result is what you're used to. It's a matrix of thumbnails. Click on one of them, and you'll get similar images clustered as a network graph.

Google Image Swirl: the new way to find if someone is plagiarizing your work.

• # Can You Guess What These Maps Show?

November 27, 2009  |  Mapping

I'm no doubt still under massive food coma at this time, but in case you've regained consciousness or don't live in the US, check out this collection of maps from The Morning News. Can you guess what each is supposed to show? If you can guess even one of them correctly, I'll be impressed.

[Thanks, William]

• # What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving, Mapped and Ranked

November 26, 2009  |  Mapping

Food-wise, Thanksgiving is different across the country. In some places you're going to get a lot of chitterlings and collard greens, while in others, turkey and mashed potatoes. Personally, I'm a big fan of the 10-course Chinese feast, but to each his own.

The New York Times (Matthew Ericson and Amanda Cox), map what's cooking in your neck of the woods based on searches on Allrecipes. The top search, concentrated in the southeast, was sweet potato casserole. I have no idea what that is, but it must be delicious.

• # Fox News Makes the Best Pie Chart. Ever.

November 26, 2009  |  Mistaken Data, Ugly Charts

What? I don't see anything wrong with it.

• # Battle of the Coverage Maps: Verizon vs. AT&T

November 24, 2009  |  Mapping

Verizon has been running these ads lately that compare their 3G coverage to that of AT&T's. In the ads a Verizon customer walks along on a speedy phone, and a US map pops up that's covered in red. Later, an AT&T customer looks frustrated with a sparsely-covered AT&T coverage map. You've probably seen them by now, but if not, here are the Verizon ones.

• # The Cost of Getting Sick

November 23, 2009  |  Statistical Visualization

GE and Ben Fry (now the director of SEED visualization), show the cost of getting sick, from the individual's and insurer's perspective. The data: 500k records from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from GE's proprietary database. The visualization: a polar area pie chart.

• # Buzzwords in Academic Papers (Comic)

November 20, 2009  |  Statistical Visualization

This comic was really amusing, although it might be because I'm a big nerd entertained by all things from PHD Comics...

It's my blog, and I can laugh if I want to.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

[Thanks, Stephen]