• New Version of Flare Visualization Toolkit Released

    July 31, 2008  |  Software, Visualization

    A new version of Flare, the data visualization toolkit for Actionscript (which means it runs in Flash), was just released yesterday with a number of major improvements from the previous version. The toolkit was created and is maintained by the UC Berkeley Visualization Lab and was one of the first bits of Actionscript that I got my hands on. The effort-to-output ratio was pretty satisfying, so if you want to learn Acitonscript for data visualization, check out Flare. The tutorial is a good place to start.

    Here are some sample applications created with Flare:

    [Thanks, Jeff]

  • Can You Improve this Graph Showing Suicide Rates in Japan?

    July 30, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    0730suicide-epidemic1

    Are you ready for another deconstruct/reconstruct exercise? I just posted a time series plot in the FlowingData forums that shows suicide rates and unemployment rates in Japan. Here are questions worth considering:

    • What is the graph trying to show? Does it succeed?
    • Is this the appropriate type of plot of this type of data?
    • What would make the data more clear?

    At a glance, the graph almost looks fine, but on a slightly deeper than superficial look, there are some clear problems.

  • What Kind of Information is Hidden in Barcodes?

    July 29, 2008  |  Data Art

    Barcodes. We all know what they look like. They're the black stripes that vary in thickness with numbers that indicate something or another, but what is that something? Every product has a unique barcode number and when you pass it through an international key database, you get information about the product and the country of origin. Daniel Becker uses this data to create art in Barcode Plantage.

    Once a bar code is keyed or scanned in, the program sends a request to the database, which returns a master file data. This master file data is then analysed to define positions, curves and colours of Bezier curves of the tree structure.

    The number of these curves will vary correspondence to the number of figures in the code. Simultaneously, the user will hear a melody, which is based on the figures of the bar code.

    Because every barcode is unique so is the resulting tree. Pretty.

    [via swissmiss]

  • Watching Our Twitter World – twittervision Redux

    July 28, 2008  |  Mapping, Projects, Software

    I've always liked twittervision. I'm not sure what it is, but it's strangely mesmerizing, getting a tiny peak into others' lives. This weekend, I recreated twittervision with a little bit of style for good measure. Say hello to Twitter World.

    The Data

    Twitter World shows updates from the Twitter public timeline, and makes use of the twittervision API for location. Until I get whitelisted for the Twitter API, I'm polling Twitter and twittervision every six minutes to keep things fresh. Hopefully neither putters out.

    The Implementation

    Like my visualization showing the spread of Walmart, I used Modest Maps (+ OpenStreetMap) to map things out, and I used TweenFilterLite to animate. I had all the gears in place and everything working nicely a couple of hours in - but that was with a flat XML file. The hard part was feeding the thing live data and then making sure everything was synchronized. That took, um, too much time.

    In any case, not bad for a weekend project.

    PS. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter :)

  • There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Dataset

    July 25, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    Last week I asked if you could improve a mediocre bar chart showing party majorities by county. There was a resounding yes as many of you deconstructed and then reconstructed your own graphs. For reference, here's the original chart:

    Here are the key flaws to the original that you all caught:

    1. The x-axis tick marks were in really weird places;
    2. The y-axis label was misleading because the data were number of counties;
    3. Red and blue would make more sense for Democrats and Republicans;
    4. Counts for counties don't match the years, because they are reversed;
    5. We see a different story when we bring in data for undecided "other" and "declined to declare."

    What was the graph trying to show? It was trying to show party registration in California over the past five presidential elections. Did it succeed? No. It failed miserably; however, you did much better. Here are all the reworks.

    Brijesh made a stacked chart for Democrats and Republicans:

    Tyler made a horizontal stacked bar chart with a useful majority line down the middle:

    Blair provided some R code:

    David used a tornado chart, which turned out well:

    Amos went with a stacked line chart:

    Kevin sent this one in:

    John put together a few versions - this being one of about five:

    Jorge went with simplicity:

    Stack created a time series for the Dems and Reps:

    Jake put up a fan favorite:

    Nate, the graphic designer, embedded a stacked line chart inside the California boundaries:

    This is the one I made at the workshop:

    Personally, I like Jake and David's the best, but who gets the golden star for best graph? I'll let you be the judge.

  • Mapping Walkability in San Francisco

    July 24, 2008  |  Mapping

    Lee Byron, recent Carnegie Mellon grad and newly inducted New York Times graphics intern, maps walkability in San Francisco. He scraped Walk Score for uh, walk scores, which are scores from 0-100 based on the amenities around a location like "nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc" - how easy it is to live without a car.

    Color was calculated on a per pixel basis using bicubic interpolation. From there he let Processing do the graphical labor to construct a map overlay. The result, which is accurate to the block, is a pretty one.

    If you want data (sans map) for your own neighborhood, Lee has kindly provided the scraper.

  • Shouldn’t You Be Using Firefox By Now?

    July 22, 2008  |  Infographics

    I've been using Mozilla Firefox for years and have nothing but good things to say about the most recently released Firefox 3. Whenever I borrow someone else's computer, and all he has is Internet Explorer, I feel wrong and dirty.

    When I think Internet Explorer, I think vulnerability, crashing, spyware, adware, sluggishness, and more crashing. I imagine running AdAware on my mom's laptop over and over again.

    This calendar graphic on the Mozilla front page captures that idea nicely. While a bar graph, pie chart, or just the numbers alone would have shown the data just fine, the calendars put the numbers into perspective. The calendars give readers a way to relate to the data, which makes the story all that much more clear.

    [via Cool Infographics]

  • Martin Wattenberg On Visualizing Large Textual Data

    July 21, 2008  |  Data Art, Quotes

    Martin Wattenberg, one of the creators of Many Eyes, in reply to "Why is a numbers guy like you so interested in large textual data sets?"

    The entire literary canon may be smaller than what comes out of particle accelerators or models of the human brain, but the meaning coded into words can't be measured in bytes. It's deeply compressed. Twelve words from Voltaire can hold a lifetime of experience.

    Martin Wattenberg = smart guy.

  • Weekend Minis for Your Lazy Weekend – 7/19/08

    July 19, 2008  |  Self-surveillance, Visualization

    BedPost - I put this up earlier for the FlowingData personal visualization project, but for those who missed out, Kevin recently put up a sign up form so that you get a notification for when the grown up activities tracker is ready for public use.

    Bible Belt Got Back - We see fatness by state in this fun map by CalorieLab. The map title says percentage of obese adult population, but I think it really meant percentage of adult population that is obese. [Thanks, tarheelcoxn | via The Daily Dish]

    Movie Color Spectrum - I couldn't find more details for this, but from what I gather, we see the dominant colors of selected movies that range from rated G to NC-17. Notice a pattern as we start from happy go-lucky movies for children to the uh, more grown up movies? [Thanks, Tim]

    Pew Study on Religion - USA Today uses horizontal stacked bar charts to show results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Publilc Life. What do you think - easy or hard to read? Do all the charts make the data more clear?

  • Can You Improve this Mediocre Statistical Graphic?

    July 18, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    I'm on my way back home from the workshop Integrating Computing into the Statistics Curricula in Berkeley (and this time I managed to get through the line without getting yelled at). During one of the labs, there was an assignment called Deconstruct-Reconstruct which was a great way to learn how to improve statistical graphics. Basically, we picked apart (deconstruct) a graphic from Swivel and then created a better version (reconstruct).

    Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept it...

    As I was making my own version, I thought to myself, "I bet FlowingData readers would do really well with this exercise." Let's see if I'm right. Can you deconstruct-reconstruct the above graphic? Here are questions worth considering:

    • What is the graphic (trying) to show?
    • Does the graphic achieve its goal?
    • Are there other data that could make the plot more informative?
    • How can we improve the bar chart?

    I'll put my version a little later...This post will self-destruct in ten seconds...

  • Is Napoleon’s March the Greatest Statistical Graphic Ever?

    July 17, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    I'm starting to hear about Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's march time and time again - almost to the point of exhaustion. Is the map really that awesome, or is it just because Edward Tufte said so? Here is my question to all of you:

    Is Minard's map the best statistical graphic ever drawn?

    I have my own thoughts about this, but more importantly, I want to know what you all think. If you don't think it's the best ever, what is? If you do think it's the greatest of all time, what's second best?

  • Browse Your del.icio.us Bookmarks as Thumbnails

    July 16, 2008  |  Visualization

    I bookmark stuff with del.icio.us almost every day, and it's become indispensable, because I mark items to write about later here on FlowingData. So it's always interesting to see new ways to browse my bookmarks and tags. Favthumbs takes a straightforward approach and displays your bookmarks as thumbnails, but the implementation is surprisingly smooth and useful.

    There are two views - grid and carousel. The carousel should remind you of the iTunes cover flow, which has been making the rounds through the Web lately while the grid view provides a resizeable mosaic.

    You can also filter your bookmarks by tag. Very nice. What do you think - useful or no?

  • Radiohead Music Video by Capturing and Rendering 3D Data

    July 15, 2008  |  Data Art

    Radiohead's most recent music video, House of Cards, was made entirely without cameras. Instead the setup involved a rotating scanner, lasers, and lots of 3D data. The music video is all of that 3D data rendered.

    No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.

    Check out the "making of" video for a better explanation that I can provide. I like the part when they talk about distorting the data on purpose because, uh, well that's something we usually try not to do.

    Here's the final result. There are some really beautiful scenes where the "camera" pans a landscape and it sorta blows away in a billowy wind like a house of cards.

    [Thanks, Jason]

  • Mapping Economic Activity for the World

    July 14, 2008  |  Economics, Mapping

    The G-Econ (Geographically-based Economic data) group has worked on making economic data publicly available via Gross Cell Product (GCP). In other words, they've collected data for each 1x1 degree latitude by longitude cell on the globe. Above is a cell-by-cell globe mapping world population. Here's one that shows world rainfall.

    Check out more of these pretty world maps posted to the G-Econ Flickr photo set.

  • Reflecting On the Data Viz VI Conference

    July 9, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    A little over a week ago, I was in Bremen for the Data Viz VI conference. Read that Data Viz 6 - not Data Viz V.I., as I thought through the first three days.

    I asked, "Is this the first one of these?"

    "What do you mean? This is the sixth one. That's why it's called Data Viz SIX."

    "Ah, ok, I did not get that."

    Anyways, Adalbert and company put together an excellent conference, and I'm glad I was lucky enough to attend. It was the absolute best statistical conference I've ever been to. That's saying a lot, because it's the only statistical conference I've ever been to. But seriously, it was a good conference.

    Looking Backward, Looking Forward

    Michael Friendly opened up with the almost obligatory talk on the history of statistical graphics and where the field is headed. Anyone who's opened up a Tufte book will have seen a lot of the examples he's used (e.g. Napoleon's march and John Snow's map), but the history behind some of the graphics was interesting. Sometimes statistical graphics tend to lose that back story and becomes all about the values, so it's always nice to hear the human part of datasets.

    Visual Analytics Tools for Analysis of Movement Data

    My ears perked up when I saw "analysis of movement of data" in Gennady Andrienko's talk. I work with a lot of GPS data. I was reminded of the many ways to split up spatio-temporal data - by geographic section, by chunks of time, etc. It's easy to get caught up in the literal GPS traces on the map, so the talk was a good reminder. I do, however, wish Andrienko used more dynamic examples and branched out from Google Maps as the primary mapping tool. This was probably because his work is more computation-heavy than focused on interaction. Because of that, I was left wanting more than I got.

    GGobi for Exploratory Data Analysis

    I had the chance to chat a bit with the group behind GGobi, an exploratory tool that lets you "tour" multidimensional data via different projections. (That is one nice group of people, let me tell you.) Off the top of my head, there were four separate talks from the group, showing the various applications GGobi can be applied to. It's kind of hard to explain in brief, so I'd encourage you to check out the free software from the GGobi site. If anything, it's fun to see your data move ala John Tukey.

    Parallel Coordinates - Good or Bad?

    Al Inselberg promoted parallel coordinate plots (PCP) as the ultimate of statistical graphics. I got the sense that not everyone feels the same way. I remember during my second quarter as a graduate student, I proposed PCPs for a project. I was quickly rebuffed with a no way, those are horrible, and I simply moved on. After getting a personal demo from Inselberg though, I might have to take another look. Although, PCPs are certainly no panacea.

    Collaboration Wanted

    Still, my main take away from Data Viz VI was the need for collaboration between design, computer science, and statistics. As we've seen on FlowingData, there's a lot of great visualization coming from all three camps, but I wish there were more collaboration between all. As Di pointed out, this can sometimes be difficult because statisticians need certain tools (i.e. R) to be tightly coupled with whatever visualization they're developing. But outside the pure analytical tool, I see a sweet spot at the epicenter of statistics, design, and computer science, which is certainly something to get excited about.

  • Map With All the Common APIs at Once – Mapstraction

    July 8, 2008  |  Mapping, Software

    For those who want more out of the commonly-used mapping APIs from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc, but don't want to get too heavy on the programming, Mapstraction is for you. Mapstraction is a javascript mapping abstraction library that lets you easily use different mapping APIs all at once (or switch between them).

    This means you can use functionality from one API and apply it to another, or you can just put a whole bunch of synced maps on one page like above. Other features include geocoding, polylines, marker filters, and GeoRSS and KML, so go for it. Go map crazy.

    [via ReadWriteWeb]

  • Playful Infographics Triumph Over Pure Analytics (Sometimes)

    July 7, 2008  |  Design, Infographics

    The New York Times shows how presidential candidates have spent more than $900 million so far with this bubbly graphic by Lee Byron, Hannah Fairfield and Griff Palmer. The area of a circle represents the amount of money spent in any particular category. For example, the biggest chunk of funds ($337 million) was spent on media and consulting.

    I know what a lot of you are thinking and are maybe even about to write something in the comments - "Bubbles suck at showing amount. Bars are much easier to read." Some might even be thinking about a pie chart in lieu of the bibbly bobbilies. Here's what I have to say: the bubbles are fun, so mission accomplished. That is all.

  • The Girl Effect – Beautiful Use of Animated Typography

    July 4, 2008  |  Infographics

    The Girl Effect - "the idea that adolescent girls are uniquely capable of raising the standard of living in the developing world" - is portrayed in this beautiful video using animated typography. I think the music plays a pretty big role in making this work too.
    Continue Reading

  • Infographics Movie: Cost of the War In Iraq

    July 1, 2008  |  Infographics

    In the time that it takes you to watch this movie, the US government will have spent $500,000 towards the war in Iraq. At least that's what this Atari-sounding clip says. Watch as millions of dollars are put into perspective - 84 brand new schools, a flag pin for every man, woman, and child in America, and a hummer plus 10 years of gas.
    Continue Reading

  • Hacking the Coffee Maker – Caffeine Viewer

    June 30, 2008  |  Data Art, Self-surveillance

    The colmeia group recently installed their Caffeine Viewer project where they hacked their coffee maker to log their "insane coffee consumption" in real-time. Every time a person presses a button on the coffee maker data are logged, but there's a slight twist - the data are available to everyone via the caffeinated API. That's some serious self-surveillance. There are also a few visualizations, but mainly, they invite others to create their own.
    Continue Reading

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