• 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.
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  • 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

  • Statistical Graphics Conference – Jet Lag Wins. I Lose.

    June 27, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    As you might have noticed, I haven't been live blogging the Data Viz VI conference here in Bremen. I arrived Tuesday evening and on Wednesday, the first day of the conference, I woke up at 9:00am (which is midnight PDT), and my body said, "Nathan, I hate you. Go back to bed." I said no, and now I'm being punished. That's pretty much how it's been.

    The actual conference, however, has been really interesting. Di Cook demoed GGobi via high school dropout salary data; Michael Friendly gave a nice talk on the golden age of statistical graphics; Gennady Andrienko talked a bit on clustering spatio-temporal data; and there have been plenty of other interesting ones in the mix. One criticism - Minard's map, showing the march of Napoleon, has been mentioned at least five times. Enough already.

    My Talk

    I gave my talk on visualization for self-surveillance. I felt slightly off-topic talking more on design than on traditional statistical visualization, but no one threw any tomatoes at me, so that's okay. The emphasis was on collecting data about ourselves, looking for patterns, and gaining some insight on the way we live with my current project as the case in point.

    Animation in R

    Yesterday, Andreas Buja got the audience's attention by using R for animation. He used R to show fishing boat activity off the Pacific coast simply using getGraphicsEvent(). The coding syntax was very similar to Actionscript where there is a listener, and when an event fires off, a function is called. For example, you can tell R to do something when the user clicks on the mouse. The animated map amazed a lot of people. I was mildly amused.

    Design and Statistics

    I've always known about the big divide between statistics and design for data visualization, but I didn't really know how big the gap was until now. For example, Processing, which is the default tool for a lot of designers, is foreign to statisticians. At the same time, most designers have never touched or heard of R. From where I sit, I see two separate worlds trying to do the same thing - tell stories with data. Both sides have much to learn from the other. They just don't know it yet.

    This is not to say that the two haven't done great things separately, because they have. But the potential is high when they merge. Throw computer science in there, which has found it way into seemingly everything as a necessity, and you've got something good on its way.

  • Coolest Design Job Ever – Infographics in the Movies

    June 23, 2008  |  Infographics

    Mark Coleran has hands down one of the best jobs in the world. He makes infographics for feature films. His résumé includes Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Island, Harry Potter and Blade 2. The infographics don't have to show real data; they just have to look cool. Well, I'm sure that's not all there is to it, but I bet awesomeness is a leading requirement. Coleran fills it well.
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  • An Experiment in Organic Software Visualization

    June 19, 2008  |  Data Art

    This organic visualization, code_swarm by Michael Ogawa from UC Davis, has been making the rounds on the Web lately, and rightfully so. The data: history of commits to a software project. However, instead of focusing on the actual code, the spotlight is on the relationships between developers and their code.

    Watch as developers commit code to the repository, the types of files they commit, and watch the life-like organism grow. Below is a video demo of code_swarm that shows the development of the Eclipse IDE:

    The way code swarms, flashing and zooming towards its developer, provides a very human aspect to something that can often feel cold, mechanical, and lifeless. Just one of the many reasons why I love data visualization.

    [Thanks, Simon]

  • FlowingData Readers’ Favorite Visualizations

    June 18, 2008  |  Visualization

    Last month I asked FlowingData readers, "What are your favorite data visualizations in recent memory?" I'd heard of some while others were brand new to me. Here are some of your responses.

    Richard said, "Hans Rosling, no question." Of course referring to the famed Gapminder.

    Tom said, "I’m really liking [Akamai] right now." Srikanth replied, "That one is pure awesome."

    Srikanth also liked Lee Byron's Daylight.

    Tony said, "Definitely this one about Manny’s quest for 500 homers!"

    Chris provided two of his favorites, Flickr Galaxy and Life of a Cell. "The Flickr galaxy awesome, showing a great user interface and a glimpse of 3d on the web… and I’m also a big fan of the 'Life of the Cell' video."

    "I’m a big fan of the Baby Name Voyager... simple, attractive, interactive, informative, elegant" says CTV.

    "Nice use of Google Chart API," says Clint.

    Tim said, "The best I’ve seen in recent years." I agree.

    Thanks to everyone who responded to provide us all with some eye candy (and a bit of humor).

  • What Do People Want to Do With Their Lives?

    June 17, 2008  |  Data Sources, Projects, Visualization

    43things-viz

    43 Things is a goal-setting community where people set goals, cheer each other on, and connect with others who are trying to achieve the same thing. Even if you're not setting goals yourself, it's still interesting and often amusing to see what others have set out to do e.g. go skinny dipping, have a one night stand, and be myself.
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  • How Much Does Gas Cost Where You Live?

    June 13, 2008  |  Mapping

    With gas prices going crazy high lately, here's this weekend's question:

    How much and where from did you pay for your latest gallon of gas?

    I just paid $4.11 for my last gallon and live in Buffalo, New York. That was a +$40 tank fill up - for a Honda Civic. Blech.

    P.S. Happy early Father's Day to all you dads out there!

  • 12 Cool Visualizations to Explore Books

    June 12, 2008  |  Visualization

    There's reading a book, and then there's looking at, exploring, and experiencing a book. That's what these 12 book visualizations are for.
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