• 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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  • Personal Visualization for the Obsessive Compulsive

    June 11, 2008  |  Data Art

    Ash Spurr, in a project to try to understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, took inventory of and categorized every distinguishable object in his bedroom - books, DVDs, CDs, documents, storage bins... It's a simple idea yet really interesting. OCD - yet another example for you to take part and enjoy our summer project. What does your room look like in data?

    [Thanks, Tim]

  • Voting Breakdown for Democratic Presidential Primaries

    June 5, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    voting

    The above New York Times graphic shows where each candidate got his or her support from. The x-axis (horizontal) represents strength of support and the y-axis shows the number of states.

    On the surface, it's a stacked bar chart, but the animation as you browse the groups (e.g. under age 30, whites, blacks), makes things interesting. Highlight a state and watch it move left to right and right to left or just click on "blacks" and watch all the states shoot to the right in support of Obama. FlowingData readers will recognize the names of the skilled graphics editors who made the graphic - Shan Carter and Amanda Cox.

    [Thanks, Chris]

  • Watch TED Talks in Sphere Form – TEDSphere

    June 2, 2008  |  Data Art

    The Bestiario design group seems to have been busy lately. Their latest project, TEDSphere, unsurprisingly, places the ever-so-popular TED talks series in a spherical space. You can watch TED talks from both inside and outside of the sphere, which is pretty cool.

    inside tedsphere

    Talks are connected with lines to show relationships between lectures. Originally, I thought relationships were talks with similar tags, but I clicked around, and that doesn't seem to be case, so I'm not immediately sure.

    Similar Look and Feel

    TEDSphere has a similar look and feel to Bestiario's previous works with the 3D browsing and connections, which is nice and often provides smooth browsing experience. Although I wish the 3D environment could be rendered a bit more smoothly. Edges and connecting lines always look so coarse. It's probably a limitation of the Flash environment, but if that could be accomplished, these 3D projects could look that much better and feel less alpha.

  • What Are Your Favorite Data Visualizations in Recent Memory?

    May 30, 2008  |  Discussion, Visualization

    It's time for a reader discussion, open thread, etc. Today's question is:

    What are your favorite data visualizations in recent memory?

    It can be something I've posted or it can be something I missed. To get your memory going, you might want to go through the archives. Are there any visualizations that made you stop and go wow?

  • Find Your Dream Home (or Fantasize) With Trulia Snapshot

    May 29, 2008  |  Mapping

    Trulia, the real estate search site, launched Trulia Snapshot today in collaboration with Stamen Design. It's a pretty mapping interface that lets you view pictures of properties on a map in a very interactive way i.e. it's fun to use and super fluid.

    First, you type a location you want to find properties at.

    First page

    From there you can browse properties by newest/oldest or most/least expensive with the map or with the histogram at the bottom.

    Full UI

    Select Property

    If you just want to sit back and watch, press play and the real estate properties will highlight automatically by the order you've selected, and the map will move back and forth by location. See something you like? Press pause. If not, just let the animations keep running - your own personal real estate agent.

    My favorite part of the visualization is how the bottom images blur as you whiz by. It's a very small part and not the focal point, but it's one of those little design things that make it that much better. Nice touch.

    Ultimately, success of such work is measured by (although it shouldn't need be) whether or not users would rather browse data with the visualization or with the usual listing pages. Give it a try - what would you rather use?

  • Flickr Tags and Pictures as a Universe – Tag Galaxy

    May 29, 2008  |  Data Art

    Steven Wood's thesis project, Tag Galaxy is a beautiful piece of work to visualize Flickr tags and pictures. Type whatever tag you want, and the results are organized with your tag as the sun and related tags as orbiting planets. Rotate and browse the galaxy to view pictures with the corresponding tag. Above was the result that I got after inputting "visualization".
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  • 5 Data Visualization Dissertations Worth a Look

    May 23, 2008  |  Visualization

    It's coming to the end of the academic year, which means there are lots of graduate students frantically finishing up their dissertations, defending, and earning their degrees (yay!). Here are some tasty visualization dissertations, new and old, worth thumbing through.

    Information Visualization for the People
    Information Visualization for the People by Mike Danziger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Comparative Media Studies

    Form of Facts and Figures
    The Form of Facts and Figures by Christian Behrens, Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Interface Design

    Practical Tools for Exploring Data and Models
    Practical Tools for Exploring Data and Models by Hadley Wickham, Iowa State University, Department of Statistics

    Visual Tools for the Socio–semantic Web
    Visual Tools for the Socio–semantic Web by Moritz Stefaner, Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Interface Design

    Computational Information Design
    Computational Information Design by Ben Fry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Arts and Sciences

  • Measuring Informational Distance Between Cities

    May 22, 2008  |  Mapping

    Bestiario, the group behind 6pli, recently put up their piece that maps informational distance between cities. At the base is a freely rotating globe. Arcs, whose strength and height represent strength of relationship, connect cities. The metric to determine strength of relationship takes several contexts into account - Google searches for individual cities, cities together, and geographical proximity. Bestiario implemented the piece in actionscript and used their own 3d framework (in Spanish).

    [Thanks, Santiago]

  • Tracking Manny Ramirez’s Hunt for 500 Homers

    May 16, 2008  |  Infographics

    homerun

    The Boston Globe lets readers explore home run data for the Boston Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez. The data is quite detailed and the graphic lets your split the data in several directions. Look at homers by ballpark, who was pitching, the pitch count, when Ramirez homered, and where the ball landed. Baseball fans will really appreciate this interactive graphic and non-baseball fans will probably find it interesting too.

  • Quickie Visualizations for Debugging

    May 15, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    This guest post is by Rahul Bhargava, a Senior Software Engineer at nTAG Interactive, makers of interactive name badges for conferences and meetings. Email him : rahul [ @ ] ntag . com

    A common thread in many of the great visualizations Nathan shares on Flowing Data is that they are created for external consumption - someone designs a neat way to represent a dataset to a larger, naive audience. I want to talk about the under appreciated utility of writing quick visualizations for yourself, to help you debug your own complicated or data-dense problems. This is not a new discussion, but I want to remind all the programmers out there that a speedily-created visual representation of your debugging log data might be the quickest way to find your problem! Below are some examples of what we've done at nTAG, and some techniques we've found particularly useful. Please post a comment about what you do.
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  • Why Isn’t Data Visualization More Popular?

    May 14, 2008  |  Visualization

    Todd provides 5 reasons why data visualization isn't more prevalent:

    1. People don't know what data visualization is.
    2. Bad visualization has skewed perception of what data visualization is and what it can be used for.
    3. People can't interpret charts or new data representations.
    4. Visualization is difficult to create, but easy to copy.
    5. People won't pay for visualization.

    While all the reasons do have some truth, there are a couple things worth adding.

    People Do Know What Data Visualization Is

    People have some kind of idea of what data is and know that you can get information out of it somehow. Maybe it's with a graph or it could be with something more elaborate, but most people will get it. They know what data visualization is. They just don't know what it's called. In other words, they know. They just don't know they know.

    People Will Pay (A Lot) for Visualization

    With all the data out there and the constantly increasing volumes of it, more people want to understand without having to learn formal statistical methods. How can they understand it? Visualization of course. The growing number of examples I've covered here on FlowingData show that there is a growing demand. After all, a lot of stuff I've covered here was commissioned.

    Not Too Worried

    Anyways, even though not everyone knows about data visualization (yet), I'm not too worried about it. There's just too much data for people not to care... or am I wasting my time? No. If they don't care, we'll show them why they should.

  • Flocking Up the National Nine News

    May 13, 2008  |  Infographics

    At the bottom of each article on National Nine News (Australian MSN), there's a button to "Flock It!" which is like favorit-ing a news story.

    Flock Button

    Flock ItThe more people who flock a story, the higher up the flock list the story goes. In the sidebar of each story is an interactive graphic that shows readers flocking around the news and stories getting highlighted. The larger the bubble, the more people who have flocked it; story bubbles light up orange when someone flocks it. The site isn't showing any larger sizes, but a full screen version could be fun. Maybe a screensaver.

    MSN seems to have have this whole news exploration thing going on lately. I like it.

    [Thanks, Andrew]

  • Mapping the Human Diseasome With a Network Graph

    May 9, 2008  |  Infographics

    diseasome

    Matthew Block and Jonathan Corum from The New York Times use a network graph to map diseases and the genes they have in common. Color indicates the type of disease, circles represent diseases, and gray squares are genes that the diseases have in common. The graphic has a nice magnifying glass zooming feature, so that you too can be a biologist.

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