• Explore Your del.icio.us Tags and Bookmarks On 6pli

March 4, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

Santiago, who I met at the Visualizar workshop, forwarded me his work on the visualization of del.icio.us tags and bookmarks called 6pli. Normally, I'm not a big fan of network diagrams, because I always seem to get lost in all the nodes and edges cluttering up the place. I feel differently about 6pli though.

6pli sets itself apart with really smooth, responsive interaction and three views - elastic net 3-d, elastic net 2-d, and circle 2-d. All three views rely on a metric of tag-similarity. So the more co-tags that a single tag has with its neighbors, the closer the tags will be in proximity.

Was that confusing? OK, it'll be more clear with pretty pictures.

Elastic Net 3-D

The elastic net 3-D (pictured above) shows tags and bookmarks in a 3-dimensional view. Tags are in rectangles and bookmarks are circles. A bookmark (or circle) will be closer to another bookmark (or circle) if it has more tags in common. Similarly, if a tag is often grouped with other tags, it will appear closer to that group. Click on a tag, and a list of bookmarks show up on the right.

The cool part is when you start playing with the 3-D network blobby. You can rotate it like a globe and the movement is controlled by spring action. The visualization's response is immediate and really smooth with nice transitions from one view to the next, unlike this paragraph.

Elastic Net 2-D

The 2-dimensional view is the same principle as the 3-D. The only difference is the 2-D is a projection of the 3-D view onto a flat plane. Smooth interaction still applies here.

Circle 2-D

Finally, the circle view arranges tags and bookmarks into their del.icio.us bundles. Each circle is divided homogeneously and the radius of the circle can me manually modified.

One thing I would recommend for the beta release is some kind of input to type in a tag or the name of a bookmark. Right now, the starting point feels kind of random, but if I could specify where I wanted to explore, I think the viz would be that much more useful.

Check out my 6pli del.icio.us tags viz here.

• Hope Floats in Online Dating – I Want You to Want Me By Harris and Kamvar

February 29, 2008  |  Data Art

Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar collaborated again in their featured piece at New York Museum of Modern Art's Design of the Elastic Mind exhibit. Similar in flavor to their previous work, I Want You to Want Me explores the search for love and for self in the online dating world i.e. data collected from various online dating sites every few hours.
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• Can We Improve this Graphic Showing History of Bipartisan Senate?

February 28, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

David forwarded me his graphic on the modern two party system in the United States senate which essentially shows the senate's bipartisanship over time. It made me happy to see someone in political science using R, playing around with data, and taking a stab at creating a useful graphic.

Improving the Graphic

While the graphic is indeed useful, I think there are some things that could make it even better. Here are thoughts that I sent to David.

• I wasn't immediately sure what each visual cue represented e.g. size of state abbrev. until I reached the bottom. It might be worth making the annotation more prominent either by position, size, or color or all three.
• To me, the congress numbers don't matter so much, but that just might be I don't have a lot of learning on the history of American government.
• I'm wondering if there's some way to make the labeling of the years more concise? If you just labeled with the first year of the two-year term, would it be obvious that you're describing a two-year term? What if you took away the alternating gray background and just made it all white and then had a bar timeline-type thing on top (and bottom)?
• What if you tried to use a color scheme? I mean, you have the red and blue for the reps and dems (which I think is right), but the gradient for the senate counts turns very bright pink and purple which doesn't go too well. Then there's the cyan, yellow, and green which doesn't seem to have any specific significance other than each color represents something. What I mean is... is there a reason you chose those colors?
• It might be worth making the annotations bigger so that you don't have to "zoom in" to read.
• I think I would make the median lines a bit more prominent, but that's just me.
• There's a lot of cool stuff getting represented here, and I wonder if anything might benefit as a separate graph. Would this benefit at all as a series of graphs instead of one large graphic?

Now It's Your Turn

So that's my opinion. What do you think? Judging from our FlowingData Facebook group (which I'm happy to see is growing), we have a very diverse bunch from design, statistics, computer science, and some other areas, so I'm eager to hear what the rest of you think about this visualization.

• Visual Website Analytics in Video Game Format

February 27, 2008  |  Visualization

For a while now, I've been interested in how we can apply interaction principles of video games to visualization and exploratory data analysis (although admittedly, gaming is still a very foreign concept to me). Visitorville is an example of how the fun of video games can be applied to analytics. It looks a lot like the awesome classic SimCity (whose source code was recently released, by the way).

VisitorVille applies video game principles to help you easily visualize and better understand your web site traffic statistics.

It's easy: each building represents a web page; each bus a search engine; and each animated character a real visitor to your site.

Just paste our tracking code into your web pages, then launch VisitorVille for Windows to analyze your stats, watch your traffic in real time, provide Live Help, track your PPC campaigns in real time -- and more.

Using our unique Virtual VCR, you can even play back traffic from any day or time, at any speed.

Learning From Video Games

We certainly have a lot to learn from video games -- interaction, user engagement, graphics, and fun. Seriously, statistical visualization could stand to have a little bit 'o fun tossed in. At least that's what I tell my wife when I try to convince her to buy me an Xbox 360.

Somewhat related note -- there was an interesting talk at Journalism 3G on using video games to tell stories, which I'll be discussing some time in the near future once I get all my notes together.

[via Water Cooler Games | Thanks, Iman]

• IBM Visual Communications Lab and Stamen Design Are at the NYC MoMA

February 26, 2008  |  Visualization

Congratulations to two of my most favorite visualization / design groups - IBM Visual Communications Lab and Stamen Design - who officially now have their work featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Really incredible and well deserved.

From this past Sunday to May 12, VCL's History Flow and Thinking Machine and Stamen's Cabspotting are featured in Design and the Elastic Mind.

The exhibition will highlight examples of successful translation of disruptive innovation, examples based on ongoing research, as well as reflections on the future responsibilities of design. Of particular interest will be the exploration of the relationship between design and science and the approach to scale. The exhibition will include objects, projects, and concepts offered by teams of designers, scientists, and engineers from all over the world, ranging from the nanoscale to the cosmological scale. The objects range from nanodevices to vehicles, from appliances to interfaces, and from pragmatic solutions for everyday use to provocative ideas meant to influence our future choices.

• Ebb and Flow of Box Office Receipts Over Past 20 Years

February 25, 2008  |  Infographics

This graphic from The New York Times kind of caught me off guard. I guess we're starting to gain a bit more faith in the public's ability to understand visualization (yay). The graphic was created by the usual suspects -- Matthew Bloch, Shan Carter and Amanda Cox -- and as usual, great work.
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• What Impact Does Our Country Have on Climate Change?

February 21, 2008  |  Mapping

BreathingEarth is an animated map that represents death rate data from September 2005 and birth rate data from August 2006 compiled by the World Factbook and 2002 carbon dioxide emission rates from the United Nations. The frying sound is kind of a nice touch.

Pretty But Not Very Useful

I think that BreathingEarth, like many maps before it, communicates an important point (in this case, CO2 emissions), but doesn't particularly do a good job of showing it. I watched BreathingEarth for a few minutes, but I didn't get much of a sense of what country had more deaths, had more births, or created more CO2 emissions. It's one those projects when a statistician could have lent a useful hand.

So to answer the question - What Impact Does Our Country Have on Climate Change? - I'm not sure. It is a pretty map though.

• Is an Animated Transition From a Scatter Plot to a Bar Graph Effective?

February 20, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

Statistical graphics are kind of stuck in a static funk where you create a plot in R, Excel, or whatever, and you can't really interact with it. If you want another graphic, you manually create it. Hence, Jeffrey Heer and George G. Robertson investigated the benefits of using animation in statistical graphics. Continue Reading

• How to Read (and Use) a Box-and-Whisker Plot

February 15, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

The box-and-whisker plot is an exploratory graphic, created by John W. Tukey, used to show the distribution of a dataset (at a glance). Think of the type of data you might use a histogram with, and the box-and-whisker (or box plot, for short) could probably be useful.

The box plot, although very useful, seems to get lost in areas outside of Statistics, but I'm not sure why. It could be that people don't know about it or maybe are clueless on how to interpret it. In any case, here's how you read a box plot.

Reading a Box-and-Whisker Plot

Let's say we ask 2,852 people (and they miraculously all respond) how many hamburgers they've consumed in the past week. We'll sort those responses from least to greatest and then graph them with our box-and-whisker.

Take the top 50% of the group (1,426) who ate more hamburgers; they are represented by everything above the median (the white line). Those in the top 25% of hamburger eating (713) are shown by the top "whisker" and dots. Dots represent those who ate a lot more than normal or a lot less than normal (outliers). If more than one outlier ate the same number of hamburgers, dots are placed side by side.

Find Skews in the Data

The box-and-whisker of course shows you more than just four split groups. You can also see which way the data sways. For example, if there are more people who eat a lot of burgers than eat a few, the median is going to be higher or the top whisker could be longer than the bottom one. Basically, it gives you a good overview of the data's distribution.

That's all there is to it, so the next time you're thinking of making a bar graph or a histogram, think about using Tukey's beloved box-and-whisker plot too.

Want to learn more about making data graphics? Become a member.

• Mapping Manhattan’s Skyscraper Districts Through Time

February 14, 2008  |  Mapping

Manhattan Timeformations looks like a series of interactive schematics from a video game, but really it's a computer model that allows you to look at the relationships between the developments of the lower Manhattan skyline and other urban factors like farms, urban renewal, subways, and commercial zones. The visualization provides different views in the form of the traditional 2-dimensional map views as well as rotations, fly-throughs, and layers.

It's nice to step out of that Google mashup look every once in a while.

• Spamology From Visualizar is Available for Exploration

February 13, 2008  |  Data Art

Spamology, by Irad Lee, was one of favorite projects at the Visualizar Workshop, and it's now available online for others to play with. I talked about Spamology a little bit when the showcase was officially opened in Madrid, but the piece wasn't online yet.
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• Weekend Minis – Design Paradigms, Colbert Bump, and Bullet Graphs

February 9, 2008  |  Visualization

There Is No Single View... - Jock D. Mackinlay and Chris Stolte argue that there is no "holy grail" of data visualization, and that to truly understand our data, we need multiple graphical views.

Seek or Show: Two Design Paradigms for Lots of Data - Ask a user what he wants or show him everything up front.

The Colbert Bump is Real, Colbertâ€™s Nation Not What He Thinks it is - An analysis to show the true effect on books sales after an appearance on The Colbert Report.

Bullet Graphs for Not-to-Exceed Targets - A graphical widget becoming more popular in dashboards.

• NSF Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge

January 31, 2008  |  Visualization

The National Science Foundation is running their annual Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Some of scienceâ€™s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of DaVinci to Hookeâ€™s microscopic bestiary, the beaks of Darwinâ€™s finches, Rosalind Franklinâ€™s x-rays or the latest photographic marvels retrieved from the remotest galactic outback, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history. To illustrate is, etymologically and actually, to enlighten.

You can do science without graphics. But itâ€™s very difficult to communicate it in the absence of pictures. Indeed, some insights can only be made widely comprehensible as images. How many people would have heard of fractal geometry or the double helix or solar flares or synaptic morphology or the cosmic microwave background, if they had been described solely in words?

To the general public, whose support sustains the global research enterprise, these and scores of other indispensable concepts exist chiefly as images. They become part of the essential iconic lexicon. And they serve as a source of excitement and motivation for the next generation of researchers.

They've been accepting submissions since September of last year and will continue to do so until May 31, 2008. The rules are pretty wide open with last year's winners in the area of photography, illustration, and interactive and non-interactive media. Basically, it's whatever you want it to be. The winners will be published in the the journal Science, and one of the winning submissions will get to be on the cover of the prestigious journal.

• Visualization of Smiling Faces – Microsoft Live / Operation Smile

January 28, 2008  |  Data Art

For the re-launch of the Microsoft Windows Live platform, Firstborn created a generative art installation taking thousands of smiling faces and placing them into a 3-D world. It was an outdoor installation (done in Processing) projected on a seven-story sphere, and I am sure it wowed a whole lot of people. It's definitely amazing me, and all I'm seeing are screenshots and a demo.

• Weekend Minis – Maps, Motion & Resources

January 26, 2008  |  Visualization

Interactive Travel Time and House Price Maps - Tom from Stamen recently announced some really slick mapping. They're very attractive and very responsive. Sidenote: Look forward to a guest post from Tom in the near future.

175+ Data and Information Visualization Examples and Resources - Meryl has posted an extensive list of visualization examples and resources available online. Thanks for linking here, Meryl!

GPSed - A site that takes advantage of the data available from your mobile phone, mainly pictures and your GPS trace.

Visualizing the History of Living Spaces - Ivanov et al. discuss the challenges of visualizing motion data from 215 motions sensors in a large office building.

• Books that Make You Dumb (Not Really)

January 26, 2008  |  Ugly Charts

Virgil Griffith has created a series of graphs called Books that Make You Dumb. He correlates top books on FaceBook by school and the corresponding schools' average SAT scores. Notice Freakonomics is pretty far to the right. Nice.

The graphs are of course aren't really that statistical nor are they especially beautiful, but hey, just take it for what is it, and it's kind of amusing. Plus, it's a good example of how you can use data from different sources to find something interesting.

• 6 Influential Datasets That Changed the Way We Think

January 24, 2008  |  Visualization

The thing about data is that it can be very convincing. Maybe it's because it's so hard to argue against numbers, or maybe it's just that there's so much of it. In any case, here's six datasets that undoubtedly changed the way some people behave or showed us something that brought about a different way of thinking about things. Continue Reading

• How a Trip to the Dentist Got Me Thinking About Open Data

January 22, 2008  |  Visualization

Warning: Tangent ahead, but I promise, there's a point.

About a year ago, I went to my 6-month teeth checkup, and the dentist told me that I had a cavity on the bottom back left and another on the bottom back right. Since I was about two years overdue for a checkup (and didn't floss every day), I wasn't surprised.

One week later, I was back to get my fillings. I sat down in that terrifying chair that looks like something aliens use to probe specimens. The drilling began.

My teeth are really sensitive, so no matter how many shots of novocaine she injected (3 or 4), I still felt pain. Here's how it went with the first filling. She drilled. I winced. She stopped. We took a short 1-minute break. She drilled. I winced. We took a break.

We went on like that for about 20 minutes -- all the while she kept telling me it was a tiny cavity and that it shouldn't hurt. Yeah, OK, whatever. Maybe if she actually stuck the needle in the nerve and not just some random place in my gums, it would have worked.

Anyways, she finally finished and suggested we put off the second filling until the next visit in six months. I thought to myself, "Uh, won't my cavity just get worse in 6 months??" I was in enough pain already though (with beads of sweat to prove it) so I agreed despite my concerns.

I ended up missing that next appointment.
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• Mapping Google Access Data from (suit)men

January 18, 2008  |  Mapping

There's a nice real-time (?) map on (suit)men Entertainment. Click the black rectangle on the bottom left-hand corner to see the entire map. Supposedly the map is powered by Google, so I want to say it's showing search data or something of that sort. To be honest though, I have no clue.

Whenever a number pops up, there's a line that connects some country to Japan (the site's origin), so I'm guessing they're mapping something like accesses to the (suit)men site from whatever country. Oh well, no matter. Look how pretty. It's entertainment, and it managed to entertain me for a good few minutes (which says alot with my short attention span :). Does anyone know what they're showing?

[via Simple Complexity]

• A Primer on Information and Data Visualization

January 14, 2008  |  Data Art

On We Make Money Not Art is a summary of Jose-Luis's talk on some of the history of visualizing data and some more modern pieces.

It begins with Charles Joseph Minard's march of Napoleon and then onto John Snow's cholera map, both of which were made ever so popular by Tufte. By now, if you've cracked open an infovis book, you've seen both.

Moving on to more modern stuff, there's The Dumpster, 10x10, Listening Post among some other interesting pieces. If you're new to visualization, it's a good "intro to vis" post. If you've been around for a while, you've probably seen most of the examples, but there might be a couple you haven't.

On a semi-related note, there's also an interview with Miguel on WMMNA discussing our humanflows project. Thanks, Regine!

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