• Presidential Nomination Polls With Smoothers

    October 11, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    Pollster Poll Results

    It almost feels like I see a new poll every day for who's leading in the presidential race. There's usually a good amount of fluctuation within a single poll with sampling margin of error and then of course the numbers vary across multiple polls. This can be confusing at times, so Pollster put all the results in one scatter plot. Then they stuck a smoother through all the points (for each candidate), and just like that, the viewer gets a general sense of how each candidate has been doing.

    Keep in mind that the amount of noise (or bumps in the curve) is going to vary depending on the type of estimation you use, so I wouldn't place the smaller curves under too much scrutiny. I'm not sure what method Pollster is using, but it's interesting to see the overall trends. Could we be looking at a double New Yorker election?

    Pollster also offers the raw poll data, so in case you want to have some of your own fun, there's data waiting for you.

    [via Mike Love]

  • World Freedom Atlas

    October 5, 2007  |  Mapping, Online Applications

    World Freedom Atlas is an online geo-visualization tool that shows a number of freedom indicators so to speak. For example, you can map by a number of indexes such as raw political rights score, civil liberties, political imprisonment, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or torture. If I've counted correctly the data comes from 42 datasets divided into three categories:

    1. What It Is
    2. How To Get It
    3. What You Get

    What It Is covers data such as political rights and civil liberties while How To Get It is data on government structure and education system. I'm not really sure What You Get is though. There's GDP and some economic indexes, so it could be something like quality of life. Maybe someone can explain it better?

    The mapping and plots are pretty standard, but what stands out is the number of datasets that have been formatted in such a way the user is able to map things quickly and easily. It would be really cool if the data was explained a little better, so that I could "browse" the data a bit more efficiently, and even better, if there were some way to compare indicators against each other. Nevertheless, worth exploring a bit.

  • Find a Replacement for this Ugly Venn Diagram

    October 1, 2007  |  Ugly Charts

    autism-test-figure-2

    This venn diagram showing results from tests for Autism really seems to be making its rounds lately. It began with Igor Carron asking on his blog if there was a better way to display the data. Then Andrew Gelman put something of a redesign challenge up on his blog, and after Andrew, the challenge headed on over to Junk Charts. Redesigns are flying off the wall! From bar, to mosaic, to tornado charts, there's clearly many ways to represent data.

    Which one is the best? It's hard to say, because they all have advantages and disadvantages and the answer really depends on what point you're trying to drive home.

    However, I can find one advantage that the original venn diagram has over its redesigns -- it's intuitive for many people. John Venn introduced his diagram in 1881, over a century ago. That's a long time for people to adjust. People understand it. It makes sense. Yes, this particular venn is really ugly and probably didn't belong in a Powerpoint presentation, but doesn't it say something that re-designers were able to read it and use the data it provided? I think so.

    So in the spirit of Indexed, here's to you Mr. Venn.

    Venn Diagram Indexed

  • Misleading Map of Buffalo Snow

    September 27, 2007  |  Mapping, Mistaken Data

    Buffalo Snowfall Map Without LegendI saw this map of the average snow levels in Buffalo. I think I just glanced at it and that was about it. When you first look at the map, what do you make of the colors? When I see green for snow levels, I think no snow. Am I crazy? What do you think?

    So the image was kind of in my head all this summer while I was in NYC. When I told people that I was going back to Buffalo after my internship, they always gave this look that said, "Ha, have fun during the winter," and then they would actually say it and then go into how they measure the snow level by comparing it against a giant pole.
    Continue Reading

  • Visualization of US Flight Patterns

    September 23, 2007  |  Mapping

    When I think airplanes and data visualization, I think of Aaron Koblin's Flight Patterns. Aaron uses data from the Federal Aviation Administration to show flights all across the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. Even without the presence of an actual map, you can see a basic geography and where lots of flights are going and coming from. Flight Patterns is an oldie, but still a goodie. Here's a video:

    Speaking of flights, I'm currently waiting for my twice-delayed flight back to Buffalo. Thank goodness for free WiFi. Although it still doesn't make up for the delays. I hereby shake my mental fist of rage at you, Jet Blue.

  • John Snow’s Famous Cholera Map

    September 12, 2007  |  Mapping

    John Snow Cholera MapIf you've read any books on visualization, without a doubt, you've seen John Snow's now famous cholera map. In 1854, people were dying in large numbers and high frequency, but nobody knew what was going on. John Snow solved the mystery with his map.

    It's crazy to imagine a time when people didn't think to map data, especially now as mapping data has become second nature for some. Steven Johnson, author of Ghost Map, goes into depth on the Cholera outbreak in London in his book and TED talk earlier this year.

    I'd embed it, but I can't find the link anywhere on the TED page. They probably had to make it less obvious after Hans Rosling's talk spread at the speed of Cholera in London in 1854. London hasn't had another outbreak since Snow's simple (for this day and age) but effective visualization.

    UPDATE: Here's Steven Johnson's TED talk

  • Showing Large Numbers to Scale

    September 10, 2007  |  Data Art

    Chris Jordan's series, Running the Numbers: An American Portrait, just opened this weekend in Los Angeles at the Paul Kepeikin Gallery. Chris depicts large numbers in a way that we can see, because oftentimes, big numbers are hard to imagine. For example, he recreates Georges Seurat's famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in the form of 106,000 aluminum cans -- the number used in the US every thirty seconds. There are others like the number of plastic bags used every three seconds (60,000) and the number of brown paper supermarket bags used every hour (1.14 million).

    If you're in the area, it should definitely be worth going. I wish I could. As Chris notes, it's one of those series that you have to see in person to get the full effect. The shear size of each piece allows you to feel the largeness of it all.

  • iPod Design and Apple Stock Over the Years

    September 9, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    Wall Street Journal put up a nice little graphic showing the evolution of the iPod along with Apple's stock price. Semi-informative, I guess. Probably more of a fun graphic than anything else. I think it's slightly misleading, suggesting the iPod was the only reason Apple's stock changed. Let's not forget about the iBook, iMac, Macbook, etc releases. Nevertheless, it's cool to see Apple's sexy design over the years.

    [link via Core77]

  • Not so Hot Graphs in Academic Papers

    September 3, 2007  |  Ugly Charts

    Ribbon GraphKarl Broman has an amusing list of the top ten worst graphs found in academic papers.

    One of them, very sadly, was actually from the Journal of the American Statistical Association, a very prominent statistical journal. It just goes to show that some have an eye for data, and others might have an eye for visualization, but one doesn't necessarily lead to the other. Don't forget to read the discussion on why the graphs are um, not so good, so that we can all learn from the mistakes of those before us.

    My personal favorite is the 3-d ribbon graph, because it's just so ugly. Why would anyone use that? Too many shades of gray mixing, too many lines crossing, too many dimensions. Brain overload.

    I guess the graph was made in 1994, so I could cut the authors some slack....

    No, they're just bad. I was making way better graphs in Excel by that time for my seventh grade science fair project -- What Cereal do Red Flour Beatles (Tribolium castaneum) Prefer?

    Look what you've done Microsoft Excel. Apologize for what you've done this very minute.

    Oh, and they preferred Cheerios and stayed away from the Grape Nuts.

  • The Times: Wealthiest Americans Ever

    July 15, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    Wealthiest Americans ever

    In honor of my New York Times induction day, a visualization of The Wealthiest Americans Ever. You think good ol' Billy would be there at the top of the list, worth $82 billion, there have been a few who have preceded the software giant e.g. John D. Rockefeller worth a crazy $192 billion. Just think how many Jack in the Box tacos you could buy with that kind of money.

  • More Mapping from amMap Offering Flexibility

    July 13, 2007  |  Mapping, Online Applications

    amMap

    Yes, more mapping. Map, map, map. amMap offers a Flash-based mapping tool that you can download and customize to your liking.

    Ammap is an interactive flash map creation software. Use this tool to show locations of your offices, routes of your journeys, create your distributor map. Photos or illustrations can be used instead of maps, so you can make different presentations, e-learning tools and more.

    There's some smooth browsing and zooming, and it's pretty sleek. Those who appreciate simplicity will appreciate amMap. Plus, it's free :) Continue Reading

  • Gas Prices Over Time, 2000-2006

    July 12, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    Gas Prices over TimeWhile on the subject of gas prices, Foreign Policy has a graph of the prices per gallon of gasoline from 2000 to 2006. With the US at the lower tier, I feel like a bit of a whiner ("Waa waa waa, it costs 30 dollars to fill my tank"). At the lower end, it seems Venezuela seems the place to be, with some major government subsidizing going on.


  • America Wins in Petrol Consumption per Day

    July 12, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    petrol

    A very simple graph from The Economist (spiced up a bit with a picture of a delicious gasoline droplet) that quickly gets its point across. The United States uses a lot of petrol compared to other countries, while at the same time, it costs less to fill up a Honda Civic in the US than most other places.

    However, the left graph is based on 2003 data. I wonder what the graph looks like now? Similar, I'm sure, but still something to look at.

    Anyways, something really interesting here -- even though Venezuela has crazy low gas prices, the average petrol consumption per day over there is still quite low. Whether this is a cultural thing or just some weird supply and demand thing (that I have no clue about) might be worth some investigating.

    In any case, just because we have lower gas prices (that we still complain about) than a lot of the world, we're still consuming a lot. What's our excuse?

  • Visualization of Taste Explosions from Ratatouille

    July 11, 2007  |  Data Art

    Ratatouille Visualization

    By now, I'm sure everyone has heard of Pixar's most recent movie, Ratatouille. If you haven't seen it, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not only is it beautiful animation and a nice story, but it's about food. I love Pixar. There are a few scenes in the movie when the main character, Remy, and his brother, Emile, are eating and experiencing the taste of some exquisite cheese.

    There was pretty taste visualization going on done by Michel Gagne.

    Around 1400 drawings were created for the animation. Each one was scanned, painted and composited using two softwares: Animo and Photoshop.

    That's a lot of hand drawings, but quite nice results. Good job, Michel.

  • History Over Space and Time

    July 6, 2007  |  Mapping

    Maps of War

    As a representation of history over time and space, Maps of War does a pretty good job of displaying the information in the form Flash animations. It's quite simple really. The animation starts centuries back (e.g. 2000BC) and moves to geographic regions. In the above map, I watched who has controlled the middle east, beginning 3000BC up through 2006.

  • Twittervision Adds a Third Dimension

    July 4, 2007  |  Mapping

    Twittervision 3D

    Twittervision is a Google Maps mashup using the Twitter RSS feed. As people post to Twitter, you see the map move from location to location all around the world. It's really simple, but there's something entertaining about it that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe we just like to peak into other people's lives. Anyways, I don't know how recent this is, but Twittervision now has a third dimension which is equally as entertaining as the original.

  • Difficulty Visualizing Social Networks

    July 3, 2007  |  Network Visualization

    high-school-friendship

    We need to interact with others. We crave connections with friends and strangers. Something inside makes us need to converse with others so that we don't go crazy. As I work from home, I've begun to understand this a bit more, and I've found myself checking Facebook and Twittering perhaps just a little too much. I think that it's these connections is what has made social networks so popular.

    How can we visualize these ever so important connections. An obvious option is with, well, lines.

    Pretty, yes. Useful? Umm, hmm, not really. The number nodes grows to greater than 20, and it becomes this cloud/blob-type thing. What meaning can we take away from visualization like this other than, there's a lot of nodes and links, and they're all interconnected (other than a few outsiders)?

    Okay, so here's another option -- instead of using lines to show connections between nodes, we can use clustering. Nodes that are similar, appear closer together.

    Clustering Social Networks

    We can see some patterns now with the clustering and coloring, but when the network groes to thousands, it's easy to see how things can get kinda gross. I think the natural next step here is to sample, provide an overview, and if the user wants to go deeper, sample some more.

    The big question: how do we know what to sample? What weight can we give each sample? How can we get a sample that properly represents the entire network (or a small, specific part of it)?

  • Proof is in the Picture of Data

    July 2, 2007  |  Mapping

    Akamai: Network Performance Comparison

    Akamai is a technology company that deals with routing and online business. They optimize routing over the Internet using the data they collect from servers setup in 71 countries. Or I guess, in their words

    Akamai's technology – at its core, applied mathematics and algorithms - has transformed the chaos of the Internet into a predictable, scalable, and secure platform for business and entertainment. The Akamai EdgePlatform comprises 20,000 servers deployed in 71 countries that continually monitor the Internet – traffic, trouble spots and overall conditions. We use that information to intelligently optimize routes and replicate content for faster, more reliable delivery. As Akamai handles 20% of total Internet traffic today, our view of the Internet is the most comprehensive and dynamic collected anywhere.

    Wait, that's not the good part. They use Flash-based visualization to display how good they really are. I did a network performance comparision for a route from New York to Hong Kong, and in turn, the viz showed the public internet path and a much-improved Akamai path. Less packet loss and lower latency for Akamai. It'd be interesting to know how those routes are depicted, because I imagine, the routes aren't really always straight line vs parabola, Akamai vs public internet. Very pretty though.

  • Focus Cloud: Tag Cloud with a Twist

    July 1, 2007  |  Statistical Visualization

    focus-cloud

    Everyone's familiar with tag clouds, but Aaron Bassett put a slight twist to the now commonplace clouds. Aaron calls them Focus Clouds. Basically, they're still tag clouds, but instead of weighting tags by number of times used, there's some weight given to how recent a tag is. There's also some simple highlighting going on with related tags.

    The idea is that the focus cloud then gives you an idea of what is currently of interest. Aaron's code is available on his blog. The code is a bit buggy, but interesting nevertheless.

  • Increasing Energy Awareness Through Design

    June 26, 2007  |  Data Art

    The folks with STATIC!, a project led by the Interactive Institute in Switzerland, have been working on some really cool stuff. Their research is focused on interactive design that not only brings brings up energy awareness, but makes people want to change their behaviors.

    One of their projects, the Flower Lamp, was chosen as one of the best inventions of 2006 by Time Magazine.

    lampa.jpg

    Basically, when a lot of energy is being used in a house, the lamp closes. When less energy is being used, the light opens, so to make the lamp more beauty, there has to be a change in behavior by the consumer. I haven't been able to figure out where the energy data is coming from though. Probably some separate mechanism that hooks into the power gauge in the garage.

    There's plenty of other STATIC! projects like the Power Aware Cord, Appearing Pattern Wallpaper, and the Energy Curtain. Some of their stuff seems more art than anything else, but still very cool.

    It would be interesting to put a more data-centric spin to these STATIC! projects.

    Hmm... I'll have to think about this one.

    Anyhow, the theme across all projects is certainly important as I progress -- producing visualizations that increase awareness and motivate people to change their behavior, even if just by a little bit.

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