• What Interests Do Your Facebook Friends Have in Common?

    March 31, 2008  |  Network Visualization

    Nexus, by Ivan Kozik, lets you explore your Facebook social network and find out what your friends have in common. Nexus kind of caught me off guard, because it actually does a decent job of showing you commonalities. I was expecting something like Friend Wheel or Friends Density, which are Facebook bling more than anything else.
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  • A Little Bit of Design Goes a Long Way With Infographics

    March 27, 2008  |  Data Art, Design

    If I've learned anything about designing information graphics, it's that attention to detail and small changes make a mediocre graphic into a really useful and usually more attractive one. It's what sets New York Times graphics apart from those in other publications and especially those in academic papers. Something like a short annotation can add context or a line shifted slightly to the left can make data look less cluttered.
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  • Is the New Google Visualization API Going to Limit Our Data Imagination?

    March 21, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    Google recently released a visualization API that allows you to share embeddable visualization on your website, create Google Gadgets that can be shared and reused, and create extensions for existing Google products. Andrew asks, "Will this shape the future of data visualization online?"

    On one side, this is exciting for the visualization field, because when Google talks, everyone listens. On the opposing side, could this be another Google Maps type of thing? Google Maps was cool at first, but now, mashup after mashup has left me bored and disillusioned. Ultimately though, I like to think that this API is going to benefit all of us.

    What the API Offers

    There's a slew of charts, graphs, gidgets, and gadgets available that you'll see in the gallery.

    Time Series

    I'm sure this Google Finance-looking graph will make a lot of people happy.

    Time Series

    Gauges

    These are, um, interesting.

    Guages

    Maps

    We've seen this before, but the difference here is that it's now in widget form, which means a hook into Google Docs and other apps.

    Maps

    How We Will Benefit

    If Google visualization becomes popular, visualization, in general, grows in popularity. People who weren't exposed will now know more, and if all goes according to plan, data awareness has a chance to develop.

    As an example, Google Maps made online mapping what it is now - commonplace. Remember when online mapping was only limited to the big boys? Now everyone can mashup to their heart's content. People know how to use it and similar mapping applications and because of that, more "idea people" ask for mapping. As a result there is more opportunity.

    Similarly, with the data viz API, we'll see data mashups outside of the map. Data visualization will no longer just be for the big boys, but at the same time, we'll still be able to make our own designs with a wider audience ready to experiment and play.

    Good or Bad?

    What do you think? Is the Google visualization API going to limit our imagination where we get stuck in a Google-ish funk; or is data and visualization awareness ready to rise to a point where we all benefit?

  • 21 Ways to Visualize and Explore Your Email Inbox

    March 19, 2008  |  Visualization

    Email has grown to be a huge part of our lives and is very much commonplace. We can connect with others in just a few clicks. With all the email sent per day, how can we understand these connections? How can we visualize the type of email we've been sending? Can we tell a story somehow with the thousands of emails we've sent, received, and deleted?

    These 21 email visualizations investigate. I've split them up into six categories - exploratory, analytic, mapping, metaphor, networks, and abstract.
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  • Interact With the Atlas of Electromagnetic Space

    March 16, 2008  |  Data Art

    Jose Luis Vicente and Irma Vilà, in collaboration with Bestiario, have created an interactive installation in Flash that allows you to explore the radio spectrum - the electromagnetic space covering signals from radio and television to GPS, bluetooth, and mobile phones. The piece represents a database of projects and services (in the the radio spectrum) developed over the past decade.
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  • 17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe

    I just created a new Twitter account, and it got me to thinking about all the data visualization I've seen for Twitter tweets. I felt like I'd seen a lot, and it turns out there are quite a few. Here they are grouped into four categories - network diagrams, maps, analytics, and abstract.

    Network Diagrams

    Twitter is a social network with friends (and strangers) linking up with each other and sharing tweets aplenty. These network diagrams attempt to show the relationships that exist among users.

    Twitter Browser

    Twitter Browser

    Twitter Social Network Analysis

    The ebiquity group did some cluster analysis and managed to group tweets by topic.

    Twitter Social Network Analysis

    Twitter Vrienden

    Twitter Vrienden

    Twitter in Red

    I'm not completely sure how to read this one. I looks like it starts from a single user and then shoots out into the network.

    Twitter in Red

    Twitter Network

    Twitter Network

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  • A World of Information in Data-driven Art – Not Your Grandma’s Dashboard

    March 12, 2008  |  Data Art

    Wired Magazine recently did a feature on data-driven art.

    The above image is Jason Salavon's work that shows U.S. population by county. The technically-minded readers might be thinking, "I don't get it. What am I seeing here? I don't even know what county has the greatest population." I understand where you're coming from, but hey, it's art not a status update.
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  • 4 Data Visualizations That Inspired Me to Learn More

    March 11, 2008  |  Data Art

    I've dabbled quite a bit throughout my academic career. I started in computer science, then electrical engineering, and then statistics. I also considered a future in business, environmental science, civil engineering, and urban planning, but I've finally settled on a combination of statistics and design -- data visualization.

    Here are the 4 visualizations that got me interested and left me wanting more.
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  • Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes

    March 10, 2008  |  Mapping

    Ludacris Hoe Map

    Area Codes by LudacrisI thought this map was amusing. As you can see, Mr. Bridges prefers those in the southeast and northeast according to his 2001 hit single, Area Codes in which he raps about all the female friends he has made.

    This is yet another example of the ubiquity of data. If you can find hoe data in Ludacris' Area Codes, you can find data anywhere. Here's the large version of the above map. By the way, I'm sorry if I've offended anyone with this hoe data. Hoe data.

    [via Strange Maps]

  • Weekend Minis – Globes, Maps, and Job Opportunity

    March 8, 2008  |  Mapping

    New York Talk ExchangeNew York Talk Exchange - Illustrates the global exchange of information in real time by visualizing volumes of long distance telephone and IP (Internet Protocol) data flowing between New York and cities around the world.

    A Week in LifeA Week In the Life - A data sculpture made out of cardboard representing movement and communication from a cell phone in one week to increase awareness of the German Telecommunications Data Retention Act.

    National Gruntledness IndexNational Gruntledness Index - A heat map showing where in the United States most people are, um, gruntled. Is this for real? Somehow I don't think the entire country is pissed off.

    DanweiLooking for a Design Job in China? - Danwei is looking for a smart, skilled creator who can present raw economic data in a very visual way.

  • 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

    Elastic Net 2D

    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

    Circles 2D

    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

    Visitorville screenshotFor 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.

    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.

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  • 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

    Box-and-Whisker Plot LessonThe 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

    Box-and-Whisker Plot ExplainedLet'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.

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