• $8.7b Iraq development funds unaccounted for

    A simple question from GOOD magazine: where did the money to rebuild Iraq go? In 2003, the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) was established for the benefit of the country's people. The Department of Defense (DoD) managed that money. According to a report [pdf] from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:

    Weaknesses in DoD’s financial and management controls left it unable to properly account for $8.7 billion of the $9.1 billion in DFI funds it received for reconstruction activities in Iraq. This situation occurred because most DoD organizations receiving DFI funds did not establish the required Department of the Treasury accounts and no DoD organization was designated as the executive agent for managing the use of DFI funds. The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss.

    That's 96% of 9.1 billion dollars that we apparently have no clue about how it was spent. What?

    [Thanks, Elise]

  • Another view of Inception, with the kicks this time

    Here's another timeline of Inception from deviantArt user, dehas. This one has the kicks in it. Start on the bottom left, and follow the character lines counter-clockwise. Lines end as characters die off in each level.
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  • Back to the Future trilogy timelines

    You know I can never resist a good Back to the Future reference. Also from graphic designer Sean Mort, the trilogy timelines are displayed in parallel. Important events from each year are marked, starting at the original flick up top and moving down to the lesser, but still great, Western finale.

  • Need a new logo? Use this flowchart to decide

    This flowchart from Watermark Design helps you decide if you need a new logo. Oddly enough all paths lead to Watermark's logo design services. That is unless you think designers have no concept of reality and scream when someone tells you art is important to business, and you happen to be an international spy. Hm, interesting. [via]

  • Lies people tell in online dating

    Online dating site OkCupid continues with amusing yet thorough analysis of their 1.51 million users. This time around, they cover the lies people tell:

    People do everything they can in their OkCupid profiles to make themselves seem awesome, and surely many of our users genuinely are. But it's very hard for the casual browser to tell truth from fiction. With our behind-the-scenes perspective, we're able to shed some light on some typical claims and the likely realities behind them.

    Among the findings:

    • People exaggerate their height by about two inches.
    • If someone says they make $100k per year, they probably mean $80k.
    • The more attractive a picture, the older it is.
    • Most self-identified bisexuals (80%) only like one gender.

    Buyer beware.

  • New York Times on how they design their graphics

    August 5 2010  |  Design  |  Tags:

    Leading up to their book, Turning Pages: Editorial Design for Print Media, publisher Gestalten has a chat with Steve Duenes and Archie Tse — of famed New York Times graphics department — about what goes on behind the scenes.
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  • Browse street-side with Microsoft Street Slide

    When street view came out on all the the popular online map applications, we thought it was awesome. We were able to see photos of the actual buildings and people walking on the street. It's especially handy when you're looking for something in a brand new area. Street Slide from Microsoft Research is the next iteration of that.
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  • Inception dream levels explained in flowchart

    You knew this was coming. I'd call spoiler alert for those who haven't seen Inception yet, but honestly, this flowchart from graphic designer Sean Mort will just confuse you anyways. If, however, you've been fortunate enough to see the mind roller coaster of a film already, Mort's chart makes perfect sense and might clarify any confusion. Levels and dreamers are labeled accordingly. I think the line for Cobb to Limbo should start at Level 4 though.

    [via datavis]

    Update: Sean provides a revised version after seeing the movie for the third time.

  • What online marketers know about you

    Andrew Garcia Philips and Sarah Slobin (plus five data gatherers) of The Wall Street Journal report on the prevalence of trackers and cookies on the fifty most popular U.S. websites:

    Marketers are spying on Internet users — observing and remembering people's clicks, and building and selling detailed dossiers of their activities and interests. The Wall Street Journal's What They Know series documents the new, cutting-edge uses of this Internet-tracking technology. The Journal analyzed the tracking files installed on people's computers by the 50 most popular U.S. websites, plus WSJ.com.

    Websites (top half) and tracking companies (bottom half) are placed in the circular network diagram. Roll over a website, and lines flare out to the tracking companies that collect data about you on that site. Similarly, roll over a tracking company to see what sites they sit on. Lines are color-coded to indicate first-party tracker files and third-party ones.
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  • Exploring the Reach of Firefox

    Once every blue moon I like to freelance as a short break from school work, and a few months back I got an email from Mozilla that basically said, "Hey we've got a lot of data. Do you want to do something with it?" Luckily, the scheduling worked out, and this was the result.

    We have active daily users on the top, mirrored by daily downloads on the bottom. Notice the holiday dips and the spikes with each new release, with an overall trend of up? Geographically, the map shows an estimate of Firefox users, normalized by Internet users in any given country. The darker the region, the higher the usage. Finally, on the right, we have a rundown of personas and add-ons.

    In short: a lot of people around the world use Firefox.

    See the full version here.

    In case you're wondering, all the charts were done in R. I made the map with indiemapper. After that, I brought all the bits into Adobe Illustrator, and tada, there it is: a nice, pretty data poster for the recently past Firefox Summit.

  • Inside the Glenn Beck/Goldline scheme

    Jess Bachman and Barry Ritholtz take a look at the Glenn Beck/Goldline scheme in standard flowchart fashion. In a nutshell: Goldline sponsors the Glenn Beck radio show; Glenn Beck supports them and tells listeners and viewers to buy from them; and now Congress recently opened an investigation on Goldline (and other shady gold dealers). Something is amiss.

  • Redesign of the Federal IT Dashboard

    About a year after the launch of the Federal IT Dashboard, business intelligence consultancy Juice Analytics focuses on five areas — message, flow, charts, context, and design fundamentals — where the dashboard could use some improvement.

    The first tip on message:

    The information designer is responsible for presenting the data in a way that the message is delivered in a clear and understandable way. If the data is left to speak for itself, users can be left confused or frustrated. And in all likelihood they won't to [sp] see the full value of the data. That's particularly tough for this Federal IT Dashboard where a huge amount of effort has been put into gathering consistent data across agencies.

    Totally agree with this, but to avoid confusion, let's clarify. You should always let the data speak for itself. It's just that what the data says often seems like a foreign language to non-professionals. It's up to you, the information designer, to translate. The better you can translate, the better the information designer you are.

    See the rest of the redesign on Juice Analytics (who is hiring, by the way).

  • Best of FlowingData – July 2010

    Thanks again, everyone for sharing FlowingData. It was another good month, and it wouldn't be the same without you. In case you missed them, here are the most popular posts from the past month, based on views, comments, and links.

    1. Flowchart to lifelong happiness
    2. History of The Beatles as told by their hair
    3. How to win Rock-paper-scissors every time
    4. Periodic table of swearing
    5. Path to happiness gets complicated and confusing
    6. Citizen's guide to fancy pants coffee drinks
    7. Flowchart shows the startup business cycle
    8. 7 Basic Rules for Making Charts and Graphs
    9. Who participates online, by age
    10. How Britain has changed since 1997

    And remember - the FlowingData forums is still a great place to get your data questions answered, share tasty links, and post visualization job openings.

  • A graphical look at Burning Man

    This graphic on Burning Man is totally lost on me, but maybe you guys will appreciate it more. I first heard about the event on Malcom in Middle several years ago and that's about it. Well, that and my friend posted a picture on Facebook yesterday of him wearing fairy wings, which just confuses me more.

    I feel like I'm missing out on something though. I mean, who doesn't want to see a giant, burning wood man on the beach?

    The designer Flint Hahn notes:

    The history of Burning Man has always been a complex entity that has survived, nay, mutated over the years. And because of this, it has grown rapidly since its humble beginnings of a simple gathering on a beach.

    The infographic poster shows only a small portion of what Burning Man is. By no means do mere numbers even begin to show a complete picture, as that is a history of stories, experiences, and individual tales.

    Ok then.

    [Thanks, Turtle & Jesse]

  • FlowingData is brought to you by…

    My thanks to the FlowingData sponsors. They keep the lights on and keep FlowingData going strong. Check out the services they have to offer. They help you make sense of your data.

    Zoho Reports - Offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that assists you to easily do in-depth reporting and visual analysis of your business data. It is best suited for SMBs using spreadsheets or custom software for data analysis.

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  • Discuss: Why collect data about yourself?

    Personal data fascinates me. I collect data about myself mostly as a way to journal and document the present so that I can look back on it later - similar to how someone else might flip through an old photo album.

    In just about every interview I've read with Nicholas Felton, author of several personal annual reports, he's asked how the data, or rather the information from that data, has changed his behavior. For the most part, it doesn't. It's more of an interesting view into the past year for him.

    However, there are plenty of others who collect data in an effort to change their behavior in some way. They might be trying to lose weight or stay more disciplined with their exercise regimen.

    The Question

    So if you collect data about yourself, whether it be an automated system or with pen and paper, why do you do it? How long have the you been doing it? What do you track? Have you found anything interesting or surprising from your data?

    If you don't collect data, what's holding you back?

    Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

  • How to win Rock-paper-scissors every time

    I admit it. When I first heard there are actual tournaments for Rock-paper-scissors, sanctioned by the World Rock Paper Scissors Society, I laughed. I mean seriously, $50k to the winner of a game that requires no skill whatsoever? Absurd. Boy was I wrong.

    Rock-paper-scissors isn't just a silly game kids play or a way to decide who has to be the designated driver at parties. This is serious stuff. It's psychological warfare. ChaCha Answers explains.

    Males have a tendency to throw rock on their first try, inexperienced RPS players will subconsciously deliver the item that won previously, and paper is thrown least often, so use it as a surprise. And remember, when in doubt, throw the Spock. Your opponent will never know what hit him. You'll be disqualified, but at least you'll go out fighting.

  • Two-minute journey through the history of cinema

    35mm, a short film by Sarah Biermann, Torsten Strer, Felix Meyer, and Pascal Monaco, strips 35 movies to their simplest form and cleverly strings them together in a set of motion graphics. From Singin' in the Rain, Titanic, and Jaws to Fight Club, Star Wars, and Terminator.

    Can you figure out all the movies portrayed? Test your movie wits in the video below. I only recognized two the first time around. I suck.
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  • Ugly chart used to confuse readers

    Charles Blow on this unnecessarily complex chart used to show the network of Obamacare:

    Maybe it's the former graphics/art director in me, but I get really offended when people use charts to confuse rather than to clarify.

    Take a look at this monstrosity released today by the Joint Economic Committee minority, which is led by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

    To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes: they’re using this chart like a drunken man uses lampposts – for support rather than for illumination.

    Really, Joint Economic Committee? Look - I'm not going to pretend I know all the intricacies of the US health care system, but this is clearly chart abuse.

    Looking at this horribly designed piece of propaganda makes me want to throw up. I'm throwing up right now. Dang it. Someone owes me a new keyboard.

  • Process: Mapping War Logs for the Guardian

    This is a guest post by Alastair Dant, interactive lead at the Guardian. He describes the efforts that went into designing the recently published war logs map of incidents revealed by Wikileaks.

    Our site editor approached me with a serious challenge: could I visualize six years worth of military reports? Up in their makeshift war room, our team introduced me to Julian Assange. While reporters from the New York Times and Der Speigel took photos and video, the director of Wikileaks booted his encrypted netbook and showed me a page from the war logs. I may have looked a little distressed. The gravity of this material was stark and, having never dealt with such documents before, I was uncertain if I wanted to start.

    After several days feeling like I'd walked into the Bourne trilogy, David Leigh and Rob Evans put my mind at rest. We wouldn't be publishing any material that might put anyone at risk and my work could focus on charting the rise in explosive devices from 2004 – 2009.
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