I posted a comic from xkcd last week that implied graphs and data lead to a decline in love. I didn't really think much of it, but Jimcommented that an episode from This American Life (episode 88: Numbers), was very much related to the topic of personal data and what we often miss out on as a result. The lead-in to the show reads:
Numbers lie. Numbers cover over complicated feelings and ambiguous situations. In this week's show, stories of people trying to use numbers to describe things that should not be quantified.
This reminded me of Joseph Stalin's well known quote, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." It's a horrible thing to say, but when it comes to data visualization and analysis, it's true a lot of the time. We have a huge dataset and we have to extract information from it. In the process though, we forget that every one of those numbers has real non-numeric value to it. There are emotions and feelings. Life is complex. Data represents life, and therein lies the purpose and meaning of FlowingData. Continue Reading
I frequently get requests or propositions for data visualization projects, but I almost always have to turn them down - not because they're not worth my while, but because I've made a conscious decision to try really hard to finish my PhD. To that end, I always wish there was a list or resource that I could at least refer people to for their data visualization needs. I know of a few freelancers, but I'm positive there are many others. If you do visualization freelance (that includes BI, infographics, maps, graphs, charts, etc), post to this thread in the FlowingData forums (NOT this post), and hopefully, I can get a list going that I can point potential clients to.
I admit it. I'm a sucker for animated maps - especially when there's music playing in the back. I'm not exactly sure what it is about them. It's data visualization over time and virtual (or physical?) space fast forwarded and rewound. It's like I'm a supreme being looking at changes over time, peering down from above. It's intuitive. It's very visually linked with the real world, and that's probably why I chose Britain From Above as the best visualization of 2008.
ANYWAYS, check out this animation by ITO that shows the edits to OpenStreetMap, a wiki-style map of the world, over the last year.
This is a guest post from Elad Israeli and Roni Floman of SiSense, which specializes in easy-to-use business intelligence.
Pundits joke that Google Adwords is driving Microsoft Excel sales. Two rivals are vying for domination; yet one's desktop software is used to optimize keywords sold by the other.Â The reason is very simple: the Google AdWords interface doesn't support the rigorous analysis of multiple AdWords keywords and their optimization. Importing the Google AdWords data into Excel lets you do just thatâ€¦ albeit within the constraints of Excel.
Let's try to explain this by looking at the visualization and business intelligence assumptions behind the Google use case and the Microsoft use case.
First off, happy new year! I'm back from my short hiatus from blogging and school. I trust everyone had a good holiday week. I saw a couple of good movies: Slumdog Millionaire, which was one of the best movies I've seen in a while, and Benjamin Button, which was good, but not as great as Slumdog. I also played a ton of NBA 2K8 on Xbox 360. I'm not much into video games (I really suck), but the plasma HDTV I got for my birthday/Christmas almost makes me feel like I'm in the game.
Rate and Tweet Your Fortune Cookies on CookieSays
During the last few days of break I put together CookieSays. It's a toy Twitter application that lets you tweet fortune cookie fortunes and rate others. The point? Good ol' fashioned fun, of course. I don't know about you, but whenever I crack open a fortune cookie, that little piece of paper never fails to amuse me and everyone else at the table - no matter how ridiculous or incoherent. Now you can share them on CookieSays! Plus, it seemed fitting for the new year and all.
@cookiesays You will make a million dollars tomorrow.
That's it! Your fortune will appear here in about 10 minutes or so. In the meantime, rate other people's fortunes or just sit back and let the fortunes change on their own. Have fun! It was fun making it.
As you've probably heard, General Motors has come on some financial troubles and grows increasingly desperate for a federal bailout. How did the American vehicle giant get to this point? Will the bailout do any good? Continue Reading
December was a good month for FlowingData with some big waves of traffic and nearly 1,000 new readers. The new server withstood the spikes though, and everything was good and speedy just like I hoped. None of this would be possible without the help of FlowingData sponsors. I hope you will join me in thanking these fine groups that keep FlowingData going smoothly by checking out what they have to offer.
GOOD Magazine's most recent infographic (above and below) on consumer spending got me to thinking about all the other approaches I've seen on the same topic. The number of ways to attack a dataset never ceases to amaze me, so I dug a little. Yeah, there are a bunch - but here are some of the good ones. Got some more? Leave a link in the comments. Continue Reading
Graduate student researchers are pretty much putting sensors in everything these days. There's always more data to collect and more information to gather. Computer engineering students from Carnegie Mellon University experiment with sensors in footballs and gloves to measure grip, trajectory, speed and position.
"You'd never want to replace the human referees because they make these calls based on years of experience, and no technology can replace that," she said. "But in addition to the instant replay, if you had a supplementary system that said this is exactly where the ball landed and where the player stopped with it, you could make these kinds of calls accurately."
So far, she and her squad of undergraduate and graduate students have focused on two things: gloves with touch sensors that can transmit that information wirelessly to a computer, and a football equipped with a global positioning receiver and accelerometer that can track the location, speed and trajectory of the ball.
Eventually, the same kind of sensors used in the gloves could be adapted to shoes, to measure stride and running patterns, or even shoulder pads, to calculate blocking positions and force.
Yes, it's the end of the post-game show as we know it.
The thing about cancer cells is that they suck. Their DNA is all screwy. They've got chunks of DNA ripped out and reinserted into different places, which is just plain bad news for the cells in our body that play nice. You know, kind of like life. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have compared the DNA of a certain type of breast cancer cell to a normal cell and mapped the differences (and similarities) with the above visualization.
The graphic summarizes their results. Round the outer ring are shown the 23 chromosomes of the human genome. The lines in blue, in the third ring, show internal rearrangements, in which a stretch of DNA has been moved from one site to another within the same chromosome. The red lines, in the bull's eye, designate switches of DNA from one chromosome to another.
Some design would benefit the graphic so that your eyes don't bounce around when you look at the technicolor genome but it's interesting nevertheless.
FlowingData posts will slow down this holiday week. I'm going to be busy watching all the movies coming out this Christmas and eating a lot of food that will inevitably cause extended hours of sleep. I hope all of you get to do the same or something similar. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Regular posting will resume on January 1, 2009 to satisfy your data visualization needs. Try not to take it too hard, but if it's too much to handle, try the FlowingData archives. There's lots of good stuff in there.
Philip from infochimps posts the results of some heavy Twitter scraping. Data for 2.7 million users, 10 million tweets, and 58 million edges (i.e. connections between users) to satisfy your data hunger are available for download. I know a lot of you social network researchers will especially appreciate the big dataset, and best of all, Twitter gave Philip permssion to release. Yes, you could use the Twitter API, but isn't it better when someone does it for you?
Download the data here. The password is the Ramanujan taxicab number followed by the word
'kennedy' - all one word. Google is your friend, if that doesn't make sense.
It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone, but as I looked back on the FlowingData archives, it feels like ages since I wrote up some of these posts. I give you the most popular posts of 2008:
At the beginning of this year, on January 1, 2008, FlowingData had 126 subscribers. Compare that to the now... wow. Thanks again for sharing FlowingData, everyone. Thank you for the comments, the suggestions, contest entries, and forum topics. FlowingData is what it is because of its readers. Lastly, thank you to the FlowingData sponsors - , , and - who help me keep up with FlowingData's growth.
During major events, people use their mobile phones to share their emotions: the euphoria of a football match in Spain or Romania, World Music Day in France, or Saint John's night in Poland. We want to share our excitement, so we call up our close friends and family. Urban Mobs allows us to see this activity in four major European cities - this "urban heartbeat" so to speak.
So when is someone going to do something for the United States?
I made a few updates to the FlowingData forums last night - the main being the ability to upload attachments. You've always been able to post images, but now you don't have to link to some remote server. That means it's much easier to share visualization with everyone now. It's also where I will host all future contests and giveaways. So go register now!
Oh, and one more thing - I added two new sections for Events and Finding a Job, so if you're looking for or want to publicize a workshop or conference; or if you're looking for work or looking for someone to work for you, that'd be the place to do it.
Data visualization continues to grow online and in the real world. It exists as masterful art pieces and amazingly useful analysis tools. In both cases though it brings data -- which is oftentimes cryptic -- to the masses and shows that data is more than a bucket of numbers. Data is interesting. As we collect more and more data about ourselves and our surroundings, the data and the visualization will only get more interesting. On that note, I give you FlowingData's picks for the top 5 data visualization projects of 2008. Visualizations were judged based on the use of data, aesthetics, overall effect on the visualization arena, and how well they told a story.
Honorable Mention: Wordle
Wordle, by Jonathan Feinberg, is the word cloud revamped. Wordle caught on like wildfire across the Web as people were putting in their RSS/Atom feeds, cutting and pasting snippets, and visualizing presidential speeches. It was even added to the Many Eyes visualization toolbox. It's hard to say what exactly made Wordle so popular, but I think it was a mix of randomness, aesthetics, and customization options.
5. Decision Tree: The Obama-Clinton Divide
Amanda Cox of The New York Times has a knack for creating excellent graphics. She managed to make regression trees interesting and spark some heated debate with her Obama-Clinton graphic. I would also like to note that Amanda has, yes, a statistics degree. Excuse me while I beam with pride.
4. Radiohead "House of Cards" Music Video
The Radiohead "House of Cards" music video was a bit different in that no cameras were used to "film" it. Instead, they used a rotating scanner and lasers to collect 3D data. What you see in the music video (below) is a visualization of all that data. The group behind the video also made the data freely available, which is icing on the cake. You don't have to be a Radiohead fan to appreciate that.
3. Last.fm and Movie Box Office Streamgraphs
Lee Byron was certainly on to something when he created Streamgraphs to visualize music listening history on last.fm. They are a variant of stacked graphs and an improvement on Havre et al.'s ThemeRiver in the way the baseline is chosen, layer ordering, and color choice. In February 2008, Amanda Cox (yes, again), Matthew Bloch, and Shan Carter of The New York Times, together with Lee, used a similar technique to show the ebb and flow of box office receipts for 7,500 movies over 21 years. Discussion burst out across the Web -- about the technique and what people were seeing in the data -- that I am convinced would not have come about if instead of a Streamgraph, they used say, a stacked bar chart.
I Want You to Want Me was commissioned by New York's Museum of Modern Art and created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who you probably know from past projects, We Feel Fine and Lovelines. The two are best known for the ability to tell stories with data, and it shows in IWYTWM, which explores the world of online dating. Individuals float in balloons hoping to find their match.
Here's the video, so you can more fully appreciate the work:
This blend of art, computer science, and mathematics is beautiful.
1. Britain From Above
When I first caught a glimpse of a clip from Britain from Above, I was immediately impressed, and it only left me wanting more. It was a special series on the BBC with beautiful visuals produced by 422 South. GPS traces from taxi cabs and airline flights scurried to locations; telephone communications glowed in the sky; ground lights twinkled as if the roles of sky and earth were switched; and internet traffic burst from computer to computer. With all that data on display, patterns emerged - zero air traffic in no-fly zones and taxis taking alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic.