• Contest: Win TWO Edward Tufte Books – Enter Now

    December 1, 2008  |  Contests

    It's December 1. 'Tis the season for giving, so guess what - it's time for a FlowingData contest! Jodi has kindly offered two free Edward Tufte books for one lucky FlowingData reader. She's getting ready to move and simply wants to find these books a good home. The two books up for grabs:

    Both books are used, but I don't think that matters. They still have the same pretty content as they did when they were new. You know - like a fine wine. There's nothing better than a bottle of aged Tufte.

    How to Win

    Below is a graph that shows immigration to the United States by country of origin. Can you make a better graph using the same data source?

    Immigration by country of origin

    To the person who submits the best remake of the above immigration graph will win both Tufte books. Email me your entries to nathan [at] flowingdata DOT com with "Graph Contest" in the subject line by Friday, December 5, 8:00pm EST. Jodi and I will judge based on informativeness (is that even a word?), aesthetics, and creativity. I will announce the winner later next week as well as post everyone's work like I've done in the past. The books can only be shipped to those with a U.S. mailing address, so any international entries will have to be for pride.

    Good luck. We're looking forward to seeing what you all come up with.

    P.S. Don't forget to thank Jodi for her generous donation!

    UPDATE: I should've mentioned this. You can submit up to two entries, and I will greatly appreciate it if your entries are in image format e.g. JPG, GIF or in PDF format rather than an Excel spreadsheet. Although it's not a requirement. Lastly, as you design your improved graphs, you might want to take a look at some of the data design tips I've posted.

  • Neighborhood Boundaries with Flickr Shapefiles

    November 28, 2008  |  Data Sources, Mapping

    Neighborhood Boundaries by Tom Taylor uses Flickr Shapefiles and Yahoo! Geoplanet "to show you where the world thinks its neighbors are." Yahoo! provides access to the Where on Earth (WOE) database, which attempts to describe locations as a hierarchy. For example - a town belongs to a city, a city to a county, a county to a state. The Flickr API stores shape files identified by the WOE ID. Here's the punchline. The shapefiles are built using only the latitude and longitude from geotagged photos on Flickr. There's no GIS involved here.

    Why this matters, I can't really say. I think it's mostly to show how much data is stored in geotagged Flickr photos. I'm no GIS expert though. Anyone care to comment on the significance?

    [Thanks, @couch]

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    November 27, 2008  |  Announcements

    Happy Thanksgiving! According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 45 million turkeys will be consumed today. I hope you're contributing to the count. Dibs on wing.

  • Giveaway: Win a Free Subscription to GOOD Magazine

    November 26, 2008  |  Contests

    I subscribed to GOOD Magazine a while back. They describe themselves as the magazine for people who "give a damn." I initially subscribed because of their transparency section - a series of fun infographics on some topic - in each issue, but it turned out the articles were interesting too. GOOD also gives 100% of their subscription fees to the non-profit of your choice.

    Drawing for Free Subscription

    Anyways, I never got around to renewing my subscription, so I got a 3-for-1 email offer the other day. I get 2 free subscriptions to GOOD with my renewal, so I thought, "Hey maybe a couple of FlowingData readers might enjoy a free subscription." Anyone? I'll make this easy on you all. If you'd like to win a free subscription, just leave a comment on this post that promises you'll tell one person about FlowingData. One entry per person, please.

    I'll choose two winners at random Friday afternoon. If you win, you'll hear from me then. If not, I'd encourage you to subscribe anyways. It's only $20, and it all goes to charity. Make sure you leave a valid email address so that I'll be able to contact you.

    P.S. FlowingData's got a contest involving two free Tufte books on the way. Keep an eye out.

    UPDATE: Congratulations to our two winners drawn at random - Griffin and Brett! Thanks all for participating and helping our community grow.

  • Explore Your Feeds in a Cloud of Posts – RSS Voyage

    November 26, 2008  |  Data Art

    I'm not exactly sure what I'm seeing here, but Voyage, by Andy Biggs, is an abstract RSS reader that places posts in a 3D cloud. As you click on items, you can drill down further to later posts. You can also use the up and down keys on the keyboard or the scroll wheel on your mouse. (The latter isn't working for me right now.) For example, press up and you'll see earlier posts from your subscribed feeds. The horizontal placement doesn't seem to have any significance.

    It's probably best to take Voyager for what it is. After all it was just meant to be an experiment in 3D Flash. It's pretty to look at and fun to play with, but not so much about practicality.

    [via can't remember]

  • Processing 1.0 Released

    November 25, 2008  |  Software

    Processing 1.0 was released yesterday and it "only took 162 attempts." I strongly encourage you to check it out - especially if you've never heard of it. Even if you're not into programming, there are a lot of fun-to-look-at demos. Processing is an open source programming language that aims to make it easy to animate and draw programmatically with students, artists, designers, and researchers in mind.

    Here's the first part of the press release:

    Today, on November 24, 2008, we launch the 1.0 version of the Processing software. Processing is a programming language, development environment, and online community that since 2001 has promoted software literacy within the visual arts. Initially created to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing quickly developed into a tool for creating finished professional work as well.

    Processing is a free, open source alternative to proprietary software tools with expensive licenses, making it accessible to schools and individual students. Its open source status encourages the community participation and collaboration that is vital to Processing's growth. Contributors share programs, contribute code, answer questions in the discussion forum, and build libraries to extend the possibilities of the software. The Processing community has written over seventy libraries to facilitate computer vision, data visualization, music, networking, and electronics.

  • Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis

    November 25, 2008  |  Infographics

    If you're like most people, you don't really know what's going on with the economy. You know there's something to do with loans and payments and what not, but not much else. Mint (the financial management app) and Wallstats (the guy who does the Death and Taxes poster) put together a "visual guide to the financial crisis" - or a flow chart, rather - to clear up some of those cloudy details. It goes back to 2003 after the dot-com crash up to the recent government bailout.

    [Thanks, Max]

  • Facebook Friend Activity Seen Around the World

    November 24, 2008  |  Mapping

    Palantir, by Jack Lindamood, Kevin Der, and Dan Weatherford of Facebook, visualizes friend activity on Facebook. The three "hacked" together Palantir at Facebook's recent Hackathon, but I'd never guess that it was put together in just one night by looking at it. There are a few different views. One shows activity in the form of towers sprouting up from the ground and another visualizes interactions between Facebook friends with floating arcs and things that look like orbiting comets. The former reminds me of a visualization some Google folks did a while back but with search terms. I can't find a link to it now though (a little help, please?).

    Anyways, the pictures aren't really enough to understand what I'm talking about. Watch the video for more.

    [via TechCrunch | Thanks, John]

  • US Oil Doesn’t Come From Where You Think it Does

    November 21, 2008  |  Data Sources, Mapping

    Where do you think the US imports the most oil from? Most of us would probably say somewhere in the Middle East, but Jon Udell does some number crunching and shows that misconception is false. Canada supplies us with the most oil (according to the US Department of Energy).

    This realization however, isn't the post's punchline. It's how easy it was for Jon to figure this stuff out. With some help from Dabble DB (an app that lets you easily use a database without too much technical fuss), Jon was able to parse the data and map it by region with a few swift clicks.

    We’re really close to the point where non-specialists will be able to find data online, ask questions of it, produce answers that bear on public policy issues, and share those answers online for review and discussion. A few more turns of the crank, and we’ll be there. And not a moment too soon.

    We're gettin' there.

    [Thanks, Tim]

  • Read Your Feeds Like a Newspaper with Tabbloid

    November 20, 2008  |  Online Applications

    Tabbloid is a free service that lets you receive your feeds in newsletter, or rather, tabloid form via email at a set time and frequency (as a PDF file). Above is my custom Tabbloid for today. This service won't be for everyone, but sometimes a morning coffee is best spent reading over paper and not hunched over a laptop. I could also see this being useful for travelers.

    [Thanks, Tim]

  • A Small Favor

    November 20, 2008  |  Announcements

    I had to install a new caching implementation a few days ago to appease the hosting gods. Since then I've gotten a few emails reporting garbled text instead of an actual page. However, I haven't been able to repeat the problem, and those nice enough to notify me said it went away after a few clicks. I tweaked a little bit and think it's not an issue anymore, but if anyone sees garbage, please do let me know. Thanks.

  • Using Data Visualization to Forecast Financial Markets

    November 20, 2008  |  Economics, Statistical Visualization

    This is a guest post by Simit Patel of InformedTrades, which offers free advice on trading stocks.

    While many investors use economic and fundamental factors to identify investment opportunities -- i.e. whether a company has good management and is in a growth industry, or how it will be affected by macroeconomic conditions -- ultimately the price of an asset comes down to two things: supply and demand. The demand for buying vs the demand of selling. By visualizing the movement of price assets, we can gain an understanding of the psychology of the market as a whole, and thus what direction the price will go.
    Continue Reading

  • Cotton Picking Correlates to President Picking

    November 19, 2008  |  Mapping

    The U.S. election is over. The post-election analyses begin. The above map shows presidential voting at the county level. The more red a county is, the stronger the support for John McCain and similar for Barack Obama and blue. Below is cotton production in 1860. Each dot represent 2,000 bales. That's some strong correlation. In fact, here is the election map with the cotton overlay:

    This of course is a case of strong correlation - not causation. That is to say, if you get your county to grow more cotton, it doesn't mean that you're increasing the probability that voters will sway towards Democrat. As Strange Maps points out, it is in fact a correlation to African-American population (of which 91% voted for Obama). There has been some migration during the post-slavery area, but families have largely settled in the areas their families before them grew up in.

    [via Strange Maps | Thanks, Albyn]

  • Mmm, Chocolate Pie… Chart

    November 18, 2008  |  Data Art

    In the spirit of turning pie charts into food, Mary and Matt kick it up a notch with some design and 5.5 ounces of chocolate. It's a chocolate pie chart of 70% milk chocolate, 20% dark, and 10% white. Get yours today for just 20 bucks. It looks delicious.

    [via swissmiss]

  • Word Portraits of Famous People – Einstein and Ginger the Cockapoo

    November 18, 2008  |  Data Art

    Jeff Clark of Neoformix has been doing some cool stuff with words lately. Above is a word portrait of Albert Einstein looking very chipper. Einstein's entire face is composed of the word "genius" at varying shades and sizes. Inspired by Gui Borchet, briefly explains the process done in uh, Processing:

    The Word Portraits that I have been creating lately use an algorithm that analyzes a starting image and finds rectangular patches of a reasonably consistent color. These are then filled in the generated image with words or letters painted with the average color in the rectangle.

    The algorithm can of course be generalized to not just words and can be used with non-human images as well. Ginger the Cockapoo serves as the case study in which Jeff reconstructs an image of the dog with rectangles, the letter O, leaf-like shapes, and filled circles.

    Take a look through Jeff's other postings for more word portraits of Barack Obama and George Boole - inventor of a logical calculus of truth values.

  • Minority Report Physical Interface in Real Life – Oblong g-speak

    November 17, 2008  |  Visualization

    Remember the awesome interface in Minority Report? You know, the one where Tom Cruise is sifting through files and information as if he were directing a symphony? Oblong, whose co-founder served as science adviser on the Steven Spielberg movie, created something a lot like it. It's called g-speak.

    Oblong Industries is the developer of the g-speak spatial operating environment.

    The SOE's combination of gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels brings the first major step in computer interface since 1984; starting today, g-speak will fundamentally change the way people use machines at work, in the living room, in conference rooms, in vehicles. The g-speak platform is a complete application development and execution environment that redresses the dire constriction of human intent imposed by traditional GUIs. Its idiom of spatial immediacy and information responsive to real-world geometry enables a necessary new kind of work: data-intensive, embodied, real-time, predicated on universal human expertise.

    Here's the impressive demo reel:

    Now here's the Minority Report clip for comparison's sake:

    Of course g-speak is still in development and has a lot of work ahead before it's useful to explore "massive datasets" but it's a good first step nevertheless. Plus, it just looks fun to play with. I wonder what it'd do if I gave it an obscene gesture.

    [via Data Mining and Engadget]

  • Open Thread: I Don’t Care About the Data…

    November 14, 2008  |  Discussion, Visualization

    Martin briefly discusses a presentation at a recent visualization workshop. The speaker blurts, "I don't care about the data, I am just interested in the method." This begs the question

    Can you design worthwhile visualization without worthwhile data?

    I can see why the speaker said what he did, but you know what, if you don't care about the data then I probably won't either, and most likely, I won't care about your visualization. What do you think? Can useful visualization techniques come out of using whatever datasets?

    I asked the same question on Twitter a couple of days ago. Here are a few of the responses:

    @EagerEyes: No.

    @skylark64: you can, but shouldn't... Then again, maybe it is worthwhile to someone.

    @couch: No.

    @vrypan: But that's the question in the first place! "what's my data worth?" If you know the answer, tools have little importance.

    I think I know where this conversation is headed.

  • Vote for Open Government Data

    November 13, 2008  |  Miscellaneous

    The title reads, "Barack Obama is going to appoint the nation's first CTO. What are the top priorities?" I don't know about you, but I'm putting in my vote for open government data. Who knows if anyone from Washington actually sees this (probably not), but can you imagine how fun it'd be to have APIs to data that defines the United States, or any country for that matter? Something more accessible than thousands of scattered Excel spreadsheets and PDF files? It's good to hope, or as my friend Andy Dufresne would say, hope will set you free. Yeah, that makes absolutely no sense. This is what happens when I stay up all night long.

    [via Boing Boing | Thanks, Georgina]

  • Alternative to Cartograms Using Transparency

    November 13, 2008  |  Mapping

    Alpha map

    The thing about cartograms is that it's hard to make out what you're seeing. You lose most sense of geography and size comparison is near impossible. They're more of a pretty picture than an analytical tool. Axis Maps proposes an alternative to cartograms, and the example of course uses presidential election data.

    Instead of morphing counties so that they are sized by area, Axis uses transparency or more accurately, alpha levels. Uh, wait, is that more accurate? Oh I dunno. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. Anyways, as a result, counties with higher populations glow brightly and those with smaller populations fade into the darkness that is oblivion. I like it. More importantly though - what do you think?

    [via Cartogrammar]

  • Google Uses Search Terms to Predict Flu Activity

    November 12, 2008  |  Statistical Visualization

    annual_cdc_comparison

    In Google Flu Trends, Google uses related searches to predict flu activity in your area "up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems." The above graph shows query-based flu estimates compared against flu data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

    We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.

    [Thanks, Iman]

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