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.
The great thing about being a graduate student is that you get to experiment. Anita Lillie, from the MIT Media Lab, demos MusicBox, her master's thesis project that visualizes and maps music collections based on songs' acoustic features. As might be expected, she uses principle components analysis to arrange songs. Each dot represents a song. If two songs sound similar, they should appear close to each other. As an example, the above dots are colored by music genre. Rap songs appear on the left in red while classical appears on the right.
As an aside, Anita's project reminds me a lot of a GGobi demo by Di Cook. She used the tuneR library in R to quantify Beatles songs and then used GGobi to do something similar to MusicBox. R and GGobi are free to use, so if you're interested in visualizing your own music library, you might want to check them out.
In his latest data sculptures, Andreas Nicolas Fischer places data visualization in a physical space when we're so used to seeing it on a computer monitor. Above is a piece of two layers - the bottom is gross domestic product for 2007 (made of plywood) and the top maps "the derivatives volume, alloted to the coordinates of the countries on a map." I don't know what derivatives volume and I probably should, but I'm too lazy to look it up (a lil' help please?). Continue Reading
Most of us create graphs with actual graphing software. Maybe it's Microsoft Excel. Maybe it's R. Whatever it is though it's usually specialized for analysis. What if you want to make a graphic for a publication or a presentation that's polished and fully customized? Adobe Illustrator gives you the control you need to do this. It's not graphing software. It's illustration software, but once you get the hang of things, Adobe Illustrator can be a valuable tool in your visualization arsenal.
SiSense is running a dashboard competition, and a free iPod Touch is up for grabs. All you have to do is create the best dashboard using SiSense -- which is free to try for 30 days. You've got until December 22 (that's one week away) to enter, so you better jump on it.
It happened again. I told someone I study statistics. He told me that he hated statistics in college. It doesn't annoy me like it used to - I've come to expect it - but why do so many people have this beef with stat? Is it really that boring? Confusing? What is it about statistics that turns people off? So I reach out to all of you:
What is it that makes statistics so uninteresting?
I'm going to assume that the icky factor is less for FlowingData readers (obviously), but still, I implore you - tell me why statistics sucks. I must know.
I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but scientists from Japanâ€™s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have developed software that can map brain activity to an image. Subjects were shown letters from the word neuron and images were reconstructed and displayed on a computer screen.
A spokesman at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories said: "It was the first time in the world that it was possible to visualise what people see directly from the brain activity.
"By applying this technology, it may become possible to record and replay subjective images that people perceive like dreams." The scientists, lead by chief researcher Yukiyaso Kamitani, focused on the image recognition procedures in the retina of the human eye.
It is while looking at an object that the eye's retina is able to recognise an image, which is subsequently converted into electrical signals sent into the brain's visual cortex.
The research investigated how electrical signals are captured and reconstructed into images, according to the study, which will be published in the US journal Neuron.
I'm not sure how much brain activity from the retina has to do with activity during dreams, but it's interesting nevertheless (although I am sure - like all interesting science - it is slightly hyped by the media).