Photograph by *Your Guide
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 Jim commented 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.
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.
Find high resolution pics at the Flickr photo pool.
[via visual complexity]
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.
How to Tweet Your Fortunes
@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.
Now - back to work on my more serious project.
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.
Eye-Sys — Comprehensive real-time 3D visualization. Their gallery section in particular is quite impressive.
SiSense — Easy-to-use reporting and analysis. No code required and directly connects to Excel, CSV files, SQL, MySQL, Oracle and SQL Analysis Services
If you'd like to sponsor FlowingData, please feel free to email me, and I'll get back to you with the details.
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.
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.
Yes, watered down and flavorless beer has high drinkability. You know, sort of like water. The difference is shade of yellow.
[via xkcd | Thanks, Justin]
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:
- 17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe
- Winner of the Personal Visualization Project is...
- Watching the Growth of Walmart Across America, Interactive Edition
- 21 Ways to Visualize and Explore Your Email Inbox
- 12 Cool Visualizations to Explore Books
- Showing the Obama-Clinton Divide in Decision Tree Infographic
- 10 Largest Data Breaches Since 2000 - Millions Affected
- 23 Personal Tools to Learn More About Yourself
- Watch the Rise of Gasoline Retail Prices, 1993 - 2008
- 40 Essential Tools and Resources to Visualize Data
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.
Here's to an exciting 2009.
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.
From the Forums
Tis the season for... infographics contests - Win $500 from GOOD Magazine or a free subscription to Chance Magazine [Thanks, Alberto].
UK Wired Article Help - johno is writing a feature for UK Wired Magazine (launching this spring) on lifetracking and wants to talk to those involved with self-tracking.
Associate in Research for Software Development - There's a data visualization position open at Duke University
Visualization software used... - A short discussion what people use to visualize data.