• Beginner’s Guide to FlowingData – A Guided Tour

    Posted to Miscellaneous

    Our FlowingData community went up from 2,641 subscribers last month to about 4,100, so more than a third of you are new. Welcome (and thanks to the those of you who have obviously been spreading the word :). As a new reader, you might not know where to begin, so let me show you around.
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  • Will Dark Knight Beat Titanic for Biggest Movie of All Time? [POLL]

    Posted to Miscellaneous, Polls

    Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger, has been breaking records left and right. After only 10 days, the movie passed the $300 million mark - faster than any move before it. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the previous record holder. Pirates did it in 16 days.

    So the next record that everyone's wondering about is -- Will Dark Knight make more than $600 million to beat Titanic as the highest grossing film of all time? So far it's been 12 days and has grossed $333,929,159. Punch your answer in the poll below.

    {democracy:5}

    How much do you think Dark Knight will make (domestically)? I say it won't do it -- $525 million tops.

  • New Version of Flare Visualization Toolkit Released

    Posted to Software, Visualization

    A new version of Flare, the data visualization toolkit for Actionscript (which means it runs in Flash), was just released yesterday with a number of major improvements from the previous version. The toolkit was created and is maintained by the UC Berkeley Visualization Lab and was one of the first bits of Actionscript that I got my hands on. The effort-to-output ratio was pretty satisfying, so if you want to learn Acitonscript for data visualization, check out Flare. The tutorial is a good place to start.

    Here are some sample applications created with Flare:

    [Thanks, Jeff]

  • Can You Improve this Graph Showing Suicide Rates in Japan?

    Are you ready for another deconstruct/reconstruct exercise? I just posted a time series plot in the FlowingData forums that shows suicide rates and unemployment rates in Japan. Here are questions worth considering:

    • What is the graph trying to show? Does it succeed?
    • Is this the appropriate type of plot of this type of data?
    • What would make the data more clear?

    At a glance, the graph almost looks fine, but on a slightly deeper than superficial look, there are some clear problems.

  • A Taxi Cab Exploded in My Driveway

    Posted to Miscellaneous

    Through the Internet, sharing data has -- you know what, I'm not even going to try to make this relevant. A car exploded in my driveway!!!!

    It was 6am and I was laying in bed. There was a continuous honking horn that was annoying the crap out of me. I figured someone was trying to get someone else to move their car so that they could pull out, but after a minute of one long honk, there was a huge BOOOOMMMM!

    I ran to my office window, and I saw a car on fire!! I managed to get some of it on camera:

    It was quite the sight - and now my apartment smells like smoke. Luckily no one was hurt.

  • What Kind of Information is Hidden in Barcodes?

    Posted to Data Art

    Barcodes. We all know what they look like. They're the black stripes that vary in thickness with numbers that indicate something or another, but what is that something? Every product has a unique barcode number and when you pass it through an international key database, you get information about the product and the country of origin. Daniel Becker uses this data to create art in Barcode Plantage.

    Once a bar code is keyed or scanned in, the program sends a request to the database, which returns a master file data. This master file data is then analysed to define positions, curves and colours of Bezier curves of the tree structure.

    The number of these curves will vary correspondence to the number of figures in the code. Simultaneously, the user will hear a melody, which is based on the figures of the bar code.

    Because every barcode is unique so is the resulting tree. Pretty.

    [via swissmiss]

  • Watching Our Twitter World – twittervision Redux

    Posted to Mapping, Projects, Software

    I've always liked twittervision. I'm not sure what it is, but it's strangely mesmerizing, getting a tiny peak into others' lives. This weekend, I recreated twittervision with a little bit of style for good measure. Say hello to Twitter World.

    The Data

    Twitter World shows updates from the Twitter public timeline, and makes use of the twittervision API for location. Until I get whitelisted for the Twitter API, I'm polling Twitter and twittervision every six minutes to keep things fresh. Hopefully neither putters out.

    The Implementation

    Like my visualization showing the spread of Walmart, I used Modest Maps (+ OpenStreetMap) to map things out, and I used TweenFilterLite to animate. I had all the gears in place and everything working nicely a couple of hours in - but that was with a flat XML file. The hard part was feeding the thing live data and then making sure everything was synchronized. That took, um, too much time.

    In any case, not bad for a weekend project.

    PS. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter :)

  • There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Dataset

    Last week I asked if you could improve a mediocre bar chart showing party majorities by county. There was a resounding yes as many of you deconstructed and then reconstructed your own graphs. For reference, here's the original chart:

    Here are the key flaws to the original that you all caught:

    1. The x-axis tick marks were in really weird places;
    2. The y-axis label was misleading because the data were number of counties;
    3. Red and blue would make more sense for Democrats and Republicans;
    4. Counts for counties don't match the years, because they are reversed;
    5. We see a different story when we bring in data for undecided "other" and "declined to declare."

    What was the graph trying to show? It was trying to show party registration in California over the past five presidential elections. Did it succeed? No. It failed miserably; however, you did much better. Here are all the reworks.

    Brijesh made a stacked chart for Democrats and Republicans:

    Tyler made a horizontal stacked bar chart with a useful majority line down the middle:

    Blair provided some R code:

    David used a tornado chart, which turned out well:

    Amos went with a stacked line chart:

    Kevin sent this one in:

    John put together a few versions - this being one of about five:

    Jorge went with simplicity:

    Stack created a time series for the Dems and Reps:

    Jake put up a fan favorite:

    Nate, the graphic designer, embedded a stacked line chart inside the California boundaries:

    This is the one I made at the workshop:

    Personally, I like Jake and David's the best, but who gets the golden star for best graph? I'll let you be the judge.

  • Mapping Walkability in San Francisco

    Posted to Mapping

    Lee Byron, recent Carnegie Mellon grad and newly inducted New York Times graphics intern, maps walkability in San Francisco. He scraped Walk Score for uh, walk scores, which are scores from 0-100 based on the amenities around a location like "nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc" - how easy it is to live without a car.

    Color was calculated on a per pixel basis using bicubic interpolation. From there he let Processing do the graphical labor to construct a map overlay. The result, which is accurate to the block, is a pretty one.

    If you want data (sans map) for your own neighborhood, Lee has kindly provided the scraper.

  • What Simple Rules Should You Always Follow When Designing Infographics?

    Posted to Forums

    In the FlowingData forums, Ryan asks a really good question about data design:

    What simple rules should we all follow when we present data?

    I came up with three rules of thumb a while back, but surely there are more. Context, clarity, and real data are clear winners, but what else is there? Those are really broad and can be broken down a few ways - like reducing the number of variables could contribute to clarity. If you have any ideas, please do post your ideas to the forum thread.

    Ah yes, I can hear you flipping through your Tufte books.

  • Say Hello to the Brand New FlowingData Forums

    Posted to Site News

    Notice anything new at the top of this page? FlowingData readers, say hello to FlowingData forums. FlowingData forums, say hello to FlowingData readers. Tada, you're not strangers anymore. Now you can go post your interesting finds in the brand new FlowingData forums.

    Six Forums to Post In

    I've created six categories, all of which are tightly coupled to the blog:

    • Statistical Visualization
    • Infographics
    • Mapping
    • Artistic Visualization
    • Statistics
    • Data Sources

    I got the ball rolling in the mapping forum with this animated carbon map from NASA. Nice.

    Interact With Other Readers

    One of my favorite parts about FlowingData is the interaction. I love comments that help me see and understand data differently, and I love getting emails from readers that point me to interesting stuff that I never would've found on my own. Recently, I've even met some readers in person. I hope that the FlowingData forums provide the same opportunities for all of you, and of course - make for some good fun.

    So please do join the club, grab your favorite link from your hundreds of del.icio.us bookmarks, and post it to the forums. Only about five of you will actually do this, but hey, that's still growth and enough for me to think that this is a good idea. Sometimes it's a good thing that it doesn't take much to keep me motivated.

  • Shouldn’t You Be Using Firefox By Now?

    Posted to Infographics

    I've been using Mozilla Firefox for years and have nothing but good things to say about the most recently released Firefox 3. Whenever I borrow someone else's computer, and all he has is Internet Explorer, I feel wrong and dirty.

    When I think Internet Explorer, I think vulnerability, crashing, spyware, adware, sluggishness, and more crashing. I imagine running AdAware on my mom's laptop over and over again.

    This calendar graphic on the Mozilla front page captures that idea nicely. While a bar graph, pie chart, or just the numbers alone would have shown the data just fine, the calendars put the numbers into perspective. The calendars give readers a way to relate to the data, which makes the story all that much more clear.

    [via Cool Infographics]

  • Martin Wattenberg On Visualizing Large Textual Data

    Posted to Data Art, Quotes

    Martin Wattenberg, one of the creators of Many Eyes, in reply to "Why is a numbers guy like you so interested in large textual data sets?"

    The entire literary canon may be smaller than what comes out of particle accelerators or models of the human brain, but the meaning coded into words can't be measured in bytes. It's deeply compressed. Twelve words from Voltaire can hold a lifetime of experience.

    Martin Wattenberg = smart guy.

  • Thank You, Everyone for Reading FlowingData

    Posted to Site News

    A few days ago, FlowingData's subscriber count shot up to 3,100+ subscribers, moving past the three thousand mark for the first time. I just wanted to take this chance to thank everyone for reading. Thank you. FlowingData wouldn't be the same without you, and I'm really happy with the community that's developing around this modest, little blog of mine, or maybe I should say of ours.

    Thank you for reading, thank for commenting, thank you for linking here, and thank you for sending me post ideas. I appreciate it ALL. FlowingData is well on its way to 5,000.

  • Weekend Minis for Your Lazy Weekend – 7/19/08

    BedPost - I put this up earlier for the FlowingData personal visualization project, but for those who missed out, Kevin recently put up a sign up form so that you get a notification for when the grown up activities tracker is ready for public use.

    Bible Belt Got Back - We see fatness by state in this fun map by CalorieLab. The map title says percentage of obese adult population, but I think it really meant percentage of adult population that is obese. [Thanks, tarheelcoxn | via The Daily Dish]

    Movie Color Spectrum - I couldn't find more details for this, but from what I gather, we see the dominant colors of selected movies that range from rated G to NC-17. Notice a pattern as we start from happy go-lucky movies for children to the uh, more grown up movies? [Thanks, Tim]

    Pew Study on Religion - USA Today uses horizontal stacked bar charts to show results from the Pew Forum on Religion and Publilc Life. What do you think - easy or hard to read? Do all the charts make the data more clear?

  • Can You Improve this Mediocre Statistical Graphic?

    I'm on my way back home from the workshop Integrating Computing into the Statistics Curricula in Berkeley (and this time I managed to get through the line without getting yelled at). During one of the labs, there was an assignment called Deconstruct-Reconstruct which was a great way to learn how to improve statistical graphics. Basically, we picked apart (deconstruct) a graphic from Swivel and then created a better version (reconstruct).

    Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept it...

    As I was making my own version, I thought to myself, "I bet FlowingData readers would do really well with this exercise." Let's see if I'm right. Can you deconstruct-reconstruct the above graphic? Here are questions worth considering:

    • What is the graphic (trying) to show?
    • Does the graphic achieve its goal?
    • Are there other data that could make the plot more informative?
    • How can we improve the bar chart?

    I'll put my version a little later...This post will self-destruct in ten seconds...

  • Is Napoleon’s March the Greatest Statistical Graphic Ever?

    I'm starting to hear about Charles Minard's map of Napoleon's march time and time again - almost to the point of exhaustion. Is the map really that awesome, or is it just because Edward Tufte said so? Here is my question to all of you:

    Is Minard's map the best statistical graphic ever drawn?

    I have my own thoughts about this, but more importantly, I want to know what you all think. If you don't think it's the best ever, what is? If you do think it's the greatest of all time, what's second best?

  • Browse Your del.icio.us Bookmarks as Thumbnails

    Posted to Visualization

    I bookmark stuff with del.icio.us almost every day, and it's become indispensable, because I mark items to write about later here on FlowingData. So it's always interesting to see new ways to browse my bookmarks and tags. Favthumbs takes a straightforward approach and displays your bookmarks as thumbnails, but the implementation is surprisingly smooth and useful.

    There are two views - grid and carousel. The carousel should remind you of the iTunes cover flow, which has been making the rounds through the Web lately while the grid view provides a resizeable mosaic.

    You can also filter your bookmarks by tag. Very nice. What do you think - useful or no?

  • Radiohead Music Video by Capturing and Rendering 3D Data

    Posted to Data Art

    Radiohead's most recent music video, House of Cards, was made entirely without cameras. Instead the setup involved a rotating scanner, lasers, and lots of 3D data. The music video is all of that 3D data rendered.

    No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.

    Check out the "making of" video for a better explanation that I can provide. I like the part when they talk about distorting the data on purpose because, uh, well that's something we usually try not to do.

    Here's the final result. There are some really beautiful scenes where the "camera" pans a landscape and it sorta blows away in a billowy wind like a house of cards.

    [Thanks, Jason]

  • Mapping Economic Activity for the World

    Posted to Economics, Mapping

    The G-Econ (Geographically-based Economic data) group has worked on making economic data publicly available via Gross Cell Product (GCP). In other words, they've collected data for each 1x1 degree latitude by longitude cell on the globe. Above is a cell-by-cell globe mapping world population. Here's one that shows world rainfall.

    Check out more of these pretty world maps posted to the G-Econ Flickr photo set.