Opportunity to collaborate on the Data Journalism Handbook

I’ve been contacted by Liliana Bounegru, a Project Manager from the European Journalism Centre, to help try and attract a potential contributor or contributors to the task of writing the first collaborative Data Journalism Handbook.

The project started in November 2o11 at the Mozilla Festival in London, with the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation coordinating this massive, rapid effort to construct what will be an invaluable resource. Contributors so far include University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cronkite School of Journalism, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Guardian, Wired and BBC, to name but a few.

They are now looking for contributions from people with some experience of using data visualisation in journalism to complete the Visualising Data chapter, against the following structure:

The role of visualisation in journalism

Tools, tutorials and good examples of using visualisations to find stories

Tools, tutorials and good examples of using visualisations to tell stories

The handbook will be launched in April at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. However, the timescales leading up to that are pressing and this chapter would need to be completed in double quick time to meet the requirements of the overall production.

If you feel you are qualified to write about such content, and have the interest and the capacity to get involved, contact Liliana Bounegru by email at bounegru@ejc.net.

Best of luck!

What Tableau 7.0 brings to the data visualisation table

A couple of weeks ago Tableau announced the launch of version 7.0 of their popular Business Intelligence and Visual Analytics software. To find out more about this development I invited Craig Bloodworth, a Tableau evangelist and consultant for The Information Lab (a Tableau silver partner) to highlight some of the new data visualisation features and enhancements.

With their recently released version 7 Tableau Software have bought the data visualisation community a whole host of capability. While the team at Tableau are looking to invest $200m over the coming years in software R&D they aren’t against giving back to the community. As such the latest version of Tableau is always available for free in the form of Tableau Public for analysing and publishing public data. With that in mind let’s take a look at the great new features available in 7.

Much of what drives feature development is feedback from Tableau’s own customers and two of the most requested features, area charts and filled maps, can now be found in 7. What’s amazing about Tableau’s development strategy though is just how much work goes in to ensuring user interactions are intuitive in both building and consuming visualisations. This also applies to mapping where Tableau now even gone one step further than Google Local allowing panning 360⁰ around the globe allowing you to show Japan alongside North America (i.e. how they actually are). Maps will even auto centre on the region of greatest data density meaning, sadly, the UK may no longer be the centre of the world.

Outside of chart types v7 has revamped its unique ‘Show Me!’ function. If you’re still comparing Show Me! to Excel’s chart wizard or are expecting the library of charts available to have doubled then be sure to read my blog post on the matter. By moving Show Me! to a floating window you’re able to see exactly what choosing that extra dimension or measure will do to your chart. Tableau keep getting better on their promise of a single paradigm interface, allowing you to maintain focus on the analysis while switching between chart types can be done in a single click.

For people who’ve used or interested in Tableau Server the latest version is a complete game changer. Not only does it maintain its role as a publishing repository for sharing interactive visualisations around an organisation in an instant, for consumption via a web browser or mobile device, but its new data engine transforms it into a portal for all your live and static datasets. Think of it as a library of every data connection you’ll need without worrying about drivers, ports, server addressing, etc. What’s great is distributing your latest data model update to everyone in your team is as simple as pressing ‘publish’. No more shared network folders or complex version control, Tableau Server handles updates and distributes to all data users as needed.

While those are the main updates there’s just no time to also detail 1-click sort, tooltip improvements, menu reorganisation, connections to Hadoop hive & VectorWise, ODBC improvements, continuous dates, server high availability and multi tenancy.

Instead why not download Tableau Public or a trial of Tableau Desktop and try everything out for yourself?

If you’re interested in chatting to Craig about Tableau or getting the best from your company’s data feel free to email him craig.bloodworth@theinformationlab.co.uk.

Sightsmap provides interactive ‘sightseeing heatmap’

Just come across a really interesting interactive project from Estonian Professor, Tanel Tammet, called ‘Sightsmap‘ which overlays a heatmap onto a Google map platform allowing users to pan and zoom around the globe to see the locations where the most intensely photographed areas in the world.

The heatmap is a representation of the number of available Panoramio photos for a given area. You can zoom into each location and then switch on the ‘photo’ view to see the images taken from each location. Furthermore, a drop down option lets you display markers for the most popular 5, 10, 100, etc. locations in the world.

Visualising Data is on the move – offline for a short period

Just wanted to inform readers and anybody contacting me that I will be offline and out of action for the next few days as I’m moving house.

I’m leaving the relative hustle and bustle of city life in Leeds to the more quaint world of Hebden Bridge, the picturesque pennine town which has a rich literary history and creative heritage, as its famous welcome sign announces. I’m not sure if I’d necessarily consider myself a wealthy yuppy type, though:

During the seventies and eighties the town was repopulated by a motley mixture of artists, writers, photographers, musicians, alternative practitioners, teachers, green and New Age activists and more recently, wealthier yuppy types. The area has a rich literary history. The Bronte sisters wrote their famous novels just a few miles away in Haworth, the American poet, Sylvia Plath is buried at Heptonstall on the hill overlooking Hebden Bridge and the poet laureate, Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, two miles away.

I’ll be back as soon as things settle down and my broadband gets back up and running, but do bear with me for a while if you’re awaiting responses to emails or other interactions. Thanks!

Announcing 2012 data visualisation training course dates

Last month I shared details of the locations where I was planning to deliver my “Introduction to Data Visualisation” training courses during the first half of 2012. I’m delighted to announce more details about the schedule, specifically the dates of the events.

This is the list of locations I will be visiting and the dates on which I will be delivering the courses. Venue details will be confirmed in due course but, as a guide, they will be centrally located in all cases. Check the individual training event pages for updates once they have been arranged.

To register for an event simply click on the links below and follow the payment instructions.


Training testimonials

You could take my word that this is a great course and everyone will get loads of value from it should they attend, but I’m bound to say that. Alternatively, if you need that little bit of extra persuasion, here’s a selection of comments and feedback from recent delegates…

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 2)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter and Google+ you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part two of the latest collection from December 2011 (see part one):

Smashing Magazine | The Messy Art of UX Sketching – “I hear a lot of people talking about the importance of sketching when designing or problem-solving, yet it seems that very few people actually sketch” | Article

Urban Movements | New project mapping taxi routes in London | Static Visualisation

Visual.ly | “2D’s Company, 3D’s a Crowd” – another excellent blog post from visual.ly exploring the principles behind flaws with 3D representations of 2D data | Type

Excel Charts | “Data visualization is about finding and communicating patterns. But here is an often-forgotten truism: patterns are not some kind of ready-to-wear knowledge” | Article

BBC Technology News | UK Government opens up more data for free | Article

Business Week | Correlation or Causation? Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it – some humorous examples that explore this often misused statistical concept | Statistics

Guardian Datablog | 2011: the year in data, journalism (and charts) | Collection

Brainpickings | An Illustrated Visualization of What Can Happen in a Single Second | Book Preview

Core77 | First in a great series of profiles of a series of brilliant artists/illustrators famed for their cut-away/cross-section works | Illustrations

Guardian | 2011 – the news year in review | Interactive Visualisation

Infosthetics | Citeology: Visualizing the Relationships between Research Publications | Interactive Visualisation

Vis4.net | Let’s Keep Symbol Maps Clean And Tidy | Tutorial

Wired | Spineless Classics turns whole books into graphic art | Visualisations

FastCo Design | “Designers Behind Facebook Timeline: 5 Keys To Creating A UI With Soul” – Article/Interview with Nick Felton and Joey Flynn | Article/Interview

CR Blog | Honda goes ‘Off the Grid’ – “The latest work for Honda by Wieden + Kennedy is an interactive online experience that takes its cues from the way Street View allows users to move and look around a 360 degree photographed environment” | Advertising

Flink Labs | Ben Hosken’s Top 5 in 2011 and outlook for 2012 | Review/Collection

The Why Axis | Google Zeitgeist Misses the Mark for 2011 – a much more in depth analysis (than I provided!) of the failure of the Google Zeitgeist visualisation | Critique

On Goals Scored | “This is a blog of football things that are interesting to look at. I usually post infographics or datagraphics that I have made. I also post about football posters, crests and the like” | Site

Data Remixed | How Data Visualization is Like Chess | Type

Nodebox Workshop | The output of the projects produced during the workshop “Dataviz: Visual Repesentation of Complex Phenomena” held in Torino during December 2011, Torino” | Collections

Wired | How Does the Brain Perceive Art? | Theory

Boston Globe | Brothers David and Yakir Reshef develop a new statistical tools “that rapidly flags patterns and identifies correlations in huge databases, from sports statistics to online social networks to the genomes being churned out by science laboratories” | Article

Greg Judelman | MSc Thesis – Knowledge Visualization: Problems and Principles for Mapping the Knowledge Space | Thesis

Perceptual Edge | Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design | Article

MK Web | The wonderful and endlessly interesting site of Martin Krzywinski | Site

Guardian | England riots: mapping the distance from home to offence | Animated Visualisation

Flowing Data | Microsoft continues to be responsible for some of the worst product advertising, here trying to appeal to those who want explosions with their visual presentations | Video

American Copy Editors Society | More classic cock ups from the Fox News graphics portfolio | Bloopers

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during the past month:

The worst visualisation I’ve seen this year? Google Zeitgeist 2011 – December 16th, 2011

10 significant visualisation developments: July to December 2011 – December 19th, 2011

O’Reilly Strata Conference, Santa Clara 2012 (20% reader discount) – December 9th, 2011

Best of the visualisation web… November 2011 (part 1) – December 5th, 2011

Best of the visualisation web… November 2011 (part 2) – December 5th, 2011

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 1)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter and Google+ you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part one of the latest collection from December 2011 (see part two):

Vis4.net | Gregor provides a comprehensive guide to how to properly choropleth map colour classifications | Tutorial

Nederland Van Boven | Visualisation project which projects and maps the potential accessible locations you could travel from a given location using a start point and set journey time | Interactive Visualisation

Core77 | Interview with Matt Webb, the CEO of Berg, with a focus on the exciting new device the “Little Printer” | Interview

Flowing Data | Video of Shan Carter (New York Times) speaking about telling stories with data | Video

Sociable Physics | This movie shows a heatmap of London Bikeshare activity over the course of an average day | Animated Visualisation

Excel Charts | Jorge Camoes attempts to recreate famous William Playfair visualisations | Static Visualisation

Junk Charts | Demonstration of statistical adjustment in charts, specifically maps | Article

Infosthetics | Video of Amanda Cox (New York Times) talking about developing infographics at the paper and explains some of the lessons they have learnt | Video

Guardian | In a new series Nathan Green shows how statistics can help make sense of life’s perplexing data and distinguish facts from distortions | Article

Guardian | Riot rumours: how misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis. Interactive piece from the Guardian which includes a helpful guide to explain how it was created | Type

Stamen | Stamen project about the Californian Health Care Foundation | Project Overview

Visual.ly Blog | Very helpful and thorough article about colour theory | Theory

Discover Magazine | Visualising a geogmagnetic storm via an animation based on the converted sounds, really is quite mesmerising as it says in the title | Animated Visualisation

Brainpickings | 7 Essential Books on Data Visualization & Computational Art | Resources

Substratum | Substratum is a series of genuinely interesting and inspiring interviews with THE biggest names in the field | Interview

O’Reilly Radar | Article/interview with GreenGoose founder with Brian Krejcarek about his company’s small stickers which have built in sensors connected to the internet and the potential for the data collected | Interview

Bloomberg Business | Profile of Tableau co-founder Pat Hanrahan – “The former Pixar engineer applies some graphics magic to spreadsheets” | Article

The Atlantic | “Ending the infographic plague”. Kind of explains the angle of this piece | Article

O’Reilly Radar | “Don’t blame the information for your bad habits” – Article/Interview with Clay Johnson on info overload vs. info overconsumption.| Interview

Hadley Wickham | The boxplot plot has been around for over 40 years and this paper summarises the improvements, extensions and variations since Tukey first introduced his ‘schematic plot in 1970 | Paper

Forbes | Naomi Robbins encourages users to think outside of the chart menus to avoid the mistake of choosing the wrong graph type for the data | Type

Vimeo | The ECOSPHERE is a real-time Twitter visualisation made for CNN inspired by the plant world and based on the laws of nature. This video explains about the engine behind the Ecosphere project | Video

UI Transitions | “Meaningful Transitions deals with the use of animations in the user interface, documenting transitions in a clustered way to show at which point transitions can be a helpful extension to a static user interface, because of cognitive benefits to enhance the user experience” | Site

Spatial Analysis | The best map based visualisations of 2011 | Visualisation Collection

Digital Humanities Specialist | Detailed article about the three pillars of Digital Humanities research: Text Analysis, Spatial Analysis and Network Analysis | Theory

Prezi | Prezi from Jojo Malig about data-driven journalism and data visualisation | Presentation

Revolutions Blog | Mapping prosperity in France using R | Static Visualisation

Fell In Love With Data | Intgerview with Jorge Camoes about his experiences using Excel for data visualisations | Interview

Flowing Data | Another classic in the long (and increasing) line of dodgy visualisation examples from Fox News | Static Visualisation

Vis4.net | Another excellent article by Gregor Aisch about the some important perceptions about the equidistance of colours | Theory

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during the past month:

The worst visualisation I’ve seen this year? Google Zeitgeist 2011 – December 16th, 2011

10 significant visualisation developments: July to December 2011 – December 19th, 2011

O’Reilly Strata Conference, Santa Clara 2012 (20% reader discount) – December 9th, 2011

Best of the visualisation web… November 2011 (part 1) – December 5th, 2011

Best of the visualisation web… November 2011 (part 2) – December 5th, 2011

Graphics now appearing on coins!

My first post of 2012 should be considered slightly off-topic but I thought it was still worthy of a share as an example of visual explanation. I really like the idea behind the new “50p Sports Collection” released by the Royal Mint to commemorate the 2012 London Olympics. A competition was run to invite special coin designs to be released for each of the sporting events taking place and I was especially drawn to the winning coin design for football.

As you can see from the close-up image below, designer Neil Wolfson has chosen to use the design space provided to graphically explain the offside rule. As any football fan will know, articulating this most contentious of laws is one of life’s most recurring and often fruitless challenges.

Sure, it doesn’t quite cover every nuance of the official FIFA rulebook (page 33 if you’re interested) but it is a novel solution to this design challenge.