ENTRIES TAGGED "data visualization"

Interactive Visualization of Big Data

By Jeffrey Heer

Human judgment is at the center of successful data analysis. This statement might initially seem at odds with the current Big Data frenzy and its focus on data management and machine learning methods. But while these tools provide immense value, it is important to remember that they are just that: tools. A hammer does not a carpenter make — though it certainly helps.

Consider the words of John Tukey 1, possibly the greatest statistician of the last half-century: “Nothing — not the careful logic of mathematics, not statistical models and theories, not the awesome arithmetic power of modern computers — nothing can substitute here for the flexibility of the informed human mind. Accordingly, both approaches and techniques need to be structured so as to facilitate human involvement and intervention.” Tukey goes on to write: “Some implications for effective data analysis are: (1) that it is essential to have convenience of interaction of people and intermediate results and (2) that at all stages of data analysis the nature and detail of output need to be matched to the capabilities of the people who use it and want it.” Though Tukey and colleagues voiced these sentiments nearly 50 years ago, they ring even more true today. The interested analyst is at the heart of the Big Data question: how well do our tools help users ask better questions, formulate hypotheses, spot anomalies, correct errors and create improved models and visualizations? To “facilitate human involvement” across “all stages of data analysis” is a grand challenge for our age.

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Visualization of the Week: Booze, tipple, imbibe, or whatever you’d like to call it

A much needed break away from data transparency and privacy issues

Sooooooo. This is what happens when Jenn Webb attends Velocity this week and I briefly step in to cover the Strata Visualization of the Week element.

I could have focused on the Governments Search for Google Data visualization from Chris Canipe and Madeline Farbman of the Wall Street Journal. Or, I could have focused on Neal Ungerleider’s piece that covers Eric Fisher and MapBox for Gnip’s twitter metadata visualizations.  Yet, my curiosity took over once I came across The Economist’s High Spirits graphic. Not only do I make my own bitters which qualifies me for preliminary booze nerd status, I also needed a brief break away from the transparency issues currently dominating the data-oriented conversations. Following my booze nerd curiosity led me to this interactive data visualization of common cocktail ingredients:

Analysis of 25,000 recipes from drinksnation.com and drinksmixer.com

Analysis of 25,000 recipes from drinksnation.com and drinksmixer.com

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Data Journalists Gather, Transparency, and Data Viz

Notes and links from the data journalism beat

Data journalism is becoming a truly global practice.  Data journalists from the UK, China, and the US are sharing data-oriented best practices, insights, and tools. Journalists in Latin America are meeting this week to push for more transparency and access to data in the region. At the same time, recent revelations about NSA domestic surveillance programs have pushed big data stories to the front pages of US papers.  Here are a few links from the past week:

Transparency…or Lack Thereof

  • OpenData Latinoamérica: Driving the demand side of data and scraping towards transparency (Neiman Journalism Lab)
    “There’s a saying here, and I’ll translate, because it’s very much how we work,” Miguel Paz said to me over a Skype call from Chile. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s illegal. Here, it’s ‘It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” Paz is a veteran of the digital news business. The saying has to do with his approach to scraping public data from governments that may be slow to share it.
  • The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism (zdnet.com)
    On Thursday, June 6, the Washington Post published a bombshell of a story, alleging that nine giants of the tech industry had “knowingly participated” in a widespread program by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). One day later, with no acknowledgment except for a change in the timestamp, the Post revised the story, backing down from sensational claims it made originally. But the damage was already done.
  • We are shocked, shocked… (davidsimon.com)
    Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.
  • Big Data Has Big Stage at Personal Democracy Forum (pbs.org)
    Engaging News Project’s Talia Stroud tackled the issue of public engagement in news organizations. Polls on websites don’t yield scientifically accurate results, nor do they get people to address difficult issues, she said. “These data are junk. We know they’re junk,” Stroud said. “City council representatives know they’re junk. Even news organizations know that the results of these data are junk. The only reason that this poll is being included on the news organization’s site is to increase interactivity and increase your time on page.”

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On becoming a code artist

An interview with Scott Murray, author of Interactive Data Visualization for the Web

Scott Murray, a code artist, has written Interactive Data Visualization for the Web for nonprogrammers. In this interview, Scott provides some insights on what inspired him to write an introduction to D3 for artists, graphic designers, journalists, researchers, or anyone that is looking to begin programming data visualizations.

What inspired you to become a code artist?

Scott Murray

Scott Murray

Scott Murray: I had designed websites for a long time, but several years ago was frustrated by web browsers’ limitations. I went back to school for an MFA to force myself to explore interactive options beyond the browser. At MassArt, I was introduced to Processing, the free programming environment for artists. It opened up a whole new world of programmatic means of manipulating and interacting with data — and not just traditional data sets, but also live “data” such as from input devices or dynamic APIs, which can then be used to manipulate the output. Processing let me start prototyping ideas immediately; it is so enjoyable to be able to build something that really works, rather than designing static mockups first, and then hopefully, one day, invest the time to program it. Something about that shift in process is both empowering and liberating — being able to express your ideas quickly in code, and watch the system carry out your instructions, ultimately creating images and experiences that are beyond what you had originally envisioned.

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Visualization of the Week: Real-time Wikipedia edits

The Wikipedia Recent Changes Map visualizes Wikipedia edits around the world in real-time.

Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi have put together an addictive visualization of real-time edits on Wikipedia, mapped across the world. Every time an edit is made, the user’s location and the entry they edited are listed along with a corresponding dot on the map.


Click here for the full visualization.

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11 Essential Features that Visual Analysis Tools Should Have

Visual analysis tools are adding advanced analytics for big data

After recently playing with SAS Visual Analytics, I’ve been thinking about tools for visual analysis. By visual analysis I mean the type of analysis most recently popularized by Tableau, QlikView, and Spotfire: you encounter a data set for the first time, conduct exploratory data analysis, with the goal of discovering interesting patterns and associations. Having used a few visualization tools myself, here’s a quick wish-list of features (culled from tools I’ve used or have seen in action).

Requires little (to no) coding
The viz tools I currently use require programming skills. Coding means switching back-and-forth between a visual (chart) and text (code). It’s nice1 to be able to customize charts via code, but when you’re in the exploratory phase not having to think about code syntax is ideal. Plus GUI-based tools allow you to collaborate with many more users.

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Fruit or mobile device: learning concepts through connections

Preview of insights shared at upcoming session at Strata Santa Clara

Social media gives us the power to share content and engage with a wide range of internet users. As a person or brand, we are often concerned with who we are talking to and how we can better serve our viewers. Traditional demographics such as ‘female’ and ‘25-30’ are no longer sufficient in this arena. For example, Google is having a hard time getting gender and age correct for ad preferences. It is more interesting to observe what content is consumed and how attention changes over time.

Bitly, which is used to shorten and share links, can offer insight into this space. This means the data has an unprecedented view into what people are sharing and has a holistic view of what users are concerned about on the internet.

We use their data to look into how we can define the audience of different content. The simplest example of this is: given a group of users that click on “oreilly.com”, what other websites do they engage with. We now have what bitly calls a co-click graph. Domains are represented as nodes while edges between nodes represent the number of people that have clicked on each domain. A co-click graph can be made to represent any number of attributes, but for now we are going to remain interested in topics and keywords.


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NASA launches second International Space Apps Challenge

In 2013, developers will once again boldly contribute code to projects where their code has never gone before.

From April 20 to April 21, on Earth Day, the second international Space Apps Challenge will invite developers on all seven continents to the bridge to contribute code to NASA projects.

space app challenge

Given longstanding concerns about the sustainability of apps contests, I was curious about NASA’s thinking behind launching this challenge. When I asked NASA’s open government team about the work, I immediately heard back from Nick Skytland (@Skytland), who heads up NASA’s open innovation team.

“The International Space Apps Challenge was a different approach from other federal government ‘app contests’ held before,” replied Skytland, via email.

“Instead of incentivizing technology development through open data and a prize purse, we sought to create a unique platform for international technological cooperation though a weekend-long event hosted in multiple locations across the world. We didn’t just focus on developing software apps, but actually included open hardware, citizen science, and data visualization as well.”

Aspects of that answer will please many open data advocates, like Clay Johnson or David Eaves. When Eaves recently looked at apps contests, in the context of his work on Open Data Day (coming up on February 23rd), he emphasized the importance of events that build community and applications that meet the needs of citizens or respond to business demand.

The rest of my email interview with Skytland follows. Read more…

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Exploring web standards for high data density visualizations

A sneak peek at an upcoming visualization session from the 2013 Strata Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Strata Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, the Strata Community Site will be providing sneak peeks of upcoming sessions at the Strata Conference in Santa Clara. Nicolas’ sneak peek is the first in this series. 

Last year was a great year for data visualization at Twitter. Our Analytics team expanded and created a dedicated data visualization team, and some of our projects were released publicly with great feedback.

Our first public interactive of 2012 was a fun way to expose how the Eurocup was experienced at Twitter. You can see in this organic visualization how people cheered for  their teams during each match, and how the tension and volume of  tweets increased towards the finals.

NB StrataSC 2013 image1

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Visualization of the Week: Visualizing D.C. homicides

The Washington Post developed an interactive map using data from area homicides from 2000 through 2011.

Residents in Washington D.C., or citizens considering a move to D.C., have a new tool to assess the city’s homicide rate. As part of a 15-month investigative study, The Washington Post has created an interactive map of the homicides in D.C. from 2000 through 2011. The interactive tool lets users drill down into the information by demographic, motive and manner of murder, for instance — all of which can also be isolated by neighborhood or by individual homicide.

Click here for the full interactive map.

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