Swimming in Data? Three Benefits of Visualization
Dec 4th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Good piece on dataviz from Harvard Business Publishing.

John Sviokla The Near Futurist RSS Feed

Swimming in Data? Three Benefits of Visualization

4:11 PM Friday December 4, 2009

Tags:Information & technology, Knowledge management

“A good sketch is better than a long speech…” — a quote often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte

The ability to visualize the implications of data is as old as humanity itself. Yet due to the vast quantities, sources, and sinks of data being pumped around our global economy at an ever increasing rate, the need for superior visualization is great and growing. To give dimension to the size of the challenge, the EMC reports that the “digital universe” added 487 exabytes — or 487 billion gigabytes — in 2008. They project that in 2012, we will add five times as much digital information as we did last year.

I believe that we will naturally migrate toward superior visualizations to cope with this information ocean. Since the days of the cave paintings, graphic depiction has always been an integral part of how people think, communicate, and make sense of the world. In the modern world, new information systems are at the heart of all management processes and organizational activities.

About ten years ago, I vividly remember visiting the Cabinet War Rooms in the basement of Whitehall, where Churchill had his war room during WW II. The desks were full of phones, and the walls covered with maps and information about troop levels and movements. These used color coded pieces of string to help Churchill's team easily understand what was happening:


On the one hand, I was struck by how primitive their information environment was only sixty years ago. But on the other, I found it reassuring to see how similar their approach was to war fighting today. The mode, quality and speed of data capture has changed greatly from the 1940s, but the paradigm for visualization of the terrain, forces, and strategy are almost identical to those of WWII. So, the good news is that even in a world of information surplus, we can draw upon deep human habits on how to visualize information to make sense of a dynamic reality. [more]


Wondering what the prez is doing???
Sep 19th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

 We don't know how long this one's been around, but kudos to the gang at the WashPost for taking a concept/tool somewhat on the margin and putting it to good use for both reporters and readers. See

Jobs by SimplyHired

Every day President Obama meets with key members of his administration, Congress, foreign dignitaries, interest groups and regular citizens. Use our interactive database to track how Obama is spending his time, what issues are getting the most attention and who is influencing the debate. 

Subscribe to daily schedule via RSS.

CREDIT: Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Madonna Lebling, Karen Yourish, Ryan O'Neil, Wilson Andrews, Jacqueline Kazil, Todd Lindeman, Lucy Shackelford, Paul Volpe
Have information we could use or suggestions about how to improve the site? Contact Us.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

SNA in R Talk, Updated with [Better] Video
Aug 20th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

OK, OK.  Using R can be a steep hill to climb for some.  But here, thanks to O”Reilly Radar, is a pretty good video of a presentation on using R as a Social Network Analysis tool.

 “Social Network Analysis in R — video and slides for talk on doing social network analysis with R.”

SNA in R Talk, Updated with [Better] Video

Update II: It occurred to me that it would be much better for people to be able to view the entire talk in a single video, rather than having to switch between sections; therefore, I uploaded the whole thing to Vimeo.

Tonight I will be givingOn August 6th I gave a talk at the New York City R Meetup on how to perform social network analysis in R using the igraph package. Below are the slides I will be going over covered during the talk, and all of the code examples from the presentation are available in the ZIA Code Repository in the R folder.

Below is a video of this talk, with a link to the slides I review during the presentation. If you are interested, I suggest downloading the slides and following along with videos while having the slides open, as much of what is on the screen in the video is hard to read.


Social Netowork Analysis in R from Drew Conway on Vimeo.

Andrew Little’s presentation on econometrics in R using Zelig and MatchIt are also available on YouTube starting here. I hope you enjoy the presentation, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.



Designing for Big Data
Apr 29th, 2009 by analyticjournalism

Much of this is well-known by those of us who have worked with dataviz for the past decade or two, but his ending conclusions are solid and worth reviewing.

Key quote from Jeffrey Veen: “We need to create tools to help people manipulate THEIR data.”

 Good examples of how to use large data sets to find and tell stories and, if desired, to answer YOUR questions about the data.

Video: Designing for Big Data

This is a 20-minute talk I gave at the Web2.0 Expo in San Francisco a couple weeks ago. In it, I describe two trends: how we're shifting as a culture from consumers to participants, and how technology has enabled massive amounts of data to be recorded, stored, and analyzed. Putting those things together has resulted in some fascinating innovations that echo data visualization work that's been happening for centuries.

I've given this talk a few times now, but this particular delivery really went well. Only having 20 minutes forced me to really stay focus, and the large audience was very engaged. I'll be giving an extended version of this talk in June at the UX London conference, with a deeper look at how we integrated design and research while I was at Google.


Librarians and "IT Professionals" – Getting to the root of it all
Nov 14th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

Amy Disch, library director of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, sends along these links via the News Librarians' listserv (  This is a gentle reminder about how the foundations of good publications today rest, first, on the integration of library AND IT skills.

Watch them in the order listed:




Hey, bunky, you say you need a story for tomorrow, and the well is dry
Jan 2nd, 2007 by JTJ

No story?  Then check out Swivel, a web site rich with data — and the display of data — that you didn't know about and which is pregnant with possibilities for a good news feature.  And often a news feature that could be localized.

Here, for example, is a posting from the SECRECY REPORT CARD 2005  illustrating the changing trends in the the classification and de-classification of U.S. government data.  (You can probably guess the direction of the curves.)

Spotlight What is the US Government Not Telling Us?

number of classified documents is steadily increasing, while the number
of pages being declassified is dwindling. This data were uploaded by mcroydon.

Social Network Analysis in Boston's Chinatown
Sep 19th, 2006 by JTJ

The 2006 Knight-Batten Awards given by J-Lab are out.  All are worth looking at, but one caught our eye, one of the “Niche News” awards in the “Notable Entries” category.  Clearly, a lot of legwork on the streets of Boston went into this well-designed project.  Now the only question is: Who will keep it updated and how?

Emerson College
Journalism (Boston, MA)

visualization of civic mapping …
Tell us more about these people.”

Knight-Batten Advisory
Board Judges

Emerson journalism graduate students put
in a combined 500 hours of original reporting
to develop this web chart. The chart displays
connections between more than 100 newsmakers,
organization leaders and activists in Boston’s
Chinatown based on who talks with whom about
local news. The map also acts as a directory
with personal profiles available to help
people connect.

Blazing "Human Trails In Cyberspace"
Jun 30th, 2006 by JTJ

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Human Trails In Cyberspace

Social scientists create maps of online interactions


Multimedia: Maps and audio charting human interactions in cyberspace

If the Internet is a new kind of social space, what does it look like?

That's a question of particular interest to social scientists eager
to see what cyberspace might reveal about the nature of human behavior.

Researchers, after all, have long sought to map social groupings and
interactions in the physical world. Now, with so much activity on
computer networks, scientists can collect vast amounts of hard data on
human behavior. Each blog points to other blogs in ways that reveal
patterns of influence. Online chats can be tallied and parsed. Even the
act of clicking on links can leave trails of activity like footprints
in the sand….

The precursors of JAGIS (Journalism & GIS)
May 29th, 2006 by Tom Johnson

Mapping the World : An Illustrated History of Cartography
– by Ralph E. Ehrenberg

Mapping the World
is a collection of cartographic treasures that spans thousands of years
and many cultures, from an ancient Babylonian map of the world etched
on clay to the latest high-tech
maps of the earth, seas and the skies above. With more than one hundred
maps and other illustrations and an introduction and running commentary
by Ralph E. Ehrenberg, this book tells a fascinating story of
geographic discovery, scientific invention and the art and technique of
mapmaking. From National Geographic, 2005.
Source: Directions Magazine

Networks, networks, boy do we have networks
Mar 23rd, 2006 by JTJ

Comes this interesting post on the Complexity and Social Networks Blog….

Social Networks and the Business World

By Alexander Schellong

Network Theory and its principles are applied by more and more
companies in a way that some of us might not be aware of yet. So what
we buy, how we rate products/services, post in forums, pictures we
upload or present of ourselves on the web is significantly influencing
other, likeminded individuals. In return we are influenced by the
network cluster we belong to for a specific habit and the like. Collaborative filtering is a key component of using social networks for different purposes. Further information can be found here. Below you will find a list of various industry and application examples:

Social Networking plattforms
There are the obvious social networking online plattforms. Among them
are the open business and personal contact manegement oriented like , openbc, friendster or the inivitation only communities like asmallworld.
Either planned or already implemented users can take advantage of added
services (search functionality, messaging) by paying a monthly fee
10< USD. Furthermore, there are the rather dating/partner match
making plattforms like match or eharmony.

Most of today's ecommerce sites use collaborative filtering to improve
sales, cross-,up- and downselling. A prominent example are Amazon's
recommendations based on various user behaviours on their website.

Tapping into our musical tastes Last FM, Genielab or Pandora present us with streaming music. Here the main business model lies in linking to the respective ecommerce sites like Apple's iTunes.

The same applies to the area of what we might want to read next which also serves ecommerce purposes.

Movies and more
is a free service provided by GroupLens Research at the University of
Minnesota. Whether, you want to book a hotel, whole vacation there are
numerous examples of collaborative filtering apps on websites.

The most prominent example for sharing, managing and searching for pictures is Flickr or myspace. The latter gaining revenues from online-ads.

Search engines
As I have elaborated in an earlier entry on google bombs the network structure (ties) play an important role in search engine algorithms.

Knowledge Base and OpenSource
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia builds on the power of decentralized, voluntary collaboration building an enourmous depository of multi-language information. Whether it was the development of Linux, Mozilla/Firefox or MySQL all rely on and consist of social networks. Further examples of openSource projects can be found at Sourceforge.

SNA Consulting
As we can see the character and concepts of networks is mainly utilized
for recommendations. Actual applications of SNA is done by a few
companies and consultants like Rob Cross, IBM, Orgnet or Visiblepath.
These companies try to uncover the informal networks within
organisations to improve knowledge sharing, initiate change or bridging

Finally, you can always follow latest trends in social network analysis at PNG's subpage on SNA by Ines Mergel.

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