Data Stories #57: Visualizing Human Development w/ Max Roser

max-roserWe have economist Max Roser from University of Oxford to talk about his Our World in Data project where he visualizes the social, economic, and environmental history of humanity up to the present day.

Our World in Data is a remarkable project which Max started on his own little by little in the spare time and evolved into a full web site with plenty of interesting data, presentations and visualizations to to better understand humanity.

The nicest thing about it is that it provides a quite positive picture of the world and about in how many ways we are improving our conditions. Go to the website ( and take a look at War and Violence, Poverty, Global Heath, Etc.

On the show we talk about how Max started and the process behind finding a topic, collecting and curating the data and producing these nice visuals people can easily understand. We also talk about human biases, persuasion, and how Max learned to build web sites and visualizations.

Enjoy the show!

This episode is sponsored by Visualizing Well-Being, the Wikiprogress Data Visualization Contest 2015. Enter the contest to win a trip to Mexico! To find out more, visit the Wikiprogress website ( or the facebook page or follow @wikiprogress on twitter.


Leave A Message To Say Happy Birthday To Data Stories!

Hi everyone, we just marked our third birthday and, coincidentally, we are also going to mark our 50th episode! It’s been such a great journey for everyone.

For our 50th episode we’d like to collect messages from our listeners. We’ll select the funniest ones. So it’s up to you to make us laugh! :)

Please state your name in the message and let us know about you Data Stories listening habits (some people listen to us in some very weird conditions).

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Data Stories #26: Visualization Beyond the Desktop w/ Petra Isenberg

Hi Folks!

We are back after a relaxing summer with a brand new episode! We have Petra Isenberg, from the Aviz team at INRIA (we had other guests from the same lab in the past) as guest talking about visualization on non-standard devices and environments. Yes, stuff like display walls, surfaces, tabletops, and people collaborating around them. It feels like the future is here and there’s a ton of potentially interesting applications for visualization.

Petra gives us  hints on what works what does not work, what research says, what has been tried already and what needs to be explored, etc. She also gives practical recommendations at the end on how to start doing visualization on these devices. That’s really cool stuff!

Take care,
Enrico & Mo.


  • 00:00 Back from summer break
  • 02:41 Our guest today: Petra Isenberg
  • 05:59 Moving beyond the desktop
  • 11:55 New challenges in collaborative settings
  • 22:25 Interactions with very large screens
  • 38:14 Practical use and how to get started
  • 48:53 More resources

Links and papers:

Resource list from Petra

Research links:

Technology links:

Software frameworks/libraries for developing vis on surfaces:

  • Most Pixels Ever (Processing for very large wall displays – I forgot to mention this one during the podcast)
  • kivy (Python framework for developing multi-touch applications)
  • libavg (maintained by Ulrich von Zadow who has worked on several visualization + interactive surface installations)
  • ZVTM (Java toolkit for developing ZUIs, includes possibilities to run visualizations on a cluster)
  • Microsoft Surface SDK
  • (for mobile check out iOS and Android SDKs)

Data Stories #25: Visualization on Mobile & Touch Devices w/ Dominikus Baur

Hi Everyone,

In this episode we talk about visualization on mobile and touch devices. How do you design visualization interfaces for this kind of devices? How different is it to interact with your fingertips rather than with your mouse? Advantages, disadvantages, unexplored opportunities?

We talk about that with Dominukus Baur, interaction designer and mobile data visualization specialist. You can see his work on his website/blog. Make sure to give a look to his talk at the OpenVis Conference: Data on Your FingerTips. He gives lots of useful tips!

Episode Chapters

00:00:00 Enrico and Mo go on vacations
00:02:28 Our guest: Dominikus Baur
00:04:06 Life logging and personal media
00:05:10 Accents
00:05:39 Why mobile visualization, and how is it different from desktop visualizations?
00:09:24 Mobile interaction
00:13:27 Mobiles for interaction with other displays
00:14:38 Augmented reality
00:15:54 TouchWave – touch interaction with stacked graphs
00:21:52 Multitouch
00:24:45 Analytical, advanced visualization on mobile?
00:26:44 Self-tracking and life logging
00:31:17 Daytum app
00:32:54 Other good mobile visualization apps
00:35:12 Second screen apps
00:36:28 Moritz wants an atlas
00:37:04 The age of ghettoblasters
00:38:00 Use mobiles to interact with large screens
00:41:48 Technology: native, or web-based?
00:46:07 Better Life Index: HTML5 port works on mobiles, tablets
00:48:00 Research on mobile and touch interactions
00:50:39 Large screens
00:58:54 How to get started
01:01:13 Dominikus will start a blog!!


Business Intelligence iPad Apps

Presentation Apps





Data Stories #24: The VAST Challenge: Visual Analytics Competitions with Synthetic Benchmark Data Sets

Hi Everyone,

In this episode we talk about the VAST Challenge, a visual analytics contest organized every year co-located with the IEEE VIS Conference, the premier venue for academic work in visualization.

The VAST Challenge has many unique features (like the generation of synthetic data sets with injected ground truth) and this year for the first time it features a predictive analytics and design mini-challenge (Stephen Few’s talked about it too here) you should definitely check out.

We talk with Prof. Georges Grinstein from UMass Lowell and Celste Paul from NSA. They give us lots of details about how the data is generated, how the entries are evaluated and how it looks like participating to the contest.

You guys should actually give it a try and rock it!

[Sorry no episode chapters this time]



Data Stories #23: Inspiration or Plagiarism? w/ Bryan Connor and Mahir Yavuz

Hi Folks!

In this episode we touch upon a tricky question: where is the fine line between taking inspiration from other projects and merely copying them? We discuss that with Bryan Connor from The Why Axis and Mahir Yavuz from Seed Scientific.

Note: We suggest you give a look to the links below (under the heading “Cases We Discuss in the Podcast”) before listening to the podcast, most of the episode is centered around these examples we selected for discussion.

Episode Chapters

00:00:00 Intro
00:01:56 Flattr
00:03:46 Main topic today: inspiration or plagiarism with our guests Mahir M. Yavuz and Bryan Connor
00:07:53 Is data visualization turning into a copycat scene?
00:08:32 Remake of subway map by New Yorker
00:13:19 Patterns
00:14:03 Idea – technology – aesthetics
00:16:06 Patterns ctd.
00:18:19 Gun murders – drone strikes – meteorites
00:23:19 What constitutes an “outrageous rip-off”?
00:27:31 On originality
00:33:07 Guardian Gay Rights / Gun Laws graphic
00:37:53 On the value of reproduction and chains of inspiration
00:44:01 Stream graphs
00:49:01 Value of transparent documentation of process
00:50:44 Non-patterns
00:53:13 Remix culture, github culture
00:54:48 Snow fall
00:58:04 Patents
01:01:47 A new language for citation in design?
01:09:36 Closing remarks

Cases We Discuss in the Podcast

New Yorker’s Inequality Subway Map

Periscopic’s Dramatic Animation of Gun Murders

Guardian’s Gay Rights Radial Visualization


More Examples (not discussed)

Good Related Reads


Thanks a lot to Bryan and Mahir for this intense, controversial and funny chat!

Take care,
Enrico and Moritz.

Data Stories #22: NYT Graphics and D3 with Mike Bostock and Shan Carter

Hi everyone,

We have graphic editors Mike Bostock and Shan Carter in this dense and long episode. It’s great to finally have someone from NYT!

We talk about many practical and more philosophical aspects of publishing interactive visualization on the web. We also spend quite some time discussing about D3.js’s past, present and future.

(On a side note: apologies for starting a bit abruptly and for the weird noises. Enrico was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to find a quiet and calm spot at the CHI conference.)

Take Care,
Enrico & Mo.

P.S. Many thanks to all of you guys who sent us on Twitter questions for Mike and Shan.

Episode Chapters

00:00:00 Intro
00:00:12 Our guests today: New York Times graphics editors Mike Bostocks and Shan Carter
00:01:54 About the NYT graphics department
00:06:56 Map wrangling
00:08:47 QA, evaluation, fact checking,…
00:11:23 Twitter question: Post the data set along with the graphic?
00:15:51 Exploratory or explanatory?
00:19:56 User tracking, user feedback
00:25:53 Balance of familiarity vs. new visual vocabularies
00:29:52 Workflow, on the example of the 512 paths graphic
00:38:05 Hybrid workflows between automation and manual layout
00:45:12 d3
00:45:49 History and philosophy
00:56:19 Value of examples
00:57:31 Community adoption
00:59:25 Vega
01:04:53 More d3 books or tutorials for advanced users?
01:08:15 Developer community
01:09:45 Sustainability
01:11:51 Future development
01:15:10 Enrico is back!
01:16:13 Is d3 complete?
01:18:52 When does Mike sleep?
01:19:45 Wrapping it up

Links to discussed NYT projects


Data Stories #21: Can visualization save the world? With Kim Rees and Jake Porway

Hi all,

We have two fantastic guests to talk about using visualization for the good. We actually decided to make it even bigger and provokingly titled it: can visualization save the world?

We have on stage: Kim Rees co-founder of Periscopic, a data visualization company guided by the motto: “do good with data” and Jake Porway, founder of Data Kind, an organization that brings together data scientists and social organizations.

We discuss about the challenges of working in this crazy world of big data opportunities and counterbalance this with risks and subtle potentially negative implications.


00:00:00 Intro, welcome to our guests Kim Rees (Periscopic) and Jake Porway (Datakind)
00:01:39 Can data visualization save the world?
00:04:44 Periscopic
00:05:38 Jake & Datakind
00:09:32 Visualization as a process
00:15:17 How do you pick projects to work on?
00:18:01 Periscopic’s U.S. gun deaths visualization
00:30:08 Awareness alone does not help – how you get people to action?
00:32:57 On process
00:40:12 Multiple truths in same data
00:42:53 Responsible authorship
00:45:19 Parallels between data visualization and “photo journalism”?
00:46:12 Responsible data and visualization authorship ctd.
00:50:03 Project votesmart
00:51:39 NYT graphics jobs report
00:53:15 Success stories?
01:05:33 Refuse to work for potentially unethic clients?
01:08:28 “The dark side of datakind”
01:09:06 Back to original question :)
01:13:18 Concerns in visualizing personal stories
01:24:59 Wrapping it up



Data Stories #20: On Maps. With Michal Migurski.

Hi all,

In this episode we talk about maps and map technology. How it evolved and revolutionized the way we think about geography. We have Michal Migurski with us! He is former technology head at Stamen and creator of multiple successful visualizations libraries and tools like Modest Maps and Crimespotting.

Episode Chapters

00:00:00 Intro
00:03:06 Our guest: Mike Migurski
00:04:45 How did Mike get started with computers?
00:06:16 Raving in the 90s
00:07:02 The beginnings of Stamen
00:13:49 Oakland Crimespotting
00:14:58 A short history of online mapping
00:17:04 Google maps
00:20:19 Open Street Map
00:24:31 Everyblock
00:26:51 Oakland Crimespotting pt.2
00:32:42 Tools and frameworks – modest maps
00:34:29 Polymaps
00:36:30 Cloudmade
00:38:23 Leaflet.js
00:39:57 Mapnik
00:43:12 d3.geo
00:46:17 How to make geo data accessible in a better way
00:49:56 Automatic labeling
00:51:39 @alignedleft: What is a map tile?
00:55:42 @janwillemtulp: Question on process and inspiration, future trend
00:58:07 @petersonGIS: time ratio data processing vs visualization
01:02:57 Wrapping it up


Stamen’s Projects

The Atlantic’s article on maps: 12 Fresh Ideas for Transforming the Places We Live With Open Data

Tools and Frameworks

Recent Mike’s Projects


Lots of links! Have fun with maps :)

Episode #19: With Santiago Ortiz


Hi Folks,

We have Santiago Ortiz with us today. Santiago has an impressive array of data visualization projects he has been pouring out during the last year and a very unique style. See for yourself in his portfolio website: We talk about the Tapestry Conference, mathematics, the business of data visualization and much much more. Enjoy it!


00:00:00 Start
00:00:01 Intro: our guest today: Santiago Ortiz (@moebio)
00:01:55 Tapestry conference
00:08:40 Santiago: how it all began: Flash, math and teaching
00:11:34 Bestiario
00:13:23 Impure/Quadrigram
00:14:17 Freelance since 2012
00:17:12 Yay for self-inititated projects!
00:20:56 Knowledge visualization
00:25:11 “Santiago style”
00:26:36 Client work
00:31:18 Tools, frameworks, open source
00:40:52 On process
00:51:47 Non-information-based projects
00:55:23 The role of math
01:06:41 Regional differences in the data visualization scenes?
01:17:13 Wrapping it up

Episode’s Links

Tapestry Conference
Scott McCloud
Pat Hanrahan
Nigel Holmes
Enrico’s live notes from tapestry
Jonathan Corum’s slides

Santiago and his work
his portfolio:
his past company:
Lostalgic (ABC’s LOST TV show):
Love is patient (merging faces with voronoi shapes):

Processing library

Vis people with math background
Jason Davies:
Jen Lowe:

Hilbert Curves and Vis
Wikipedia page on HC
Martin Wattemberg’s Jigsaw Maps
Daniel Keim’s Pixel-Oreinted Visualizations