what i talked about in 2008

tag cloud - top 500 words of 2008

I started this blog at the very end of last year because – well, I’m not sure why. I think maybe I was annoyed with Sandra Lee? But what that means is that the end of this calendar year is also almost exactly the end of the blogging year as well. I thought I’d take advantage of that.

And my most common word is…. think. Not too surprising, really. I’d like to think that it is because I talk a lot about thinking, but I suspect many, many uses of the phrase “I think” are at least as responsible. At least “thinking” appears with a fair degree of regularity as well.

Gray Lady not so gray, actually

Somewhere, I thought that I had listed some of my favorite news visualizations from the New York Times.  The NYT has really set itself apart among major newspapers with its creative and useful and glanceable visualizations.  It’s the only newspaper I see regularly featured on my favorite infoviz blog – Information Aesthetics.

But I can’t find it.  I still think it’s there, but I can’t remember what I was talking about when I wrote it.   So this isn’t my favorite example – just the most recent one I remember:

New York Times Endorsements Throughout the Ages

So this morning I read (in Information Aesthetics, of course) that the NYT is partnering with Many Eyes to open the visualization lab up to the rest of us.  There are only a few data sets there right now to play with but the topics range from baseball to religion to Sarah Palin. You have to work with them as-is, it’s true.  So like many other projects the ultimate value of this will be determined largely by the quality of the datasets the NYT makes available.

From the About page:

With Visualization Lab, NYTimes.com users will be able to visualize and comment on information and data sets presented by Times editors, share those visualizations with others and create topic hubs where people can discuss specific subjects.

The visualizations that have been done will look familiar if you’ve looked at Many Eyes before – charts, maps, network graphs and more.  There are also tag clouds, and Wordles, though I’m not sure what Wordle’s connection to the project actually is.

The awesomeness of the NYT visualization project isn’t an accident, it’s intentional.  At last year’s InfoVis conference, Matthew Ericson’s keynote on bringing visualizations to the masses underscores this face (this account at the Visuale blog is thorough and interesting, though more focused on maps and mapping than the keynote was.  It also includes a link to the slides).

Bertini, linked above, says at the end of his account that the one thing that remained obscure after Ericson’s keynote was the tools the NYT was using to make these visualizations.  Certainly, the tools from Many Eyes and Wordle have been available to all of us for a while – this doesn’t answer that question.  But it does highlight how powerful some of the tools available to us on the emerging web are.

fun with words! pretty, pretty tagclouds for all

peer review 2.0, the proceedings paper in tagcloud

This is the paper Kate and I submitted along with our LOTW presentation, rendered into this gorgeous tagcloud by Wordle, a new tagcloud generator I saw today on Information Aesthetics.  I love tagclouds anyway – but this one lets you play with layout, fonts and colors in a way I’ve never seen before.  You can upload or copy and paste any text, or hook it into a del.icio.us account as a new way to see those tags.  So much fun.

facebook ain’t all that in French

Here are three visualizations of the most popular social networking sites, mapped (and tree-mapped) geographically created by a research student at University College Dublin.  It’s a nice reminder that no matter how many articles I run across about Facebook, Facebook privacy, Facebook Beacon and Facebook applications – Facebook like anything else is culturally situated and needs to be kept in perspective).  Sitting there all alone in Europe is France with a blue color representing a network I haven’t heard of I don’t think – Skyrock?  Skyrock rules Algeria too – and looking at the the treemap version I see that some of the smaller European countries with big French-speaking parts, like Belgium and Switzerland – are Skyrock countries as well.  As well as Senegal, Martinique, and New Caledonia.

This fascinates me – now I need to know more about Skyrock.  What about it is pulling all of these French-speaking places together?  Is it somehow easier to socially network in French using it? Is it something about the people behind it?  Its history?  Its marketing?  I must find out more!

The data is from Alexa, and the visualizations were created on ManyEyes, where the data is open, so you can go over there and play with it yourself.

FWIW – The US is not Facebook-violet on this map – it’s MySpace gold.

Now going to go find out more about the Skyrock thing.  Even though the pink text on black background thing on the project blog is making my eyes hurt.