When It’s Ok to Use Word Clouds

tl;dr
It’s ok to use word clouds if your goal is to encourage reading of a large set of otherwise unrelated words that are connected to one or two interesting values (and word count in a text doesn’t qualify as interesting).

This I tweeted yesterday and now I feel that if I encourage the (dangerous) use of word clouds, I have to explain this exception in a little more detail. Why is it sometimes ok to use a widely rejected visualization method, and most times not?

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Visualizing the Global Digital Divide By Mapping Internet And Population

With this map I tried to visualize the global digital divide. It shows more than 80,000 populated places in blue and about 350,000 locations of IP addresses in red. White dots indicate places where many people live and many IP addresses are available.

The IP address locations are taken from the GeoLiteCity database by MaxMind. The database of populated places is taken from geonames.org. The visual style is largely inspired by Eric Fischer’s wonderful Flickr-vs-Twitter maps.

don’t miss the high-res version..

Facebook And Its Impact In Connecting People

You probably remember this map of Facebook friendships, which made it’s way through the web in December 2010.

In this related article, the creator and Facebook intern Paul Butler explains the process of rendering the map. The most interesting remark he made can be found in the last sentence:

It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.

Well, there are some nice things about the Facebook friendships map. I like the colors. I like the density of information. I like the patterns. But there’s one big part of the picture missing in the map.

And that’s the internet.

After all, Facebook is “just” a website and websites can be accessed through the internet. So, when speaking of “connecting people, even across oceans and borders“, we should demonstrate our respect for the internet. To do so, I re-created my old map of the internet:

It shows more than 300k geographic locations of ip adresses, based on the free geo location database by MaxMind. Interestingly, the map shows almost the same “patterns” and complexity that is visible in the Facebook data. Given that, the remaining insight we get of the Facebook map is that Facebook is accessed by people all around the web (except for China).

No big news here.

All Berlin Streets, ehm, visualized

Ok, this is probably the cheapest visualization I ever created, but since Ben Fry has done the same before, I think I’m allowed to do so, too. This map simply shows all streets and railroads of Berlin. Likewise as in the US version, one can identify relevant geographic features like parks, rivers and lakes at places without streets.

Thanks to the kind folks at OpenStreetMaps and cloudmade.com, creating this image took me five minutes, literally. Three minutes for downloading the Illustrator document and two for a little editing. Well, I not even dare to put my name on the map..


Ok, this is probably the cheapest visualization I ever created, but since Ben Fry has done the same before, I think I’m allowed to do so, too. This map simply shows all streets and railroads of Berlin. Likewise as in the US version, one can identify relevant geographic features like parks, rivers and lakes at places without streets.

Thanks to the kind folks at OpenStreetMaps and cloudmade.com, creating this image took me five minutes, literally. Three minutes for downloading the Illustrator document and two for a little editing. Well, I not even dare to put my name on the map..

Creating the same map for Germany would be a little harder due to the increased amount of data. But to really keep up with the US version by Ben Fry the ultimate goal should be to render a street-only map of entire Europe. Kind of a challenge, isn’t it?

And, just in case you want to hang this map upon your wall (like me), here are 150dpi (11mb) and 300dpi (27mb) versions which you can use to print the poster at your favourite poster printing service. Continue reading

Energy Production vs. Energy Consumption

That was my Processing exercise for tonight:

red circle = energy consumption
yellow circle = energy production
y-position = consumption / production

Inspired by David McCandless

Source: epp.eurostat.ec.europa.euSo, das war meine Processing-Übung für heute abend:

Roter Kreis = Energieverbrauch
Gelber Kreis = Energieproduktion
Vertikale Position = Verbrauch / Produktion

Inspiration: David McCandless

Quelle: epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu

German Election Districts

After reading an article about the possibility of manipulating election results by cleverly choosing election districts, I wanted to know how the German election districts look like. Here they are:

Nachdem ich gerade den Artikel Wer regiert, manipuliert – und umgekehrt von Uwe Ness gelesen hatte, in dem es u.a. um den Zusammenhang zwischen der Form von Wahlkreisgebieten und Wahlergebnissen ging, musste ich sofort diese Grafik erstellen. Zu sehen sind alle deutschen Wahlkreise, ohne viel Schnörkel und Zauberei. Jetzt bin ich etwas beruhigt, weil wir keinen solchen Wahlkreis wie Illinois (District 4) haben:

Hier gibts die Wahlkreis-Bilder, falls jemand Interesse hat..