Monthly Archives September 2011

What Was Happening When You Were Born?

The GE Show is a project to help folks understand the technologies that are changing our lives.  In their most recent installment focused on health, there is a cool interactive infographic that lets users compare birthrates to temperature at conception and average income at conception, broken down by state.  Admittedly, the 3D display makes seeing certain states impossible (my home state, New Jersey, for example is totally lost); however, it does provide a nice visualize comparison of birthrates in different states over time.

thegeshow3 What Was Happening When You Were Born?

You can insert your birthday and home state and pull up… well, ever seen those last-minute gift shop birthday present, “This Year in History” posters?  Listed by either individual year or decade, these items would list interesting facts and figures from a particular time frame.  This is like a much more slick, personalized version of that.


Outfielders: Step Back from the Centroid

My little league coaches drilled it into us outfielders: “It’s harder to run backward than forward, so stand where you think the batter will probably hit, and then take a few large steps back.” (Full disclosure: my little league career wasn’t so illustrious.)

A reader of my last blog post about Ichiro’s hit locations seems to disagree with my coaches:

“[Based on Ichiro’s hit locations], this says to me that the traditional baseball positions are relatively optimal in terms of covering the field…”

To rehash, the June post, Clustering Baseball Data with Weka, gave an example of applying k-means clustering to Suzuki Ichiro’s 2006 x-y hit locations.

poointsandclusters Outfielders: Step Back from the Centroid

Left: The unprocessed hit locations—with outliers like home runs removed.
Right: The same set divided into six clusters using the k-means algorithm and the Euclidian distance. Centroids are red.


Flip Kromer Interview at Strata NY 2011

Check out this interview with Flip Kromer, founder and CTO (yes, that’s a typo in the O’Reilly video) at Strata NY 2011.  He shares his thoughts on how to do data science on a shoestring, the tools of the trade and the future of DaaS (data as a service).

The Deleted City (and its archive)

Over a decade ago, there was a thriving city of over 35 million people, busily erecting blinking headers high atop webpages that crooned the sweet tunes of MIDI versions of Metallica songs.  They called this place Geocities and a group of intrepid historian/archivists rescued the 650 gigabytes of homesteaders’ hardwork and created a beautiful interactive visualization of this piece of recent history.

The Deleted City from deletedcity on Vimeo.

via FlowingData via Waxy

OKCupid Proves the MySpace Angle is a Good Thing

h1 OKCupid Proves the MySpace Angle is a Good ThingYou may not know the girl to the left here, but you certainly know this kind of photo… the arm in the shot (clearly showing she’s taking the picture of herself… herself), the downward angle, the wide-eyed pouty look.  That’s right folks, it’s a MySpace angle photo and pretty much, if you have an account on any social media site, you’ve surely seen these kinds of photos dozens of times.  Heck, you’ve probably even taken some yourself.  So why are we talking about the much-maligned MySpace photo in a data-centric blog?

OkCupid’s OkTrends, a dating research blog, pulls data from their millions of users to get answers so some fascinating questions about dating, relationships and how we present ourselves online.  So… the MySpace photo… would you believe that this kind of image is the most popular kind female photo based on new contacts per month?  In other words, even though social networks are littered with these images and folks seem to be more vocal about their silliness than their sexiness, the data doesn’t lie.  Women with a MySpace shot are nearly 60% more likely to get contacted than women with photos of themselves in bed.

female photo contexts2 OKCupid Proves the MySpace Angle is a Good Thing

Wonder what would happen if someone took a MySpace-style photo in a bed outdoors?  Also, in a funny little twist, women with photos posing with an animal are much less desirable than women with other kind of photos, but guess what kind of photos the most desirable men have…

male photo contexts2 OKCupid Proves the MySpace Angle is a Good Thing

Why Good Visualization Matters: Rethinking the Food Label

res rd cheeze it baked cheese snack crackers Why Good Visualization Matters: Rethinking the Food Label28681CL Why Good Visualization Matters: Rethinking the Food Label

Color me skeptical, but whenever I see brightly-colored packaged foods in a supermarket touting claims such as “made with 100% real cheese” or “made with whole wheat” – I tend to balk.  However, these claims can have a very real impact on our shopping decisions.  Perhaps the box of Cheez-its made with “real cheese” are more appealing to some, but really – how much real cheese is in there?  And did you know that there are no federal guidelines regulating how much whole wheat a product must contain to state “made with whole grains”?  That box of Stove Top could contain 99% regular old white flour and just 1% whole grain flour and still make that claim.

So, how do we make real decisions about the food we’re purchasing and consuming?  Sure, you can look at the nutritional facts listing on the backs of these boxes for an ingredient list, but that won’t tell you how much of each ingredient the product contains.  Furthermore, it’s not displayed in the way people actually think about food.  People do not tend to choose what to buy or what to eat by interpreting mathematical values or comparing chemical compounds.

In a collaboration between GOOD and designmatters: Art Center College of Design, designers were challenged to Rethink The Food Label and create more user-friendly nutritional facts labels.

Browsing through the contest submissions, it’s clear that while data is important, it’s really the presentation (the conduit that connects the data to the viewer) that is the key to understanding and making data useful.  The winner, Renee Walker‘s designs showcase this idea very aptly.  In particular, I’m a huge fan of the use of a bold, simple visual display to show quantities of various ingredients in a food product.  Maybe then we too can be privy to such mysteries of the real amount of “real cheese” in a box of Cheez-its.

 Why Good Visualization Matters: Rethinking the Food Label

A Designer Writes an App Using Our Geo API

Jim England is Infochimp’s new Director of User Experience. He’s well-versed in CSS, HTML and great design, but without a hardcore programming background, he was the perfect candidate to put our Geo API to the test. Did we create a product that was versatile, powerful and so easy-to-use that a UX guy could create a useful app in just a few days?

gibbonguide A Designer Writes an App Using Our Geo API

The release of the Infochimps Geo API was an excellent opportunity to sharpen up my programming skills by developing a fun sample application. In only a few days, I was able to build the Gibbon Travel Guide, which calls the Foursquare Places and Wikipedia Articles APIs to show interesting places to visit in a city. It defaults to Austin, Texas but be sure to try out other cities!

As I developed the app, the Infochimps documentation was there to steer me in the right direction. The Getting Started with Geo guide described the available APIs, taught me the basic structure of the API calls, and showed how to limit the search results. With this knowledge, I added “f.q=museum” and “f.q=park” filters on the Wikipedia API to limit the results to those categories.

Once my query was constructed, I used the code examples in the Infochimps Ruby library to have my app access the Infochimps API.  If you want to see the source code, check out my git repo.

The project was a fun experience and really showed just how easy it was to create something cool in a very short period of time with our new Geo API.  If you’re building an app on top of the Geo API, feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions!

Live from Strata NYC 2011

Strata NYC kicks off today and if you aren’t lucky enough to be able to attend, you can still experience the conference through O’Reilly’s Strata New York video live stream.  The live stream will run for the entire week, covering each facet of the event from Jumpstart to the Strata Summit to the conference itself.

Our CTO, Flip Kromer will be delivering a talk on Thursday, September 22nd at 11:30am ET on open data and the value of context, entitled “Bringing the Rest of the World into Your Data Warehouse“.  Join us in person or virtually and share your thoughts on data with us @infochimps.

Beer O’Clock: A Roundup of Drinking Related Infographics

Happy Friday!  We scoured the web for some of the best drinking-related infographics we could find.  So whether you need some help upping your beer snobbery or just want to know where to draw the line to keep you out of jail this weekend, we’ve got the infographics you need.

Stay Out of Jail

How to drink in public Beer OClock: A Roundup of Drinking Related Infographics

Via FlowingData



TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and Conference Recap

photo 1 1 300x224 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and Conference Recap

As TechCrunch Disrupt comes to a close, it’s a great time to reflect on all the awesome things that happened. Jim England and I attended the conference as exhibitors for the hackathon. If you haven’t been keeping up with all the happenings, check out TechCrunch’s video footage and live stream.

Over the course of the TC Disrupt Hackathon weekend, over 700 hackers created 130 hack projects. Hackathons have come a long way due to the low cost of hosting and infrastructure, a plethora of free and low cost APIs, and talented developers and designers. By Sunday afternoon, the sophistication and polish of the products after only 24 hours of work was astounding!

Some hack projects that stood out:

  • FlickMunk is like HipMunk, but instead of matching you with flights, it matches you with movie cinema times.
  • helps businesses find the group-buying deal sites that they should go with, based on their specific geography and niche.
  • EventSound will play music matching the combined tastes of everyone in the virtual music room.
  • BuddyCall lets you quickly set up no-dial conference calls. Instead of dialing in and punching in codes, the conference calls you.
  • helps you organize carpooling via your mobile device.
  • AirBeats lets you play virtual instruments on your iPad using the camera feature and motion tracking.
  • showcased its new Facebook Connect integration to enhance it’s social cooking and recipes iPad app.
  • ExRated lets you rate your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend.
  • Gainify converts Shopify stores into Group Buying stores via a simple plugin.
  • lets you send anonymous text messages (it’s ripe for abuse :P).
  • ShowMeTheFunding, which implemented our Infochimps CrunchBase API to map locations of local venture capital firms.

photo 2 1 300x224 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and Conference Recap

The conference, which went Monday through Wednesday, had many exciting highlights both regarding speaker insights and new product announcements.

In the products realm: Twitter launched its Twitter Web Analytics tool which helps business measure their engagement on Twitter. Facebook announced the new Subscription feature, which if you opt in, allows people to follow you Twitter-style. Spotify announced it’s integration with Ford in-car SYNC system. Eric Ries launched his much anticipated book, The Lean Startup.

Regarding panels and speakers: Paul Graham and Harj Taggar did a successful round of Office Hours, lightning-round startup help sessions. John Doerr noted that the Steve Jobs way of thinking lives on at Apple, and that they may be revolutionizing the television next. The founders shed some light on their transformation away from Stickybits. Peter Thiel and Max Levchin spoke about innovation as not just solving the simple, low-hanging fruit problems, but trying to tackle the very difficult ones.

To everyone that talked with us during the conference, it’s been a pleasure meeting you and we thank you for your time! We’ll be reconnecting with many of you soon, but everyone can please reach out to us anytime at @TimGasper or @JimEngland. Cheers, and see you again in SF soon!