How to make a data visualisation with Infogr.am

organic market report 2014Infogr.am is a free online tool that helps you make quick and beautiful interactive data visualisations like the one I prepared for my online journalism blog. Its interface is intuitive and user-friendly, and majority of tools is drag-and-drop, which makes Infogr.am so easy to operate.

The first step is to choose your data and plan on what you want to present in your interactive visualisation. I opted for a data set from the Organic Market Report 2014 compiled by the Soil Association (available on demand).

Once you sign up to Infogr.am and start your creative process, you are invited to choose one of the ready-made templates:

infogram

Choose a colour palate that you want to go for and click “Use design”. A dashboard with editable elements appears to which you can add a chart, a map, a text, a photo or a video from the menu on the right.

infogram

Double-click on each element to edit it: change text or open a chart menu. First, give a title to your visualisation. Edit the existing chart or add a new one – make sure you choose the right type of chart for the type of data you have. Double-click on the chart. An Excel-like spreadsheet appears where you can paste your data:

infogramAfter the final tweaks to your data, go to the second tab “Settings”. Depending on the chart you chose, you will find here different editing options: colours, directions, chart’s size and other.

infogram

Pay close attention to how you manipulate your chart. It is important that it present the data in a clear and easily understandable way.

After you have finished adjusting your chart, click “Done” and go on to add more elements to your visualisation.

Infogr.am is a a great tool especially for beginners in data-driven journalism, yet it has a couple of major limitations:

  1. It is impossible to copy-paste text to and from text boxes, which makes typing time-consuming and rather laborious.
  2. As you manipulate the data in the Excel-like spreadsheet, the preview of the chart is unavailable, which makes you save and re-edit the chart a couple of times before you achieve the effect you want.
  3. It would be useful to be able to caption the charts directly, as opposed to having to add chart titles and captions as separate elements to your visualisation.
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Tornadoes in the US – mapped with CartoDB

tornadoes

tornadoes

As the US braces for tornadoes and downpours of torrential rain over the holiday period, we decided to take a glimpse at the last ten years of twister activity on the US territory.

The interactive map shows twisters that swept through the country between January 2002 and December 2012, often devastating entire regions.

Adverse weather conditions that hit the US on Saturday are there to stay, with heavy rainfall and floods possible in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the lower Great Lakes.

The stormy weather sets in at a time when many Americans hit the road for Christmas holidays. AAA estimates that 94.5 million will travel the minimum of 50 miles from home between this weekend and the New Year’s Day. Some 85.8 million (or 90% of travellers) will go by car, while another 5.5 million will pick a flight over drive.

Although twisters tend to occur more often in spring and summer, many come into being towards the end of the year, as in 2012 when as many as 75 were recorded only in December. A tornado outbreak on Christmas Day that year passed through central Alabama to northeastern Texas.

Tornadoes in December

Tornadoes in December

The first half of 2013 was an exceptionally calm period for twisters, and the year as a whole – one of the calmest on record. In August, the average preliminary count of tornadoes was almost half the average (716 as opposed to 1221), thus slipping below the historical minimum and setting the new 60-year low.

Even though the dangerous storms were infrequent this year, they killed 52 people as of November. The deadliest tornadoes were recorded in May and November. 

tornadoes toll

Motorists are encouraged to check the weather at their destination and along the route before setting off. They are also advised to make sure their cars are well-prepared for the trip; special attention should be paid to the tread, air pressure on the tires and the windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze.

Some facts

  • Over 1,000 tornadoes hit the US each year.
  • On average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year. Most of the victims die from falling or crushing debris.
  • In 2011, tornadoes killed the record 553 people in 15 states. It was the deadliest year since 1950.
  • Oklahoma City is the city most hit by tornadoes in the US.
  • The first person believed to have hunted tornadoes was Roger Jensen, active in the upper Midwest in the late 1940s.

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Tools: Datawrapper, CartoDB, MapBox

[This post has been created in December 2013]

Prisoners of conscience in the world – mapped with Google Fusion Tables

Prisoners of conscience behind the bars

Prisoners of conscience behind the bars

With the release of Russia’s most prominent political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the amnesty bill that will set free feminist punk group Pussy Riot and 30 Greenpeace activists seized in September, Russia shows its willingness to compromise in order to improve its tarnished image abroad.

Whether it is a mere public relations exercise ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi or not, the amnesty is an elegant argument in Vladimir Putin’s hand against any diplomatic boycotts that might resurface on this occasion.

Mr Putin is not the first one to show his grace this year. In an effort to improve Iran’s relationship with the West, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate president, freed 11 political prisoners on the eve of his visit to the United States in September.

Myanmar also fulfilled its pledge to grant amnesty to all prisoners of conscience by the end of the year. President Thein Sein released 41 political detainees at the beginning of December.

All three countries regularly come under sharp criticism for their human rights record.

These two interactive maps allow you to explore where in the world prisoners of conscience as recognised by Amnesty International were still imprisoned at the end of 2012, and which countries set some of them free.

Prisoners of conscience released in 2012

Prisoners of conscience released in 2012

3 tips from Hacks/Hackers London

On Wednesday Wayra Academy hosted another Hacks Hackers London meet-up, bringing together journalists and developers and introducing new tools. I went along to see what all the fuss was about. This is what I found out:

Dialective – something for storytellers

HHdialective2

“A wealth of information creates poverty of attention”, said Arturo Calvo Devesa, co-founder of the new visual storytelling platform, which enables users to create visual, interactive stories.

Currently in a beta phase, Dialective provides story templates with sections, into which the author can insert pictures, text and – soon – even maps and other rich media. Stories are then easily shared and embedded.

The team, currently based at Google Campus in London, is looking for feedback so if you happen to give it a go, you can pen your thoughts to info@dialective.com.

NewsWhip – something for buzz-hunters

Spike

NewsWhip, a new powerful tool for monitoring news, uses social data to find the best content on the web in real-time. It identifies viral stories via shares, comments, tweets “and other buzz”.

Through its web appSpike, NewsWhip supplies deep data on trending news stories to journalists, editors, marketers, and PR agencies.

NewsWhip tracks 250,000 news stories a day. It’s like analytics – but for other outlets rather than your own site,” said Paul Quigley, co-founder and CEO. You can see what is trending in various regions, check out social media stats next to each article, see hashtags and explore why people are sharing this particular story.

A NewsWhip Spike account (free trial available for 30 days) will sign you up for alerts, which you can tweak for frequency, publication and niche:

“You define the topics and sources: get a regular view of stories starting to trend from the BBC, from the UK, from the Huffington Post, from hundreds of other publications. Check on more specific niches – news about North Korea, Syria, about psychology, or fashion. If you like, get regular digests of the latest trending cats. Or meerkats.”

oTranscribe – for people who love interviewing but hate transcribing

oTranscribe

Elliot Bentley is a journalist who decided to “teach himself to code” in order to build an application helping fellow reporters with the tedious task of transcription. He’s the man behind oTranscribe, the new browser-based transcription application with an audio player and text editor which means you no longer need to toggle between two programmes.

Although it’s only 3 weeks old, oTranscribe may become serious competition for other transcribing tools, as it will remain open source.

Also at Hacks/Hackers:

Roger Beecham from the giCentre and transport hub, City University London, talked about the Barclays Bikes data project: “Exploring gendered cycling behaviours within a large-scale data set”. Look out for a separate piece on that, right here at Clues to the cloud!