My Ignite Philly 11 Presentation on Data Visualization

Update: Here’s the video of my presentation

Last Thursday I gave a talk on Data Visualization at Ignite Philly 11. I was nervous as hell, but the encouragement you get from that crowd is amazing. The organizers (David, Geoff and Adam) did a great job and it could not have gone smoother.

Me speaking at Ignite Philly 11
Photo by Kara LaFleur

Here are my slides with some additional commentary that doesn’t fit into 15 seconds.

First, a few fun facts about my talk:

  1. I never tested it in Powerpoint. I meant to, but I didn’t.  I just wrote it in Keynote, exported it, and prayed it would look ok.
  2. The next day, James Miller complained on twitter how much he would have liked to have been there and didn’t realize there was a woman there chanting his name.
  3. I tried to put on one of Brett Mandel’s campaign tattoos before the presentation, but it wouldn’t stick, so I just used one of his giant stickers instead.

Why data visualization works and how it can save the world
I tried to go for big problems in the talk. Earlier versions included a number of interesting sports visualizations, but in the end I felt they detracted from my overall thesis, but I snuck one into my opening slide which shows NL East games above 0.500 for 2007. See how far the Phillies were out of the race at the end of the season but ended up tied for first on the last day.   They beat the Nationals that day 6-1 and the Mets fell to 2nd place.  I use a version of this on my example page for evidensity.js.

primitive societies don't have math
The info about pre-math societies came from the excellent book Here’s Coming at Euclid by Alex Bellos. In chapter 0 he talks about how primitive societies make decisions without mathematics and why we eventually needed math. This slide also gave me a chance to post a picture of Phil Hartman’s Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. RIP.

ignite-philly-slides.003 Making snap, life and death decisions based on ratiosThis was my least favorite slide and of course, it’s the one shown in most of the pics I’ve seen of my talk. It’s just a tree with fruit and a lego guy about to get jumped. I used it to represent why we need the ability to make quick decisions in the wild and I struggled with what to use here.

ignite-philly-slides.004 the brain eye system
The 10-20Mbs figure comes from Ed Tufte and a UPenn study. Originally my talked was called, “How Data Visualization Works” and then I realized I didn’t have any idea of HOW it actually works. I only know WHY, because we’ve evolved over millions of years to make life and death decisions based on the ratios of visualized objects. So I changed it.

ignite-philly-slides.005
The numbers on this page represent the area in square pixels on the next slide.  I used it to show how much faster you can pick out the largest and smallest values when they are visualized as shapes.

ignite-philly-slides.006I missed out on a good eye-chart sobriety test joke here.

ignite-philly-slides.007
Hopefully at this point I’ve convinced you of the plausibility of why dataviz works from an evolutionary standpoint, and that we’ve been given this great gift of receiving and processing visual data. This slide is call to action. It says, “You have a superpower and you don’t even realize it. Let’s use it for good.”

ignite-philly-slides.008
My whole talk was a just a way to show this slide to anyone who never heard of Minard’s masterpiece, Napoleon’s March. Seeing it inspired me to think more about what data visualization could be.

ignite-philly-slides.009
I needed more than 15 seconds so I took Pam Selle’s advice and doubled up on the slide.

ignite-philly-slides.010
I probably should have disclosed that I’m working for RJMetrics now, but I only had 15 seconds to get through each slide! In fact, I actually have to start talking about this slide about 3 seconds before it shows up in order to make it through. It’s a picture of our awesome new UI we’ve been working on which should be out soon.

ignite-philly-slides.011
This is a screenshot from my macbook air’s terminal window. It only shows 0.0026% of the data in the Philadelphia General Fund Budget.

ignite-philly-slides.012
This is an exploded view of Mayor Nutter’s budget summary. I think he deserves a lot of credit (along with Mark Headd) for opening up the city’s data, but I wonder how many people read this summary.

ignite-philly-slides.013
The infamous Bulldog Budget, powered by d3.js and a bit of Ruby and mysql. If you’re an advocate for open government and open data, you should really consider voting for Brett Mandel in the Democratic primary in May. Read what Technically Philly wrote about the Bulldog Budget in January.

ignite-philly-slides.014
“Yeah James Miller!” I loved this map from the 2000 census and had no idea until recently it was by James Miller, brother of my friend and journalist Jen Miller. I think the woman chanting his name was just swept away by the enthusiasm of the night, but who knows?

ignite-philly-slides.015
On August 14th, I stopped by Azavea to hear some guy named Mark Headd give a talk on open data. The same night, Casey Thomas, now at Axis Philly gave a presentation on an app that tracked voting records and lobbying expenses together. But it was Tamar Manik-Perlman’s map showing the impacts of Pennsylvania’s voter ID laws on poor Philadelphia neighborhoods that blew my mind. Here was the perfect case for how data visualization can help illuminate a problem. People like me and most of you reading this live in a world where getting an ID is not a problem. It’s difficult to imagine life being any other way. You can concede that maybe there would be some people affected, but seeing on a map that in some neighborhoods over 60% of voters could be impacted was shocking. I don’t know how much of an influence it had on the eventual delaying of the law, but it had a huge one on me.

ignite-philly-slides.016
I rehearsed this slide many times and just could not fit it into 15 seconds, so it got double duty as well.

ignite-philly-slides.017
I originally had this image here, but I had to purge the sports visualizations. This slope graph is literally sickening. We spend twice as much for middle-of-the-pack results. The only downside was that I’m sure it was impossible to read on stage at Johnny Brenda’s. If you like it, check out this great article on slopegraphs.

ignite-philly-slides.018
I gave my conclusion over the next two slides and didn’t mention the content at all.

Seeing pictures of a devastated city make us more likely to help others and my conclusion was that data visualization taps into those same parts of the brain that motivate us. They create the will and courage to act. This is a tool we all posses no matter where you come from or what your education level is.

ignite-philly-slides.019
Admittedly, the last two charts could have looked a little better and I wish I had more time to either get better ones or recreate my own with the data, but I ran out of time.

It felt more powerful to just talk and let them speak for themselves and I think that was the right call.

I had an absolute blast and loved doing IgnitePhilly 11. The other speakers were fantastic so check out Technically Philly’s recap.

Media Roundup for Mandel Bulldog Budget

The reaction to the Mandel for Controller Bulldog Budget has been amazing! Here’s a list of all the places it was mentioned online.

Technically Philly – “Use the coolest, most comprehensive City of Philadelphia budget visualization you’ve ever seen”

Made it to story #4 on Hacker News with over 60 comments

Tons of activity on twitter

Reddit Discussion

Flying Kite Media

Axis Philly video tutorial

PhillyMag.com

Newsworks

Philly.com

City Paper

And a big thanks to Indyhall for hosting the launch event!

Philadelphia Budget Data Visualized

For the past few months I’ve been working with Brett Mandel on creating a data visualization of Philadelphia’s General budget. We used a treepmap from D3 to show expenditures categorized by department, but lets you drill down to al 217,450 expenditures.

 

Treemap of the Philadelphia General Budget
Treemap of the Philadelphia General Budget

 

We’re launching it today, so check it out and see what you can find. If you see anything interesting or find any errors, email me.

Best Things This Year (2012)

Last year I did a loosely types list of all the best things from 2011, and here’s my list for 2012. Not all are new (even to me), but they stood out in 2012.

11. Solved a Family Mystery

10. Travel – Saw some great places this year including the Alamo, Niagara Falls, a Phillies spring training game in Clearwater, Spokane, Longwood Gardens, and more.

Sasha looking out over Niagara Falls
Sasha looking out over Niagara Falls

9. Reddit.com – I’ve known about reddit for a while, but I’ve grew to appreciate it this year as a general resource for anything. It’s like an improved version of usenet.

8. Found my sunglasses after losing them for months!

sunglasses
Found my sunglasses

7. Highest Trafficked Blog PostThis post about the 8-bit Google Maps got 82,000 page views.

6. Dark Sky (iOS App) – Killer weather app for iOS that alerts you when it’s about to start raining and tells you when it will stop.

5. Nate Silver – I saw James Carville along with Dennis Miller give a talk last fall and Carville said this is the year that we’ll see who is better at predicting close elections, traditional polling or the geeks. Nate Silver of 538 predicted just about every election correctly and solidified the position of the newer statistical models.

4. Ruby – Perl was one of my first programming loves, but I’ve used Ruby for 3 or 4 projects this year and have become a convert.

3. AndyD – Hey Tina is my new favorite song. I saw these guys randomly in Jacksonville, FL and they are exactly as the appear in the video.

2. D3.js – I’ve pretty much put on hold my javascript data visualization library, evidensity.js, once I found this amazing library. Mike Bostock does some of the best data visualizations for the New York Times and he open sourced the tools he uses to create them. Amazing stuff.

1. Minecraft – I’ve been meaning to try out Minecraft since it was released as an independent project in 2009, but never got around to it until now. It’s the most innovative game I’ve seen in 20 years and Sasha and I are hooked. It’s a sim / dungeon crawler / FPS shooter / adventure game with retro graphics and high tech terrain generation. The thing that impressed me the most was that if you ventured out to the limits of each generated world it would be about 9.3 million times the surface area of Earth!

Minecraft!
Minecraft!

Friday, 10/18/12 opening for the Jersey Corn Pickers

On Friday, 10/18/12 I’ll be opening for the Jersey Corn Pickers at the Bus Stop Cafe in Pitman, NJ! I go on at 7:00PM sharp and will be play mostly originals with a few covers mixed in. I haven’t played in forever and can’t wait. See you then!

Bus Stop Cafe
148 South Broadway
Pitman, NJ.
(856) 582-0009

I don’t promote my music on here as much as I used to. Here’s a couple of my songs to give you an idea of what I sound like. Live, it will just be me and a guitar.

99%
Ponies

The Cut in Half Blues (Beck Cover)

Family Mystery: Solved!

In every family tree there are squirrelly branches. There are stories, legends, secrets, and it’s hard to tell what is real and what was exaggerated for the sake of a better story. For me, one of those stories was the reputed last name of my great grandfather. My father’s, mother’s father’s last name was Delpino, but he had been adopted by his step father. According to family legend, his biological father was Polish and their last name was “Shibbiwubbish.”

Helen Garvey Performing at Assumption School Minstral
My grandmother, Helen Garvey, singing at the Assumption School

As kids, we found this name hilarious, but as I got older I thought this couldn’t possibly be true. It had to be some sort of whisper-down-the-lane situation where the actual name had been modified across four generations. I became so convinced of its inaccuracy I stopped telling the story and forgot about it.

My Aunt Peggy on my mom’s side is a genealogical genie. She’s worked for years on mapping out their extensive family history across the world and has now branched out to other parts of the family, like my Dad’s. A few weeks ago, Aunt Peggy was in town reviewing the 1920 census records and interviewing people. I asked her about the name and she gave me the spelling: Przybylowicz

Przybylowicz didn’t seem anywhere close to the family legend. My mom and I discussed how to find out the actual pronunciation and luckily, I work with a guy from Poland named Andrzej Borysewicz. Without telling him any backstory, I showed him the name and asked him how to pronounce it.

Here is the result:

!!! I couldn’t believe how close the passed down pronunciation was! Phonetically it’s something like “Shi-bee-WO-vich.”

What it’s like to do the Philadelphia Broad Street Run

Getting up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and forcing my body to run 10 grueling miles on Philadelphia’s most famous street doesn’t seem like a good idea, and yet, over 32,000 people including myself did that last weekend. What is it about the IBX Philadelphia Broad Street Run that makes it the most popular 10 miler in the country and Philadelphia’s most sought after race ticket? Here’s my experience.

I consider myself a runner, but a very casual one. My frequency fluctuates throughout the year and I usually do 3 or 4 5K races per year. I’ve never considered doing a marathon or a half. 10 miles seems more doable.

I got up at 5:30AM and made my way to the Collingswood PATCO station by 6:15AM where I caught the train with about a dozen others. Once we transferred to the Broad Street Line we were packed in so tight you have to talk to the people around you to prevent it from being awkward.

Broad Street Line was packed with runners

While on the subway I met some people from Audubon, NJ, where I lived for 5 years. While dominated by Philadelphians, NJ’ers make up about 20-25% of the Broad Street Runners.

She was proud to show off the best possible race number

It’s hard to describe the feeling of riding along in a train, covering approximately half the distance of your upcoming race. Even the train ride feels long. Knowing you’ll have to run twice that far in a couple hours is intimidating.

The runners get off on the Olney Ave stop and join the thousands waiting to start the race. In the pre-race information they state there are 350 portable toilets available at the start which makes the potty to runner ratio around 90:1. If you even think you might have to go, get in line right away.

Runners getting ready to start.

There are so many people around, you’re bound to run into a few you know. I spotted @k8iedid mostly because she had her twitter handle on her t-shirt.

As each group (corral) of runners start, your stomach starts churning. Did you eat enough? Too much? Are your ankles going to hold up? I made the decision a few weeks prior to the race to wear my old running shoes since my new ones were giving me some weird pain after 3 or 4 miles. I didn’t want to find out on mile 6 how bad it would get. On long runs like this I also usually bring some leftover easter candy with me for some extra fuel, but I forgot. Oh well.

Start! Not having run enough recently I nervous about being able to finish the race. I took the start pretty slow and it showed. I must have been passed 1000 times in the first minute. It wasn’t until about mile 3 until things started to even out.

The best thing about the course route is that it’s one way. You start farther north in Philadelphia than I had ever previously been and finish about 500 yards before you’d have to jump in the Delaware. You can barely see Center City from the start or the finish. Psychologically this messes with your mind as City Hall slowly creeps into view, but it also feels badass once you finish.

The Broad Street Run seems to attract all sorts of people who run in crazy costumes, so here’s a rundown of the best ones I saw.

This guy in a Terminex shirt ran with a butterfly net the whole time
This girl thought dribbling a basketball for 10 miles was a good idea
This guy made me hungry during the race.
This optimistic Flyers fan carried an inflatable Stanley Cup during the race. Photo by Vincent J. Brown.

See more of Vincent’s great Broad Street photos here.

Lots of girls in tutus

I haven’t mentioned the weather yet, but it couldn’t have been better. Slightly cool at the start and never too hot the entire race.

Drum bands and choirs lined the streets as we ran by Temple University. Every time I ran by a cheering group of people or a band set up to entertain runners I felt my energy level go up, even if just for a 30 seconds. The amount of people out on the streets cheering is kind of astonishing, especially as you get closer to City Hall.

City Hall at last! This is about the halfway point.

A little over halfway through you finally reach the landmark you’ve been staring at for the last 45 minutes or so, William Penn on top of City Hall. Here you encounter the only turn in the whole race as you follow the road counter clockwise around to the other side. Here’s where the crowd really starts to get big and look for Ed Rendell hanging out on the right over the next quarter mile. He’s been there both years I ran.

After you pass South Street and Center City starts to fade away, you enter the final third of the race where you start to question what the hell you’re doing. Miles 6-8 are just awful, awful, miles and the volunteers who hang out all day just to hand out water to the slow pokes like me are awesome. Why someone would care enough to give out water, but not run, is crazy to me but thankfully there were hundreds of crazy people who did it. This year there also seemed to be way more people cheering in South Philly and it made these miles a little more bearable.

Lots of people cheering the runners on this year.
Some people got really into it

Miles 6-8 are tough, but 8-10 is hell. I was so hungry and tired at this point the only thing keeping me going was the bag of snacks I was about to get at the finish.

Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, I am not.
The Navy Yard is coming up

Soon after you start mile 9 you get a glimpse of the Navy yard gates. This is not the finish! It looks like the end but you have at least another 1/4 mile to go. It narrows down tight and there isn’t much room. Around here is when one of my shoelaces came untied and there was nowhere to stop and tie them.

At last!!!

And finally the finish. At this point, most of us are too tired to even manage a high five. We walk over, get a medal, a soft pretzel, a bag of random Philadelphia snacks, and some kind of sense of accomplishment and community that can only be had by running 10 miles with 30,000 strangers.

List of Interesting Places in 8-Bit Google Maps

I love the new retro 8-bit Google Maps, kind of an early April Fool’s joke. Just go to Google Maps and click “start quest.” It reminds me of old school Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior. Update: My memory is failing me a little. It’s not just a tribute to Dragon Warrior. All the tile graphics and enemies are lifted straight from it!

Here’s a list of interesting places I’ve found:
Statue of Liberty
White House
Washington Monument
MLK Memorial
Smithsonian Institution Building

8-bit Collingswood, NJ

Google HQ
Empire State Building, Chrysler Building
Weird little guy in the ice near Mt Everest
Seattle Space Needle
Area 51
Alcatraz
San Francisco Ferry Building
Sutro Tower
St Louis Arch
Druinlord (Weird crab thing in NJ). There seem to be a few of these around the map.
There are lots of these little people like these two in Chicago
Mt Fuji
Bus in Tokyo
Little blue slime guy in Tokyo
Dog statue in TokyoRelated info
Japanese castle
Tokyo Tower
Japanese House
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe
Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, some tower
Tate Modern, Tower Bridge
One Canada Square in London
Magician in England
Great Pyramids, the Sphinx
Christo Redentor, Rio De Janeiro
Easter Island
Parthenon
Roman Colosseum
The Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral
Fernsehterm of Berlin
CN Tower
Hollywood Sign
Eames building in LA
Sydney Opera House
Tower Hall, San Jose State
San Diego Zoo
Pennsylvania Wolf Monster
Rock Golem outside of Indy
Dragon in the middle of the Atlantic!
Ayers Rock, Australia
Oldenburg Spoonbridge Sculpture
Georgia Tech Tower
MIT, Hancock Building, and Faneuil Hall
Angel of the North
Buenos Aires Cabildo
Burj Al Arab
Burk Khalifa
Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA
Chichen Itza
Diamonji
General Post Office, Dublin
Graceland
Great Wall of China
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh
Horyu-ji
Itsukushima
Japanese Cedar
Buddha statue
Troll near Cuba
Dragon
Loch Ness Monster
Drollmagi (Bug Eyed Monster)
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Monona Terrace
Biosphere and Habitat 67 in Montreal
Mt Rushmore (ugh, I looked forever for this one, thanks reddit!)
Nagoya Castle
Naruto Strait Whirlpool
Nazca Lines, Peru
Obelisk in Buenos Aires
Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai
Osaka Castle
Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia
Table Mountain
Taipei Building
Taj Mahal
Building in Japan
Walking to the Sky, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh Zoo Polar Bear
Red Knight
Demon Knight
Drakee (purple dragon thing)
Gold Golem
Green Dragon
Blue Knight
Red Drakee
Red Wyvern (I hated fighting Wyverns in Dragon Warrior)
Metal Scorpion
Metal Slime
Poltergeist (purple ghost)
Red Dragon
Red Slime
Blue Scorpion
Skeleton
Blue Slime
Spector (blue ghost)
Warlock
Wolflord (red wolf)
Werewolf
Wizard
Wraith Knight
Kyoto Tower
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Toripolliisi, Finland
Flinders Station and Eureka Tower, Melbourne
Neuschwanstein Castle (Very cool!)
Uluru, Australia
Chocolate Hills National Park, Phillipines
Churchhill Downs
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Tower in Tokyo (and more)
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan

Update::
There’s an awesome Reddit thread about this. Here’s the best comment that has most of the items found so far, many of which I’ve added to my list.

I also got a hacker news thread going and some have added or identified things in my list. Thanks!

Great shout out today from ars technica!

Another great site with pics of the locations.

Ok, this guy wins the Internet. a Google map with all the monster locations in it!