Data Driven Digest for November 7

Each Friday we share some favorite reporting on, and examples of, data driven visualizations and embedded analytics that came onto our radar in the past week.


Feel-Good Data: In 2008 Google launched Google Flu Trends, which analyzed web searches in the United States in an attempt to identify, in real time, when and where influenza outbreaks were happening. Although Google Flu Trends was (and remains) controversial, in the years since 2008 the people at Google Research have studied the results and refined their model – and also expanded Google Flu Trends to 28 more countries.  Last week they announced a new model that adds data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the mix as the country progresses through this flu season. You can track the 2014-2015 Google Flu Trends here.

True Political Colors: In the U.S. we know about red and blue states and counties because our media provided saturation coverage of this week’s election. But the binary distinction – red vs. blue ­– doesn’t tell a nuanced story, so some political map designers have introduced purple to better reflect the blue/red balance. Problem is, our eyes and brains can’t always distinguish if a purple has more red or more blue. Lawrence Weru solved this problem with color theory – in short, he added green to the mix to make the level of red/blue saturation more visible. Check out several of Weru’s examples and the science behind them.


Twitter’s Pulse: A heat map of tweets, organized by time and location, shows how traffic on that social network ebbs and flows over the course of a day. In a piece for the Discover blog, Carl Engelking summarized the work of unnamed researchers who analyzed more than 6 million tweets sent from the New York City area from the last five months of 2013. The animated map of the result, Engelking said, shows that “People in the Big Apple are pretty productive in their mornings but social media distractions solidly take hold by lunchtime – and the rest of the day is really a wash after that.” The time-stamped video of the map – which tracks low Twitter activity in blue and high activity in red – is hypnotic.

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