Recent Posts

Why calculus matters when it comes to data-driven stories

7 minute read , Posted on April 17, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

A quick refresher from my data visualization professor here at Columbia a couple of weeks ago reminded me why I was forced to spend all those grueling hours calculating standard deviation back in high school. See, when you’re using a data set to tell a story, the first step is to understand what that data says. And to do that, you’ve got to have a good idea of the range and variation of the values...

What makes “the world’s best designed website”

16 minute read , Posted on April 16, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

With the Pulitzer Price announcements coming up later this afternoon, you’d think I’d be writing about whose up for the “Best Deadline Reporting” or “Best Public Service Journalism” prizes. But instead I want to talk about a different media award doled out during the past week:’s designation as the “world’s best designed website” by the Society for News Design. Put simply, I can’t say I disagree. Yet before I divulge in my effusive praise...

Critique: “Agreement Groups in the United States Senate”

6 minute read , Posted on April 06, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

Take a look at this fascinating visualization of U.S. senate agreement groups made by Ph.D. student Adrian Friggeri. Using a complex agreement algorithim based upon data from, the visualization displays how much all 100 senators of each U.S. Congress during the last 15 years have crossed the aisle –– or stuck to party lines –– on senate-floor votes. From a design standpoint, the visualization is nearly flawless. The thin red and blue lines help the...

Response to Norman, “Emotional Design”

5 minute read , Posted on April 06, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

Good aesthetics are more than just fluff when it comes to design. They are a core part of a product’s functionality. Such is the argument Donald A. Norman makes in his insightful 2005 book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. For Norman, attractive things work better by boosting the mood of the user and therefore allowing him or her to think more clearly and operate it more efficiently. Undergirding Norman’s thesis that...

Respons to Saffer, “Designing for Interaction”

7 minute read , Posted on April 06, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

Interactive designer Don Saffer artfully captures both the practical and the theoretical aspects of his profession in his 2006 book Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications for Clever Devices. From its title, Saffer’s book may sound like a simple “how-to” guide to creating web apps with interactivity. Yet while it is certainly that to an extent, the book is more broadly a treatise and exploration of the ideology and terminology behind interactive design. Saffer sets...

On Richard Boarman’s “Bubble Trees: The Visualization of Hierarchical Structure”

3 minute read , Posted on April 06, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

In his brief two-page paper “Bubble Trees: The Visualization of Hierarchical Structure,” Richard Boardman proposes a new type of interactive presentation of hierarchical data that he calls the bubble tree. To bolster his argument, Boardman points out the difficulties inherent in the traditional “tree” structure, which suffers from the “breadth versus depth” problem by leading to information overload and taking up too much screen real estate. As a solution, he proposes a clickable bubble tree that leads to child...

Why does YouTube have a longer lifespan than other platforms?

5 minute read , Posted on April 05, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

[/caption] When trying to reach a mass audience, what’s the best platform to share your content? Well, the obvious answer is as many places as you can. But according to a post by bitly analyzing traffic patterns, links shared on YouTube have a lifespan of 7.3 hours, compared to 2.8 hours on Twitter and 3.4 hours on Facebook. Why such the disparity? Why does YouTube have such a longer lifespan? Is it because video has...

Critique: “Salubrious Nation: a game-y look at U.S. health”

10 minute read , Posted on April 04, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

In keeping with our recent weekly reading about the growing ‘gamification’ of data, I wanted to focus my critique this week on a map-styled data-driven game made my a group of researchers at Rutgers University called Salubrious Nation. The game attempts to engage users more deeply with public health data by luring them in with an addictive system of points and rewards. In terms of functionality, the game play operates fairly simply. A map presents demographic...

Why news organizations should stop differeniating blogs from articles

13 minute read , Posted on April 03, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

Andy Boyle (@andymboyle) of The Boston Globe made an┬áimpassioned┬áplea to news organizations earlier this week that they stop differentiating between blogs and articles because they’re both equally forms of content. Someone’s been needing to put this into writing for a while now, and I’m glad Andy said it so eloquently.

INTERACTIVE: Why is the South the most obese part of the country? Five theories

17 minute read , Posted on April 02, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

This map displays the obesity rate of each U.S. state in 2010. The darker shade red represents a higher percentage of obese residents, while the green represents states with lower obesity rates. Click on each state to see the exact totals of each state’s obesity rate. Southerners need to lay off of the Crisco, cut back on the processed foods and start spending more time on the treadmill to fight the growing epidemic of obesity,...


8 minute read , Posted on April 02, 2012, by Carl V. Lewis

Lately I’ve been trying to get my feet wet with Django, an open-source Python web framework that’s well-suited to producing complex news apps under  tight deadlines. I haven’t had enough free time yet to get into the nitty gritty of it, but I’m getting there slowly. What first piqued my interest in Django was a brilliant news app I ran across a couple of months ago called Curbwise, which was built with Django by the news developer...