My Christmas Made Easy With My Amazon Wish List

I must confess, as strange as it sounds, I have never been very comfortable with receiving gifts and I am especially uncomfortable about telling people what I would like for Christmas. My wife comes from a large extended family and every year I struggle to think what to say when people ask me. This year when I received an email from my brother-in-law asking the dreaded question, I decided to take a different approach and just distribute my Amazon Wish List.

My wish list was never actually a list I put together for the purposes of distributing, I have always kept lists of books I want to read and thanks to a life long history of insomnia and also a one hour train ride to work I am always looking for new books.

The result was great, I didn’t feel awkward being specific about what I wanted and based on the number of books I received from the list my in-laws where OK with using it.

Another useful thing to note is that after Christmas I went onto my wish list to remove the books I had received only to discover that Amazon had already done so which I thought was a very nice feature.

Here is the list of books I very kindly received that will be keeping my nights and train rides occupied for the foreseeable future.

The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)
by John Maeda

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People: What Makes Them Tick? (Voices That Matter)
by Susan Weinschenk

Living with Complexity
by Donald A. Norman

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
by Scott McCloud

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald Norman

Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design (Voices That Matter)
by Maggie Macnab

Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 115 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions and Teach Through Design
by William Lidwell

Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences (Voices That Matter)
by Stephen P. Anderson

If anyone else is interested in seeing what else is on my current wish list then the address is here. Think I could learn to like this gift receiving thing.

Posted in Books, Fun Stuff | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Memory Jogger: Creating Quick Contact Sheets

Creating contact sheets in InDesign is another one I am always forgetting the short cut keys for.

1. Choose File > Place, select multiple images, and choose Open.

2. Hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) and click or drag.

3. While still dragging, release the other modifier keys and press the arrow keys to determine the number of rows and columns. Use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to change the number of rows and the Left and Right arrow keys to change the number of columns. To change the spacing between frames, use the Page Up and Page Down keys or hold down Shift while pressing the arrow keys.

4. Release the mouse button to place the grid of images.

Original Adobe blog/tutorial here

Posted in Memory Joggers | Leave a comment

Using online maps to ‘reccie’ wild swims

There is no better way to ‘reccie’ a potential new swim then to actually go there and scout it out. Entry points, exit points, flow, water condition, hazards etc can only really be determined by actually being there. However, that said, there are some brilliant online mapping tools that allow you to check out possible locations all from the comfort of your own home and at least get a good idea of what to expect before you get there.

My three favourite tools online tools for this currently are:

The Bird’s-eye view on displays aerial imagery captured from low-flying aircraft. Unlike the top-down aerial view captured by satellite, Bird’s-eye images are taken at an oblique, 45-degree angle, which give the user better depth perception for buildings and geography. These images are typically much more detailed than the aerial views taken from directly above and with the oblique view you can get a much better idea of the topography. This can be extremely useful when scouting for entry/exit points, especially as some obstacles on a swim can be difficult to get to when not actually traveling along the river. For example the lock below on the River Avon was very hard to see from Google’s satellite view but using the four cardinal views one could get a very good idea of the possible portage points.

Another great feature about these views is you can easily share them with the generation of links that record the exact scene

Google satellite view is also useful, but if you compare the results from it’s ‘straight down’ view to those above you can begin to see why Bing’s is superior for determining entry/exit points. However a nice feature is Google Maps street view. Most people only think of it as applicable to roads but it also tracks GPS tagged photos which means you can often find existing images of possible swimming locations.

Google Maps has also announced plans on rowing down some 2,000 miles of the U.K.’s canal systems to capture imagery that it hopes will promote local and tourist interest in visiting the towpaths. You can read more information on that here.

The other great tool is From a reccie point of view it is good to know how far you will be swimming. Originally designed as a tool for runners to plot and share their favourite runs it was quickly hijacked by swimmers. I think has recognised this as it has now began to include ‘swimming’ categories in the map descriptions. For river swims it is ideal as with the satellite view switched on you can easily follow the course of the river to plot out your swim.

There is also a 3D fly over view and the usual social links to share your maps. For example the Tweet This link: “Check out this map on @MapMyRun: 1.49 mi Granchester Road to Newnham

I am sure there are lots of other online tools out there that would be useful for planning open water and wild swims so if anyone has come across them then I would love to hear about them.

As mentioned at the start of this post, there is no better way to safely reccie a swim location then to actually go there and walk/kayak the location first. One other thing to remember is that all the online mapping tools in the world will not show you everything. Once when I was keen to do a guerilla swim in the Lea Waterworks Canal I had looked online for ages at possible entry/exit locations but it was not until I had been there in person and discovered a ladder under a road bridge that we had any chance of doing that swim.

Safe swimming. :-)

Posted in Fun Stuff, Swimming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Visualisation of OSS Dart 10K

Dart 10K Data Visualisation

A little while ago I started working on an interactive data visualisation for the OSS Dart 10K race results. Unfortunately I then became distracted by work, swimming etc and never finished it.

Messing about the other day I grabbed a couple of screen grabs in case there are any other swimming data nerds out there. It shows the distribution of the swimmers at the point the first person crossed the finish line, both for the actual staggered start and a theoretical result if the race had been run as a mass start.

Hopefully I will get some spare time over the next few days (weeks) to finish the interactive version of this.

The Outdoor Swimming Society’s web site is here if anybody is interested in finding out more about them or the Dart 10K.

Posted in Data Visualisation, Fun Stuff, Swimming | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

LinkedIn InMaps – updated for 2012

I have been using LinkedIn a lot over the last few months and I was curious to see how my network had changed/grown since I last used LinkedIn Maps to generated a visualization for it.

Apart from the large growth in UX/UI and designers that I have connected with over the last year (burgundy) the main addition is the light blue collection in the bottom right hand corner, which represents all my colleagues at UBS.

You can check out LinkedIn Maps and create one of your own here:

Or you can view mine here:

Posted in Data Visualisation, Interactive Data | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lab Examples – Recap!

When I started this blog in November of last year (2010) my intention was to try and do a couple of interactive data visualisations each month. I did managed to keep that pace up for several months but it has suddenly dawned on me that I haven’t produced any new Labs since March. I have started working on half a dozen different things in the time since than but have not actually gotten around to finishing any of them.

So in an attempt to catch up and get my act together I though I would have a quick recap of the work produced so far and than also list the unfinished projects I have started to help me focus on them and try and get one finished.

2010:11:001 – USA Unemployment
2010:11:001 – USA Unemployment
2010:11:002 – Tattoo Kaleidoscope
2010:11:002 – Tattoo Kaleidoscope
2010:12:003 – NME's Top Albums
2010:12:003 – NME’s Top Albums
2010:12:004 – End of Year Top Albums
2010:12:004 – End of Year Top Albums
2010:12:005 – End of Year Top 10s
2010:12:005 – End of Year Top 10s
2011:01:006 – History of the Batmobile
2011:01:006 – History of the Batmobile
2011:01:007 – NMA Top 100 Agencies
2011:01:007 – NMA Top 100 Agencies
2011:02:008 – NMA Ones to Watch
2011:02:008 – NMA Ones to Watch
2011:02:009 – NMA Tweet History CMS
2011:02:009 – NMA Tweet History CMS
2011:02:010 – Nokia Pushsnowboarding
2011:02:010 – Nokia Pushsnowboarding
2011:02:011 – Pushsnowboarding CMS
2011:02:011 – Pushsnowboarding CMS
2011:03:012 – Colours in Culture
2011:03:012 – Colours in Culture

The projects I have started but not yet completed:

UK Unemployment: This was an interactive heatmap very similar to the US version. I have scrapped the data into a local database and created all the required views and queries. I also adapted all the  maps into Flash and tagged them up. I just need to wire it all up.

Software Story Lines: This was to be a dynamically generated interactive version of Michael Ogawa’s “Software Evolution Storylines”. The original version seems to be no longer live but there is a post on Flowing Data here: The interesting thing about this was you would be able to upload which ever open source software change log you liked and it would visualize it for you.

Show Me the Music: It is primarily an interactive app for exploring new music recommendations and relies  heavily on various music APIs including Echonest and Last.FM. I am really excited about the user interface design I have produced for this. This one I definitely intend to finish one day.

My Tweet Box: For the life of me I cannot remember what this was going to be. I suspect it was something to do with the previous site which went dead but I will need to look at the design flats again.

Road Rage, Hexagoids and Hexman: These where updates to Flash Actionscript games created over the years but integrated into a common arcade that would show you timeline visualisations of peoples scores.

A History of Modern Music: This is an interactive visualisation of the Guardian’s History of Moden Music series produced a back in June 2011. It took the music genre charts that the Guardian created and integrated them with loads of data scrapped from EchoNest, Last.FM and various other source. It had album covers, images, bios etc as well as dynamically generated links and built in search tools for additional media content, both MP3s and Videos on youTube. This is also pretty far along and I will hopefully get back to finish it soon.

There is something else I am working on which I really hope to find time to finish this month but I can’t really talk about that yet.

Posted in Data Visualisation, Flash ActionScript, Interactive Data, Lab Examples | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

LinkedIn InMaps

I know the LinkedIn InMaps is not new but the analysis of social networks is becoming increasingly relevant to a project I am working on at the moment, so I wanted to revisit this visualisation app but also re-read some of the articles that where written at the time.

One that was quite good was Whitney Hess’ “Hubs and Connectors: Understanding Networks Through Data Visualization” which can be found on her blog “Pleasure and Pain” here:

If you are interested in understanding more about social networks than I would also commander chapter eight of “Beautiful Visualisation – Visualizing the U.S. Senate Social Graph (1991 – 2009)” from Safari Books. They have a chapter preview here.

LinkedIn Labs had this to say about it all:

You can check out LinkedIn Maps and create one of your own here:

Or you can view mine here:

Posted in Data Visualisation, Interactive Data | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

NMA Top 100 Interactive Agencies – Back issues/data required?

Earlier this year I did a couple of Twitter clients that aggregated the tweet histories and time-lines for the interactive agencies featured in New Media Age “Top 100 Interactive Agencies” and “Ones to Watch” and also alowed you to drill down and see some basic data visualisations of their tweet habits/histories and topics etc.

2011:01:007 – NMA Top 100 Agencies
2011:02:008 – NMA Ones to Watch

Now I am really hoping to do an interactive data visualisation and time-line for the entire 10 year history of the NMA’s Top Interactive Agency awards. There is potentially a lot of really interesting information about the historical growth and changes to our industry and I feel it would be a really nice data set to work with but I have not been able to find the relevant information anywhere. I have also tried emailing a couple of people at NMA directly but so far I have had no response.

So I optimistically thought I would try a bit of crowd sourcing and see if anyone out there has access to the relevant data. This could be back issues, PDFs or links to this information. If you do have it, or you know of anyone, or anywhere than please either email me or post a comment. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

At the moment I have 2007 and 2010 so a long way to go.

Posted in Data Visualisation | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Interactive Colours in Culture – The grid version

You can view the grid version of Interactive Colours in Culture here:

A month ago I created an interactive adaptation of David McCandless‘ iconic “Colours in Culture“. At the time that I created it I was unaware that Stephen Few had written a visualization critique “Our Irresistible Fascination with All Things Circular [PDF], in which he remarked on its “design failures”, and questioned its “integrity” and “usefulness”.

However when Flowing Data posted “Business intelligence vs. infotainment” describing a recent post that Stephen Few had written “Teradata, David McCandless, and yet another detour for analytics” as a “rant” that I than became aware of the previous critique.

I found the resulting debate that followed in the comments section really fascinating and was generally disappointed when it was cut short. Not 100% sure but it seems as if the ability to add comments to this post had been deactivated, although saying that I have just noticed in writing this that the ability to add comments appears to have been activated again.

Anyway to cut a long story short I was curious to see what Stephen Few would make of my interactive adaptation so I posted the URL on his blog and he responded with:

“Your interactive version of McCandless’ “Colours of Cultures” diagram make it possible to explore the data more easily and meaningfully, but a matrix of columns and rows with the same functionality would work much better.”

So last night I decided to add an additional grid view which would allow users to switch between the two interactive versions and see what they think.

Interactive adaptation of the grid view from Stephen Fews’ original article:

Interactive adaptation of David McCandless’ original circular design graphic:

Posted in Data Visualisation, Flash ActionScript, Interactive Data, Lab Examples | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stalk Yourself with iPhone and R

Recently the story broke that iPhone appeared to be tracking your location and storing this information in an unencrypted log file on your computers hard drive.

“iPhone tracks users’ movements” via BBC ==> .

Well it didn’t take long for someone to than come up with an app that allows MAC users to easily create a visualisation of this data.

“Stalk Yourself: Use R to Analyze Your iPhone Location Data” via Read Write Web ==>

Further information on the iPhone Tracker app can be read and the App downloaded from here:

“This open-source application maps the information that your iPhone is recording about your movements. It doesn’t record anything itself, it only displays files that are already hidden on your computer.”

There is also some further reading clarifying some of the history and reations to the discovery here:

“iPhone tracking: The day after. Analysis and criticism came in the wake of our iPhone tracking story.” ==>

Bit freaky but I couldn’t resist running it to see what it came up with. One thing to note is that when I have been overseas I have had data roaming turned off and probably as a result it has not tracked any points from trips to Europe or Asia.

Posted in Data Visualisation, Fun Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments