Posted tagged ‘mashups’

Dataviz of the Week: Map It Yourself

3, October, 2008

FortiusOne, a Washington-area digital mapping company, has released something called Maker!. It’s a roll-your-own data visualization tool that allows you to mash up maps with a database and produce something that makes Google Maps look like they were produced by a computer running Windows386.

Below is a Flash-based map that takes a database of funding that’s gone to tech companies based on size and location. You can instantly see where the money is going.

The data is entirely play-friendly–zoom into geographic areas, choose big or small investments, etc.

Here I’ve zeroed in on the D.C. area, where I ply my trade. A popover shows me that one of the big recipients of capital in my home town is Clearspring, the nation’s lead widgeteer. [Huh. I wonder if they are hiring extremely good natured, value-priced, virtually hairless web consultants.] But it also reveals dozens of digital businesses I’d never heard of–GeniusRocket, Acumen, Price Comparison Guru, Brainware–within a 20-minute commute of my home.

The site is easy to build with [though beyond the skills of rank amateurs]. And it’s already got a gallery full of some fascinating stuff.

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a political operative trying to target women aged 18 to 30 to vote in November. Bam, you’ve got a map that breaks down this population down to county and city level, all across the U.S.

Of course, such a map could have multiple uses. Let’s say you’re an unmarried man aged 18 to 30 wondering where the numbers are most likely to work in your favor, potential-mate-wise.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Crowdsourcing Crime: UCrime.com

5, August, 2008

Geographic visualizations of crime data are already old hat. At least since 2005, when peerless journogeek Adrian Holovaty created chicagocrime.org, people have been mashing up public crime data with various maps to illustrate where, in a manner of speaking, the bodies are buried. [Chicagocrime.org has since been swept into Holovaty’s latest adventure, Everyblock.com.]

UCrime.com, a Baltimore startup launched last month, takes crime mashups to college, providing visual reports on incidents on over 100 college campuses. The picture is not always pretty. Here is a snapshot of the last six months of mischief that’s taken place at the University of Maryland at College Park, the school my son will be attending in the fall:

Looks like those crazy Terps have a blast on campus, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, take a look at Brigham Young. Crime? Not so much.

The icons are kind of humorous (unless of course you’re the victim of one of the incidents). A spray can shows malicious destruction of property, a moneybag is theft, a fist a simple assault. Handcuffs show a successful collar. Users can choose to view all crimes or just, say, burglaries.

While the site is just launched, it promises to introduce a couple of social media features. It appears students can join a sort of digital neighborhood watch and report crimes. Users can “comment” on specific incidents or collaborate like junior crimesolvers.

Crowdsourced crime reports, “reviews” of certain incidents, collective responses to crime. . .Call me a worrywart, but if I were running this site I’d want to have a skilled moderator–and an even more skilled lawyer on retainer.

It’s worth noting that there’s nothing new to the information here. Campus newspapers always run crime reports. Local cop agencies make this material public. UCrime simply collects the information over time, tags it by type and connects the crimes with geography.

But it’s a good illustration of the power of even a very simple data visualization. The medium transforms a public datastream into a compelling story about a community and what goes on there.

Of course, that story is misleading. Three top-of-the-head reasons:

  • A compact campus with a given level of crime looks more crime-dense than a spread-out one.
  • The visualization does not take into account the size of a student body–“there’s no denominator,” as they say in applied stats class.
  • A quick glance makes it hard to distinguish a campus where there are dozens of open-container violations from one with a lot of gunpoint robberies.

In the end, perhaps the most valuable service is the one that lets students get alerts–via mobile phone, if they like–of crimes occurring within a specified chunk of geography. It’s good to know two kids just had their laptops taken form a certain dorm, for instance.

Of course, there’s nothing keeping a parent from signing up for this service too.

Yikes. What dorm is my kid staying in this fall again?


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