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May 23 2018

20:14

When surveillance turns into stalking

Many surveillance apps cater to parents who want to keep tabs on their children who have mobile phones. Many of these apps are used for less parental purposes. Jennifer Valentino-DeVries for The New York Times reports:

More than 200 apps and services offer would-be stalkers a variety of capabilities, from basic location tracking to harvesting texts and even secretly recording video, according to a new academic study. More than two dozen services were promoted as surveillance tools for spying on romantic partners, according to the researchers and reporting by The New York Times. Most of the spying services required access to victims’ phones or knowledge of their passwords — both common in domestic relationships.

Tags: ethics, privacy, surveillance

10:47

Amazon Rekognition for government surveillance

Amazon’s Rekognition is a video analysis system that promises to identify individuals in real-time. Amazon wants to sell the systems to governments for surveillance.

From the ACLU:

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a “common use case” for this technology. Among other features, the company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify “people of interest,” raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments — such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists — will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor “all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports,” at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

Given the millions of Alexa-enabled devices in people’s homes and customer purchase histories available on-demand, this feels like a bad idea. Also, creepy. Probably because of the ‘k’ in Rekognition.

Tags: Amazon, government, surveillance

May 22 2018

21:38

Basketball Stat Cherry Picking

Wow your friends during the game with random win percentages, based on various player stats. Read More

09:52

Data scientists as the new Mad Men

Ken Auletta for The New Yorker looks at “math men” replacing the Mad Men:

Engineers and data scientists vacuum data. They see data as virtuous, yielding clues to the mysteries of human behavior, suggesting efficiencies (including eliminating costly middlemen, like agency Mad Men), offering answers that they believe will better serve consumers, because the marketing message is individualized. The more cool things offered, the more clicks, the more page views, the more user engagement. Data yield facts and advance a quest to be more scientific—free of guesses. As Eric Schmidt, then the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said at the company’s 2017 shareholder meeting, “We start from the principles of science at Google and Alphabet.”

I know the big tech companies is where the money is at, but I hope you young statisticians out there consider the other possibilities. Your skills are valued in many places.

May 21 2018

10:09

Nigel Holmes new illustrated book on Crazy Competitions

Nigel Holmes, the graphic designer known for his playful illustrated graphics, has a new book: Crazy Competitions. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Whether it’s flinging frozen rats or parading in holly evergreens, racing snails or carrying wives, human beings have long displayed their creativity in wild, odd, and sometimes just wonderful rituals and competitions. To show what lengths we’ll go to uphold our eccentric customs, British American graphic designer Nigel Holmes channels his belief in the power of hilarity to bring together a bewilderingly funny tour around the globe in search of incredible events, all dryly explained with brilliant infographics in WOW! 100 Crazy Contests and Celebrations from around the World.

Tags: book, illustration, Nigel Holmes

May 18 2018

17:52

What’s in a food truck

Food trucks are the real deal these days. The best ones serve a specialized menu really well, in a small, focused space. The Washington Post delves into the insides of several of these trucks and how they make the food with very specific equipment.

Tags: food truck, illustration, Washington Post

May 17 2018

11:39

A visualization game to understand education and school segregation

Educate Your Child by Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee uses census data and the school selection process to simulate the steps you might take in choosing your kid’s first school in Chicago.

The Chicago public school system has a high level of school segregation as a result of parent’ residential and school choices as well as policy decisions that do not encourage integrated neighborhoods and schools.

In this game, you are a parent of a 5-year-old child and now you have to make some decisions. Explore how your choices can have an impact on your child’s education and on the overall education of the city’s children.

There should be more games like this based on census data. It seems to be a good way for an individual to latch on to data points while still getting a view of the grand scheme of things.

See also more on LeMee’s design for details on modeling school choice.

Tags: game, race

May 16 2018

09:09

If We All Left to “Go Back Where We Came From”

Imagine that those with immigrants in their family tree left the country. Almost everyone, basically. Read More

May 15 2018

11:21

Subway delays visually explained

Adam Pearce for The New York Times describes the sad state of affairs that is the delayed subway trains in New York. One delay causes a ripple effect down the line, leaving little chance to get back on track. The more straightforward figures gear you up for the overall view at the end.

This was for New York specifically but is applicable to other transits and forms of transportation. See also the traffic gridlock simulation from a few years ago. It doesn’t take much for gridlock.

Tags: New York Times, simulation, subway

May 14 2018

16:40

Data is, sometimes

Financial Times recently updated their style guide:

data — the rule for always using data as plural has been relaxed. If you read data as singular then write it as such. For example, we already allow singular for ‘big data’. And we should for personal data too. An easy rule would be that if it can be used as a synonym for information then it should probably be singular — and if we are using it as economic data and mean figures, then we should stick to plural.

And for kicks, I dug up my New York Times style guide from 1999:

data is acceptable as a singular term for information: The data was persuasive. In its traditional sense, meaning a collection of facts and figures, the noun can still be plural: They tabulate the data, which arrive from bookstores nationwide. (In this sense, the singular is datum, a word both stilted and deservedly obscure.)

Data are sounds weird to me most of the time. When I say it like that, I feel like I should also drink a cup of tea with my pinky sticking out and a monocle firmly planted for distinction.

Tags: plural, singular, words

16:23

Every document copy stored on used digital photocopiers

CBS News picked up four used photocopiers and looked at the hard drives. There was a lot of private information stored in them:

Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive – like the one on your personal computer – storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.

In the process, it’s turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data.

If you’re in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold.

“The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms,” John Juntunen said, “that information would be very valuable.”

Okay, save the dramatics, it’s still disconcerting.

Not every photocopier makes it so easy to access copied documents, but it’s surprising that it’s still so straightforward with some machines these days. Then again, part of the responsibility belongs to the previous owners. As the Federal Trade Commission instructs, it’s like getting rid of a computer.

Tags: photocopier, privacy

May 11 2018

07:32

Making useless things

Simone Giertz, bringer of joy and self-described expert in shitty robots, makes machines that succeed in failing. In her TED talk, Giertz talks about her path from “useless” things to expert. It’s all the more relevant after she found out she has a brain tumor.

Giertz’ talk resonates a lot.

During the early years of FlowingData, when there was a comment section on every post, graphics I made would occasionally gain traction over the interwebs. In my own version of Godwin’s law, if a comment thread grew long enough, someone eventually would chime in: “Cool. Someone must have a lot of time on his hands.”

I was in graduate school at the time, with a dissertation staring me in the face, so I didn’t actually have much time. But I made time, because I didn’t know what I was doing, and that was fun for me.

I grasped on to the “cool” part of the comment and discarded the rest in my head. Someone liked something I made enough to tell me so! That turned out to be a great decision.

Tags: exploration, fun, lunch talk, Simone Giertz, TED

May 10 2018

09:00

What data visualization is for

Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen Design discusses visualization the medium over visualization the tool or the insight-providing image:

Dataviz! Data visualization! I don’t think it’s for anything! I don’t believe it’s meaningful to say that dataviz is for one thing, any more than it’s meaningful to say that architecture is for any one thing. Or that photography is for one thing, that it has a purpose that can be defined in a sentence or two. Or that movies are for one thing, one that you could win an argument about.

Yes.

See also Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas’ talk from a while back on the parallels between books and visualization.

Tags: medium

May 09 2018

10:36

Challenges ahead for the Census count

The 2020 Census is coming up quick, but there’s still a lot up in the air. There’s no director, the bureau has to adjust to budget cuts, and a new digital system that promises to save money hasn’t been fully tested (because of lower funding). Exciting. Alvin Chang for Vox explains in more detail — with cartoons.

Tags: census, counting, Vox

May 08 2018

07:23

Comparison of terms and conditions lengths

Most of us don’t read the terms and conditions before we click on “I agree” for the web services we use. They’re too long, and we need likes right away. For a student project, Dima Yarovinsky printed the terms and conditions on paper for major social apps — WhatsApp, Google, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, respectively — which highlights what we’re getting into. [via @hailmika]

Tags: paper, physical, social, terms and conditions

February 08 2018

12:33

How Different Income Groups Spend Money

After living expenses, where does the money go, and how does it change when you have more cash available? Read More

February 07 2018

22:47

Olympians in your living room through augmented reality

Well this is awesome. The Winter Olympics start this Friday, and The New York Times published this piece using augmented reality. Point your phone’s camera somewhere flat in your room, and you see four olympians in a still action shot. Walk around them, walk up to them, and see the details.

My four-year-old got a kick out of it.

For the last Winter Olympics, The Times aimed to make the extreme scales that athletes compete on more relatable. So it’s interesting to see them go the other direction, zooming in close to individuals.

I’m looking forward to the 2022 Winter Olympics when I get to experience the events through the athletes themselves and then pick the tricks that they do Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style.

Tags: augmented reality, New York Times, Olympics

08:38

Roger Federer career in rankings and wins

Professional tennis player Roger Federer won his 20th Grand Slam title recently. He’s in year 20 of his career, and over time, he rose, he dominated, he declined, and he came back. Schweizer Radio and Fernsehen visualized Federer’s achievements over the years and compared him to other tennis stars in the process.

It reminds me of the Serena Williams piece by The Los Angeles Times a while back. This one is more refined though. I especially like the updating time series line that stays with you as you scroll. It shows where you are contextually, and provides progression for different parts of Federer’s career.

Tags: Roger Federer, sports, tennis

February 06 2018

08:35

Scissors congruence

The Wallace–Bolyai–Gerwien theorem says that if you have two polygons of equal area, you can cut one into pieces, and then place them back together to form the second piece. Dima Smirnov and Zivvy Epstein made an interactive to demonstrate. Draw two shapes and watch the magic happen.

Tags: geometry, theorem

February 05 2018

12:36

Statistics crash course

Odds are if you’re reading this, you know what statistics is already, but if not (or you want to explain to someone else), Crash Course just started a series to explain the basics. Watch below.

Tags: learning, video

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