Shoutout to Taming Data Readers/The Great Office War

I’d like to give a shoutout to the Taming Data readers. This blog is now going on ten months old; I appreciate your interest and I’d like to thank you for reading me.

In honor of all of you who are out in the trenches, taming data day in and day out, sweating over data quality, worrying about content ingest, migrating data from one system to another, worrying about how to use, display, visualize, manage, steward, and curate data and information for use & re-use…on this last day of the month of September, I give you…The Great Office War by runawaybox.

Sometimes, you just need to blow off some steam and have some fun.

When I worked at a regional ISP a few years ago, I organized a team from my division to attack another division. The GM found out and cancelled the war. He loved the team bonding, and the fact that we could all work together to organize a joint attack. He was not against the two divisions having a nerf gun war. He had a great sense of humor. He cancelled it because we had customers on site at random times, and he didn’t want us running around with guns with customers nearby, even if they were nerf toys. I’ve always regretted not being able to go to war with the other division.

Do you have any favorite scenes from this video or stories from your own office nerf gun wars you’d like to share?

Google Releases World Map of Government Censorship Requests

How would you display a somewhat abstract term like “censorship” to your users and the rest of the world?

Earlier this week, Google released the latest version of their censorship map. Via the BBC: “the new map and tools follows on from that and allows users to click an individual country to see how many removal requests were fully or partially complied with, as well as which Google services were affected.”

A Google employee released this statement on their blog:

Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. This map shows the number of requests that we received in six-month blocks with certain limitations.

We’re still learning the best way to collect and present this information. We’ll continue to improve this tool and fine-tune the types of data we display.

You may see the map via Google. (Sorry, I couldn’t embed it into this post.)
Continue reading “Google Releases World Map of Government Censorship Requests”

Keeping the Cherokee Language Alive and Dynamic for Future Generations

How do you keep language alive when you have only 500 fluent speakers of your language, and 70% of those speakers are older than age 50? If you are the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, then you create a school to teach your young ones how to speak the language. You also work with the Western Band of the Cherokee Nation to create Cherokee words for “spaceman” and other words and phrases in current English usage.

The producers of the video below write:

With fewer than 500 fluent speakers of the Cherokee language, the native community is committed to teaching that language to its youngest members. See how that language is shared in a segment from “Our State,” the television program. Produced by UNC-TV and Our State Magazine, with generous funding from BB&T.

Sometimes taming data isn’t about preserving objects; sometimes it is simply about keeping information alive, dynamic, current, and available for the next generation to use.

Our State North Carolina magazine has an article this month on the Eastern Cherokee.

Zotero Everywhere — Coming Soon to a Browser Near You

How do you organize your references when you are doing research? I’ve tried several different methods, both digital and manual. For a while, my favorite was Zotero, but I did not want to be tied to the Firefox browser; I prefer to use Safari. If there is any one immediate area where I would be thrilled to find a really good way to tame data, it is with managing my citation list.

A few days ago, the folks at Zotero announced that they have received additional funding, and will now make Zotero available for the “Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer” browsers.

They write:

We’re delighted to announce Zotero Everywhere, a major new initiative generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Zotero Everywhere is aimed at dramatically increasing the accessibility of Zotero to the widest possible range of users today and in the future. Zotero Everywhere will have two main components: a standalone desktop version of Zotero with full integration into a variety of web browsers and a radically expanded application programming interface (API) to provide web and mobile access to Zotero libraries.

Continue reading “Zotero Everywhere — Coming Soon to a Browser Near You”

Three and a Half Seconds About Life

You enter a contest and you are given three words. You have to make a short movie based on those three words — “ring”, “three and a half”, and “winter”. What topic or topics would you cover?

Yoav Brill, Shay Yosef, and Eran Hilleli came up with a creative answer to their limited data dilemma for a five day animation contest. They created an animation with several stories, each of which are three and a half seconds about life.


I laughed as I watched the animation. (This really has little to do with taming data, but it is Friday and I just liked this little film.) What are your thoughts? Did you like it, or find it a bit too dark?

Happy weekend!

A Day in the Life, London c.2002

If you wanted to show “a day in the life” of someone living in a major city, what features of their life would you choose to highlight? French motion graphics studio H5 decided to focus on the details of a 20-something living in London. Directed by Ludovic Houplan & Hervé de Crécy, the infographic is the video for Röyksopp’s “Remind Me”, and it won the 2002 MTV Europe Music Award for best music video.

The woman lives in NE London, and the infographic details her life and the items around her, including a schematic that flows from the woman eating a hamburger, to a cow eating, to the cow’s milk becoming a milkshake, and the woman drinking the milkshake. Also shown in the animation are the daily commuter flow, Internet traffic and data processing. The animation even provides details on the nutritional information for her lunch and breakfast.

Contributors to the Wikipedia article about the song write:

The song “Remind Me” is also famous for its computer animated video, directed by the French motion graphics studio H5. It features a day in the life of a woman working in London’s Square Mile solely through infographics; this includes labelled close-ups of everyday objects, product lifecycles, schematic diagrams, charts, and is generally illustrated in a simple isometric visual style. “Someone Else’s Radio Mix” is the mix used for the audio track in accordance with the single release. An advertisement for Areva, also created by H5, employs a very similar visual style. The promo won the award for Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2002.

The video is below.
Continue reading “A Day in the Life, London c.2002”

Little Red Riding Hood, the Animated Infographic Version

If you were the Big Bad Wolf and you were on a diet, would you want to know how many calories Grandma contains? What about the cost of the bread and wine you, the parent, are sending to your mother or mother-in-law via your daughter? Tomas Nilsson took on the story of Little Red Riding Hood for a school assignment and added a modern twist — infographics that include a VW van, modern housing, wildlife density, modern human dwellings, human vs. canine body make ups, the price of hunting gear, and, yes, grandma’s nutritional information (as a chart).

I saw this animation of Little Red Riding Hood two years ago when Nilsson first put it online, and I enjoyed re-watching it for this post. I thought his twist on such a familiar story was and is very creative with the right touch of humor. The display of information relies on the user’s familiarity with the tale, but adds additional information to the story via the use of data as context.

What part or parts, if any, of the animated infographic stood out to you?

[Most recently, via designer-daily.]

The Business of Death

How do you take data related to the worldwide funeral industry and make it interesting to review? If you are GOOD Magazine, you create a fun infographic that lobs various bits of data at you, along with terms like, “embalming fluid” and “formaldehyde“. Welcome to the Business of Death animated infographic. As the creators of the animation write:

Throughout the developed world the business surrounding death has often been an uneasy topic of discussion. Originating in the mid-19th Century, the modern funeral has evolved into an economic and cultural monster, with a vast network of supporting industries and myriad options for your earthly remains.

Continue reading “The Business of Death”

Bridging the Divide Between Digital and Physical Preservation

What is involved in digitizing and preserving a digital surrogate of a physical object, such as a map? The Library of Congress highlights this complex process with a short video that describes the processes involved in preserving the Waldseemüller Map in both physical and digital formats.

Why did the librarians and conservators at the Library of Congress use this map to illustrate the bridge between physical and digital preservation? Because the map was revolutionary for its time. It was, for example, the first map to call America, “America”.

Waldseemüller’s map supported Vespucci’s revolutionary concept by portraying the New World as a separate continent, which until then was unknown to the Europeans. It was the first map, printed or manuscript, to depict clearly a separate Western Hemisphere, with the Pacific as a separate ocean. The map represented a huge leap forward in knowledge, recognizing the newly found American landmass and forever changing the European understanding of a world divided into only three parts—Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Continue reading “Bridging the Divide Between Digital and Physical Preservation”

Animation of the Known Universe

How do you create a cartographically accurate map of the known universe? You take heaps of astronomical data and animate it.

The American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium have engaged in three-dimensional mapping of the Universe since 1998 as part of the Digital Universe Atlas. They created the animation below in partnership with the Rubin Museum of Art.

They write:

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

Continue reading “Animation of the Known Universe”