Digg Arc is the lastest addition to our continuing work for Digg Labs. The piece has seen several weeks of development and experimentation and three phases of development punctuated by two successive public releases. This is a visual diary of its creation, shared by Shawn Allen, Tom Carden, and me, Michal Migurski.
Arc began in Shawn's hands. We started with a few basic experiments in circular layout and basic arc geometry. At first, these took the form of simple interactive wireframes to prove that our math was right. We quickly attached these initial sketches to the Digg Flash Kit, and connected them to a source of real data.
Early interactive arc geometry experiments
Craig Hartmann and Brian Lee, design partners in Skidmore, Owings and Merril's San Francisco office, unveiled their proposal for the new Transbay Transit Center and Tower in downtown San Francisco to a standing-room-only audience at San Francisco City Hall on Monday night. SOM asked Stamen to provide a series of potential live visualizations for the tower's main streetside entrance, to be curated by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Our Cabspotting project, which tracks the positions of Yellow Cab taxis in San Francisco in real time, was used to illustrate the potential of this exciting new urban site during the public presentation.
Cabspotting on Mission Street
Stamen created a series of additional explorations of the Transit Tower entryway, extending the possibilities of live data visualizations in two areas: live graphic train scheduling, and densities in the urban fabric formed by the intersection of various transit routes.
I've been talking a bit with Eddie Elliott, local designer/technologist and all-around raconteur whose beautiful digitial work predates the web, about Cabspotting lately. We (Stamen) keep meaning to get back to the project and do some new investigation, but something else (i.e. paid work that we like to do) keeps getting in the way. Eddie's stepped into this gap, and been using the Cabspotting API to produce some really stunning work. You can read more about it at a page he made for it at http://cabs.lightmoves.net/—in particular I like the calculations of the center of gravity over time, and he's pointed out an error in how we're plotting latitude vs. longitude (ouch)—but it's the high-res long-term point maps of San Francisco that make me the happiest, and provide some interesting new ways to look at the city through the data it throws off.
So first of all Eddie's using dots instead of lines, which makes sense over longer periods of time. This image shows 5,744,623 cab-spots (what Eddie calls individual cab GPS locations), recorded over the course of 31 days (44,640 minutes) from March 21st to April 21st, 2007, and it's just lovely:
Hindsight, our new project with Trulia, launched a week or so ago. Since then Tom and I have been slowly collecting particularly nice examples of interesting conditions as we find them, and Tom's been posting some of these on the Hindsight blog. We're starting to identify a certain language of development patterns as we go: some growth spreads out from a central core, some slides along a river or dances along a chain of islands, some areas switch from rolling fields to cookie-cutter suburbs in a matter of a very few years, and so on. We don't quite have a language for this kind of thing yet; we're working on it.
Tom came across one today that made us both sit up and say "wait a minute...", and told us a bit more about the world than we knew before: by comparing the home sales data to the map photos underneath, we can use Hindsight to tell us things about the world that aren't otherwise visible.
I'm back from Barcelona and London, and hope to be posting my impressions from OFFF and a talk we gave at the National Maritime Museum in the next couple of days. Things are a bit hectic; the studio has some new projects either just launched or about to launch (more on that later), and I'm off to New York in a few days for a few days, to do:
AIGANY: May 29, 7pm
I'm honored to have been invited to take place in an upcoming AIGA NY event: "Fresh Dialogue 23: Designing Audiences," which will put Stefan Bucher, Katie Salen and me on a stage with the amazing Ze Frank, of all people. We've been asked to talk about (and hopefully show) how our various projects open up an inclusive engagement with the people who use our work, allowing them to shape and impact the end product in a much more direct way than is normal with traditional design and media.
Postopolis: June 1, 6pm
Now this sounds cool:
"Postopolis! is a five-day event of near-continuous conversation about architecture, urbanism, landscape, and design. Four bloggers, from four different cities, will host a series of live discussions, interviews, slideshows, panels, talks, and other presentations, and fuse the informal energy and interdisciplinary approach of the architectural blogosphere with the immediacy of face to face interaction."
I'm a big fan and avid reader of two of the blogs mentioned above: BLDGBLOG and City of Sound—and am excited to find out more about the people and ideas behind Subtopia and Inhabitat, who are also presenting at the conference. So if you're in New York during either of those times, please do let me know and/or stop by, the events are both open to the public.
Being asked to speak in New York City has a special poignancy for me (thanks, Mike and Dan!); the city and I have a somewhat, well, checkered history when it comes to design and architecture and I'm really looking forward to something of a homecoming. Stamen has been talking to architects and about architecture for some time now, and we're really looking to start thinking more publicly about urban spaces and data flows, so I have the feeling this is going to be the first of many conversations like this.
Spring's here! The flowers are a-bloom all over the place in San Francisco, and so is Stamen :) Here are some notes about upcoming events we'll be participating in:
MoveOn Town Hall Meeting:
MoveOn National Town Hall
The US presidential election is a year and a half away, but the campaigns are already in full swing. Stamen is working with MoveOn.org on a new and improved version of the online map-based live conference tool we built for them in '04, for a series of three upcoming national town hall meetings.
The first live online meeting, on April 10, will bring the upcoming presidential candidates together for a conversation about Iraq. The next two will focus on global warming and health care. You can vote on which candidates you'd like to see participate until midnight EST tonight, so if you're interested in participating in this conference, please do so today. There's also a set of conference slides from our presentation on the Town Halls which we gave at Where 2.0 in '05, for those who'd like to know more about the map and how it works (and why we think it's cool).
OFFF in Barcelona
OFFF in Barcelona
Shawn Allen, Ben Cerveny and I will be in Barcelona for OFFF, talking about some of our more recent work and showing an enhanced suite of projects in the main hall at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. We'll be presenting alongside people like: John Maeda, Eric Natzke, Graffiti Research Lab, Josh Davis, Neville Brody, Universaleverything, and more, so it should be alot of fun.
xTech in Paris
xTech in Paris.
Mike Migurski and Tom Carden will be presenting "You're older than you've ever been, and now you're even older, and now you're older still: a talk about time." at xTech in Paris, on May 18. This is another good one: they'll be there alongside Aaron Straup Cope, Håkon Wium Lie and Simon Willison, so we're hoping some interesting conversations come out of this trip.
Where 2.0 in San Jose
Time and Maps
Following the xTech presentation on time, I'll be talking about how the time-based visualization issues Stamen has been dealing with in many of its projects at O'Reilly's Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, on May 29.
Phew. Busy around here! Of course, you could head over to Matt Biddulph's fascinating new travel-sharing project dopplr and figure out our schedules, but you'd have to find each of our profiles, and who has time for that...hey Matt, can we have a Stamen group on Dopplr?
Stamen's Mike Migurski announced today the release of the mapping library that he and Shawn Allen and Darren David have been working on: Modest Maps.
Following up on a series of map-based projects that improve on the full-screen tile-based system that Google Maps paved the way with (haha!), Modest Maps is an open source project that lets designers and developers use any map-based tiling system they choose, instead of being constrained by Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft's maps. Want to use Microsoft's photo maps with Yahoo's road maps laid over them? Pull in Open Street Map tiles into a sexy flash display system that you control? Modest Maps does all these things really well, and has the benefit of being open source, so outside developers can contribute to the project as they see fit.
This work comes out and extends of a series of projects that Mike and Stamen have been doing with tile-based, non-google-centric mapping systems:
GSV 1.0 (Giant-Ass Image Viewer) (which for a good long while now has been the top google search result for "giant ass):
Cabspotting, which tracks the GPS positions of taxis in San Francisco:
And most recently, Mike's mapping of crime locations in Oakland, and the times they happen:
We've been using the code in a series of client projects we're currently working on, which is great, since it gives us alot more flexibility in how we represent geographic data moving forward, and we don't have to start from scratch every time. Yay, Mike, yay, Modest Maps!
Stamen's Tom Carden will be at South by Southwest in Austin, TX this weekend (along with half of San Francisco, it seems), speaking on a panel with our friends Dan Catt and Aaron Cope about Mapping: Where the F#*% Are We Now?.
While Tom's there he's going to continue our search for the perfect designer to work at Stamen, so if you're going to be at the conference and think you might fit the bill, feel free to talk to Tom about it there.
As a follow-up to the first visualizations we made of user activity on Digg (posted to the digg blog in 2006), we've widened the scope of our visualizations to show an entire day's worth of digging activity on the site in greater detail. The resulting images, made by Tom Carden, illustrate some general patterns, and one controversial story immediately becomes visible; more about this below.
I was first introduced to IBM's new Manyeyes project when Fernanda Viegas spoke about it at Adaptive Path's excellent IDEA conference in Seattle back in October. We presented too; it was a "morning of visualization" :) .
Mike Migurski's Digg friends
Since it launched, the site has deservedly gotten a ton of attention and seems to be growing every day. The focus on "democratization of visualization" is absolutely right on. What clinches the site's utility for me is that it allows you to basically screencap the particular way you're looking at the data, so what you make can be shared and referenced.
Visualization (and flash and java generally) have been historically terrible at this aspect of things; data flows through, the framework responds, you get it looking just great, and then... you're done, unless you want to take a screengrab, post it to flickr, yadda yadda yadda...and then you lose the ability to interact with the data and draw your own conclusions. The chain of reasoning gets broken any time you try and do anything with the material. Manyeyes solves this problem by generating thumbnails of whatever aspect of the data you're looking at, and provides links back to the original data, so you can make your own graphings; it's just great. This ability to handle a specific slice of visualized data is becoming more and more of an interest to us here at Stamen; look for more on time and visualization here in the next few months.