Every #1 rap hit since 1989, the interactive chart

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Polygraph and Billboard's HOT RAP SONGS" CHART (1989 - 2015) is a perfect visualization (and audiolization) of how music drifts in and out of the public consciousness, using a generation-worth of rap hits as the raw material. Read the rest

Gorgeous infographics from the 19th century

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At the dawn of the 19th century, naturalist Alexander von Humboldt invented the "thematic map," pioneering infographics through the likes of maps annotated with zoological life, temperature, elevations, and other data meant to present an area's "physical phenomena into one image," according to this profile on Atlas Obscura.

Above, "a plate from Atlas of Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos, illustrating the composition of the Earth's crust via color-coding."

Below, "a snowflake of clocks illustrates world time zones, with Dresden at the center. "

Read the rest

In the data, Chicago's crooked cops are so obvious they practically glow

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As Chicago's mayor/kingmaker/kingpin Rahm Emanuel grins at the chorus demanding his resignation for his role in covering up video showing that Chicago PD officers shot a man 16 times, lied about it, and confiscated and destroyed all the evidence they could find, the Five Thirty-Eight blog looks at the data on Chicago's dirtiest cops. Read the rest

Sometimes, starting the Y-axis at zero is the BEST way to lie with statistics

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If you've read Darell Huff's seminal 1954 book How to Lie With Statistics, you've learned an important rule of thumb: any chart whose Y-axis doesn't start at zero is cause for suspicion, if not alarm. Read the rest

Suicide rates are highest in spring -- not around Christmas

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No one's sure how the story of suicides increasing during holiday season got started (some researchers think it may have come from It's a Wonderful Life!), but it's not true. Read the rest

America: shrinking middle class, growing poverty, the rich are getting richer

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A new Pew report analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors finds that America's middle class has shrunk to the smallest share of the US population for the first time in four decades; while the share of national wealth owned by the middle class has dwindled and the share of wealth controlled by the rich has grown. The number of poor Americans has also grown, as middle class families slip into poverty. Read the rest

News story rewrites itself depending on where you are

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The lede and various details in The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares, an article at the New York Times, are rewritten automatically based upon the reader's location.

It's not overly clever. Simple, compelling details are used to frame and contextualize a dry, fact-driven story, and it works very well.

News reports generated by computers from raw data are not new, but they tend to be obvious and a bit daft, like the ersatz commentary in sports video games. This Times piece is a high-quality example of code with an appropriate editorial voice. It needs careful planning and restraint and can't just be glued together from journalistic clichés and data.

(Redditors, however, have managed to trick it into writing some rather daft phrases.)

Previously: North Korea Press Release Generator Read the rest

A beautiful data-driven Tube ad from 1928

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This 1928 London Underground ad is a beautiful and witty example of using data to help people get the best use out of public services. By listing the tube's load at different times of the day, LU helped riders figure out how to avoid crushes, and by making the descriptions funny and insightful, the poster's creators created memorable hooks for putting the info in context. Read the rest

My Stolen Life

My handbag was stolen two months ago. It happened in seconds in a mall in Turin, Italy. I never saw the thief, and neither did my husband, sitting two meters from the scene of the crime a fast food Japanese restaurant.

How is such criminal skill even possible? There was almost nobody around. Now, after two months, I do vaguely remember though a nice young woman, sitting with a child, next to my table. Was it she who grabbed my bag off the back of a chair and escaped with it?

A week later, I read that a gang of four women, convicted of serial handbag thefts in Italy, was finally put behind the bars. Even though found guilty several times, they were always released from custody because they had either small children or were pregnant. So maybe they relied on the handbags of other women to feed their numerous children?!

But that would be a topic for a novel, and not what I want to write about. I will focus on this accident from a different angle. Because it can only be compared to an accident, a personal disaster, as if a truck ran over me. No use asking, was it my fault? Should I blame myself for leaving my chair to order a second beer to go with my sushi? And why on earth did I center my earthly life inside one rather small handbag? Why did I visit a shopping mall taking with me all of my traveling documents, credit cards, checkbook, USB backup, health insurance card, Iphone, address book, prescriptions, etc. Read the rest

Gender and sf awards: who wins and for what

SF writer Nicola Griffith reports in from her Literary Prize Data, which is collating data on gender and genre awards (and showing a dismally predictable skew towards books by and about men and boys). Read the rest

What does Facebook learn about you when you rainbowify your profile pic?

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When Facebook offered a "rainbow filter" for images, following last week's landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, people joked that it was probably another creepy social experiment. Well, probably, yes.

Even seemingly small online actions—clicking the “like” button, changing one’s profile photo—are being tracked and analyzed. Just like McAdam’s research on Freedom Summer shapes our understanding of support for marriage equality, Facebook's past research on marriage equality has helped answer a question we all face when deciding to act politically:

Does the courage to visibly—if virtually—stand up for what a person believes in have an effect on that person’s social network, or is it just cheap, harmless posturing? Perhaps the rainbow colors across Facebook will become part of the answer.

Previously: Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal Read the rest

Quantified Self Expo in San Francisco on Saturday (6/20)

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Our pals at Quantified Self are hosting a big expo in San Francisco on Saturday and they're offering BB readers a $10 discount off the $20 ticket price! Get hip to the self-tracking scene and see your life through the lens of data! Event details here. Read the rest

America's prison population, by the numbers

Administrative segregation prisoners take part in a group therapy session at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California, June 8, 2012. San Quentin prison is California's oldest correctional facility and houses the state's only gas chamber. Picture taken June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Quinn Norton's "long form data journalism" piece on the American prison system paints a bleak picture of a nation that feasts on its poorest and most vulnerable with a boundless, venomous cruelty.

Amazing sea floor maps reveal California's offshore depths

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The California Seafloor Mapping Program is the most extensive of its kind, initiated in 2008 and bearing fruit in a series of beautiful maps.

The microbes on your phone are different from the microbes on your shoes

But the microbes on your shoes are similar to the microbes on everyone else's shoes and the microbes on your phone are similar to the microbes on everyone else's phone. Read the rest

Uncovering sexual preferences by data-mining sex-toy sales [NSFW]

UK sex-toy retailer Lovehoney allowed researcher Jon Millward to data-mine its huge database of over 1,000,000 sex-toy purchases and 45,000 reviews, in order to see what he could infer about Britons' sexual proclivities from the things they bought. Read the rest

Tesla's "car-as-service" versus your right to see your data

Espen got a parking ticket for his Tesla, and he's pretty sure he can exonerate himself, if only the company would give him access to his car's data, but they won't. Read the rest

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