Visualizing Data

My friend  Paul has a chart from BP’s data, Visualizing Global Oil Markets: 1965-2007 (not my favorite chart porn in the world).

Lately, I have been greatly enjoying the way numbers are depicted in a visual context, vis Visualizing Data. The site tends towards an eclectic depiction of data, which provides different ways of thinking about numbers, modeling, and the world.

I find it to be a fascinating exercise. This approach has very much colored how I approach and contextualize data. Some recent examples from the site:

Explore Your Tags and Bookmarks 

Themail splits your emails into keywords and phrases:

17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe

Enron Email Connections

Personal Visualization for the Obsessive Compulsive (to understand OCD, this is an inventory of every distinguishable object in a bedroom – books, DVDs, CDs, documents, storage bin)

And my favorite: Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes

Fun stuff!

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Discussions found on the web:
  1. Jim Haygood commented on Jun 11

    Barry, here is another site along the same lines, which I believe would appeal to you and your readers:

    In his book ‘A New Kind of Science,’ Stephen Wolfram went even further, claiming that in some cases graphics can tease out relationships which might be impossible to identify with traditional approaches, such as closed-form equations. Some of the properties of the universe, he suggests, are graphical in nature.

    Looking at the graph of today’s market, I infer we’re about to go over the waterfall. HELMETS ON!

  2. Mr. Beach commented on Jun 11

    Gorgeous. Barry — you sure love your chart porn. Perhaps you should have been a design major instead of a finance guy!

  3. Mr. Beach commented on Jun 11

    BTW — in case the tone is lost — I think you’re a darn capable finance guy and enjoy reading this blog every day.

    Whackage continues today on WM & LEH.

  4. Soren Macbeth commented on Jun 11

    Great stuff Barry. I too love visualizing data in interesting and different ways. To that end, I built an application to help visualize stock chatter on twitter called Stock Twits. I’ll love to hear what you think.

  5. Bob A commented on Jun 11

    the hoes of seattle feel hurt and left out

  6. pmorrisonfl commented on Jun 11

    Ben Fry and Casey Reas are modern practitioners of this art, and they’ve developed an open-source tool, Processing, available from, for the data artists and picture hackers among the readership. Fry has written a book ‘Visualizing Data’ that instructs a reasonably comupter-literate person (ideally, written in at least one language before) how to use Processing to visualize their own data. Really great stuff.

  7. Sean commented on Jun 11

    Barry, need your help here. Not sure if you have read about the testimony of a hedge fund manager over congress a couple weeks ago, about the oil and commodities bubble? I would like to hear your expert opinion on the physical delivery explanation of it.

    I think he said that it is the ETF, and money from Retirement Funds (eg. CALPERS) that is buying the Oil and all other commodities future contracts (through bankers and therefore they are listed as Commercial instead of speculators). When the time come to deliver oil and wheat to these ETF/Funds, they simply roll over to the next month contract. In other words, they basically just go LONG and never sell.

    So my question is, who is taking these physcial deliveries? I mean, if I buy 100 barrels of oil for July contract, I would expect physcially 100 barrels would arrive at my dock station. If I roll over the contract, then what happens to the oil producers that suppose to ship me tihs 100 barrels? They got to find a storage tank to store my oil on the sea?

    I understand that now banks are acting as the middle man to do all these fancy swaps and listed as Commercials. But still, who are taking deliveries? Or is it possible that all the contracts “sold” (to these bankers) are actually from some other funds that went short, i.e. they don’t have the real physical stocks to deliver?


  8. Al commented on Jun 11

    Wonder what Ben B’s map of Hoes look like? A circle around lower Manhatten? … woops, that is Spitzer’s turf.

  9. Tom F. commented on Jun 11

    Aw man, dey ain’t no way dat brutha have dat many ho’s. Ain’t nobody got dat many. I bets dey be jus’ regla ole bidniss contacks.

  10. Matt commented on Jun 11

    Long time lurker, first time poster, but wanted to chime in on the data/display presentation. I’ve found that has really interesting displays of data. The link below is to a display of the Dow Jones, though my favorite is the display of the history of rock music.

  11. John F. commented on Jun 11

    The only useful graphic here is the map of Ludicris’ hoes. Designers tend to make pretty pictures out of statistics rather than communicate their meaning.

    BTW: I would urge anyone interested in this stuff to attend one of Edward Tufte’s seminars before he retires.

  12. Andy Tabbo commented on Jun 11

    I think the interesting thing about the oil consumption chart porn….which most people don’t realize… that the U.S. and Euro consumption of oil in the 2000s has been essentially FLAT. And the DOE numbers confirm the U.S. numbers. Crude oil inputs to U.S. refineries have been FLAT thoughout the 2000s and product demand has averaged meager 1% growth this decade.

    Basically, all of the growth in oil demand is from every other country than Europe/U.S./Japan…pretty major economies.

    Notably, all of ‘growth’ has been fueled by subsidized prices in China/India/Saudi Arabia/Mexico/Iran/Venezuela.

    There are diesel lines in China right now due to the fact the national refineries cannot make the product without losing A LOT of money. That communist nation is about to explode.

    Some of these international stock indices are telling a story which should not be ignored. Vietnam was down 25 days in a row? Shanghai index down 50%?

    – AT

  13. Patrick commented on Jun 11

    Tell me this: how is it that we have trillions of dollars invested and at stake and yet most people who manage this money depend on 2D graphs that are 100+ years old?

    The future is 3D visualization.

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