3:02 PM, November 16th, 2012


A defining characteristic of this election cycle was Super PACs and the hundreds of millions of dollars outside groups were spending to influence races. Now that it’s all over, we wanted to see which outside groups spent their money on succssful races and which did not. The result was our interactive Not-So-Super PACs: 2012’s Winners and Losers.

Super PACs abounded this cycle. So instead of trying to document and display all of them, we focused the narrative on how well the biggest spenders and their donors fared. To execute it, we used Center for Responsive Politics anaylsis of FEC data to find how much each PAC had spent so far in each race and then manually went through and coded each race whether the outcome was in line with or against the PAC’s interest. Then we added everything up.

Visualizing it 

This idea went through a few iterations before settling on what you see above. For a while, we’ve been wanting to use a tower graphic template - one of those vertical scroll layouts with a sticky table of contents - that I built a couple of months ago but it never seems to work out. This time, after thinking about all of the detail we wanted to display we thought bigger.

If you’re trying to visualize money flows, Sankey lines are a go-to. ProPublica did a great one showing overlapping Super PAC expenditures and you see them as flat graphics too. They show direcionality and volume = great for money.

Getting the right data

Money was flowing from donors to PACs and then to races, so we used the JSON structure that D3 lays out for its network layouts (and Sankey) visualizations. You have a list of nodes (People and PACs) and a list of node to node links (X person gave $Y to Z PAC). We were working collaboratively in Google Docs so were able to do some formulas that would print out or data structure in JSON as we were editing the document. Very handy in case you need to correct any numbers or name spellings.

Our D3 visualization was a failure.Sankey Fail

Here’s a link to the interactive version (yes, it’s in the “failures” folder). As you can see, there were too many races to fit on the screen and the dollar amounts in some races were so high that they dwarfed everything else. So showing each race in the Sankey was out. 

This led to Sankey Idea #2.

Sankey Sketch

We connected photos of the donors to the PACs, showed the percentage of succesful funds, and then put the races in a table down below. The photos were very useful because you can quickly understand that money is coming from a person and going somewhere. If we just had text, I think, without photos, it would be less clear and have less of a personality. Someone remarked that the lines almost form bodies and arms that reach out to touch Super PACs. It’s interesting to see visualized data combined with photography work out to tell a story like that.

Under the hood

We used Raphael to draw the lines, which was an improvement from D3 since we do indeed support Internet Explorer 8. We tweaked Al Shaw’s Sankey line from Tom Counsell’s Sankey library to make them span vertically instead of left to right. Here’s a jsFiddle of the code to draw the line.

The table uses Isotope.js for its animated sorting, which is snazzy but I also think does help make tabular data more understandable. Instead of clicking on a column header and everything resorts in a flash, you can see how dramatically different rows vary from view to view. It’s also nice because you can do filtering. So without much code you have a filterable, sortable table. It also saves a step of turning the object data into arrays for sorting. I’ve been wanting to add those ascending / descending arrows for a while to our tables so this was a good time for that.

This table will probably become our first stand-alone NewsBeast Labs plugin since we’ve been using it pretty frequently. That’s pretty cool because five months ago we didn’t have any interactive news code and now we’ve done enough projects that we can see what’s worked, what functionality we like and can wrap it all up into something more robust and reusable, which will make our future development that much faster. 


So cool.

Reblogged from NewsBeast Labs
5:44 PM, October 2nd, 2012

Mapping NYC’s Republicans


As the Republican National Convention kicked off in August, we put up this map locating the concentrations of Republicans in NYC, a notoriously Democratic stronghold:

At the time, we promised to post the data we used to make the map. Then we got swamped!

But here’s the shapefile with the data embedded. As the map above says, it’s based on voter rolls and district lines as of April 2011, and filters for people who’ve voted since 2004. That’s because an “active” voter is generally considered someone who has voted  over the course of the last two presidential elections.

- By John Keefe

Reblogged from Data News
6:50 PM, August 17th, 2012



It’s Friday night! Perhaps you have need of a bottle of wine for a nice evening out (or in)?  Don’t fret. We at the Discovery News tumblr page have found a way to help you pick. If it looks complicated, that’s because it is.


Infografica dedicata al vino

Good luck with this. — tanya b.

Are YOU into cults? 

Reblogged from NPR
7:15 PM, August 7th, 2012


They’re hit and thrown. They’re caught, dunked, headed, passed, saved, served, set, shot, slammed, smashed and spiked. One is even put-ed. They’re big and small, ethereally light and surprisingly heavy. From table tennis to men’s basketball, here are all the balls (and one sphere) used in the 2012 Summer Games.

Olympic infographics! 

Reblogged from WIRED
4:00 PM, July 13th, 2012

A follow-up to a post from this morning on the wealth of presidents (if you’re viewing this in the dashboard, just hit play to see the infographic):

Based on John Avalon’s commentary today on the riches of American presidential candidates, we delve in a bit further to find out just how entrenched into 1% candidates over the past few decades have been. For this chart, we look at every presidential election for which we could find income data for both major party candidates—that’s 1972 through 2012, and 1952. The pie charts encompass the earnings for candidates for those years, pegged to 2012 dollars. The bar chart and supplementary text box are based on real dollars—that is, not inflation adjusted. Note that this is earnings data for the year before the November election, and does not reflect each candidate’s net worth.

National income estimates are based on research by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. For full methodology and data sources, see our gallery.

-Clark Merrefield

4:45 PM, May 4th, 2012


US Life Expectancy by County, 1989 and 2009

Via the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation:

IHME analyzed new mortality data by age, sex, and county for the US from 1989 to 2009. Across US counties, life expectancy in 2009 ranged from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86.0 years for women. From 1989 to 2009, life expectancy for men improved by 4.6 years on average but only by 2.7 years for women. And throughout the country, women were more likely than men to have no progress in life expectancy or to have their lifespans get shorter over time.

In 661 counties, life expectancy stopped dead or went backwards for women since 1999. By comparison, life expectancy for men stopped or reversed in 166 counties. This troubling trend is occurring in 84% of Oklahoma counties, 58% of Tennessee counties, and 33% of Georgia counties.

The gap between women living the longest lives and those living the shortest lives is growing, too. In Collier, Florida, women live 85.8 years on average. In McDowell, West Virginia, they live to be 74.1. That’s an 11.7-year gap. In 1989, the gap was 8.7 years. For men, the gap is larger – 15.5 years – but it has grown by less than a year since 1989. Men live the longest in Marin, California, at 81.6 years. They live the shortest lives on average in Quitman and Tunica, Mississippi, at 66.1.

The range of life expectancies is so broad that in some counties, such as Stearns, Minnesota, lifespans rival some of the places where people live the longest – Japan, Hong Kong, and France – while in other counties, life expectancies are lower than places that spend far less on health care – Egypt, Indonesia, and Colombia. Even within states, there are large disparities. Women in Fairfax, Virginia, have among the best life expectancies in the world at 84.1 years, while in Sussex, Virginia, they have among the worst at 75.9 years.

At the same time, the life expectancy gap between black Americans and white Americans is closing. In 1989, black men could expect to live to be 63.8 on average, while white men had an average lifespan of 72.5, a difference of 8.7 years. In 2009, black male life expectancy improved by nearly a decade to 71.2 years, and white male life expectancy improved at a slower rate to 76.7 years, a 5.5-year gap. The gap between black women and white women is even narrower: 3.6 years. Black women on average in 2009 had a life expectancy of 77.9 years, compared to 81.5 years for white women.

Images: Screenshots, Life expectancy by county and sex (US), 1989-2009. Top, 1989. Bottom, 2009. Via IHME.

Weather? The Civil War? 

Reblogged from The FJP
3:19 PM, March 22nd, 2012


4.2 million people visited President Obama’s website in January — more than the Republican candidates combined

Among the Republicans, Paul garnered the most visits to his site, boasting 830,000 in January. Gingrich’s site, Newt.org, was visited the least, with just 609,000 views. 

Reblogged from The Daily
5:05 PM, December 14th, 2011


Massive infographic of the day on those pesky Millennials (via jeremydwill).

Reblogged from Hello.
1:11 PM, December 1st, 2011


UN reports ‘extraordinary progress’ in global fight against AIDS
The international community has made extraordinary progress in the past decade in the fight against AIDS, but a funding crisis is putting those gains at risk, the United Nations health agencies said.

A World Health Organization-led report said the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS and now infects about 34 million people around the world has proven a “formidable challenge” for scientists and public health experts.

“But the tide is turning,” it added. “The tools to achieve an AIDS-free generation are in our hands.”

Reblogged from The Atlantic
5:00 PM, November 8th, 2011


More asteroid info

Glad this is a nice and subdued asteroid infographic. 

Reblogged from I Love Charts
4:05 PM, November 2nd, 2011


We have an exclusive look at a new study that offers insight into the real participants of the Occupy movement and all of its offshoots. So Who Is Occupy Wall Street? Find out here.

Reblogged from Fast Company
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