Quick data visualizations

The need for data visualization

With the growth in trend of buzz words like big data, data science etc, the general interest in expecting data as proof is becoming the norm amongst readers. Additionally, growing popularity of blogs like FiveThirtyEight, reporting is slowly moving towards becoming more data oriented. Therefore, the onus now lies on the media content producers to use advanced data analysis to make their points. However, analyzing data is complicated and even harder to communicate but could be done effectively by using data visuals.

Conducting my research on the topic of easy data visualizations, I noticed that majority of the recommendations revolved around using programming languages like R, python etc. Learning how to code is a mammoth task for writers whose main focus is on researching and delivering the story and not learning how to code. Writers need a tool that helps them analyze data and build visuals with a few clicks. A tool like Plot.ly.

What is plot.ly?

Plot.ly addresses the user challenge of creating data visualizations without having heavy knowledge of programming and data visualization techniques. Plot.ly’s website and blog showcase a number of samples on how leading news sites have used Plot.ly visualizations in their articles. For example, below is a sample visual showing statistical analysis in a NYTimes article:

Source: NYTimes 2014 Article – How birth year influences political views

Some of my favorite tools on the platform (image below) are:

  • Ability to use excel layout to input data and pick from over 20 different chart types
  • Creating charts which enable reader interaction
  • Using statistical analysis tools like ANOVA on a web-based platform
  • Reverse coding, enables users to get the code behind the visualizations incase users want to create the same visuals using other programming languages

What does data visualization mean for advancing journalism?

In my opinion, I think Plot.ly helps advance journalism and storytelling by:

  • Saving time for writers by freeing up time for constructing and presenting stories instead of wasting time and resources on visual designers. Additionally, enabling journalists to publish stories as fast as possible.
  • Increasing interactions with readers. It has become harder and harder to engage readers through various types of media because of the declining attention span. Therefore, getting readers to engage readers through interactive visuals could help engage readers and help increase participation
  • Integrating diverse communities – Using technology platforms like Plot,ly could help increase interactions between diverse groups like technologists and journalists helping advance each other’s cause.

Plot.ly resources

Multiple tutorials are available on the webiste. From creating charts to data analysis using sample data sets.