An Experiment in Collaborative Visualization

An Experiment in Collaborative Visualization

The folks at the Global Water Experiment came to us recently with a data set collected through the citizen science efforts of students around the world. Organized by UNESCO and IUPAC as a central activity of the International Year of Chemistry, the Global Water Experiment has involved over 75,000 students in 80 countries collecting water quality samples in their neighborhoods and reporting the measurements back to the Experiment’s website. In keeping with the crowd-sourced origin of this data, we’ve devised a new project: the Visualization Sprint.

The Sprint is an experiment in collaborative data visualization: we challenge our community of creators and coders to work together to visualize the GWE data. The field of data visualization already benefits greatly from open source work, code sharing, debate over technique, and lively design critique. The Visualization Sprint is a new way to promote all of these things. Starting from an initial sketch, created by Jan Willem Tulp using d3.js, anyone is invited to fork the code, change or add to it, and then post it back to the sprint. The idea is that participants will contribute many small modifications — changing a color scheme, adding a key, adjusting the scale — to reach a finished piece collaboratively. However, extensive rewrites or even new “alpha” versions are also welcomed.

With enough participation, this could result in both an awesome visualization and an archived crash course in how to get from a data set to that awesome final product (or products) through many sketches and iterations. This water sample data suggests geographic mapping, so maybe we’ll focus on how best to map multi-dimensional data, or maybe we’ll go in an entirely different direction. Besides the contributions of coders, anyone can participate by voting on what changes work or don’t work and by joining the discussion in the comments.

In order to have a goal in mind, we ask the community to arrive at a finished visualization by World Water Day (March 22), which will then be presented by us and our partners. All participants will get credit on the final visualization(s).

And just to add a little incentive, we’ve teamed up with Eyeo again to offer one pass to this year’s sold-out Eyeo Festival. The winner will be picked at random from everyone who contributes code to the sprint (no bonus for multiple contributions). So head over to the main Sprint page to explore the versions, vote for which contributions you think work, and fork the code.

Go to Visualization Sprint: Global Water Experiment

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AlexTomasson's picture

In what format would the visualisation be in? I am looking forward to seeing the visualisation, but would it be Flash? It might be a good idea to convert it from swf to gif as it helps with load times. It would be interesting to look at the quality of water that ranges all over the world.

Edward Lee's picture

Hi Wim,
Yes something on the sprint page is causing it to load very slowly -- I'm working on fixing the problem now. Should be back to normal soon. Thanks!

De Datagraaf's picture

Is it just me, or is the next page getting ever more slow to load?
And, if it isn´t just me, what´s causing this?