Posts Tagged ‘business’

Why California Is Still America’s Future (And That’s a Good Thing Too) (Time mag)

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

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[Editor’s note: The cover story and map from this week’s Time magazine features California made to look like a circuit board (image above).]

Republished form Time.

Despite Its Woes, California’s Dream Still Lives

California, you may have heard, is an apocalyptic mess of raging wildfires, soaring unemployment, mass foreclosures and political paralysis. It’s dysfunctional. It’s ungovernable. Its bond rating is barely above junk. It’s so broke, it had to hand out IOUs while its leaders debated how many prisoners to release and parks to close. Nevada aired ads mocking California’s business climate to lure its entrepreneurs. The media portray California as a noir fantasyland of overcrowded schools, perpetual droughts, celebrity breakdowns, illegal immigration, hellish congestion and general malaise, captured in headlines like “Meltdown on the Ocean” and “California’s Wipeout Economy” and “Will California Become America’s First Failed State?”

Actually, it won’t.

Ignore the California whinery. It’s still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally and maybe politically. It’s the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It’s also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech. In 2008, California’s wipeout economy attracted more venture capital than the rest of the nation combined. Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, the Gap and countless other companies that drive the way we live.

Continue to read at Time . . .

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: The Post 200 Database (Kelso via Wash Post)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

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[Editor’s note: Uses the Flare visualization API in Flash ActionScript 3 to display data about the Post 200 companies in a treemap format. A vexing and il-documented API, but powerful. We considered showing the data with a graduated circle map but the company locations were too clustered for that to be effective.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
13 May 2009. By Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Terri Rupar – The Washington Post

Use our interactive graphic to explore data — including revenue and employment — for the top companies in the Washington area.

Boxes represent individual companies grouped together by sector, size based on data.

View the interactive version at The Washington Post . . .

post200interactive

The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady (NY Mag)

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

[Editor’s note: Two pieces from the New York magazine profiling the New York Times Interactive News Collaborative staff, one of the strongest in the business. Thanks David and Chrys!]

Republished from the New York magazine.
By Emily Nussbaum. Published Jan 11, 2009
Related forum: Talk to the Newsroom: Interactive News Collaborative Jan. 17, 2009.

Image above: Aron Pilhofer, Andrew DeVigal, Steve Duenes, Matthew Ericson, and Gabriel Dance. (Photo: Mike McGregor)

What are these renegade cybergeeks doing at the New York Times? Maybe saving it.

On the day Barack Obama was elected, a strange new feature appeared on the website of the New York Times. Called the Word Train, it asked a simple question: What one word describes your current state of mind? Readers could enter an adjective or select from a menu of options. They could specify whether they supported McCain or Obama. Below, the results appeared in six rows of adjectives, scrolling left to right, coded red or blue, descending in size of font. The larger the word, the more people felt that way.

All day long, the answers flowed by, a river of emotion—anonymous, uncheckable, hypnotic. You could click from Obama to McCain and watch the letters shift gradually from blue to red, the mood changing from giddy, energized, proud, and overwhelmed to horrified, ambivalent, disgusted, and numb.

It was a kind of poll. It was a kind of art piece. It was a kind of journalism, but what kind?

This past year has been catastrophic for the New York Times. Advertising dropped off a cliff. The stock sank by 60 percent, and by fall, the paper had been rated a junk investment, announced plans to mortgage its new building, slashed dividends, and, as of last week, was printing ads on the front page. So dire had the situation become, observers began to entertain thoughts about whether the enterprise might dissolve entirely—Michael Hirschorn just published a piece in The Atlantic imagining an end date of (gulp) May. As this bad news crashed down, the jackals of Times hatred—right-wing ideologues and new-media hecklers alike—ate it up, finding confirmation of what they’d said all along: that the paper was a dinosaur, incapable of change, maddeningly assured as it sank beneath the weight of its own false authority.

And yet, even as the financial pages wrote the paper’s obit, deep within that fancy Renzo Piano palace across from the Port Authority, something hopeful has been going on: a kind of evolution. Each day, peculiar wings and gills poke up on the Times’ website—video, audio, “drillable” graphics. Beneath Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, there’s a link to his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Coverage of Gaza features a time line linking to earlier reporting, video coverage, and an encyclopedic entry on Hamas. Throughout the election, glittering interactive maps let readers plumb voting results. There were 360-degree panoramas of the Democratic convention; audio “back story” with reporters like Adam Nagourney; searchable video of the debates. It was a radical reinvention of the Times voice, shattering the omniscient God-tones in which the paper had always grounded its coverage; the new features tugged the reader closer through comments and interactivity, rendering the relationship between reporter and audience more intimate, immediate, exposed.

Despite the swiftness of these changes, certainly compared with other newspapers’, their significance has been barely noted. That’s the way change happens on the web: The most startling experiments are absorbed in a day, then regarded with reflexive complacency. But lift your hands out of the virtual Palmolive and suddenly you recognize what you’ve been soaking in: not a cheap imitation of a print newspaper but a vastly superior version of one. It may be the only happy story in journalism.

I met with members of the teams that created the Word Train in a glass-walled conference room, appropriate for their fishbowl profession. There was Gabriel Dance, the multimedia producer, a talkative 27-year-old with two earrings and a love of The Big Lebowski. There were Matt Ericson and Steve Duenes from graphics, deadpan veterans who create the site’s interactive visuals—those pretty maps that conceal many file cabinets stuffed with data. And there was Aron Pilhofer, a skeptical career print journalist with “nerd tendencies,” one of the worried men who helped spearhead this mini-renaissance.

“It was surprisingly easy to make the case,” says Pilhofer, describing what he calls the “pinch-me meeting” that occurred in August 2007, when Pilhofer and Ericson sat down with deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman and Marc Frons, the CTO of Times Digital, to lobby for intervention into the Times’ online operation—swift investment in experimental online journalism before it was too late.

“The proposal was to create a newsroom: a group of developers-slash-journalists, or journalists-slash-developers, who would work on long-term, medium-term, short-term journalism—everything from elections to NFL penalties to kind of the stuff you see in the Word Train.” This team would “cut across all the desks,” providing a corrective to the maddening old system, in which each innovation required months for permissions and design. The new system elevated coders into full-fledged members of the Times—deputized to collaborate with reporters and editors, not merely to serve their needs.

To Pilhofer’s astonishment, Landman said yes on the spot. A month later, Pilhofer had his team: the Interactive Newsroom Technologies group, ten developers overseen by Frons and expected to collaborate with multimedia (run by Andrew DeVigal) and graphics. That fall, the Times entered its pricey new building, and online and off-line finally merged, physically, onto the same floor. Pragmatically, this meant access to the paper’s reporters, but it was also a key symbolic step, indicating the dissolution of the traditional condescension the print side of the paper held toward its virtual sibling.

Story continues in 3 parts, jump to the one that interests you.

Next: The group’s initial series of audacious new features.

Next: Another face of innovation at the Times.

Next: The battle against reader nostalgia.

Concluding two graphs:

“One of the New York Times’ roles in this new world is authority—and that’s probably the rarest commodity on the web,” explains Pilhofer as the waiter gives us our check. “That’s why in some respects we’re gung-ho and in other respects very conservative. Everything we do has to be to New York Times standards. Everything. And people are crazy about that. And that’s a good thing.”

Over time, Pilhofer adds, this is the role the Times can play: exciting online readers about the value of reportage, engaging them deeply in the Times’ specific brand of journalism—perhaps even so much that they might want to pay for it. If this comes true, it would mean this terrible year was not for nothing: that someday, this hard era would prove the turning point for the paper, the year when it didn’t go down, when it became something better. Pilhofer shrugs and puts his glass back down on the Algonquin table. “I just hope there’s a business model when we get there.”

Continue reading at New York Times . . .

Great Information Design Book: The Back of the Napkin (Kelso)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I got a great xmas gift from my friend Curt this year, a little book called The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. If you like Edward Tufte, you’ll like Dan Roam. This book was rated #5 Business Book on Amazon.com last year, but really he talks about informational graphic storytelling, so don’t let that throw you.

As it advertises in the introduction, I was able to read thru the book on my DC to LA flight but I quickly discovered there are enough gems for many returns. Here are the basics:

Dan Roam has a great website with animations, movies, and other resources. He also puts on events and keeps current with a blog. The following images are from his website.

1. Visual Thinking Toolbox

2. The Codex

3. The SQVID

4. The <6><6> Rule

From Amazon.com (below). Buy it there.

From Publishers Weekly
The premise behind Roam’s book is simple: anybody with a pen and a scrap of paper can use visual thinking to work through complex business ideas. Management consultant and lecturer Roam begins with a watershed moment: asked, at the last minute, to give a talk to top government officials, he sketched a diagram on a napkin. The clarity and power of that image allowed him to communicate directly with his audience. From this starting point, Roam has developed a remarkably comprehensive system of ideas. Everything in the book is broken down into steps, providing the reader with tools and rules to facilitate picture making. There are the four steps of visual thinking, the six ways of seeing and the SQVID– a clumsy acronym for a full brain visual work out designed to focus ideas. Roam occasionally overcomplicates; an extended case study takes up a full third of the book and contains an overload of images that belie the book’s central message of simplicity. Nonetheless, for forward-thinking management types, there is enough content in these pages to drive many a brainstorming session. Illus. (Mar 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review
“The premise behind Roam’s book is simple: anybody with a pen and a scrap of paper can use visual thinking to work through complex business ideas. Management consultant and lecturer Roam begins with a “watershed moment”: asked, at the last minute, to give a talk to top government officials, he sketched a diagram on a napkin. The clarity and power of that image allowed him to communicate directly with his audience. From this starting point, Roam has developed a remarkably comprehensive system of ideas. Everything in the book is broken down into steps, providing the reader with “tools and rules” to facilitate picture making. There are the four steps of visual thinking, the six ways of seeing and the “SQVID”– a clumsy acronym for a “full brain visual work out” designed to focus ideas. Roam occasionally overcomplicates; an extended case study takes up a full third of the book and contains an overload of images that belie the book’s central message of simplicity. Nonetheless, for forward-thinking management types, there is enough content in these pages to drive many a brainstorming session. Illus.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“As painful as it is for any writer to admit, a picture *is* sometimes worth a thousand words. That’s why I learned so much from this book. With style and wit, Dan Roam has provided a smart, practical primer on the power of visual thinking.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

“Inspiring! It teaches you a new way of thinking in a few hours — what more could you ask from a book?”
—Dan Heath, author of Made to Stick

“This book is a must read for managers and business leaders. Visual thinking frees your mind to solve problems in unique and effective ways.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

“If you observe the way people read or listen to things in the early 21st century, you realize that there aren’t many of us left with a linear attention span. Visual information is much more interesting than verbal information. So if you want to make a point, do it with images, pictures or graphics. . . . Dan Roam is the first visual consultant for businesses that I’ve worked with. His approach is faster for the customer. And the message sticks.”
—Roger Black, Media design leader, Author of Websites That Work

“Simplicity. This is Dan Roam’s message in The Back Of The Napkin. We all dread business meetings with their mountains of documents and the endless bulleted power points. Roam cuts through all that to demonstrate how the use of simple drawings — executed while the audience watches — communicate infinitely better than those complex presentations. Is a picture truly worth a thousand words? Having told us how to communicate with pictures, Roam rounds out his message by explaining that “We don’t show an insight-inspiring picture because it saves a thousand words; we show it because it elicits the thousand words that make the greatest difference.” And that is communication that works.”
—Bill Yenne, author of Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint