Interview: “Dataviz is no-bullshit journalism”

Can dataviz become as popular as cute cat videos? Leon Markowitz, one of the founders of WikiBrains and visualization aggregation and curation resource dadaviz, says – yes. Right now, he is striving to turn  dadaviz into YouTube for data visualization. At dadaviz, users can post infographics from the Web and indicate the author and the tool with which it was produced. I’ve interviewed Leon to find out why dataviz is so popular today, why data journalism is a longlasting trend  and how media organizations could monetize infographics.

Leon, please tell me why you decided to start dadaviz.

Our team at WikiBrains started dadaviz as a side-project, our analytics showed clearly how people preferred to browse through our gallery than actually create maps. So dadaviz launched as a gallery, it struck a chord, and now we are working tirelessly to improve the value we will give to this wonderful and growing community.



What is so different about dadaviz in comparison to other dataviz aggregation resources? What’s the use case?

We don’t make dadaviz about us, but completely about the dataviz and the artist, we don’t clutter the screen with social sharing or annoying ads. The community uploads and votes, plus -as you know, profiles and metrics are also coming. The use case, in brief, is to have a platform where dataviz can be shared to increase the project’s lifetime and reach new audiences.-

Did you have journalists in mind when you created this platform?

Absolutely. Most of the projects shared are DDJ, and not of the scientific kinds – though we have some of those too. Typical users are freelance datavizers and data journalists.



Do you plan to collaborate with news organizations?

Yes, we recently explained on an article this question. We’ve approached large and small media companies to make them aware of dadaviz as a distribution channel for their dataviz plus analytics on their performance. We are also in touch with dataviz software companies, so they can share the sort of work that is possible to do with them. Finally there’s native advertising for world leading brands -similar to government transparency, companies that advertise by sharing data that is relevant are inherently more transparent, a more honest advertising. But we are still testing as we go along.

What are the most popular tools with data visualizations are created, if you judge it by the examples shared by your community? and Google charts we see a lot, and overall D3.js is sort-of the standard.

What are most widespread visualization types shared on dadaviz so far and trending topics?

Trending topics vary, it depends on the swings of the moment – it’s news. A visualization of Gaza was popular to share yesterday, while today it might be the protests in HK, and in a quiet day…cats. So if you can find data about cats, make a data visualization!

Additionally, you have influencers sharing on social media and creating ripples. We are almost finished with our analytics dashboard to better observe these patterns and trends. Also, politics tend to do very well across the spectrum.

Why do you think the world needs yet another dataviz resource? There’re already several other resources which aggregate and curate dataviz.

These other sources you mention are great, but they are siloed, and unless you are in the industry, you may not know them. Dadaviz is here to make dataviz appeal to and reach a wider audience, to be aware of all the works being published worldwide dealing with data, plus linking to their data source (when available) and original link.




What’s the outlook for the project?

To continue providing value to the dataviz community and spreading the awareness of DDJ. Truly, to be the YouTube of dataviz, where you can find the projects and news you need without hassle and in a no-nonsense interface.

What’s the state of data visualization in the world and especially in the global media today?

I think it’s exciting! Every year you see more conferences, influencers, and technologies. However, most of it is taking place in the US and Europe. The fight for open data, and the spread of data literacy is still going on in most of the world, but the future looks bright.

Which role will dataviz play for journalism in the future?

No one can predict the future. It is my hope that dataviz will continue to gain ground because it’s no-bullshit journalism. No added fluff. It’s faster to consume and yet more insightful. I don’t see why DDJ shouldn’t become the standard in every news site as more people become data-literate.

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