Data visualisation makes big data magical!

When reading big data from the endless numbers and words, we are confused and find it difficult to get the point. Visualising data has emerged to offer us new ways to find meaning in big data, in a more interesting and engaging manner.

There is a great example of interactive data visualization: Pain at the Pump: Gasoline Prices by Country .Bloomberg Gas Price Ranking sorts 61 countries by average price and by the portion of an average day’s wages needed to buy a gallon of fuel. Users can compare the gas price, affordability and consumption. Below are two screenshots comparing Australia and China in Quarter 4, 2014.

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To effectively interpret such massive data into a simple visual comparison, Pain at the Pump has the following features regarded as great data visualisation.

Story – The purpose is to compare each country’s cost on petrol and affordability and to summarise why and how. This is of interest to everyone as it is relevant to our daily life. It is also a tool to analyse our living standard.

Goal– The interface is very user-friendly. You can scroll left or right to select a country, and examine different periods. The information changes accordingly to the number and chart  showing in different colours and shapes.

Visual Form– The layout looks neat and the information is very obvious to comprehend. The structure is clear, the left side shows the country’s overview while the right side shows coloured lines connected among three comparison criteria.

One negative aspect is that we cannot tell how reliable the original data used to build this, but we don’t discuss this in this blog.


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Using charts, graphs, and design elements, data visualisation can make complex data more accessible, understandable and usable thereby achieving the purpose of conveying the meaning.

Interactive experience is very important to invite the attention and engagement to get the message seen or it may fail to server the purpose – to communicate information.


No, Data Journalism is not the future journalism!

Data journalism is about journalists making news or stories based on data. We live in an information explosion age. Big data brings great opportunities to journalism and adds the value of accuracy and objectivity.

Big data has 4V characters: Volume, Velocity, Variety and Value.

Data journalism needs to have open data and open source available for people to mine,  analyse, visualise data and map data and tell stories.

As the guideline from Data Journalism Handbook indicates, ‘Data can be the source of data journalism, or it can be the tool with which the story is told – or it can be both’. We should be open to this quantitative tool but watch out how reliable the source is and how it can shape the news.

Gathering data, interpreting them and crafting emotional stories on the basis of facts is the process of data journalism working on the endless expansion of information.

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If data is improperly managed and interpreted, journalists may lose the direction and feel trapped in the data jungle.

Limitations of data journalism:

  • The source of data is not always reliable as it could be from anywhere. Without careful research and selection, it may mislead the public;
  • Heavily relying on data may lead to a lack of deep analysis as some aspects of news or stories cannot be assessed by facts or figures;
  • If data news becomes a new type of journalism and other news was to follow this format, creativity or humanity would be lost;
  • It’s not an ideal method to tell an interesting story and to make it lively.

Data journalism becomes an important part of journalism, in particular areas, such as investigative journalism or analysis journalism, but it’s not the future of journalism. It cannot change the dynamic and principle of journalism and it should not.

EHarmony: not simple networks effect


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The networks effect is all about scale and reach. The more people who use it, the more value it brings to all users.

Eharmony is a good example of how to use network effects to run a business.

When entering the market in 2000, Eharmony faced a saturated online dating market with a number of free dating sites available.

Eharmony has focused on a mature age group looking for serious long-term relationship and charged memberships fees to provide compatibility matches. With a large pool of people familiar with online dating already, the niche market could accept this deal if they believed the service was unique.

When facing more competitors offering free dating service, such as RSVP (2 million members), Oasis Active (1.6 million), OkCupid and Tinder , Eharmony has employed a different strategy: check compatibility for users based on their comprehensive profile created from detailed questionnaires.


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Instead of users filtering through thousands of other users’ profiles, Eharmony sends a user only the matches that are selected by their algorithm. This is a smart way to reduce the negative network effects which other dating sites receive for wasting time and getting lost in the jungle. This is the case that quantity is important but quality matters more.

Moreover, this behind the curtain strategy can present “standalone-value” for users, as it can trick users into believing there is a bigger market than there is. The more members, the higher chance to meet the right person. It also enables users to effectively communicate with the possible partners.

As Eharmony titles its core tenet, “Meet compatible singles”!

Eharmony success relies not only on network effect but also because its stand-alone value.

Digital audience: where is standard and where is quality?


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The “Bikini Girl” fitness guru Kayla Itsines war with “Banana girl” Leanne Ratcliffe is in the news again.

Ratcliffe created a series of videos for the Banana diet which has 580,710 views, more than 2.3 million instagram followers and 1.3 Facebook “Likes”

The digital world leads to a rapid increase in user-generated content and audience becomes so powerful, through online blogs, social media sites via filter, recommend, rate, like, and tweet. A good example of user-generated content is Wikipedia, which shares information or knowledge as a very useful tool for reference or self-education.

However, like the above so-called healthy lifestyle information, it can be dangerous as it could mislead the perception of being healthy and wellness, in particular because it has attracted such a huge number of viewers.

This raises the Issue: where is the standard and quality of the content?

As discussed in tje Cecar lecture, the digital audience’s role in the production of content, its consumption, access to digital achieves, change and dissemination has a big impact on the standard of content. The audience have a variety of choices of how, where and when to get information. They are everywhere, engaging across multiple channels and devices, empowered by being more active .

Youtube is very popular for open educational resources-digital content and to promote music, however, so many negative contents are generated without any meaning. This introduces a significant number of questions.Why can they attract so much attention?  What benefits are given to viewers? Why do they exist? What is the value of the news?.

Why do low quality videos show up high in the search rankings with high ratings?

Should this be a wake up call?

How do we ensure quality assurance while giving freedom to audiences to generate and publish content?

Should some tools be adopted to monitor the content?

Should audiences be educated to be more knowledgeable about their consumer behaviour?

This will take time and it’s a balance of freedom and restriction, personal taste and community interests and amateur and expert content makers.

Content is king! Where will the king go from here?


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The majority of consumers use at least one of three common digital platforms at multiple times each day, a NAA study reports.


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Digita obviously is where the future lies. ABC director Mark Scott announced a program to fund $20 million digital investment to achieve broader audience engagement.

As Cesar discussed in his lecture, “content is King”, content is shared across different platforms and is challenging traditional journalism in the way of delivery and distribution.

Digital content, as opposed to digital platform, assists a publication to succeed. With high technology available consumers can easily access the platform designed for good look and feel without excessive traffic. They are more mature to choose alternative sites when content is not satisfying.

Multi digital platforms require instant and 24-hour news in the form of text, audio, video and interactive formats available to be disseminated. In this fast and consumption-focused age, people prefer short to long, speed to depth, gossip to documentary. The challenge is how to make high quality content to attract readers and keep their loyalty?

Do new platforms require new values? In my view, not really. The skills of accuracy, persistence, scepticism and the ability to structure a story and to tell it compellingly are the same essentials as ever.