Data In Sight: Data Visualization Boot Camp

Last weekend I participated in Data In Sight (site link no longer online–Nov ’14), hosted at Adobe in San Francisco, where we had about 48 hours to assemble a team, devise a project to use Data Visualizations generated from sets of data, build it, and present it. What an incredible learning opportunity, and a chance to meet developers, designers, and a variety of other hackers interested in pushing the limits on Data Visualization! There were also workshops, like a UX Clinic, held by Hot Studio‘s Dani Malik, Executive Director of User Experience, and presentations by innovative designers like Joris Maltha of Catalogtree in The Netherlands.

My team started with four of us, generating a huge array of big ideas that would use a mash-up of public data sets to reveal useful tools to gain insights into current energy issues, or food issues. How can we use one of the data sets mandated for the competition, and mash it up with some other publicly available data source to reveal something interesting, and present it in a rich way that allows a user to interact with it to gain new insight into their world?

One of us fell ill, and “paralysis by analysis” gave way to a much simpler proposition: How can we use the data set of 60,000+ UFO sightings (one of the data sets featured for use in the competition) to reveal something interesting about this phenomenon?


Another member of our team hacked away furiously until late Saturday night before bowing out due to needing to move homes on Sunday, and by Sunday night two of us were humbly attempting to create a presentation with basic visualization functionality.

We didn’t win any of the categories of the competition, but along the way my eyes were opened much wider to the challenges we had all eagerly taken on, and how to work together to meet the judge’s deadline. More about my project team and what we created can be found here: And I got a great T-shirt, one I will actually wear like a proud geek.

For a complete description of the event and a look at the winners of the competition, check out (site link no longer online–Nov ’14).


Designer and observer.

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