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Visualizing Algorithms, Cool Maps, Listicles, and Information Theory: What We’re Reading 7.4.2014

By Steve Singer

Visualizing Algorithms, Cool Maps, Listicles, and Information Theory: What We’re Reading 7.4.2014

If you’re looking for ways to fill the empty hours during this long holiday weekend (in the US, anyway), you could do worse than exploring these links on data visualization, odd-numbered lists, information theory, and spell-checking.

This is what we’ve been reading. If we missed something cool, share it in the comments!

Visualizing Algorithms

In this highly readable, well-illustrated, and code snippet-enhanced post, the author describes how visualizing an algorithm “leverages the human visual system to augment human intellect.” And who couldn’t do with some intellect augmentation every now and again? There are tons of cool visualizations in this article but one of the coolest involves the random traversal algorithm and its derivatives. Enjoy!

You Are Here

Sticking with data visualization for second, consider this project that, according to its creators, aims to create “an atlas of human experience” by producing very idiosyncratic of maps of 100 cities. Specifically, these maps show everything from coffee shops and the “walking shed” they support to urban greenery, permanent vistas, and even locations of bike crashes. The folks in the Social Computing Group a MIT’s Media Lab will be adding a city a day, so check back if your favorite city isn’t there yet!

29 reasons you’re reading this article

Do odd-numbered lists tend to attract more clicks? Using data supplied by the highly popular Buzzfeed showing the performance of its ubiquitous listicles, the data scientist author of this post demonstrates that the odd-numbered ones tend to out-perform their even-numbered brethren. However, he also suggests that, by pointing this out, it will actually diminish the effect over time (though I bet you can come up with 7 ways to counteract that!).

The Man Who Turned Paper into Pixels

As creatives and technologists, we don’t always spend enough time recognizing (let alone celebrating) the people whose early work led to the many technical marvels we take for granted every day. Consider, for example, the work of Claude Shannon, whose information theory serves as the basis of all computing. This video essay explains the theory and sheds light on the work of this pioneer (who, among other things, is credited with developing the first wearable computer).

Note to Forgers: Don’t Forget the Spell Check

How many times have you published a blog post or sent out an email only to realize that it contained an annoying or even egregious typo? Well, apparently forgers have this problem as well, though, in their case, the consequence can be a jail term, and not just a chewing out from the boss. This cautionary tale describes what happened when someone passed off a Pollock as a Pollok.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Johan Larsson.

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