Stimulus tracker

Click on image to view the map

We learned and utilized many new technologies in this project. Unlike the Adversity index map where we didn’t have proper server-side tool to handle big data set and we had to use hacks, this project uses a brand new server-side tool to do the heavy lifting.

We built the server-side code using Django framework. This is the first time we are using this framework and it is awesome. It makes my life as a web developer much easier, especially when I was completely new to it.

For this project, we built a framework in AS3 that allows flash to communicate with the server and to make requests in real time. The framework makes it easy to parse responses from the server and deliver them to different parts of the application. With that, we are able to support deep linking, back button and breadcrumb.

Last but not least important is the new map engine I built recently. There are two parts to this. The first part is the script I wrote that runs through any ESRI shape file and parses it to native AS3 code. The second part is the engine that takes the code and renders it on the screen. With this engine, we can create pretty much any kind of maps quickly and efficiently.

View the tracker

Swine flu infections around the world and in the U.S.

US Swine flu map
Click on image to view the map

I am particularly proud of the world map because we managed to create it from scratch in a day. Even better, I designed the code so that we could reuse the map again without any extra development time. That means editors can just plug in a new data set and the map is ready to go.

View the world map
View the U.S. map

Friday at

Friday at

Thanks, Evann :)

Unemployment rate from '07 to '08 unemployment map
Map, Programming

The data set shows very interesting patterns. The coastal states got hit hard by the housing crisis, so their unemployment rates are worse than the rest of the U.S. You will probably notice that Michigan, house of GM, Ford and Chrysler, is doing pretty bad. In fact, it has the highest unemployment rate as of October 2008. The only state that shares the same honor with Michigan is Rhode Island with 9.3 percent unemployment.

The coding part of the project took me about a day to write. Kriss Chaumont designed the layout and manipulated the data. We will keep updating the map every month when the new data comes out.

Click here to view the graphics

The work behind election maps

msnbc election 08 map widgets

Now that the election is over and I am well rested, I want to look back at what we have worked on all these months at A few people wrote me asking about the process of creating a large scale project in a fast paced environment. Here is a longer answer to that question. Since this post will be a bit long, I will break it into several sections.

Pre-election content

We put a huge amount of effort into the Decision ’08 Dashboard data explorer map. Many people had been preparing interactive content for our election coverage for months before I arrived. By the time I started in July 2008, most of the core functionality of the map had been developed. My first assignment was to support other developers and designers, by preparing data and writing small utility classes. Next, I created the polling data display and helped with designing the fundraising data display.

msnbc election 2008 data map
Click on image to see full size.

We wanted to map every data set we could find that came with geographic information. There were at least 10 data sets we wanted to map, but we launched our politics front map with only six data sets. We added user opinion, polling, candidate appearances and fundraising data over the next several weeks.

Most of our data sets were huge and we needed the technology to support and serve them to a large audience. This is where the team that builds our publishing platform came in. They built a new, user-friendly database tool just in time for us to use for the election.

Continue reading »

Election '08: election night results widgets

Updated Nov. 5, 2008: 0:55 a.m.The widget maps turned out to be a huge success. We are approaching 100,000 installs and more than 10 million page views. The critical moment has passed and the number of installs decreased as expected, but I am positive the maps will be viewed and installed many more times before they become obsolete.

Updated Nov. 4, 2008: 9:34 a.m. The widgets installs skyrocketed today exceeding what we set as a goal by a huge margin. They got embedded on several major Web sites and thousands of blogs and social network profiles. By the time the results come in and the widgets switch off the countdown clock, I expect the number of installs to jump even higher. Let’s hope that everything will go great today.

Updated Nov. 3, 2008: I am happy that the widgets got a lot of installs and page views. All the three different versions of the widgets that we offer at get about the same amount of installs. That means we really hit the right sizes for most web sites out there.

The election is coming soon and we are almost prepared :) . Here is one of the widgets, part of our Election ’08 coverage from

Election '08: Data Explorer Map

msnbc election 08 data explorer

An interactive map that visualizes different kind of information related to the election ’08 such as demographic, polling and fundraising data. The interactive team at worked on it for months before I arrived. By the time I started, most of the core functionality have been written. I ended up working on the polling panel and helped with the fundraising panel.

You should spend some time exploring the map because it has a lot of interesting data that is not immediately apparent on the first screen.

When you get tired from looking at the enormous amount of data, you can head to the Analysis section and listen to what Chuck Todd has to say about the upcoming election. In the same section, you can make your own prediction or view possible scenarios. And if you are not yet completely satisfied, you can go ahead and check out previous elections.

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