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April 02 2013


Book Review: Data Visualization: a successful design process by Andy Kirk

Data Visualization CoverMy next review is of Andy Kirk’s book Data Visualization: a successful design process. Those of you on Twitter might know him as @visualisingdata, where you can follow his progress around the world as he delivers training. He also blogs at Visualising Data.

Previously in this area, I’ve read Tufte’s book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Nathan Yau’s Visualize ThisTufte’s book is based around a theory of effective visualisation whilst Visualize This is a more practical guide featuring detailed code examples. Kirk’s book fits between the two: it contains some material on the more theoretical aspects of effective visualisation as well as an annotated list of software tools; but the majority of the book covers the end-to-end design process.

Data Vizualisation introduced me to Anscombe’s Quartet. The Quartet is four small datasets, eleven (x,y) coordinate pairs in each. The Quartet is chosen so the common statistical properties (e.g. mean values of x and y, standard deviations for same, linear regression coefficients) for each set are identical, but when plotted they look very different. The numbers are shown in the table below.

Anscombe Quartet Data

Plotted they look like this:

Anscombe's QuartetAside from set 4, the numbers look unexceptional. However, the plots look strikingly different. We can easily classify their differences visually, despite the sets having the same gross statistical properties. This highlights the power of visualisation. As a scientist, I am constantly plotting the data I’m working on to see what is going on and as a sense check: eyeballing columns of numbers simply doesn’t work. Kirk notes that the design criteria for such exploratory visualisations are quite different from those highlighting particular aspects of a dataset, more abstract “data art” presentations, or a interactive visualisations prepared for others to use.

In contrast to the books by Tufte and Yau, this book is much more about how to do data visualisation as a job. It talks pragmatically about getting briefs from the client and their demands. I suspect much of this would apply to any design work.

I liked Kirk’s “Eight Hats of data visualisation design” metaphor; which name the skills a visualiser requires: Initiator, Data Scientist, Journalist, Computer Scientist, Designer, Cognitive Scientist, Communicator and Project Manager. In part, this covers what you will require to do data visualisation, but it also gives you an idea of whom you might turn to for help  –  someone with the right hat.

The book is scattered with examples of interesting visualisations, alongside a comprehensive taxonomy of chart types. Unsurprisingly, the chart types are classified in much the same way as statistical methods: in terms of the variable categories to be displayed (i.e. continuous, categorical and subdivisions thereof). There is a temptation here though: I now want to make a Sankey diagram… even if my data doesn’t require it!

In terms of visualisation creation tools, there are no real surprises. Kirk cites Excel first, but this is reasonable: it’s powerful, ubiquitous, easy to use and produces decent results as long as you don’t blindly accept defaults or get tempted into using 3D pie charts. He also mentions the use of Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape to tidy up charts generated in more analysis-oriented packages such as R. With a programming background, the temptation is to fix problems with layout and design programmatically which can be immensely difficult. Listed under programming environments is the D3 Javascript library, this is a system I’m interested in using  –  having had some fun with Protovis, a D3 predecessor.

Data Visualization works very well as an ebook. The figures are in colour (unlike the printed book) and references are hyperlinked from the text. It’s quite a slim volume which I suspect compliments Andy Kirk’s “in-person” courses well.

January 20 2012


How to Create a Minimalist Map Design With OpenStreetMap

Mapping can be as much about choosing what data not to include as to include, so you can best focus your audience on the story you are telling. Oftentimes with data visualization projects, the story isn't about the streets or businesses or parks, but rather about the data you're trying to layer on the map.

To help people visualize data like this, I've started to design a new minimal base map for OpenStreetMap. What's great about OpenStreetMap is that the data is all open. This means I can take the data and design a totally custom experience. Once finished, the map will serve as another option to the traditional OpenStreetMap baselayer.

I'm designing the new map in the open-source map design studio TileMill, which Development Seed has written before about here. The map can be used as a light, very subtle background to add data on top of for use either with our MapBox hosting platform's map builder or on its own. It still provides the necessary geographic context for a map, but moves the focus to the data added on top of the map -- and not details that are irrelevant to its story.

Here's an early look at the features and design aspects I've been working on for the map.

A look at Portland, Ore., on the new OpenStreetMap Mininal basemap Portland, Ore., on the new OpenStreetMap minimal base map.

Behind the design decisions

I used the open-source OSM Bright template that you can load into TileMill as a starting point for the design and removed all color, choosing to limit the palette to light grays. For simplicity, most land use and land cover area types have been dropped. However, wooded areas and parks remain, indicated with subtle textures instead of color. The fact that OpenStreetMap's data is open gives me full control of choosing exactly what I want to show up on the map.

The style now includes more types of roads. Tracks have been added, as have pedestrian routes, bike paths, and bridleways, which are shown as dotted lines. Roads without general public access (for example, private roads) are shown faded out. The rendering of overlaying tunnels, streets and bridges has also greatly improved, with most overlapping lines separated and stacked in the proper order.

Example Boston bridges
Overlapping bridges in Boston.

Coming soon: OSM Bright

Many of the adjustments that I've made for this minimal style are things that can be pulled back into the OSM Bright template project. I'll be working on doing this in the near future as I wrap up work on the minimal design. Keep an eye on GitHub for these improvements as well as our blog for information about when the minimal design will become available for use.

MapBox for design

If you're interested in making your own custom maps, try using TileMill to style your data and pull in extracts from OpenStreetMap. Documentation is available on MapBox.com/Help. We are close to launching TileMill on Windows, so that in the coming weeks anyone using Windows, Mac or Ubuntu operating systems will be able to easily design custom web maps. You can see a preview and sign up for updates on MapBox.com/Windows, and we'll post details here on Idea Lab once it's available.

For more information on these tools and on hosting plans to share them online, check out MapBox.

Sponsored post

July 17 2011


Data visualization journalism's voyage west

Stanford University :: This visualization plots over 140,000 newspapers published over three centuries in the United States. The data comes from the Library of Congress' "Chronicling America" project, which maintains a regularly updated directory of newspapers. The screenshot shows newspaper distribution in the U.S. in 1922. 


Watch the interactive map www.stanford.edu

May 24 2011


NYTWrites: Exploring Topics and Bylines

Irene Ros, a research developer at the IBM Visual Communication Lab, has created a " sketch project" that uses the Article Search API to explore the topics covered by Times reporters.

March 28 2011


Civic Tools Video: "Hero Reports / Crónicas de Héroes"

Lorrie LeJeune describes Hero Reports/Crónicas de Héroes, a project currently deployed in Juárez, Mexico, to help residents report and map incidents of heroism, large and small.


read more

March 12 2011


Junkyard Jumbotron

Rick Borovoy just released the Junkyard Jumbotron project, which allows laptops or phones in close proximity to be ganged together to form a large display.

The Junkyard Jumbotron requires no special software; it is simply a web page that receives real-time updates from our server, allowing scrolling, zooming, and soon video. Like all software at the Center, it is free and open.

Rick developed the project as part of a larger suite of tools that he calls the Brown Bag Toolkit, all oriented around making technology work better with face-to-face interactions, like meetings, canvasing, or chance encounters.

Huge thanks to Paula Aguilera for making the video.

February 16 2011


Visualization of the Egyptian uprising on Twitter

A colleague at UBC pointed out this striking visualization of the network of retweets at the time of Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.

Computer scientist André Panisson collected an hour’s worth of retweets with the hashtag #jan25.

According to Panisson:

It was very interesting to see, in real time, the exact moment when Tahrir Square, from a mass protest demonstration, has been transformed in a giant party, and the burst in the Twitter’s activity. It was like covering in real time a virtual event, a big event that was happening in the Twitter virtual world.

The visualization illustrates how fast the information of Mubarak’s resignation spread via Twitter.

December 16 2010


Internship opportunity with Grassroots Jerusalem

Grassroots Jerusalem co-director Micha Kurz sends word of his team's internship opportunity in new media, with a goal of creating four interactive maps this summer--of streets and housing in Jerusalem, of schools and health statistics, of local stories (using multimedia), and of grassroots organizations and other local resources.

Interested? Check out the full description:

Grassroots Jerusalem – MIT New Media Internship Application 2011

Organizational profile:
Grassroots Jerusalem sets out to provide an “Evolving Map” of the current grassroots activities and organizations working in the Jerusalem area. We provide a picture of what is currently happening on the ground, the pending urgent issues, the local solutions and where support is needed to further the work.

Grassroots Jerusalem does not discriminate between Israeli or Palestinian initiatives, nor does it categorize according to religion or political affiliation (although they may be mentioned). We believe that everyone is entitled to their piece of the puzzle, and their own opinion. What interests us is what is being done, not what is being said.

Grassroots activists recognize that despite the many cultural differences, and contrast of political opinions, we still have much in common. Human rights, justice, nonviolent communication, social and environmental sustainability are just a few of the values we share. Grassroots organizations have a connection and knowledge of Jerusalem from the “bottom up”. These provide the fertile ground on which to build relationships. We recognize the impracticality of true peace, so long as our mainstream societies fail to address the urgent community issues that are often neglected by top-down approaches.

The goal is not to push certain political agendas, or create umbrella organizations and coalitions. Our goal is:

  • To shed light and realize the vast network of some (very special) everyday people, stepping up and finding creative solutions for age old “unsolvable” challenges.
  • To help each other grow and evolve. To be more efficient in our separate goals, and more effective in our collective outcome.

With a clear view of our resources: people, funding, professional consult, global outreach, original ideas, inspiration and spirit, we recognize ourselves for what we are, and realize the true potential we can only reach together. Together we take steps towards creating an organic, grassroots strategy geared for the reality we wish to share.

Job Description

Background: Grassroots Jerusalem has been working on a community needs assessment and organizational profiling project designed to inform the organization’s overarching objective of creating an interactive map of Jerusalem that reflects community values, rather than top-down views. The new media intern will work as part of a team on producing the online interactive maps based on the field work done in the communities. The goal is to create four interactive maps:

  • an accurate street and housing map of Jerusalem;
  • a rich data map with information such as the number schools, health statistics, etc.
  • an unconventional interactive map that uses multimedia to tell personal stories of people in the communities that reflect larger issues; and
  • a map of grassroots organizations working in Jerusalem to address community needs (with links to individual organizational profiles).

The new media intern’s role will focus on the technical aspects of creating these maps. This may include flash or HTML5 programming, graphic design, audio/video editing, etc. This is a great opportunity for someone who is tech-savvy, knowledgeable and interested in open source tools and new media possibilities with community development and social change in mind.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem interns will undergo an orientation designed to not only introduce them to the layout of the city and the technologies essential to the project, but will also provide tools to deal with and better understand the dynamics and challenges that exist for international students working in a conflict area.


  • Work closely with the Grassroots Jerusalem new media journalist to:

  • extract themes, narratives and issues from community meetings and needs assessments and organizational profiles

  • brainstorm ways to present this information using the online digital platform in an engaging, effective and accessible manner that reflect the community’s views and values
  • work from concept to creation of the digital maps (with a focus on the technical side of things – programming, editing, graphic design, etc.)
  • participate in community events and relationship-building as part of the research necessary for creating the story-telling map
  • ●●

  • Assist Grassroots Jerusalem staff in uploading multimedia content and data to the website using Ushahidi or other online tools
  • Address and troubleshoot technical issues as they arise
  • Assist Grassroots Jerusalem where needed, as directed and requested (i.e. producing photographic and video materials)
  • Person Specification: The successful candidate will have:

    • A minimum of 2 months experience living/working in a developing world environment
    • A passion for international development, community organization and human rights
    • Proven web programming skills for interactive projects using tools such as HTML5 or Flash
    • Strong knowledge of open source tools
    • A proven ability to work independently with minimal supervision
    • Excellent communication skills and ability to work in a team

    Commitment: Interns will need to be in Jerusalem and ready to begin work on June 12th and will need to be available until August 12th. Interns are welcome to stay longer, but need to be aware of the orientation week as it is a required component to this summer’s work.

    As this is an intern position there is no salary, but the Grassroots Jerusalem staff is committed to helping their interns take advantage of the variety of funding they qualify for through their educational institutions as well as providing form letters geared to help interns reach out to their friends, family and local organizations for financial support.

    How to apply: Please email the following items to intern@grassrootsjerusalem.org

    • Resume and cover letter (max 2 pages)
    • On a separate page please answer the following questions to the best of your ability:


    1. Please describe the extent of your international experience and how you believe this experience will contribute to your feeling prepared to live in Jerusalem this summer.


  • What types of experience have you had working in a team on a common objective? What do you enjoy about working in this manner? What did you find most challenging?
  • ●●

  • What do you believe makes you an excellent candidate for this internship opportunity?
  • ●●

  • What kind of support do you require of the Grassroots Jerusalem staff in order to feel you will be able to work the most effectively this summer?
  • ●●

    Due to the high volume of applications only selected applicants will be contacted.

    November 23 2010


    How the FCC is Creating Better Open Data

    In the context of our TileMill project, we’ve been talking about our goal to help make open data from governments more actionable by making it easier to turn GIS data into custom maps. We’re focused on building better tools so people can turn data into custom maps to tell better stories online, but another important part of this process is getting good access to quality data in the first place. What does it look like to open up data effectively, so that it’s not just available but useful to the public?

    FCC Setting a Good Example

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is providing one good example by demonstrating how an iterative approach to releasing data leads to better quality. Where a lot of government agencies and other organizations with large volumes of data have taken a path of just posting everything they have and letting developers figure out the rest, the FCC has taken a different approach. They have been building applications with their own data, creating APIs based on their own needs as they build, and releasing these APIs to the public to help further vet the usefulness of the APIs and the data. This iterative process where they’re actually “eating their own dogfood” and using the data and APIs they have created is giving the data they have released a sharper edge. Instead of just posting files, the FCC is taking the time to understand how their data is used so that others can leverage it more effectively.

    We’re big supporters of this approach. After working on data visualization projects with open data sets, one of the most practical things we’ve discovered is how often there are holes in data quality or completeness until someone tries to visualize the data. The sooner data providers can figure out where these holes are, the sooner they’ll see their data leveraged by others to create greater impact. There’s no better way to discover (and then improve) data issues like this than actually working with the data.


    As part of their process to engage the developer community to provide feedback on their API releases, the FCC recently hosted an “Open Developer Day”. After the event, my colleague Eric Gundersen talked about the FCC’s “dogfooding” with Alex Howard from O’Reilly Media. Check out the video below or read Alex’s blog post for more details.

    August 10 2010


    Google hires creators of ManyEyes visualization tool

    Google has hired two of the leading researchers in visualization.

    In an understated post entitled That was fast!, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg announced that they had joined Google.

    Viégas and Wattenberg led IBM’s Visual Communication Lab, where they created the ground-breaking collaborative visualization platform Many Eyes.

    They left and set up Flowing Media a few months ago. But in the post dated August 5, the pair said they were “bidding the company adieu.”

    Right now we’re at orientation in Mountain View, becoming, as they say, more “googley.” In the months to come we’ll be starting a visualization group in Google’s office in Cambridge, MA. We’re very excited about the possibilities!

    This is a smart move by Google. It already has a lab project called Google Public Data Explorer that aims to makes large datasets easy to explore and visualize.

    June 25 2010


    FNCM conference plenary videos now available

    Please to enjoy the visual fruits of last week's Future of News and Civic Media conference plenaries. Below--available for viewing, downloading, and reusing--are the three plenary videos...

    Announcement of the 2010 Knight News Challenge winners

    Available for download at MIT TechTV.

    "Crowd Building" with Gabriella Coleman and Karim Lakhani

    Available for download at MIT TechTV.

    "Data into Action" with Nick Grossman, Ellen Miller, and Laurel Ruma

    Available for download at MIT TechTV.

    C4FCM demo videos will be available early next week.

    June 17 2010


    June 15 2010


    Fifth "Programmer-Journalist" Helps Develop Visualization Tool for Census Data

    There is probably no government data used more by journalists -- and non-journalists -- than the trove of population and demographic information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. But while the bureau has kept improving its tools for online data access, it's still a challenge for someone not well-versed in the workings of the census to find the most useful information -- let alone identify ideas for a journalistic story.

    So when my colleagues and I at the Medill School of Journalism were thinking about interesting data sets that we might make more useful for journalists, the Census was an obvious choice. It seemed like just the right focus for a new, experimental class focused on developing "tools for journalists" and enrolling a mix of journalism and computer science students.

    The class -- "Collaborative Innovation in Media and Technology" -- just wrapped up last week, with five interdisciplinary student teams presenting prototypes of tools journalists could use to make Census data more valuable. All of the tools are interesting, and I will likely write more about them in the future, but for today, I want to highlight one of them: American Visualizer.

    Andrew Paley

    American Visualizer, now in a functional "alpha" form, is worth the attention because it was the most fully realized of the tools created in the class, and because it was developed by a team including Andrew Paley, the fifth "programmer-journalist" attending Medill on a Knight News Challenge scholarship program intended to bring skilled programmers and Web developers into journalism.

    Andrew, along with journalism master's student Monica Orbe and computer science student Daniel Kim (and with guidance from Medill Prof. Owen Youngman and Northwestern computer science professors Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum) developed American Visualizer to make it easier to identify interesting stories from the Census.

    The site uses information from American FactFinder, the online query tool developed by the Census Bureau to provide public access to its data. American FactFinder, though, is a "data labyrinth," the students said. And even if a user can find his or her way through the labyrinth, the data is delivered in tabular form. Rendering the data graphically -- often the best way to understand its significance -- requires importing the data into a spreadsheet or other software and then creating a graph.

    "This tool instantaneously translates data into meaningful information -- from unintuitive and overwhelming collections of American FactFinder tables into immediate, concise and engaging visualizations," Andrew says. "And it does this on demand for whatever geographic region the user wishes.  It also allows for the comparison of two regional datasets."

    In its current form, American Visualizer makes 10 different datasets available -- five for general visualizations and an additional five for comparison visualizations. Here are some suggestions for seeing its utility (best viewed with the latest version of the Firefox browser):

    • From the opening screen, enter a city and state and a type of data you're interested in (housing, population by age, population by race, population by gender and population by level of education). Click "Create" to see a graph of this data. (Note: for a big city, the search results can be a bit slow, since at this point American Visualizer aggregates data from multiple zipcodes.)
    • To see other types of visualizations, click on the "Advanced" button in the lower right. Here you can extract data for individual zip codes, compare cities to one another and compare zip codes as well. You can display the data based on raw numbers (for instance, the number of owner-occupied vs. rental units) or based on percentages of the whole. For the comparison of cities and zipcodes, there are additional data sets available: Labor force, mean commute time, median household income, and population below the poverty level.

    Technical details: American Visualizer takes advantage of the Open Flash Chart open source visualization library.  Beyond that, the underlying architecture is built on standard and widely available LAMP stack server technologies--mainly PHP and MySQL.

    Of course, since this is just an "alpha" release, there are many improvements and enhancements that Andrew and his team want to make: speedier query results; additional data types; user-generated customization of fonts, colors and layout; the ability to embed the visualizations, and a mobile app that would generate data based on the user's geolocation.

    "Data alone can tell stories. The problem is that data-only stories can be hard to read," Andrew says. "But pictures, as the saying goes, are worth a thousand words."

    This was the third interdisciplinary class Medill faculty members have co-taught with Hammond and Birnbaum -- and the first to focus on tools for journalists. These collaborative classes are conducted under the auspices of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media and Journalism.

    The first collaboration, last spring, served as a capstone class for the Medill master's students who participated. In that class, student teams created working prototypes of five products combining journalism and technology. One of them, dubbed "StatsMonkey," which writes baseball game stories from box scores and play-by-play information, has attracted a fair amount of attention. One of the team members who developed StatsMonkey was Nick Allen, one of the Knight "programmer-journalists." Asst. Prof. Jeremy Gilbert and I served as the Medill faculty for this class.

    The second collaboration, taught by Gilbert, Hammond and Birnbaum, took place in the 2010 winter quarter and enrolled undergraduate students from the two schools. I haven't written about it here because none of the Knight scholars were involved.

    Andrew enrolled at Medill last September and has one quarter of graduate study left at Medill, which he'll complete this fall. This summer, he will be working on News21, a multimedia reporting project involving journalism schools from around the country. (Also working on News21 will be Manya Gupta, the 4th Knight "programmer-journalist" scholarship winner.)

    Among our scholarship winners, Andrew is somewhat unusual in that he actually studied journalism before -- as an undergraduate at Saint Michael's College in Vermont. Before coming to Medill, Andrew was a musician and a Web developer, most recently for LongTail Video, best known for its open-source media player.

    Learn some more about Andrew in this Q&A:

    Tell us about your background.

    I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and spent my childhood split between Madison, Wisconsin, and the hills around Burlington, Vermont.

    After high school, I went off to Boston to study new media at Emerson College, but the program was in its infancy then -- and I was already becoming versed in web design/development -- so I switched gears/schools.

    I ended up back in Vermont at Saint Michael's College, pursuing a journalism degree and a concentration in fine arts. While there, I co-founded, designed and helped launch the first online publication at the school and was a finalist in an international competition to re-imagine Internet browsers. I graduated in 2006, but I hadn't been on campus since 2004, finishing through a protracted series of independent studies that I arranged with key advisors.

    My departure from the college campus was due to my other life in music. I spent most of 2004 through 2007 recording and touring the continent (and, eventually, Western Europe in 2009) with my band and through other projects. I continue to write, record and play with a couple of projects.

    After many years of itinerant life, I settled temporarily in Brooklyn in 2008 and took a job as lead designer and web developer at LongTail Video. I'd been doing regular freelance and volunteer design/development work for a wide array of companies, bands, non-profits and politics-related entities throughout touring, and the timing worked out.

    And then I came back to journalism.

    How did you get interested in journalism?

    I've always been a political junkie and a writer. It was a natural fit. After a few years away from it I came back because information is a powerful and potentially overwhelming thing, and I'd like to play some part in figuring out how to parse the glut of it growing online into something meaningful and useful. That's really going to be the key going forward -- not just information access, but information clarity and context. Beyond that, I think that the media has been failing us (and our local, national and global debates) for many years, and I'm hoping to be involved in changing that.

    What do you think are some interesting career opportunities for people who blend journalism and technology knowledge?

    There are all the (newly) traditional places that a tech-oriented person could show up in the newsroom: web producer, database spelunker, interactive designer, etc. But that's an incomplete portrait of the possibilities.

    In the same way that creative development and information design have upended much of the old world media -- from Napster to to Bittorrent to YouTube to Twitter to hundreds of other innovations big and small -- I think news is next. And in many cases, the new media barons at the helm of all this innovation came out of literally nowhere. They were 20- and 30-somethings with big ideas and enough development prowess to get them done. That's where the real opportunity for tech-minded people who have a passion for news and information lies -- creative innovation (with both existing tools and those yet to be created).

    News is ripe for this kind of directed reinvention, and I think it's already starting to happening with many of the open government and "sunlight" initiatives taking hold online (not to mention the ways those other innovations -- say, YouTube and Twitter -- have altered the way news happens). Pushing forward will require developers to build the new platforms and re-imagine existing ones and journalists to make them meaningful. I would imagine that those who will do this most effectively will be the ones who understand both journalism and technology.

    April 01 2010


    At PBS IdeaLab: "Sourcemap Makes Data Visualizations Transparent"

    The latest C4FCM post from the Idea Lab blog:

    While pitched as a way to create and visualize "open supply chains," Sourcemap's real virtue is that the data itself is fully sourced. Like the links at the bottom of a Wikipedia article and the accompanying edit history, you know exactly who added the data and where that data came from. You can take that data and make counter-visualizations if you feel the data isn't correctly represented. Sourcemap's very structure acknowledges that visualization is an editorial process and gives others a chance to work with the original data. For example, here's an example of a Sourcemap for an Ikea bed:

    Read the rest at PBS MediaShift Idea Lab: "Sourcemap Makes Data Visualizations Transparent"

    November 16 2009


    Communications Forum: "What's New at the Center for Future Civic Media"

    MIT Center for Future Civic Media Director Chris Csikszentmihalyi presents the Center's most recent projects. From community mapping to news tracking, from collective action to rural empowerment, from cultural mixing to carbon consciousness, civic media is any technology or technique that strengthens a geographic community. Civic media researchers will demonstrate their projects in a lightning-round format, with time for discussion and questions following each presentation listed below.

    read more

    November 06 2009


    Visualising the Guardian Datablog

    I’m doing a regular weekly visualisation for the excellent Guardian Datablog, the front-end for an amazing library of statistics and data, lovingly hand-gathered by The Guardian.

    My first post is about Deadly Drugs.

    There’s been a furore over here in the UK about the dangers of illegal drugs. The Government has sacked its most senior drugs advisor, Dr Professor Nutt, after he claimed cannabis was no more harmful than alcohol. And that horse-riding, and specifically ‘equasy’ (Equine Addiction Syndrome) was riskier than taking ecstasy. (Statistically he’s correct. His study here.).

    Anyway, digging at the numbers behind his statements and how drugs are reported in the popular press, I found some stuff I didn’t expect about drug harms.

    Check out the article on The Guardian blog for detail and data. You want both right?

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