Interactive map of global shipping routes

Kiln and the UCL Energy Institute have created, a fascinating interactive map that tracks global shipping for a year (2012).

Screengrab of
How the map looks with all the routes selected. Click on image to go to

Here’s how it works:

The merchant fleet is divided into five categories, each of which has a filter and a CO2 and freight counter for the hour shown on the clock:

  • Container (e.g. manufactured goods): number of container slots equivalent to 20 feet (i.e. a 40-foot container takes two slots)
  • Dry bulk (e.g. coal, aggregates): combined weight of cargo, fuel, water, provisions, passengers and crew a vessel can carry, measured in thousand tonnes
  • Tanker (e.g. oil, chemicals): same as dry bulk
  • Gas bulk (e.g. liquified natural gas): capacity for gases, measured in cubic metres
  • Vehicles (e.g. cars): same as dry bulk

If you’re interested in tracking ships around New Zealand (or anywhere, really), I can recommend The website and the app are great.

You might also be interested in the arrival and departure of ships at New Zealand’s ports:

North Port (Marsden Point)
Ports of Auckland
Port of Tauranga
Port Nelson
Napier Port
Centre Port (Wellington)
Port Taranaki
Port Otago
South Port (Bluff)


The power of dedicated time… and spreadsheets

One of the great things about attending a workshop is that you give yourself time to focus on one thing for a while.

And in the case of a Webstock workshop, there’s also the comfort that comes with realising that other people have spreadsheets of ideas kicking around on their laptops. Not little scraps of notes, or post-it notes on a whiteboard, but spreadsheets organised into columns and rows and sections with shading and emphasis. Phew. Not just me, then.

I was in a workshop today with David McCandless, the London-based data journalist behind Information is Beautiful, who’s here to speak at the Webstock conference in Wellington this week (Feb 14-18 2011).

Early on he showed us a spreadsheet he’d used while working up ideas for his book Information is Beautiful – a process that worked through eliminations, to defining simple questions to answer, and on to answering them and presenting the information visually in a way that informed rather than baffled.

He talked about the power of boredom, ignorance, bewilderment and frustration (perhaps with a news story) as spurs to find out more, make it interesting, make it relevant and compelling.

He talked about the need for:

Integrity = truth, consistency, honesty, accuracy
Function = easienss, usefulness, usbility, fit
Form = beauty, structure, appearance
Interestingness = relevant, meaningul, new

We got into small groups to come up with 10 concepts we’d like to understand more about. What a relief to sit for an hour and hash out ideas  – and actually get past the fleeting-idea-while-doing-something-else stage. Was impressed by the kinds of concepts and breadth of them.  Got to love the way people think.

Later we sketched out ways for visualising the ideas – more challenging than it sounds. My biggest problem was narrowing down the focus of what I was trying to communicate. Nothing new under the sun, eh.

Taking away quite a bit to think about. So, thanks David.

I’m going to be taking a few notes this week  and will be posting them here (it’s a TiddlyWiki, which is still my preferred notepad for conferences since it allows me to update as I go and organise navigation as I go). They’re very rough notes, but you’re welcome to have a look if you’re interested.

Journalism in the Age of Data (2010)

A documentary on data journalism by Geoff McGhee via Flowing Data, who name-check some of the people interviewed:

Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viègas kick things off with some of the work they did with IBM. Then it’s Ben Fry from Fathom, then Jeffrey Heer from Stanford, and then Steve Duenes, Matt Ericson, and Amanda Cox of The New York Times. Later on, there’s some Nicholas Felton on his Feltron Reportand Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen, with several others.

You can watch it below, but I recommend viewing the annotated version which adds links and references as you go. It’s really nicely done.

I grabbed a few links provided in the tools section:

Journalism in the Age of Data from Geoff McGhee on Vimeo.


Maps show how transport shrinks the world


New Scientist has published some beautiful maps exploring which are the remotest places on earth – given how much international transport we have available to us.

“The maps are based on a model which calculated how long it would take to travel to the nearest city of 50,000 or more people by land or water. The model combines information on terrain and access to road, rail and river networks. It also considers how factors like altitude, steepness of terrain and hold-ups like border crossings slow travel.

Plotted onto a map, the results throw up surprises. First, less than 10% of the world’s land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city. What’s more, many areas considered remote and inaccessible are not as far from civilisation as you might think. In the Amazon, for example, extensive river networks and an increasing number of roads mean that only 20% of the land is more than two days from a city – around the same proportion as Canada’s Quebec province.

This one shows roads around the world:

This one shows shipping routes:

And this one shows rivers:

More lovely maps here. H/T to Cliff Kuang at Fast Company.