CartoDB MLB Birthplace Map

Finally, thanks to the brilliance of the CartoDB platform and abetted by the beautiful Stamen Design watercolors theme, I have a map that tracks the debut of thousands of major league ballplayers from 1871 to 2013 (2014 data will be added at a future date). This is one I’ve been cooking up for awhile, but couldn’t get to as a top priority, given that it required some late night time fixing geo codes for hundreds of towns in places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Venezuela. All that was finally completed, giving me a dataset with a high degree of integrity – probably 99% accurate.

Have a look at the finished map – going to full screen mode will let you appreciate it even more:

This is the first in what could become a series, as the same information could be displayed in a variety of other formats such as bubbles, choropleth (filled maps), or clusters.

What to say about CartoDB? It’s absolutely brilliant in both concept and execution, and the founders seem willing to make strategic modifications on the fly. For now, I’m working with the free version (limited data capacity), but in time, may want to step up, given the capabilities of the software.

Here’s a look at what I’m talking about, so you can get a feel for the user interface – very clean and easy to navigate. First, the entire window for the current project:


CSS styling is also available for those wishing to tweak their maps, with the wizards providing the initial styling:


You can even limit your data using the available SQL window, a great option for users (like myself) who are well acquainted with SQL:


Finally, a simple toggle at the top of the window lets you move seamlesly between the map and data views. Here’s a quick look at the data for this project:


I should mention that working with the data is just as easy as styling the map or using the wizards. I have been able to quickly change string values to dates, and to geo-reference the data using the latitude and longitude fields in my text file. Anyone with experience working with Excel or any number of database platforms knows that converting field types is often very challenging, and sometimes comes with the risk of losing the data in that field. Not so with CartoDB, as it easily converted the date values to timestamps suitable for the torque (timeline) mapping wizard.

You should be seeing more work from me using CartoDB, and it won’t be limited to just baseball data.

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Day 3 Eyeo Festival Recap

Well, it’s come and gone again, like a fleeting annual romance, a la Same Time Next Year, the Alan Alda & Ellen Burstyn feature about a couple that meets for a single weekend once a year. This is how I feel about the Eyeo Festival, where once a year for the last three years I have this short flirtation with this incredible event, meeting new people, reacquainting with others, and opening my mind to new ideas and people. So it was on the final day of this year’s event, with more amazing speakers sharing the work they create.

Morning began with Lauren McCarthy, recognizable from prior festivals, but presenting for the first time at Eyeo. She shared a creatively diverse group of projects she has worked on dating back a number of years, some merely playful, others representing bold forays into uncharted territory, many revolving around human relationships and interaction. One of the projects even netted her a bit of controversy, including some discussion on Fox news, hilariously shared with the Eyeo audience. Here are some of her gems: Crowdpilot, Us+, and Inneract.

Next up was Eric Rodenbeck, head of the great Stamen map and visualization design studio. Rodenbeck shared a number of Stamen projects, and also provided a great deal of insight on how to keep a small design studio going for better than a dozen years. Stamen does a lot of impressive work, and shares much of it in the public domain, including their Map Stack application. Lots of great advice provided for those out on their own, but also much relevance to tinkerers like myself working in large organizations.

One of the lunchtime sessions featured Ben Jones of Tableau, sharing some of the capabilities of the new Tableau 8.2, to be released very soon. I’m already very familiar with Tableau through daily work use, so much of the material was not new, but some of the upcoming 8.2 features are exciting indeed. After the talk, I had the opportunity to speak with both Ben and the Tableau mapping lead. Maps in 8.2 were designed in conjunction with the aforementioned Stamen, so they are likely to be a significant improvement over the already respectable maps in prior Tableau versions.

After lunch, my first stop was to hear the irreverent Jessica Hagy, who has done more to make the index card useful than anyone in recent memory. Her simple line drawings, typically either x-y axes or Venn diagrams, merge often unlikely pairs of ideas, items, or things, and hilariously plot them. Hagy has a number of other interesting projects, so take a moment to check them out.

Roman Verostko won honors as the oldest speaker (and attendee) at this years festival, and has been creating art projects since before most attendees were even born (before many of their parents were born, even!). At 85 years young, Verostko was the creator of a code-based machine to control brush strokes, in a process known as algorithmic painting. He also spents many years as a Benedictine monk, before leaving the monastery to become a full-time artist and professor. Versotko was one of the three pioneers featured at Eyeo, along with Frieder Nake and Lillian Schwartz.

The festival ended for me with the great Santiago Ortiz, creator of some of the most amazing interactive projects to be found on the web in recent years. Ortiz, who is based in Argentina, took the audience through a talk primarily focused on a 6-month period characterized as the most stressful, challenging, and uncertain period of his life, after parting ways with a previous employer and setting out on his own. After a number of physical hardships related to stress and fatigue, he eventually triumphed and began creating some incredible work that has to be seen by all visualizers. Ortiz work is heavily influenced by his background in and love for mathematics, which results in some incredibly elegant work. This was a very inspiring end to my third Eyeo trip.

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