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The Chicago Data Visualization Group (CDVG) focuses on learning, creating, sharing, & promoting data visualization in Chicago

Postponed D3 Workshop

April 1, 2014


Unfortunately, due to last minute scheduling issues, we will be postponing the D3 workshop planned for Thursday, April 3rd. We hope to reschedule this meetup soon and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Hi, I’m Tom.

March 27, 2014


Tom Schenk Jr.

Josh Doyle has done a remarkable job at establishing the Chicago Data Visualization Group in the city. Just a couple of years ago, noticing a gap in Chicago’s active peer network, he rightly identified a larger interest in data visualization. As he noted, Josh will be active in the community but I will be stepping-in to organize the group’s meetups. I am very excited that I have an opportunity to spend a little time working with this group. In large part, I am relieved that Josh has done the hard work of keeping a new group active in it’s initial stage. In the upcoming year, I have the luxury of building upon previous work.

What will that work entail? Namely, I want to increase the number of opportunities for members through the meetup group. We’ve begun scheduling a pair of events each month; a workshop early in the month and a seminar or presentation at the end. It would be ideal to keep this pace throughout the year, if not more.

There is a general approach to upcoming events. In addition to increasing frequency, I hope this group can provide a rich variety of meetups in these areas:

  1. Show & Tell
    Chicago’s local talent has produced superb visualization, many of which feature Chicago itself. Companies like Datascope Analytics, Datamade, Chicago Tribune, and others actively use data visualization as a means of effective communication. To further the local community–our community–I hope we can share work through a show and tell for every meetup.

    This was introduced as “lightning talks” in the most recent meetup, but will continue to exist as a show & tell.In addition to showing completed works, I hope members will be brave enough where work-in-progress can be shared to solicit feedback in the development process.Want to give a show & tell? Bring a laptop (and dongle) that can connect to a VGA cable and be prepared to talk. For now, we’ll keep the lightning talk format to a 5-minute limit.

  2. Teach & Learn
    Data visualization is a profession that involves skill and toolset. We are fortunate that many of us work in a growing software development, UI/UX, data analytics, and general IT fields. But it also leaves limited opportunity to learn in a rapidly changing field. This year we will be offering a series of free workshops on various data visualization tools. Paul Katsen has held the well-received D3 workshops.

    In the upcoming year, we aim to expand to other tools, including R and more D3. We also would like for you to lead sessions. With over 800 members in our group alone, there is sufficient talent that could be taught to others from our own ranks. Always feel free to reach out with a new idea for a workshop that can be useful for budding and experienced data visualization-ists.

  3. Seminars
    We already have had great speakers, such as Andy and Cole, visit us in Chicago. I hope to bring more leaders in visualization to our meetups. There are some exciting speakers that are being confirmed for later this year.Local talent is also important. Chicago-based Datascope Analytics have presented to our group, as will Datamade, Chicago Tribune, and a variety of people who participated in the DIVVY Data Challenge.

    In May, we will be holding an event at the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s City of Big Data exhibit. I hope we can continue to feature data visualization from our own community as featured seminars.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but a start to a good year. I am interested to hear your feedback through this blog, @ChicagoDataViz, chicagodataviz@gmail,com, and at the events.

Graphing in R & ggplot2 workshop off to a great start!

October 10, 2012



Thanks to the 30+ CDVG members that came out to the first night of the Graphing in R & ggplot2 workshop at 1871. It was a great start and I look forward to doing more of these in the future. I’ve updated the presentation and posted it to slideshare. Here is a highlight of the changes:

  • added link to a matrix multiplication tutorial on the Matrix: Arithmetic slide (p. 26).
  • changed the data frame subsetting example to access columns by name instead of index number.
  • cleaned up typos.
  • added references page.

Free copy of the R Cookbook for the first person to post and share a valid solution to any one of the exercises on slide number 36. You can post on your own blog, on our CDVG blog (contact me) or Github(recommended). just let us know where you put it.

Another reminder that we don’t have the IMSA classroom on October 22 and we will either push the schedule a week or just meet in the shared areas of 1871. We will make that decision before leaving 1871 this coming Monday.

I look forward to seeing everyone next week when we will start using ggplot2 under the tutelage of Tom Schenk. Bring $5 if you want to have pizza that night. Drinks are BYO. I’ll bring a few extra beers for anyone that wants to do a beer swap. It’s a great way to discover something new to drink.

See everyone Monday.


Josh Doyle

CDVG members will meet to discuss free online data visualization course offered by Knight Center.

October 10, 2012


Alberto Cairo and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is offering a free online introduction to data journalism and infographics course in October. I am signing up and I hope that some of you will join me. If you want to discuss the course materials with your fellow CDVG members also taking the course then sign up for the meeting at our meetup site.

Meeting Topic Suggestion: Real-time data flows and updates with no lags in order to make better decisions on fresh data

October 1, 2012


CDVG member Adam Kallish recently proposed:

Real-time data flows and updates with no lags in order to make better decisions on fresh data

as a topic for a future meeting.

Please express your interest in this topic by commenting below.

Meeting Topic Suggestion: Temporal meaning of data depending on the context of access and use

October 1, 2012


CDVG member Adam Kallish recently proposed:

Discussion of the temporal meaning of data depending on the context of access and use (work/home/travel)

as a topic for a future meeting.

Please express your interest in this topic by commenting below.

Meeting Topic Suggestion: Cognitive and workload performance increases through data visualization

October 1, 2012


CDVG member Adam Kallish recently proposed:

Discussion of cognitive and workload performance increases through data visualization and interacting with data

as a topic for a future meeting.

Please express your interest in this topic by commenting below.

Meeting Topic Suggestion: Platform implications for data visualization

October 1, 2012


CDVG member Adam Kallish recently proposed:

discussions on rich internet applications and discussions when browser based, or fat client/RIA applications for multi-modal platforms (laptop/tablet/phone/hybrid) are best applicable for a particular solution

as a topic for a future meeting.

Please express your interest in this topic by commenting below.

Workshop: Graphing with R & ggplot2

September 28, 2012


Descriptionggplot2 example by Hadley Wickham

Introduce yourself to R and the powerful graphing library based on the Grammar of Graphics–ggplot2. Attendees will work in small teams to learn how to generate basic and advanced plots in ggplot2 to solve a variety of problems. The workshop will also review the fundamentals of data visualization to increase the readability and clarity of plots.

The workshop is open to all types of users, including those who are unfamiliar with R. We will mix some demonstration with small group-based projects. Basic principles of data visualization will also be emphasized alongside ggplot2 demonstrations to put the program into a larger context.


The workshop is targeted to individuals who are not familiar with ggplot2, including beginners who are new to the R software. Attendees will need to bring there own computer where we will install the R and ggplot2 software–don’t worry, both are open source and free.

Time, Location, & Signup

The workshop begins October 8  in the IMSA classroom at 1871 located on the 12th floor of The Merchandise Mart (222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza). It includes four sessions (outline below) meeting on consecutive Mondays at 6pm. The IMSA room isn’t available on October 22 so, depending on the number of attendees, we will either meet in a smaller conference room or push the schedule a week.

There are only 30 seats available for this workshop due to the size limitations of the IMSA classroom. Interested attendees need to go to the CDVG meetup site to sign up for each of the four sessions.

Workshop Leaders

The workshop will be led by CDVG member Tom Schenk. Tom is a Senior Research Data Analyst at Northwestern University, Department of Medical Social Sciences. You can read more about Tom on his website. He also curates Data Nouveau–a collection of interesting data visualizations on the web.

Tom will be assisted by CDVG member Josh Doyle (who is relatively new to R & ggplot2 and will ask the dumb questions so others won’t have to). We also expect to have some other experienced folks in the room to help out.

Workshop Outline

Introduction to R (October 8)

We will familiarized ourselves with the R environment with a gentle introduction to the basic functions. After installing R, we will import and inspect data sets while becoming familiar with R terminology. By the end of the class, we will conduct basic descriptions and plots of the data.

  • Learn how to import data into R.
  • Understand the structure of data sets and their components..
  • Learn how to describe data.
  • Download and install new packages from CRAN.
  • Plot data using basic R functions.

Introduction to ggplot2 (October 15)

We will begin to use the ggplot2 package to create basic, but handsome, univariate, bivariate, and time-series graphs. We will introduce the functions and terminology used in ggplot2. We will also explain the fundamentals of proper data visualization techniques and how it relates to the ggplot2 defaults.

  • Install the ggplot2 package.
  • Use geometric shapes to display data.

Grammar of Graphics (October 22 or 29)

We will continue to show more advanced features of ggplot2, including how it relates to Leland Wilkinson’s Grammar of Graphics. We will show how to plot more than 2 variables in a single graph using colors, shapes, and sizes. We will also discuss how human ability to perceive different shapes and colors should drive the choices we make in data visualization.

  • Using scales to add information.
  • Using coordinates to aid interpretations.
  • Easily create small multiple graphs.

Plots for Publications (October 29 or November 5)

After learning how to make plots, we will learn how to customize graphs with custom colors, labels, and themes. We will emphasize how to create a customized look to be included in publications, including adding labels in diagrams to help readers.

  • Saving graphs from R into publication-friendly formats.
  • Use custom colors for plots.
  • Use your own fonts.
  • Customizing ggplot2 graphs with the new themes feature.

Recap: CDVG Meeting of Aug. 29, 2012

August 30, 2012


UPDATE: Links to presentations from our meeting on 8/29.


Thank you to everyone that turned out last evening for our CDVG meeting. Special thanks to

  • Dean Malmgren for spending an hour discussing many of projects he and his partners (Mike Stringer & Aaron Wolf) at Datascope Analytics have delivered. I think these guys like nothing better than a wrangling a massive and messy network of data and discovering insights. You can read more about the Proctor & Gamble project on the Datascope Analytics site.
  • Matej Mavricek of Power Switch for sharing the challenge he has in visualizing the US Electric Grid. I think this is an interesting problem with insights yet to be discovered. The resulting visualizations might be an interesting combination of network diagrams and maps. He is willing to meet with anyone interested in this topic. He can be reached at and by phone at (312) 344-1404.
  • Everyone that asked questions and approached me after the meeting. I enjoyed speaking with each of you and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to spend more time.
  • Technexus and Taylor Kinsella for hosting.
 A few things I mentioned during the meeting…
  • Our weekly learning and hack nights starting October 1 at 1871. Read more about this here.
  • Brian Ringley, CDVG member and a Solution Architect with Slalom Consulting, is representing all Microsoft visualization technologies: Excel, Powerpivot, and Powerview. We are scheduling a future presentation with him but he is open to receiving questions now from any members that have interests in these tools.
  • Open City. This group is a great example of what can be done with open access to government data and open source tools. You can support what they do by taking a look at their apps. You can also participate in the weekly Open Government Hack Nights they host.
  • Chicago Tableau User Group meetup on October 2. This group is organized by  Rina Bongsu-Petersen. I hear that these have been great meetups in the past. I’ll be going and I hope to see you there.
  • Books that I forgot to give away. They are Designing Data Visualizations by Noah Llinsky & Julie Steele,  R Cookbook by Paul Teetor, and  Getting Started with D3 by Mike Dewar. So I know I said that I would give these to the first three people that sent me an email with a suggestion for meetings but…I’m going to change the rules a bit. Sorry. Instead, members that share a relevant visualization, article, or blog post will have their name entered in to a drawing for a book. We will draw the names at our next meeting to be scheduled for September or October. Share twice and your name is entered twice, share three times and your name is entered three times, and so on. Options for sharing include tweeting to @chicagodatavis, posting to the Chicago Data Visualization Group on LinkedIn, or posting to the CDVG website. I’ll have to grant you publishing access to the latter which I will do willingly for those wanting to contribute. Happy sharing!
  • I’m always interested in those members that want to get involved in the group. Contact me if you are interested in hosting/sponsoring a meeting, finding venues, making this boring looking website cool, etc.

Thanks again for coming last night.


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