WHAT MAKES DATA BEAUTIFUL, AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Beautiful data is interesting, useful, public, and free. Data must be of interest to someone, somewhere: its collector, an audience, a constituency. It must be useful to those whose interests demand its collection and maintenance, by helping them understand something about their environment. Data is most beautiful when it is public and free, and available for inspection and debate.
This is a story about Oakland Crimespotting (http://oakland.crimespotting.org), a research project of Stamen Design (http://stamen.com) in San Francisco. Crimespotting (see Figure 11-1) was developed as a response to the existing Oakland Police Department crime-reporting application, CrimeWatch (http://gismaps.oaklandnet.com/crimewatch/). As with many projects, Crimespotting didn't start with a concrete end goal in mind; it was born out of frustration, matured through basic technical research, and was finally made public after a traumatic crime in Oakland focused national attention on the city. It seems that this is a typical project arc: what starts with directed noodling often ends as a full-fledged informational project. This one in particular is an example of what Stamen advisor Ben Cerveny calls "things informationalize": a world of data is being moved onto the Internet piece by piece, exposed to and collided against an open source toolchain and methodology.
Figure 11-1. The logo for ...