November 7, 2014

State of the Future

The 2013-14 State of the Future is a compelling global thematic report produced by the Millennium Project based in Washington, D.C.  Researchers from around the world collaborate to collect and provide a diversity of opinions, then distill and integrate those data to forecast the future.  It’s a thought-provoking read into the advancements and challenges of the humanity and what the future might hold for our 7.1 billion people living together in this interconnected world.

For such a special report, the graphs are quite rudimentary (download the 2013-14 State of the Future report here).  There’s such a wealth of information in this 243-page report that can yield many different visualizations.  I think this report can benefit tremendously from a team of data visualization experts who can produce beautiful and meaningful graphs befitting this fascinating report.  For my part, I’ve visualized the different indicators that together compose the State of the Future Index (page 5).

The data for this viz has both breadth (25 indicators) and depth (215 countries and from 1972-2013), however, the data is not uniform because it is not available for all the years and for all countries.   So there’s a small hiccup in the viz when changing from some indicators to another.

For example, data for indicator ‘Life expectancy at birth (years)’ ranges from 1972-2012.  But for indicator ‘Internet users (per 100 people)’, data is available only from 1990-2012.  So when the indicator is changed from ‘Life expectancy’ to ‘Internet users’, the world map might disappear.

The solution is to scroll to the next available year and the world map will reappear.

Since this report is for futurists, I’ve used the Forecast function in the ‘World’ graph to predict the next 6-years trend for the indicators using 95% prediction intervals.  In addition, the ‘World’ graph shows how the world population is doing for each indicator.  There're more winnings than losings so we are making progress over the years, albeit at the expense of the environment!

As an optimist, I believe the future is bright and promising ahead.

October 10, 2014


In April 2014, Nigeria surpassed South Africa as having the biggest economy in Africa.  Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was adjusted to $510 billion in 2013, 89% larger than previously estimated.  This was because the economists adjusted how the country’s GDP was calculated, something they hadn’t done since 1990.

GDP adjustment is the process of replacing an old base year with a more recent one which reflects the dynamic price structure and captures economic growth. The IMF standard for GDP adjustment is every 5 years.  But in Nigeria’s case, it took 24 years.

What had changed in the last 24 years was Nigeria’s fast economic expansion, changing from a financial base of crude oil to more diversified activity including such vibrant sectors as manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, mobile telephony and Nollywood.  For example, the number of mobile phone subscribers has leapt from a few hundred thousand customers to some 120M today.  The telecoms sector has jumped from less than 1% to almost 9% of GDP.  Nollywood, which did not appear in 1990, is said to contribute 1.4% to the GDP.  More small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) have also been flourished. 1

Now that Nigeria’s GDP is larger than United Arab Emirates’ and South Africa becomes Africa’s Number Two, Nigeria is expected to continue its 7% average annual growth, while South Africa’s economy would chug along with 2% growth for next couple of years.

The reality is that Nigeria still has many problems to overcome such as corruption, underdeveloped infrastructure, & large poverty.  However, Nigeria is a young market and the opportunity is huge.  "If you're not in Nigeria, you're not in Africa," said Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.



1 Mordi, Frederick, “Nigeria overtakes rival South Africa”, African Business, June 2014, pp. 74-75

This viz was made up of basic bar and line charts, with a touch of color to make it pop.

September 19, 2014

Technology, Media & Telecoms

I was happy to come across “The Future of Technology, Media & Telecoms” report from CM Research in London.  This trend forecast report provides in-depth global thematic research in the Technology, Media and Telecoms sectors convergence.  It’s a fascinating read into the competitive battle among high-tech companies for global supremacy.

I thought this report can benefit from network analysis and proceeded to do so, using the ‘Build Network Graphs in Tableau’ guest post by Michael Martin as reference.   I didn’t make good progress so I consulted with Valdis Krebs, the leading expert in social network analysis at Orgnet, LLC, who informed me that Tableau is good for standard statistics (independent variables), but not designed for relational statistics (interdependent variables) on a large scale.  Instead, he graciously designed the Network Analysis graph and the Behavior graph using Orgnet’s proprietary application. 

The Network Analysis graph shows relationship among companies, with the node size indicates number of partnerships/alliances a company has formed with others.  The top 2 companies that have the most number of alliances are Microsoft and Samsung.  Surprisingly, Apple, the company with the biggest market value of $600 billion, doesn’t have as many alliances as its rival Samsung, maybe because Apple prefers to form a tight circle of trusted partnerships.  Large successful Internet companies such as Google and Amazon also don’t have as many alliances, perhaps because they’re still relatively young or because they’re pioneers in their own paths.  

For an even deeper analysis, we look into a behavior graph.  Accordingly to Valdis Krebs, “Two companies are connected if they have chosen a similar set of partners.  Now, since partners usually bring new knowledge, technology and ability to a situation, we don’t want to be linked to our competitors in this map -- we lose advantage because we are accessing the same resources and knowledge.  In fact in this behavior graph, we want to have as few links as possible -- we do not want to be following a similar strategy that many others are.  So, the companies that have a lot of connections to each other, especially if they are competitors, are all constraining each other's ability to innovate and compete -- you can not be different and better if all of you are competing on the same knowledge and abilities.  Notice key industry players like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, and Amazon do not have many companies with similar partner patterns.  They each are planning a unique ecosystem to compete from.”

(Valdis Krebs/Orgnet)

In the ‘Stocks’ tab is the bar chart for the cumulative 5 ½ years stock price performance from January 2009 to June 2014.  This chart is similar to the one in the “The Future of Technology, Media & Telecoms” report, but now it has a filter for different categories (look at Netflix in Infrastructure Software & Cloud category!).

This visualization was created with the permission of Cyrus Mewawalla, Director of CM Research, and with the contribution of Valdis Krebs, Founder of Orgnet, LLC..  I’m grateful to both for their generosity.

August 8, 2014

2014 World's Strongest Banks

The inspiration for this post came from this intricate Scattering Points in Parallel Coordinates (SPPC) design from Peking University.  One look and I was immediately captivated by its sophisticated complexity.  Joe Mako has also visualized similar multidimensional data with parallel coordinates chart using Tableau.

For this visualization of the world's strongest banks, 8 dimensions were used to form parallel coordinates.  For dimensions Overall Score, Non-Performing Assets to Total Assets, and Efficiency (Costs to Revenues), the lower the value, the higher the ranking.  Whereas for dimensions Tier 1 Capital ratio, Loan-Loss Reserves to Non-Performing Assets, and Deposits to Funding, the higher the value, the higher the ranking.

Let’s interpret the chart (this visualization would benefit more with a larger data population but Bloomberg Markets only released top 20 out of 97 banks ranked).  Asian and European banks account for about 40% each of the top 20 banks, and North American banks, 20%.  In general, Asian and European banks rank higher than North American banks.  The top ranking is Hang Seng bank from Hong Kong, followed by Desjardins Group from Canada and Norinchukin Bank from Japan, both tied at rank #2.


For Tier 1 Capital Ratio, European banks generally have higher ratio, which means they are relatively more well-capitalized than Asian and North American banks.

For Deposits to Funding, European banks have lower ratio, which means they tend to lend more and are less liquid than Asian and American banks.  On another hand, Asian and American banks have higher ratio, which means they lend less and are more liquid.  This might also mean that Asian and American banks might not earn as much as they can compared to European banks.

For Costs to Revenues ratio, Asian banks have lower ratio, which means that they are run more efficiently than European and American banks.

July 25, 2014


First initiated by Goldman Sachs as an investment concept in 2001, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, & South Africa) are gaining economic power and aiming to create a new political and economic order.  To them, the current financial system lead by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is out of touch and not suited to support the world’s emerging markets.  BRICS accounts for 30% of world’s territory and 42% of world population.  Four of the BRICS — China, India, Brazil and Russia — are now ranked among the world’s 10 largest economies.

Let’s compare between the US and BRICS economic outputs.  In 2000, the combined GDP of BRICS was only 26% of the US’ GDP.  Thirteen years later in 2013, BRICS’ combined GDP has climbed to 94% of the US’ GDP, with China’s GDP experiences the sharpest increase.  China’s GDP annual growth rate is also highest among the US and other BRICS nations.

The US still commands the highest GDP per capita, whereas China’s is still relatively low.  However, when analyzing the Total Reserves, China stands out for having the fastest increase in total reserves from 2000-2013, and the highest total reserves in 2013 (6 times more than that of the US).  The huge total reserves not only can buffer China from drastic economic upheavals, but also provide tremendous economic power.  

With the launch of BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB) headquartered in Shanghai, I can’t wait to see the sibling rivalry of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the NDB.

July 11, 2014


Since ‘87, Forbes magazine has published the annual billionaires’ list.  The list highlights the ultra-rich individuals who exert a powerful influence on the world economy that has become interconnected and more accessible.

This viz shows the global billionaires from 1987 to 2014 and includes some interesting trends:

1)  Japan started out as a leader in 1987 and is now far behind.  It seems like the country has lost its mojo in term of mega-wealth creation. 

2)  BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, & South Africa) increasingly contribute many new billionaires to the list since 2000’s.

3)  The United States, with the largest economy in the world, has long dominated the billionaires’ list and still represents the land of opportunities.  As Forbes magazine puts it, “We needn’t love our billionaires, but we should be grateful we live in a society that keeps creating new ones.”

 ** This viz was originally designed as a motion chart, but since Tableau Public doesn’t support motion chart, the viz was modified so that in order to see a ‘motion’ chart, you have to manually increase the year.  Sorry for the not-so-ideal user experience.


Full of envy?  That’s OK because envy is easier to bear than poverty.

June 20, 2014

Refugees SOS

Living in America, it’s hard to relate to the story of refugees because life is peaceful here and we don’t have a war to run from.  The refugees are covered in the news once in a while when Angelina Jolie decided to show up in some far-away camps to raise awareness of the refugees’ plight. 

For this dashboard, I employ the world map to highlight where the refugees come from.  The world’s current hot spots (Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia) stand out. 

The tree map bridges between where the refugees come from and where they resettle to.

The bar chart shows the countries that offer asylum to the refugees.  The countries that are next-door neighbors to those countries where war is going on bear the brunt of offering asylum, whether they want it or not.  Hovering over the bar will show each asylum country capacity and contributions to the refugees (see Lebanon).

June 13, 2014

Bump Chart

Before:  Up until last week, the kind of bump chart I knew was the one shown in Tableau Software’s on-demand tutorial .

It would look something like this one -- functional, basic, but a bit boring.

After:  Then I saw this souped up bump chart at the United States Census Bureau and was intrigued.  This chart not only shows the rank but also 2 additional metrics:  (1) change in population indicated by size and (2) change in rank indicated by color.  I thought that the use of color to indicate rank change is more meaningful than the use of color to display different languages.

Here’s the re-creation of that bump chart using Tableau:

Hope you like it.

June 6, 2014

Giant Astronomical Objects

Building this viz about comparing giant astronomical objects was a blast.  I like working on this viz because when your data contains stellar-theory-contradictingly large values, no one can really tell you that (1) you are thinking small, or (2) you have a data accuracy problem. 

Notice that this viz is quite simple.  The lesson from doing this viz is in the simple and elegant design and not about using fancy functions or filters.  If you think your viz has already conveyed a story to the audience (in this case, the awesome vastness of the universe), you should stop right there.  No need to embellish it with other features when the charts themselves tell the story sufficiently.

In addition, I can’t help it but visualizing and looking at bubble charts can be quite exhilarating.  Most.  Fun.  Ever.

Let me know what you think.

May 29, 2014

The First One

The first one is always special because it marks the genesis of a creation. This is my first post of a data viz that should begin my contribution to the Tableau users community.  It's time I pay back to the community because I've learned a lot from those free tips, tricks, and beautiful vizs in Tableau Public.

Since the first one should be auspicious, I decide to showcase this 'Happiness' dashboard that compares the 2013 World Happiness Index with the 2012 Happy Planet Index across different countries. The centerpiece of the dashboard is the slopegraph, which is quite 'aggressive' because it maps a whopping 150 data points!  You can call this a slopegraph on steroid.  

This dashboard was influenced by Kelly Martin's Tableau Designs and Andy Kriebel's Alberto Cairo:  Three steps to become visualization/infographics designer

What do you think of my first one?  I welcome any feedback.