November 13, 2015


Fifty years ago, the Republic of Singapore gained independence as a nation after it was expelled from Malaysia.  Since then, Singapore has marched ahead with its own rapid economic growth policy and the result has been impressive.  Today Singapore is a highly developed country and the world’s fourth leading financial center.  The country has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of six households has at least $1 million in disposable wealth. 


Along the way, Singapore was derisively referred as ‘the little red dot’ by then former President of Indonesia B.J. Habibie.  The term was quickly adopted by both Singaporean politicians and citizens with pride as Singaporeans are proud of their economic success despite the country’s small size. 


Happy birthday Singapore and congratulations on your laudable economic achievements! 

October 23, 2015

G.I. Joe

Playing with action figure toys is an immersion in fantasy and a suspension of disbelief.  Let’s look at the G.I. Joe action figures that make it possible for young players to enter into a wondrous state of play and make-believe.

In 1982, Hasbro re-launched the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line of action figures in smaller 3 ¾” height, complete with vehicles, play sets, and a complex background story.  This popular toy line which included of a group of heroic, dedicated, fighting soldiers lasted for 12 years until it was canceled in 1994.  The G.I. Joe figures have become American icons among toys and their appeal, stories, and concepts have entered into American popular culture.

Here’re the 162 freedom fighters of the 1982-94 toy line that most people identify with.  Idea for this visualization came from this G.I. Joe article.

October 2, 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal Survey

On July 14, 2015, Iran has reached a historic nuclear deal with the US, European Union, and China. The deal calls for Iran to restrict its nuclear program that makes it harder for the country to develop nuclear weapons in return for the US and other Western countries to lift major economic sanctions. 

Between July 16-20, 2015, the LA Jewish Journal conducted a survey of American Jews and the general US population to find out what people think of the Iran nuclear deal. The result reveals that more American Jews (1) support the deal than oppose (48% vs. 28%), (2) want Congress to approve the deal (53% vs. 35%), and (3) think it was a good idea for the US to negotiate with Iran (58% vs. 18%). 

For the general US population, (1) similar percentage support the deal as oppose (28% vs. 24%), with a large 48% don’t know enough to decide, (2) similar percentage want Congress to approve the deal as oppose (41% vs. 38%), and (3) slightly more percentage think it was a good idea for the US to negotiate with Iran (30% vs. 23%), with a large 47% don’t know. 

Read here for the detailed analysis of the survey by Professor Steven M. Cohen. The findings show that despite misgivings by American Jews and in spite of opposition by Israel and many Jewish groups, most American Jews support the deal and want it approved.

*For standardization, answers 'Very confident' or 'Somewhat confident' & 'A lot' or 'Some' were grouped as 'Yes';  whereas 'Not confident at all' or 'Not so confident' & 'Not at all' or 'Not much' grouped as 'No'.

September 11, 2015

9/11 Memorial

A contemplative visualization to remember the nearly 3,000 lives perished on September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. 

At the center of this visualization is an empty space that mimics the National 9/11 Memorial design. The blank space embodies the feeling of loss and absence from the taking of thousands of lives on that pivotal day.  The single lines around the central void represent the lives stolen.  Each line is like a candle and by hovering over the line the name will appear, which is like lighting a candle in honor of their life and their memory. 

There are five red lines that personify the five youngest victims age from 2 to 8.  This color selection is inspired by the moving image of the little girl in the red coat in the movie Schindler’s List.  Like the girl in the red coat that represents the innocence of the Jews being slaughtered in the movie, the red lines in the visualization highlight the innocence not only of the youngest victims but also of the nearly 3,000 men and women lost in the 9/11 attacks.

This visualization is influenced by the work of Dave Hart.

August 14, 2015

Design Matters

The Design Management Institute (in partnership with Motiv Strategies) has found that companies that integrate design into their products or services consistently produce strong financial return.  Here’re the performances of sixteen design-driven companies that together make up the Design Value Index. 

Apple which has integrated exceptional user-experience design into all its products produces spectacular stock return.  Apple’s astounding performance is in a category by itself literally because including Apple with other companies in the same chart would simply destroy the curve.

A big thanks to Tableau Zen Master Kelly Martin for her work that laid the foundation for this viz.

July 17, 2015


Sonic-speed land transportation study in a stunning report with superb graphics & visualizations.  From California with love and welcome to the future.  (Click image to download report).

May 22, 2015

Product Water Footprint

The Water Footprint Network based in the Netherlands is a non-profit foundation that connects with communities and partners interested in sustainable use of fresh water.   The organization believes that sustainable use of fresh water is a critical foundation for healthy lives and a healthy planet.  

The Water Footprint Network employs the water footprint as a method to measure how much water was used to produce each of the goods or services we consume.  The water footprint looks at both direct and indirect water use of a product and includes water consumption and pollution through the full production cycle.

There are 3 types of water footprint:

     1)  Green water footprint:  water from rain or precipitation.  It is relevant for agricultural, horticultural and forestry products.

     2)  Blue water footprint:   water from surface or groundwater.  It is relevant for irrigated agriculture, industry and domestic water use.

     3)  Grey water footprint:  amount of fresh water required to assimilate pollutants to meet specific water quality standards.

Let’s take a look at the water footprint for agricultural and farm animal products and determine if you can do your part to reduce your water footprint.  Remember every drop counts!

April 24, 2015

Global Risks

Picture this:  Every January.  Davos.  World Economic Forum. 

Most people would envision an exclusive gathering of the world’s movers and shakers, some might see a big collection of private jets, but since I’m a data analyst the only thing I can think of is… lots of data.  And I’m not disappointed.

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published the annual Global Risks report which identifies risks that might cause significant negative impact for several countries and industries.  A key characteristic of global risks is their potential systemic nature to affect an entire system, as opposed to individual parts and components.

The risks can be viewed in terms of the financial impact they might cause or the probable likelihood they might occur.  The risks are also grouped into five categories:  (1) Economic, (2) Environmental, (3) Geopolitical, (4) Societal, & (5) Technological. 

The data was visualized as a bump chart.  The viz reveals that economic risk dominated from 2007 to 2014, such as asset-price bubble as top risk (during the Global Financial Crisis 2007-2009) and fiscal crises as a result of constrained fiscal finances (immediate post-crisis years 2010-2014).

In 2015, societal and geopolitical risks emerge as top risks with water crises (prolonged drought), spread of infectious diseases (Ebola in West Africa), and interstate conflict (rise of Islamic State) occupying the top five risks.  Also in 2015, water crises becomes the number 1 global risk in terms of impact and its category is changed from environmental to societal to reflect its potential enormous effect to social stability.

April 3, 2015

Eigentaste's Funniest Jokes

Eigentaste is a collaborative filtering algorithm to elicit real-valued user ratings on a common set of items and applies principal component analysis (PCA) to the resulting dense subset of the ratings matrix (Technical talk).

Eigentaste is a technology to deliver personalized jokes catered to your own taste, imagine that!  (Marketing talk).

Eigentaste was developed by Professor Ken Goldberg and his team at the University of California, Berkeley.  The technology has been implemented in Jester 5.0, an online joke system, to recommend new jokes to users based on their ratings of the initial set.  Here’re the funniest jokes from Jester 5.0 based on users’ highest rating.  

Laugh more, live longer!

March 6, 2015

Doing Business 2015

Doing Business 2015 – Going Beyond Efficiency is a flagship report from the World Bank Group based in Washington DC.  This global thematic report measures business regulations whether they enhance or constrain business activity in 189 economies around the world (download report here).  Government with an efficient bureaucracy plays a critical role in providing a right environment where individuals and businesses will thrive.  Too much regulation is a recipe for economic stagnation whereas too little regulation can lead to economic disaster (remember the Great Recession?).

In this report , the countries are ranked by the Ease of Doing Business score, which is a composite of the following 10 indicators:  1) Starting a business, 2) Dealing with construction permits, 3) Getting electricity, 4) Registering property, 5) Trading across borders, 6) Getting credit, 7) Protecting minority investors, 8) Enforcing contracts, 9) Resolving insolvency, & 10) Labor market regulation.
Parallel coordinates were used to visualize this multi-dimensional data.  The best way to utilize this visualization is to filter the data by region, income, or country.  Otherwise if all 189 countries were displayed, the chart would become a colorful abstract visualization with too much information!

The top 3 economies that make it easiest to do business in 2015 are Singapore, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, ranked 1, 2, and 3, respectively.  Now go ahead and compare countries of your choice to see which nation is more business-friendly so that you can open your oversea office or start your business there!

February 13, 2015

GE Data Visualization

I’ve recently got a new job at GE Global Research in San Ramon, CA.

GE is a global corporation that brings together the brightest engineers and scientists to solve complex scientific problems.  GE technologies generate huge data (petabytes) that contains valuable information which can drive insights, innovations, and discoveries.  GE is using data visualization to pair science and design in order to bring forward the meaning behind the data.

Check out some cool vizs at GE Data Visualization.

January 23, 2015

Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery

Have you been arrested?  Imagine this question appears when someone searches for your name on the Internet.  The Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery report by Professor Latanya Sweeney from Harvard University indicated that an Internet search by black-identifying names was more likely to yield an advertisement suggestive of an arrest record than a search by white-identifying names (download report here).  This racially biased advertisement distribution could inadvertently impact a person’s reputation and the affected person might not know about the potential negative consequences. 

However, advertisers are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution that advertisements are commercial free speech.  But what if the advertisements suggestive of a criminal background appear more frequently for one racial group than for another’s, is that still free speech or has it become racial discrimination?  As this research yielded more questions than answers, perhaps Internet search companies should yield to moral high grounds and refine their search logic to provide a user experience free of racial bias.  

This viz was influenced by the New York Times’ Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller graph, which has been well-received in the data visualization community for its elegant use of annotation to deliver the thought-provoking message.  In order to draw the diagonal lines in the scatter plot, I sought help from Tableau Zen Master extraordinaire, Joe Mako.  Then I inserted the ‘% Arrest Ads’ annotations to the viz.  The final result highlights the unfair issue of discrimination in online ad delivery.

In addition, the box plots to the right show the differential on the arrest ads display when searching for names according to race and gender.  

This viz was made possible with the permission of Professor Latanya Sweeney from Harvard University and the contribution of Joe Mako, Tableau Zen Master.  I'm grateful to both for their generosity.

January 2, 2015

Global Warming

Let’s start the New Year with a hot topic and a Nobel-Prize-quality global thematic report.  The ‘Climate Change 2013 Assessment Report’, produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) based in Geneva, provides a comprehensive view of the current scientific knowledge of climate change.  It’s a compelling read into global warming and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

What fascinating about this authoritative 1522-pages report is that it contains 482 sophisticated graphs that help to illustrate complex concepts into something more understandable.  The graphs play an important role in consolidating numerous points into singular visualizations that define a central concept.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these 482 graphs tell many mini-stories and together enhance the value of the report tremendously.

I’m happy to recommend this extraordinary report because (1) global warming is currently relevant, and (2) this report is a fine example of how the combination of excellent research writing and meaningful data visualization/illustration can yield outstanding result.  This report is epic.  Obviously, there’ll be no viz of mine because none is needed.  By the way, Al Gore and IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize together.