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September 02 2010

10 of the Web’s Most Insightful News Infographics

New Infographic

A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you include an entire database, make it interactive, and add filtering options, the word-to-picture exchange rate is even better.

Infographics at their best are more than just pictures — they can provide new understandings, succinct summaries, or just plain old fun.

In that respect, reading newspaper archives isn’t the only way to get a deeper understanding of current events. Infographics can help us get a better grasp on what’s going on.

Check out these 10 visualizations to learn more about the news with a quick look.

1. Google’s Appetite for Acquisition

Last month alone, Google acquired social-search service Angstro, visual shopping search engine like.com, and social currency company Jambool. Google has been on an acquisition binge for some time, and it’s getting tricky to keep track of its appetite.

This graphic shows a timeline of Google’s activity in three categories: “Building Revenue Streams,” “Cutting Competition,” or “A Little of Both.”

2. Gay Marriage Chronology

The campaign for gay marriage has passed a multitude of milestones over the last decade. Unfortunately for those trying to keep track of them, the victories and setbacks vary drastically by state. Decisions are reversed and in some cases overturned by higher courts, which makes progress hard to track.

This map from the LA Times shows the status of gay marriage in each state by month. Click on a state for its most recent ruling or watch the country change from being legally similar in its treatment of same-sex couples in 2000 to sharply divided in 2010.

3. IED Attacks from Wikileaks’ Afghanistan War Logs

The frequency and fatality of IEDs (homemade bombs) in Afghanistan was highlighted when WikiLeaks published more than 90,000 secret documents about the Afghan war. Anti-war activists published this illustrative video that includes all of the incidents reported in these leaked documents.

4. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

On April 20, an explosion on a BP drilling rig started what has become the largest accidental oil spill in history. Despite numerous strategies that were deployed to plug the leak, it wasn’t capped until July 15.

This video graphic by New Orleans online newspaper NOLA wraps timeline, graphic, and cumulative damage data into one easy-to-digest piece of media.

5. CIA World Factbook Dashboard

The CIA World Factbook has always been a great resource for putting news stories into the context of their geographic location. But now it’s also easy to get the information at a glance.

The World Factbook Dashboard allows you to color code the countries of the world by population, population growth, infant mortality, agricultural GDP, industry GDP, services GDP, total GDP, GDP/inhabitant, or inflation. Clicking on a country zooms in for more information.

6. Geography of a Recession

This map from The New York Times illustrates not only which areas suffered the highest unemployment rate after the recession, but also offers the option to filter data by metropolitan areas, areas with housing bubbles, rural areas, and manufacturing centers.

7. Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Violence Map

The Wall Street Journal updates this map constantly with violent conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to learn about the day-to-day details of the war or understand its scope, there’s no better visual resource.

8. What Does the Health Care Bill Mean to Me?

Even if you read through every health care bill article, it could be hard to exactly pick out what the law would change about your insurance coverage and taxes. The Washington Post made it easy by providing this nifty tool. Input whether you have insurance coverage, your family size, your income, and your marital status, and it will tell you how health care reform will impact your life.

For the broader picture on healthcare reform, see this subway-style map from GOOD Magazine.

9. Obama’s $787 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan

The government is still busy spending much of the $787 billion it allotted for the economic stimulus in February of last year. This infographic effectively illustrates how that huge chunk of change is being distributed.

10. American Casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond

This chilling interactive graphic from USA Today simply illustrates the deaths in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Information seekers can search deaths by personal factors like name, age, gender, race, or home town as well as by military service details, date, cause, or place.

CNN has a more elaborate version here.

More Graphics Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Fab Twitter Follower Visualization Tools
- 10 Beautiful Social Media Infographics
- 5 Amazing Infographics for the Health Conscious
- 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers
- 12 Beginner Tutorials for Getting Started With Photoshop

More About: afghanistan, bp, current events, gay rights, graphics, healthcare reform, infographics, iraq, News, oil-spill, stimulus, visualizations, wikileaks

For more Tech coverage:

August 06 2010

Why Online Education Needs to Get Social

Marco Masoni is a lawyer turned educator who co-founded Einztein.com to address the related problems of searching for good online courses and real-time coursework interaction.

Marshall McLuhan’s classic expression “ the medium is the message” hasn’t lost its luster yet, as entrepreneurs and designers re-invent products and services for the web, unleashing thousands of new applications and sites every single day.

The news industry is also in the throes of adjusting to the digital age, with countless print publications failing and folding after many years in the business while online news outlets and other platforms for news sharing, proliferate.

Education is the second largest industry in America behind health care, and it too is experiencing a similar shift as it struggles to adapt traditional design and delivery models to the demands of modern audiences who are accustomed to digital interactivity.

The challenge to transition successfully is especially pressing for online higher education. The Sloan Consortium reports that two-thirds of post-secondary educational institutions are seeing an increase in online courses and programs, so it’s a market that education providers simply cannot afford to ignore.

It’s About Course Quality, not Quantity

All too frequently, providers meet the challenge of satisfying the rising demand for online education by simply throwing courses up on the web and seeing what sticks, without catering to student needs. This amounts to a loser’s gamble since it risks pushing away students looking for schools that boast high online student retention rates. After all, why would you want to spend valuable tuition dollars on a school that isn’t likely to hold your interest long enough to earn a degree?

What’s required are innovative approaches to course design that set aside old models of instruction where theory often trumps actuality. Online course providers must embrace the web’s potential to match students with the kinds of timely knowledge and skills that address current issues head-on, and enable them to thrive in the global marketplace.

It’s not enough for a course to be accessible online, it must also be designed in a way that keys into the digital pulse of current events, trending topics and insider knowledge endemic to the web. The three-quarters of 18 to 29 year-olds who have profiles on social networks are likely wondering why online course offerings aren’t nearly as enticing as the content that they find on their favorite social websites.

To attract and retain the typical college-age demographic, as well as the larger population of adult learners in search of relevant and engaging educational content, the next generation of online education must be characterized by courses that build in the social, real-time information capturing components that have made the web such a dynamic medium for sharing information and knowledge.

Learning From Events in Real-Time

Consider what’s happened recently in the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s major oil spill is perhaps even “the” news story of the year. By now facts, opinions, and graphic images of the damage and underwater video of the spewing oil have been circulated on countless websites, informing our shock and outrage. The wonders of the digital age have successfully kept us current on the disaster in real-time, but how can they help us repair the mess and learn about our mistakes? How can we enlist the social media zeitgeist in order to build a better online learning paradigm?

Unfortunately, higher education providers are not racing to develop online courses that can seize on important events events like these, as they happen. Beyond the immediate victims, there are millions of people around the world who would certainly be inclined to learn about the incident so that they can apply the lessons to their own lives and communities. In mid July, another major oil spill occurred in the Yellow Sea, after the explosion of an oil terminal in the port city of Dalian, China. And recently, in Michigan, nearly a million gallons of oil leaked out of a forty year-old pipeline and into the Kalamazoo River.

Innovation Pays

The web, as a real-time medium, is begging us to build innovative courses that can be used for the rapid delivery of education designed in a way that integrates current news, information, insights and research about topics like the oil spill and thousands of other current issues.

After exploring some of the leading interactive educational sites that have been created by public institutions and non-profit entities, including Webby nominee Your Life, Your Money and Webby winner The Ocean Portal, it’s hard not to come away wondering why online courses rarely rise to the same level of quality and relevance. The most obvious explanation for this is the relatively high cost of producing an online course with similar design and functionality, plus, the added back-end resources involved in administering such a course. But is the cost really so prohibitive?

One can’t help but wonder what would happen if an education provider came along that offered, for starters, 20 or 30 online courses that were of “Webby” caliber. Even if the courses cost more to initially produce than your standard offering, the high market demand for online education might show that innovation pays when you begin creating online courses that look, teach and engage like they were purposed for the online medium.

For the time being it’s up to innovators like the folks over at TED to remind us how to use the web for exchanging knowledge in the search for solutions to global problems like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Online education providers everywhere could learn a thing or two from this approach and take a chance by creating real-time courses.

More Education Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Organizations Helping Women Get Ahead in Tech
- 5 Innovative Tech Camps for Kids and Teens
- 5 Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Math Online
- Social Media Parenting: Raising the Digital Generation
- 6 Free Websites for Learning and Teaching Science

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign, marinephotobank

More About: bp, digital, education, gulf of mexico, interactive, oil-spill, online, social media

For more Social Media coverage:

July 15 2010

Oil Spill Capped, @BPGlobalPR Says: “Well, That Wasn’t So Hard.”

Immediately after hearing BP’s announcement that no oil was leaking into the Gulf for the first time in nearly three months, we over here at Mash started wondering: What’s satirical Twitter account @BPGlobalPR going to do now?

Back in May, an anonymous fellow launched a Twitter account that set out to mock the way BP was handling PR surrounding the oil spill. We conducted an interview back then with the mysterious man — back when he had around 55,000 followers. Now he has 185,860 and has gained recognition both for raising cash for healthygulf.org and for his cutting wit.

Although homeboy is still anonymous — he calls himself “Leroy Stick” — he’s become an Internet phenomenon. And, in true, dark style, after the oil spill he tweeted a simple message:

After the spill, we e-mailed “Stick” a simple query: “The spill is unspilled: How do you feel?”

His answer: “Well, we shall see. I’m definitely relieved. As far as BP is concerned, I have a feeling they are gonna be cutting corners like crazy with cleanup and compensation, especially since this will probably slip out of the public eye a bit. In short, I don’t think my job is done, but I am very happy that the new cap seems to be working.”

What do you think? Does @BPGlobalPR still have his work cut out for him?

More About: bp, gulf oil spill, oil-spill, social media, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

July 09 2010

Turn Any Website into an Oil Spill [APPS]

Although interest in the Gulf oil spill may be waning, more and more creative folks are finding ways to raise awareness. The newest tool on the block? An app that lets you create an oil spill on any webpage you choose.

A Cleaner Future — a collaboration between marketing company Mark & Phil and postproduction house Greener Media that seeks to raise awareness about clean energy — is responsible for this wicked new toy.

All you have to do is visit www.instantoilspill.com (check out Mashable being oiled above) to create your very own oil spill. You’ll then be treated to an inspirational quote. Ours was from Brad Pitt. (Erm. OK.) You can then choose to send the tool to a friend.

According to AdAge, this is only the first in a series of projects from A Cleaner Future — they’re also working on a documentary about the communities affected by the spill.

There’s no denying that what happened in the Gulf is a disaster of historic proportions. Still, it’s interesting to see what it has wrought: legions of creative projects from passionate people aiming to make a difference. From satirical Twitter streams that could teach the big guys a thing or two about branding, to custom Tumblr dashboards, to inspired plugins to vuvuzela-wielding protesters, the Internet is out full-force this time around. We hope all this creative sound and fury ends up signifying something.

Reviews: AdAge, Internet, Mashable

More About: oil-spill, pop culture, software, tech

For more Dev & Design coverage:

July 06 2010

Are We Losing Interest in the Oil Spill? [STATS]

We’re losing interest in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill just a few weeks after it became a big media topic — and long before we’ve even made a dent in cleaning up after this mess — if Internet search and discussion trends are to be believed.

An estimated 100 million gallons or more of oil have surged into the Gulf of Mexico. Spread by wind and underwater currents, the pollution has drifted toward coastal areas, coating wildlife and natural environments in thick layers of crude oil.

Yet on Twitter, Google, blogs and even YouTube, we’re already wrapping up our collective discussion of the oil spill and how to repair its damage.


On Twitter, the oil spill enjoyed a prolonged trending period thanks to @BPGlobalPR, a spoof account that snarkily lampooned the oil company’s woes and became a viral hit.

This Trendistic chart, however, shows that while we might share a laugh over a corporate blunder, our attention span has about hit its limit when it comes to tweeting about the oil spill:

At its June 15 peak, the term “oil spill” was found in .17% of all tweets. Currently, only .02% to .05% of tweets contain that term.


The good folks at TubeMogul were kind enough to pull together some data for us.

This month, people are uploading clips about the oil spill at a rate of 226 clips per day, on average. This might seem like a lot, but just last month, YouTube users were uploading around 1,021 oil spill videos each day. That’s a decrease of nearly 78% month-over-month.

And we’re not really interested in watching clips about the oil spill as much as we once were, either. Here’s a chart showing views of videos from BP’s official YouTube account:


As a web search term, “oil spill” is on the decline. It first began to peak around April 30, when news surfaced that oil was beginning to wash ashore. The term reached its apex of popularity around May 27 and has since begun to fall.

Along with searches for this term, related news reports have plummeted. In other words, when public demand declines, media coverage follows suit.

Not surprisingly, however, Louisiana residents are still searching for “oil spill” on Google, as are the residents of many other Gulf Coast areas. New Orleans-area Google users are by far the largest geographical group still searching for information about this disaster.

Here, you can see the relation between web search and news articles:


Finally, the tireless bloggers of the web are also getting tired of talking about the oil spill. Nielsen’s BlogPulse shows that during the third week a June, .4% of all blog posts were about the oil spill.

Now that percentage hovers between .15% and .175%, a significant and disturbing slide.

What You Can Do

If you’d like to get more involved, check out Sloane Berrent’s Six Way to Help the Gulf Coast Today. Berrent is a New Orleans resident and social philanthropist, and has the 411 on how to do your part in the cleanup process, from donating your money to volunteering your time.

And at the very least, we should all continue this conversation until the matter is resolved — not just until we get bored and move on to the next hot topic.

Are you and your friends still talking about the oil spill? Have you found any good ways to help with cleanup? Let us know in the comments.

[img credit: marinephotobank]

More About: bp, cleanup, deepwater horizon, Google, oil-spill, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

July 01 2010

YouTube Lets Users Question BP Executive

Seventy-two days have passed since the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and the public is frustrated, to say the least. Well take a break from writing your satirical Twitter stream/crafting your web plugins/blowing your vuvuzela to join the discussion over at YouTube.

The video-sharing site has teamed up with PBS NewsHour to allow users to send their queries to Bob Dudley, president and CEO of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. The live interview (which will stream at 3:30 pm ET/12:30 pm PT on CitizenTube) will be moderated by PBS NewsHour’s Ray Suarez. You can also check out parts of the interview later on on PBS NewsHour and YouTube.

If you want to ask Dudley about the clean-up plan or a myriad of other topics, head on over to youtube.com/citizentube and submit your question and vote for other questions you would like to see asked.

This isn’t the first time YouTube has let the people interrogate someone in a position of power. Just last month the site streamed U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech on the crisis, and then a live interview with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who also answered questions submitted by users.

Do you plan on joining the discussion?

Reviews: YouTube

More About: bp, oil-spill, Political, video, youtube

For more Web Video coverage:

June 10 2010

BP Oil Spill Response Parodies Flood YouTube [VIDEOS]

Twitter isn’t the only venue for showing one’s disdain for BP via parody — YouTube users are uploading a steady stream of videos (some better than others) that use humor to express their anger at the disastrous situation.

It’s been more than a month since a BP oil rig explosion led to a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Internet has not been shy about venting its frustration: Tumblr painted its dashboard black in an effort to raise cash, creative agency Jess3 developed a Firefox plugin that aims to black out all mentions of BP across the Web and satirical Twitter account @BPGlobalPR has gained a mighty following for its biting commentary. At this rate, YouTube parodies were pretty much an inevitability.

We’ve spared you the blues songs, and gathered together a few of the most popular vids. What do you think of the videos below? Do you think expressing your angry via parody is effective when going head-to-head with such a large-scale disaster?

BP Spills Coffee

Rich Fish

“Big Oilmance (Original)” – BP Oil Spill Parody

BP Parody: Press Conference Ends Awkwardly

BP Oil Spill Protest Anthem from Raging Grannies: “Halliburton & BP, You Suck!”

For more web video coverage, follow Mashable Web Video on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: bp, oil-spill, Political, twitter, video, viral video, youtube

June 08 2010

May 22 2010

New Satellite Images of Oil Spill Show Its Spread [PICS]

As seen in satellite images published today by Google, pollution from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is rapidly spreading from the Gulf of Mexico to the neighboring shorelines of the southeastern United States.

On April 25, five days after the initial BP oil well blowout, the oil appeared as a large streak in the Gulf of Mexico in satellite photos. Twenty-two days later, the oil continued to pollute these waters and was in danger of reaching more areas of of the Gulf Coast, a beautiful environment that is home to around 400 species of seabirds, whales, dolphins, turtles and more.

Scientists monitoring the spill also say the oil has reached currents that could carry the pollution to Florida and possibly to the waters along the East Coast. Because of underwater oil plumes, there may be an amount of oil beneath the ocean’s surface equal to what we can see on the Gulf’s topmost layer.

Experts are now estimating as many as 6 million gallons of oil have been spilled so far. Google hopes these images will assist those working to protect coastal areas from the damaging effects of the spill.

Here are Google’s pictures of the spill on April 25, May 9 and May 17:

For more information on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, see our previous coverage.

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: Google, gulf of mexico, oil-spill

May 15 2010

HOW TO: Monitor the Gulf Oil Spill Using Social Media

Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media Now is Gone in 2007.

As the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico continues, several organizations have created dynamic uses of social media to monitor the situation. These efforts range from a deploying combination of balloons, cameras and maps to chronicle the progress of the oil spill to old fashioned information dissemination on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Here are four ways non-profit and governmental organizations are helping citizens stay up-to-date on the Gulf situation.

1. Grassroots Mapping Provides Accurate Pictures

Grassroots Mapping uses balloons, kites, and other simple tools to produce their own aerial imagery of the oil spill. Supported by the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Future Civic Media and the Knight Foundation, the organization is not trying to duplicate satellite imagery or flyover data, but is encouraging complete open access to spill imagery. Grassroots Mapping is releasing all of its imagery into the public domain on places like Flickr.

2. EPA Deepwater Horizon Command Online

Don’t think the U.S. government is just standing on the sidelines for this crisis. In fact, you can visit the EPA’s Deepwater Horizon Unified Command Response effort online for the latest updates. In addition to blog updates and FAQs the site includes links to, Twitter, YouTube videos, and hundreds of pictures, as well as a very vibrant Facebook page with lots of concerned citizens offering feedback.

3. Another Great Ushahidi Crisis Map

While it has been around for years, Ushahidi really entered into the public consciousness with its fantastic mapping of the Haiti crisis. As reported last week on Mashable, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is using the technology to develop an oil spill crisis map.

See how reports of oil-inspired incidents are growing around the coastline.

4. Greenpeace Provides Ongoing Coverage

Greenpeace USA has an ongoing blog about the oil spill where readers can find the latest news and images from the Gulf. Comprehensive coverage includes videos, blog posts, maps and Flickr images. There’s even a counter tabulating the minimum estimated amount of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico thus far.

What other social media sites are you using to monitor the crisis?

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More social good resources from Mashable:

- 8 Tips for a Successful Social Media Cause Campaign
- How Does Twitter’s New Social Good Initiative Stack Up?
- How Non-Profits are Using Social Media for Real Results
- 9 Ways to Do Good With 5 Minutes or $25
- 5 Ways Mega Charity Events Can Harness the Power of Social Media

[img credit: jeferonix]

Reviews: Facebook, Flickr, Mashable, Twitter, YouTube

Tags: epa, greenpeace, List, Lists, mapping, oil-spill, social media, ushahidi

April 30 2010

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Captured by NASA Satellite [PICS]

In the wake of an oil rig explosion that led to a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, NASA has released a pair of striking pictures depicting the disaster.

Along with Twitter, NASA has been the go-to source of late when it comes to finding photos of both natural and unnatural phenomena — the organization has brought us amazing footage of the sun, as well as satellite images of the aftermath of the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

So if you’re one of the many Internet lurkers or Twitter users out there hungry for more info about the spill (several Twitter fans have been retweeting a biting message from Bill Maher to drilling enthusiasts), we suggest keeping an eye on NASA’s Earth Observatory. In the meantime, we’ve embedded these images above. Both images were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite — the first shows a wider shot of the oil slick spreading to the Louisiana coast, while the second depicts a closer view.

[img credit: NASA]

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: NASA, oil-spill, satellite, twitter

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