Articles, graphics, and other projects that I’ve worked on recently:

  • I’m fascinated by generative artificial intelligence. I co-authored O’Reilly’s tutorial on generative adversarial networks (GANs) with Adit Deshpande. You can hear me talk about the promise of generative AI (and how it works) with Kenn Cukier on The Economist’s Babbage podcast.
  • The O’Reilly Bots Podcast is my latest series, on which I’m often joined by Pete Skomoroch as co-host. We cover anything related to AI-driven conversational interfaces.
  • Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Design: someday we might talk about “discovering a design” rather than ”creating a design.”
  • Bot Day was a one-day O’Reilly conference that I created and hosted with Pete Skomoroch. This was, as far as I can tell, the first large-scale public event about conversational bots, and we all ended the day feeling like something new was emerging in the community.
  • The O’Reilly Solid conference, which brings together designers, engineers, artists, researchers, executives, and investors who work at the blurring line between digital and physical. Joi Ito and I are the co-chairs of the program.
  • The O’Reilly Hardware Podcast, which I co-hosted with David Cranor, is an interview series focused on the intersection between software and the physical world. It launched in April 2015 and its listenership grew quickly over the following year.
  • The New Hardware Movement is the name I’ve given to a set of technological and organizational changes that are making it much easier to develop innovative physical products. Catalysts range from inexpensive CNC mills, 3D printers, and mobile phone components to dedicated hardware incubators and Chinese factories willing to fill small orders. All of these developments have made the hardware development process faster, more responsive, and more digital; the process of creating a piece of electronics to solve some problem is beginning to resemble the process of creating software.
  • Tweets Loud and Quiet, an analysis of Twitter account statistics that shows the median account has a single follower. My conclusion: “Twitter’s long, long, long tail suggests the service is less democratic than it seems.” I’ve since published the original Twitter data that I gathered in order to write the article.
  • An interactive map of bike share usage in New York and Washington that I built by scraping the Citi Bike and Capital Bike Share availability maps at regular intervals and averaging availability data into an animated representative day. Both cities appear to breathe, with bikes moving from close-in residential areas to commercial districts during the morning rush and moving back out during the early evening. The map uses my usual SVG-manipulation technique, similar to what I wrote about here, but this time using pure JQuery rather than the Raphael library.
  • Industrial Internet: The Machines are Talking, a research report on the intersection between software and big machines. Industry is layering networked software on top of physical devices like jet engines and locomotives, and it’s also replacing some conventional features with software-defined features. Industry is in many ways ahead of commercial and consumer applications for this sort of thing, so it’s worth watching closely for an idea of how our world might work in a few years.
  • A video interview with Tim O’Reilly and a follow-up meditation on data monopolies prompted by comments from Tim and his VC partner, Bryce Roberts.
  • The Media Map: Who’s Reading What, And Where An interactive map of where different media outlets are particularly influential. This is the result of a collaboration with Bitly, which provided its clickthrough data, normalized by DNS lookups, and measured these news sites’ performance in each state compared to national averages. The map has been popular, but I’ve been open about its shortcomings and I expect to publish a completely revised version in the next month or two.
  • Hey! Wanna Buy Some Influence? I coauthored a feature with Dan Fisher that took a markets-based approach to explaining super PACs: the market in political influence has been capped by campaign finance regulations; now it’s clearing. The result will be a massive influx of money and the shutting out of small-time players. I used the campaign-finance database that I created for this article to write a follow-up piece on Sheldon Adelson’s claim that he wasn’t funding attack ads.
  • 4,114 Stoplights in Los Angeles A profile of Ed Yu, the man who oversees the intricate intelligent network that runs all of the traffic lights in Los Angeles.
  • Is the Media Out of Touch? A Look at the Numbers Journalists are paid less and laid off more than the average American, but they’re a little different in terms of educational attainment and cultural preferences. I adapted this article from a 5-minute Ignite talk that I gave at News Foo Camp in December 2011.
  • American Migration My all-new, rebuilt interactive migration map for Forbes. This year’s version includes five years’ worth of data, all available for display on the map, plus a greatly improved interface. And the whole thing is written in JavaScript.
  • The High-Stakes Math Behind the West’s Greatest River A long article about the Columbia River and the dams–27 big ones and hundreds of smaller ones–that work in precise coordination to manage it. It takes lots of math to prevent flooding, generate electricity at the right times, and keep farmers irrigated.
  • America’s Leadership in Science, Measured in Nobel Prizes I scraped a complete list of Nobel Prize winners along with their prize year, birth country and working country from nobelprize.org and used the data to build a visualization of Nobel Prize winners that illustrates the abrupt shift of scientific achievement from Europe to the United States just after World War II.
  • Billionaires Hedge Their Bets on Politicians A graphic and data-driven article on political contributions by billionaires. It’s the non-ideological ones who give to both parties who need to be watched. Discussed in detail on my own site.
  • Black Tie in the Desert A series of tongue-in-cheek posts written from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The idea was to replicate the sort of evening-dress-in-the-jungle experience of Victorian-era British exploration. Much fun was had.
  • Is Facebook Swallowing up the Internet’s Data? As individuals and companies move their Internet presences to Facebook and away from conventional Web sites, they lose control of the data that those sites generate. Accompanied by a graphic that I made by building a script to scrape some prominent Facebook walls and build a big dataset of comments.
  • Trump Beats Palin on Facebook An illustration of the vicissitudes of political celebrity that I built from my own database of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump’s Facebook wall posts.
  • Tim O’Reilly on Piracy, Tinkering and the Future of the Book An extended interview with the publisher (and my future boss) Tim O’Reilly about the rise of electronic publishing.
  • How to Build Your Own Political Contribution Database My talk at the O’Reilly Strata conference on February 3, 2011, including code that lets anyone download and parse the Federal Election Commission’s database.
  • Mathematical Proof the MacBook Pro is Useless on an Airplane Some trigonometry proves that a 15” MacBook pro isn’t a very comfortable business-travel accessory. Part of a series of articles for the magazine and Web site in which I was dispatched to Bucharest on a few hours’ notice to write about how terrible it is to be dispatched to Bucharest on a few hours’ notice.
  • Billionaires’ Favorite Politicians An interactive graphic connecting billionaires to their favorite political action committees. Discussed on my own site.
  • New Google Service Will Decide For You I built a demonstration of the Google Prediction API (now offline) that allowed anyone to submit two or more writing samples, process them, and then categorize another writing sample based on those.
  • Forbes Blogs I took a few months off of writing in the summer and early fall of 2010 to help code Forbes’s new WordPress-based contributor platform along with Taylor Buley, Steve McNally, and Carl Subick. Most of my work was in the registration and categorization systems.
  • Where Americans are Moving An interactive map that uses IRS data to illustrate migration patterns. This one got pretty big (I discussed the map’s reception and gave a technical introduction here). The map’s popularity is a good illustration of how deep data can lead to universal appeal.
  • China Widens its Reach An interactive, animated map of Chinese foreign investments. I described the map’s production process on this site, and it’s also been featured in a handful of infographics blogs like this one.
  • America’s Bank Bust: How Bad Is It? An interactive comparison between the current financial crisis and the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s. There were lots of failures in the 1980s, but the Washington Mutual collapse in September of 2008 was unprecedented, even on an inflation-adjusted basis.
  • A Genius Blog for Mathematicians A profile of UCLA mathematician and Fields medalist Terence Tao and his blog. Ran in the November 16, 2009 issue of the magazine as “Blogarithms.”
  • A Map of American Unemployment An interactive map of unemployment rates by county. Clicking on a county brings up an historical graph. This graphic carries my personal all-time record for data density: 744,180 data points are represented on this map (that’s 236 months of unemployment data plus a population count for each of the 3,140 U.S. counties).
  • Where Next Year’s Jobs Will Be Another interactive job map, this one of forecast change in employment. This map was based on Moody’s Economy.com forecasts, which included some improbably accurate forecasts for counties with miniscule populations. To deal with that and to downplay large counties with small populations, I used a dot density scheme and didn’t show forecasts for counties with populations under 2,000. I also contributed graphics to an accompanying magazine package written by Chris Steiner and Josh Zumbrun.
  • The World’s Dirtiest Power Plants An interactive map of the 200 highest-carbon power plants in the world. This one became a big thing on Digg for a while.
  • Wall Street’s Year of Fear An interactive graphic illustrating the impact of the financial crisis on the stability of U.S. government debt. (The cost of insuring U.S. treasury securities went from infinitesimal to something several times infinitesimal.) I collaborated with Josh Zumbrun, who is now with Bloomberg, on this and an accompanying magazine article.