2012 Visualizing Global Marathon

I don’t even know how I came out with the Visualizing.org website, but I have been always been fascinated with the amazing infographics that the people design. I wish I could have these abilities too. So about a month ago I saw in the IaaC Facebook site that they were hosting the 2012 Visualizing Global Marathon event in Barcelona. I like the IaaC so much that I enrolled for the event even I know nothing about visualization. Now that the weekend is over, I will explain you the experience from my point of view…


Friday November 9th. 15:00 UTC

I arrived at Iaac and registered for the event. They gave me a NFC card for entering (hyper-cool man, I now have a pass!). There were a lot of tables and chairs arranged like a classroom, a giant screen projecting live the web event, and about 30 people, maybe from the IaaC Master in Advanced Interaction. I sat over there, deployed my computer and waited for the event to start.

The first thing I noticed is that everyone but me had earphones. Damn newbie, how come did you forget them??!!!

If you ever go to a visualizing event NEVER forget to bring your earphones, like I did.

Then a man from the IaaC presented the event, explained the rules and wished all of us good luck, and finally at 16:00 UTC… we went live!!! yoooohaaaa, the data was released. After an hour and a half of doing nothing self deliberations I chose challenge 2: Global Flights Network. That first day I started digging into the data, trying to understand it, and trying to decide what to do: Infographics or some sort of data manipulation with software? Because it was my wife’s birthday, I left the venue with the nothing else sorted out.


Saturday November 10th

I am ashamed I did nothing but tweeting a couple of times. In the afternoon, while surfing the web I saw an image from a guy named Paul Butler. He represented the relationships of Facebook friends across cities with that amazing map. In fact there is no map, just the connections, amazing. So I decided I would do the same with my data. I found that Paul was using a program named R to produce his image, so did I. After installing it I followed like 6 crash courses of R, ggplot2, great circles, etc… So I thought it was easy and almost over and I went to sleep: GREAT ERROR.

There will be certain moments in your life that you will think that you have almost finished your work and there are only a few details to solve, and then you might feel in the mood of sleeping. Recommendation: DO NOT SLEEP.


Sunday November 11th. Deadline day.

In the morning I tried to follow some tutorials to represent the great circles of my data and all of them were giving me errors: “File not found”, “It does not exist such a command” and several other. I started sweating a bit. There were 12 hours to go and I had nothing. When I say nothing I mean absolutely nothing, not even a single pie chart to show. For a while I started thinking of excuses to explain my friends why I failed so miserably. But I shouted NO very loud and I headed to the IaaC in search for inspiration or something.

Once there, I swept my pass card over the reader and the door opened. I felt like mastering the situation then, because moreover I had earphones, and I can tell you now, that this is the key difference between failure and victory. While you are listening to Handel’s Champions League Theme there is nothing can stop you in your race towards the victory. I started to solve errors one after another, and then, suddenly I clicked run for the 458th time and an image showed up in the screen…

Some words came to my mind.

Houston, the Eagle has landed.Neil Armstrong.

The image was full of errors and horizontal lines when a great circle passed over the date line, but it looked a lot like Paul’s one. So I saved it to PDF and started tweaking the image in photoshop so it looked like light painting.


It has been an amazing experience which I recommend for everyone. But I had not succeeded if I had done it alone at home. You know, internet is cool, but gathering with other people doing things like you is SO AWESOME, thanks IaaC for the meetup venue and the NFC card, which I sadly returned to recover my 10 euro deposit back.

Watch more visualizations I made in my Visualizing Profile.