Introducing the Hacker Within & Data Visualisation using CartoDB and TimelineJS

April 15, 2015

Where & When

Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre - Room 206. Wednesday 15th April from 1-3pm

Arna Karick

Arna is Swinburne’s e-Research Consultant, the organiser of Swinburne Hacker Within, and an astronomer by trade.

Introducing Swinburne Hacker Within

The Hacker Within began as a student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is now reborn as a collection of such chapters around the world. Active chapters include Wisconsin, Berkeley, Yale and Melbourne. Each of the chapters convenes a community of researchers, at all levels of their education and training, to share their knowledge and best practices in using computing to accomplish their work. At the start of this meetup we’ll have a short discusion about what you want to get out Swinburne Hacker Within.

About CartoDB and TimelineJS

CartoDB and TimelineJS are simple web-based visualisation tools that require very little programming/computational skills. I think they are a really good starting point for researchers new to hacking, and they offer a quick adn easy way to play around with visualising data from all disciplines.

CartoDB is essentially a map building web application. It’s free for the academic community and really easy to set up. You just need to be able to manipulate spreadsheets and have a baseic understanding of geocoding. CartoDB allows you to put your data on top of rich base layers. Use Mapbox or any other basemap provider. You can even create maps without a background. CartoDB integrates with all major mapping and visualization engines through its mapping library, CartoDB.js. Check out the CartoDB Map Gallery for ideas.

Example: This interactive map of optical and radio telescopes around the world took me less than hour to set up. It’s still a work in progress. I updated it whenever I need to take a mental break from work. Most of the data was taken from, dare I say it, Wikipedia.

TimelineJS is an open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually,rich, interactive timelines. Beginners can create a timeline using nothing more than a Google spreadsheet. Experts can use their JSON skills to create custom installations, while keeping TimelineJS’s core look and functionality. It can pull in media from a variety of sources and has built-in support for Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and more.

Example: Using TimelineJS, I created an interactive timeline for the new UTMOST radio array. The UTMOST project is an upgrade of the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), the largest radio telescope in the Southern hemisphere. The data and images were taken from the Timeline page on the UTMOST website.

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