Hi! My name is Dominikus Baur and I'm a Data Visualization & Mobile Interaction Designer from Munich, Germany. I love crafting well-behaved systems where you won't even notice that thin interface between you and your data.
I blog about touchable visualizations, data visualization in general and mobile and touch-based interaction design.

You should talk to me: do@minik.us @dominikus

OECD: Regional Well-Being

Well-being exists on a scale from the individual to whole countries. In the OECD Regional Well-Being project - a part of OECD's Better Life Initiative - we dive deeper into this hierarchy: the interactive, web-based visualization shows various aspects contributing to quality of life for over 300 regions all over the world. In this post I'll discuss the project as a whole and its design decisions (with more technical posts coming up).

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In the selfiecity project we explored the depths of a seemingly shallow data set: 3200 selfies from five cities around the world. We were wondering what exactly was there in a selfie and how these spontaneous self-expressions would reflect cultural backgrounds. A combination of manual and automatic analyses gave us fascinating insights which we represented visually in a series of charts and graphs. At the project's core there's also the selfiexploratory, a tool to interactively explore all selfies and their metadata in the browser.

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DSD Talk: Big Pictures in the Small

Last week I was invited to the 5. Data Science Day in Berlin, organized by The Unbelievable Machine Company. We spend one day with fantastic speakers from various areas, discussing the implications of mobile devices on data science and visualization.

In my talk - 'Big Pictures in the Small' - I focused on a more high-level picture why visualization will go mobile and what form that will take. In addition to our smartphones, we've grown accustomed to a whole zoo of other (portable or stationary) computing devices. I discuss how that's eerily similar to computing environments of the past and how we need more excuses to do data science on couches. Also, be warned that this is only a re-recording of my talk. So if you're into disembodied voices mispronouncing English words - today's your lucky day ;)

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How touch visualizations turn us into lean-back analysts

The main purpose of most computing interfaces is efficiency. There's nothing more annoying for anybody using a computer than sluggishness, the inability to produce the right results or seemingly unnecessary waiting time. At any point in time during the computing experience, the person in front of the machine has a goal in mind and wants to make steps towards it. We've grown so accustomed to this efficiency that anything that slows us down is seen as a problem and we only have little patience for any distraction. And if we fall into the trap of clicking on a hyperbolic link on the web ('Data analysts hate her! Mom discovers one weird trick for finding insights') or lose ourselves in hour-long TV tropes or Wikipedia binges, we feel the sting of guilt throughout.

Jacob Nielsen has called this very purpose-driven behavior lean-forward: We're deeply engaged and treat computers and the web as an active media. This is in contrast to TV, books or magazines, which is about passive consumption, entertainment and lean-back.

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How to make fast animated HTML5 visualizations

One thing that people tend to forget in today's HTML5-ed world is how extremely fast Flash actually was and still is. Constructing complex chains of tweened animations and having them run in real-time was absolutely doable and represented a major advantage compared to other in-browser graphics frameworks such as Java. And, as wonderful as HTML5 is, we're still at least a couple of years behind in that regard. HTML5 is not the magic bullet that saves your device from high battery or CPU consumption and, yes, you can create memory leaks in Javascript and crash your browser.

I had to learn the restrictions of HTML5 with the revamp of the OECD's Better Life Index. In this blog post I will describe some of the approaches and solutions that we used to get the HTML5 version of that visualization on equal footing with its Flash ancestor.

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OECD: Better Life Index

Your Better Life Index (BLI) has been a real staple of web-based visualizations. First released in May 2011 it just entered its third year. Based on OECD data, BLI measures quality of life along 11 different dimensions like housing, income or the job market and lets you control your own preferences for these dimensions. This unique profile can then be used to find the best country out of the 36 available ones, or share and compare your profile with your friends.

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Datastori.es podcast on mobile & touchable viz

Last week I had the pleasure to be a guest on the Datastori.es podcast with Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner. The topic was mobile and touch-enabled visualizations - which meant that TouchWave made its inevitable appearance - but we also digressed into other, more futuristic topics such as gesture control and using your smartphone as a remote control for larger displays.

It was a lot of fun, and I hope you like it! Also, the discussion thread happening on the Datastori.es website is worth following with various links and extensions to my remarks.

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OpenVis Conf talk is online: Data on Your Fingertips

A few weeks ago I had the honor of giving a talk at the first OpenVis Conf in Boston, organized by the fantastic people from Bocoup. The conference's goal was to talk about visualization on the web and how to move that field forward. In the two days there was an amazing density of content, brilliance and enthusiasm and it really was the place to be for anyone interested in vis on the web.

My talk - 'Data on Your Fingertips' - was a primer on touch-centric interaction design, as there are only few examples of touchable visualizations out there (yet). Regarding the web, I unfortunately had rather dire news - most tablets and smartphones are simply too slow to do interesting web-based visualization in real-time (don't worry - pie charts are possible). But we're getting there and I have high hopes for developments such as WebGL.

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Touchable visualizations

It's tough to start a new blog. You hear people wondering 'Really? Do we need another one of these?', but I guess my answer would be yes. http://do.minik.us has been around for a while now, but so far it's only been a place to publish more information on my (mostly scientific) projects than a regular paper template would allow me. But now that I've left my scientific career behind me and started out as a freelance data visualization and mobile interaction designer (still have to find a shorter title), I think it's only fitting to start with a relaunch of my website and the inclusion of a blog. Because we need to talk!

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