Book Review: Learning Responsive Data Visualization

This post is about describing my experiences reading a book: “Learning Responsive Data Visualization” by Christoph Körner.

What is it all about?

The book aims to explain the concepts and application of responsive data visualization technologies. It describes the famous CSS framework from Twitter “Bootstrap“, SVG graphics and the JavaScript visualization framework D3.js.

The book has 9 chapters: starting from a short introduction of the components in use, it quickly enables the user to create their first visualization and increases the level of detail and complexity systematically. Later, it describes a combined usage of these components and presents techniques on how to create more elaborate layouts and animations.

In the end,  the book motivates and explains how to test visualization applications, as well as outlines how to solve cross-browser issues.

About the Author

From Amazon

Christoph Körner, CTO and lead developer at GESIM, a start-up company, is a passionate software engineer, web enthusiast, and an active member of the JavaScript community with more than 5 years of experience in developing customer-oriented web applications. He is the author of Data Visualizations with D3 and AngularJS and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Visual Computing at Vienna Institute of Technology.

My opinion

Christoph uses short, concise descriptions. Instead of being verbose, he yields many links for further reading to official documentation or interesting blog entries by utilizing non-invasive text boxes throughout the chapters. The author understands how to direct the reader’s attention at the important parts of the technologies introduced.

Nevertheless, here and there, the author finishes a section with an outlook to an advanced topic that sometimes could have needed a little closer attention. An example of this can be found at the end of chapter 2, when the author mentions, that “D3 provided more useful methods on the generator functions”. He then names only one such method and describes it in one sentence. More useful would have been a small list of these methods or to provide yet another of the excellent code examples in the book.

What I really enjoyed is that the author follows the title of the book closely and visualizes not only the code examples but also graphically depicts the concepts and philosophy of the frameworks in use. This helped me a lot to understand the ideas.

One of the most important things of a textbook is to be simple and comprehensible. Christoph easily reaches these goals.

responsive_data_vis

Audience

In my opionon, you need some level of experience with HTML, CSS and JavaScript before you can get started.
Thus, I believe the book aims at developers of intermediate level. On the other hand, if you bring these prerequisites this book is aimed at beginners of D3.js.

Conclusion

At Amazon I rated the book with 4 stars: While I mentioned above, that I like that it is completely fact based and content focused, I kind of miss to get some historical information or funny side stories in footnotes or fact boxes. Instead, fact boxes are used efficiently to point to additional technical content. There are some rare 5-star-books out there that achieve to create this fine bridge of being educational and entertaining. “Learning Responsive Data Visualization” does not build this bridge, but delivers a solid book to teach yourself and others modern responsive data visualization.

Maker Faire Vienna 2016

I always wanted to attend a Maker Faire whenever I heard about it. A fair for people who build and create things with their own minds and hands; a fair for children to show them how accessible technology is and how easy it is to get started to build their own things; a fair for those who do instead of just keep talking. However, until now I never had the time or was just too far away to attend. Last weekend, April 16 and 17, the Maker Faire came to Vienna, which meant that I finally had this opportunity.

IMG_20160416_124230
The One Love Machine Band

Makers

There is not enough space here to count all the great and cool things that were shown at the Maker Faire Vienna 2016, but we saw a machine that was automatically baking typical Austrian pancakes “Palatschinken“, another one that created typical Austrian “Spritzer” – a mixture of sparkling water and wine. A technical college who showcased their pupils’ cool projects was not missed. Also, the racing team and the space team of the Vienna University of Technology were there. Vienna’s hacker spaces had their own booths and many many more people who demonstrated their skills. Pity, it would not be feasible to name them all. High rooms, old wooden floors, big wooden bars across the room and huge pillars impregnated a special atmosphere to the event.

Talks

Since there were so many things to see and I had to prepare my own talk “Smart Home – from Maker to Market”, I can’t really say anything about any of the talks there. They are all available on Vimeo, so I guess it’s worth watching them if you are interested and couldn’t attend the sessions.

I gave a talk that was not so much about a smart home, but what would happen if we connected many smart homes, which benefits we could have, the challenges as well as the high level architecture. Well, I would have liked to talk about all of these things in more detail, but I was limited to 30 minutes. Watch the video [german] and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Summary

I am excited to see this event outgrowing its current location and hopefully the Maker Faire Vienna 2017 comes back with even more makers, more cool projects and more great people.

 

Meet the Hadoop User Group Vienna

A friend said, “Vienna needs a Hadoop User Group” and I agreed with him. The next step was to initialize a Meetup group. Meetup is a platform, where everyone can organize any kind of meetings for any kind of topic. Hadoop recently just started to gain a little traction in Austria and Vienna and I think it’s the perfect time to start a group like this.

This group is for everyone of any level of skill using Apache Hadoop who is located in Vienna. The focus of the group is clearly technical with an eye on use cases. I try to organize technical talks of Hadoop related vendors for the sessions. Also, I want to establish the opportunity working together on real world problems and get hands on Hadoop. In this group we will create a network of Hadoop Users, discuss recent and interesting (technical) topics, eat, drink and – most importantly – have fun together.

I’d like the group to be interactive and that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.

For the first Meetup on Wednesday, May 18, I plan to briefly introduce the goals of the group. I believe all members of the group should brainstorm together, on what all of us expect of the group in the future and try to figure out how often we should meet and which contents we want to work on.

My ideas on how it could look like in the future:

  • One of us could provide some code and walk the others through it. That way the experienced of us can provide feedback and give hints on what to improve and the less experienced gain knowledge.
  • We can define a project to work on together: e.g., building a Hadoop cluster together out of Raspberry Pis, writing streaming applications in Apache Storm or Apache Spark together, or whatever you want,…
  • I plan to combine the Meetup every now and then with the Vienna Kaggle Meetup and do a session about “Data Science and Hadoop”.
  • Similarly to the Vienna Kaggle group, I created a git organisation for code that we work on together. If you are interested to join, just contact me and I will give you access.

I am looking forward to getting to know you as well as hearing your ideas on what to contribute to the group.

 

My Impressions of the Hadoop Summit Dublin 2016

The Hadoop Summit is a tech-conference hosted by Hortonworks, being one of the biggest Apache Hadoop distributors, and Yahoo, being the company in which Hadoop was born. Software developers, consultants, business owners, administrators, that have a mutual interest in Hadoop and the technologies of its ecosystem, all gathered in Dublin – this year’s Hadoop Summit of Europe took place in Ireland. The Hadoop Summit 2016 Dublin had some great  keynotes, plenty of time to network and a lot of exciting talks about bleeding edge technology, its use cases and success stories. Also it was a great opportunity for companies working with Hadoop to present themselves and for the visitors to get to know them.

20160414_103139
Keynote: “Data is Beautiful”

The organisation of the conference was great. 1300 people participated, but it never felt crowded, nor were there any (big) waiting lines to enter the speaker rooms or at the lunch buffet.

My Favorite Talks

This is a list of my favorite talks in a chronological order with their videos embedded. To be honest, this list is basically almost all of the talks that I saw in person and probably I missed even more great talks, that were given in parallel. Fortunately, we can see all of them on the official Hadoop Summit 2016 Dublin Youtube channel.

  • SQL streaming: This talk gave a really nice overview of the development of an SQL streaming solution with all its technical challenges and how they were addressed. Also simple technical use cases were discussed and compared to traditional SQL, where each query terminates, whereas streaming SQL queries never terminate.

  • Hadoop at LinkedIn: Here we got valuable insights into the Hadoop landscape of LinkedIn, as well as job monitoring and automated health checks. A job monitoring tool, Dr. Elephant, developed by LinkedIn was open sourced only a few days before the start of the Summit.

  • IMG-20160423-WA0000Containerization at Spotify:  This talk was about how Spotify uses docker containers and the tools involved in their automated IT landscape. The best part starts at 39:30, where it is revealed, that Spotify overcomes security challenges by not implementing internal security measurements at all. According to the speaker everyone can access everyones data. If life could always be as simple as that 🙂

  • Apache Zeppelin + Apache Livy: Apache Zeppelin already is a great tool for interactive data analysis, exploration or even doing ETL tasks using Apache Pig, querying data using Apache Hive, as well as executing Python, R or bash scripts. Apache Livy helps data scientists work together in one notebook on a secure cluster. What I like a lot about this talk is, that the speakers nicely explain the authentication mechanism involved.

  • Apache Phoenix: Apache Phoenix is a SQL query engine on top of Apache HBase and much more. This talk was basically a view on the capabilities and features of Apache Phoenix. Great stuff – nothing more to add. Watch the video!

10 Years of Hadoop Party

In the night of day one, the Guinness storehouse was utilized as a huge burger-beer-and-big-data networking event. As you can imagine there was good food, Guinness, great music by Irish bands on several floors and of course most importantly the same cool people attending the conference.

IMG_20160413_200647.jpg
Author in the Guinness storehouse

Summary

My first Hadoop Summit attendance was a great experience in all its particulars. I got great contacts, gained lots of knowledge and had lots of fun at the same time. Hopefully, I will be able to attend the next Hadoop Summit 2017 in Munich.