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Beautiful Data by Toby Segaran, Jeff Hammerbacher

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Revisiting

A short time after launch, our scraping bot began running into a wall. It was seemingly impossible to access the CrimeWatch site for any extended length of time, even with a regular browser. Conversations with the city information technology department suggested that once our access was publicly noted, it was considered unwelcome. The city offered some hints of an official method of accessing the data, but the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly and nothing was forthcoming immediately. We regretfully took the site down, and spent a few months considering enhancements and strategies for bringing it back. There were two ideas we worked on during this time that ultimately never saw the light of day, and one new feature that we made public. An outcome of the revision process has been a more focused, pragmatic final data display.

In thinking about how best to represent the impact of local crime on a place, conversations with Adam Greenfield led to the idea of "violence as a force acting on a place." One way to envision the long-term impact of a murder or robbery on the surrounding neighborhood is as an aura (see Figure 11-9). My initial mental model of this was a space-time sphere, perhaps a quarter mile in space radius and a week in time radius. The visual display would be a small spot that grows into a large stain as a time slider is moved closer to the actual event time. Greenfield suggested inverting the sphere into a pair of cones: the actual crime is a point, with "light ...

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