Animation: World terrorism 2004-2011

After the terror attacks of nine-eleven the USA set out to fight terrorism. It has been a succesful quest in the sense that the Americans themselves have not been hit by terrorist since – but others have. According to statistics from the American Worldwide Incident Tracking System 37,798 lethal attacks have been carried out since 2004 killing 174,547. That’s a lot of nine-elevens.

Since the WITS provides such easily accessible data it would be a shame not to do something with it. So I did and this is what I ended up with (click to open in new window):

A few words about how I did this visualization.

The data

The basic data was really easy to gather here. I just filtered the attacks with ten or more casualties and downloaded the spreadsheet from WITS. The challenge was to geocode the places. I hadn’t done this before.

I wrote a Ruby script that called the Yahoo Place Finder API to transform the place names to longitudes and latitudes. For some reason a few locations got completely wrong coordinates (I started to wonder when the USA was suddenly hit by major attacks that I had never heard of). These were filtered away.

The visualization

This job provided two new challenges. One, working with dates. Two, working with maps. Just as the last time I used the JavaScript library d3.js to put the visualization together.

For the map I used the provided Albers example as a base script. With some assistance from this thread on Google groups I managed to figure out how to make a map in d3 (my heureka moment was when I realized that you can modify d3.geo.js to center the world map wherever you want).

Getting a hold of the dates in JavaScript became much easier with the date.js library. Highly recommended.

Final thoughts

A lot could have been done to polish the animation. One could have added some sort of timeline with key events, graphs and so on. But I think this is a pretty neat base for visualizing, lets says, earthquakes of other catastrophes. And you gotta like a viz on black.

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Mapping the anti-jihadist blogosphere

It has been a truly sad weekend with the terrorist attack of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo, Norway. An extremely important political discussion is now unfolding about the causes of this tragedy. What was for example the role of the expanding anti-jihadist blogosphere?

In his manifesto Breivik keeps referring to five anti-islamic blogs:

All of these bloggers have condemned Breivik and adopted a martyr position after severe criticism from all over the world. But as for example Bjørn Stærk points out the dangerous potential of these bloggers have to be taken seriously.

I wanted to look closer at this network of bloggers. In an initial attempt to map the anti-jihadist I gathered the backlinks (the incoming links) of the five blogs mentioned above (using this site). I only included links from the front page, which means that links from single blog posts were excluded. The result was a list of 749 sites (not only blogs).

I run the list through Gephi and got the following network.

Click to open as pdf.

The size of the names are determined by the number of in-links. The sites in the middle are the ones that links to several of the five blogs.

Much more could be done to learn more about this network. One could for example expand the backlink dig to more blogs. Could that process somehow be automated? And could one use some sort of API to get more data on the sites that link to these five blogs? Geo data for example? Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to contribute.

You’ll find the backlinks I’ve gathered so far on Google Docs.