Author Archive

Listening to the Data

October 9th, 2013 by David

As a former sound studies student and radio/music/audio geek, I tend to think a lot about the various aural phenomena I confront on a daily basis. On the job, it’s mostly the gentle roar of Broadway and the whisper-quiet discussions of my Chartteam colleagues hard at work…  Thankfully the Chartbeat record player is actually a thing and we’re slowly building out our library (thanks to @tovah at the Lansing State Journal for the killer batch of vinyl!).

we keep the Dylan records as chew toys for the office puppies

Ok, but when I’m not burying everything in headphones full of blissful fuzz I’ve got to listen to what’s going on around me and filter out the signal from the noise. It’s a common problem; one that Chartbeat’s data science team confronts everyday. When you’re looking at a large dataset it can be tough to pick out the useful bits, so you graph them out, relying on your eyes to pick out the anomalies (obviously there’s much more to it than that, but I’m not the data scientist ‘round here, so let’s just let bygones be bygones and keep on truckin’, cool?). This works in most cases, but in the real-time paradigm you’re frequently monitoring data as it comes in… and you’ve only got one set of eyes, so how are you going to mustachify that picture of your CEO and watch the data at the same time?

Recently I’ve been seeing a bunch of sonification projects that are attempting to free up those eyes so you can monitor real-time events passively while working on something else. Data sonification has been around for a while (cue image of guys in hazmat suits walking around with Geiger counters), but I thought I’d take a moment on the ol’ Chartbeat blog to throw around some links for the interested data/sound nerds who are still reading….

Listen to Wikipedia

This one has been going around the web quite a bit recently…. basically a real-time sonification of various types of Wikipedia activity, particularly notable for the thoughtful sound design and accompanying visuals (github).

Listen to BitCoin

The inspiration for Listen to Wikipedia. Both of these make excellent use of the howler.js library, which defaults to Web Audio API with an HTML5 Audio fallback (github). [BONUS: If you’ve got half an hour to kill go play around with these Web Audio API demos].


A real-time sonic feed of German tweets. There’s a lot of cool stuff about this one, but I love how complex the composition is… tweets are spatialized in the stereo mix according to which side of the country they came from, and of course you get different sounds for replies, retweets, and hashtags.

The Sound of Github

Listen in on all of the public Github activity. This one was put together by as a demo for their real-time data sonification service (DSAAS anyone?), which allows you to create your own custom event monitoring streams.


An art installation that tracks the position of taxis at busy New York City intersections and synthesizes the data into a soundscape in real-time.

Higgs boson

Ok, so this one isn’t real-time, but I mean come on… we’re listening to data from a particle collision at the LHC.

and finally….


Crafted by our very own @dbow1234, this one creates an ambient soundscape from your site’s historical traffic data. The link above is using Chartbeat’s data for, with frequency range governed by total concurrents and distortion/reverb mapped to social traffic. Swap in your domain and API key to get your own sounds. Danny already wrote a bit about this on the blog, so check out his post for technical details and peep his other hackweek projects.

If you want to learn more, here’s a few academic resources because I’m a super nerd and so are you:

Georgia Tech sonification lab

Monitoring Real-time Data: A Sonification Approach [pdf]

Improving the Aesthetic Quality of Realtime Motion Data Sonification [pdf]


Hit me up here, in the comments, or @dvdokkum if you’ve got more to share.

As you may have heard, at Chartbeat we’re able to measure data about audience loyalty, engagement, and referrals. We strive to build the best tools possible based on our data to help our partners make better-informed decisions for their sites. That said, we know our talented clients are capable of doing great things with our data. Thus we make the Chartbeat API accessible to clients, giving them the opportunity to build great things alongside us.

Over the past few years, we’ve been constantly wowed by all of the incredible widgets, programs and visuals our clients come up with by taking advantage of our API – from top page modules to quirkily-customized data visualizations to some clients even making their data available to the public on their sites.

In this month’s awesome webinar we show you what you can do with the Chartbeat API and celebrate some of the more creative or useful projects our data-nerds and clients have built using our data.

Already doing great stuff with the Chartbeat API? Share the fruits of your labor in the Comments section.

Enjoy the webinar!

Big Board Mini Hack

July 31st, 2013 by David

You’re probably familiar with Big Boards – you use ‘em, you love ‘em, and they’re a super easy way of keeping everyone in the newsroom in the know about what stories are trending online.

The original Big Boards (nerd joke) were made so they would be easy to enhance and modify. We tried to do the same with our Big Board, so we open-sourced the code for you to tinker with to your heart’s content. We also threw in a few added functionalities that might not be so obvious… here’s one of my favorites:

Author List

If you’re using Chartbeat Publishing you can append “&group=author” to the end of your big board URL to get a leaderboard style list of all of your writers sorted in real time by how many people are reading their articles.

It looks something like this, but with your actual writers instead of the names of some Chartteam members:
(hmm… I seem to be doing quite well today)

I know a lot of you are fans of the Big Board, so stay tuned for future Big Board hacks and projects.


As a member of the Chartcorps, I have the unique privilege of walking our newest Chartbeat users – aka our newest data nerds –through their dashboards for the very first time. My favorite part of this experience is witnessing their first-look reactions to their real-time data, which often involves several “whoa, that’s interesting” moments.


The Spiking Dead

A common “whoa” moment is when old “zombie” content pops up near the bottom of your Top Pages list on your Chartbeat dashboard. When I say zombie content, I’m referring to stories you published anywhere from three days to three years ago (and beyond) – i.e., content that’s back from what you thought was the dead. These types of stories tend to appear more frequently than you might think, and despite the scary name, they’re great strategic opportunities to keep readers engaged with your site content.

I’m sharing my top zombie-handling recommendations for how you can increase the engaged time on these reappearing stories, which is a quick look at the actual attention/quality time your readers are spending with that post, and how to position these stories to drive traffic deeper into your site.

Check yourself…err your links

Chartbeat - 1 zombie

The first real step is acceptance – it’s pretty normal for users to be browsing older articles. If you see a zombie story trending in your Top Pages list, click over the story (you can get there directly from the dashboard by clicking the name of the article while you’re in the page view) and do a thorough review of your zombie story’s links:

Identify: Check out where your zombie story is currently linking out to – where are the story’s suggested links driving your audience?

Update: Do you need to switch out those links on this story for more recent content? If a three-year-old story is getting traffic, you want to make sure that its links are relevant to today’s audience – make sure they’re pointing your readers to fresh and engaging content.

If there’s traction, get aggressive

Great, you jumped on updating those links. But what if this zombie story is gaining some serious traction? Say a recent toy recall brings a ton of readers to your months-old post detailing your concerns about this potentially dangerous product. How do you act on this new traffic?

This would be an ideal time to dig up any extra content you had laying around that didn’t make the first cut. Got some more pictures you can share? How about some video you can quickly edit together to give your visitors what they want?

If you’ve got the time and this zombie is really attacking your dashboard hard, why not write a follow-up piece? Throw a link to the update at the top and bottom of the old article (or if you’re in Chartbeat Publishing, use the Scroll Depth tool in the Heads Up Display to figure out exactly where in the piece your audience is starting to wander off).

 Whatever you decide to do with your back-from-the-dead stories, just remember to act quickly – those zombies won’t last forever.

Have you ever successfully wrangled a zombie story? Share your strategies in the comments below.