The Universe of Data Visualization Meetups

The graph below shows the age, size and number of events of the main data visualization groups by city as registered on Meetup.com. The data is available in a Google spreadsheet. It started out as some research to understand the context in which the new Visualisation Montréal meetup is created and turned into a graph when it appeared that the findings might be interesting to share.

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Findings

Go big or go home —  The smaller circles are generally darker, meaning that the groups with less members are also less active. There seems to be a threshold of viability at around 400 members.

The founders' group — San Francisco, Vancouver, New York and Boston stand out as successful innovators. In fact, San Francisco is the oldest, biggest and most active group, by a large margin in each measure.

The 2013 frenzy — The period starting in late 2012 and ending in early 2014 has been very active for the creation of data visualization groups on Meetup.com. It reflects a certain experience online where the discussions, actors and output seems to have increased at the same time.

An American phenomenon — The meetups in the U.S. (blue) dominate the landscape, which is not surprising given the quantity of output. It might also be an artifact of the popularity of Meetup.com in that country.

Design and data

Circles — The circles are not visually precise because the eye underestimates the change in value associated with an increase in size. In this context though, visually overvaluing the small circles has an upside in that it makes them visible. Even groups like Pittsburg, Houston and Atlanta are trumped by the size of the San Francisco group (nearing 5000 members). The choice was also an aesthetic one, leading to the "universe" theme.

Regions — Canada is not grouped with the USA under North America because the first audience is the members of the Montreal meetup, who will be curious to know what else is going on across Canada.

Black background — The graph was initially developed to be projected on a screen during a presentation. It turned out to be a fitting color for the "universe" theme. The downside is that San Francisco is so much more active that it makes all the other circles, and the overall graph, quite dark.

Data — Meetup groups are only a proxy for the popularity of data visualization around the world. Certain countries might not use this website for their meetings, some cities might not meet but be active in visualization. Also, the recency of the meetups, starting in 2010, might suggest that the topic has become relevant recently, but it seems impossible to find any group older than 2009 on Meetup.com, so this recency might be an artifact of the website's limitations. 

Calculations — An annualized number of events would have favored the more recent meetups who haven't had the time to cumulate a track record. But the absolute number was chosen because keeping a high level of activities over several years is an achievement that deserves attention.

Tools — The data was gathered in a Google spreadsheet were the calculations to convert the raw numbers into encoding were made. The graph was manually created in Adobe InDesign.