OpenVis Conf and Bocoup Interview

OpenVis Conf

BOCOUP is an Open Web technology company by and for programmers. Self-described on Twitter as an Open Web technology standup comedy troupe, Bocoup not only contributes to open source, does consulting, and runs workshops and trainings, they also run four different developer conferences. These conferences include Roost for Front-end Devs, OpenVis Conf for Data Visualizers, Backbone Conf for Web Devs (Backbone, Ember, Knockout and other frameworks covered) and NewGame Conf for Game Devs.

We recently caught up with Irene Ros and Jory Burson from Bocoup to hear more about OpenVis Conf and Bocoup. The format below is based on question / answer.

Q: OpenVis Conf - What is it?
A: OpenVis Conf is the first-ever conference for developers, designers, engineers, data scientists, and managers working to push data visualization forward on the Open Web.

Q: OpenVis Conf - When is it?
A: May 16 & 17, 2013

Q: OpenVis Conf - Where is it?
A: At the Museum of Science in Boston. We’re extremely grateful to the Museum of Science for hosting us and can’t wait to share the sorts of activities you can only participate in thanks to the wonderful venue.

Q: OpenVis Conf - Speakers?
Amanda Cox, New York Times
Juan Velasco, National Geographic
Tom MacWright, MapBox
Kim Rees, Periscopic
Santiago Ortiz
Shawn Allen, Stamen
Jesse Kriss, NASA
Lynn Cherny
Jim Vallandingham, Stowers Institute
Doug Schepers, W3C
Abe Stanway, Etsy
Miguel Rios, Twitter
Alex Graul, Crowdstrike
Dominikus Baur
Kai Chang
Gabriel Florit, Boston Globe

Q: OpenVis Conf - What are the goals?
A: OpenVis Conf aims to share high-quality resources and best practices in the emerging field of Open Web data visualization with practitioners. OpenVis Conf brings together people who have demonstrated excellence in their work and are excited to share their discoveries, process, and contributions to the Open Web and data visualization.

Q: OpenVis Conf - Who should attend?
A: The conference is targeted at all practitioners of data visualization - from data researchers to designers to developers. The focus is very much on acquiring new skills in a variety of data visualization topics, including architecture, mapping, d3.js and multi-dimensional data to name a few.

Q: OpenVis Conf - Why put on a conference for JS Data Vis practitioners?
A: The conference isn’t just for JS practitioners - in fact, there will be a number of folks at OpenVis for whom JS is new. While building data visualizations for the web requires JS, there are many other open tools along the way that practitioners use - such as R and Nodebox - and we’re excited to share the diversity along that toolchain. That said, we hope that OpenVis Conf inspires attendees to fully explore JavaScript, and discover how they can push the boundaries of data visualization on the web with it.

Q: OpenVis Conf - Why now?
A: In practice, most data visualizations end up on the web. It’s also becoming increasingly important to target a variety of devices, from mobile to Google Glass! There a number of competing technologies and methods for creating data visualizations - from proprietary and desktop softwares to Open Web methods such as svg, canvas, webgl, and so on (a topic which Miguel Rios from Twitter will speak about.) Because this space is evolving fast, we’re excited to gather people who can offer a set of best practices and inspiration and help shape the future of the Open Web data visualization.

Q: OpenVis Conf - Why are you (Bocoup, Irene, Jory) the right people to put this on?
A: Bocoup is known for its dedication to growing, stabilizing, and standardizing the Open Web across a variety of industries. The field of data visualization is greatly impacted by Open Web technologies as a relative newcomer to the web platform. Bocoup is in a unique position to support data visualization tools and practitioners on the web, given its demonstrated commitment to moving the field forward. Irene Ros and Jory Burson have made an ideal team for organizing OpenVis Conf - Irene is a globally recognized expert in the field and leads Bocoup’s research and development efforts in Open Web data visualization. Jory, managing the growing and highly successful educational programs at Bocoup, rounds out this effort, providing community development and outreach for the Open Web.

Q: OpenVis Conf - What excites you about the speakers?
A: Um, everything?! In seriousness, there are a lot of different backgrounds and experiences represented in the OpenVis Conf speaker line-up. We have 15+ year veterans in the field as well as rising stars who are all helping to shape the conversation about open web data visualization. While this level of variety ensures that there are plenty of different perspectives represented, all the speakers have demonstrated deep commitment to creating and standardizing open web data visualization tools. We are also incredibly excited to host OpenVis Conf at the Museum of Science in Boston. Conference venues normally serve as no more than a container for its attendees, but in this case we have an entire museum full of inspiration to the very field we’re in! Not to mention all the exciting activities that our attendees will get to partake in...

Q: OpenVis Conf - Why should people care?
A: Because the speakers and attendees at OpenVis Conf will play an immediate and integral role in shaping the conversation about open web data visualization over the coming years. These topics will continue to grow in relevance and importance to data vis practitioners. Anyone who cares about the future of the field should pay close attention to the themes and discussions that will arise from OpenVis Conf and join us in shaping the future of data visualization on the web.

Q: Tell us about you - What does Bocoup do?
A: Bocoup is an Open Web technology and software development company working to move the web forward through consulting, education, and community development.

Q: How are you, Irene and Jory, involved with Bocoup?
A: Irene Ros leads Bocoup’s growing data visualization initiative and is a Senior Software Engineer at Bocoup. Irene has been working in the data visualization field for the last 5 years, on projects like Many Eyes, an early comer to data visualization on the web, that pushed the boundaries of what was possible. As Director of Education, Jory Burson directs Bocoup’s Open Web community and training initiatives and works with Irene to support the data vis community through open source and sponsorship.

Q: What are your favorite (for each of you) client/student success story?
A: For Jory - it’s been watching people grow and flourish in the community. The ‘student success story’ that sticks out most for has to be Adam Hyland. Adam was new to Boston when he came to Roost, a two-day front-end development training conference we created, and from there I introduced him to Irene and the Data Vis community here. Adam has since become a strong voice in the community on data science and analysis, and has gone on to work with Irene on important projects such as OpenGenderTracker while working as an apprentice at Bocoup
For Irene - One of my favorite projects we were lucky to help with was Reconstitution2012 by the amazing folks at Sosolimited. Reconstitution2012 was an immensely successful, large-scale, real-time Presidential debate visualization Sosolimited took on building after their live performance of Reconsitition2008. With the 2012 version, they wanted to build a system on the web. A few of us at Bocoup jumped in to help with everything from the implementation of their incredible design, to code organization, to optimizing performance. It was incredibly rewarding to see it live and watch the debates with it on! It’s an incredible piece of work and a confirmation that building data visualization on the web is much more complicated than “how do I make this look good.”

Q: What excites you about the open web?
A: The web has limitless potential - new ideas, tools, and technologies are born in to it everyday. The communities that sprout around Open Web technologies have been pushing the limits of the web so much faster than closed communities are able to, and we’ve seen that especially in data visualization. A great example of that is d3.js, which has a thriving community that is responsible for everything from charting libraries to new visualization methods.

The Open Web stands for democratizing and standardizing technology while at the same time keeping low the costs and barriers to entry. Developing on the Open Web results in so much innovation, and that’s a very exciting place to be.

Q: What excites you about JavaScript?
A: We’re excited about creating for the web, and JavaScript is the language of the web. The JavaScript communities we participate in, including ones like d3.js, are incredibly vibrant and have been producing a lot of tools and practices that really push the field forward.

Q: What excites you about data visualizations?
A: Wow, what doesn’t!? There’s so much variety and creativity that goes into not only building data visualizations, but also making the right technology and visual paradigm choices. We’re really excited to watch data visualization grow on the Open Web and be a part of that movement.

Q: Who do you like that is doing great work?
A: Well, our speakers of course! It’s also hard to ignore amazing work like Jason Davies’ mapping contributions to d3.js.

Q: What work is currently inspiring you?
A: We’re inspired by how far mapping has evolved on the web. It wasn’t long ago that Google Maps was the defacto standard, and now we have incredibly innovative and beautiful maps (such as the water color maps from Stamen) and many more libraries to chose from. We are also really grateful for all the support the Open Web is getting from organizations like the Knight Foundation, which has been graciously sponsoring the development of tools and practices that directly push our field forward.

Q: What blogs do you think are hidden gems?
A: Well, inspiration is everywhere! As it turns out, just about everything we build on the web has some elements of data visualization to it - even your facebook feed is visualizing data if you think about it. There are too many sources to list that inspire us, but we are big fans of CreativeJS and of course the DashingD3 newsletter!

Q: What's been the most surprising thing for you that's happened in the last year related to the Open Web?
A: For us, it’s been the explosion of learning tools, websites, and localized resources focused on the Open Web. The past year has seen a number of additions to the space, all of which are inspiring people from all walks of life to learn more about programming, engineering and the Open Web. We’re excited for the language of the web to become more prevalent in mainstream conversation, and Bocoup’s role in making that happen, over the coming years!

Q: What else should we know about you, OpenVis Conf, Bocoup and/or your passions and interests?
A: Hopefully it’s obvious by now that we’re passionate about Open Web development and developers - So much so that the Loft at Bocoup is always open to the community for meetups, hackdays, or just technical conversation. If you’re ever in Boston, send us an email or tweet and drop in to see us - we have free JS & Bob the Rooster stickers with every visit!


Irene & Jory – Thank you so much for your time! Bocoup can be found online at and the OpenVis Conf can be found online at

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