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Fragments of Quartz: Twelve of our best “things” of 2014

By Gideon Lichfield

We have a word we use for stories made mainly of graphics or interactives: things. (Don’t ask us why; it’s just a, uh, thing.) The journalists who produce these stories, sometimes on their own and sometimes working with others, we call the “things team.” Our things have their own Twitter account, @quartzthings, and a (slightly stale) Tumblr too. We make things because we believe they sometimes tell stories better than words do. Here—in no particular order—are some of our best things from this past year.

1. The photographically skilled—and very angry—pilots of Instagram

Photos taken from the cockpit are often breathtaking—but a pilot wielding a camera may be breaking regulations. After six months of following Instagram accounts, David Yanofsky compiled a collection of pictures by pilots. In response, some of them started a vitriolic hate campaign.

2. The Quartz cocktail calculator

Are you really going to pay $16/€14/£12 for that Sazerac? You might want to bone up on your mixology after a couple of minutes with this interactive tool, which lets you tot up the price of the ingredients in a range of cocktails and see the massive markups that a bar charges. (David Yanofsky, Jenni Avins)

3. Every single satellite in orbit around Earth

That’s right, all 1,200 of them. (David Yanofsky, Tim Fernholz)

4. Watch Ebola spread through West Africa.

How cases of the epidemic multiplied in Liberia, then Guinea, then Sierra Leone. (Zach Wener-Fligner)

5. Play the satellite geography game

Can you tell countries apart based on close-range satellite photos? Only one person in the Quartz office got all the way through this game on the first try. (Nikhil Sonnad)

6. The fashion industry, as mapped by Instagram

The fashion industry loves Instagram, especially during the season of catwalk shows in the world’s fashion capitals. An analysis of who follows whom among 1.8 million Instagram accounts provided an insight into the structure of the industry and which stars and designers are most influential. (David Yanofsky, Jenni Avins)

7. Every single trade dispute

That thing up there is a form of “circular plot”, which enjoyed a brief flash of fame this year beyond the ranks of data-visualization geeks thanks to the widely shared, very pretty chart of global migration. We applied the same technique to showing all the 500-odd disputes brought to the World Trade Organization in its history. Did you know Honduras and the Dominican Republic got into a spat over polypropylene bags and tubular fabric? Luckily for world peace, they sorted it out. (Nikhil Sonnad)

8. Link rot on the Million-Dollar Homepage

Long before Kickstarter, this page of ads started by a college student was one of the first examples of online crowd-funding and a viral sensation of its day. And it still exists. We analyzed every one and found that 22% of them no longer work nine years on—making the page, unusual among web pages in its longevity and unchanging nature, a marker of how the web degrades over time. (David Yanofsky)

9. How Don Draper’s world was different from yours

On the eve of the final season of the hit TV show Mad Men, we put together this series of charts comparing the America of 1970 with the country of today. People drank more booze, more milk, more coffee, and less soda, and the average American male in his 40s was 23lbs, or 10kg, lighter. (Everyone)

10. The geography of Planet Starbucks

The furthest point in the world from a Starbucks is in the southern Indian Ocean. There are 62 cafes in midtown Manhattan alone. This and many other fascinating facts of cafe geography can be found in this series of maps of Starbucks’ world. (David Yanofsky)

11. Everyone at Davos

We’ve made it a tradition (two years is enough for a tradition, right?) to compile this interactive chart of all 2,600-odd people at the World Economic Forum’s annual shindig of the global elite, which lets you see the mix from different continents, the over/under-30 split, and—most noticeably—the male-female imbalance, which runs at about six-to-one. (David Yanofsky)

12. The Quartz accent quiz

You’re a worldly person. But can you tell a Somali accent from a Moroccan one or distinguish a Croatian from a Bosnian? This game, based on a crowd-sourced database of English spoken with different accents, tests your skills. Warning: It’s a little bit addictive. (Nikhil Sonnad)