VFX Soldier has a great piece on some of the recent discoveries in the ongoing Apple/Pixar/Lucasfilm investigation from the Justice Department. The allegation is that these three studios (and maybe more) had an illegal agreement to not poach each other’s employees in an attempt to drive wages down. Not only is this illegal, but it’s been a shock to many in the VFX Industry that saw Pixar and Lucasfilm as the ultimate employer in VFX.
Furthermore, consider how remarkable this case has become. Steve Jobs, Pixar, and Lucasfilm. For VFX artists these names are nothing but legends to us and could do no harm. Look at what the Justice Department’s investigation revealed. Behind our backs they colluded to drive wages down.
via Poach-gate Scandal: VFX Idol Steve Jobs Involved « VFX Soldier.
Many people forget that the real purpose of visualization isn’t just to make pretty pictures, it’s to improve understanding of information. A great example comes from this piece over at orgnet where they use social network analysis to discovery the conspiracy of a slumlord transferring a property through multiple holding companies that are all actually arms of the same company.
Figure 3 shows us that these LLCs were not as separate as they first appeared. The dark red links reveal family ties found in public records. The LLCs were not independent business entities. The business transactions were happening within extended families! A conspiracy was coming into focus.
It’s a great article showing the many layers of data they added before finally coming to their conclusion (I show the final graph above). Definitely something to check out.
Revealing Economic Terrorists: a Slumlord Conspiracy.
FluxFun has the first part of a 2-part writeup on data visualization of court data. I know, not the most exciting stuff, but an area with tons of data (Judges, lawyers, outcomes, etc) all in public form, but with no good way to trudge through it all.
As the cliché goes, data is king, but information is power. In a democracy, transparency is a requirement to good governance. Transparency is measured against the amount of useful, relevant, and timely information provided to the people. I believe that through Larc’s taxonomies and other derivative information provided by data visualization makes as better as a nation, and as a people.
via Data Visualization: Designing Understandable Data for You, Me, and Everybody | FluxFun Enterprises.
IBM has come out with a new interactive visualization tool aimed at peeling back the many layers of bureaucracy in congress. The new “Many Bills” systems lets you track bills as they make their way through the various committees and offices, each step along the way changing just a little bit, before becoming the bills you know.
Many Bills does a solid job of cataloging each Congressional bill (in every stage) with a color-coded format that creates an interlocking map allowing you to link themes and follow the path of different bits of legislation. It’s also a useful tool for those looking to delve into how Washington works, and see how the issues that matter to you are being drafted in our Capitol. It may even help expose politicians passing out legislative favors, and reward those staying true to the promises.
A great step forward for transparent democracy, now we just have to hope someone actually uses it.
via IBM’s Many Bills: This Law Visualization Tool Can Help Unlock Legislative Dealings | Fast Company.
Now here’s an odd sign of the times: A new law passed in Virginia allows Notary Publics to Notarize documents via Webcam. They claim this will vastly increase the security of the notarization process, although I can see dozens of ways this can go wrong.
Bill HB 2318 – now the law of the state – was created as a way to counteract notary fraud such as that most recently seen in the “robo-signing” frauds conducted during the foreclosure crisis.
Virginia’s law outlines a model for notarization that vastly increases the security of notarial transactions. Webcam-based notarization can reduce vulnerability to fraud while also being more convenient, particularly for disabled consumers. NotaryNow, the online notary service, intends to utilize the law in its own service offering.
I don’t know the details of the law, but this is both an exciting and scary proposition. What do you think?
via Virginia Passes Law Allowing Webcam Notarization.
Tableau took some heat when they unexpectedly took down the publicly-created visualizations of the WikiLeaks cables. Realizing that perhaps that wasn’t the best solution to the touchy subject, they’ve spent some time working on a better solution. Today, they’ve announced a new Data Policy and Advisory Board, hopefully to prevent this from happening again.
The two main changes to our data policy are:
1. We are establishing a more formal complaint process, by which people can challenge data posted to Tableau Public. By outlining specific circumstances in which we will consider taking down data, the new policy puts complaints through a higher level of scrutiny than before.
2. We’re more closely aligning our policy with the accepted guidelines for free speech on the internet. You can access our full data policy for more detail at www.tableausoftware.com/public/data-policy.
The advisory board contains people from media, technology, publishing, and communications around the world, offering a nice balanced mix of expertise.
As public data becomes a bigger driver, and more companies find themselves playing the role of “data brokers” and “Visualization brokers”, we’re going to hear more and more about these types of scenarios. What do you think? Did Tableau do a good job? Could they have done more?
via The Data is In: New Policy & Advisory Board for Tableau Public | Tableau Public.
In the ongoing saga of VFX employees and companies being screwed by major hollywood studios, a new court case is on the horizon where the US is suing two of the biggest names in VFX: Lucasfilm and Pixar. The charge: Antitrust violations.
Lucasfilm and Pixar agreed to a three-part protocol that restricted recruiting of each other’s employees. First, Lucasfilm and Pixar agreed they would not cold call each other’s employees. [snip] Second, they agreed to notify each other when making an offer to an employee of the other firm. Third, they agreed that, when offering a position to the other company’s employee, neither would counteroffer above the initial offer.
The goal is that the two biggest employers of digital animators agreed to a ‘I saw him first’ philosophy, reducing competition in the workplace and limiting employment opportunities for artists. It sounds innocent at first, until you realize it’s a great way to keep wages arbitrarily low (eg “Look, I won’t lure your guys away with more money if you agree not to take mine.”).
via Lee Stranahan: Feds Sues Lucasfilm for Undermining VFX Artists.
I just found a new WordPress blog called “VFX Law” that seems dedicated to pulling out all the details regarding the recent turmoil about contracts, unions, employment, and overtime. From his own “about”:
Based in Los Angeles, VFX Law is a CG Supervisor by day, and law student by night. VFX Law is primarily interested in employment law, contracts, entertainment law and intellectual property rights. The purpose: analyze and inform fellow artists and the VFX community about the legal issues and challenges we face in our tough business every day, and provide a forum for open anonymous discussions.
He already has several great articles online, such as:
And looks like he’ll continue publishing more. Go check it out!