Data visualization challenge at the first SatRdays conference

Bence Arato
3 min readSep 7, 2016


Last Saturday the first ever SatRdays conference took place in Budapest. It is a new series of events for the R community, inspired by the SQLSaturday conferences.

The conference was quite a success, with 25 international speakers and a soldout attendance of 180. As part of the programme, we ran a data visualization challenge, and here I’ll summarize the results and also share some thoughts on dataviz and R.

The dataviz challenge

The challenge rules were quite simple: we published a dataset consisting of 18K+ entries on the flights of the Budapest Liszt Ferenc airport, sourced from the Hungarian Central Statistic Office. The participants were asked to submit a data visualization created from the data using only R.

While such contests are always engaging and fun, this time we also had two additional goals:

  • First, we wanted to see how similar the methods and packages used by entries would be. Is there a common way of doing data visualizations in R? Or will we see a number of different approaches?
  • We have already ran a very similar contest on the same dataset at our Budapest BI Forum conference a few years ago, where all kind of commercial data visualization software was allowed and used. We hoped that comparing the entries of the two contests would show how far the dataviz capabilities of R progressed.

I’ll get back to these points later, but let’s see the entries and results first. We have received 8 submissions in total, and all contestants were allowed to present her/his solution in 3 minutes at the last session of the conference. The audience then voted on the best submission.

The medalists

All presentations were well received by the audience, and after counting the votes, the following 3 entries emerged as the most liked:

The 3rd place went to Thomas Levine, who created an animated video with custom-made music decoding the data points.

Hopping Cities by Thomas Levine

Static pictures don’t do justice to this entry, so just download the .mkv file and watch it. Also read the summary.

The second prize was won by Ágnes Salánki, whose visualization was aimed to those who don’t like the crowds (‘a recommedation system to introverts’).

Tips & tricks to avoid the crowd by Ágnes Salánki

And the first prize went to László Gönczy and his teammates at Quanopt Ltd. (János Oláh, Nóra Lengyel, Flórián Deé and Imre Kocsis) who created a beautiful dashboard showing different stories hiding in the dataset.

The sky over Budapest by László Gönczy and the Quanopt team

Lessons learned

The most popular technology was Shiny by far, used in 5 of the 8 entries. Other R packages used includes plotly, ggplot, ggmap, ffmpeg and grid.

As for the comparison between the commercial and R-based visualizations, you can check some of the entries of the previous competition here. One of them is also available online on Tableau Public.

I’d like also to mention the effort by Romain Francois, who not just created a great visualization together with Cecile Sauder, but also published a revised and updated version of the dataset on github.

List of all entries (in presentation order):

Ágoston Török és Fanni Kling: Results, code
Tibor Szabó: Results, code
Tamás Markó: Results, code
Thomas Levine: Results (.mkv), code, summary
Zsuzsanna Szabó: Results, code
László Gönczy et al.: Results, code
Ágnes Salánki: Results, code
Romain Francois and Cecile Sauder: Results, code

There’s more to come

If you also like R or data visualization and enjoy visiting Budapest, check out the Call for Papers for the upcoming Budapest BI Forum conference (October 25–27). We will run the next dataviz challenge there, with a brand new dataset. The CFP closes in a week.



Bence Arato

Analyst, adviser, architect, organizer. Managing director of BI Consulting and organizer of the @BudapestBI, @BudapestData and @BudapestNoSQL conference series.