Nick Brown

Hi! Welcome to my little corner of the internet, featuring side projects, blog posts, conference talks, & code. I'm particularly interested in data (visualization, data science, deep learning), new ways to interactively explore systems / ideas, and learning fun new tools.

My software development philosophy is easy to summarize - "A prototype is worth a thousand meetings..."Read more

By day, I'm a senior director of product for VitalSource, where I'm proud to help deliver a powerful learning platform to millions of students all over the world. You can sometimes find me speaking at events on open standards, accessibility, interactive content and more - usually illustrating the technical details with plenty of demos.

You can find me on Twitter @uptownnickbrown, email me at nicholas.tyler.brown at gmail dot com, check out most of my projects on Github or send smoke signals in the general direction of Pennington, NJ, where I live with my wife, our two wonderful little kids and our dog Moose.

Investigating Automatically Generated Questions

Tools used: SpaCy, BERT, Transformers (Huggingface), Bookshelf
Helped lead R&D around automatic question generation from textbook content. Was a published author on award-winning research paper proving our method works, and then led productization effort to launch at massive scale in VitalSource Bookshelf.

Watkins or Not Watkins?

August 2017
Tools used: Python / Flask, Keras, Theano
Inspired by Silicon Valley's Not Hotdog, this simple app detects whether an uploaded image is Watkins (the Bookshelf mascot) or not, using a deep neural network. Yeah, it's overkill.


March 2017
Tools used: Python / Flask, React, AWS, MySQL Source: MetaSeek on Github
MetaSeek is a data discovery and analysis tool for genome sequencing data. Built in collaboration with my soon-to-be PhD wife, we expect to publish a paper on MetaSeek this year.

Think outside the textbook

November 2016
Tools used: EPUB 3, Web Audio API, Firebase Realtime Database
Video of my talk at Books in Browsers '16. Lots of fun demos in this one, including three prototype chapters from a hypothetical highly interactive music textbook.

In C

November 2016
Tools used: Web Audio API, Firebase Realtime Database, MIDI.js Source: Mind-size-bites on Github
An explorable exploration looking at a famous piece of experimental music, "In C". Including a collaborative, networked, educational concert performance.

Hebrides Overture

November 2016
Tools used: Web Audio API, Youtube API, Firebase Realtime Database, Device motion detection, PDF.js Source: Mind-size-bites on Github
An aural and visual exploration of Mendelssohn's famous overture. Make sure to try out conducting the piece (as it plays on your laptop) by waving around your phone to the beat.

Timbre - the color of sound

October 2016
Tools used: D3.js, Web Audio API Source: Mind-size-bites on Github
Timbre can perhaps best be described as the color of sound. Check out a visualization of a trumpet or flute, then sing into your microphone to see your own voice in action.


June 2016
Tools used: Node / Express, Mailgun API, Heroku Source: Link-a-Day on Github
1) Send a 💯 link (with the URL in the subject line). 2) Get an anonymous 🔥 link back via email. 3) Reply to 💬 directly with whoever sent it in.


March 2016
Tools used: Python, word2vec, scikit-learn, EPUB 3 Source: EPUB2Vec on Github
Using Word2Vec, analyze which paragraphs of a set of ebooks are most similar to each other. Useful for cross-linking, topic relevance and exploration.

Night Falls. A Storm Rolls In...

January 2016
Tools used: Hand-crafted, boutique, framework-free HTML, CSS, SVG & JS Source: Riddler solutions on Github
Diving deep into an interesting puzzle from FiveThirtyEight with an explorable explanation.


January 2016 Tools used: Node / Express, Twitter API, ImageMagick, JP2A, AWS Source: Asciify on Github
Update August 2018 - Twitter broke this and many other bots. Thanks Twitter. A fun Twitter bot that converts @mentions into ASCII art -

The past and future of data visualization

September 2015
Blog post hosted on Medium
A deep dive into the invention of key chart types and what innovations are coming next to data visualization.

Getting into data visualization — where should I start?

August 2015
Blog post hosted on Medium Tools used: Python, R
A short post for the academic scientist, school teacher, research consultant, project manager, funemployed guy or MBA grad who wants to get into data visualization - but doesn't know where to begin.

The Story:System Spectrum

June 2015
Blog post hosted on Medium
The breadth of possibilities when creating interactive stories for the web is endless. Using a framework like the Story:System Spectrum can help bring clarity when faced with the thousand small decisions that go into building great content.

The Data Journalist Job Description

February 2015
Blog post hosted on Medium
Thinking about the ever-expanding job description for today’s social media-savvy, digitally native, constantly engaged journalist. Add data to the mix and the job spirals away from difficult towards impossible.

Priority Matrix

June 2014
Tools used: D3.js Source: Priority Matrix on Github
Use the Eisenhower Priority Matrix to help you get stuff done. Add your tasks to the table and see live updates on the priority chart.