Be interesting

XKCD‘s 2007 map of “Online Communities” has been updated for 2010! This is a great example of making a set of dry stats entertaining. It’s essentially a map of the popularity (by various measures) of certain sites and technologies, but presented as a map (not entirely unlike something you might find in Lord of the Rings). Of course, in doing something like this you don’t get the size of each community down to the last decimal place but that doesn’t matter – the measurements are so open to interpretation anyway that presenting the actual numbers is meaningless – its the approximate relative sizes that are more interesting.

Here is the current map (scroll down for the 2007 version):

Online Communities 2

The 2007 version:

Online Communities




e-Commerce in the US in 2009

An interesting visual came across my desk today, outlining online expenditure and other related facts from the US for last year. There is a lot of information presented here and I was surprised to find that after a couple of minutes I’d taken it all in. It goes to show that careful use of layout, typography and imagery can help you present wordy analysis without overwhelming your audience.

However, the crucial point here is that if you need to use a lot of words to get your message across, the value proposition needs to be balanced – the audience needs to put a lot of effort in to consuming your words, so you’d better make each one work as hard as it can. Make sure that no word is superfluous, and that the audience receives new (and interesting) facts at a high rate. Visual techniques (as used here) can help – for example, use bold text to highlight the crucial words and help the audience gain insight even if they don’t end up reading each and every word.

Visualising complex data

VisualComplexity is an interesting site showcasing attempts to visualise complex data. There are some excellent examples here, not least this view of website tracking. I think the skill here is making the interactivity work naturally so that you are using these visualisations to answer questions without jarring your train of thought.

Keep it simple

Keep it simple, and not only will it be supremely useful and easy to understand, but it may just become an icon.

Anything can say anything

With a little effort you can pretty much get anything to say whatever you want.

There _is_ and I in Team

Found here.

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

David McCandless talks about the value of data analysis and visualisation. At around 5:15 he uses the metaphor “Data is the new oil” but then goes on to correct it and say that, in his mind, the better metaphor is that “Data is the new soil” (referring to the richness of the data as a medium, etc). I’d say that the original metaphor was actually more appropriate: The end products of oil, after processing, are useful, powerful, critical and, sometimes, beautiful. Oil used innapropriately, though, can be damaging, poisonous, ineffectual and murky. The analogy with data and visualisation is clear – the analysis is hard and the valuable strikes few and far between, but once you have made that strike and mined it you can produce beautiful and powerful objects – pieces of insight that can change a company, a country, the world.

Its streatching an analogy to breaking point, but I like it.

See David talking at TED below: