This announcement arrived in my inbox. Although I have criticized any number of such infographics, there may be some of you who would like to enter this contest. You get a set of Tufte books if you win 2nd place.
If you have submitted links to me in the past few months, you will see them posted in the next few weeks; I just spent some time looking at all the submissions.
Here are some links that are slightly off-topic (though still interesting), and others I don't intend on writing full posts about:
Daniel L. sent us to Slate, where they posted this chart counting up the human cost of the Afghan War. Applying the Trifecta checkup, he gave this evaluation:
What is the practical question: I have no idea What does the chart say: I have no idea What does the data say: I have no idea
The time series thing coupled with poor use of color obscures whatever patterns you could pick up.
Daniel is right about the last point - by plotting the disaggregated data, readers are forced to stare at the variability of casualties over time, and the progress of the war, which distracts from the idea of "accounting for the dead".
Daniel also argues, and I agree, that this math is meaningless even if done properly.
Understanding Google PageRank - Nick calls this an infographic but it contains zero data. Not the kind of thing for this blog but it does a decent job explaining PageRank.
The part about circular links canceling each other out confuses me; it would seem like good blogs should be able to link to each other without being penalized.
The Ins and Outs of Assisted Living Homes - Ellen G. created this "infographic" explaining what "assisted living homes" are like. Again, not stuff for this blog, as the two bar charts are just tag-alongs that are not well integrated with the rest.
In terms of the charts, please remove 3-D, remove the colors, order the data from largest to smallest, consider a horizontal bar chart with data labels on the left, and title it "the top needs for assisted living residents".
Something light to start the week... this infographics poster submitted by Curtis R. has to be seen to be believed. Prepared by the Rate Rush website, it compares Digg and Reddit, two services that rank and track the popularity of web pages. They were in the news a few years back; do people still use Digg or Reddit?
Here is a section of the chart:
Oh, and if you scroll down further, the designers received some appropriate feedback and re-did this chart:
I have to commend them for responding to reader suggestions. This line chart is obviously much better, and we can see that Digg has more front-page stories than Reddit at any time of the day. (Please put the data-series labels next to the lines on the right. And fix the nonsensible decimals on the gridlines.)
The fact that there is a huge gap between Digg and Reddit during the early morning hours could indicate that Reddit users tend to visit the site at work, or it could indicate that Reddit's algorithm realizes that there is no need to update the front page as often when the traffic is slow, or it could be some data processing error. It's something worth investigating.
Here's one more for further amusement:
Curtis reacts to this spiky chart:
2 pie charts, tilted at different angles (making it impossible to
accurately judge the size of each sector), with a color legend that
switched from chart to chart (e.g. imgur is blue in the reddit chart,
gray in the digg chart).
Lots of ideas from readers have been gathering dust in my mailbox. Here are a bunch of links, with a few comments of mine.
This first link I'm not sure what to make of. I think the architects and graphic designers amongst you may be able to make sense of it. Not me. It came with this description: "dr. dr. crash and dr. trash of m-a-u-s-e-r
analyzed worlds most junk magazines and visualized their data." For the intrepid (and I claim no liability):
"Jetistics: The Analysis of Junk. The Junk of Analysis?"
This is yet another example of a map adding little or no value to the data. The presence of geographic data is not an excuse to give a lesson on maps.
It would be one thing if the geographic location helps the readers understand the data but in most such charts, the map merely says "Reader, I presume you are map illiterate, so let me tell you South Africa is at the southern tip of the African continent..."
Also notice that the bar charts are sorted by average size of invoices, which is definitely less meaningful than total amount invoiced. This, I suspect, is the failure to ask the pertinent question, which is at the top of the Trifecta checkup.
#2 on this list is a chart (rather old data) on GM food, an issue of concern to me. In the Trifecta checkup, this addresses an important question, and displays very relevant data but uses a poor chart... too many colors, colors not carrying any meaing, hard-to-read labels.
Of the other links, these are more interesting: #10, #12, #17, #19, #8, #9.
Reader Chris P. wasn't amused by this infographics about World Cup economics created by Mint.
Each section has its various problems; I'll take a close look at the middle part titled "No Pain, No Gain".
Let's start with the conclusion: Revenues and costs have increased over the past ten years.
Even without a graph, this statement can at best be based on either two or three data points (depending on the starting year in the decade being referenced). Two or three data points do not a trend make.
When looking at the change in currency amounts over time, we must be take into account inflation. Currencies should be expressed in "real terms", or else any "growth" can merely arise from inflation. The US$0.5 billion earned in 1994 is worth about $0.7 billion in 2009 dollars.
For revenues that were earned in foreign currency, we must also be careful with the choice of exchange rates used to convert to US dollars. The designer should definitely explain how this was done in a footnote.
Back to the conclusion: if growth in revenues and costs is the key message, this chart showing drastic ups and downs fails to convey it.
The chart itself is all pain, no gain.
The two sections should use the same scale: the bars above bear no relationship to the bars below, even though they are paired up in an inviting manner so that the same height means different values on each chart
If plotted on the same scale, it becomes clear that hosting the World Cup is a terrifically unprofitable activity; the costs dwarfed the revenues in each case. Assuming that we have accounted for all the primary revenues and costs (questionable).
Does a football really bounce like that? Perhaps the physicists could tell us.
I suspect the distracting diagonal lines running down the canvas reflect something in real life but I'm not sure what... perhaps the way the grass is cut on the pitch? But then the lines were aligned in order to send slanted sun rays down, so perhaps it's sunlight?
There is no need to fade out the 2010 projections - we can assume that readers are literate and know what "* PROJECTED" means, speaking of which, one of my pet peeves is the use of a stranded asterisk not linked to anything, or in this case, confusingly linked to the 1998 revenues number which clearly could not have been a projection.
Here is an alternative:
I like to run against convention once in a while; here, I order the host nations from most profitable to least profitable, dropping the standard chronology.
I did this because I don't think the chronology matters. Each World Cup is unique, held in a different country (even continent), with different organizations, under different business cycles.
What we see on this chart is that all World Cups are unprofitable, some vastly loss-making; and the current one is projected to be one of the least profitable of the past two decades.
Infographics types are having a field day telling us how "big" the big BP oil spill truly is. Unfortunately, whenever size is concerned, the specter of pie charts beckons.
Via reader Fia, we are alerted to the discussion at Discover's Cosmic Variance blog about the following chart (the entire poster hosted here at Iglucruise):
Sean's original post focuses on the fundamental issue in making pie charts of making the square of the radius proportional to the data, rather than the radius. The current version (shown left below) at Iglucruise has been corrected and the sizes of the pies are much closer together.
A more pressing issue with pie charts is that we do poorly in assessing relative sizes of circular areas. Try figuring out how much smaller is the BP spill relative to the largest circle in the chart...
Applying the Trifecta Checkup, we find problems with the choice of chart type, and also the choice of the practical question. The question of comparing this spill to past spills is premature given that the oil is still gushing. In addition, the nature of the 1991 spill (Iraq's deliberate dumping) is in a different class from accidental spillage.
Reader Curtis R. pointed us to another infographics about the spill, this one made by Fast Company, a business magazine. Their concept is reminiscent of the racetrack graph.
In other racetrack graphs, the tracks are close together, and terminate at different angles to the center; the data is encoded in the angles.
In this chart, the angle is everywhere 270 degrees, but the distance between the tracks are varied, and the data is encoded in the circumferences.
Alternatively, this can be thought of as a set of concentric circles with a right angle cut off. Since the circumference is proportional to the radius, the data can be found either in the radii or in the track lengths.
Judging the relative lengths of the tracks is not any easier in judging the relative areas of circles. One can stare at the orange and green arcs for however long, but can one tell the orange is shorter than the green by 3.3 million?
In other words, this chart is not self-sufficient. If the data is not printed directly onto the chart, it is impossible for readers to interpret it.
I would like to see a chart that looks like the following, which emphasizes the open-ended, progressive nature of the spill, using past spills as benchmarks:
The Facebook privacy chart that's been circulating widely (thanks to Eronarn): a FAQ on how to read the chart sorely needed.
BBC to beam general election results on to Big Ben (thanks to Julien D.): London readers, did this happen?
Another example of an infographics poster (thanks to Daniel L.), this one concerning the use of cell phones by teenagers. Daniel said:
Check out the pie graphs under the sexting category. He's showing his
percentage in color, but leaving the rest of the pie white. Awesome!
Surefire way to get the data-ink ratio right where you want it to be.
A number of blogs have hailed this NYT diagram/chart/infographic as "nice". The accompanying article is here.
Whether this is nice or not depends on what message you want to convey with this graphic. If it is entanglement, then yes, the graphic reveals the complexity very well. If one wants to understand the debt situation in Europe, then no, this chart doesn't make it clear at all.
From the perspective of someone wanting to dissect the debt web, an enhanced data table is hard to beat.
The first section looks at the interdependency between the five troubled countries, collectively known as PIIGS on Wall Street. The additional debt owed to Britain, Germany and France are shown below. Notice that the original chart does not treat these three countries the same way as PIIGS: we do not know what the values are of the arrows pointing from these three into PIIGS.
Expressed on per-capita terms, Ireland stands out as the worst of the bunch while the citizens of the other four countries are bearing roughly equal amounts of debt per person.
I tried to come up with something more "fun", as below:
Here, I opted to use a small multiples chart to split the countries. In so doing, I accepted redundancy in search of clarity. Each amount is plotted twice once as a borrowing (red line) and once as a lending (black arrow).
It is immediately clear why Greece is the most urgent issue.
Perhaps the chart type is not as important as the transformations I did to the data:
1) All amounts shown are "net" amounts between any pair of countries. In the original data, there are two arrows between each pair. For example, Italy owes Ireland $46 million but Ireland owes Italy $18 million; this means Italy owes Ireland $28 million net.
2) All amounts are expressed per capita. Since the populations of these countries vary from 4.5 million (Ireland) to 60 million (Italy), the total debt cannot and should not be compared to each other.
3) Not shown here but I also expressed the net amount lent/borrowed per dollar of GDP. This is another metric that makes sense. The nominal GDP of these countries range from $0.2 - $2 trillion. The PPP GDP has a similar range.
4) One item I did not fix is the currency. Given the fluctuation in exchange rate between the Euro and US$, I think it may be better to express all the numbers in Euros.
A next step would be to include Britain, Germany and France.
Reference: "In and Out of Each Other's European Wallets", New York Times, April 30, 2010.
PS. Reader JF pointed out an inconsistency in the numbers on the chart. I revised the chart to fix this issue. In the current chart, one can read the information as: the average Portuguese owes Spain $5,453, owes Italy $141, while having lent $903 to Greece and $1,561 to Ireland. Each chart can be interpreted from the perspective of the average citizen in that particular country. (For details, see the comments below.)
David McCandless apparently made this mess of a chart, and reader Raghu R. was not amused. (Via this link.) I assume David is aiming for artistic value, entertainment. Quiz: what's the rationale for sorting the alphabet markers?
Frequent contributor Bernard L. pointed me to this National Geographic "infographics". This surely belongs to the Art section of the infographics gallery, which I discussed in the "Whither Infographics" post. This fact is acknowledged by the editors who labeled this "Art: Fish Pharm".
It's a very pretty picture. And I'm cool to turn a blind eye to:
the uneven sizes of the pills
the dislocated, non-contiguous areas (diphenhydramine)
the dual-colored area (green-yellow), especially as the same green represented a different pill
the water bubbles treated as part of the fish
but I'm still debating:
Is it an artistic license taken too far to imply that pharma chemicals have completely stuffed the fish (so much as to also infect the exhaled bubbles) when the text actually said the fish contained "traces of pharmaceuticals and toiletries"?
The footnote apologizes for the percentages not adding up to 100 percent, but 100 percent of what?
And by the way, this is the first time I have seen the word "pharmaceutical" used as a noun to represent medicines manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. As a noun, I understand "pharmaceutical" to mean a company that designs and makes medicines.