Andrew N., a reader from Australia, wasn't too impressed with the way National Nine News presents the Olympic medal table on its home page. To the extent that we want to venture beyond the typical tabular presentation, this bar chart is in fact quite appropriate. Let me explain.
Lets take a tour around the world. It's the battle of the data tables.
The Boston Globe's is the cleanest of the bunch. I especially like the way they set up the USA count at the top; the use of country codes is inferior to spelling out country names, as done in all of the other examples. The New York Times is the only one to utilize colors to set aside gold, silver and bronze, which lets readers easily assess the two dominant metrics, total golds and total medals. A small touch but very nice.
The biggest design issue here is the existence of the two different metrics. In any tabular presentation, the countries can be ranked by only one metric so the designer must make a choice. The American papers present ranking by total medals; the French paper by total golds; the two Canadian ones shown here are split. The American papers also choose to carry the ranking implicitly while the others explicitly provide a numerical rank. Le Monde and Globe and Mail provide ranks that are consistent with ordering of countries, both by total golds. The Star, by contrast, wants it both ways: the order reflects total medals while the "POS" column shows total golds. This extra column does help the readers who prefer ranking by golds but the primacy of the other ranking has not been overcome.
So what about National Nine News? I have not been a fan of stacked bar charts but surprisingly, this is a great application. Stacked bars have the disadvantage that the stacked segments don't share the same base and thus it is difficult to compare their lengths. Here, though, our two metrics are total medals and total golds so readers should be drawn to compare the total lengths, and the lengths of the first segments. Those wanting to compare silvers and bronzes must make a stronger effort but they will be in the minority.
What can be improved are the distracting data labels, especially the gold circles. Instead, one should provide a scale, or use symbols such as one circle per medal. (See this old post.) Here is a version with a scale:
One cannot end this post without mentioning the attempt by NYT editors to insert levity into these proceedings with first a cartogram and then a bubble chart.
Since English is my second language, I have always been intrigued by automatic translation. My "Turing" test for translation engines is to feed the translated output back into the same engine in the opposite direction.
Case in point: the first sentence of this post is translated by Babelfish into Italian -
Poiché l'inglese è la mia seconda lingua, sono stato incuriosito
sempre tramite la traduzione automatica.
Now, Babelfish translates the above Italian text into English, as:
Since English is my second language, has been made curious always
through the automatic translation.
Not that bad, really.
The tag line of this blog is "recycling chartjunk into junk art". What happens in the other direction? The answer is on this page!
Simon J., from New Zealand, sent this in during the recent Rugby Cup but I didn't notice it till now. As he stated, "they do a good job confirming our views of pie charts!" Dropkicks is a site about rugby, and other sports popular in the south Pacific.
So here is our light entertainment for Thanksgiving week:
This chart accompanied a very serious statistical analysis to address the monumental question of whether some countries were borrowing strength from foreign players. If this is your cup of tea, follow this link.
P.S. Today I started the Junk Charts Core Collection, which include books I recommend on graphics, statistics, data mining and related topics (top right). Some categories are sparse right now as I build out the collection. If you have favorites, let me know and I will include them. (I am using the Amazon interface to organize the list; if you buy books, you are buying from them. I am not becoming a bookstore.)
11/19: Amazon seems to be having problems serving up the images. I have turned off the image for now. You can follow the text link above to see the book collection.
Tom W., a reader, noticed this map featured on a BBC News page about the UK family.
One can roughly make out the shape of Great Britain so this is some kind of cartogram. The title announces that this cartogram concerns the "distribution of population".
In a typical map like this, the redder reds would indicate higher densities of people. Yet, the article tells us that the population is divided evenly into 85 squares, each containing "roughly half a million people over 18 years old".
Instead, we seem to have 500K widowed people next to 500K re-married people (most of whom prefer the coasts, by the way), etc. Apparently, the Brits practise a form of red-lining based on marital status!
The S/M/W/D/R labels are also redundant and very distracting; and the white gridlines interfere with our ability to read the grey boundaries. Source: "The UK family", BBC News.