New York Times: a tribute

Large tables

PrivacyRichard J. asked how we might make sense of this tableLarge tables present lots of challenges.  The trick is to enhance the table with colors and shapes; and as usual, remove any data that doesn't help make your argument.

This table compares countries across different measures of privacy.  Each measure is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with some blanks.  These ratings are averaged to obtain an overall rating, listed on the right.

In the junkart version, the ratings are presented as slots inside a box.   The overall rating is placed right below the name of the country since this is the most important measure, and how the countries were ordered.  The rows and columns are reversed so as to explain how the overall rating can be decomposed into individual metrics for each country.  I have only shown the top five countries but obviously the chart can be extended to cover all the data. 


If desired, the top 5 countries in each measure can be given a different color: this would increase the data-ink ratio on the chart.  One weakness of this type of chart is that the rows and columns do not have equal status: comparing across rows is more difficult than comparing up and down columns.

Richard also wonders about their treatment of the blanks.  It appears that they omit blanks so each country's rank is the average of non-blank measures.  Omitting blanks may seem innocuous but in fact, this is equivalent to assigning the blank measures ratings equal to the country's average non-blank rank.  Richard wonders if this is the best way to treat these blanks.


Source: "Leading surveillance societies", Privacy International.

(Thanks to Richard for sending me the data.)


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Jorge Camoes

Rows and columns in a table should be ordered using some meaningful key. The overall rating is not as lazy as the alphabetic order but probably there are better options. The items don't seem ordered at all.

Jacques Bertin's reorderable matrix could help a lot here. The idea is to find patterns in the data by reordering rows and columns.

(Could Richard provide the data? I'd like to play too...)


I'm strongly reminded of the "Noisy Subways" post from earlier this year. The problem seems to be the same: how to take a large number of candidates, rated by a large number of different criteria, and find and display a pattern in the n x m table.


Hi there,

already quite a while ago I was searching for software which deals with Jacques Bertin's recordable matrix. I found many articles, and in one there were a couple of screenshots of a piece of software (programmed on a Mac, it seemed). But so far, I don't know where to sort bigger tables in that way. Any help would be much appreciated!


I copied the data by hand from the image to a CSV file as I couldn't find the data on Privacy International's site. Not sure if this is intentional on their part or an oversight. Unfortunately I don't have anywhere on the web I can share this file, or my attempt at re-working the table, any suggestions?


Those looking for the data please email me and I'll forward along Richard's spreadsheet.

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