Serving donuts
Lining them up

Comment on a comment


Policy on Comments

Unlike some blogs, I do not censor comments (except for obvious spam comments, including commercials that are unrelated to the content of the posts).  Junk Charts readers have been very impressive in contributing comments that are almost always relevant, constructive and provocative.  In this regard, I am very grateful.

Because I don't censor, I typically only respond to posts that react to the contents of my posts.


J's Comment

Yesterday, J left a general comment about the entire premise of Junk Charts.  I will give a general response here, and take the opportunity to share some thoughts about the blog, which I rarely do.

First of all, those who do not see any value in my blog are welcome to tune out.  The blog has a particular point of view and that won't change.  I do not market the blog so if you are reading it, you have found your way here, and I am sorry that you have not found it interesting.


Point of View

I believe the primary purpose of charts in the mass media is to convey information in a clear manner.  I do understand that editors like to entertain readers, and have written occasionally about the sometimes conflicting objectives of clarity and beauty.  The best charts manage to attain both.  The point of view of Junk Charts is that when there is a conflict between the two, clarity comes first.  This perspective is not new; Ed Tufte has preached it for years, and I am a big fan of his work.


Blogging and I

I have a full-time job as a statistician in industry.  I work on the blog on my own free time.  A typical blog post takes about three to five hours of work between carefully studying the original chart, collecting data, testing different alternative charts and writing up the posts.  Some posts take days.

I started writing Junk Charts five years ago to connect with other people who are interested in how data can best be communicated through charts.  I have been heartened to find so many kindred spirits out there, as evidenced by the variety of commentators and the numerous submissions from readers.  Thank you!

I do not make money from this blog.  I do not serve ads.  I also do not pitch graphing software on the blog.  (Marketers please note: I am happy to write about charts created by your software that highlight the software's strengths; I just don't have time to learn your software from scratch.)  I do publish a wish list at the end of each year of books I'd love to have, and I am gratified that a few of you have liked the blog enough to contribute to my library.  Thanks again.


Why I Don't Publish Professional Charts

The point of Junk Charts is to discuss how the featured charts are conceived, identify strengths and weaknesses, and explore alternative concepts.  The alternative charts posted here contain sketches, hints, suggestions and illustration of the commentary; they are never intended to be publish-ready charts that can be dropped into any publication.  Creating charts for this blog is not my full-time job.


Do Graphics Designers Read This Blog?

You bet.  I have received a lot of favorable feedback from professionals in the graphics community.  A lot of them, whose work is discussed on Junk Charts, regard Junk Charts as a great resource and treasure of ideas.  They appreciate that there are people out there who spend considerable time examining their handiwork.

Take the case of New York Times.   Their graphs feature frequently on Junk Charts.  If their work is not consistently interesting, do you think I will bother writing about them?  I love the Times, and love their support of printing large amounts of thought-provoking charts.  The USA Today provides plenty of chartjunk, you won't see them on Junk Charts.  Economist charts show up infrequently because they only use like five types of charts, and rarely inspires posts.


Why Aren't There More Positive Posts?

From the start, I intend to post about both good and bad charts.  Over time, the not-so-good charts have outnumbered good charts.  That's right.  The unfortunate state of affairs is that good, innovative charts are not in abundance.  Periodically, I ask readers to send in examples of good charts but roughly 95% of all submissions are examples of what not to do.   I would gladly put up any good charts sent to me.


Self-Sufficiency

J's comment unfortunately garbled the very important notion of self-sufficiency.  Self-sufficiency has nothing to do with whether a chart is publish-ready.  It is the point of view that graphical elements should add to the data, not merely duplicate data.  If every data element is printed on a chart next to each graphical construct, are the graphical elements adding anything to the chart?  Is the reader, in effect, just reading a data table?


Finally, I wish to thank all loyal readers for your continued support.

Comments

Maggy

I want to let you know that I really appreciate this blog. The subjects are typically outside of my own professional expertise which is exactly why I am intrigued. Thank you.

Peter

Great blog. I build data analysis/visualization software.

Jeff Weir

Hey J...some thoughts on your comment:

I don't agree with your comment about 'self sufficiency' concerning this chart, for the same reason as the blog author points out in his reply in his next post.

However, I DO appreciate that you've taken the time to thoroughly detail your criticism. Open critique is a good thing.

Unfortunately, when you later state that "The Junk Charts version is ugly and incompetently produced" you don't providing any detail at all. Why do you think it is ugly? What exactly do you mean by incompetently produced?

To me, any overly negative statements that are made without any supporting critique can only really be considered as rants. Or to put it in your own terms, they lack 'self sufficiency' (as you seem to be defining it, not as the blog author defines it).

You also say "This is an example of a recurring pattern at Junk Charts: visual displays of information that are only legible if you read the accompanying blog post." Well, if it is a crime to give your readers pertinent background information related to a graphic, then I'm quite happily guilty of that myself.

That said, you seem to be critiquing Junk Charts as if it was the blog's primary role to convey information in a graphical manner to its readers in the manner of a media outlet.

But I don't think this blog is meant to educate its readers on a particular story or dataset. Rather, It's about telling a story ABOUT the graphics. That is, it's SUPPOSED to go into lengths to explain the graphs. It's NOT SUPPOSED to be a substitute for the New York Times.

In fact, I'm glad that this is a recurring pattern at Junk Charts...it would be a real shame if the writer behind Junk Charts only told us that he thought a particular chart sucked, and that he thought a particular redesign is better, without explaining why.

You close by saying that "These hypothetical redesigns are an embarrassment". Question: Is your own comment equally embarrassing to yourself, or is your name actually 'J'?

Ken

I like JunkCharts because the reasons for changes are explained and there are interesting ideas. All the graphs need is a bit of tidying up and they would be suitable for publication in the NYT and would better inform people.

Mark Thomas

I am an avid reader of this blog, and appreciate all the work and analysis that goes into each post.

However, I am a bit confused about the notion of self-sufficiency. I was thinking that self-sufficiency meant that a chart didn't add data, but rather was understandable without printed data.

OK, so I just dug up an post from 2005 where you defined it in just this way:
http://junkcharts.typepad.com/junk_charts/2005/10/the_selfsuffici.html

This definition seems to be at odds with the one you presented in this post.


Jon Peltier

Kaiser - Just keep doing what you're doing. The chart in question was an improvement, clearer and more informative than the original, and in fact, I had similar adjustments in mind.

dermotb

Kaiser, keep up the good work, & don't worry about the criticism.

Andy

This is a great blog. I don't know what J is thinking - maybe he/she made the original chart and is offended. This is my favorite visualization blog and I love that you have actual experience in the field and do it without ads and such, unlike other popular visualization blogs...

Nathan

There's a reason those type of comments never have a real name or email address attached to them. I'm sure most of your readers know better to ignore that kind of bitterness.

Dustin

Keep up the great work! I love your detailed breakdowns of design.

teylyn

Kaiser, you're a star. Thank you for taking so much time and creating such valuable content. I really enjoy following your posts and read every word of the explanations. Don't let yourself be discouraged by unqualified criticism that can only be fuelled by jealousy.

Nick Barrowman

Your blog is a treasure! Keep up the wonderful work.

Avinash Kaushik

Let me join all the others in encouraging you to do exactly what you do Kaiser.

I enjoy your occasional posts on "good charts" but honestly it is all the love and treatment you give to the junk charts that has lots of learning value for me.

Ignore the J's of the world. You can't win 'em all, and I think it is futile to try.

Keep up the great work.

Jesse

I actually somewhat agreed with J's comments... somewhat... I recall having a very difficult time understanding the chart you had produced, while having an easier time with the Times chart.

On the other hand the Times chart may have well been just a table. What was the use of the donuts? Your chart did a great job of actually visualizing the data and conveyed the illustrated concept much more clearly.

That being said, I highly appreciate this blog. It's one of my favorites. It would be a shame if you stopped writing it. Please keep up the fantastic work.

Bernard Lebelle

Being a reader from accross the pond, all I can say is that you should not let those type of comment alter neither the mission of this blog nor your dedication to it.
A huge thanks for all the efforts you've put in raising awareness & education on creating better graph.

Jérôme Cukier

Hello Kaiser,
I've been reading junk charts for a while now and it has helped me tremendously in developing a critical judgement about charts - in progressing from an arbitrary, self-proclaimed "expert" judgement to a more reasoned, scientific approach. For this I am grateful.

I think comments worded like J's show that people have very high expectations of your work and should be understood as flattery.

Kaiser

Thanks all for your comments. I appreciate the support very much. I intend to continue to blog, just thought it was a good opportunity to take a measure of where we stand.

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