Cousin misfit
Reading: WSJ Guide to Information Graphics

Auditory aid

This effort by the NYT graphics team is breath-taking.


They use dot plots to visualize the closeness of the finishes at many of the Winter Olympics races.

A small improvement is to organize the plots into two columns (men, women) so that readers can compare men and women across a row, and compare different events within a gender down a column.

What really sets this chart apart is the appeal to auditory aid.  Click Play and see what I mean.


Reference: "Fractions of a second: an Olympics musical", New York Times, Feb 26 2010.


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This might be better if the distances were expressed as %-ages, not seconds?

Jeff Weir

Cool! What about the other senses? Wonder what they all smelled like?

Jon Peltier

I don't think a men's and women's column would lead to effective comparisons, because the sets of dots would be arranged the wrong way. However, being able to sort by sex or by event would provide this


Why do they bother dividing these events into men's and women's? It seems really unnecessary.

I would add a blank row between events to make it easier to compare by event. It is a nice plot.


Matthew: Percentages provide a different perspective; it would make the auditory aid moot!

Jon: comparing across is definitely more effort than comparing up and down. All we really need readers to appreciate is the amount of dispersion of the dots so it is a minor issue. Plus, that's what gridlines are for.


I think distance would be as interesting as percentage - how long of a physical separation is represented by the time differential. For example .05 seconds at 80mph is ~6 feet.


gary, distances are difficult. they are not well defined. do you mean the distance between racers when the first crossed the line or vice versa. further, the distance of second to first might be greater then that of third if she was really slow at the end. skiing isn't about how far do I get in a given amount of time but how long does it take me to race a given course.
mathew, as kaiser already said, percentages provide a different perspective. i think they would only be informative if the amount of seperation between finishing times would mostly be on the length of the course, otherwise longer courses would simply appear more crammed at the top than shorter ones. from my experience, beside length, the amount of seperation is also largely dependent on difficulty of the course and stability of snow conditions.
all in all i think seconds are just fine, they are the units that count, everything else would already go into modelling.

Gerald Higgins

Yes, differences of distance are largely meaningless if people are travelling at different speeds over different sections of the course. Which they almost certainly are. But we have no data on that as no-one measures it that way for these sports anyway. Differences in time are what is measured in the official statistics, and it makes sense to do the same here.


What's up with the horizontal line between the first two rows of each chart and the rest of each chart? That makes it confusing. I find the auditory aid a novel idea. And while I understand what they are trying to demonstrate it sure does not seem organized well.

custom clubs

That would be a good example for the whole project.

Indoor Golf Simulator

am not able to comprehend this chart.

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