English donuts rival Spanish donuts
A reader likes the four-point perception range chart

Ruining the cake with too much icing

Reader Steve S. tried to spoil my new year with this chart he didn't like:


Or maybe he's just chiding me for recommending Bumps charts. This example is very confusing, a tangled mess.

But not so fast.

The dataset has two characteristics that don't sit well with bumps charts. One is too many things being ranked (twenty). Two is too much rank swapping that happens over time (14 periods).

The latter challenge can be tamed by aggregating the time dimension. For some reason, the period under examination was the first half year after the debut of these computers. Do we really need to know the weekly statistics?

We can keep all 14 periods. If so, we should be judicious in selecting the colors, the lines and dashed lines, and gridlines, and so on. In particular, look for a story and use foreground/background techniques to highlight the story.

Here's a version that focuses on the brands that moved the most number of ranks either up or down during this period:


Here's one that tracks how the top five fared over this period of time. It turns out that despite all the noisy movements, not much happened at the top of the rankings:


Not knowing many of these computer brands, I really have no idea why seven colors were used and why different tints of the six colors were chosen. I also don't have a clue why some lines were dashed and others were solid.

Looking closely, I learn that the Sony PC was given a black color because its label does not show up on either side. It was a product that did not rank among the top 20 at the start nor at the end of this time period. This Sony PC should be consigned to the dustbin of history, and yet in the color scheme selected for the original chart, the black solid line is the most visible!


I'd like to see an interactive layer added to this chart that brings out the "information". Two of the tabs can be "top movers" and "top five brands" as discussed above. If you hover over these tabs, the appropriate lines are highlighted.



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Kristian (Pedersen)

"accept" that the colors have no meaning and they simply start over in a lighter hue after the first six, blue --> grey, this is how Excel is set up as well only with different default colors)

probably the dashing then was intended to make the lines distinguishable also in black and white print, but not carried through to all the lines since the dashing is difficult to see in the legend any way

this is how I would have started out doing the diagram some years ago before realizing there were better ways : -)

Alex Lea

If the data was popped into Tableau, you can create dynamic filters to keep, say, the top five etc.

It can also use highlighting to pick out one line at a time when each system is either selected or moused over.

Finally, the tooltip function means you can include any relevant metadata in a callout to keep the chart clutter-free.


When will Tableau come to the Mac?

Chris Pudney

The charts are difficult to read - the FIA uses them to visualize Formula 1 race results.

I tried implementing one in D3.js and added interactivity (highlight on mouse-over; click to zoom), which as you suggest improves things quite a bit, see

I think the higlighting shortcuts you suggest (top movers; top-10) would also work well.

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