Friday, February 20, 2009

Bouble B IT is taking a break

After a long year of projects, postponing posts due to lack of time and a lo-ot of allnighters, yours truly is finally taking taking a little vacation. It's been 5 years since my last one, so I'll make this one count!
Fear not, I should be back on Monday, March 2nd with new posts. I'm preparing one as a response to Blogless' "Is Wordle good?", plus, lots of new stuff on visualization and C# programming (which I've been neglecting lately).
See you soon...


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on bad graphs

Ok, following on my very acid mood this week and after I read Nathan's from Flowing Data latest post on JP Morgan's Market Cap, which I had already seen and criticized back in January (only not on this blog), I decided to bring that little demon back and speak my mind once again.

First, let's take a glance at the graph:

The basics: Blue circles mean the market value pre-crisis and green circles mean the market value as of late January '09, both in the realm of billions of dollars.
The goal: show how hard everyone took it and given the scenario, how well JP Morgan managed not to lose as much value.
The error: trying to map 1-D values in 2-D objects without much attention to it.

So what's the big deal? The big deal is that when you use circles to map numbers, you HAVE TO remember that they are 2-D objects and as such, they have areas, which the cerebral cortex cars much more that ratio or diameter. What this means is that your brain cares much more about that area than about how tall that ellipse might be.

So how should the circles look like? Well, Rena Corda showed the world a revised version of it, here it is:

Can you see the difference? Ok, ok, maybe you don't find it that huge, but it is noticeable and as such, should be taken into account. We all know that statistics can be shown in many forms to make viewers/users agree more or less with the presenter's point of view and I personally think that this is a good thing, but there is a limit as to how much that can be used and JP Morgan's graph borders unethical information usage.
Let me know what you think...


Thursday, February 12, 2009


This week, I stumbled upon a new text visualization: Text2Image, by Ted Davis. The concept is not at all new, basically put, it takes an array of characters and after processing, creates a sequence of colored blocks. Very poetic, very colorful, but also very mysterious. Although it seems to generate consistent results, there is no clue whatsoever as to how they are constructed, why different colors are chosen and why some letters generate longer strings of blocks.
Very interesting to play with, though!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Why visualization is to be taken carefully

Visualization is a form of art (ok, maybe for those of us who can't really draw, but it's still a form of art!) and as such, there might be some discordance concerning choice of colors, movement, proportions and so many other aspects. As any other form of art, designers can too take critics personally. I hope that either that's not the case for the responsible for the design I'll be talking about here or he/she doesn't read this blog.
Anyway, lets get it started.
Last year, Business Week published a very interesting article on Solar Energy Panels and how the supply and demand theory had and would affect their prices. Along with the article, BW published the following graph:

First of all, this is not a very simple graph to fully understand since the buckets are not well specified. This is sort of covered in the main article, but the graph itself doesn't bring much to the table. Second of all, we can only see the most recent years of concrete data ('07 and '08), which is less than the projection of future prices ('09 to '12). Second of all, not everyone is accustomed to the unit of measure: Dollars per Kg per year. Last, but most significantly, the most important part of the graph - the forecast part - has absolutely no information aggregated to even give us a hint to why that is or to how much the prices will be in '12. We know the price will range from more then $0.00 and less then $100.00 and I can guess that they might range from $25.00 to $50.00, but there is absolutely no reason for the viewer to have to guess that value.
In summary, it's clear that this graph has not been completely thought through. There are a number of ways to depict the information and if you're quite sure how, I personally don't think you should try to get fancy, just use the most common graphs with attractive colors and whatnot. And even if you are used to building graphs and visualizations, it's a good idea to have hallway tests - if you don't know what hallway testing is, you should really read this article by Joel On Software.
I hope I wasn't too hard on my critics, let me know what you think.

Graph seen on Junk Charts


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"I Lego NY"

Last week, January 30th, Hans Beck, creator of Playmobil left this world after a long serious illness. Even though Lego and Playmobil are competitors, the idea is basically the same. After I read the news about Beck's tragic death (sadly, I was out for the holiday so I did not read about it until this morning), I couldn't help but recollect Christoph Niemann's I Lego N.Y., published last Monday, Feb. 2nd, on NY Times' Abstract City. It's simple, it's direct, it's delightful! Gotta love meaningful minimalism.

All images from original post

Check the rest of the photos here.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The new inconvenient truth

The present music running the American Economy... Sad, but true!
Using Microsoft Songsmith to analyze the numbers of the crisis, this visualization shows how bad the situation got over time... It's amazing how depressing the songs get when they come close to today's scenario.