Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Tumblrs

As Dickens might have said, had he been around today, "It was the best of viz...and the worst of viz." Or, as my mother might have said, "If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning." You get the idea.

Two new tumblrs are collecting examples of data visualizations. One, called Thumbs Up Viz, posts examples of visualizations done well. I especially like this one on Kindergarten Readiness by Stephanie Evergreen (excel tutorial here).

by Stephanie Evergreen of Evergreen Data
It hits all the right sweet spots for me. A title that summarizes the chart, with a subhead that provides context. A dot plot that recent research suggests is superior to bar charts. Labels close to the data (which are set on a common scale). Good use of colour. Thumbs up, indeed. For those of you on teh twitters, there is also a #thumbsupviz tag you can follow or use to share your own excellent finds.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is WTF Visualizations for "Visualizations that make no sense." For example...

Um, yeah.
There has been some chatter about whether this tumblr is appropriate/productive/okay. Is it just making fun...and if so, maybe that's not very nice. While I agree that if that is the point, it's not very nice. But the educator in me sees opportunity here. I've built many a set of exemplars in my time, and I have to say that bad examples are often better for discussion than good ones. What feedback would you give? How would you change instruction to support better work next time? What would make this visualization "good" and why? Outstanding work makes for great examples and models, but doesn't always lead to the kind of conversation we need about how we work with data. Maybe we need something more like Carto-Critique on Wired?

What do you think? How would you use these to guide your own work?