Putting Data Into Context

xkcd Heatmap (cropped)

Raw numbers are easy to report and analyze, but without the proper context, they can be misleading. Is the effect you’re seeing real, or a simple result of the underlying, obvious distribution? Too many analyses and news stories end up reporting things we already know.

Review: Kraak, Mapping Time

Kraak, Mapping Time

Can you write an entire book about a single chart? Even if that chart is supposedly the best one ever? Menno-Jan Kraak’s new book, Mapping Time: Illustrated by Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812, discusses the historical context of Minard’s work, his, life, and walks through a number of design exercises to show the same or similar data in different ways.

When Bars Point Down

Simon Scarr, Iraq's Bloody Toll

It’s so simple it feels entirely trivial: bars in a bar chart pointing down instead of up. But the effect can be striking. And it’s not as obvious when to show downward-pointing bars as it might seem.

Data Stories Episode About Data Storytelling

Data Stories, Episode 35

How is it possible that it has taken a podcast called Data Stories 35 episodes to get to the topic of data storytelling? Alberto Cairo and I helped get the topic straightened out, and I think we even convinced Moritz that stories are not the enemy of exploration. It was a fun episode to record, and it touches on many interesting topics.

Story: A Definition

dictionary

What makes a story? What does a story do? In part one of this little series, I argued that stories and worlds are not opposites, but complements. In this part, I try to explain the differences between worlds and stories, and present a definition.

Stories Are Gateways Into Worlds

opendoor

Moritz Stefaner recently wrote a posting titled Worlds, not stories. He basically argues that while there is a clear role for the designer of a visualization, the result should be a world that users can explore, rather than a story that they’re told. I have a few things to say about this, and will do so in two parts. This is part one.

The Mirrored Line Chart Is A Bad Idea

Worker Benefits

The mirrored line chart is a pet peeve of mine. It’s very common close to elections when there are two parties or candidates: one’s gains are at the other’s expense. But it becomes even more egregious when there are two categories that have to sum up to 100% by their very definition.