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WTFViz, ThumbsUpViz, and HelpMeViz

I have complained, repeatedly, about the lack of good online resources for visualization; in particular, when it comes to discussion and critical reflection. Also, where can you go to get help with a visualization project? A few recent websites are tackling these issues in different ways.

First, Drew Skau started WTFViz, which quickly became hugely popular. It collects small snippets from infographics that are bad in some way: they misrepresent data, they obscure the message, they dress up numbers as if there were more of them, etc. Posting bad examples to laugh about is entertaining and useful, if obviously not always appreciated by the people who created them. But it can be quite educational for people to look through and see if they find things that are similar to their own work there.

But in response, Ann Emery, Stephanie Evergreen, Jonathan Schwabish, and Rob Simmon started the much more positive ThumbsUpViz, which collects good examples. While bad examples are kind of easy and interesting even when they’re not very bad, good examples are typically expected to be exceptional. I don’t think that should be the criterion, though, simple but good examples should qualify just as well. Anyway, the blog, also hosted on tumblr, is slowly posting good examples.

A slight variation on this is accidental aRt by Kara Woo and Erika Mudrak, which collects the little mistakes that happen on the way to creating visualizations. Rather than fix the problem right away, spend a moment to consider if you’ve created something neat or interesting by mistake, and submit it there. This is a bit similar to Kevin Quealey’s fascinating and hilarious chartsnthings.

Finally, Jon Schwabish recently started HelpMeViz, which is meant to provide feedback and inspiration. You can send him a description of your data and your attempts, and readers can then suggest alternatives and even create visualizations for you. It’s a good idea, and the interaction so far is very promising, considering that the site is only a month old or so.

Where is this going? I have a feeling that we’re starting to see more interesting new websites dealing with visualization, both in terms of criticism (finally!) and in terms of hands-on help. It's heartening to see that, and I hope that these sites will thrive and attract lots of visitors and followers.

Posted by Robert Kosara on January 5, 2014. Filed under web.