Better Barbecue

I’m off to Kansas City this evening for Memorial Day Weekend. There, I fully intend to at least try some legitimate Kansas City barbecue. But how does this relate to a blog on information design and data visualisation? Well, some folks at Harvard endeavoured to design a better smoker for barbecue. Thanks, science.

Barbecue. Now with science.

Barbecue. Now with science.

Credit for the piece goes to James Abundis.

Chase the Unlucky Utley

We all know that I am a Red Sox fan. But I grew up in Philadelphia, largely before the era where the internet made watching out-of-market games a reality. That means I am quite familiar with my hometown Philadelphia Phillies. And for a good chunk of my life that meant names like Rollins, and Utley were familiar to me. So now as that group of players begins to retire and/or leave Philadelphia, we have Chase Utley underperforming to start 2015. But FiveThirtyEight asks the question: is he really? Or is it just that Utley is unlucky?

Utley is unlucky

Utley is unlucky

Credit for the piece goes to Rob Arthur.

How Your Hometown Impacts Your Future Earnings

Today we have a really interesting piece from the New York Times. In terms of visualisations, we see nothing special nor revolutionary—that is not to say it is not well done. The screenshot below is from the selection of my hometown county, Chester County in Pennsylvania. Where the piece really shines is when you begin looking at different counties. The text of the article appears to be tailored to fit different counties. But with so many counties in the country, clearly it is being done programmatically. You can begin to see where it falls apart when you select rather remote counties out west.

How the poor in Chester County fare

How the poor in Chester County fare

But it does not stop simply with location. Try using the controls in the upper right to compare genders or income quartiles. The text changes for those as well.

Credit for the piece goes to Gregor Aisch, Eric Buth, Matthew Bloch, Amanda Cox, and Kevin Quealy.

Baseball vs. Basketball vs. Hockey

There was an interesting article in Forbes on Monday that looked at baseball’s popularity. In short, the commonly believed argument is that baseball is becoming less popular vs. sports like football, basketball, &c. Hence, one of the reasons for the pace of play changes. However, last Wednesday, there were three nationally televised playoff games—two in basketball and one in hockey—and one nationally televised baseball game, Mets at the Cubs. The logic of the common argument would have non-playoff baseball falling behind the playoff games. But, in 14 of 24 media markets, the local baseball games drew more television viewers than playoff basketball or hockey, or even national baseball games. Unfortunately, the article in question used some really poor graphics to communicate this story. So, I decided to spend my Monday night making it clearer for you. Compare a snippet of the original to mine. You make the call.

The original chart

The original chart

How the local baseball game did against the national sports games

How the local baseball game did against the national sports games

Credit for the original piece goes to the Forbes graphics department.

Illustrating a Table

Let’s face it, lots of people think tables are boring. They convey data very quickly and very efficiently. But they often don’t look “pretty” enough. So, today, I just wanted to show a table from the Washington Post from last week.

A table on green car options. It has green illustrations. Get it?

A table on green car options. It has green illustrations. Get it?

It does nothing fancy. Nor do the illustrations actually communicate the information more quickly or more clearly. But, look! Green clocks and charging stations!

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post’s graphics department.

Fast Food on the Internets

Let’s aim for something a bit lighter today. Well, lighter in all things but calories, perhaps. Today we have a piece from the Wall Street Journal that looks at the social media presence of several large fast food brands. Overall, it has a few too many gimmicky illustrations for my comfort. But, the strength of the piece is that it does look at some real data, e.g. plotted Twitter response rates, and then contextualises it with appropriate callouts.

Who cares about your tweets?

Who cares about your tweets?

The illustrations are killing me, though.

Credit for the piece goes to Marcelo Prince and Carlos A. Tovar.

Others’ Coverage of Amtrak 188

Tuesday I posted my late-night work on Amtrak No. 188′s derailment, (now with a few minor updates, including the speed information released this afternoon) so you could all get a sense of what happened yesterday. Of course, in the last 24 hours, we have seen a lot of news outlets covering the story.

The New York Times has a nice piece mapping out the details of the accident. Of particular interest, they included a map showing the parts of the Northeast Corridor equipped with positive train control. That is a system designed to prevent trains from exceeding their speed limits.

Positive train control implemented on the Northeast Corridor

Positive train control implemented on the Northeast Corridor

The Washington Post has two nice pieces. The first, below, incorporates both illustration to simplify the wreck site for the audience and then photographs to provide context of just how destroyed some of the train cars are, the first in particular.

Using both illustrations and photographs

Using both illustrations and photographs

The Post, however, also has a supplemental piece that looks at Amtrak’s accidents over the last ten years. This is the most data-centric piece of all that we are looking at, but that is okay. Most of the story is not reliant on data, but rather illustrations and diagrams trying to piece everything together.

Comparison of derailments vs. vehicle collisions

Comparison of derailments vs. vehicle collisions

Lastly, the BBC has an article with several small graphics looking at US train risks. Spoiler, American trains, while safe, are far less safe than those in Europe and Asia. Here, though, the map looks at accidents along the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak accidents

Amtrak accidents

Credit for the New York Times piece goes to Gregor Aisch, Larry Buchanan, Bill Marsh, Haeyoun Park, Sergio Peçanha, Julie Shaver, Joe Ward, and Karen Yourish.

Credit for the Washington Post piece on the derailment goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Patterson Clark, Alberto Cuadra, Todd Lindeman, Denise Lu, Katie Park, and Gene Thorp.

Credit for the Washington Post piece on Amtrak accidents goes to Dan Keating and Lazaro Gamio.

Amtrak Train No. 188 Derails

I am a big fan of trains, rail transit, and Amtrak. I think the rail network connecting the East Coast’s big cities from Boston down to Washington is one of the big draws of the Northeast. Not surprisingly, I have taken that route I don’t know how many times. So, when Amtrak’s Northeast Regional No. 188 derailed in Philadelphia, it ran off rails with which I am familiar.

I made a graphic tonight—so much for all my other plans—charting and mapping out what was announced by Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael Nutter. I am sure that by the time I wake up in the morning, we will know more and some things will have changed. But, let this be a simple guide to the basics as they were Tuesday night.

Updated graphic

Updated graphic

Frankford Junction is in the Port Richmond area of Philly. And what I can attest is that trains do slow down here, because it is a fairly sharp turn at a fairly flat grade (I think).

Credit for the screenshot map image goes to Google.

It’s All the Hex

If you have not noticed, lots of news sites are using a variant of the cartogram lately. Basically, the idea is that geographic maps have the limitation of accurately representing landmass. And that means small polities, e.g. Rhode Island or Belgium, that might be quite important are visibly not so much, because they are geographically small. These pseudo-cartograms sort of do the trick by making all polities the same size. The trade off? Geographic fidelity. Anyway, there is an intelligent piece worth reading over at the NPR blogs explaining the thought process going on there about why to use the form. (You may recall I wrote about a similar project for London boroughs back in February.)

Hex map

Hex map

Credit for the piece goes to Danny DeBelius.

VE Day

Friday was Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day for short, which marks the end of World War II in Europe. (The war continued in Japan for a few more months.) Anyway, the United Kingdom’s Office of National Statistics put together a couple of charts looking at the war’s impact on the structure of the British population. Many know the baby-boom phenomenon. But, did you know about the divorce-boom phenomenon?

Marriage and divorce rates over time

Marriage and divorce rates over time

Credit for the piece goes to the ONS Digital team.