Which of These Countries Does Not Belong

For those of you reading from the States, I hope you all enjoyed your holiday. And for my UK readers, I hope you all enjoyed your summer bank holiday last weekend. So now to the good and uplifting kind of news.

Something is clearly not right here.
Something is clearly not right here.

Indeed, a chart about deaths from firearms from the Economist. From a graphical standpoint, we all know how much I loathe stacked bar charts and this shows why. It is difficult for the user to isolate and compare the profiles of certain types of firearm violence against each other. Clearly there are countries where suicide by gun is more prevalent than murder, but most on this list are more murder happy.

And then the line chart that is cleverly spaced within the overall graphic, well, it falls apart. There are too many lines highlighted. Instead, I would have separated these out into a separate chart, made larger, so that the reader can more easily discern which series belongs to which country. Or I would have gone with a set of small multiples isolating those nine countries.

I am also unclear on why certain countries were highlighted in the line chart. Did they all need to be highlighted? Why, for example, is Trinidad & Tobago. It is not mentioned in the article, nor is it in the stacked bar chart.

But the biggest problem I have is with the data itself. But, every one of the countries on that list is among the developing countries or the least developed countries. Except one. And that, of course, is the United States.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

The Toll of the Trolls

This is an older piece that I’ve been thinking of posting. It comes from FiveThirtyEight and explores some of the data about Russian trolling in the lead up to, and shortly after, the US presidential election in 2016.

They're all just ugly trolls. Nobody loves them.
They’re all just ugly trolls. Nobody loves them.

The graphic makes a really nice use of small multiples. The screenshot above focuses on four types of trolling and fits that into the greyed out larger narrative of the overall timeline. You can see that graphic elsewhere in the article in its total glory.

From a design standpoint this is just one of those solid pieces that does things really well. I might have swapped the axes lines for a dotted pattern instead of the solid grey, though I know that seems to be FiveThirtyEight’s house style. Here it conflicts with the grey timeline. But that is far from a dealbreaker here.

Credit for the piece goes to Oliver Roeder.

The Freedom of the Press

By now you may have heard that this Thursday media outlets across the United, joined by some international outlets as well, have all published editorials about the importance of the freedom of the press and the dangers of the office of the President of the United States declaring unflattering but demonstrably true coverage “fake news”. And even more so, declaring journalists, especially those that are critical of the government, “enemies of the people”.

I have commented upon this in the past, so I will refrain from digressing too much, but the sort of open hostility towards objective reality from the president threatens the ability of a citizenry to engage in meaningful debates on public policy. Let us take the clearly controversial idea of gun control; it stirs passions on both sides of the debate. But, before we can have a debate on how much or how little to regulate guns we need to know the data on how many guns are out there, how many people own them, how many are used in crimes, in lethal crimes, are owned legally or illegally. That data, that verifiably true data exists. And it is upon those numbers we should be debating the best way to reduce the numbers of children massacred in American schools. But, this president and this administration, and certain elements of the citizenry refuse to acknowledge data and truth and instead invent their own. And in a world where 2+2=5, no longer 4, who is to say next that no, 2+2=6.

There are hundreds of editorials out there.

Read one from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and/or the New York Times.

But the one editorial board that started it is that of the Boston Globe. I was dreading how to tie this very important issue into my blog, which you all know tries to focus on data and design. As often as I stand upon my soap box, I try to keep this blog a little less soapy. Thankfully, the Globe incorporated data into their argument.

The end of their post concludes with a small interactive piece that presents survey data. It shows favourability and trustworthiness ratings for several media outlets broken out into their political leanings. The screenshot below is for the New York Times.

Clearly Republicans and Democrats view the Times differently
Clearly Republicans and Democrats view the Times differently

The design is simple and effective. The darker the red, the more people believe an outlet to be trustworthy and how favourably they view it.

But before wrapping up today’s post, I also want to share another bit from that same Boston Globe editorial. As some of you may know, George Orwell’s 1984 is one of my favourite books of all time. I watched part of a rambling speech by the president a few weeks ago and was struck at how similar his line was to a theme in that novel. I am glad the Globe caught it as well.

Credit for this piece goes to the Boston Globe design staff.

Radiohead in Philadelphia

A week and a half ago my favourite band, Radiohead, played two shows in Philadelphia to close out their 2018 North America tour. I got to see the final of the two shows. And I decided to make this little piece over the weekend. Because it was totally fantastic.

The data shows that the band played a good mix of songs from across their discography. Admittedly they played nothing from Pablo Honey, but with the exception of Creep and Anyone Can Play Guitar along with some of the era’s b-sides, I really do not listen to that album all that often. They also skipped over Amnesiac, but did play five songs from my favourite album, Kid A, so, yeah, again, totally fantastic. Especially those final three songs to close the main setlist. Just brilliant.

Two hours of amazing
Two hours of amazing

Credit for this work is mine.

Joblessness in the Developed World

  • We have been looking at tariffs a little bit this week, but unfortunately one of the side effects of tariffs is job losses. And of course when it comes to people losing jobs, not all countries in the  developed world handle them the same. Last month the Washington Post published an article examining how those countries compare in a number of related metrics such as unemployment compensation, notice for termination, and income inequality.
Not all countries give people the short stick.
Not all countries give people the short stick.

It uses a series of bar charts to show the dataset and reveal how the United States fares poorly compared to its peers. The chart above looks at the earning needed for termination from employment and the differences are stark. The outlined bar chart shows longer tenured employees and the full bars as coloured. Of course this makes it look like a stacked bar chart or filled bar chart. Instead I wonder if a dot plot would be clearer. It would eliminate the confusion in determining what if any share of the empty bar is held by the full bar.

The US offers shockingly little assistance to people
The US offers shockingly little assistance to people

The chart for unemployment insurance versus assistance is a bit better. Here the bar represents insurance and the lines assistance. I like how the lines continue off beyond the margins to indicate an unlimited timeframe for assistance. However, for those countries where assistance is short-lived, the bars versus lines again begin to look like an instance of a share of a total, which they are not.

Still a Loyalist

As most of you know, I am what would have been called a loyalist. That is, I disagree with the premise of the American Revolution. People often mistake that as saying I think Americans should be British. No, although I personally would not mind that. Instead, America would likely have been a lot more like Canada and it would have obtained its independence peacefully through an organic, evolutionary process leading to, likely, some kind of parliamentary democracy.

Every year, somebody digs up articles people have written about why the Revolution was a bad idea. I have seen a lot of them. But I had not seen this Washington Post article that looked at constitutional monarchies. It was published during the whole royal baby buzz back in 2013. It examines why constitutional monarchies are not so bad, and might even be better than presidential republics.

God save the Queen
God save the Queen

The above graphic is far from great. The same goes for the other graphic in the article. I probably would have added more emphasis on the constitutional monarchies as they get overwhelmed by the number of non-constitutional monarchies s in the scatter plot. That could be through a brighter blue or keeping the pink and setting the rest to a light grey. I perhaps would have added a trend line.

Credit for the piece goes to Dylan Matthews.

Going Over (But Actually Under)

Late last week I was explaining to someone in the pub why the World Cup matches are played beyond their 90 minute booking. For those among you that do not know, basically the referees add up all the stoppage time, i.e. when play stops for things like injuries or people dilly dallying, and then tack that on to the end of the match.

But it turns out that after I explained this, FiveThirtyEight published an article exploring just how accurate this stoppage time was compared to the amount of stopped time. Spoiler: not very.

In design terms, the big takeaway was the dataset of recorded minutes of actual play in all the matches theretofore. It captured everything but the activity totals where they broke down stoppage time into categories, e.g. injuries, video review, free kicks, &c. (How those broke out across an average game are a later graphic.)

Through 27 June
Through 27 June

The setup is straightforward: a table organises the data for every match. The little spark chart in the centre of the table is a nice touch that shows how much of the 90 minutes the ball was actually in play. The right side of the table might be a bit too crowded, and I probably would have given a bit more space particularly between the expected and actual stoppage times. On the whole, however, the table does its job in organising the data very well.

Now I just wonder how this would apply to a baseball or American football broadcast…

Credit for the piece goes to David Bunnell.

The World Cup Begins

If you live under a rock or in America, the World Cup starts today. (Go England.) So what else to have but a chart-driven piece from the BBC from last week about the World Cup. It features seven charts encapsulating the competition. But the one I want to focus on? It’s all about the host nations, in this case Russia.

To host, or not to host, that is the question of how much can you pay FIFA officials under the table…
To host, or not to host, that is the question of how much can you pay FIFA officials under the table…

On its design, I could go without the football icons to represent points on the dot plot, but I get it. (Though to be fair, they work well as icons depicting the particular World Cup event in another set of graphics elsewhere in the article.) In particular, I really like the decision to include the average difference between a host nation’s points in non-hosting matches vs. hosting matches.

It does look like the host nation scores more points per match than when they are not hosting. And that—shameless plug—reminds me of some work I did a few years back now looking at the Olympics and the host nation advantage in that global competition.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC Data Team.

Trade with Canada

Yesterday we looked at trade with China. Today, we look at Canada, allegedly ripping off America. But what does the data say? Thankfully the Washington Post put together a piece looking at just that topic. And it uses a few interesting graphics to explore the idea.

The easiest and least controversial graphic is that below, which breaks down constituent parts of our bilateral trade.

The article also points out that very small dairy section, which is one focus of the administration's complaints. But look how tiny it is…
The article also points out that very small dairy section, which is one focus of the administration’s complaints. But look how tiny it is…

Note that the graphic does not just show the traditional goods part of the equation, but also breaks out services. And as soon as you consider that part of the economy the US trade deficit with Canada turns from deficit into surplus.

But the graphic also uses a pair of maps to look at that same goods vs. goods and services split.

The centre of it all…
The centre of it all…

Parts of the design of the map like the colours, meh. But the designers did a great job by breaking the standard convention of placing the Prime Meridian at the centre of the map. Instead, because the United States is the story here, the map places North America at the map’s centre. It does lead to a weird fracturing of the Asian continent, but so long as China is largely intact, that is all that matters to the trade story.

This all just goes to show that it is important to begin a conversation about policy with facts and understand the actual starting point rather than the perceived starting point.

Credit for the piece goes to Philip Bump.

Tariffs and Trade with China

Following up on yesterday’s post about the facts on tariffs, today we look at an article from Politico that polled voters on their feelings about trade and trade policy. Now the poll dates from the beginning of June and unfortunately a lot of things have changed since then. But, the data overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that voters, at that time at least, do not support placing tariffs on goods coming into the US.

Let’s take a look at another component of the article, however, a chart exploring the infamous trade deficit. First of all, trade deficits do not work like how the president says they do—but we will come back to that in another post. In short, trade deficits are neither good nor bad. They are just one way of describing one facet of a trade relationship between two countries.

This piece looks at the trade balance between the United States and China.

We will get into why this isn't all bad in another post
We will get into why this isn’t all bad in another post

Now, from the topical standpoint, it does a really nice job of showcasing how our imports have surged above our experts. From a topical standpoint, however, we do not know if this is a total trade deficit or just in goods, like the president prefers to talk about, or in goods and services, the latter of which accounts for way more than half of the US economy.

From a design perspective, I have a few thoughts and the first is labelling. The chart does label the endpoints of the data set, 1985 and 2017. But aside from a grey bar representing the Financial Crisis, there are few other markers to indicate the year. In smaller charts, I often do this myself, because space. But here there is enough space for at least a few intervening years to be labelled.

Secondly, the white outline of the red line. I have talked before of a trend to showcase a line over other lines with that thin stroke. But this is the first time I can recall the effect being used over an area filled with colour. Is it necessary? Because the area is light and the line dark and bright, probably not.

Then the outline appears on the text in the graphic, in particular the labels of imports, exports, and the trade deficit label. The labels for the imports and exports likely are necessary because of that light grey used for the text. But, as with the line for the trade deficit, its label likely provides sufficient contrast the thin white outline isn’t necessary.

Credit for the piece goes to Jeremy C.F. Lin.