Tag Archives: critique

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.

Germanwings Flight 4U 9525

Yesterday an Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, crashed in the French Alps with no survivors. This morning, I am showing the two best graphics I have come across thus far attempting to explain just what happened.

The first is from the New York Times. In a series of maps, it points out through satellite photography the roughness of the terrain and therefore the difficulty likely to be experienced by recovery crews. The final line chart plots the altitude of the flight, which fell from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to just over 6,000 feet in eight minutes. Overall, especially given the limited amount of information that we currently possess, not a bad piece.

The New York Times' explainer map

The New York Times’ explainer map

The second comes to us from the Washington Post. What I enjoy about this piece is that it combines the altitude chart with the map. This gives a bit context to the fact that despite being still 6,000 feet above sea level, the aircraft was in fact flying into the high mountains of the Alps.

The Washington Post's explainer map

The Washington Post’s explainer map

Credit for the New York Times piece goes to the New York Times graphics department. And credit for the Washington Post piece goes to Gene Thorp and Richard Johnson.

Rainbowship Enterprise

You can rightly file this one under what the fuck, which is how I found it on WTF Visualizations. The piece appears to be some sort of comprehensive guide to minerals, nutrients, and in which foods you can find them. But, as the critique title declares, this is more like Rainbowship Enterprise. How this is supposed to be remotely useful, I cannot even begin to fathom. But, hey, the title references Star Trek, so that’s a redeeming characteristic, right? Oh wait, that was in the criticism…

Set your phasers to stun(ningly bad)

Set your phasers to stun(ningly bad)

Credit for the original piece goes to Nuique and datadial.

America’s Most Popular Beers—And Almost All Are Crappy

Or so says Adweek. I would heartily disagree about their inclusion of Yuengling in their group of crappy. Though the other nineteen, yeah, I would tend to agree. Regardless, the infographic that sparked the Adweek post is quite blah. I do enjoy the illustrations of the bottles and labels, but the data visualisation below is weak.

The 20 best in table form

The 20 best in table form

So because of Yuengling, I decided to take a quick stab at ways to improve it. My first finding in the data was that the different brands were assigned a Beer Advocate rating, and Yuengling rated the highest—though not terribly high overall. Still, unless you are looking to get drunk, it does offer a good taste/cost value among the consideration set.

Visualising some of the data

Visualising some of the data

Credit for the infographic goes to VinePair.

Squaring Up London

Choropleths are not always a good idea. For example, look at election maps. Highly populated but geographically small cities appear as mere drops of ink on paper or pixels on a screen. Meanwhile, vast deserts appear gigantic empires. Nothing new there. But even within cities, these issues exist. London is one such city and one design studio has been working on a means of changing that. London Squared Map converts the boroughs of London into almost all squares of equal area. Each is placed in the appropriate space to represent geographic location. But to convey actual geography and familiarise the audience, not all squares are equal. Instead, just like the city itself, the squares are divided by a simplified shape of the Thames.

the London Squared Map

the London Squared Map

Credit for the piece goes to After the Flood.

Importing Russian Gas

Today’s post is a graphic from the New York Times that looks at Russia’s hold on energy across Europe. I’m not terribly keen on this particular graphic for a few reasons. First, the design needs to incorporate the actual datapoint so the reader can compare across countries. Comparing the height of each black bar to each other is difficult at best.

Secondly, the data excludes the energy trade between European Union countries. And that strikes me as potentially quite a lot. Just because a country is importing from another EU country does not mean it is importing less.

Russian gas market in the EU

Russian gas market in the EU

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Viewing the Economy All at Once

Normally I try to reserve Fridays for the lighter stuff. But yesterday, the New York Times published a really fantastic piece about how the Great Recession changed the American economy through job growth or loss in each sector of the economy. Naturally this sounds very difficult because the American economy is both very large and very diverse.

Job growth in the American economy

Job growth in the American economy

If you check the piece out, however, you will find that you are offered a guided tour with analysis to provide context to an otherwise jumble of coloured lines. As a bonus, highlighted words in the text bring up small charts showing the actual job growth history for the particular sector. The jumble, however, is also organised along the x and y axes by two important metrics: wages and jobs since the Great Recession. This allows you to see whether low wage jobs have performed better than higher paying and whether either has created more jobs than the other. Line colouration denotes whether a particular sector has grown and recovered, recovered, not recovered, or recession accelerated a previous decline.

Then at the very end is another really great part of the piece. This is a collection of all the small charts arranged by areas of the economy.

View sectors individually as small multiples

View sectors individually as small multiples

Lastly, for those of you who have to work on smaller screens, don’t worry, they made it responsive. Overall, a great piece.

Credit for the piece goes to Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Parlapiano.

How Africa Tweets

Today’s piece is hit and miss. It comes from the World Economic Forum and the subject matter is the use of Twitter across Africa. I think the subject matter is interesting; mobile communication technology is changing Africa drastically. The regional trends shown in the map at the core of the piece are also fascinating. Naturally I am left wondering about why certain countries. Does spending on infrastructure, GDP per capita, disposable income levels have any sort of correlation if even only on a national and not city level?

How Africa tweets

How Africa tweets

But what really irks me is the content that wraps around the map. First the donut chart, I think my objections to donuts—at least the non-edible kind—are well known. In this case, I would add—or sprinkle on—that the white gaps between the languages are unnecessary and potentially misleading.

Secondly, the cities are eventually displayed upside down. Thankfully the labels are reversed so that city names are legible. However, the continually changing angle of the chart makes it difficult to compare Douala to Luanda to Alexandria. A neatly organised matrix of small multiples would make the data far clearer to read.

In short, I feel this piece is a good step in the right direction. However, it could do with a few more drafts and revisions.

Credit for the piece goes to Allan Kamau.

Don’t Do This At Home…

In fact, don’t do this ever. Today’s bad chart comes from the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. I saw it and could only shake my head and wonder why.

The Mayor's Office version

The Mayor’s Office version

Something more like this much more easily communicates the story.

My take on the data

My take on the data

Credit for the original piece goes to the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.

Average Ticket Prices in 2013

So yeah, the Super Bowl thing. Apparently tickets are expensive? Earlier, Bloomberg Businessweek took a look at average prices for the most expensive events of 2013. The only sentence supporting the graphic was that the most expensive event was not the Super Bowl. Okay, so what was?

Most Expensive Average Ticket Prices

Most Expensive Average Ticket Prices

I think this graphic actually makes it more difficult to tell. But beyond that, the decision to use the tree map confuses me. We are already looking at a subset of ticket prices—not all, but only the “most expensive”. What criteria determined that selection? After all, from my own experience and personal knowledge I know that Red Sox–Yankees game are also incredibly expensive. But those are not present in this set. And then if the idea is to undermine the common thought that the Super Bowl is the most expensive ticket, should the user be forced to find through each square—and no, the events are not squarified very nicely—the highest value?

So I took an hour before the game to try a quick stab at quickly identifying the most expensive tickets. It turns out that the glorious bar chart more than suffices. It also then shows how quickly the remainder of the prices become quite comparable. (Ridiculous I suppose depends upon your preference for sport/event/disposable income.)

My quick take

My quick take

Credit for the original piece goes to Bloomberg Businessweek.