The Importance of Cartography

Today I wanted to share with you a piece from the BBC that explores the importance of cartography, or mapmaking, in relief efforts particularly in Malawi, a country located in southeastern Africa.

My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map
My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map

This is a still from a short video—it clocks in at just a tad under three minutes—that you can watch to see how volunteers are identifying and mapping villages that do not appear on today’s maps. The importance, as they explain, is that if the village does not appear, it is as if the village does not exist. Consequently it can be quite difficult for aid to reach these villages during disasters like the 2015 floods.

Credit for the piece goes to Ruth Evans.

Flaking Out of the Senate

This has been a busy week. I am working on a small piece on the Red Sox managers in the free agency period—I thought it would be ready yesterday, but not so much—but news continues to happen outside of the baseball world. Some of the biggest, at least in the US, would have to be the speech by Senator Flake of Arizona who announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.

So cue the politically-themed graphics. Today’s piece comes from the Washington Post. The graphic itself is not terribly complex as it is a scatter plot comparing the liberal/conservativeness of senators with how their respective state voted in 2016.

Scrolling through the piece changes the graphic
Scrolling through the piece changes the graphic

But what the piece does really well is weave a narrative through the chart. Scrolling down the page locks the graphic in place while the text changes to provide new context. And then different dots are highlighted or called out.

It proves that not all the best graphics need to be terribly complex.

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher.

The Ratio

And I’m not talking about walking into a bar late at night. Instead, I am talking about the ratio of likes to retweets to replies, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the service, refers to engagement with a person’s tweets on Twitter.

The Ratio does not come from FiveThirtyEight—read the article for the full background on the concept, it is well worth the read—but they applied it to President Trump, whom we all know has a penchant for tweeting. The basic premise of the ratio is that you want more retweets and likes than replies. Think of it like customer reviews. Rarely do people bother to put the effort in to complement good service, but they will often write scathing reviews if something does not fit their expectations. Same in Twitter. If I do not care for what you say, I will let you know. But if I do, it is easy for me to like it, or even retweet it.

Anyway, the point is they took this and applied it to the tweets of Donald Trump and received this chart.

The interactivity makes this chart worth checking out
The interactivity makes this chart worth checking out

What I truly enjoy is the interactivity. Each dot reflects a tweet, and you can reveal that tweet by hovering over it. (I would be curious to know if the dots move. That is, do they, say, refresh daily with new tabulations on the updated numbers of likes, retweets, and replies?)

But the post goes on using the same chart form, in both other interactive displays and as static, small multiple pieces, to explore the political realm of previous tweeting presidents and current senators.

A solid article with some really nice graphics to boot.

Credit for the piece goes to Oliver Roeder, Dhrumil Mehta, and Gus Wezerek.

(Lack of) Support for Cassidy-Graham Obamacare Repeal

A wee bit of housekeeping here at the top. Your author will be away for work and then enjoying a well-earned, but all-too-brief holiday over the next week.

At the end of the week, the Senate’s window to pass a budget reconciliation measure, i.e. what they need to do to repeal Obamacare with only 51 votes, will close for a year. As of my writing on Monday evening, Susan Collins has just become the third Republican no vote, effectively dooming the bill should it come to the floor for the vote.

But as the week progresses, I fully expect the bill’s authors to add some bells and whistles to try and sweeten the deal. But the problem has always been, the bells for the hardline conservatives push moderates away and the whistles for those same moderates drive away the same hardline conservatives. For the next year and a half or so, the best bet to pass a fix to healthcare is a bipartisan “repair Obamacare” instead of “repeal Obamacare”. Whether or not the Senate will have the stomach for such a compromise is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, this week we have a tracker from the Washington Post examining the latest positions of senators on the Cassidy-Graham bill.

It does a nice job of breaking up the Republican conference not just along the ideological spectrum, but also on the winners and losers spectrum. After all, the bill as written will transfer large sums of aid from states that accepted the expansion of Medicare to those states that rejected expansion.

Who's saying yes and who's saying no
Who’s saying yes and who’s saying no

Credit for the piece goes to Kim Soffen, Amber Phillips, and Kevin Schaul.

German Election Results

On Sunday Germany went to the polls. Angela Merkel won a fourth term, but the anti-immigrant nationalist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), won nearly 13% of the vote. That places a nationalist party in the German parliament for the first time since World War II.

A lot of the graphics I saw were straight-up bar charts of the final vote share. But Die Welt, a German paper, did have this piece with an interactive choropleth. There is nothing revolutionary in the map itself. But it does show how support for the AfD exhibits clear geographic patterns, namely large support in what was East Germany.

AfD support was strongest in the former East Germany
AfD support was strongest in the former East Germany

But the really nice part about the Die Welt piece is the interactive coalition builder at the end. They present several different possibilities. Unfortunately, I cannot read German, so the narrative on the page eludes me. But it was fun to explore the potentials. But with the SPD announcing it would go into opposition, we are not likely to see a grand coalition.

Which combination will prevail?
Which combination will prevail?

Credit for the piece goes to the Die Welt graphics department.

Irma’s Impending Arrival

Your author is on holiday today and is actually writing today’s post on a Thursday night train to Boston. But by the time he returns late Sunday night—a Monday morning post is not guaranteed—Hurricane Irma will have likely made landfall somewhere along the Florida coast.

Thursday the Guardian published a nice article looking at the potential tracks for Irma. And while the specific routes will certainly be amended and updated over the weekend, the article is worth looking at prior to Irma’s arrival at Florida. As of my writing the track has shifted ever slightly westward and the current predicted path looks for Irma to land south and west of Miami. Ergo this screenshot is already a little outdated.

The three little wolves will huff and puff…
The three little wolves will huff and puff…

The remarkable thing about this graphic, which is just a cleaner version of the standard meteorological maps through more a more considered palette, is that there is not just one path of winds, but three. Following quickly on the heels of Irma are Katia and Jose, the latter the one taking the nearly same path as Irma while Katia spins towards Mexico.

But the graphic I really wanted to look at is the one ending the piece.

A very wide range of countries
A very wide range of countries

This looks at the countries in Irma’s path as of Thursday morning. What I do not understand is the vertical axis of the bars. What does the height represent? To simply show the rank of countries able to cope with natural disasters, a more straight-forward table could have been used. A dot plot would also make some sense, but again, it would require an understanding of the underlying metrics driving the chart.

The graphic is saved by the annotations, in particular the more/less vulnerable directional arrows. Because I do not understand why countries are grouped into the particular buckets, I find the coloured bins out of place.

I think the concept of showing the most vulnerable countries is terribly important, however, the graphic itself needed a little more thought to be a little more clear in presenting the concept.

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian graphics department.

The Timeline of the Voyager Mission

There are a bunch of things to look at this week, but what am I most excited about? Voyager. No, not Star Trek. (Did you know that the Vger entity from the first Star Trek film was a replica of the Voyager probes?) I am of course talking about the Voyager mission to the outer Solar System and beyond.

40 years ago today Voyager 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral—Voyager 2 left two weeks earlier, but would reach Jupiter and Saturn after Voyager 1, hence being named 2—and it has been collecting images and data for science ever since.

On 25 August 2012, Voyager 1 emerged from the heliosheath and entered interstellar space. In other words, Voyager 1—and sometime in the next few years perhaps—is the first manmade spacecraft to ever leave the Solar System. Mankind is finally out there among the stars.

I love space things.

So JPL and NASA put together this interactive timeline of the mission, which of course continues tomorrow and for years after today until their nuclear fuel runs out.

Boldly going…
Boldly going…

Credit for the piece goes to JPL and NASA.

Solar Eclipse Day

Today is Solar Eclipse Day.

Thankfully Vox has put together a great interactive piece to help you plan your day. This is for my viewing area in Philadelphia. We only max out at 75% of the sun, but that is still pretty fantastic.

I'm totally excited for this
I’m totally excited for this

Credit for the piece goes to Casey Miller, Ryan Mark, and Brian Resnick.

Immigrations Impact on Economic Growth

Initially I was not going to post this work, if only because other things came up and I do have to prioritise what I post on my site. It had nothing to do with the work’s quality, which I think is actually quite good. What am I talking about? Well today’s piece is from a Pro Public article about the impact of immigration on economic growth. And it turns out the two are linked. Why? Well, the overly simplistic explanation is that we will need immigrants to pick up the slack in the labour force that will otherwise begin shrinking in years to come.

But why take my word for it when you can take charts’ word for it. The piece does a great job of showing how changes in immigration numbers can help grow or shrink economic growth. And if you recall, President Trump has promised growth rates of 4%. But, and this is why I decided to post this, yesterday it was announced that Trump will support legislation intending to halve immigration to the United States over the next ten years. As my screenshot captured, a reduction in immigration will actually lead to lower economic growth and put us further away from the 4% rate.

Reducing immigration takes GDP growth further away from the 4% target
Reducing immigration takes GDP growth further away from the 4% target

Credit for the piece goes to Lena Groeger.

Blue Dog Democrats

Last week I mentioned that it appeared Politico was running with articles featuring data visualisation. Just this morning I stumbled upon another article, this one about the Blue Dog Democrats. For those that do not know, Blue Dogs are basically a more conservative Democrat and were the remnants of the Democratic south. But in 2010, they got all but wiped out. This article looks at how and where they might just be coming back.

Blue Dogs were largely a faction of the party drawing from the South
Blue Dogs were largely a faction of the party drawing from the South

If this trend of data-driven and visualised content continues, the Politico could be doing some interesting work over the next year. By then we will be in a rather intense mid-term cycle and there might be some political news to coverage.

Credit for the piece goes to the Politico graphics department.