Get Ready Folks

Well have we got an interesting week this week. Friday begins Trump Time. So hold onto your Twitter accounts, folks. But before we get there, I wanted to do a short week of some data-driven graphics that take a look at the state of things.

Instead of what I had intended for today, let us take a look at a new post from the Wall Street Journal that examines GDP, inflation, industrial production, and the unemployment rate in advanced economies. At its most basic level, the graphics show how many of the 39 advanced economies have a value within a one-percentage point range. The size of the dots indicates how many countries fall within the bin.

A look at advanced economies' GDPs
A look at advanced economies’ GDPs

What keeps getting me, however, is the colour. Nowhere does the piece explain what the colour represents. Does it represent anything? I think it might only be used to show the ranges in the values, not the number of countries sharing said values. And if that is the case, it is a poor design decision.

My eye goes to the colour first before it goes to the dot density let alone the size of the dots. Like a Magic Eye, when I stare at the piece long enough, I begin to see the overall trend for each metric. But blink and the colours reassert their visual dominance.

I wonder what would happen if the graphic settled on a single colour? My instinct says that the patterns would become far clearer, because colour change would no longer be a visual pattern needing interpretation—even though it needs no interpretation from a data standpoint. By limiting the number of visual patterns, the piece would make the data stand out more clearly and make for clearer communication.

If an editor screams something like “It needz more colourz!!1!”, I would reserve four separate colours and then use one and only one for each of the four metrics.

That all said, what the piece does really well is explain segments of the data. In the above screenshot, you can clearly see and get the overall GDP story. But then from there you read down and get explanations or callouts of the overall to provide more context and information. The designer greys out the remainder of the dots and allows the colour to emphasise those countries in focus. A lightly transparent overlay allows for the background dots to remain faintly visible while the text can clearly be read.

All in all, I am not sure where I fall on this particular piece. It does some things well, others not so much. But either way, the piece does paint an interesting portrait of populism’s potential causes.

Credit for the piece goes to Andrew Van Dam.

The Federal Funds Rate

In my new role as data visualisation manager at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, I am learning a lot about what the Fed does and how it does it. Needless to say, this piece from Bloomberg interested me as it displayed how the federal funds rate has changed over time.

How this potential hike cycle would compare to the two previous
How this potential hike cycle would compare to the two previous

What I really enjoy is how they colour-coded the two previous hiking cycles as well as what I think everyone presumes will be a new one. And those colours then move on down the piece into the dot plots. The dot plots show various potential factors in the decision-making process, and just how far off the current hiking cycle is from the two previous.

Credit for the piece goes to Chloe Whiteaker, Jeremy Scott Diamond, and Jeanna Smialek.

Populism Marches on in Europe

By just a hair under 20 percentage points, Italian voters—with a 70% turnout rate—voted down the reform package of soon-to-be-former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. While the election was focused narrowly on a set of political reforms for Italian government, e.g. reducing the number of senators, the vote was unofficially seen by many as a test of the strength of anti-establishment populists in Europe. Note wins by such groups in Brexit and Donald Trump. In Europe this is a particularly important barometer reading because of 2017 elections in the Netherlands, France, and then Germany.

I had been looking for some online results trackers, in English, last night but found little. There was, however, this page from Bloomberg. The key thing for me is the link between the regions on the map and the section on the bar chart.

The datasets in the map and bar chart are linked, a nice touch
The datasets in the map and bar chart are linked, a nice touch

Credit for the piece goes to Bloomberg’s graphics department.

Boston Beer Company

Boston Beer Company is the parent company of Sam Adams, which is definitely one of those beers I imbibe when I visit Boston. But, as one of the larger craft brewers in the United States, it finds itself under immense competition. This article from Bloomberg examines the situation the brewery finds itself in from a share price, growth, and revenue standpoint.

Small but high-margin
Small but high-margin

Credit for the piece goes to the Bloomberg graphics department.

Daylight Savings Time

You clearly didn’t miss this story from two weeks ago, because we all had to change our clocks. But, you might not have thought much about it. Which is fine, because I think there was an election or something a day or two later. Or was I dreaming/nightmaring?

Thankfully Andy Woodruff did think about it and he put together a really nice piece about how the changes to time affect the amount of perceived sunlight. I say perceived because obviously the same amount of sunlight falls upon the Earth, but it’s whether we can see it from underneath the covers or hidden behind our office computer monitors.

His interactive piece lets you examine scenarios based on your preferred inputs. For example, as someone who goes to work a bit later in the morning—I have to write this blog sometime, right?—I would prefer the sun to be up later into the evening. And based on my selections, that means that I should consider the argument for always using Daylight Savings Time.

Making DST year-long would make for sunlit evenings throughout the year
Making DST year-long would make for sunlit evenings throughout the year

Whereas if I valued a sunrise with daylight, I might prefer to abolish Daylight Savings Time.

Abolishing DST would mean for me more days of sunlight in the morning
Abolishing DST would mean for me more days of sunlight in the morning

Credit for the piece goes to Andy Woodruff.

Election Day

Well this is it. Well at least for you American readers of this blog. It’s Election Day. If you had told me that this is what it would come to almost a year and a half ago, I would have laughed. But it did. And now it comes down to all of us to vote, unless unlike me you live in a state with early voting. And then when the polls begin to close, nerds of the political and data persuasion will be following the results in state, counties, and congressional districts.

And we will be following it all because not all the people on the ballots are named Trump or Clinton. I lived eight years in Illinois. There, you guys are, among others, choosing between Kirk and Duckworth. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s between Toomey and McGinty. Here there is also a referendum on judicial retirement ages. Other districts, counties, and states will have other things upon which to vote.

And while local politics and governance impact us the most, let’s face it. We’re all here for the title fight. The heavyweight class: Trump v. Clinton. So today being Election Day, how is it going to turn out? Well I have my thoughts, check them out here, but who really knows? But who also doesn’t want to try and guess? Enter the New York Times. They have a great interactive decision tree that allows you to experiment. But even without selecting a thing you can see how much more likely a Clinton victory is. She simply has more paths to 270 electoral college votes.

Decide who wins by deciding who wins which state
Decide who wins by deciding who wins which state

But that all said, a Clinton victory is far from guaranteed. If the narrow polls are wrong in any one of her “firewall” states, Trump can win. And while it may seem forever ago, remember Bernie Sanders in Michigan? The polls had him down by at least five points to Clinton throughout the race. He won the state by two points. Now a seven point swing is a bit extreme, and I am not suggesting any state will be in that much error. But three to four points is very plausible. And Clinton’s leads? In many of these states, they are within that uncomfortable margin. So here is a plausible scenario that makes tiny New Hampshire and its four votes the deciding state.

Leaving it all to New Hampshire
Leaving it all to New Hampshire

So remember, if you haven’t already, go vote. And if I learned anything from Chicago, it’s vote once, vote often.

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

Septa’s Train and Trolley Service

Well, everyone, today you get two posts. The first and earlier (and planned) post is about polling in Pennsylvania. Relevant to those of you following the US election. But today’s post is about what trains are running in the city of Philadelphia.

If you haven’t heard, the city’s mass transit agency, SEPTA, and its primary union for workers within the city cannot come to an agreement on a contract. So…strike. And for those of you reading this from outside the Philly area, rest assured it’s just chaos right now. To put it into a wee bit of perspective, we have this graphic—actually an interactive map—of train routes in the city. And by train, Philadelphia has your standard suburban commuter heavy rail and subway lines and light rail lines, but we also make use of a number of trolley lines.

What's running and not
What’s running and not

What the map does not show are the city’s various bus routes, all of which that run within the city are suspended. There are bus routes and rail lines outside the city, most notably the commuter rail or the blue lines in the map, operated by a different union that is not on strike.

Credit for the piece goes to the Philly.com graphics department.

Tracking Polls One Week Out

Well the election is next Tuesday, and last Friday and this past weekend was…interesting. So one(ish) week to go, and we are going to turn to a few posts that use data visualisation and graphics to explore topics related to the election.

Today we start with the latest tracking polls, released on Friday. The piece comes from the Washington Post and highlights the closing gap between Clinton and Trump with a sudden spike in Republican candidate support. But what I really like about the piece is the plot below. It displays the 0 axis vertically and plots time with the most recent date at the top. And then support for the various demographics can be filtered by selectable controls above the overall plot.

Saturday's polling numbers
Saturday’s polling numbers

Of course the really interesting bit is going to be how much this changes in the next seven days. And then what that means for the results when we all wake up on Wednesday morning.

Credit for the piece goes to Chris Alcantara, Kevin Uhrmacher, and Emily Guskin.

The Price of Petrol

How much does a gallon of milk cost? That, of course, is one of the classic election questions asked of candidates to see how in touch they are with the common man. But the same can be understood by enquiring whether or not they know how much a gallon of petrol or gasoline costs. And Bloomberg asked that very same question of the United States relative to the rest of the world. And as it turns out, here in the States, fueling our automobiles is, broadly speaking, not as painful as it would be in other countries.

The piece includes the below dot plot, where different countries are plotted on the three different metrics and the dots are colour coded by the country’s geographic region. But as is usually the case with data on geographies, the question of geographic pattern arises. And so the same three metrics presented in the dot plot are also presented on a geographic map. Those three maps are toggled on/off by buttons above the map.

How the US ranks compared to the rest of the world
How the US ranks compared to the rest of the world

A really nice touch that makes the piece applicable to an audience broader than the United States is the three controls in the upper-right of the dot plot. They allow you to control the date, but more importantly the currency and the volume. For most of the world, petrol is priced in litres in local currencies. And the piece allows the user to switch between gallons and litres and from US dollars to the koruna of the Czech Republic.

Credit for the piece goes to Tom Randall, Alex McIntyre, and Jeremy Scott Diamond.

The Shrinking Extent of ISIS

Yes, ISIS does receive a lot of attention in the media and during the presidential debates. But you might be surprised to learn that actually the organisation has lost a significant amount of territory lately. This BBC article details the territorial changes through a nice interactive map slider.

Use the scroller to see the changes over time
Use the scroller to see the changes over time

You could create a single map showing the losses/gains instead of using this light-duty interactive piece. And to the BBC’s credit they did. However, between the image quality and territorial changes, I think in this instance the interactive piece does add clarity to the story.

All in one map
All in one map

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.