I managed to find myself in a handful of airports over the last few weeks. Consequently I brushed up on my airport codes, the three-letter abbreviations you often find on boarding passes and data displays. Well, if only I had seen this particular reference from xkcd.
When I lived in Chicago, people back East would always ask if I was worried about murder and gun crime in Chicago. My reply was always, “no, not really”. Why? Because I lived in generally safe neighbourhoods. But on that topic, the second most numerous question/comment was always, why are the strict gun laws in Chicago not preventing these crimes? More often than not the question had more to do with saying gun control laws were ineffective.
But in Chicago, it seemed to me to be fairly common knowledge that most of the guns people used to commit crimes were, in fact, not purchased in Illinois. Rather, criminals imported them from neighbouring states that had far looser regulations on firearms.
They bring back more than just cheese from Wisconsin…I am not the biggest fan of the maps that they use, although I understand why. Most Americans would probably not be able to name the states bordering Illinois, California, or Maryland—the two other states examined this way—and this helps ground the readers in that geographically important context. But, thankfully the designers opted for another further down in the article that explores the data set in a more nuanced approach. Surprise, surprise, it’s not that simple of an issue.
Colin Kaepernick is a contentious figure in American football because of the protests he started against the US national anthem. While other protesting players remain on teams and play, Kaepernick remains unsigned despite what some say is a talent above other players. And as the American football season just began, this article from the Washington Post caught my attention.
Some of the arguments I have seen for Kaepernick’s unsigned status allege he just is not very good. But is that so? What does the data show? Well thankfully the Post dived into that and is running what we can best call a Kaepernick tracker comparing him to qualified quarterbacks in the NFL.
It turns out, he is a middle-of-the-pack quarterback, demonstrably better than half-a-dozen and sitting solidly amongst an almost third-tier or cluster of players. The data clearly shows that poor performance is not the reason for remaining unsigned, otherwise he would have replaced any number of quarterbacks. True, it could come down to his dollar cost, but most likely his remaining unsigned, compared to almost a dozen players underperforming him, is related to his protests.
Now from the design standpoint, I also wanted to call attention to this article because of the way it handles definitions. The article uses the statistic adjusted net yards per attempt to assess performance. But what does that actually mean? Well, in the digital margins of the piece, the designers include an explanation of that statistic. I thought this was a really well-done part of the article, not interrupting the main narrative flow for a definition that a portion of the audience probably knows. But the more casual followers or people more interested in the political nature of the story would have no idea, and this does a great job of explaining it to us laymen.
Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum, Neil Greenberg, and Mike Hume.
Some of the aforementioned work that has been keeping me busy is the design of a new part of a website. And one of the most common things I hear when I ask why something is not displaying as I intended is “Have you cleared the cache?”. And that is why this Friday’s piece from xkcd is super relevant to me.
Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, may have broken the law by talking to the Russian ambassador about Americans sanctions on Russia before Trump took office. One can imagine the furore surrounding the man and the post. However, the post is not confirmed by the Senate, but is appointed by the president. But how has the Cabinet taken shape thus far? Well the New York Times is keeping tracking with this graphic on how senators have voted.
Apologies for the long layoff, but life threw me a curveball or two. But in that time I did manage to go out to Boston and catch some of Big Papi’s last regular season games with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Whilst there, I caught an advert for Boston’s new City Score, which updates the public on how city services are performing. Below is a screenshot from the site.
Not every datapoint needs to be visualised—sometimes a table does just fine. But, admittedly, what really drew me to the table was its design. For those of you unfamiliar with Fenway and the Red Sox, this table could fit in on the Green Monster with the same colours and type.
Credit for the piece goes to Boston’s design team.
Yesterday, I left the office late and encountered a protest in front of my building organised by the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest focused on recent shooting deaths of black men by police officers in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, but the protests clearly tapped into deeper issues regarding race, inequality, and armed police among others. But in a far more tangible sense, I am left curious what has happened to the police officers involved in these cases? I figured today would be a good day to share the New York Times work on the follow-ups. The piece looks for accountability or the lack thereof in police shootings of civilians. Additional tables look at settlements and Justice Department investigations.
What has happened afterwards
The piece does a nice job of using tables to organise and showcase the results of the investigations. Something about the colour choices feels off; I am far more quickly drawn to the negative results as opposed to the positives. Should that be the idea? Regardless, the work shows that tables, while not the sexiest visualisation form available, have an important role to play in designing displays of information.
Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park and Jasmine C. Lee.
Not every graphic information graphic is a sexy chart or map. Sometimes tables communicate the story just as well. Maybe even better. Today’s post comes from FiveThirtyEight, which examined a claim about what places represent “Normal America”. Turns out that when one looks at the data, here age, race, ethnicity, and education, Normal America is found in the eastern half of the country. And it includes some big cities, notably both Philadelphia and Chicago. The whole article is worth a read, as it goes on exploring states representing Normal America and then places that represent 1950s America.
So where is Normal America? New Haven, Connecticut.