There are some beautiful illustrations in this online exhibition of data visualisation in the past few hundred years.
Sunday, January 31st, 2021
Saturday, May 23rd, 2020
I must admit I’ve been wincing a little every time I see a graph with a logarithmic scale in a news article about COVID-19. It takes quite a bit of cognitive work to translate to a linear scale and get the real story.
Monday, July 15th, 2019
Correlation does not imply causation.
Monday, June 17th, 2019
How cartography made early modern global trade possible.
Maps and legends. Beautiful!
Monday, June 10th, 2019
Tom makes an endpoint for generating QR codes so you don’t have to rely on the Google Charts API.
He also provides a good definition of “serverless”:
Now, serverless is a very silly buzzword dreamed up by someone from the consultant class who love coming up with terrible names, so I promise I won’t use it any further. Your code obviously run on a server. It just means it runs on a server someone else manages.
Amazon call it a ‘Lambda Function’. Google call it a ‘Cloud Function’. Microsoft Azure call it simply a ‘Function’. But none of those are very descriptive, because, well, anyone who writes any kind of programming language generally writes functions pretty much all the time in much the same way as anyone who writes English writes paragraphs, and we don’t call our blogging software “Cloud Paragraphs”. (Someone will now, I’m guessing.)
Saturday, March 30th, 2019
These diagrams of early networks feel like manuscripts that you’d half expect to be marked with “Here be dragons” at the edges.
Sunday, January 13th, 2019
You know what I like? Print stylesheets!
I mean, I’m not a huge fan of trying to get the damn things to work consistently—thanks, browsers—but I love the fact that they exist (athough I’ve come across a worrying number of web developers who weren’t aware of their existence). Print stylesheets are one more example of the assumption-puncturing nature of the web: don’t assume that everyone will be reading your content on a screen. News articles, blog posts, recipes, lyrics …there are many situations where a well-considered print stylesheet can make all the difference to the overall experience.
You know what I don’t like? QR codes!
It’s not because they’re ugly, or because they’ve been over-used by the advertising industry in completely inapropriate ways. No, I don’t like QR codes because they aren’t an open standard. Still, I must grudgingly admit that they’re a convenient way of providing a shortcut to a URL (albeit a completely opaque one—you never know if it’s actually going to take you to the URL it promises or to a Rick Astley video). And now that the parsing of QR codes is built into iOS without the need for any additional application, the barrier to usage is lower than ever.
So much as I might grit my teeth, QR codes and print stylesheets make for good bedfellows.
I picked up a handy tip from a Smashing Magazine article about print stylesheets a few years back. You can the combination of a
@media print and generated content to provide a QR code for the URL of the page being printed out. Google’s Chart API provides a really handy shortcut for generating QR codes:
For now, I’ve got the QR code generation happening on The Session for individual discussions, events, recordings, sessions, and tunes. For the tunes, there’s also a separate URL for each setting of a tune, specifically for printing out. I’ve added a QR code there too.
I’ve been thinking about another potential use for QR codes. I’m preparing a new talk for An Event Apart Seattle. The talk is going to be quite practical—for a change—and I’m going to be encouraging people to visit some URLs. It might be fun to include the biggest possible QR code on a slide.
I’d better generate the images before Google shuts down that API.
Sunday, November 25th, 2018
Tuesday, May 15th, 2018
These are beautiful!
Featured below is a chronology of various attempts through the last four centuries to visually organise and make sense of colour.
Thursday, November 9th, 2017
Monday, September 25th, 2017
Friday, April 22nd, 2016
This could be a handy replacement for some Google Charts images of graphs. It uses SVG and is responsive by default.
I bet it wouldn’t be too tricky to use this to make some sparklines.
Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
What a lovely bit of progressive enhancement—styling data tables to display as charts.
Sunday, February 15th, 2015
A nice little pattern for generating a swish timeline in SVG from a plain ol’ definition list in HTML.
Saturday, October 4th, 2014
Beautiful visualisations of science and nature.
Made with love by a designer with a molecular biology degree.
Sunday, January 6th, 2013
Remember when I made that canvas sparkline script? Remember when Stuart grant my wish for an SVG version? Well, now Tom has gone one further and created a hosted version on sparksvg.me
Not a fan of sparklines? Bars and circles are also available.
Sunday, December 30th, 2012
I like sparklines a lot. Tufte describes a sparkline as:
…a small intense, simple, word-sized graphic with typographic resolution.
The death warrant for Google image charts sets the execution date for 2015. Time to start looking for an alternative.
I couldn’t find a direct equivalent to the functionality that Google provides i.e. generating the images dynamically on the server. There are, however, plenty of client-side alternatives, many of them using
Most of the implementations I found were a little heavy-handed for my taste: they either required jQuery or Processing or both. I just wanted a quick little script for generating sparklines from a dataset of numbers. So I wrote my own.
I’ve put my code up on Github as Canvas Sparkline.
canvas element with the dimensions you want for the sparkline, then pass the ID of that element (along with your dataset) into the
sparkline ('canvasID', [12, 18, 13, 12, 11, 15, 17, 20, 15, 12, 8, 7, 9, 11], true);
(that final Boolean value at the end just indicates whether you want a red dot at the end of the sparkline).
The script takes care of normalising the values, so it doesn’t matter how many numbers are in the dataset or whether the range of the numbers is in the tens, hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands.
There’s plenty of room for improvement:
- The colour of the sparkline is hardcoded (50% transparent black) but it could be passed in as a value.
- All the values should probably be passed in as an array of options rather than individual parameters.
Feel free to fork, adapt, and improve.
The sparklines are working quite nicely, but I can’t help but feel that this isn’t the right tool for the job. Ideally, I’d like to keep using a server-side solution like Google’s image charts. But if I am going to use a client-side solution, I’m not sure that
canvas is the right element. This should really be SVG:
canvas is great for dynamic images and animations that need to update quite quickly, but sparklines are generally pretty static. If anyone fancies making a lightweight SVG solution for sparklines, that would be lovely.
Update: Ask and thou shalt receive. Check out this fantastic lightweight SVG solution from Stuart—bloody brilliant!
Monday, January 2nd, 2012
Mashing up Angry Birds and spreadsheets to better visualise project time-tracking.
Monday, September 26th, 2011
This is may just be the best thing on the internet about data visualisation and statistics. And sex.