What are you trying to obfuscate?

I found two excellent posts on Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism blog that I had to share. (Unless you’ve already read them, in which case, great!)

In one post, he asks the £10,000 question: who benefits most from a tax threshold change? What wonderful real-life examples. Go read the article and see whether you can spot the difference in these charts. Take heed of his point about making the raw data available.

The other post discusses the means of presenting data. This builds on lessons learned from Dan Roam’s “The Back of the Napkin” and Stephen Few’s “Now You See It”. A rough summary reads: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Remember to think about the content. The content. What are you trying to tell the reader? What is appropriate or suitable for the situation? Are you actually trying to confuse them? Really??

Paul Bradshaw updated his article with this gem from a New York Times senior software architect entitled Word Clouds Can Be Harmful. It is a must-read. It includes the statement that you can whip out when someone asks you to make a fancy-schmancy visualization:

…if it obliterates the ability to read the story of the visualization, it’s not worth adding some wild new visualization style or strange interface.

Ah, to think that attending a lecture by Paul Bradshaw last year could lead to such delight in reading these valuable blog posts.

Takeaway links